2.2.3 Experiments with mixed media

2.2.3 Experiments with mixed media

The quantity of drawing materials that I am traveling with is growing constantly. Besides an A3 folder with white and black paper and various pens and inks and acrylic and colour pens and pencils, now also a bag of sticks and pieces of plastic washed up by the ocean 🙂

This is a first rather timid attempt at mixing various media, especially wanting to experiment with the oil pastels that are new to me.

When I saw this box of washing powder, I wanted to create a still life that had some character of an old fashioned advertisement panel, with flashy colours.


I placed the objects on the tile floor. Here I used coloured pencils for the floor, as I wanted it to be more faded, and tried out the oil pastels for the washing powder, the  orange bowl and sponge to let them be much more vibrant in color. Also the oil pastels let the colours blend, but don’t allow for as much detail as the coloured pencils. The I used coloured felt pencils for some scribbling in the shadows and the finer outlines , that were quite messy with the oil pastels.

In hindsight I wish I had cropped the drawing more like this ( but then the “advertisement  character” disappears).


I called this a timid attempt at mixing media, because in the end it was more an attempt at trying the new oil pastels with a few other media. I will be more bold in my next drawings .

In Portugal the sardines, and cans of sardines are almost a national symbol and you see them everywhere. I am attracted to the shape of the cans and at the risk of falling into a clichee I decide to build a still life around a sardine dinner. A bottle of wine, a piece of bread, a little plate of olives, while using as many different media as I can.


So drawing the cans was more challenging than I expected 🙂 I will get closer:

I will go for a view slightly from above, as if looking down on the food on a table, and shift to portrait format to avoid too much empty space on the sides. I try to crop to check if it would be better to get closer, but decide that I prefer to see the corner of the table for more context and depth. I plan what media to use where, considering the surface and character of the objects.


I use acrylic paint for the cans, they remain glossy and hard looking but the quite thick and not so detailed painted character softens the shape of the stacked cans. I draw the bottle with sap green, violet and white ink which is also glossy but still looks transparent.


I use turquoise and white ink with a brush for the background and then a bright pink felt pen for underlining documents for the flowers and stripes on the tablecloth.


I use the same kind of underliner pen in turquoise for the Tunisian glass, which allows it to  look flashy and transparent. The plate and olives are in oil pastels to render the glossy oily surface of the olives, and I smudged the plate that is more matte. Then soft coloured pencils for the piece of bread, entirely matte. Coloured pencils in purple for the shadows and then uniball pen on top for the deepest parts.

Not everything worked out as brilliantly as I had planned it here, but I am happy to have incorporated so many different techniques and media in one drawing that still looks coherent. I think the general composition is not thrilling, but works. Some parts , like the glass and the overlapping with the bottle are not well done. I like the cans most, although the shapes are far from correct. I hope I will have a chance to play with open cans, half open cans in a future composition somewhere. All in all it was fun to experiment with all media at once and it feels like this exercise opened up a lot of new possibilities.





2.2.1 Still life using line

Exercise 1 Still life using line

I have picked up some very interesting pieces from the beach, both natural objects like drift wood, and man made objects like pieces of plastic and strings that the ocean has washed back up on the shore. All the objects are in a range of blues and greens and would be beautiful for a monochrome drawing, but inspired by the example in the course book I decide to explore some of them for this exercise in drawing with line.

I want to use a beautiful turquoise ink I just got for my birthday, but start with some rough sketches in liner pen to decide on a composition.


IMG_4604I really like the shape of an old vacuum cleaner plastic pipe full of holes, and combine it with a string in a beautiful swirly shape. I prefer the last small composition- getting a little closer, but decide to remove the bottle cap and try it out in ink.


It is quite messy and confusing. I decide to remove the wooden plank I used as a background and just place three objects on a white background, to really make the shapes stand out instead. Fine liner pen in A5.


I like how quiet this drawing is compared to the last one, so decide to draw this in A3 with turquoise ink.


