Exercise: Draw, draw and draw again

For this exercise I was required to draw from reference, from reference quickly, but capturing the most important details and then entirely from memory.

 I found several pieces online and printed them out, in the end I settled on a playful picture of actor Emma Stone on a 70’s style bicycle, she was posed in stereo typical 70s clothing, it had a great feeling of movement and energy, it reminded me of the photo reference I have seen of Norman Rockwell and Gil Elvgren, they seemed to capture the essence and atmosphere of the characters interacting with their scenes and environment rather than recreate it with the greatest of accuracy.

The key elements in my reference were the movement, the weight being distributed, the motion found within the skirt and hair and of course the expression on the face, one of shock and surprise but also a sense of exhilaration and fun, I wanted to capture these with as much intensity as I could. 

I started the first drawing on some coloured paper, I wanted to capture a good tonal range as quickly as possible and this approach has served me well in the past, it also helped give it that muted vintage look that I was reminded of while finding my reference. The paper was a4 sized, it allowed me to work the drawing up quite quickly, I didn’t focus on capturing their likeness and I don’t think I quite got the right expression, I felt like I’d made some progress with the movement, but it still felt quite rigid. I thought this over before making the next drawing.

For the second drawing I wanted to draw quickly and use fast and loose movements to capture some energy, I thought a Diogo pen would give me some fine scratchy lines, I worked straight in ink any mistakes would remain and I’d need to correct or push and pull the drawing into shape, I also used a white gel pen to try top add some contrasting definition back in where needed, the hair was to be the darkest and I switched to a brush for that.

My medium sized filbert blocked in some dark areas with little attention to detail, I twisted and dragged the brush simulating the flow of hair. 

The drawing was over in a matter of minutes, I resisted the temptation to work into any more than a quick loose sketch with my focus on the parts that would sell the concept and set the scene.

For my third and final drawing for this exercise I used a3 Bristol board as I wanted to get some wider arm movements in for the rounded shapes of the bicycle, I liked the tonal qualities of the original drawings and I thought i would use some alcohol based marker pens to achieve a similar look this time around. Using my memory I sketched out the pose, remembering the pose, expression and  key landmarks, from the previous 2 drawings I got it to a place where I was happy with. I really tried hard to capture the surprised expression and the weight distributed over the handle bars to give the feeling of movement, the body’s weight and the  forces applied. Once the drawing was set I used a putty rubber to gently fade the marks and went over them with some fine-liner pens, a 0.1 and a 0.3, I tried to add weight to the lines by overlaying until the desired intensity was met. I wanted the ink stage to be a little more structured than the previous drawing but with a more kinetic application, I was happy with how these looked, sometimes when I have re drawn in ink the drawing loses some visual interest, the stark black and white of the page replaces the subtle nuances of the pencil the intensity and soft to shape marks, the pencil has a lot more scope for subtle variations, so experimenting with how I can vary marks during my pen man ship practice is always feels like time well spent. Once I had added some nice contrasting blocks of dark ink I switched to the alcohol pens, starting from the lightest greys I built up layers until I was ready to push the tonal values even more until I was left with a good range of white through the greys to the black of my key lines. I enjoyed this exercise, it really showed me how to spot the most important elements of the subject and how to present them, by the third drawing I was very familiar with the source material and how I wanted to convey that to the audience.

Assignment 2

Thinking of you

For this assignment I was asked to create 3 greeting cards that could represent a range of sentiments – such as celebrations, congratulations, thanks, regrets and condolences. I decided to focus on one of the many random themed days that pop up on pour digital calendars. This was one I made up although it turns out it does actually exist, that is International Bat appreciation day. I created an emblem for the event and thought how could I make I.B.A.D into a reason to give a greeting card. I think at the moment we are all thinking about re connecting with friends due to the covid 19 pandemic. My cards will be a playful way to send a friend or loved one a message, with an indirect “thinking of you” theme.

Not everyone thinks bats are cute and fun little creatures so I thought a little cheeky faced bat cartoon character would be. a nice way to deliver the message, while supporting the I.B.A.D organisation and if the cards where actually on sale raise some money, bats are actually protected species in the uk as there habit is destroyed the numbers dwindle. This could potentially be information on P.O.S or even if bought as a box. It seems a negative message to put on the recipient of the card though, so maybe thats best to be left as a talking point when the friends re connect.

