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Helen Standing - Music Tutor (West Wales UK)

OCA Drawing Level 1 - Part 5

I decided that I wanted to focus on drawing faces for the final section of the course, so that I could develop one specific area of drawing. Therefore I haven't really followed the exercises for Part 5 but instead used them as a loose guide for developing skills and experimentation. 

With this and previous tutor comments in mind, I thought it best to focus on:

  • Careful measurement (p173) - I use a scale divide an aid for this when applicable
  • Working with a range of media (p174)
  • Having a clear light source (p175)
  • Using tone to create a sense of form/volume (p175)

The local portrait drawing club is also something good for me and, whilst I can't attend every time, it is useful in having a live figure and learning from other.


- Graphitone stick 8b

I tried to make sure there was a good light source across the subject's face so that I could more easily attempt to show tonal variation and therefore form. 

Some elements of this sketch work better than others. The shape and proportion is reasonable, although there are issues with his left eye in particular and the angle of his nose isn't in keeping with the mouth. There is some sense of form in the mouth and chin, but not enough tonal range on the nose. 

I preferred the Graphitone stick to pencil because I could use it on the side and corner as well a the more pointed end.


- Dewent Watercolor Pencil Crayons & Watersoluable Metallic Pencil Crayons

I had a quick try with the pencil crayons, but again I prefer something chunkier so I didn't,t feel too comfortable with them. I also think I used some odd choices of colour at times - eg drawing the basic sketch in green - but I wanted to be a bit experimental.

I needed more tonal range in this piece and didn't really use washes to good effect - I found this harder than the Inktense pencils/blocks used earlier in the course. 

I need to experiment further with the metallic pencils to see how they can be more effective. 


- inscribe Soft Pastels, Derwent Pastel Pencils and Conte a Paris Soft Pastels

Despite having the allergy issues with pastels, I decided to give them another quick try, in short bursts. Ultimately though, I overworked the piece and the paper crinkled. (I had intended to keep it a lighter sketch so had used a thinner paper. I need to always use heavier paper, as that allows me to work unlimited on the picture and build up tone more.)

The model was at a slight angle, so this was slightly harder to draw and I haven't built form up very well with shading of the chin etc. I also needed more range of colour/tone in the hair.

I still had problems with allergies, but have since researched using Pan Pastels on their own or to highlight watercolour studies, so I think that would be a way forward for me. 


- Grey ProMarker

I gave the grey ProMarker another try after a brief attempt from Part 4. I was really tired drawing this, so didn't do well with shape and proportion, but was reasonably happy with the tonal range of the nose and lip areas. In some ways the ProMarkers are harder to work with as you obviously change things as easily. 

The model was at a slight angle, so this was slightly harder to draw and I haven't built form up very well with shading of the chin etc. I also needed more range of colour/tone in the hair.

I still had problems with allergies, but have since researched using Pan Pastels on their own or to highlight watercolour studies, so I think that would be a way forward for me. 


I was ill with a virus/fatigue for a few weeks, and couldn't concentrate on drawing so I watched a number of artists working in time-lapse videos on YouTube. It was really helpful to see how they built up tone and reworked sections with different media at times. 

These are just some of the clips watched:

Old man (soft pastels)

Young Girl (soft pastels)

ProMarker Portrait

Angelina Jolie

Inktense with water spray ‚Äč

Dry Brush Technique

Research of Portrait Artists (p174):

I watched a Youtube video entitled '100 Most Famous Portraits of All Time'.

As it didn't go into any detail, it was a good way to see how different techniques can be used to create portraits. Although many of the later pictures were photos, they still allowed me to think about the importance of clear lighting and how it depicts form and volume. It was also good to see some of the portraits again that I had studied in closer detail during earlier trips to the National Gallery.

Jean Augustine Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) - Self Portrait

  • Steeped in the academic and classical tradition.
  • Clear light source casts shadow on cheek, and around the lips, nose and eyes.
  • Range of skin tone shades
  • Simple background with dark shades

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

Self-Portrait in a Soft Hat

  • Shadow is cast by the hat brim over the nose and eyes, however there is still a wide variety of tonal range in these features.
  • The clothing is impressioned rather than detailed folds etc.

Emma Dobigny

  • Profile angle
  • Model is not looking at artist
  • Lightest areas are the upper cheek, forehead, upper lip and chin.

Jacques Louis David (1748-1825)

Portrait of a Young Woman in a Turban - probably my favourite in this research because there is:

  • Wide tonal range, particularly depicting the folds of fabric
  • The skin tones are very varied
  • The picture makes me wondered what/who she is considering.

David Hockney (b1937)

Self Portrait, 1954

  • Limited range of tone is still very effective
  • Contrast between shirt, skin and hair tones
  • Glasses are lighter to contrast with skin and show reflection

Mo, 1967

  • Part coloured background - unusual, but adds more depth/contrast
  • Use of tone depicts facial form and fabric folds
  • The red waistecoat is quite mesmerising!

I also spent the time off drawing looking for alternatives to pastels, and came across this sketch of

Johnny Cash by Olga Leviskiy using Derwent Aquatone sticks.


