a whole month of drawings…if only I could figure out the technology to collage them!

I supposed to put up a collage of drawings from the 30 in 30 days sgraffito challenge (about fifty images).  The problem with having a second hand computer and some shared systems is that all the software I loaded to try these – flipagram, flikr, picassa etc, seemed to immediately make vast numbers of photos pour into my computer. As this computer is eight years old already (an antique in computing terms) it crashes all the time just trying to cope with software upgrades on the minimum set of functions I need, so this sort of behaviour panics me.

So, for the moment, no collage, though I have rephotographed the drawings so that I have a complete set of fired images. I’ll close this sequence for the moment with  drawing of me and Einstein..and to say I have had a fantastic time working with an amazing bunch of people from around the world on this project. Lots to learn still, but I feel I know much more about what is possible and have some techniques which will allow me to continue the journey.

einstein fired self portrait fired


ambidextrous or ambisinistrous? More trees, both hands

trees both hands

Todays challenge was:

“This time, the tree should be created upside-down. That means that you will start at the top of your glass with the trunk, and pull the glass toward you to make the branches.

Today you may use both hands in your work, plus the business card and your choice of tools.

Here is the ‘catch’… Anything on the left side of the tree must be drawn with your left hand, and anything on the right side of the tree must be drawn with your right hand.

Even though you have full access to your ‘tools’ you should still use them in the appropriate hand, depending on the side you are working on.” Modern Ancient

I have to admit I forgot about the upside down bit, though I can see that it would make sense for a free flowing action to divide large branches into smaller branches. I’ll do another one sometime like that for the learning.

I focused on the both hands bit. I remembered having read that Landseer could paint a picture using both hands simultaneously and so I attempted to do that…though with no expectations of that quality.

So, more trees, the lake in snow picture saved from a christmas card…and I did try to keep both hands moving at once. It made sense of the snowy shoreline, with the trees and reflections of the trees being drawing in at the same time with symmetrical actions- though  the symmetry somewhat vanished with later fiddling.

I set out to make it look as if snow was lying on the branches, but I think I don’t have the skill to do this, and the tiny scale (about 5×10 cm) doesn’t give a lot of room to manoeuvre.


Yesterday’s picture is sitting on my studio table as I was firing something full of joyful colour as a rest from all this black and white tiny stuff.  It nearly got destroyed by BB going to pick it up to look at it- only just stopped him after his fingers closed around the edges.  He’s gotten used to being able to pick up the drawings lying around the house and seems to have forgotten they start as loose powder.  Claimed it wasn’t obvious that it wouldn’t have been fired yet!

Left handed again…more trees, more tools

trees by lake left hand

Today’s challenge was to draw another tree using the non-dominant hand, but we could use any tools we liked.  Having seen some amazing drawings from other participants yesterday I decided I had set my sights too low, and was determined to try harder. I went for a stroll around our local park and took some photos of trees to act as the guide.

It was interesting how comfortable using the card felt compared to any of the new tools, having used it left handed yesterday.  I added in the toothpick and a cotton bud, but did mostly use the card for this.

left hand only – drawing a tree

tree left handed

Today’s challenge was to draw a tree using only a business card (or a scrap of cardboard in my case).  Back to the start of this month, which certainly seems a long time ago.  Difference is, got to do this using your non-dominant hand.

Here is a tree, with a little bench (I wanted to see if I could do that).  To make it easier I just made up the image, working with the easiest way to use the materials.  I can see now that the bench is completely the wrong scale for this tree.

feather 2 singing bird

As it has been days since I fired the kiln I then quickly did a few extra sketches to fill the space and set it going.  Never before has it seemed that my kiln was giant.  So, a scribbled singing bird, a feather and a sea scene based on the Cornish tin mining along the coast.

cornish tin

Full enough to fire the kiln.

kiln jan 24 2015

White, white, white- sgraffito challenge days 16-18

Lucy Rie potting

White objects for three days using light glass and black powder, and then a mysterious something else to do.  I tried some lacy fabric (really hard), some lychees- not white on the outside but white inside, and I wanted to see if I could get the contrast between the succulence of the inside and the spikyness of the outside,  I then set out to do a Lucy Rie triptych- an image of her (white hair, white shirt) making a pot, and the cracked flower pot and two tea cups we have by her in the house.

lucy rie cups lucy rie flower pot

Stupid, really, to set out to do things where the actual shape mattered so much.  Stupid too, to do a picture where there were two cups – though in real life they are not the same shape, and again, lots of overlapping circles, saucer, top and bottom of cup. Quite a challenge.  I worked on these today until my feet got too cold to continue, warmed up and then carried on.

lychees lace

lemons- an exercise in lots of interlocking and overlapping loops!

lemon 1

Today’s challenge was to draw something we’d eaten. Not sure how to tackle this at first..I’d eaten out the previous day and had risotto (not going to draw that) and if the purpose was to look carefully at the thing we were drawing, if we’d already eaten it we’d get an array of grimy empty plates.  I have a friend who is doing a series of works on her plates after she has eaten the meal – she works in embroidery, but I didn’t feel ready for that yet.

