Life Drawing: Fifth lesson

Life Drawing: Fifth lesson

In the last life drawing session I was particularly focused on trying to ‘draw what’s inside’ the figure and I think I am really starting to understand the process.

Also I noticed that drawing with my wrong hand went a little better (see above: first drawing on the left). It is so fascinating because I just feel like a kid using a pencil for the first time, it’s a ‘primitive’ experience and the result looks so intense. I would like to have the chance to draw longer poses in this way next time.
While sipping our teas we went through a really interesting and useful explanation of the utility of using a pencil to better understand the space in which a figure is placed.
In our longer poses we were in fact sticking our pencils out all the time and practicing this principle.

I agree with the tutor’s opinion that this method is precious to relate a figure to the space rather than being just a measuring technique.

Assignment Two: Point of sale display

Assignment Two: Point of sale display

The journey through this assignment has been quite long I thought. The brief was asking to produce two illustrations for a supermarket campaign to package and promote a range of seasonal high quality foods. The subject had to be fruits or vegetables of the autumn and summer seasons, represented in a objective way, based on direct observation. Even though the brief gives freedom on the subjects and its surroundings, it is pretty precise: the fruits and vegetables represented have to look edible and very particular attention has to be paid to the tones and textures of their skin and pulp. In order to get things right I started to look up for some techniques to illustrate food and I found a very useful resource in the tutorials of a professional watercolour artist, Anna Mason (

After gathering some information about autumn and summer fruit and vegetables, I started sketching the ideas I had in my mind. I chose as symbol of autumn the pumpkin, and my first ideas where to locate it between the typical autumn – coloured leaves or on a hay covered floor. After a while I came up with the idea of a crate containing a sliced pumpkin or eventually a group of squashes. After a quick research on pumpkins I was actually very inspired by many kind of different and colourful squashes and I thought that their colours would have perfectly represented the fall season. I put together four different kind of squashes and started sketching.


I would have loved to have the chance to portrait this vegetable from life, but being in the wrong season, I had to use the pictures I found online. I didn’t use one in particular because no one really fitted for my drawing of course. In the process of creating my watercolour, not having a unique reference picture (either a real vegetable!) really made things quite complicated.

I then passed onto the summer illustration. I chose to keep the crate idea to give a sense of matching illustrations, part of a campaign. Having already illustrated a group of vegetables, I decided to illustrate sliced fruits. Thinking of which fruit,  between all the beautiful and colourful summer fruits, was in my opinion the one that give me that summer feeling I selected in the first place peach, watermelon or strawberry. My first idea was in fact of a cut up peach, with a straw directly piercing its pulp, to indicate the extreme juiciness of the fruit. But after a brief survey, I decided to go for the watermelon, using the straw idea. I think this fruit perfectly represents summer with its colours and its fresh and watery aspect.


While sketching decided to add a small cocktail umbrella and to direct the straw towards the viewer, as to invite to drink from it. Creating this second watercolour, I realized how much I learned from the mistakes of the first one. In fact I think the final result of the summer piece looks much better and much more realistic.

In general I believe I did a good job: I respected the requests of the brief of making an objective pair of illustrations of autumn and summer fruit and vegetables and I followed the instructions about the scale, producing a proportioned smaller picture.

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The outcome is pretty much as I expected and if I am able to spot mistakes, yet I believe I improved massively my technique through this assignment, not just in the practice but also in the way of thinking and planning.

Life drawing: Fourth lesson

Life drawing: Fourth lesson

Just quickly posting the sketches from the last life drawing session. The amazing discovery this time was focusing on drawing the inside of the subject.
The tutor was suggesting to visually go over the surface of the body and report onto paper every single thing, every feeling of light and shadow, bump or depression of the skin over the bones. Very interesting, useful and quite difficult exercise!
We also tried to draw a pose with our wrong hand: it was amazingly difficult and challenging!

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Exercise: Visual metaphors

Exercise: Visual metaphors

This exercise was focused on visual metaphors and its first phase was to look up for some examples.
My mind went straight to some illustrations I saw on the packaging of some teabags I buy sometimes. Depending on the infusion, the illustration is picturing the effect it should produce on our body by very clever and clear images. The illustrations are by Brett Ryder and I just post here a couple of examples:

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I searched thoroughly the few magazines I have home and I found two visual metaphors:

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Then I kept browsing the internet and discovered the illustrations of John Holcroft whose portfolio is packed with visual metaphors. Here I post a couple of examples:

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I found very good examples of visual metaphors by browsing the website and particularly the following one:

After collecting examples of visual metaphors, I choose picked two topics from the list, broken relationship and economic catastrophe, so that I could have the chance to compare the results and I made some really quick and basic drawings.

