Blind Contour Drawing

Blind contour drawing is an exercise where you have to draw a picture without looking at the paper while you are drawing. You have to concentrate on the subject in front of you while drawing. You can only look at the paper when you have finished the line and are ready to move on to the next part. You look at the line you have just made and place your pen or tool of choice down in reaction to it and so forth until you have completed your picture.


Sigiriya Apsara Painting


Sigiriya Apsara Painting





Sigiriya Apsara Painting


Sigiriya Royal Gardens


Sigiriya Apsara Painting

I found this exercise in the book Experimental Drawing by Robert Kaupelis

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Part 2 Intimacy, Still Life Genre

This research point asks you to look at the work of traditional sixteenth and seventeenth century Dutch still life painters, then think about how it was interpreted by nineteenth-century and contemporary artists.

Dutch still life

Looking into the 16th and 17th-century Dutch painters I came across the Dutch golden age of painting. This spanned the 17th century and was a prosperous time for the nation. The new dutch republic was formed moving away from old laws, traditions and religious movements. Because of the reformation of the church, religious and historical paintings fell out of fashion. Even thought these types of paintings were generally a preferred subject matter for the artists, there wasn’t a strong market for them. To accommodate this, the artists had to re-evaluate their working practices, focusing more on still life, landscapes, and portrait paintings simply because they sold better and kept up with the new trends and feelings of the times.

Despite this the painting categories in order of prominence where:

  • Historical painting
  • Portrait painting
  • Genre painting
  • Landscape
  • Still life

Still life painting of this period was predominantly the study of inanimate objects laid out on a table using one point perspective to capture the scene. It included things like fruit, flowers, bowls and cutlery. There can also be animals like butterflies, mice and birds included among these and symbolic aspects like bubbles, rotting fruit or a recently extinguished candle. Still life paintings can be traced back to early civilisations such as Egyptian, Greek, and Roman but really came into their own through the Dutch painters of this time.

The Dutch painters had recognisable subject categories such as breakfast and banquet scenes, writing desks and even outdoor study of arranged objects. There was usually a prominent and heavy moralistic message interwoven in these scenes, steeped in the fleeting transience of life. These moralistic still lifes were named Vanitas. Their subject matters included scenes with wilting flowers, skulls, mouldy food and anything that shows the fragility of form. Symbolism played a big part too with lilies representing purity and innocence, also the purity of the virgin Mary, and roses symbolising love and passion. There was a real focus on detailed realism and the ability to portray the amount of control they had over capturing the scene. This, in turn, gave them the opportunity to experiment with lighting effects, subject matter, and style to produce a realistic result.

Dutch artists of the time include Pieter Claesz, Abraham van Beijeren and Jacob Gillig.

Pieter Claesz, still life with a skull and a writing quill 1628

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Abraham van Beijeren, pronkstillevens (still life with silver wear) there is a self-portrait of the artist reflected in the silver of the jug.

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Jacob Gillig, salt water fish

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Paul Cézanne

Looking at the work of 19th-century artist Paul Cézanne, who doesn’t seem to fit into any one set style of painting, sometimes referred to as a post-impressionist and others a modernist. Despite this, he has had a massive influence on the fauvist and cubist movements. In regards to his still life paintings, you can see his approach was more focused on simplification. He looked more closely at the form of the objects to create depth in his work. To create the illusion of form in his paintings, tone and perspective are used. He chooses to paint directly onto the canvas over the use of underdrawing. This allowed him to focus on the brush strokes and palette knife application of his paint.  Unlike the early dutch painters who used conventional perspective, which uses a single viewpoint, he believed that we don’t view the world in such a way, and liked to combine several viewpoints in one picture. By looking at his work you can see his interest in the shapes of the shadows and the forms as a whole. He also favoured colour over well laid out silhouettes, he liked these colours to harmonised with each other in his works and in doing this he chooses to allow the colour to dictate the form, without the use of light or shadow but, through the graduation of the colours themselves. After looking through his paintings and reading about his views his work stands out to me more now. He has definitely highlighted some issues that I have come across myself which made me question my approach to drawing objects. An example of this is when I’ve drawn an object on a table with the edge of the table still visible in the background. I have struggled with the fact that by passing behind an object it appears to not line up and then I feel the need to move the line to make the drawing line up and fit together as I perceived to be more accurate and in a way tidy it up. Cezanne chose not to question what he saw, stay true to it or even embrace it or capture it from these different viewpoints which I find inspirational. Along with his use of colour and freedom to express himself in this way, you can see why artists like Pablo Picasso and Maurice Denis were so inspired by him. To him, a realistic example of the objects he chose to paint was not the point. To me, this is what stood him apart from his predecessors and is vastly different from the early dutch works. 

