On Perspective

Perspective is a way of representing objects in 3D space – i.e. reality as we perceive it – on a 2D surface as we draw or paint. It gives the viewer an illusion of depth and space. For us today this kind of realistic representation seems natural and obvious. However it was a sensation when it was invented – not discovered: seeing in perspective is an acquired ability (Missfeldt). I think this is a noteworthy thought: not only drawing in perspective must be learned, but also seeing (a picture) in perspective is learned. Today we are surrounded by realistic pictures, not least photographs, and learn to read them at an early age. According to scientific research visual processing in our eyes and brain build on textures, invariance and movement – perspective does not come into it (Missfeldt). Perspective becomes only relevant in the translation of space onto a surface.

Perspective in this sense – one-point perspective with one vanishing point – was first used in the early 15th century by Filippo Brunelleschi (1410) and described in detail not much later by Leon Batista Alberti in De Pittura (On painting) (1436) and others. During the Renaissance and later it was further developed and refined and soon became the major way of representation in western art. It superseded other ways of representation in the west until they were rediscovered during the development of modernism.

The word “perspective” derives from latin “seeing/looking through”. The thought behind this is that the picture frame becomes like a window through which the viewer looks into a three-dimensional space. The objects in this space are constructed with reference to a horizon and a vanishing point on that horizon. Lines perpendicular to the horizon and parallel to the ground merge in the vanishing point. Lines parallel with the horizon remain so. For objects seen edge-on two secondary vanishing points to the left and right are needed. The position of the horizon changes the impression from where we see the scene. A horizon on eye-level seems natural, a horizon high up in the picture gives the impression that we are looking from a vantage point high up (bird-perspective) and one near the bottom that we are looking from a very low view point (frog-perspective). Objects’ shadows can be constructed in similar ways by defining a light source either in front of, to the side or behind the viewer/painter that acts as a vanishing point for the shadow lines. Viewing angles above 60 degrees lead to distortions.

This kind of construction can be expanded to include up to five vanishing points: the central one, two to either side on the horizon, one above and one below the horizon on a vertical axis. The latter two being vanishing points for the vertical lines. For a short description of these check out this website.

Perspective is a way of deceiving the brain into seeing things that are not really there. Patrick Hughes’ reversed perspective pictures show this marvelously. The three-dimensional parts stick out towards the viewer while their painted sides suggest that the image recedes. It is fascinating how the illusion is stronger than the real thing! At least on video, I wonder how it feels to see these IRL.

There are other ways of suggesting space:

Overlapping: The simplest one is probably occlusion, where objects in front of others partly cover objects behind them. This can be found in many cultures such as ancient Aegyptian, classical European, Chinese, Japanese or Medieval art:

Painting of Her Steinmar (Sir Steinmar), Codex Manesse 1300-1340.   (Source: Wehrli 1955)

The trees are behind the people and the people partly obscure each other. However, there is no actual space in which this scene takes place.

Segment from the Stele of Amenemhat, 2000 B.C. (Source: Stockstad 2014)

Observe the legs of the three people. They are before the bench. But the way the two men’s legs cross looks strange in our eyes.

In the cave paintings I looked at I could not find this very simple way of describing space. Even if there are many pictures where animals are drawn on top of each other I do not get the impression that this is a representation of space. I get a feeling that it is about something all together different. A synchronicity rather, or its opposite, or an overlaying of different aspects of the same thing. In pictures with many animals and hunters where I do see a group of animals and hunters they do not overlap.

Oblique Projection: Combination of front view (elevation) with side (section) or top view (plan) at an angle.  They show one side in plan, section or elevation which would make the others invisible and thus are not realistic depictions. They are early representations of space resembling perspective. They can be found in pictures from classical Greece and Rome, the Near East, India or China as well as the European Middle Ages.

Yusuf Fleeing Zulayhka by Kamal al-Din Bihzad, 1488 (Source: Stockstad 2014)

Atmospheric or aerial perspective makes use of the fact that particles in the air filter the light and make objects a long distance away appear bluer and less saturated than ones in the foreground. This technique is widely used in Chinese and Japanese landscape painting. Our brain reads the lighter tone as distance even if the picture does not give many other clues to space.

