Drawing on photographs

I wanted to try adding symmetrical shapes to this image of the woodland canopy looking directly up.

The first lines I added were digital, but I realised from this that digital lines, especially without a drawing pad are too controlled and slow going.

I then moved to using a ruler and white gel pen. This allowed me to be a lot freer with the shapes and add in curves. I did the drawings in order from left to right. I used images of baroque cathedral domes that I had taken in Europe last summer to inspire the shapes I chose to add to the photograph.
Turns out the cathedral I base my drawing on really affects the drawing I make! This suggests I should visit more cathedrals and churches in Lancaster to explore a variety of architecture, so far I have just been to the cathedral, but it would be interesting to see how the experience and drawing changes in different religious buildings.

The drawings were also inspired by Emma Kunz’s drawings, the concentric shapes to them and the linear shapes.

The most effective drawing is the centre-left one. This is because the design is simple and includes lots of white lines that move towards the centre. It really feels like there is depth to this drawing, and I am looking up at a building that is built underneath the trees.

I want to try these ideas on a bigger scale, and also play around with clay! Thinking about how I can translate these shapes into 3D.

One thing I’ve really learnt from this is that if I am thinking about shapes that reflect ceilings in a sculpture, I need to thinking about those shapes on a 2D surface and looking directly up and straight on to the designs. In the past when I have designed these structures I think about the shape from a side angle and looking up, but I never consider the design from standing directly underneath it.
Thinking about the shapes in this way will really improve these structures in my work, I’m excited to see where it takes me!

Layering Photos Digital Edit

I wanted to see if more of a unified pattern would emerge by layering multiple photos looking up at the canopy in the same spot but just rotating the camera.
There doesn’t seem to be too much of a pattern, but it does look more uniform than the single photo. I might try sketching it. AHH
I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m keeping going with it.

Photo References

First set of drawing done here in the woods outside of LICA. I’m really familiar with these woods, I do a lot of my painting and drawing here, and so space is familiar.

I also went to a woodland near my house – somewhere I’ve never been before! I found it refreshing to be in a new space, and I found these four trees that made a perfect canopy-dome shape. I want to return to that space again.

Video recordings are useful for re-visiting the space when I can’t be there in person.

I spun the camera around at the end of the video because I wondered what shapes and pattern would be made if I took an image of the trees on a long exposure so that the spinning blurred. I want to try this idea digitally, I might be able to find a pattern that I could use in a sculpture. Let’s see..!

Thinking about & researching sculpture in my work

Sculpture as a tool for my paintings.

My paintings have a focus on the dimensionality of the structures. After seeing Cassell’s sculptures, I see the potential of using sculpture as a tool to create 3D structures that tie woodland canopies and cathedral interiors together.
These 3D structures can then be what I base my painting structures on. This has the potential to make my paintings far more informed, refined and dimensional than before. But it will be a challenge since I don’t have much experience with working in 3D.

I need to consider what material would best suite my intentions.

Page comparing air drying clay and ceramic clay:
Air drying clay seems appropriate for what I am doing. As long as I make a solid armature to support the clay, I don’t have to worry about the dangers and technicalities of firing and ceramic clay, since this term is short I want materials I am more comfortable with!
Also air drying clay can be reworked and rewetted multiple times, which means I can play around with ideas.

Page about the ‘armature’/ support for air-drying clay:
^suuuper useful page

Armature for air dry clay horse sculpture

This image from that link made me realise how I can make delicate shapes using these kind of supports, and then adding air drying clay on top.

I think this could really work and I’m excited about the potential.
Next I need to do think about designs for these sculptures considering a number of things:
– woodland canopies – drawings of these en plein air – in ink, pencil, charcoal…
-cathedral interiors – drawings of these inside a cathedral – Lancaster one probs – again in ink, pencil, charcoal… whatever fits
– the artist Cassell – what was successful about her work in relation to what I want to achieve.
– the artist Emma Kunz (Serpentine Gall. exhib) – drawings inspiration for shapes, how could they be translated into 3D?
– what is technically possible
– what is time wise possible


Artist: Halima Cassell

I saw Cassell’s solo exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery over the easter break, called ‘Eclectica–global inspirations’.