Paul Cezanne came from a rich family and therefore did not necessarily need to make money from his work, creating paintings for his own enjoyment, this allowed him to be freer with the way he chose to work, having no pressure on him to conform to the wants and needs of the people, who would have bought art at the time, and in doing this gave himself limitless opportunity to express himself freely. I have chosen two paintings of his that I feel reflect my study into his work.

The first is, Still Life With Apples 1894

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When I first looked at this painting I felt I had to tilt my head to the left as it seems to draw me in from the bottom right-hand side, but the green vase looks as though you are viewing it from the front and above at the same time. The green vase also seems to be so close to the left side edge of the table, that it is just about to fall off the fabric, adding to the drama, until you notice that the table edge is still there only lower down in the painting, not lining up from where it disappeared behind the vase on the other side. The colours work well together and are a good example of colour flows throughout the painting. Every time I look at the painting I notice something new.

The second is, Still Life With Plaster Cast 1894

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I made this painting my second choice because it is so obscure. At first glance, it just seemed to be a straightforward painting of a cherub statue on a table with some fruit and other objects laid around. After studying it for a longer time, it became more complex than it first appeared. The first thing I noticed was the size of the fruit painted in the top right corner, it seems to be bigger than the fruit you would perceive to be closer to you in the picture. The position of the fruit is in on the floor makes it seem as though it should be rolling down the painting. From the onion and the fabric at the bottom left, the floor seems to curve up and over the room being higher and lower than the table at the same time. This painting is a good example of his multi-viewpoint technique. Once you get your bearings it’s still really hard to tell how he put the composition together. The table seems to be on the floor, the floor seems to be on another floor halfway up the wall and the statue seems to be facing several directions at once. There’s so much movement in this picture that it contradicts the term still life. It is a very complex work.

Art historians credited Paul Cezanne for inspiring the cubism movement, due to the way in which he broke apart his images and rearranged them with his multi-view point technique. Cubism was a revolutionary form of abstract art that refers to the way in which the artists chose to structure their painting or sculpture. With their chosen theme, they would analyse it, take the subject matter apart and rearrange the natural forms to their geometrical equivalents, translating natural forms into what seemed to be formal structure. Still life, the human face, and figure were the main subject matters. There were two phases of cubism, the first being analytic which was an approach that attempted to recreate what the mind perceives over what the eye sees. The second stage was synthetic which involves brighter colours and simpler forms.

Paul Cézanne – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Looking at Picasso’s still life paintings it is clear that an artists approach to their paintings were vastly different from the dutch masters. Recent war’s still had their effect on people’s outlooks but religion was far less prevalent and controlling in its influence on artists working practices. New technologies such as photography, cars, and aeroplanes brought the world into a new age and the impact of this must have been felt by all. People could express themselves in new ways. The variety of styles and tastes had evolved and to stand out you had to be different. Picasso along with his associate Georges Braque embraced this freedom and together developed cubism as a fresh new take over structured traditional approaches. There innovative techniques had never been seen before. Techniques such as collage using industrially produced objects. Picasso adopted many styles of painting over his lifetime. He experimented with many different mediums, including household paints in many of his paintings, he also liked to paint at night using artificial light. 

Still life with steers skull 1942

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This painting of a bulls head sat on a table in front of a window is quite dark and eerie, it has a reflective quality to it. The steer skull to me particularly highlights the use of structural form in cubism, and you do get the feeling of looking at it from multiple viewpoints. It reminds me in a way of the still life with plaster cast in that the steers skull is twisting around, with the bottom of the skull lining up with the edge of the table as though it is not sitting on it at all. The Skulls eyes are painted in a way that it could be looking out of the canvas in front or out of the window  behind. The colours that Picasso chose really stand out effectively against the black background.

Still life sculpture 1914

I also really enjoyed reading about the sculpture Picasso made named Still Life 1914. First looking at it, it seems to be a jumble of bits and bobs glued and nailed together and that’s exactly what it is, But the more you look at it the more the elements start to emerge until you can finally see it as a whole. I think it’s really clever and it does capture a scene of a working man’s lunch.

Contemporary artists today have vast freedom in the way they choose to work. You can stay true to the ways of the old masters or be free and abstract with the way you work. Religion and Politics no longer have a stranglehold on what can be seen and produced, at least in the western world anyway.

Mat Collishaw

I have chosen to look at the work of English photographer, sculpture, and filmmaker Mat Collishaw and his series of work entitled last meals on death row. In this series, the artist has recreated a selection of inmates last meals in a style reminiscent of the dutch masters. Each work is named after the respective inmate who received the meal. They are digitally transferred prints on goatskin parchment. “I remade the meals in a manner usually used for reflecting on the accumulation of worldly goods, vanity, and mortality,” Mat says. It’s a good example of old methods being used in creative new ways with new technology mixed with the traditional material.