Relative size: Objects further away seem smaller in relation to ones in the foreground. Widely used in landscape paintings such as this very famous one by Katsushika Hokusai

Focal perspective: Objects in the distance or very close seem less defined and slightly blurred compared to objects in focus.

These last three techniques are combined with perspective to make for realistic pictures.

In modern times stereograms have been developed that let you see three-dimensional pictures by unfocusing the eyes and kind of looking through the picture. Done right the brain interprets the visual information as a three-dimensional picture of seemingly magical depth. The fascinating thing is that once the brain has switched it is possible to move the eyes and take a look around in the “room” that suddenly opened.

Early modernist painters like Cézanne and cubist painters began to move away from realistic perspective representation and instead experimented with a flat picture plane. This process has gone on since then and it seems to me – after having studied for this essay – opened up for new ways of painting/drawing figuratively. Realistic depiction is one way of showing the world in a painting. There are other ways expressing very different things. Earlier European and non European cultures were not interested in showing the world as it presented itself to them visually – that was already there. But maybe how it feels, or how things are connected, or what their place is in the world as humans, or what there is behind the things we see or what it is all about. It is a very interesting thought and one that allows for a new angle on non-realistic pictures. Such as this one that tells a story beyond what we see with our eyes.

I fantasins värld (In the world of fantasy), Isaac Grünewald, 1915




Stockstad, M., Cothren M.W.: Art History. Pearson Education Inc., USA 2008 (5th edition 2014)

McNaughton, Phoebe: Perspective and other Optical Illusions. Wooden Books Ltd, Glastonbury 2009

Wehrli, Max (Ed.): Deutsche Lyrik des Mittelalters; Manesse Verlag, Zürich 1955


Life Drawings at the Dance Museum

Life drawing sessions at the dance museum in Stockholm have started again. The dancer(s) would move for a while and then stand still in a position for 1-5 min. This time the dancers were obviously not well attuned to each other and new to dancing for a drawing audience – they struggled to find moments to stand still and when they did the positions were awkward and physically demanding for them. Thus the opportunities for us to draw were far between and very short.  Two figures in knotty entanglements is difficult at the best of times – in 2 min, quite out of my league. So I tried to concentrate on one dancer or details. Still, it was frustrating as I lost focus between sketches. I also tried to catch details or movement while they danced but did not succeed.

The following sketches are all 1-2 min, the last one 3min.


In the last of the above I tried to get away from line drawing and instead use shadows from the start in order to get to grips with the shape. It seems like a good strategy although the lighting makes it difficult with regular lighting from all sides.

Something I liked observing was the weight of the positions. Sometimes they would lean the one on the other moving their centre of gravity away from the feet. I found that considering the centre of gravity helped me to position my marks also in more balanced situations. For obvious reasons, these positions were all extremely short.

Salon painting?!

An exhibition of academic paintings from around 1900 by Swedish artists. Art museum Prince Eugen’s Waldemarsudde, Stockholm

Salon Paintings

The term salon paintings refers to works of art conforming to the reigning academic principles for paintings at the end of the 19th and beginning 20th century. As such they were admitted to the Salon held by the Académie des Beaux Arts in Paris, unlike e.g. impressionist or modernist paintings. The Académie des Beaux Arts and other academies of this kind held highly specific demands on motifs as well as technical execution. The subject matter was taken from classical, literary, mythological and biblical themes as well as scenes inspired by the near east (orientalism). The paintings should reflect ideals rather than reality and were designed to be edifying. On the other hand allegorical subjects allowed painters to introduce erotic and sexual content into their paintings. In their execution they showed brilliant craftsmanship and mastery of illusion in the tradition of the old masters from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. A painting of this kind involved painstaking preparatory work such as life studies, sketches and drawings in the studio (in cases where architecture was involved the artist could make models and sculptures to make sure that his painting worked in the surroundings it was intended for as e.g. Julius Kronberg, Sweden’s leading artist of this genre, for his ceiling paintings for the Royal Palace or the Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm). This had been good practice for artists in earlier centuries, but by the late 1800s impressionist painters had started to complete their works not in the studio but en plein air. It allowed them to capture the light and atmosphere of the moment and thus achieve a new immediacy in their paintings. Salon paintings were valued by the critiques and bought by aristocracy and wealthy merchants and industrial magnates. These latter ones were a new class of patrons, interested not so much in high ideals as rather in ideals brought down to earth (Stockstad 2014). They opened up for experimentation within academic art, e.g. with regard to the representation of human form and emotion. Using traditional motives and techniques made for stiff competition. To be noticed, a painting had to make use of tradition in new and spectacular ways which resulted in ever larger paintings, intricate compositions and striking colours (Stockstad 2014).