The first step was to gather some images and research that relates to both greeting cards and bats. I looked at more cartooned style cards as I intended to draw the image myself. Bats do vary but at one end of the scale the larger bats such as the fruit and flying fox varieties look almost dog there are also at the other end the more grotesque gruesome pig like looking creatures.
Some artistic licence would be required to create an appealing character that while recognisable as a bat looks nice enough to sell greeting cards.
I made a mood board and started some quick sketches of both the character and imaginary branding for I.B.A.D

Once I had a feel for the character I fetched some a3 sized bristol board paper and drew out the three themes I was thinking of, these were;

  • I was thinking… we should hang out more!
  • I was thinking… If you want to talk I’m all ears
  • I was thinking… We should get a bite to eat!

Once I had the sketched in place and how I wanted them to look, I inked over them with a fine liner I then scanned them into my computer ready to improve the sharpness and quality of the line work.

Below is an example of the scanned pencils before altering the levels and removing all the white of the paper.

Once the images were processed, the black scanned ink lines made darker and the whites removed, leaving me a transparent alpha channel to work underneath I continued to add colour on an ipad Pro and the procreate software.

I made a simple logo based on the sketches I had done while developing the character, for this I used adobe Illustrator, the end result will be a clean scaleable file that could be reused if need be on anything from web banners, physical merchandise to large scale posters.

I made the cards as a5 files, as the artwork was going to the edge I added a 3mm bleed to the edge, but as I didn’t get them printed I have mocked them up on this black background. I added the emblem originally intended for the back of the card at the bottom of the side that has the internal message, as we are raising awareness for the protection of bats it seemed to be a suitable if unorthodox placement to promote the cause.

Overall I was happy with my cards, the concept may be a little wobbly, I’m not sure how many cards I would sell, but my little bat character seems to have enough personality to take the imaginary I.B.A.D organisation forward. I could see him being quite animatable and appealing to children.
The bit that was maybe lacking was the message and the writing, I guess in a design/illustration role this would be provided to me or at least refined by a marketing team.

Assignment Three: Colour Me

This assignment required me to produce an a3 poster based on a colour that is personal to me and celebrates a theme associated with that colour.

The poster was to be made with my chosen colour and its complimentary colour, I was allowed to add tint and shade to these colours.

I have always been called blue or blue boy, by friends and family. It doesn’t have any specific meaning it just stuck with me, I decided to use that as my colour, opposite blue on the colour wheel is orange so my chosen colours will be blue and orange I made some spider diagrams to find a Blue centric subject. I decided on an octopus, it’s my favourite creature from the deep blue sea and would be a good visually interesting theme, it would allow me some organic shapes and the contrasting orange felt like it would work too. Octopi are incredibly colourful, pose with amazing dynamic exaggerated shapes and they have always fascinated me.

I wanted to add copy or a message to the poster, something light or maybe even humorous so I made an additional spider diagram, I shortlisted a few and made some thumbnails of how I could use them.

I really liked the simplicity of the number eight, it has symmetry and even feels like a tentacle with its round cylindrical shapes. I decided to use the Occam’s razor approach and make my 4 version of the poster the simple “8” design.

I found some reference photos and added them to a pintrest board. One of the thumbnails would work best as an illustration, this was a tapered tentacle in the figure of 8 shape

I wanted to draw in loads of texture, I decided to use fine liners on bristol board. my goal was to draw the tentacle with strong shadows and render the octopus tentacle as striking as possible while still describing the round muscular shapes. below are some of the first steps. I started by making a rigid and uniform figure of eight, I then erased and re drew in the flow’ of the tentacle, I added a taper until I was happy. Eventually the original “8” was erased or worked over, it was only a guide and had served its purpose.

Once scanned I sent to my ipad, I then added colour with the apple pencil and the excellent procreate software. I started off with a mid blue and added black and white to recced and lift the tones in and out of the cracks, crevices, and bumped octopus skin. I wanted this to be really striking so I used the complimentary orange colour as the background, I found this to be visually stimulating and very dynamic.

I was thinking an interesting hand drawn approach would be to work on black paper and draw in the lit elements, I was hoping this would give it a deep darkened water quality. I used white pencil and gel pens. The gel pen seemed to cut out a lot on the paper and left broken marks. It required a forced, harder and almost scrubbed action to my marks. I liked the effect, I was getting loads of rough texture as a consequence which was perfect.

white pencil and gel pen on black paper

I scanned both of the drawings, these were both drawn on A3 paper, the scanner was a4 so I had to composite the drawings., once scanned I used the curves to boost the darks and lights until I was happy with the image. I then copied the adjusted scans onto an alpha channel and removed the unwanted background information, leaving just a digital representation of my pen and pencil marks.