One of the other people doing this challenge had done a very luscious grapefruit, which looked really succulent.  I wanted to try to get this sense of liquid shimmer, so took two lemons, sliced one in half then took another thin sliver, and arranged them on a plate.  As I was passing my bay tree I nipped off a stem and added this to the array…I like Bay and lemon together, but this certainly added more complexity, especially with the shadows.

The challenge was to do this piece in fifteen minutes.  I set to, with the angled circles of the lemons and the plate sketched into a fine sifting of powder with a toothpick.  I then added a bit more powder and started on the interior of the lemons.  At this point I realised what a difficult set-up I had.  By having three cut surfaces of lemon visible I had to do a detailed drawing three times and each cut surface had to match!  By having a thin sliver of lemon I could also see through the slice to the layer underneath  – not a clear view but it did change the colour of the top surface.

I struggled, realised I’d never really looked at a lemon before, noticed how I could see the oil sacs in cross-section on the edge of the slices, and how the outside pores patterned the surface. The bay leaves were awkward as they pointed at various angles and cast dark shadows on the lemons – quite hard to make the shadow and the leaf look different and still be dark. By the time the fifteen minutes were up I had the beginnings of a sketch but I didn’t want to stop.  I took a photo at this stage and carried on.  I added a bit more powder to deepen shadows, and tried to get the plate to look like a plate.  Still not sure what to do on the edges of images.  I think it would be a lot easier to make these look like lemons by adding some yellow, so I’m firing this and might try tinting it in a second firing.  Several people have added colour to their sketches, and it certainly looks like a technique that is worth exploring.

lemon 2

Because I realised how little I knew my lemons I then did a pen sketch and added a bit of acrylic paint.  I had moved indoors to the warmth by this stage so the lighting and angles are different. Went a bit silly around the edge again – I should have stopped when the outer part of the image was just blank paper.  Clearly an area of design I need to put some thought into.

lemon sketch

From Chicken to Shark in one day- Sgraffito Challenge days 13 and 14

shark photo

Yesterday’s challenge was to draw a view of a shark’s mouth.  The photo provided was great but it looked very hard to do and I didn’t feel like spending an hour or so staring into the mouth of a Great White Shark (note the backward pointing teeth to ensure you can’t wriggle free).  It was supposed to be an exercise in depicting different textures.  I chickened out and draw an egg in an egg box – two very different textures, but I focused so hard on the texture I got the scale of the egg wrong compared to the box.


Today’s challenge (following our lively discussion of what it was like to try to draw a shark’s mouth) the organiser told us to draw something that frightened us.  Suddenly working with the shark seemed a lot simpler than trying to explore the issue of what I might chose if I were to work on something that truly frightened me, especially since I’m about to go out and have lunch with my lovely embroidery chums and I want to be in a good mood for that.  So, I went back to the photo of the shark.

shark 1

It is a difficult image to capture well.  Looking at the photo the teeth seem so large and clear and pointed, but trying to get them to have the same impact on the drawing was impossible.  I switched to aventurine blue glass powder rather than black for this, and used some ivory coloured glass as I have used up most of my white with these drawings ( I could have thrown them away each day and used the same glass, but  didn’t want to).  Blue because it would feel like cold water rather than just depth.  I did add a touch of black powder in the middle of the mouth near the end.

shark 2shark 3

One of the things I have learnt to do over the last week is to carefully sift extra powder in small areas of a drawing.  At the beginning of this month long exercise I sifted a thick layer of powder over the whole piece of glass and worked with that.  Now I am learning about subtlety.  A fine layer of powder, a sketch, add a bit more powder, refine the whitest areas, repeat…trying to get the teeth to pop out of the  image.  Not entirely successful, but a very good exercise.