Modernist critique of Salon paintings was scathing. It was seen as hopelessly traditional, slavish and tastelessly kitsch. I can well imagine that the ideals represented in salon paintings felt more and more hollow in view of the political, industrial and scientific developments of the time, especially after the great war. New ways of seeing and painting, experimentation and expression were better able to channel the spirit of the age. In the leaflet to the exhibition it says: Only recently has there been any acceptance of the salon painters’ free uninhibited attitude to mixtures of various styles, visual contexts and narrative painting (Waldemarsudde 2016).

My own Thoughts

I was impressed by the painters’ mastery of technique. However, overall I felt most of the paintings to be a bit too much. Heavily symbolic and idealistic. Maybe I felt the hollowness of the ideals? Also I was disturbed by the blatant sexism on show. Still, there were some I liked, such as this one:

Insomnad (Gone to sleep), Julius Kronberg 1883

I am captured by the subject matter here, the idea of putti wispering dreams in our ear when we sleep. It is a very peaceful painting, playful, too.

The strong elements of Art Nouveau in the following painting shows that modern developments in the arts did not go totally unnoticed by academic painters.

Vid källan (At the spring), Julius Kronberg, 1914

I like the rendering of the sunlight and shadows and also the subject somehow, in a fantasy sort of way. This one does remind me of fantasy art and maybe that makes it easier for me to digest.

There were some monumental works such as this triptych:

Vår sommar höst (Spring Summer Autumn), Julius Kronberg 1882. Source: http://www.waldemarsudde.se/utstallningar/utstallning/2016/7667-2

With this and many others I very strongly felt the anachronism between the figures and situations in the paintings and the time it was painted in. It feels very odd – especially the tiger hide in the autumn painting (a prop that turns up in other paintings as well. The artist must have had one in the extensive prop store he kept in his studio. A concession to orientalism?)

Visiting this exhibition has been educational. Although I had read about academic painting, mainly in opposition to Impressionism, I never really understood what it meant other than “traditional”. Looking at the paintings now I understood what a corset the Academy’s demands must have been for more freethinking artists. I saw a disconnectedness of these paintings with their time and discrepancies of the technique (however brilliant) with new ways of seeing and painting that were emerging. It seems to me, that this is the steppingstone from which modern art went off in new directions. I think it will help me understand what happened in Art during the 20th century.

I wonder in which way “there has been any acceptance” of salon paintings in recent years as it says in the exhibition leaflet, and why.

I found a contemporary Italian artist, Roberto Ferri, who paints in the technique of the Baroque masters. His subject matter also is inspired from that time as well as from Romanticism, Symbolism and academic paintings of the late 19th century. His paintings are very physical and extremely explicit in their symbolism, disturbingly so even. I find a strong tie to historic catholic pictures in his paintings. They feel anachronistic and yet very contemporary in their explicitness. In his curriculum on Liquid Art System’s homepage it says: [He] depicts a world in which the eye of the artist records and reproduces the order of things in a world where everything works, but there is also the space for evil. Ferri introduces dreams into reality, and the harmonic composition dominates though his subjects often strike twisted poses, with their figures both exactingly human yet triumphant and heroic.

Here are some examples.

Are these pictures like the academic paintings caught in a past era, or are they using old techniques and language to convey contemporary and relevant issues?



Stockstad, M., Cothren M.W.: Art History. Pearson Education Inc., USA 2008 (5th edition 2014)

Exhibitions Autumn 2016: Salongmåleri?! Exhibition leaflet, Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm





2.1. Tonal variation

Exercise: Gradation of tone using repeated marks

  • fix three A4 sheets on a wall
  • fill the sheets with marks of approx. 2 inches in hight
  • keep the pressure consistent, light on the first, stronger on the second, strongest on the last.
  • Compare the three tones
Conté-stick on drawing paper, A4

Are the marks in all three consistent in length and thickness? – Yes, quite, I think. The first ones in each show that I was tuning my hand. Also the texture of the wall beneath shows and makes the marks mottled.

