What a week I have had! 6 day course with Ann Swan at Dedham Hall

An enthusiastic group of students, an experienced and knowledgeable teacher (Ann Swan), a great studio (despite the abundance of spiders and other creepy crawlies) wonderful weather and a full six days of time; the recipe for a really enjoyable and productive week.

I learned so much:

  • Which side is the right side of the paper, I got this wrong twice and was made to start again. A stern teacher indeed but I will pay attention in future.
  • Which greens are ‘good’ and ‘safe’ and make natural looking greens for leaves.
  • How to use a light box, I got this wrong too in two ways 1) I reversed my image and 2) used wrong side of paper.  Had to laugh though…….. and I will be much more careful next time.
  • Found out what a Plamp is (no I am not telling you, you will have to look it up for yourself).  Have also found out how to make one for myself (super scrimper that I am).
  • How to sharpen and pencil and why a sharp pencil is important.
  • The order that a coloured pencil drawing is best done.
  • Different methods of underpainting and how this works really well if a graphite drawing is planned.
  • What baby oil really is; not oil at all – who knew?
  • Burnishing and bloom: what colours to use and how to do it.
  • How to remove random marks e.g. fly poop, pencil slips from paper starting gently and moving onto the heavy guns of Milton fluid.
  • How to select colours for shadows, not necessarily greys but a pale complimentary instead.
  • To be much much braver when I lay down my first layer……….this is hard as I can feel myself not wanting to ‘go wrong’ but to get deep intense colour I must plunge in.

Here is my output for the week:

Abandoned drawing due to wrong side of paper used

Abandoned drawing due to wrong side of paper used

Here you can see the resist veins and the initial shading.


Leaf showing highlights and shine

Leaf showing highlights and shine

Here is a finished leaf, photo has dulled it rather but the depth of colour was good.

Backside of leaf

Backside of leaf

Backside of leaf (if you excuse the expression), this is generally duller than the top often with a velvety texture, Veins incised with ivory, bluntish pencils used to create softness. Used wrong side of paper again and reversed image on light box.  Tutor commented on lack of observation on where the veins finished, but I was able to add some extensions to bring the veins to edge of leaf.

Perky Tomatoes

Perky Tomatoes

A lot of hours went into these little babies! I loved the little dancing calyxes and that was what made me want to draw them.  They ripened as I watched.  I feel I have captured some of their perky nature, and preserved some of their luminance and translucency (don’t read on Karen because there is a ‘but’ coming) but I could work on them some more to intensify the colour.

Tangutica clematisMy final piece of work was this drawing of Clematis Tangutica and I don’t think the photo does it justice, it is not quite as washed out as this picture portrays.  I am happy with the composition of this drawing and used many of the ‘tricks’ I observed and learned to put this picture together.   I thought it was finished but it needs ‘beefing up’ Ann’s words and I will do that and try and strengthen the colour.

I had a really positive experience on this course and am fired up to keep going, I have improved  skills and a better understanding of the medium as well as a long shopping list for pencils and paper and other sundry equipment.




11 thoughts on “What a week I have had! 6 day course with Ann Swan at Dedham Hall

  1. chrishaywood31

    Sounds like you had a wonderful week Sue and learnt a lot. Coloured pencil seems to me a very difficult medium to work and your clematis is coming on lovely. I can understand what you mean about photos, my own are always disappointing. Look forward to seeing the finished work!

    1. Draws Shoots and Leaves Post author

      The best thing about the course was having six uninterrupted days to just draw!! no distractions except the periodic gales of laughter……as one lady kept making unintended rude drawings (she was drawing very red, very shiny capsicums).

  2. Lisa Linsdell

    She sounds like a very good tutor. After all, you don’t want to pay lots of money and not get pushed to improve. Couldn#’t see the clematis tanguta – came up with BBC photo of one. A reference for you? Lisa

  3. KnitNell

    I love Ann Swan’s work. I think the drawings above are superb – I can see that they have not scanned too well but the beautiful detail and accuracy is obvious. They must have taken you forever to do. Ann often teaches at RHS Wisley which is comparatively close to where I live and I know someone who goes back to do courses with her time and time again.

    1. Draws Shoots and Leaves Post author

      Yes she was talking about her Wisley students too (I think they may be called Cygnets – reference to Swan, which I have only just ‘got’ as I type this – doh!). 95% of Dedham students were returners so she keeps her students too.

  4. Christel Kiley

    WOW Susie! I feel like coming and doing this course! It sounds wonderful, bring some stuff so you can teach me to do all this too and show me the right side of paper! That green leaf is totally natural looking, well done! Keep it all up, you will be famous yet!! Great Job! Love from Mum x

  5. JJ ColourArt

    Sounds like you got a lot out of it. One thing I noticed when I took a drawing course. Even in graphite there are some people who create a softer look; it’s their style. I can see you are like that. I tend to draw rougher, heavily shadowed things, so I notice when people are different like that. It’s not better, it’s just different.

    I agree that you need to punch up the colour and contrast on the last one, BUT there are botanical artists who leave some of the softer shading in too, or leave part of it in graphite and part in colour. You might find that blend of styles pleases you more than trying to change your style completely. So punch up the drawing but leave what pleases you, see if you can find a balance that utilizes your preferred style. See what I mean?

    1. Draws Shoots and Leaves Post author

      Those are really good points Judy, people do have an individual working method and approach to things and that obviously must reflect in their results. My character is sometimes tentative and cautious and this comes through in my starting style. I have worked on the clematis some more and I think improved it but have left the tomatoes (they are what they are – a stage on my journey). Thank you for taking the time to comment on my efforts. Sue


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