Tag Archives: drawing

Pumpkins & Callicarpa

Bit of a quickie this week…………

Started the week having a go at some pumpkins, they are satisfying to sketch with their lovely round forms.

Pencil Sketch of Pumpkin


Pencil Sketch of Pumpkin

Then my eye was caught by a Callicarpa growing in the garden, it catches my eye and my attention every year because of the glorious colour of the berries, its common name is ‘beauty berry’ and I understand why.


I decided to make this the subject of my next coloured pencil drawing….. a great excuse to use the purples that have been lurking around unused since I tried a Cerinthe back in the spring.  Lush!

Callicarpa coloured pencil drawing


A close up of how it is progressing.

Callicarpa coloured pencil drawing



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.




Still here!

It’s not that I have not been drawing but I have not been drawing very much, my intentions of drawing every day just flew out the window.  The only artistic tool I have had in my hand for the last month has been a paintbrush – a house painting brush.

So, what have I done?  Well on two occasions I was overambitious and started drawings of large specimens which I was unable to continue with or to finish.  I did not think forward about how my days were going to pan out and then when I got back to the drawing the specimen had shrivelled, withered and I did not have back up photographs.  Another good lesson to learn; think hard before starting something ambitious.  Pictures attached are very poor as the graphite is too faint for my photography skills and I have over adjusted the contrast.  I have just put them in for the record.



Drawing of Teasel

I also had a go at drawing outside again, sitting in the sunshine with the breeze waving the plants around.  Good practice at looking and remembering and not being too precious.  I love poppy seed heads, they are so much fun to draw, seem like little crowds of people.

Drawing of Poppies


I also had a go at Crocosmia, which actually flowered in the garden this year, it seems to have been a good growing year for many things.   This also was a venturing into colour for the first time for a long time – and it was orange again – I have a weird attraction to orange I realise that now…….  Again I was disheartened by my efforts, my petals end up heavy and lumpy.

Drawing of Crocosmia

Drawing of Crocosmia

Drawing of CrocosmiaThe final drawings I have managed are of a fantastic Dahlia flower that is so luscious in colour changing from apricot (orange!!), peach (pale orange!!) to yellow with lots of yummy shades in-between.  A massive challenge to draw with so many petals twisting and turning this way and that, but that bit went quite well. I then traced off my drawing to give me the base for a colour drawing.  Taking advice from others that have been kind enough to support me I used an underpainting of yellow watercolour to cover the paper before starting with the coloured pencils.

Drawing of Dahlia

Pencil drawing

Working drawing

Working drawing

Coloured pencil drawing of Dahlia

The colours are not quite right in the photo so this detail shows them better.

Detail of Dahlia drawing

Detail of Dahlia drawing

But my petals are still lumpy and thick.  However, excitingly, I am starting a coloured drawing course later this afternoon with Ann Swan who is a brilliant coloured pencil botanical artist and I am hoping to learn loads; whole week of drawing and learning, how lucky am I!

You shall draw everything and every day – a new resolution

Still reading ‘The Awakened Eye’ by Frederick Franck and mulling over his ideas.  One of the consequences is that I have laid aside my coloured pencils for a while and I have been working outside rather than in the studio (grand name for the spare bedroom).  At the end of the book he lays out his ten commandments, and as I found them so interesting and shall be trying to integrate them into my practice I am taking the liberty of including them here in full:

The ten commandments on seeing/drawing were revealed to me on a mountain, but also in a meadow, on an beach and even in the subway.  For their revelation did not come all at once, but in instalments, as it were, over the years, and always while I was busy drawing, and invariably on holy ground.  But that may be because, while drawing, all ground is holy, unseparated from the Whole.

      1. You shall draw everything and every day.
      2. You shall not wait for inspiration, for it comes not while you wait but while you work.
      3. You shall forget all you think you know and, even more, all you have been taught.
      4. You shall not adore your good drawings and promptly forget your bad ones.
      5. You shall not draw with exhibitions in mind, nor to please any critic but yourself.
      6. You shall trust none but your own eye and make your hand follow it.
      7. You shall consider the mouse you draw as more important than the contents of all the museums in the world for..
      8. You shall love the Ten Thousand Things with all your heart and a blade of grass as yourself.
      9. Let each drawing be your first: a celebration of the eye awakened.
      10. You shall not worry about ‘being of your time’, for you are your time. And it is brief. 
  • Frederick Franck

That’s the plan anyway, since writing this I have already not achieved commandment #1 but what the heck? I am really thinking about #4 and #5 these are the faults that I need to challenge.