Are there more strokes than spaces in between? – Yes. In the lightest tone the stick did not always draw with its whole width which gives the impression of wider spaces.

Are there clear differences between each sheet in terms of tone? – Yes. The midtone is somewhat closer to the light one I would say.

This way of achieving tone is very straight forward – more pressure gives darker marks. I was interested in how the relation of marks to spaces works as a means to achieve tone when the darkness of the marks is consistent. For this I made some examples where the tone changes gradually from left to right using ink pens and graphite pencils. I tried hatching in different directions, crosshatching and stippling.

I found that the direction and character of the marks is important. I wanted to work more on this and find out when to use which marks. These first attempts were timid, scientific and rather stiff. I was worried about the lines not being parallel and the distance between them changing too abruptly. In the course of the following exercises I lost that a bit and grew bolder. I got some very nice effects in some of the less ordered marks.

(I made this exercise first but left the logging of it until last).

2.2 Tone and Form: Spoons

Exercise 3

  • Map out an outline of the bowl of a spoon on A3 – ambitious scale
  • Describe visually the patterns you see using tone
  • Try to use the eraser only for lift off in carefully chosen areas

I have been looking forward to this exercise, namely the reflections, shadows and strange shapes that I expected to appear in the spoon. However, before I could dive into that I wanted to learn the shape of the spoon – they tend to be curved in all directions which is a challenge with regard to perspective. Also I wanted to find an interesting composition. What kind of light should I use? And from where? What angle do I want to draw the spoon from and should I go for the concave or the convex side?

Graphite pencils on cartridge paper, A4

While sketching I found that with the concave side the illusion of 3-dimensionality was harder to achieve. And the reflections were best in natural light from the window although it was a very dull day in January. The weak light didn’t cast any interesting shadows so I put the serving spoon on a smooth surface (a white china tray) and found a very nice reflection in that when I looked against the light.

Graphite pencils on cartridge paper, A4

I also tried a soup spoon with a matt finish where the reflections are less clear and have almost no sharp edges. These were more fun in a spotlight as the differences in tone got stronger and there was a very nice soft shine to the highlights.

Graphite on cartridge paper, A4

In my last sketch I lighted the spoon from the side and from above so that most of what I could see should have been bathed in light. It was , but it looked dark. Maybe this is due to the matt finish? The shiny serving spoon in the same spot was lighter. Looking at the picture I read the dark spoon as lying in very bright light, like on a summer’s day, rather than being in shadow. Why? Is it the cast shadow that lets me do that?

In the end I got seduced by the reflection on the tray where I could see the serving spoon from both sides. I also decided to include the handle. It is made from black plastic which means that the light behaves very differently on that.

4H-7B graphite on paper, A3, natural light, contre-jour

Alas, this does not answer to the description of the exercise – the bowl of the spoon is too small. New take: A ladle on the same china tray. The reflection is much weaker, but it is there.

4H-9B graphite pencil on paper, A3, natural light from the right


I am flabbergasted about the way I was able to make the shiny metal actually shine and about how the form suddenly popped while I was working. I had always wondered how one can make paper sparkle like metal. It seems the secret is tone. I thoroughly enjoyed finding the different tones and see how the shapes curve.

I learned a lot doing the exercises on tone. Especially I focused on the observation of edges – both of the object and of shadows/reflections. They are important for the clues we read and tell us about the light source and about the object’s surface. I found that an object’s contour very rarely is a line. In the spoons for example, the metal has a thickness so the line between inner and outer surface actually is a surface too, albeit a very narrow one. But it reflects the light in different ways along its length. Sometimes the contourline is barely there at all because the tones on each side of it are very similar. Contours of shadows give hints about the object’s shape, but also its material, the light source and even the space the object is in. A shadow line is often sharp nearest the object, but gets fuzzy further away. This allows us to read the flat image as space. A spotlight makes sharper edges than does winter daylight through a window. I think careful choice of information like that makes it possible to draw a much simpler image, where we still read form, surface, light etc.

Reflections on 3-dimensionality

The hardest stage in drawing an object like the spoons, I find, is the beginning, when the object is still flat. Once I could see it arching it was easier to see how the light behaves on my drawing and where I have to put my marks. In the beginning there is no depth, but suddenly it is there only to disappear again when I look at the drawing in an other way.

