Project – Drawing Plants and Flowers
Exercise – Drawing with other Coloured Media
Reflect on how the task changes with the different media?
Ballpoint Pen
The ballpoint pen renders a fine line and therefore requires you to work small but it is a tool for detail. Ball point offers a uniform and reliable line which requires hatching in order to achieve tone. However because it is reliable and smooth in operation you can work fast.
IMG_0084_edited-2Pen and Ink
A dip pen is not the most reliable of implements, ie. ink runs out and a small nib generally only moves comfortable in one direction. Sits use is good for fine detail but not for long sweeps. The ink comes in a limited colour range and accurately mixing/lightening is not easy. Accordingly pen and ink is not a flexible medium and therefore for flowers it is not particularly realistic.

IMG_0082_edited-2Wax Crayon
Wax crayon is good for gestural strokes, and hence large drawings, and reasonable variation in tone, achieved by layering and texture. .

However in this exercise the size of the subject is small and therefore wax crayon is difficult for detail and subtle tone.
IMG_0081_edited-2Marker Pen
Fibre tip pen was used and offers uniform line and colour but variation in tone is difficult to achieve particularly with a limited colour range. In this exercise, ie. flowers on a small scale, a thick tip has limited use but a fine tip can be excellent for detail.


Do some work well together?
Wax crayon lacks subtlety of colour and cannot be used for detail work. However if wax crayon is used for the base colour then fine fibre tip pen can make detailed marks on top of it. Ball point pen is similar.

How does the change in medium affect your style and the outcome?
I am not yet too good at style and I tended to do the same thing whatever the medium. I will learn. I should be more gestural but even in practice it isn’t yet realistically happening.

Wax crayon and thick fibre tip have strong and uniform colour and therefore are excellent for expressive drawing.

Check and Log

How will your experiments with negative space help your observational drawing in the future?
Negative space drawing is useful for working out how to draw complex subjects, ie. if the line of the subject is hard to portray then drawing the shape of the space around the subject may produce the result. Difficult perspective or foreshortening can sometimes be resolved by drawing around the subject rather than the subject itself.

What techniques did your use to ensure you drew your plants in proportion?
I find the thumb and pencil method rather hit and miss for small and close up objects. I have proportional dividers which when sighted are more accurate and more versatile.

However once the drawing is set out it should be simple enough to judge the proportion of the remainder by eye.

How did you achieve an effect of three-dimensional space in your drawings?
Lines of perspective are not easy to use  with flowers so other techniques have to be employed such as –
•    Dark colours at the front and light to the rear.
•    Reduce size as the distance away increases.
•    Reduce detail as the object diminishes.
•    Overlap objects, ie. foreground objects hide part of the objects behind.
•    Shadows and shading – darker to the front


Project – Drawing Plants and Flowers
Exercise – Plants and Flowers in Coloured Pencil
Blending Experiments


Successful colour blending with pencils in a drawing can be a hit and miss and requires a practice sample first before committing pencil to paper. To arrive at the desired blended colour some variables have to be considered –

  • Which colour to lay first as this will most certainly define the blend colour as the second colour may not take as well as the first.
  • The pencil tones should be compatible insofar that a light colour may have little effect against a dark.
  • The tooth of the paper together with pencil pressure will affect the manner in which the colours merge.
  • Some colours will produce mud when blended.
  • The final effect required in the drawing

In addition to those on the following page further noted blending methods, though not tried, were hair dryer, nail varnish and other solvents.


Project – Drawing Plants and Flowers
Exercise – Negative Space in a Plant
A little bit harder than the previous negative space exercise. The problem was not just the drawing but keeping one’s brain in the negative mode particularly for the smaller areas.


The drawing is closely representational of the plant with only a few minor erasings.

Check and Log
Your composition should occupy most of the paper’s surface. How much negative space have you left?
I read this point after the event and whilst some drawings might fulfill the requirement the final drawing does not fill the paper though still has charm.

What have you learned from drawing the details of fruit and vegetables?
As a beginner I am on a steep learning curve and most of my drawings have been preceded by a considerable amount of trial and practice work. However I am pleased with my drawings in this section and perhaps for the first time a little confidence is creeping through which will enable me to open out a bit more, ie. a bit more expressive.

What did you find most challenging about this part of the course?
Mostly answered above but learning to use new materials to their individual best is quite hard as you have to learn their individual characteristics.