So this didn’t work out well at all. I was really struggling with the ink, trying both with a calligraphy pen and a feather with interchangeable tips. I just would’t flow, I had to scratch repeatedly just to get something out of the pen, and then a big blub. It seems the surface of the paper is too smooth or glossy, it works better on the A5 block. And besides struggling technically, the composition that seemed neat and harmonius in fine liner pen on A5 just looks boring here with lots of empty paper.

When I sketch freely it is mostly with line only, so I didn’t think this would be such a challenging exercise for me, but right now I am terribly disappointed at having spent a whole day!!!!! with such poor result, now that I finally had some time to dedicate to drawing, sigh.

Second trial for still life using line.

I am in a retreat setting this week, so not so much time and very few personal items around. But I have a stylish glass water bottle, some flowers and writing cards, add a pen and some matches and I am quite content with the composition that has a romantical, old fashioned touch to it and perfectly fits into the surroundings and mood here.

First checking the composition in black fine liner pen on A5.


It is a little too obvious, flowers at the centre and everything else around, so I decide to try with a larger angle to include a little hint of the room, and why black? Lets go pink. I have just bought a few Uniball liner pens in different colours as I read about them in Susan Askews blog in the OCA newsletter and had never heard of Uniball pens before. Also I place the whole composition lower to see it slightly from above.


I like this, it is more going on and the objects look like they just belong there. It is more a snapshot of a situation that a still life. Maybe pink is a bit much, I will try the blue Uniball pen on A3. I really like using them as there is no erasing, which is a new challenge for me.


So the A3 version did not really work out as well, the whole composition collapsed to the bottom a little. The water bottle got very crooked too. Also adding more detail took away the “line” character of the drawing too.

I want to try again in pink on A3. I like the pink, it fits the style and is really very new and different for me to use. But now I can’t for my life find the pink pen. I decide to have a go in orange, it is also really different, and has a similar luminosity to the pink one.



I scooped just a tiny bit closer so the view is slightly more from above. The water bottle worked better this time and I like warmth of the orange colour. I made a mistake with the cards and the table, seeing the table through the card, but looking at Yann Kebbis art work , he does that all the time! And so much about spontaneity and humour to learn from him too!

Still life using line 3

I really like the white ink drawing on black paper illustrating this exercise in the course book- so this is something I want to try out. I feel like I could love to draw in ink, I just haven’t figured it out yet.

I still have a lot of driftwood/strings/ stones and so on from my beach excursion , so I decide to try with that again. Checking how to draw some objects in blue Uniball pen on A5.


Now I switch to the A3 black paper and white ink.


Line only. I took a picture before I add the shadows as I am worried I might spoil it 🙂

The white ink on black paper is much smoother and more pleasant to draw with than my turquoise/white paper struggle. I have to figure out why.

Here with shadows:


No points for creativity here- it is really copying the example in the course book and not as well 🙂 But I really wanted to try out this technique and like it. I will definitely experiment more in this direction.

Here I try out a small wooden block and strings from the same beach excursion, and copper ink on black paper A3. I think the shine of the copper will look good on the black.


The photo doesn’t make justice to the copper, it looks really shiny and smart.

Here I really messed up everything trying to draw the shadows though, so glad I took a snapshot before 🙂 The shapes of the objects completely disappeared. I tried to colour them in purple ink to make them stand out from the background , but that covered most of the detail too.


Overall I feel like I learned a lot through this exercise. I tried new media- the inks , and Uniball pens. My backpack has gotten that much heavier again 🙂



2.2.2 Still life in tone using colour

Still life in tone using colour

For this still life I wanted to create a colourful composition with some natural and some man-made objects that would allow a variety of colour and tone.

I started with the pieces of the baguette, still on the wrapping paper , and then continued on this theme of a French simple dinner, adding fruits and carrots and an empty bottle of wine. I let the bottle and the wrapping paper continue out over the edge of the paper. I was planning to light it strongly from one side, but then decided that the dramatic effect of backlighting it with long shadows towards the viewer looked more interesting and created a beautiful shine around the bowl of apples and short cooking bananas.


A3 drawing paper with soft coloured pencils. The focus of this drawing was to identify and sketch in the different tonal areas, so I sketched in the shapes very ligthly and then went straight to using various coloured pencils. I did not work the outlines, but instead moved quickly with lots of different colours over every area, . My marks are of different shapes and patterns in many different layers of colour.