Here are this week’s efforts….. working outside in the shade trying to draw foxgloves in the breeze, the ones where it does not look like I was looking? well that’s how I drew them –  I did not look at the paper, experimented with pen and ink.  I think my eye is not confident enough to draw with ink so I went back to pencil.

Next I tried my most complicated plant yet – a trailing geranium.

Trailing Geranium by Sue Hagley

And lastly, another afternoon in the garden where my beloved teasels are stretching up to the sunshine, great crowds of them lifting their arms up.  My first coloured pencil drawing was a teasel leaf; I could only manage a section of leaf then as I thought the whole thing way too difficult to draw.  But one year on it looks like I am more confident.

Teasel Plant by Sue Hagley

When life intervenes

I sound like a cracked record going round and round, but again this week the pencil did not hit paper very much.  Below is my entire output, a practice for getting the colours right!  And now I think the Foxgloves are past their best so I might have to wait until next year to have another go.

Test for foxglove colour

But on the positive side, I have had another go at the photography lark and think I have now solved the problem of photographing paper to my satisfaction.  The solution was in the exposure.  My paper now looks ‘white (ish)’ instead of dingey greyish.  So I am happy about that and can let it go………..

I have been following the blog of occasionalartist over the past weeks and have been very interested in the work she is doing with paper and sewing and they reminded me of the last quilt I made just in the square shapes coming off a flat surface and the shadows and dimensions that are created.  Materials used: plain white fabric, coloured threads applied with overlocker, and plastic tags (the type that hold labels onto clothes that get cut off and thrown away).

Quilt by Sue Hagley


I have been reading an inspiring book, ‘The Awakened Eye’ (a companion volume to The Zen of Seeing, SEEING/DRAWING as meditation) by Frederick Franck.  This is my early morning read, as I enjoy my first cup of tea of the day and my copy is now littered with little orange post it notes as I find things to try and remember.  My favourite extracts follow:

  • There is no other valid reason for drawing than the awareness of the eye awakening from its half-sleep.
  • If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration, but timelessness, the eternal life belongs to those who live in the present – say Wittgenstein
  • The leaf I just picked is already going limp, then I see it shrivel.  While seeing/drawing I see each thing living its own time, as I am living my time, my life-time.  The awakened eye becomes utterly aware of the fleetingness of all that passes before it, of this eye still seeing, of this hand still moving, still tracing…………
  • When I draw in line with a pen or a sharp pencil I am compelled to the most intense, uninterrupted attention to and awareness of what my eye perceives.  It makes it impossible to deceive, to humour or to flatter myself.  The quality of my line shows up every attempt at a cover-up, a pretense.  Looking at my drawing once it is finished, I can’t help becoming my own graphologist: I see instantly every flagging of my concentration, every incompetence, every trick!

Feeling better

I hit a low spot last week; took on too much so I felt overburdened and put upon.  But action has been taken – I have dropped one commitment and reviewed my attitude to my own efforts (I would hate to work for me, I am a hard taskmaster indeed).  But enough of this already and onto what has made it onto paper this week.

In the hope that eventually I would draw something that I would like to own as mine own, I fiddled around with my signature.  My initials are S & H which together can look like a dollar sign ($). Here are my efforts, I wanted to include the date in some way but decided that month and year were enough:



The one I think I will go with is below, but looking at it again I might change my mind (any comments or suggestions would be appreciated).


Plant of the week was the wonderful Foxglove; they spread themselves elegantly about the garden in shades of cream, white and maroon, with beautiful markings; just beautiful and enticing to draw.  Despite the lush colour I stayed with pencil.

Foxglove by Sue Hagley

Foxglove by Sue HagleySuch fun to draw……


Well I met my posting target this week, but that is all.

I am going to post the four scrubby drawing I managed this week.  I put them up as the intention of this blog is to share my progress as I struggle to revive my art practice.  The best thing that I can say about them is that they have been done.  I have managed to hack out a couple of hours and to sit myself in front of a drawing board and start, which is no mean achievement this week.  I had another go at the Easter Cactus.


But the plant that caught my eye in the garden was another weed – this time the wild carrot (Daucus carota) a small specimen but bushy and growing well.  I read that it is a plant of high summer so that shows how forward the season is this year after the mild winter.  The attraction was the festoon of bracts beneath the flower umbel so I had a good scribbly go at them.



And finally this afternoon I attempted a more detailed sketch.


When the flowers are finished and they turn to seed, the flower heads contract and become concave like birds’-nests.  I like this plant, it grows well in the garden and the hover flies love it