Project – Drawing Fruit and Vegetables in Colour


Research Point – Ben Nicholson

Find out about Ben Nicholson? Why does he simplify still life forms and negative space and superimpose them on Cornish landscapes?

Ben Nicholson was born in Denham, Buckinghamshire in 1894 with established painters for parents and a member of an artistic dynasty. He could hardly fail!

He briefly attended the Slade School of Fine Art in 1910/11 but is generally considered to be self-taught.

His early paintings were soft and luminous still lifes and landscapes in a traditional manner with some influence from his father’s style, the well respected painter, Sir William Nicholson

He travelled extensively in Europe between 1911 and 1914 and in 1917 he visited America and sketched architecture and landscapes. In Pasadena he saw his first Cubist painting, a work by Picasso, and deemed it to be a life changing event. However when he returned to England he still painted conventional still lifes and landscapes though some of the styles of recent masters and also contemporaries crept into his paintings.

In 1921 during a visit to Paris with his new wife, painter  Winifred Roberts, he was impressed by the works of Cezanne and also Cubism and later incorporated abstraction into his still lifes.

In 1922 the Adelphi Gallery in London held his first solo exhibition which was mainly of still lifes and landscapes.


After later visits to Paris he started painting figurative and abstract works inspired by Post- Impressionism and also Cubism and in 1924 the Twenty One Gallery featured his first exhibition of abstracts. However it is known that he was not satisfied with his early abstract works as he considered they did not express ideas beyond their appearance.

In 1928 he first visited Cornwall and from a chance meeting became interested in the art of Alfred Wallis the untrained painter of St Ives and was the first purchaser of one of his paintings. Nicholson soon began incorporating primitivism into his own paintings

Nicholson met Barbara Hepworth in the late twenties, who encouraged him to produce linocuts and woodcuts, and with whom he  eventiually shared a studio in Hampstead. Hepworth became his second wife in 1934 and together they made many visits to Paris and met with George Braque, Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brancusi and later the Dutch painter Piet Modrian. Inspired by their works and particularly Picasso from then on Nicholson painted abstracts and also created white reliefs in wood.

Nicholson became the link between the rising international abstract movement and England and was at the centre of British Avant Garde. He is credited with blending the abstract styles that he saw in his travels abroad into his own original works.

Between 1935 and 1937 Nicolson produced his white reliefs, carved from boards, and for which he was to  be famous.

Of the simplicity and purity of these works Nicholson explained, “As I see it, painting and religious experience are the same thing, and what we are all searching for is the understanding and realisation of infinity – an ideal which is complete, with no beginning, no end and therefore giving to all things for all time.”

He became the editor of Circle, one of the founding documents of modern and constructive art, and he was also a member of the artist’s group Unit One which produced a Book of Statements by eleven influential painters, sculptors and designers.

In 1939 Nicholson and his family moved to St Ives  and was moved to change his style from the simple linear shapes to coloured abstract reliefs but also still lifes and local landscapes, often combined with Cubist images. The change was probably brought about by the need to make his work more accessible to the public and their pockets in the War years.

Nicholson was very active in the artist community in St Ives influencing many local artists and joined the St Ives Society of Artists and after a clash of beliefs he founded the breakaway group the Penwith Society of Arts in 1949.

He divorced Barbara Hepworth in 1951 and travelled extensively throughout Europe. He left Cornwall in 1957 to live in Switzerland and married a photographer, Felicitas Vogler. He then began painting coloured reliefs again and made many etchings..

Whilst Nicholson was successful in the UK he was not internationally recognised until he was in his late fifties when he began to exhibit extensively throughout Europe and America and win many awards. In 1965 he received the Order of Merit. The Sixties and seventies were probably his most remunerative period with many prints made of his works now mostly etchings and still lifes, figurative and abstract.

In 1971 he moved back to England living in Cambridge and then London where he died in 1982.

Ben Nicolson was a major contributor to Twentieth Century British modern art and was probably best known for his works “White Relief” which contained only right angles and circles. A representative sample of his typical works might be the following paintings.

DACS; (c) DACS - FULL CONSULT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

1914 – The Striped Jug. A well executed painting which demonstrates that Nicholson had classic artistic talent. Nicholson collected mugs, jugs and goblets an influence or interest maybe inherited from his father.

