Category Archives: Materials

Draws Shoots and Leaves learns another lesson……..always use a big piece of paper

Today’s lesson I want to share with you is so basic that I am ashamed I made the mistake……..try and choose the right size paper for your subject matter.

My subject for the day was a branch of variegated ivy from the garden and although I am not a great fan of the plant, the leaves had wonderful twisty shapes and it was in full flower and I thought it looked a challenge. 

So here I am merrily drawing my quick sketches, (I start off an art day doing ten minute sketches to get me warmed up and to get me over my inhibitions and I use a kitchen timer to keep me on track), when I realised that the timer had not gone off and some considerable time had passed.  It is wonderful how engrossing and absorbing art can be when you get in the zone.  Well in the time that had passed, my drawing had grown; I had started with one of the flowers and now I almost had the whole branch, but I was running out of space on the paper.

‘It’s only a sketch, so no need to be precious’, I told myself so I stuck a strip of paper to the bottom and kept on drawing.

Draft pencil drawing of ivy by Sue Hagley

Extra paper stuck to bottom edge

By now I was getting quite attached to the ivy so I decided to work it up into a finished piece.  Using the tracing paper method, I transferred the image to good paper and completed it using coloured pencils.  This picture will always remind me of ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ which I was listening to on an audio book.

Coloured pencil drawing of Ivy by Sue Hagley

How I get what I see onto paper……………

There are several ways to get an outline of an image of an object onto good paper ready to make a finished drawing.  And these are the ones I have tried:

1) I took and printed a photo which I gridded it up and used the grid to copy the image accurately onto good paper.  This is a very process driven way of working and I ended up working from a photo rather than life which felt a bit sterile and mechanical.  However, what I liked about the finished picture was the abstract nature of the piece of leaf I chose, so although the method did not suit I was interested in the effect and the finished image and I think that I will follow this up in the future.

Coloured pencil drawing of a Teasel Leaf by Sue Hagley

Teasel Leaf

2)  I took a photo of a leaf, which I then ran through an app to get a black and white line drawing which was traced onto tracing paper and then transferred onto drawing paper.  I ended up with an accurate shape that I enjoyed colouring but actually it did not teach me much about looking and seeing.  So I learned that it is important to me to make the original image my own as well as the finished image.

Coloured pencil drawing of a Dead Leaf by Sue Hagley

Dead Leaf

3) I viewed the subject matter through a gridded transparent sheet and then drew the subject onto a matching grid on tracing paper.  This was long winded and hard on the eyes squinting through the grid and copying, and it felt mechanical and hard work.  I also ended up with an image that was rather bigger than life size, so my crab apples look like they have been dosed with steroids.

Coloured pencil drawing of Crab Apples by Sue Hagley

Crab Apples

4) I took a leaf rubbing and traced the rubbing onto paper, but the leaf dried out, so when I came to resume my work the next morning the leaf had shrivelled unrecognisably – so my time was wasted!

5) I just sat down and drew the d**m thing!  The easiest and the most satisfying; well I know that now as I have tried all the other methods!  More importantly, my skill is improving as I continue to practice – that’s a really obvious observation but it is true, true, true – if you practice you get better! Doh!

Pencil drawing of a Dead Leaf No 2 by Sue Hagley

Another dead leaf

The reason I like colouring in little squares of paper. Time to reveal a quilt………

In my last post I confessed to enjoying the process of colouring in little squares of paper and shuffling them about and arranging them in groups .  Well, time for a confession here, I am a recovering quilt maker so I spent many happy hours messing about with squares (fabric rather than paper).

On Point a quilt made by Sue Hagley

On Point (detail) by Sue Hagley

All the colours were hand dyed by me and the design was drawn up using a drawing programme on the computer.  Many hours were spent rearranging the colours into harmonising or contrasting heaps.  

On Point quilt (detail) by Sue Hagley

On Point (detail) by Sue Hagley

So you can see here, why I enjoyed playing with squares of colour.

On Point quilt by Sue Hagley

On Point quilt by Sue Hagley

I can’t possibly start now, I don’t have all the right stuff!

Major distraction technique, this.  Of course I can’t start drawing because I need this, that and the other.  Of course this is not true, but despite this I frittered away several happy weeks sourcing all the (supposed necessities) of my new activity.

First of all the coloured pencils, I used a book by Ann Swan called ‘Botanical Painting with Coloured Pencils‘ as my guide to colour choices and then spent many happy hours making colour swatches.  Now, this looks like a really nit picky thing to do, but I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it.  It was lovely to make little squares of paper and to colour them in, to see how different the colour was no the paper than in the pencil:  then sorting the coloured squares into groups of like colours: then making paper strips and colouring squares again: then using sticky backed plastic to protect them: and finally to lay them all out and look at all the pretty colours.  I should get out more, I hear you say…..