This getting in and out of 3-dimensionality reminded me of a passage in the foreword of The End of the Line which I’ve read recently. The author cites John Berger from an essay written in 1960 where he describes just that. Berger says:

From being a clean flat surface [the page] became an area of limitless, opaque light, possible to move through but not to see though. I knew that when I drew a line on it – or through it – I should have to control the line, not like the driver of a car, on one plane, but like a pilot in the air, movement in all three dimensions being possible.

“As soon as one makes a mark on (or in) this space”, Dillon goes on, “the page itself is suddenly present again as a surface. The task of the artist is to forget the support (…) Each new mark, Berger writes, changes the nature of the page: the artist hovers between seeing the page as a flat surface and seeing it, as the marks multiply, as an emerging fullness or presence.” (Dillon 2009)

I think by “emerging fullness or presence” he means 3-dimensional space popping up and disappearing again. Sometimes, when I draw, I need to take a step back to make the illusion do its magic, but sometimes drawing feels almost like sculpting.


Dillon, Brian (2009) The End of the Line: Attitudes in Drawing. London: Hayward Gallery Publishing

The End of the Line

Dillon, Brian (2009) The End of the Line: Attitudes in Drawing. London: Hayward Gallery Publishing

The End of the Line is a booklet made to accompany an exhibition by the same name. It contains drawings by eleven international contemporary artists, although “drawing” is understood in a very broad sense. The exhibition meant to show where the revival of drawing as an artform in itself has lead so far and comprises more traditional works in pencil/ink on paper as well as films and works I would call installations rather than drawings.

Historically, drawing was perceived as the foundation of all art but at the same time less an artform in itself than a means to an end – a way to exercise and study in order to produce a work of art like a painting or a sculpture. In the 1970s with the “conceptual overthrow of old orthodoxies” (Dillon 2009) drawing was seen as an outdated practice and was no longer a self-evident discipline to be taught at art schools. Today however, drawing has reentered the stage as an autonomous form of art, drawings being understood as works of art in their own right.

In the foreword Dillon raises questions about how drawing today is different from what it has been through the centuries. His main argument crystallises around the thought that the right attitude to drawing is an “absence of attitude” (Dillon 2009), an innocence and a sense of discovery. However, he questions the availability of such an attitude today, in an era of self-consciousness, as he puts it. I have difficulties understanding what he means and why an open, discovering attitude should not be possible today. They involve – and have always involved I think – the forgetting of what we know of our object and why we do a certain thing when drawing. John Ruskin in The Elements of Drawing describes it as looking with an “innocent eye”, to see as if for the first time (Dillon 2009). Barthes calls it a gaucherie – a clumsiness, i.e. not being in total control. This latter concept refers to looking as well as to mark making, depicting or expressingThe innocence in our attitude is a conscious act, a letting go of preconceptions – so why should we not be able to do that today? Dillon states that it now is impossible to separate art (of any kind) from its conceptual, linguistic, historical or personal content and context. I am not sure if this is special for our time. I think the involvement in a context, in contemporary questions, events and views, is important in the making of art, in that this gives a work of art its depth and meaning. And so it has always been. However, I do not think that it must be conscious. Making art as an active, thinking human being of my time I cannot make art out of my context unless I am actively avoiding it and imitate styles from other eras. This is what innocence means I think: making without knowing why and to what purpose, letting go and find out where my hand leads. Dillon calls it to “gesture meaningfully but at the same time (…) without a sense that one is making sense”.

I rather think drawing – and indeed painting or sculpture or any artform – today is different from art in past centuries in that artists today actively seek to broaden horizons, to overcome limitations, to break new ground. The examples of contemporary drawings in The End of the Line show that this can be and is done in a number of ways – by the choice of subject matter, by the use and combination of certain techniques or media, or by leaving the boundaries of paper or canvass altogether and move into three dimensional space.

Naoyuki Tsuji for example makes animated films by photographing his drawings, erase parts and redraw them to take a new photo and so on. He uses charcoal which leaves a trace when erased, thus the earlier “movements” will be visible throughout the film. His drawings are accompanied by music by Makiko Takanashi. Here is an example.