DACS; (c) DACS - FULL CONSULT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

1917 – Portrait of Edie (Nicholson’s stepmother). An accomplished classic portrait.

(c) DACS - FULL CONSULT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

1922 – Cold Fell. A strange contrast of tones and colours bearing in mind that many of Nicholson’s paintings were in neutral colours.

(c) DACS - FULL CONSULT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

1924 – Goblet and Two Pears. A rather simplistic painting, perhaps influenced by Cubism but an example of what was to come.


1924 – First Abstract Painting. Reflecting his experience of Cubism. Shallow space and overlapping planes coupled with clean lines and no ornamentation. Perhaps not his greatest work.

(c) DACS - FULL CONSULT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

1928 – Cumbrian Landscape. A rather primitive painting perhaps influenced by his recent meeting with Alfred Wallis.

DACS; (c) DACS - FULL CONSULT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

1934 – Still Life Birdie. A pleasant still life painting with some of Nicholson’s usual objects and in Cubist style

(c) DACS - FULL CONSULT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

1935 – White Relief. Carved from a table leaf bought in Camden Market. The simple style is probably a reflection of Nicholson on the political and economic turmoil in which Europe was embroiled in that period.

DACS; (c) DACS - FULL CONSULT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

1936 – Second White Relief, Again the purity of the white  and the form typifies what Nicholson might have wished of the future..

(c) DACS - FULL CONSULT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

1939 – Painted Relief. A move from white to coloured reliefs often in different planes, the effect, I think, was to produce a floating central plane.

DACS; (c) DACS - FULL CONSULT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

1940/42 – Two Forms. In contrast to Mondian Nicholson’s shapes are contained within the canvas and appear a bit muddled, i.e. unstable. However his contrasts of colour may be more interesting.

Liz Taunt; (c) DACS - FULL CONSULT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

1943/45 – St Ives.  An experiment with planes and space. A view from his studio window.

(c) DACS - FULL CONSULT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

1947 – Mousehole.  A Cubist still life bringing together a naive  landscape and random abstract figures.

Ben Nicholson’s career output followed many twists and turns. His early works portray a competent, classic talent that could have garnered him a good living. However he moves on to other influences and creations and some not so remunerative at the time.

Did he emulate others or did he tread his own path? It is generally considered the latter. Whilst he was influenced by many, he developed his own style within those genres and that made him a British Great.


Text – Dominic Guerrini, Tate, Artcornwall.

Images – Tate, BBC – Your Paintings


Project – Drawing Fruit and Vegetables in Colour


Exercise – Drawing Using Oil Pastel

A first drawing in oil pastels for me so a little practice was needed beforehand.IMG_0098_edited-2

 The exercise anticipated layering and, in places, hard pressure strokes which, say, in the red pepper turned out okay but it was difficult to depict shape with those strokes.

I found it difficult to use a light touch with the crayons. The upright avocado requires three colours and the cloying/clogging of the darker/later colours spoiled the lighter touch of the previous colours. In the end I reduced the worst elements with a knife blade which actually looks quite good.

Not a favourite medium as it was difficult to get the exact detail I require but I liked the “sparkle” effect a light stroke gave and maybe if the crayons are sharpened I can develop a style.

Project – Drawing Fruit and Vegetables in Colour


Exercise – Using Markers or Dip Pens

I used fibre tip markers and also dip pens for the exercise.


IMG_0074_edited-2The compositional drawings and the mixed media drawings allowed us to experiment with marks and colours combined and I was quite pleased with the results.


The final drawing I was very pleased with. The chosen “rough” paper was a bit difficult to draw on but produced a fine, broken line that was fine by me. I didn’t include a formal foreground and background as I felt the light strokes produced a simple “floating support to the objects and so I left it at that.

Project – Drawing Fruit and Vegetables in Colour


Exercise – Using Hatching to Create Tone

I am generally quite pleased with the drawings. The hatching lines have clarity where necessary, though possibly lacking the depth a blocked mark would make, and they portray the shape of the object though the banana is a bit weaker.



The compositional sketches were executed quite quickly and as such do the job, I haven’t yet learned to sketch, ie. to depict form and depth with a few lines, and so my sketches tend to be quick drawings.


I was satisfied with the arrangement and effect of the final drawing though on reflection the central grapes don’t sit well in the drawing. However there is good form and depth to the objects.