Inspired by geometry, architecture, natural forms and foreign travel, she creates deeply carved forms in unglazed ceramic, bronze, stone, wood and cast glass.

Video about the exhibition from http://manchesterartgallery.org/exhibitions-and-events/exhibition/halima-cassell-eclectica-global-inspirations/

One piece particularly caught my attention, this was Noir Rythm 2018:


The bowl shaped structure reminded me so much of dome ceilings in cathedrals I immediately wondered how I could think about her work in relation to the structures in my paintings.
My structures so far have been pretty simple shapes, but what would happen if I pushed the shapes in this direction? Using more specific geometric shapes that create more dimension and could resemble cathedral architecture better than previous shapes.

Dimensions: 24″ x 36″

It’s fascinating to me that these simple sketches turn into such complex three-dimensional shapes. There were a few more sculptures from the exhibition, and more from her website that appear to me as these dome shapes. I am wondering what qualities make some of the sculptures more ‘dome-like’ than others.

Dimensions: 24′ Dia
Hand carved, unglazed stoneware clay

Dimensions: 18 inch D x 4 inch H
Mako,  Hand Carved, unglazed, stoneware

They all have these qualities which make the sculptures appear to me like architectural cathedral domes:
– bowl shaped
– always a point that recedes furthest into the bowl, where the shapes also meet at a point.
-shaping on ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of bowl shape, like the inside and room of dome.
– no pigment added onto sculptural material, only light and shadow creates varying tone and dimension.

These sculptures have the possibility to be posed at an angle to be drawn from, since Cassell works on both the ‘outside’ and the ‘inside’ of the bowls shaped sculptures. It makes me wonder whether I should play with making some three dimensional structures that I then use in my paintings?

To begin, I want to do a series of drawings based on these sculptures, and then see where that takes me, maybe apply these shapes to canopies and cathedrals drawing en plein air.

Finishing another big painting with a structure

I looked at photos from where I painted and looked at the painting itself to figure out where I would put the octagonal shape and what angle. This 3D shape helps with this process SO MUCH.

After I picked the shape I mapped it out using the 3D shape for reference, having to step back from the shape very often to check angles.

Next I added in the lines coming down from the shape using a technique from the three point perspective work I had been doing; using a long ruler to pin point where all the lines met above the painting, and lining this point up with the corners of the shape and mapping out the angle of the lines that way. It was a trial and error process and took lots of removing and re-adding of lines, but I got there in the end!

I was already so much happier with this shape than the last painting! This octangon shape really creates a feeling of being under a great space, even better than the cuboid shape. I considered leaving the shape as it was, but I wanted to add more details out of curiosity, even if it made the painting worse at least I had tried it!
I did some doodle on my phone with an image of the painting to see whether I should add a top to the shape.

After doing this quick digital sketch (above) and adding arches to the shape I decided to add very subtle lines that would converge at the highest point of the shape. But I decided not to show the highest point because I wanted the brushstrokes to look like they were in the structure, so I let the lines go behind the brushstrokes. If I had drawn in all of the roof it would have ruined the illusion of height.

Finished painting!

What works

The structure! I think this is the most successful structure shape I have ever done on a painting, and I want to continue pushing this forward! You really feel like you are standing under a structure with great height.

The process that creates the plein air part of the painting. It has taken me this term to really find a process, medium, set of intetions, tools etc that produce paintings that excite me!

This painting shows the potential for next term for painting with this octagonal shape, and for more big plein air paintings to come!

What could be better

Shapes inspired by cathedral interiors. The arches I added remind me too much of a pagoda and not enough of the interior or a cathedral! I need to work on using lines and maybe dots to create more of a sense of the cathedral feeling. Or maybe I pair it back to just the octagonal shape? That is for me to explore next term.

Another Big Canvas en plein air

From start to finish in giff form!

Next big canvas using the same stretcher as the first big painting I ever did – it feels small now compared to the bigger stretcher I have!

I am painted in new weather conditions here. I painted in windy, grey and stormy weather. I wanted to see how this new weather affects my colour palette and brushstrokes. Shots from where I painted:

Painting Process Thoughts

I had to paint this canvas in two sittings because I ran out of white paint in the first sitting! And I needed lots of white paint to fill in the grey sky.
Luckily for me the weather when I came back to the same spot the next day was very similar to the first day, so this wasn’t much of a problem.