Monika Grzymala leaves the paper and “draws” instead in the space of e.g. an exhibition hall. For the lines she uses duct tape, gauze or wood which she stretches over walls and across doorways, windows, pillars… Her lines in space look very much like drawings, and are really powerful. As she makes her pieces for specific rooms they are ephemeral, being destroyed when the exhibition ends. This gives them a kind of performative character. I am surprised to actually see them as drawings as it does stretch the term. It makes me ask myself what drawing is, and where it merges into other art forms. I think pushing the boundaries of what is normally called drawing opens doors to very interesting ways of expression.


I had difficulties with this book. The foreword was hard reading for me as I could not really follow Dillon’s argumentation. I feel he sets up ideas and thoughts as facts and I cannot understand how he arrives at them. For example he writes: “The drawing is characterised by its lightness, even where the finished work seems heavy, insistent or crude.” I don’t agree, but maybe I could, if he explained his train of thought? Why is drawing light, as opposed to say painting?? This feeling of not understanding and not agreeing followed me throughout the text.

As for the images, I had difficulties with them, too. Some showed very interesting approaches and some opened my eyes as to where drawing can go. But I regret the absence of something I really liked,  something that goes under my skin, something beautiful (whatever that means).

On a bolder note

The first mortar and pestle image was well within my comfort zone and I felt I wanted to try something bolder. I made two new versions, one with colour and one with less precise marks.

With colour

The idea of the red tomato and its reflections in the mortar intrigued me so I did a version in graphite pencil and coloured pens. I also tried to make the contrasts stronger.

HB-5B graphite pencils, coloured pens and putty eraser on drawing paper, A3

For the mortar I left out some more lines on the lit side. The omission works like a highlight and creates an effect of very intense light (amplified by the dark shadow). I found that I did not need to darken the surroundings now. I also tried to rectify the elongated shape of the mortar. It is better now but still too long.

I haven’t used coloured pens for a very long time and felt awkward to begin with. I started very softly and gradually increased colour strength, mixing colours as I went. For the red I used three warm midtones, dark magenta, two oranges and dark purple. The white spots due to the paper’s tooth bothered me much more than when using graphite. Probably because I now thought in colour and wanted to restrict the white to the highlights. I think I managed to give the tomato a nice volume (although it got an indentation near the bottom which it does not have). It does have much more character than the graphite tomato, a tomatoness that the graphite one lacks.

I like the idea of a graphite drawing with just one colour in it. However in this picture, as the mortar is white, the green sepals of the tomato are the only thing where the b/w idea is obvious. I think the picture would profit from other vegetables kept in b/w to reinforce the idea. That would also make the composition more interesting.

Bolder marks


I chose a medium that is hard to control in order to not fall back into detail – stones.
They are a kind of ocher from Sicily, the dark one sepia-like with a hint of purple, the others shades of yellow ochre. I have never before drawn with these and found it hard to predict the kind of mark they would make and where exactly. Suddenly the mark making ability of the stone would vanish and I had to find a new edge to use. Sometimes it would be strong and rich in colour, sometimes thin and weak but grating the paper.

When drawing I used what I’d learned in my earlier pictures, the directional hatching, the leaving out of lines. I think it worked well for the mortar and the tomato, but not at all for the shadow.


The shadow has a contour which feels very wrong here. When working with pencil I made the contour line too, but could hide it in the darkness of the shadow later. Not with the stones. In this picture I feel the shadow is way too big and it seems to leave the table and curve up (at the top?). I think the smudging would have worked if the shadow was smaller, but I don’t like the lines at all. At the base of the two objects it works well, though.

Both the tomato and the mortar have nice volume, I think, and the forms are distinct even if not all the lines are correct. I am surprised how well the highlights work here. In the tomato I like how lines, smudging and blank areas work together. The dark lines to the left are very nice and bold.

Tutor Report 1

The tutor report on my first assignment reflects very well where I stand and how I feel about my work myself. It is good to know that I perceive my work realistically.

I am very happy to have succeeded in loosening up my mark making and be expressive and experimental. This was my main concern with this part of the course and also one of my main reasons to start the course. My tutor suggests larger surfaces to work on in order to have enough space to be expressive on.