Working in photoshop I added colour and type, which modified slightly by tapering the edges to give them a probing tentacle look.

I modified the figure of eight slightly from the original typeface.

I chose a photograph of octopus tentacles, I then added a gradient map to it this allowed me to select blue as my mid tone and then black and white to tint and shade the end result is a one colour image that retains all the tonal depth of the original, I then used a clipping mask to clip to the shape of the “8” . I wanted to sculpt a more natural and organic outline, so I rasterised the number eight and using a round brush painted in the suckers.

The “8” with suckers painted in

For the next experimental variation I took a really nice image of an octopus in motion, it was reaching with his winding outstretched appendages. I used another gradient map across the Image to remove all but one hue, I then added the “8” over the top, I then made a selection from the still text based element and selected the original full colour octopus image. I copied the selected shape and pasted in place, I then added a second gradient map, this time I selected an orange hue. This gave me more control than if I` had used a blend mode and clipping mask, and was able to adjust the tonal range to my liking.

I was asked to make a finished piece and three variations, It is quite hard to say which one I felt worked best. I really enjoyed making them all and I am very pleased with the outcome. If I was to repeat the exercise, maybe I would try to draw the two that used photographs. And would be interesting to recreate one using the photo montage approach. when I see them all together they make quite a nice set, but I think the one that I’m drawn to is the texture of the fine liner “8” I also enjoy the atmosphere the light and shadow create as it cascades down the tentacle.

Assignment 1

This assignment required me to collect objects that had some sentimental value, I looked around my family home to find anything that would resonate.

The camera belonged to my late father, he used to enjoy photography as a young man, he developed his own photographs in a makeshift darkroom.
After my younger sister was born the pictures seemed to get fewer and fewer, we do have some lovely pictures of Mum, my older brother and sister and I believe those were all taken on that manual camera.
No Memory cards back then of course, just the prints and negatives remain as a record of those times, we lost my older brother in a road traffic accident when I was three years old, I have only a couple of memories and they indeed may be false, generated from stories and the old photographs that this camera caught with a wink of his one big eye. It’s nice to think that this camera had captured some precious happy times, and while the images captured on the negative are reversed, swapping  light for darkness, the memories captured on the cellulose acetate or negative, are far from that, what a badly named part of the photographic process.

I picked up my first real acoustic guitar, this was given to me by my father, my father was always supportive of my creative endeavors and this guitar while certainly not being the high end of acoustic guitar price tags it was certainly a lot of money to me and a most appreciated and cherished gift, a guitar is more than wood lacquer and strings it really is a friend, someone to keep you company, a companion. Even the language used when naming the parts of the guitar are based on a living being, a body, a neck and a head, the chords have different voicings, it can tell a happy or a sad song or just be held while listening to music or watching a film. I even named her Prudence, not because she is careful or cautious, all the guitars I have owned since have been assigned names from girls from Beatles songs, Jude, Molly, and Rita. Maybe, if finances permit, one day I will cherish a Lucy.

The final part of my image is a black glossy piggy bank, this belonged to my older brother, I remember as a child it being an almost sacred object, I wouldn’t touch it, on the rare occasion I did it was heavy and smooth, a few coins remained inside, by brother had two dreams he wished to fulfil, he wanted his own judo dojo’s all over the country and a TVR sports car. This little collection of coins in this smiley little pig represents the determination and plans of an 11 year old boy who had his whole life figured out, a dream I know from the few stories I have been told about the spirit of this young man he would have exceeded again and again. Until it was taken from him by the carelessness of another.

My image represents the fragility of life and the fine fibers that hold them together. Past present and future.

I used Conte crayon, white pastel and acrylic paint for the brightest whites as in my last exercise.
The soft mediums when rubbed and worked into the paper do a good job of creating soft gradual tonal shifts, the tooth of the paper when applied directly with no smudge or smear allows for some nice textural effects. The money box is a little of both, some softer application around the dark areas and where the light hits sharper and brighter reflected light.

This image did get my emotions running quite high, it would be hard to understand why without any context but never the less I was happy with the outcome, there are a few bits I would change, the guitar neck ad floral decoration would benefit from some more accuracy. The areas I’m most happy with are the  difference in approach used with each material.


