Strengths and weaknesses – further development

My tutor has suggested I make bullet points of ways to develop my strengths and address my weaknesses


  • Analysis of my own and other artists’ work. Develop further by connecting other artists’ work to my own.
  • Experimenting with line, composition, media. Continue to experiment and focus on what works and what doesn’t. Make more frequent sketches.
  • Develop my sketchbook work using more notations, testing or marks, palette and tonal values. Use what I learn to set aims at the assignment outcome stage
  • Do more analysis of other artists and how they relate to outcomes I want to achieve.


  • Tonal contrasts. Practice working with darker tones
  • Be more focussed and specific about the connections I am making in my research. Use bullet points and set out aims relating to my own work.

Project 1. Exercise 1. Drawing fabric using line and tone

I enjoyed this exercise after the complexities of landscape. I used a dip pen and black ink to make a line drawing.  I like the way the ink blobs a bit which can be used to reflect darker areas of shadow.

Line drawing using dip pen and ink

To look at tone, I used turquoise ink and a brush. On one picture I also used masking fluid to make more detailed highlights.

Tonal drawing using brush and turquoise ink
Tonal drawing using brush and ink with masking fluid

I also did a tonal drawing on grey paper using oiled charcoal and yellow chalk pastel.

Oiled charcoal, yellow chalk pastel on grey paper

I enjoyed the opportunity to play around with some different materials while doing a fairly simple exercise.

I followed this with 6 short (6 minute) sketches of folds in a blanket using drawing pen, charcoal pencil, graphite and 4b pencil. It was a useful exercise to explore different media. 

Assignment 3. preliminary sketches and final piece plus reflection using assessment criteria points

This is my assignment 3 drawing which is a view at Durham Botanic Gardens. I went on a sketching day with Interface Arts a group of professional and semi-professional artists based in County Durham. They have funding towards an exhibition based on gardens in County Durham later in the year. I joined Interface with a view to making contact with other artists and gaining opportunities to exhibit work.

My prompt note for assignment 3 was: “A drawing with plants, a structure and a feeling of depth.” I had trouble with this – all my exercises seemed to have 2 out of 3 – plants and a structure but no feeling of depth; plants and a feeling of depth but no structure.

At the Botanic Gardens I came across a little gazebo looking out over a pond and path. I sketched out rough compositions in my sketchbook.

I also took a lot of photos exploring composition and viewpoints.

I made the final drawing at home using a variety of photographs. I experimented with masking fluid and decided to remove a large spiky plant in the foreground to open up the view.

I found it hard to “fill in the gaps” where my sketches and photos didn’t have the information I needed for elements of my drawing – for example – where I removed the plant.

I was quite disappointed in the final drawing.  I felt the composition wasn’t as dynamic as it could have been – for example, the path is straighter than it was in my initial drawings. I like the areas in the background using masking fluid which created lively and quite abstract blocks.

I learned to more accurately assess the amount of time it will take to make a drawing. It would also have been useful to plan a second visit to enable me to fill in any gaps. I will continue to work on understanding composition and also experiment with making my work looser and less detailed as I think the final drawing became too detailed.

Reflection on Assignment three

Assessment criteria points

1) Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

In this assignment I feel I have progressed in composition and developed my sketchbook work to explore composition and techniques. In this assignment piece I used masking fluid for the first time (after trying it out in my sketchbook). I also removed a plant that was too dominant in the foreground which is the first time I have altered a composition to make it look more interesting.

The work was based on in situ. sketching in Durham Botanic Gardens but I also took photographs which informed the detailed work in the final drawing. While there are elements of the drawing I like – the more abstract trees in the background and the swirly plants in the right foreground – I could have made the composition more interesting and I didn’t observe the beam in the roof of the gazebo properly in my sketches or photographs so it is a little bodged. I also am not sure about the almost square final composition, I had originally envisioned a much more panoramic view of the garden but, to be frank, ran out of time (having already spent 9 hours drawing) and also hadn’t recorded the scene in enough detail to draw the wider view. Finally I feel the work generally is too detailed. I prefer the more abstract areas and will take this forward into future work.

2) Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

I think the final piece gives a feeling of depth and of sunlight and shadow which is what I was hoping to achieve. It is a very detailed piece and is how it occurs to me to respond to this landscape, however, I am aware that some of the artists I have studied such as Georgia O’Keefe create landscapes with little to no detail. However, others such as Peter Doig and Pierre Bonnard are more decorative and detailed. I would like to look at other ways to reflect landscape with less detail.

3) Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

I think the composition is creative with the dark wooden post and beams in the foreground framing the view and I have experimented with masking fluid and watercolour which I haven’t used very much before. The subject itself is a bit “conventional” – a pretty view, a path, flowers, a pond. I really struggled with finding a subject that fitted all the criteria in the assignment and this felt a little like a compromise. I am aware that I haven’t used my sketchbook as much as I could to take an idea through experimentation to completion and recently attended a sketchbook course (after completing this assignment!) I hope to take what I learned into my next assignment.

4) Context reflection – research, critical thinking.

During the course of Part 3 I have looked at a wide variety of artists including those mentioned above as well as Albrecht Durer, Claude Lorrain and Claude Monet. I also went on study visits to Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen in Newcastle and Degas to Picasso at the Ashmolean. I enjoyed the film “ Exhibition on Screen: I Claude Monet” which explored Monet’s life through his letters read out by an actor while the film showed the work he was producing at the time.

There were certain techniques I wanted to find out more about so I researched oil pastels and also found a useful video on composition.

Exercise 3. A limited palette study

I enjoyed the limited palette which reduced the number of decisions I had to make. I used coloured pencils. On reflection, the picture would have been more balanced  and better compositionally if I had drawn in the houses to the left of the central building. I would have preferred to get the perspective on the roof of the central building correct!