The subject matter is macabre and thought to provoke. They are the last chance of indulgence if wanted, of those that will not be sustained for much longer, the last supper of murderers and rapists. Each meal is a personal choice of the sentenced, be it oysters, salad or junk food, all represented by the artist with the same amount of respect regardless of their tastes. It makes you wonder if this final indulgence has any impact on them at all, with their impending fate so close.

This series is a prime example of the traditional style still being embraced, but with modern technology to capture the final scene. Although it is the artist’s choice of subject matter the spread is the preferred food of the condemned. Whatever meal they have chosen the artist has taken the same amount of care to portray. Some of the meals are placed on a silver platter but not all of them, again reminiscent of traditional works. One photo I particularly like is that of Jonathan Nobles, executed on the 7th of October 1998. In 1986, high on drugs Jonathan, at the time 25 years old, stabbed two young women to death and seriously injured a man. His last meal was a Communion wafer and a glass of wine. The lighting from the lower left-hand side elongates the shadow cast from the wine glass and highlights the wafer adding drama. I think that the simplicity of the shot and the heavy religious connotations, along with the dark setting and the soft low lighting and the starkness of the black room and dark wooden table leave a lot to the imagination. It does make me wonder if he found his peace while striving for forgiveness, will this final act have the power to over shine his sins and carry him through to his spiritual salvation.,29307,2095889_2316164,00.html

Julian Merrow-Smith

Then final contemporary Artist I have chosen to look at is the still life work of British artist Julian Merrow-Smith. He has a blog called postcard from Provence, it’s a daily painting diary from where he now lives in Vaucluse, in the south of France. The idea of the daily painting blog is a good example of how technological advantages have opened up more freedom and ways of expression from the early dutch artists. His concept made me reflect on the advantages that artists have in the modern age and the ability to get work viewed immediately after completion, almost anywhere in the world. Looking through his paintings and reading about how he likes to paint seasonal produce made me think about how in Britain especially there is no real need to know about seasonal produce anymore with the shops stocking pretty much anything you want all year round. Gone are the days when you had to wait until June for your fresh Strawberry’s and with a glut, you could preserve them for winter time. It takes the magic out of seasonal delights, and with this age where you can visit a supermarket 24 hours a day for practically anything the ability and knowledge of seasonal harvests and home preserving methods are not an essential part of the home anymore. I think that is why I like the paintings so much, it’s a reminder that even in the age of superfast broadband and hectic schedules, a rural charm is still out there somewhere. For artists living in a time before convenience stores and reference photos, who had a passion for painting, would have to wait patiently for their fruit or flower of choice to ripen and bloom, making it an extra special time of year. I think that his approach to still life compared to the Dutch artists is more laid back and soft, they seemed to need to fill up their paintings with elaborate layouts and hidden messages and meanings, whereas Julian’s work is more concentrated on a few items that take you to a simplistic way of life. One thing I like about his work is that it has a soft dream-like charm to it that take you to the heart of the countryside.

Bowl of cherries

I choose this painting because it really does represent the rural charm I thought of while looking through his work. The brushwork, highlights, and shadow give the painting a soft palatable quality. With modern paint and painting styles, this brightly coloured yet simplistic depiction of a bowl of cherries  is in contrast with the early Dutch art for it brightness and three-dimensional form.

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Links To Practical or interesting sights:

Hatching and cross-hatching references from

Paper Size

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Seascapes Workshop

Last week I attended a seascape workshop with artist Kate Salway at the Russell-Cotes museum in Bournemouth. It was a chance for me to have a go at working with soft pastels and produce a seascape, neither of which I have done before.

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I thought it was good timing to go on this workshop as I have just started part two of my course which is concentrating on colour.

The day was really relaxed, we started off with Kate explaining to us about the pastels and the different paper types you can use, she then gave a demonstration on how to draw looking into the distance as well as looking at the skyline, water and beach, she also showed us how to build up layers of colour. We then got the opportunity to go up onto the balcony of the museum to make sketches and take photos for reference.





I am not that happy with the drawings themselves, but I believe that I got a lot out of the day. It was an opportunity to see what can be achieved. All in all, it was a relaxed experience, the people were great and I was shown techniques that I can work on such as blending, mixing and building up colours.


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My Own Drawings

This part of my blog is for drawings I do while on the course that are not directly course related. One question I have been asking myself while studying is should I include these drawings or not? I felt they deserved a place to go as it is all part of implementing learning in my own work and useful for me in monitoring my development.

Three of hearts

After finishing assignment one I wanted to do another drawing. I seem to do more freethinking the more relaxed I get with my drawing. The idea of designing my own version of a tarot card came to mind. The three of hearts is one of my favourite card images.