On the other hand I need to develop my drawing skills and observation. This involves more practice and doing things several times in order to learn. I think this is really important if I want to adopt a loose and immediate style. I have always felt that when reducing the information in a picture to a few expressive lines it is very important that those lines are right.

I am currently working on Tone and Form. Implementing my tutor’s suggestions regarding observation and rules of drawing fits in very well with these new exercises. The ones about expressiveness and going up in scale is harder. Or is it? (I spot a challenge there 🙂 )


Mark making for shading

By now I have a clear mental picture of a ball and its shades and shadows and for these sketches I concentrated on the mark making side of things. While working I found that the principles of shading are really quite simple: find a way to make an area appear darker than an other. I can do this by either using more graphite/pigment with a softer pen or more pressure or – if the medium always draws in the same tone – by varying the space between my marks (as in stippling). Or indeed a combination of both. This made the ideas pop up in my head and gradually opened doors away from graphite pens.

Parallel straight lines give an impression of fast movement. A strong effect, I find, but I do not particularly like the picture. It looks stiff. I like the wriggly lines better.


This is done with letter rubber stamps – my initials. I like this very much. As with the stippled ball I like how it retains its shape without an actual outer line. I love letters and find the pattern they make when stamped over each other really pleasing.

While stamping I came to think about letters as carrying meaning in themselves. Maybe not a single letter, but other signs – like question marks. Does the meaning they carry by themselves change the statement of my picture? I think it must. Or give it a statement. These are sketches of balls, I do not mean anything by them, but the following picture carries a whole load of meaning – or could at any rate once one starts thinking on these lines.


I chose lighting from below to enforce the dramatic effect. Now suddenly there are questions, confusion, and in the shadow urgency and quite some force, too, through the directional orientation of the exclamation marks.

Thinking back to my other marks – they, too, add meaning in a way. They certainly lead a viewer’s thoughts in different directions. Marks are essential.

Back to shading and the amount of black. If that thought holds I should be able to use a pattern to indicate the form. As I made this the form already appeared before the “shading” as the pattern changes around the curved form. But the use of lines in different thickness added light. I omitted the shadow here. To be honest I don’t know how I would make it for it to do justice to the delicate pattern. And I don’t want to spoil it.

Inkpens 0,05 – 0,5 on cartridge paper,  ca. 7cm across


On the other hand, due to perspective the lines around the edges are closer together and thus add more black. So prior to adjusting line thickness the edges are darkest. Maybe this should be done the other way round?

White calligraphy ink and quill on blue-grey drawing paper, ca. 13cm across

I like the luminosity of this. Although the contrast between light and dark parts of the ball could be stronger. The effect is strongest in weak light I found and becomes hard to spot when a light is shone on the drawing. Interesting. How it reacts to daylight remains to be seen.

Mortar and pestle

With this sketch my intention was to try different marks to tease out form and glossiness of the  mortar and pestle. Also I wanted to make the highlights more prominent. I skipped the tomato as it did not contribute very much apart from a faint red tinge in some reflections which would be fun to do with colour but not without.

As I struggle with hatching I chose that, trying to let the marks convey shade and highlights as well as give information about the objects’ shape. The paper takes care of the midtones, the dark pen adds shading and the white pen the highlights.

Dark grey ink brush pen and white acrylic marker on blue-grey paper.

I am very satisfied with the highlights, they really pop. In the first version on a lighter beige paper the contrast was too weak. With the darker paper it works. I chose a grey pen rather than black to soften the contrasts on that end a bit. The mortar is white so it isn’t actually dark anywhere.

I also like the missing lines where it is up to the viewer to interpret the form. The hatching helps to explain the form, especially where both hatching and cross-hatching were used. I like the shifting between the two.

The lines in the shadow do not really work like this. Partly, surely, because the lines are wonky, but I wonder if straight lines of that length wouldn’t be too stiff and strict. Maybe it would have been better to hatch at an oblique angle. Or to let the lines follow the direction of the light, fanning out from the base of the mortar.

Overall I am happy with the outcome but feel the technique is too stiff and inhibited. I like more expressive marks. Maybe in combination with something more irregular this very strict shading makes a nice contrast – e.g. with vegetables next to the mortar where the greens would be drawn in a different, more expressive way.

The directional hatching can be used to good effect with less precise marks to make a less strict drawing. I did that in the second drawing in this post.