Sgraffito Challenge day eleven- Lettuces are ludicrous

SC 11 lettuce

So I found it difficult representing an apple on days nine and ten.  Today’s task was to draw a vegetable.  Choice in my fridge was potato, carrot, brussel sprouts, root ginger or a partially eaten soft round lettuce (that kind that is limp and floppy).  I started imaging drawing lots of sprouts, but got the image in my head confused with grapes, so decided to try the lettuce

I noticed that yesterday someone had posted some preliminary drawings, so decided to try some myself.  I also looked up ‘how to draw a lettuce’ and came across a charming blog about following Ruskin’s drawing primer.  So, I drew the lettuce in the hope I would understand  the way the shapes worked.

lettuce by pencil

Studio temperature was still only ten centigrade by the time I had done this, so I waited until it hit 12C, dressed warmly and went out with the lettuce to try with the black powder.  I seemed to find it easy to lose track of the main segmenting of the lettuce – the thick ribs of the leaves seem obvious but I still managed to muddle myself.  I stopped when I got too cold to carry on, came in and ate the lettuce.  Beginning to be a bit of a theme, eating the subject.  I wonder what tomorrow’s topic will be.

I did let myself have a postcard sized piece of glass (10x15cm) for this challenge rather than the 5x10cm.  I couldn’t imagine getting anything lettuce-like on such a tiny narrow piece of glass.   I used the small piece of glass I had intended to use today to do a drawing of myself as a toddler  – tricky as the intense shadows made it look like I had black hair across my face and blond curls on top of my head.  It is all good practice at knowing how to look and using the glass powder.

lois toddler

I used the inter-dental brush for most of the work today, and also the toothpick.

Sgraffito Challenge day 10- an apple and more…

SC 10 apple 2

Draw some fruit, add a context, or just have a wild time….so, lots of possibilities.  I began imagining all sorts of drawings, but kept coming back to my dissatisfaction with yesterday’s apple.  It was dull, didn’t look like an apple…surely I could improve it.  The second drawings of both the half Braeburn and the whole Bramley still existed, so I had the opportunity to try to improve them.

I got my ear wax vacuum and tried adding a small highlight to the Bramley to make it look rounder and glossier.  As the drawing was small and I haven’t done the nifty fixes to make the nozzle smaller, about a third of the apple vanished immediately.  Tipped the powder back in the jar.

What I needed, I decided, was a good asymmetric glossy apple (I’d eaten both the subjects by this time) and a good sideways light source to give definition.  Off to the shop to get some suitable fruit and an extension lead.  Then I tidied the studio…which hasn’t been done properly for months, so I could sort out the old computer that had also been waiting for an extension lead.  Spending calm drawing time in the studio (garage to normal people) means that the mounting chaos was beginning to feel really wrong.

So, set up with a nice shiny wonky Braeburn and a good sideways light (oh, and washed all my glass cleaning cloths in the meantime too) and a clean desk…..really no excuses left.

I used the little inter-dental tooth brush recommended by someone else on the challenge and a sifter.  The brush allowed me to add directional strokes which seemed to help give a feeling of three dimensions.  A tiny dab with the ear-wax vacuum just to emphasise the brightest spot (careful…) and yes, I do think this is a bit better than yesterday.

Apples are Arduous

Sgraffito Challenge day 9- draw an apple.  A real apple, not a drawing someone else has done that makes it easy to see the shades of grey.   Simple in idea, terribly hard in practice.

SC9 braeburn SC9 bramley

I had a knobbly Bramley apple and half a large Braeburn to hand.  I tried drawing both.  I didn’t like what I had done, but left them sitting in the studio while I got on with other things.

Went back to try to modify the existing drawings by adding more powder and being a bit more adventurous with the markings.  I think I have ended up with a Bramley apple that looks more like a custard apple.  The half apple looks ok.  I found it really hard to figure out how to do dark apple and adjacent shadow so that it was obvious one was apple and the other shadow.  There’s a light bit of apple just above the darkest shadow and I just couldn’t get that to look right.  Drawing a table edge/horizon made the object look more solid- the edge wasn’t visible in real life but I let myself add one.

SC9 bramley apple 2SC 9 Braeburn 2

I think it would be a good idea to eat an apple every day but only after drawing it whole…perhaps eat a bit and redraw it.  That process would be a good one for many reasons.  After a year of that I don’t suppose Apples would be Arduous Anymore.

P.S. another thing I learnt today- if you spell your title wrong the spellchecker doesn’t notice, and once you’ve published it the incorrect spelling will stick on your URL forever, no matter how often you tell it to update.