I am really happy for the energetic and spontaneous character of this drawing. I have a tendency to fiddle too long til the image gets stiff, and I think I managed to avoid that here. Also I have definitely learned something about colouring and I enjoyed mixing so many colours on every object. I really tried to look and let every colour I could percieve come through rather than think “apple is green and red” and limit myself at that.

I am happy with the colours and the spontaneous feel of this drawing.



I am in Portugal now , and wanted to create a still life with produce that I see here all around. It is the time of walnuts and pumpkins and an abundance of cheeses in the house. Lemons in all sizes and shapes as well as oranges are available at every fruit stand and I use them every day here . I chose to stick to lemons for the drawing because the shape is more interesting and as a hint to the lemon always present in the classical Dutch still life

Sardines is another recurring theme, but I will save that for another drawing.

All the objects are in a similar colour scheme this time -a range of orange and yellows, standing out from a quite cold grey/ bluish background: pumpkin, cheeses on a crumpled brown paper, lemons, walnuts.

I have been watching the You tube videos from OCA with examples of sketchbooks from other students and realize that I definitely lack planning and conceptual approach. So here I take the time to plan the composition more carefully.

I know I want to chose a slightly higher viewpoint to see the round cheeses from above, so I place the still life on a chair to the side of me.  Closer or further away? I want to see more of the chair to create a context, but add a towel casually thrown over the chair so it is not too much empty space in the back.

I move the light around so lighting is more from side/above than strictly from the side, as I like the shadow cast by the little stem on the pumpkin and the depth it adds to the drawing when the cheeses are half lit.

I chose to go on with the furthest view to make the chair really clear, and twist it a little to have a corner of the chair pointing to the corner of the page, which feels more dynamic.

A3 sketching paper and my brand new birthday Caran D’Ache Supracolor soft colour pencils.


I start by sketching in the outlines very lightly with pencil 3B as I just want to make sure the composition fits onto the page. Then I sketch in blocks of tone- first purple for the darkest  shades and blue for the midtones. I chose to use colours complimentary to the main orange/ yellow colours of the motive because that is what I see.


I continue with the pumpkin, just filling in colour upon colour as I see them, letting myself be surprised by the variety, and just sketching quickly and loosely .


I continue with the cheeses and a lemon and nut in the same way, just adding colours in all directionswith different lengths of marks. I really like this way of sketching. I like the way the “unfinished” parts of the drawing step back and the very colourful objects  stand out. It reminds me of Paul Cezannes work where he left some fruits unfinished and others coloured and I am tempted to stop here. I will keep this in mind for the drawings for the assignment- the interplay between finished and unfinished.


Here I completed drawing all the objects and JUST managed to overwork it all 🙂 It feels like I just added the few lines that makes it all a little too stiff and realistic.

I am worried to spoil it further by going on to the background…



In the end I like the contrast between the warm colours of the objects and the cooler tones of the background. It is far too realistic though and lost all spontaneity and messiness.

I spent 5 hours only  working with the coloured pencils, as I did the composition and rough outlines yesterday. So this is obviously too much. ( and the cheeses are getting very smelly).

I need to draw more spontaneously and rougher. I have watched the works of Ginny Grayson, Yann Kebbi and Edouard Vuillard as recommended by Joanne, and still this is how stiff it gets when I draw now. My next attempts will be to loosen up!

I have bought some oil pastels (my luggage is getting ridiculous!)  and will try using them by coming back to this theme of blocks of tone. I hope that the pastels that allow for less detail as they are larger than the colored pencils, will help me to draw less painfully controlled.  So oil pastels on A3.

Here a simple still life with a blue toned vase, some lemons and a very orange bowl.

I start by patching out the darkest tones in purple and the mid tones in a lighter blue:


I only realize after I did this that I chose the same colours for the darks and mid tones as in the previous drawing in colored pencil- this is how I see them if I look carefully.