Coloured pencil swatches

Coloured pencil swatches

Well it may have been a labour of love, but I use the swatches for every drawing I do, so there! They help me establish the palette for the plant I am drawing.  I have even found a stash of Derwent artist’s pencils from way back in the 70’s when I was at art school, so they have been sharpened and added to my kit.  So now I had 100+ pencils and I must have a way to store them and find them – so with the advice from Janie Gildow & Barbara Benedetti Newton’s book ‘Colored Pencil Solution Book‘ I requested my DH to make some stands.

Wooden blocks for holding pencils

Blocks for holding pencils

And here they are in all their glory.  Most are made of Cedar wood so they are lightweight and fragrant too.  Each colour has its allocated place and the blocks have hinges so they open wide and stand alone.  Then using both books as guides I collected together or purchased the remaining ‘essentials’.

coloured drawing essentials

Drawing essentials

Best things in kit – 1) battery pencil sharpener, what fun and what sharp sharp points it makes & 2) battery eraser, it’s like holding an angry bee in your hand but it really works.  Also in kit – makeup brush for brushing away debris, blender, burnisher, embossing tools, kneadable eraser, eraser shield, fixative, masking fluid (not used yet), Zest It solvent (not used yet), value finders, magnifying glass, protractor, ruler, masking tape and on and on and on.  But all was finally collected together and finally a spare tool caddy was found and all the equipment found a home.

drawing kit in tool caddy

No more excuses time to get started.

Sue Hagley's drawing space

My drawing space

Here is my space all set up, the plant I am working on here is an Iris Foetidus and the picture was taken in December 2013.  Below is the finished drawing.

Iris Foetidus by Sue Hagley

Iris Foetidus by Sue Hagley


During my searching for a new craft, I have been down a very longwinded, messy and smelly detour.  This started 1) by having a lifelong interest in knitting & 2) deciding that I would like to make my own yarn.

One consequence of this decision was that a spinning wheel came into my life and I taught myself to spin (extremely inexpertly)

Spinning wheel

My new baby

and the second consequence which was the smelly one was that raw sheep fleeces were given to me.  Beware the person that gives you a fleece from a sheep.

Unprocessed fleece

Fleece as it comes from a sheep

In my innocence I plunged the fleece into the bath full of hot water and it became wet and heavy as well as smelly and dirty  – a wonderful combination (and not popular with the other person I share a house with).

Dirty fleece in the bath

Fleece in the bath after first wash

Anyway, I won’t go on about this any longer, but it took hours and hours and hours and I have enough spun fleece to knit myself a jumper which I suspect will resemble porridge both in colour and texture, I’m just waiting for a suitably lumpy pattern to come my way and I will get started.

Washed and dried sheep fleece

Fleece now clean and dry

Another result was that I ended up with quantities of washed and carded fleece but absolutely no enthusiasm to do any more spinning.  At that precise point, I was invited to join a new felting group Never Ever Felt Better that had just started up in the next village.  Now there was the answer to my problem, and maybe it would be the craft of my dreams.

Felting in village hall

Working Hard

 All these crafts are so simple on the surface and so difficult in practice.   I claim the prize in our group as the person who makes the ugliest felt objects.  I have made a hat that is so thick and heavy the weather is never cold enough to wear it.

Sue Hagley in felt hat

A hat to hot to wear

I have made some slippers that don’t match each other and fit no one.

home made felt slippers

Non matching felt slippers

I have made some seat covers that are ugly but at least are warm on the bottom (if you excuse the expression).  These now adorn all the chairs in the house, and have solved the problem for me of what to do with all the fleece I had stockpiled.  The house is now amost a fleece free zone.

chair pads made of felt

Felt Chair Pads

I made a handbag that was several times wider than it was tall, so was completely useless and eventually was remade into a cafetiere  cosy, and then I broke the cafetiere!  However, I have learned, and although this is not the craft of my dreams, it does have certain qualities that I really like – especially that it is quick.  I made a book cover and needle felted the details

And once I had started drawing I realised that I could use the drawings as starting points for my felt making so I made some pre felts and using my sketches of snowdrops and aconites as reference I made my first felt picture.  The base was wet felted and the finer details were needle felted later.

spring flowers felt picture

Spring felt picture

I was happy with this and felt (ha ha) that there were possibilities for me linking the straight forward drawing with the craft element of felt making.  And this is where I am right now, I have just made a batch of pre felts which give me enough colours to get started with for my next felt picture.

a collection of pre felts

Pre Felts