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Study of a bonsai in pencil


Study of a bonsai using a dip pen


Day into night

View, out of my living room window, dip pen.


The silver light of a spring moon

Mothers day gift.


Paper shortage


Recalling a bird


Chris Guest oil painting workshop, at Southampton tattoo convention

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Assignment One

Assignment one is a task designed for you to take on board the skills acquired, and mark making techniques practiced so far. Bringing them together in a still life of objects that trigger a response for you. These objects can be ordinary, funny, practical, ornamental or a mixture of all these. Again the emphasis is on the lighting whether it be natural or artificial. It is also a chance to introduce yourself to your tutor and show him what level your drawing skills are at this point in the course.

I put together a still life of some of my favourite objects and decided to do a practice drawing first to make sure I was happy with the composition and how it fits onto the paper. I set it up and started to draw the outline loosely. After sketching in the outline I just wasn’t feeling good about the composition, I lost enthusiasm and started to feel frustrated. I decided then to split the picture into three and roughly practice some different styles to see if that would help with my motivation. I incorporated some elements from the expressive lines and mark making exercise to see if that would help my enthusiasm, but it did not, so I stopped and decided to come back to it the next day.

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I showed my friend at work a photo of the still life, the first thing she said was “that doll scares me”, that made me think, why, why would an inanimate object scare someone, I’ve never understood that. I have a small collection of horror style dolls and I love them. That got me thinking about the different emotional response people have to vastly different things. Imagination must play a key part in building such items up or even animating them into something to be fearful of. I thought about her reaction a lot that day, from my thinking I decided that the first image I was planning on drawing just didn’t grab my imagination enough. I wanted to do a really great drawing and felt that this one just wasn’t going to be it.  Instead, I decided I was going to make a scene from some of my dolls and hoped that this time I could really get into the drawing.

That evening I read the assignment again to make sure that I wasn’t wondering off course. I felt that my idea fitted the criteria so I got to work. I spent some time looking at the dolls and thinking of what to do with them. I noticed on my dresser in front of the dolls where some poker dice, I bought them because my grandad had some and I remember playing with them as a little girl, I think about him when I roll them, I like to keep them out where I can see them and reminisce. The idea came to me:

The dolls would be sitting around like a coven of witches playing a game of poker, I started with four dolls but thought it looked too crowded so reduced it to three, I placed a skull snow globe behind them to add height, interest and give them something to lean on, I rolled the dice to achieve a random pattern, I thought if I placed them it would look too ordered. I think the thing that inspired me most was having the imaginings of a story interwoven into the still life. After a few adjustments turning heads, moving arms and arranging the lighting I was ready to begin.


I started by lightly mapping out the still life with a 2H pencil. In the photo below, you can see that I started to build up detail in the doll on the left. I stopped, realising that as I am left handed I would have to work over the image and risk smudging the picture with my hand so decided to move to the right-hand side and build up detail drawing from right to left instead.


I exaggerated some of the details in the dolls hair, clothes, and the noose to the left. I wanted to keep the majority of the detail and shading on the dolls and the dice and have the snow globe more outlined as to not draw your attention away from the dolls themselves. I chose to work only with 2H, 4B, and 8B pencils, adding ink and pigment for the finishing detail.IMG_3757

I spread the task over 4 nights, had separate pieces of paper that I would practice lines, test effects and make notes on and made sure I took plenty of small breaks. This enabled me to step back  and analyse my work.

Finishing touches were added to the eyes by a red paint, the pigment blend I formulated specifically for this picture as I’m a makeup designer by day. I changed the shape of the snow in the globe to stars instead of dots and added seven iridescent gold stars and a few sweeps to emphasise the shape of the globe.

I like to look into the meaning of thing and found that in the bible seven is the number of completion. I thought that was apt for the finishing touch.



Finished piece


There is nothing I would change about this picture. Its the longest I’ve taken over a single drawing so far and I managed to achieve something I’m really proud off.




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Project 2 Exercise 4 Shadow and reflective light

For this composition, I had to choose two objects with reflective surfaces and use charcoal to draw them. The idea was to build up tone, and that the reflective surfaces would provide an interesting interplay of light.


I chose an old candle holder and an inkwell, I placed them on top of a silver spider web place mat, I thought that would frame the items. While drawing the candle holder, I found it hard to represent some of the areas in the pattern as they catch the light and seem to shine out of the shadow. I couldn’t lift off the charcoal from those areas and would have liked to include that detail. Also didn’t want to  shade in the table as I thought it would make the whole drawing look too dark even though the wood is obviously darker than the silver objects. If I were to do it again I would possibly straighten up the candle holder  and move it further back. I think the inkwell would have looked better on the other side and maybe overlap the shadow to add interest.









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