I add the high lights in yellow:


Then I continue adding layers of all the colours I see. It is only when the yellow of the lemons mix with the blue and purple beneath that I realize that blue and yellow become very green and purple too brown. I needed to choose another lighter colour for mid tones.


I found it quite difficult and messy to work with oil pastels , but I really like the way all the colours blend. I will explore this media more and learn how to blend colours better to create the nuances I want.  I think this drawing fits the exercise better because with less detail, the patches of different tone become more apparent.




2.2 Ex 4: Monochrome

2.2 Still Life, Exercise 4: Monochrome

I published the start of this exercise really long ago, because at the time I thought the composition so fitting for the Monochrome. Now just a few weeks but many drawings later I would like to change everything 🙂 But I will leave the entry as is and go on posting under.

Cinnamon roll:

Cinnamon roll

For this drawing the brown cinnamon roll, with a bite missing, is placed on the edge of the table, so that I have a sharp contrast with the bright table top catching the light and the dark edge in the shade. Behind the roll is a  paper tissue in similar color. I liked the contrast between the swinging round shapes of the cinnamon roll and the edgdy more sharp graphical shape of the crumpled brown tissue. I decide to use soft colored pencils for this drawing because both surfaces are matte and the pencils show that well. I was using various marks, mainly cross hatching and tried working very fast. I got a wide range of tones from light to dark, so I think that went well. Also the image has quite some depth.

But then at the last minute, I was tempted to draw the outlines of the cinnamon roll again with a dark brown pencil, somewhat spoiling the softer effect of contrasting tone by bringing in too much line again.

Also I drew several thumbnails and chose this composition, but in hindsight I would definitely crop the image more:

Cinnamon rollcrop 2

Purple cabbage

For this still life , I found some incredible veggies in the Biological market- going for everything with interesting shapes that I haven’t seen or eaten before. The cabbage is purple!  and looks like it has snowed on it. The radishes are purple too, as is the small artichoke.  While folding the laundry, I realized that when I hold up a purple sarong to the window, the whole back wall becomes pinkish purple and the dark grey marble bench looks a dark shining purple as well.


At first I have a quite full composition on a towel, but decide to simplify.


I want to really focus on the marvelous purple cabbage, and simplify. I tend to have a boring centered composition, so this time I will play on perspective and place the cabbage really close and the rest of the veggies really far instead. Something like this:




I decide to draw the veggies in Caran d’Ache supra soft pencils, and Derwent Inktense. I like to keep it matte and soft colours. But for the marble table top- what media do I use for intense and shiny?


Testing all kinds of ink. I though the bronze iredescent ink could give a shine to other colours if mixed, but the tone gets too brownish dirty. Liquitex purple thickly applied with a brush could work.


Oil pastels- they look creamy and glossy and it is easy too blend all different shades of purple. I smudge them with a piece of tissue. This could work.


Coloured pencils- here the control over the colour is perfect. If I add white on top it gives the most “shine”, almost like a varnish. In the bottom half of the samples I passed a wet paintbrush over, so the colours blend. This too could work for a glossy surface.


Dry pastels, uniball pens- no, not for this subject.

I choose the oil pastels as I want to create more contrast between the matte surface and light tones of the veggies and the dark of the tabletop surface.


I like the incredible difference in size between the vegetables. But otherwise it all got too stiff and cramped and funeral. I thought I had loosened up with the mixed media exercise, but here I obviously lost the spontaneity again.

I will try to draw quicker and more freely on a different support- a newspaper, just to loosen up.



Here I first drew roughly the vegetables in very diluted white acrylic, then continued with the Suprasoft coloured pencils. I obviously invested much less time here, and much prefer this free and quick feel of the drawing. I don’t think it answers to the exercise very well, as it is not really obvious that it is monochrome, but it was a good lesson for me to compare the stiff and the more free version.

Inspired by my visit to the Paula Rego museum yesterday, I decided to just add a cockroach to this drawing:


and then to spice up the background by changing the light pink background to a wallpaper with small purple flowers instead:


I think both new versions are definitely more interesting than the boring very cold composition I did first. I am not sure I can just add fantasy elements to the drawings of the assignments, but in this case it felt very right 🙂