Aim: This project encourages you to reflect on the wider potential of observational drawing, in particular how you can use what you look at more experimentally as you develop your composition. You probably normally start by finding an interesting subject or setting up a still life. This project asks you to reverse this process by finding what may seem an initially unpromising subject, but one with several elements, and then building up the composition to create an interesting drawing. This will encourage you to reflect on the potential of a more creative and open-ended approach to composing drawings.

Method: Find an inconspicuous area of a room or small area outdoors where several elements are juxtaposed. Take photos and make sketches of cropped details. Make several drawings, playing with the composition of the elements. Allow interesting features to develop; extend lines, repeat motifs, allow forms to come together in unusual ways. Be as playful as possible with pattern, texture, form, etc., whilst still being sensitive to what you’re looking at. You may find that photocopying your drawing, cutting it up and making a collage will help – or overlaying tracing paper to create repetitions of interesting lines and shapes. As you progress you may find that parts of the subject which feature large in reality disappear completely in your drawing, while incidental patterns of shapes develop their own status.

Reflection: In your learning log, reflect on how far you’ve moved from your original subject. Is your final drawing still of the object, or is it now more a drawing about the process of looking and being creative?

Reflect on whether you’ve made the best possible use of the space available to you. Are some areas simply ‘background’? What more could you have done to develop these areas of your drawing?

1-1-01; A3 Cartridge paper, graphite pencil


1-1-02; A3 Cartridge paper, charcoal
1-1-03; A3 Cartridge paper, charcoal
1-1-04; A3 Cartridge paper, water soluble graphite pencil
1-1-05; A3 Cartridge paper, XL tinted charcoal
1-1-06; A3 Cartridge paper, XL tinted charcoal
1-1-07; A3 Cartridge paper, Ink and watersoluble graphite pencil

After a quick look around I choose the mundane collection of a patio table and chairs.  This less than inspiring collection sat forlornly in the corner of the garden in early January hunkered down awaiting the return of sun and warmth.  My initial attraction to this collection was the negative spaces that were created by the various elements of chair arms, backs and legs.


I started with standard drawings of the ‘scene’, essentially drawing exactly what was in front of me!  I then progressed by focussing on various elements of the scene cropping elements to tighten the view and exclude elements I didn’t wish to include.  This process progressed to eventually focussing on the texture of the wooden chairs and the patterns created by the linear.

The drawings I did were a gradual progression from the overall view of the table and chair set to ever closer viewpoints with cropping..  This has been explored further by eliminating the view and depiction of the subject elements and using frottage as the main means to depict the tone and texture.


I overlaid this with a chair drawing and in hindsight this wasn’t necessary and has become a distraction.  If I had used a medium which wasn’t as heavy toned – dark as black ink it may also have been better.  The ink tends to dominate the picture subrogating the texture of the wood slats and the chair seat pattern which was to be the main subject!


The final set of three drawings       1-1-07, 08 and 09. have moved substantially from the initial depictions of the table and chairs set in the garden.

Looking at them now a few days later I think I could have developed them further omitting the chair but including elements of the chair instead.

I have cropped picture 08 to give a visual depiction of what I should have done.  I could chop it and make it A4 or A5 losing the elements depicting the chair.


I believe I have used the space, picture plain well.  In the first few drawings the dark surrounds, i.e. background are necessary to throw in relief the table and chairs.  On the latter few drawings the background has become the main element of the drawing as it is fully textured with frottage indicating the wood slat pattern and wood texture.

The plainness of background in drawing 1-1-06 is bland but probably necessary to profile the chair slats and structure.  Drawing 1-1-09 has a shaded background but tis tip it been ‘ordinary’ I have randomly splashed with water the water soluble shading to give a haphazard rather than a regular appearance.

The best use of background are probably the drawings with frottage where the whole of the paper has been more or less incorporated into this technique with some over drawing.  This has also resulted in a unity of the picture as a whole with this common element across the whole surface.

This idea and concept could have been developed further by progressing the drawing with various elements of frottage, using different media and then using elements of the chair or the linear patterns created with the negative space to overlay this frottage ‘background’.

Cropped section from drawing #08
1-1-08, A3 Cartridge paper, watersoluble graphite pencil with XL tinted charcoal and charcoal
1-1-09; A3 Cartridge paper, watersoluble pencil and water.