Category Archives: Project 1 Observational Drawing

Project 1: Observational Drawing

Drawing 2                                                                                                    Natalya Griffin

Investigating Drawing                                                                               512334                                                                                                                



Part 1

Exploring Composition

Project 1: Observational Drawing

Aim: When you’re drawing from observation it’s all too easy to make assumptions about your subject and take certain elements at face value. 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.


Just to get going I have done a few small sketches of “unpromising” groups of objects – my laptop and stuff I keep placing on it while working,  twisted extension cables with sockets next to my PC and a corner of the room, using ballpoint and ink pen.

     The wires  The wires – only outlinethe wires – copy corner of the room

 a few small sketches: my dogs, still life elements ( all on loose sheets of paper attached in the sketchbook page 0, A3)


To make the group a bit more complex I have chosen a shelf with the props I collect, because it had a variety of objects, sizes and materials.  I’ve made a 20 minutes sketch (A2 on A1 sheet) using 4H pencil. I decided not to add shadows/tonal values at this point to be able experiment with the shapes and overall grouping.

First experiment: Sheet of plastic was placed over the sketch and using brush dipped in acrylic paint I have drawn some of the shadows. To start with I covered quite a large area, which was a mistake as acrylic dries too quickly, so the next steps were done more frequently over smaller areas.

Next I used another sheet of paper and placed it over the plastic with wet paint, rubbing over the paper to get an imprint. Actually I am quite pleased with the resulted drawing/print – I think it appears quite loose, captures light/shadows and without too much detail manages to trick the eye into recognising the .objects.


 final result


I have used plastic in my previous course (Painting 2) but not in this way. The idea of “printing” was inspired by some works of Picasso – he used stone block lithography technique to create some of his prints. The Bull Series, for examples, is a very interesting idea of deconstructing the detailed drawing of a bull into an abstract linear image. In this video there is a short explanation about his process (37.45 – 38.10 m). here is one of the images of The Bull series.

What I was trying to do in this experiment is to isolate the shadow from the linear sketch, and I think it worked. The technique of “printing” on to a support over a wet paint created very unusual and unexpected marks – I really think this approach allowed subject and materials used to combine with drawing and hand application.

While the overall drawing/composition is still representational I believe due to technique used it has elements of abstraction and somehow sparkles due to textured marks.

I’ve realised later, that the image is mirrored – which makes it appear different from original. I decided to use this find and incorporate it into the next experiment.

Using the same sketch as the base and overlapped plastic to paint over, I used blue and orange acrylic (for added contrast) and repeated the process using similar technique as in previous drawing.

Blue was used for a shadier area of the set up and orange for the side that was in the light. Blue was used to draw outlines of objects while orange was used for shadow and pattern (flower heads, vinyl lines).

After paint dried, carbon sheets were attached to the print and sketch was laid over it.  Using old plastic knife I scraped the arrangement trying to use variety of marks (linear as well as broader strokes for larger/shadow areas).

The result is this:

I think the interesting bit about it is that while the initial impression may seem confusing the eye still manages to pick out overall arrangement. In a way, to me, it seems as if we are looking through the glass of the cabinet – reflection overlaps the arrangement but reflection in a mirror.


While initial sketch of the arrangement was not as interesting – simple everyday objects- the results turned out quite intriguing. I think the idea of printing and overlapping the image definitely has potential and could be developed in to more complex arrangements. What I found interesting is that while there were not a lot of details in the sketch, the resulted drawings appear to have enough visual information for the eye to wonder around and fill in the blanks.

In the sketchbook (A3, page 1) I used overlapping idea  – more precise linear drawing was done first and then using colour blocks I drew image free hand by blocking in areas of colour where the objects stand.  (Materials:  charcoal, ink pen, inktence blocks, water and brushes).

I like how the ink drawing can be seen through overpainted mirror image.

It turned out a bit muddy after water was applied over some areas, but overall this idea can be worked on later.

Sketchbook A3, page 2 – I decided to reduce the whole composition to a minimum – the brass vases were reduced to circles ( looking at them from above that’s all is visible) using charcoal, the flowers and boxes reduced to a few lines using red inktence stick and wet brush; glass and wire elements were reduced to a curved vertical line and  diagonal spiral using blue inktence block. I would say this is definitely minimalistic, starting with a large group of objects and ending up with a few lines. I’m not sure if this is a successful interpretation but definitely an interesting concept.


Sketchbook A3, page 3 – Idea of overlapping, using line and abstraction from the whole led to the next drawing. Using coloured pencils I drew shapes of bottles and one of the brass vases as if they were piled on top of each other. One of the reasons for this was because I liked how the objects reflected on each other’s surface while sun was out, it was almost as if they merged.

I used soft pastels and charcoal to apply the colours which represent the objects in the group – green/purple for dried rosemary branch and cornflowers, red/yellow for boxes and vases, blue/green/black for bottles and shadows/reflection. Ink pen was used for outlines later


The resulted composition is definitely moved away from initial static arrangement: here the objects merge, almost melt and can be interpreted as if they were falling off the shelf.  When the image is flipped upside down the dominant objects changes from bottle to vase shape, which is an interesting accidental addition. The colour is a bit washed out but black outlines bring sharpness and direction for the eye to move around. Overall I’m quite pleased with the composition and colour/line relationship, perhaps this approach could be done using larger scale and paint instead of dry pigment. Also to move away from “stained glass” effect I think shading/blending could be done to add volume.

The pattern of the shelf (wood effect) and previous drawings led to the next few drawings using only line. Here I concentrated on rearranging the objects on paper to find interesting compositions. I feel that some of them turned out quite interesting in terms of using space and pattern.

Sketchbook A3, page 4 – wire sculpture, wood pattern and shadows became lines that follow form. Background was left blank to create contrast with the busy pattern.

Sketchbook A5, pages 1,3,5 – first two drawings can be turned and viewed in any format.


Reflection: This exercise was quite an interesting way to dig deeper into the process of composition arrangement and finding new ways of seeing the subject. Even though the end results still include recognisable subject matter, I think to some extend I have managed to move towards new approaches in arranging a composition.

This project made me realise the potential of “playing” with shapes and arrangements to find a new and unusual way of depicting mundane subjects. I think background in these experiments became part of the overall picture and does not feel like it is a separate element.