Exercise 1 – Groups of objects

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What did I do?

grouped objects

I grouped six objects of different sizes and shapes and used a variety of tools to draw with.  The first was a indigo polychromos pencil.  This was used to outline the shapes and then a gentle build up of tonal value was attempted.


Firstly the colour of the paper was terrible choice but I wanted to experiment.  The pink was too harsh and the blue was cool on it and easy to view but the pink hurt your eyes.  So that was a note to self to not use that again.

The pencil made it easier to sketch out an outline but my observation skills were not sharp to there were many lines where maybe a lighter impression of a line would have worked better.  It would have helped to approach with a light touch of the pencil until I got a sense of the relationship of the shapes to one another and the size and angles of the shapes.

The light was from above and a standard room light so the shadows were strong but very much in sharp angles to one another.


The main problem I found with the pencil was when it came to shading such a large area.  It was a pencil that required patience and time to build up shadow and areas with strong tonal value.  This was quite sore on the wrist and hand to be honest and so that detracted from the enjoyment of it.

Next I tried out the same composition to keep it constant and played with charcoal on a blue paper.  The paper was not very toothy and the smooth finish was helpful to manipulate the charcoal about.  It glided nicely across it.


I loved how the charcoal allowed me to block out shapes quickly and then I could get a sense of the relationships between the objects.  I felt more inclined to do that with the charcoal rather than trying to use and edge of it for the outline of something.

This image felt a lot better simply because I felt that the tonal values were closer to what I was seeing in front of me.  I did use a white charcoal and grey chalk on the page as it was lovely and crisp on it.  I needed a contrast and the white was a lovely contrast on the light blue.  This colour paper is something I would definitely go for again, but with a higher gsm value as this was a batch lot of craft paper to just experiment with.

Lastly I tried out the derwent art bar in an umber colour and then used a magenta colour to go over the areas that needed correcting.  The paper was newsprint paper and the smooth finish with the artbar worked well.  It was easier to outline objects with this than the compressed charcoal, but there was something about it that I didn’t like.  Not sure what but maybe it’s the blunt finish with it.  I’m not a fan of it yet.


How did I feel or think about it?

My favourite tool here was the compressed charcoal.  Maybe using the willow would have achieved a more ‘outline’ like result but for me the act of blocking out objects just helped me figure out the relationships quicker.  Trying to figure out shapes by observation and trial and error was difficult.  I didn’t give the grid method or anything else a shot as I was trying to push my observation skill.

How well did it go?

The pencil was successful for an outline, the derwent artbar was too but I didn’t like the texture or application of it.  The charcoal was great for the blocking out of things and then going back over for a stronger finish.  Willow charcoal might have worked better for giving just a light outline.  I’ll have to revisit it.

What did I learn?

  • I like charcoal and pencil but dislike the quality of line created by the artbar. The pencil was great if a light touch and a build up was your starting point but as a large piece it was hard to cover the area and get the right tone with pencil alone.
  • So charcoal was the most satisfying tool to use on a personal level, but pencil was a potentially cleaner line and could be more detailed.
  • The colour of the paper is something to consider carefully.

How can this help me in future exercises?

  • If I wanted to do a quick sketch of objects and build up the image slowly, pencil would be great and I could then use watercolours over them.
  • Artbar are oil based so I don’t know what I’d use them for other than perhaps warm up drawings.
  • Charcoal is a great tool for studying the tonal quality of a group of objects. It felt more fun for me.  It’s messier and darker and a lighter touch with a willow charcoal may permit a gentle build up to an image too, but on this occasion I enjoyed the sweep of black across the page and the contrast of the white on blue.