- Derwent Aquatone 

I tried the Aquatone sticks (without water) to see if I could create a similar effect to pastels. I opted for a limited colour palette using Chinese White, Raw Sienna, raw Umber, Venetian Red and Burnt Umber. 

I need to practice the midtones more as there is not enough middle range here. 

I struggled with the hair on her right as it made the face look too narrow, until I highlighted the hair a little. 

Julie (reworked from photo at a later date)

-Derwent Aquatone and Derwent Inktense Blocks &Pencils

Whilst I did like some elements of the Aquatone sketch, I decided to rework it with Inktense Blocks and Pencils as I hadn't really experimented them to any extent. However, I think in retrospect that I should have used them in a fresh picture as I have lost many of the qualities of the Aquatone version. However, it did show me that some of the Aquatone sticks eg Chinese White, did not work well with the Intense so they are not the best combination for mixed media.


- Derwent Tinted Charcoal Pencils

I decided to draw a profile view for this sketch. I am reasonably pleased with the shape - although the lips are a little low and lack clarity.

The tonal range of the face adds some sense of form.

Looking at this again now, I think there needs to be more colour intensity/coverage in the lower hair.


-Reeves Watersoluable Wax Crayon & Derwent Artbar

I tried a harder, semi-side on angle for this piece, and have not entirely got the nose correct. I could quite figure out the tones here in particular. Additionally, I think the eyes are a little small. 

I preferred working with the wax Artbars to the wax crayons as they had a range of surfaces/corners and a wider colour range. However neither are as adjustable as pastels etc, as it is hard to correct mistakes. 

P177 Assignment 5 - Option 4

For this assignment I chose to draw my friend Annie and focus on building up tonal range to give form to the nose, cheeks etc. I didn't want to draw profile as I wanted to develop drawing face on. I made a quick couple of sketches to consider portrait composition using the Pen & Ink app as I could zoom in and out which was handy when thinking about how to fill the page etc. I prefered including the shoulders and upper body a more than just the head.


- Derwent Graphitone Sticks 8b

I decided to give the Graphitone another try to see if I could get more tonal range in this drawing of my friend Annie.

I also used the water-soluble nature of the medium to apply washes in the hair as I built the curls up. 

I managed to build the form of the face up more successfully in this drawing. I think the eye balls work reasonably well, but the skin around the eyes could probably do with more detail. The nose is also at a slightly odd angle to the eyes and mouth.

However, I am pleased with the form of cheeks, lips and chin.

Annie II

- Derwent Inktense Blocks & Pencils

For the final piece, I decided to work from the Graphitone sketch but this time using the Inktense again.

There are some elements of this piece that work well because of tonal range such as the curls of hair. However the drawing is not entirely coherent eg there are some shape issues and I haven't quite got the hair against the face quite right tonally. I also don't think the mouth is quite how I want it, but I can't figure out what I need to do differently!

I wish that I had taken pictures of this piece as I went along, as it was more experimental etc at some stages. I did take several during the later sessions to see the piece from different perspectives. I intended for the background to be mainly dark so that Annie appeared out from it as the main focus. The variation of colours comes through more in the photo than when looking at the actual drawing, so it would have been useful to take more photos in the earlier stages.

Taking a photographic diary of this piece would also have shown the sketch and wash stage and I would find that useful to look back at, as well as being a clear record of how I used colour opposites etc side by side / layered to create tone and depth eg green in the red hair and purple on the green jumper.

Overall, I am reasonably satisfied with both these final pieces - in the other Assignments, I found I was quite tired by the final drawing and thus they were often weaker than some of the exercises. So it is good to consider pacing myself differently in future ie have a break from producing part way through and use that time to look at other works.

Coursework Overall Review

Whilst I knew I would have some physical limitations with the course, I was surprised by how much a struggled mentally with processing and retaining relevant information and analysis. This can be seen in my work, as I have repeated mistakes throughout the course. This is partly because I need to improve my sketchbook work. I don't make enough studies / notes as a go along. One reason for that is because I like to have everything out in front of me so that I can look back and see how I did things before, rather than flicking through sketch/notebooks. This approach takes up a lot of space, but here again, I think keeping a photographic diary of my work would help. I'm just experimenting with a new app that allows me to take a photo and then make notes over the image. I can then print these off and put them up in my workspace - constantly seeing these helps me to remember observations better than if they were in a sketch/notebook. Obviously this isn't an option for outdoor work, but I would still have the iPad version to look back at.

I would also apply this method to my research of other artists. Being surrounded by their work and the observations I make about them would help me to absorb the information long term as currently I don't retain the information well. It would also allow me to continually make more observations on pieces, rather than the almost fleeting glances that I currently do.

Another are to develop is background is further reading of drawing techniques - I haven't delved into the recommended reading list as much as I intended.

In many ways, my brain works quite differently now to how it did before I was ill, so I have been slowed down a bit by having to come up with new strategies for learning. Whilst it is frustrating that I have to go at a much slower pace than I would like, and that I therefore run out of time to produce a bigger portfolio of work, the course has been very beneficial. I am pleased that I have some progress - especially in the last few weeks - and that I have ended with two of my best pieces. The most important thing in many respects is that I have much more confidence to just go for it now, whereas I was much more timid at the start of the course.