Research point. Historic and contemporary artists who work in series with the landscape

I’m delighted to return to Peter Doig. One of my favourite artists who produced a series of paintings based on Le Courbusier’s Unité d’Habitation apartments in Briey-en-Forêt, north east France. Doig recorded the site using a hand-held video camera then painted his series over a number of years. Four of the paintings in this series were exhibited at the Tate Britain in their Peter Doig exhibition in 2008. Fortunately, the exhibition is still on the Tate’s website and the series of pictures can be viewed here. I love the way the thick woodland around the building creates strong verticals against the building’s horizontal lines. There is a strong feeling of a battle going on between nature and human creation.

I recently saw a film about Monet ‘Exhibiton on Screen: I Claude Monet’ which was an exploration of Monet’s life through his own letters read out by an actor while the film showed the work he was producing at the time the letters were written. It was an excellent film and described the struggles Monet went through including painting the facade of Rouen Cathedral at different times of day. Through the series Monet explores how to portray different times of day and weather through variations in colour and tone.

Georgia O’Keefe produced a series of paintings of the Cerro Pedernal mountain in New Mexico which she could see from her home. Like Monet. O’Keefe explores the changing colours and tones due to weather effects and time of day.

Georgia O’Keeffe | 10 Facts On The Famous American Artist | Learnodo ...

Arts Everyday Living: A Journey to O’Keeffe Country–The Wonder of ...


Painting the same subject repeatedly allows an artist to build up information for themselves about how landscapes change depending on weather, time of day and season. Over longer periods of time changes in actual landscapes can be noted such as trees growing or dying and new buildings and roads being built.




Looking at composition and working towards Assignment 3

In the middle of my landscape module it is becoming clear to me I have a fairly limited idea about what makes a good composition. I have to admit I turned to youtube for some ideas.

I came across a 23 minute video by artist Jill Poyard. ‘Developing an Eye for Landscape Composition’ which is aimed at students and is excellent at outlining some of the theories of composition while emphasising that most artists produce work which doesn’t follow these theories! I like the way the video looked at composition in relation to paintings to examine how artists composed their work.

I’d recommend watching the video but my notes are as follows.

Landscape differs from other forms of art in having to tackle:

  • atmosphere: sky, air, and the way this affects how we view a scene especially at a distance
  • weather: has a strong affect on the mood of a painting, sunlight, shadows, rain, mist.
  • land forms and features.

The landscape can be broken into a series of planes with the lightest planes being horizontal and the darkest being vertical.

Determine a focal point and look for lines that lead the eye around.

  • Don’t split your painting in half
  • Don’t place your focal point at the centre
  • Do use an odd number of elements
  • Do vary sizes and space between elements

Rule of Thirds

This is a popular design format similar to the golden ratio. Divide your composition into thirds vertically and horizontally. Place focal points on some of the intersections between the lines. Place your horizon on one of the lines.

Other compositions

A very low horizon line has interest

The L shape is a classic

The S shape leads your eye into a picture – for example a river or road.

A strong diagonal

A large central object – either lighter or darker than the surrounding area


Triangulation – either the whole composition or elements of the composition.

I have subsequently spent a lot of time with a camera taking pictures and attempting to get my compositions to conform to some of these ideas about composition. I instinctively place the horizon lower or higher than the third point suggested by the rule of thirds and also have difficulty with the idea of multiple focal points. I have always been attracted to dark and fairly central focal points and elements of symmetry while looking for ‘lines’ in the composition which lead the eye around the picture.

The Ashmolean – permanent collection

After the Degas to Picasso study day I took the opportunity to look round the permanent collection. With only an hour to look round I couldn’t see all of the extensive collection. I enjoyed two rooms full of small oil sketches. I didn’t know this was a thing but there were beautiful sketches by artists like Constable, Leighton, Camuccini and many more. These were preparatory sketches for classical landscape painting so were free-er and more modern-looking than the finished pieces. Some were unfinished showing the process of building up a landscape from pencil or charcoal sketches to tone and colour. In this unfinished picture Camuccini sketched general lines of composition in black chalk concentrating on the middle distance rather than the foreground.

Giovanni Battista Camuccini. Landscape with trees and roots.

Others focused on a single aspect such as a cloudscape by Constable.

John Constable. Study of Clouds. Oil on Paper


Frederic Leighton. Gateway, Algiers. Oil on board.

I loved the composition of Frederic Leighton’s sketch ‘Gateway, Algiers’ featuring a glimpse of the sea through a white archway and feeling of heat created by the colours with hints of blue, pink, grey and cream and strong shadow. The line of the sea is on the golden section.

The modern art section of the Ashmolean is small and tucked away but featured some amazing pictures. Sadly, there was no photography allowed.

Wassily Kandinsky. Murnau-Staffelsee 1. 1908

Wassily Kandinsky’s Murnau-Staffelosee 1. 1908. is a stunning landscape painting with vibrant colours depicting a late evening scene. What are those flashes of blue white  in what appears to be the foreground?

I also loved Howard Hodgkin’s “Like an open book” 1989 – 90. The thick, colourful paint makes the picture a physical presence which is reinforced by the painting over the frame. It is like a memory made solid & quite remarkable.  Sadly it isn’t featured on the Ashmolean’s website.

Neither is Jenny Saville’s amazing drawing “Study of arms II” 2015. Charcoal and pastel on tinted acrylic ground on watercolour paper. A beautiful figure study of Saville’s daughter showing the movement of her arms while sitting for a drawing.

To do: I have come to the conclusion that you can’t rely on a modern art gallery to put all their collection online! I will sketch as well as writing notes and am seriously considering taking coloured pencils to better represent pictures in my learning log.