Exercise 3: Material Differences

Using my previous 4 drawings I picked the viewpoint that offered the most interest. I decided a focal point and looked at the tonal values.

The white walls and fireplace are surrounded by the dark table, the table had a lot of objects on it. This table serves as a Memorial to my late father and our beloved pets that have passed. on the table is a silver cherub, its size and light tonal values made me think this would be a good focal point.

Using Graphite pencil, I blocked in the darkest parts and basic shapes, I don’t normally smudge pencils but as the walls are light and smooth I took too smudging in some hb pencil and then using a rubber I “lightened it up”

One thing I did notice is that my eraser soon become very slick and heavy soiled with graphite, this actually become a useful tool to block in large areas of lighter tone, used flat I followed the shapes of the walls and the archway, the graphite transferring from the eraser to the paper.

Studying the values in front of me I established my darkest tones was to be some of the black box frames on the table, the lightest would be some objects on the table and the wooden dado rail on the wall, these light shapes cutting through the darkened tones of the table helped draw the eye to the cherub.

The research I did just before this drawing did help me make some choices, for one I didn’t want to be too picky about the accuracy of my perspective, imperfect lines might add to the character of the drawing, and mine certainly wasn’t perfect or true to life, in the end after several attempts to get a straight line by hand I did use the edge of a metal pencil tin to get a clean line, the hand drawn ones I was making didn’t really look rough enough ti be intentional but wasn’t smooth enough to represent the solid structures of the fore place.
The research also made me aware of how you can show something that at first seemingly mundane can have some secondary focal points that surround the main subject. I tried to do this with varying degrees of detail and contrast.

Overall I’m happy with the end result, and the lessons learnt. I chose graphite pencil as I thought it would allow me a good amount of detail, it is problematic to work with in a large format and I do not think my paper was up to the heavy layering of different grade pencils I used. It got to point where the graphite didn’t hold to the paper anymore, and it would almost “clump” in certain areas, it certainly added texture but it also shows every movement and mark I made with my pencil. I would benefit further from experimenting with different toothed paper and layering pencils to prevent this “effect” when trying to establish dark yet detailed tones.

Exercise 3: 360° studies

I visited a nice clearing in the forest next to my local park, this exercise required a set of consecutive drawings that was taken from the same spot but facing four different directions.
These sketches were to be completed within 15 minutes, I set up a timer and stuck to it. Having a time limit is a challenge but also forced some productive direction in the way I needed to approach the task.
One of these things was to work over the whole drawing ensuring my composition was mapped down and working as it should be. Another was extracting the minimal information to make the drawing successful.

I think I would like to incorporate these time limitations into my drawing flow, they would work really well at the initial experimental and discovery stages, allowing me to quickly feel my way through what works best and not so well.

Exercise 10: A Subjective Drawing

For this task I was required to choose a word from a list, the Idea here was to illustrate the qualities of the item rather than its function. I chose Umbrella, i created a mood board to try to recreate the qualities found in an umbrella, I used plastic bags among other things to try to recreate the look of a wet umbrella.

I then  found an old umbrella and photographed it. I produced a simple line drawing including some tone to render the creases and folds of the crumpled material.

I photocopied the drawing and cut out the parts to make a stencil, I used bin liners and pva glue to replicate the wet looking material then creased and stretched it tight in places and crumpled in others, I used silver foil to add in some struts and metal under frame.

If I could do this task again I would do this on a much larger scale, as it was small I struggled to get the control and detail needed to convey what was in my head, I  photographed and tried to add some structure back in the image  with my procreate software.
While I wasn’t 100% happy with the outcome I was mostly pleased with the effect It created.

Exercise 8: Creative thinking and problem solving

For this project I was tasked with producing Illustrations intended for use in Magazines. The main focus of this project is graphic communication, the challenge being that it had to have a narrative and satisfy the requested function, in essence solving a problem visually, I really enjoyed the challenges it presented and it really forced me to think about the message I conveyed.

Click for brief 1

Click for brief 2

Exercise 6: Mark Making

In this exercise I was asked to make as many marks as I could, This was more of a challenge than I first imagined, As I did find myself repeating the marks I made. I will like to use more in my drawing, I have used a lot of hatching lately but would like to do something with a lot of stippling.


Twisted pencil



Croonhatch three directions darkest

Cross hatch

Diagonal lines

Arrow heads

Small circles


Hatched lines


Arrow heads

Small circles


Bounced pencil


Scrubbed pencil edge

Contoured lines

Random curves vertical and horizontal