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I showed these to three people and in general the message was pretty clear to everyone: regarding the economic catastrophe topic, two people chose the hanged piggy bank and one of them said the graph going dramatically down was the obvious one. The flying note was interpreted by this last person as inflation.
About broken relationship, again the same two people chose the stabbed heart, and the other one the couple, ripped apart.
It was very interesting to experiment and check with other people whether my visual interpretation was communicating correctly the message or not and I believe, after this comparison, that there are some really iconic symbols, strongly communicating a message beyond the boundaries of age, sex and culture.

Exercise: Choosing content

Exercise: Choosing content

This exercise consisted of reading an extract from The Daffodil Affair by Michael Innes and to go through different tasks.
The first one was to answer three questions.
1. If this were to be made into a film what would the main character be like?
The main character would be a man with very regular face shapes, sharp and symmetrical as to match the environment.
2. What clothes would the character be wearing?
A simple suit, in grey or brown tones.
3. What furniture is in the main area in which the action takes place?
There is only a desk and a chair.
After answering these questions, I had to find visual reference for the era in which the action takes place. The story is set in war – time London, so I found precious references in the websites of the Imperial War Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum It was particularly useful to have the chance to search their collections online and to have pictures and information about single objects to hand. Using these two precious resources I selected few images for my visual reference, trying to include above all the ones in colours.


I decided that the word which best conveys my vision of the story is austerity, because in my opinion it includes some feeling of emptiness at the same time.
I produced a moodboard using Microsoft Word because I couldn’t find elsewhere the tones I had in my mind and I also used textures found on V&A museum website.


I had three main ideas for my final piece: the first one was a frontal view of the man behind his desk, the second was the man seen from his back in front of the window and the third one was the man pictured on his side while standing in front of the window.
I felt that the frontal view would have given me the chance to better express austerity.


I sketched a couple of different views and went for a close up. I tried to convey austerity in the features of the man, in the way he is dressed and in the surroundings, empty on purpose. The floor, the wall, the desk are empty, only a wide shaft of shadow is filling in the space.
I based my final piece on the size of a book and used the vertical orientation of the sheet. The materials used are inks with pen and nib and brush. A fine liner has also been used.

Looking at the final result I am not entirely satisfied, like something is missing.
Thinking about it, I believe this is the feeling this illustration is supposed to convey. However I was imagining the detective a little older than he looks in my drawing and even though I tried adding wrinkles here and there I wasn’t able to change the fact that he looks too young.

To conclude, even though I am not happy with the outcome, I learned how illustrating is somehow like directing a movie!

Exercise: Using black and white

Exercise: Using black and white

This exercise asked to play with black and white. The theme I chose from the list has been sea and in particular I draw a lighthouse, inspired by a picture I found of the abandoned Aniva lighthouse.



I tried to keep the drawing really simple by using few solid lines and then I photocopied the original as requested. I made 2 normal copies and two inverted ones and I started experimenting. I have to admit I was not quite sure of the procedure and ended up leaving my first attempt half way.


The pieces I cut from the first black copy were already too small and didn’t allow me to go in again with the white. However I think the image, even though incomplete is already somehow effective. I used my second set of copies to have another go. This time I cut larger pieces off the black copy:


When going in with the white pieces, I tried to suggest light coming from one side: the most difficult thing to render was the water and I had to watch the result from far away to make sure it was readable.


I think the result is quite good, but I can spot imperfections, for example I didn’t manage to cover all the lines, because they keep appearing from the back drawing.

Comparing the final image to the line drawing, I would say it became alive and it gained a dramatic narrative aura which reminds me of comics and graphic novels.
I browsed some comics artists, but the one I kept thinking of was Frank Miller. I think he really uses black and white to obtain that certain atmosphere typical of his dark novels and his skills are honed to perfection in giving even the smallest details only by the use of black and white areas.

In particular the following examples are from his graphic novel Sin City:

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Life drawing: Third lesson

Life drawing: Third lesson

Here they are, my sketches from the last life drawing lesson.

I believe I am getting more fluid in the shortest poses, which in the beginning felt much more difficult.

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Particularly the above pose on the left was lasting only four minutes yet I was able to get the general flow of the figure.

Having only few minutes made me panic in the beginning, but I am starting to learn to use my time as much as possible to get the anatomy right rather than making the marks look beautiful.