My confidence is certainly growing with every one of these large canvases. With each new painting I add more layers of paint. I started with very thinned paint to block in big areas. The my paint marks get thicker with less turps on average. The I finish the painting with paint thinned with Liquin. This process has been working so far!
I finish with Liquin thinned paint because Liquin keeps the texture and opacity of the paint, but it makes the paint far more slippy, which means the marks I make don’t drag wet layers of paint underneath. I.e. it keeps the paint layers clean and from mixing too much.

Finished painting (before structure is added)

I think the windyness of the painting is translated onto the brushstokes. I like how many layers of paint there are, on asking a friend who knows nothing about my work he says the painting looks like a jungle scene which I liked the idea of! I like how it makes people play with shapes and ideas and brings out a playfulness (more on that in my small red sketchbook entry 16.03.19).

Reflecting and comparing the three big paintings I’ve done so far…

It’s exciting that each big painting that I’ve done so far looks so different depending on the weather conditions! Looking at them in my studio space you can really how different colour palettes, energy and textures (like rain drips or my finger marks holding the canvas from moving in the wind) add to a sense of the painting experience); this is an important part of my work! And it’s encouraging – although these paintings are so abstracted from the actual landscape, I am clearly receptive of the environment, otherwise there would be no different between the paintings that correlates with the weather.

Rethinking the Cathedral Inspired Structures

I needed to rethink the way I put the structure on the canvas, because the last structure was pretty but it didn’t do what I intended! Which was to make the viewer feel as if they are looking up at a great space and height. I went back to the ink structures and started to rework things and make new sketches.

I went back to this ink sketch above after the last painting when realised this is much more like the shape I want to be creating in my paintings – adding a shape like this would make the viewer feel like they were underneath the structure looking up at it, into a great space.

I started to do a bunch of sketches in my sketchbook and what I realised was that my biggest struggles was how to position the lines of the shapes so that they looked three-dimensional. As soon as I thought of this it reminded me of the cuboid structures I used to do and I thought about adding a more structural shape into these cathedral shapes to help. This ink test that I drew into below shows this process of adding straight lines into the round structures:

After doing more sketches I had a bit of a lightbulb moment! I realised I had been mimicking the shapes of a cuboid in almost all the ink tests. So if I was struggling with the technicalities of this shape, I needed to start with an octagon shape which I could draw with accuracy, and then add the curvy cathedral shapes back on top once I got the perspective right. TAH DAH. I felt like I was going a lil bit full circle back to when I started to use the cuboid shapes in my painting last year. Especially with what I did next:

I didn’t have any wire so I masking taped some nails together into an octagon shape and used to see what angles lines would make when looking at the octagon shape from different positions underneath it. This is what I did with the cuboid shape last year and reusing the idea worked really well! I was able to make sketches from the cuboid shape that looked believable, and then the arches and details could be added later. WOOP.

Adding a Structure to the Big Canvas

After first sitting

This is an image from my first sitting for adding the structure. To make the shape I used the photoshop image (last blog post), photos from the location I painted this canvas in the woods, and inspiration from the ink structures.

Finished painting

What works

Using grey lines next to white to outline the structure.
This was inspired by the photoshop image (last post), that had a grey and white layer and it worked really well to create depth, so I used the same technique on the painting which also worked, because before that the shape was too flat.

Spirals and dot shapes add interest but they are purely stylistic. They add a lot of energy to the structure.

Using a ruler to make sure the lines are straight and thin works well – precision is key here!

What doesn’t work

The angle and perspective of the structure means you look across at the structure instead of up at it. The point of adding these structures is to create a sense of height and depth and scale and it’s not doing that here! This is a major issue in the shape, I need to rethink the way I make the shapes.


Another big painting and rethink the structure I’ adding.

Preparing to add structures to the canvas

I made this photoshopped image of a big canvas and a charcoal sketch. I wanted to see what it would look like if I added the shape to the painting. Results are positive! This shape works best at capturing height and space and the shapes of a cathedral ceiling dome, even though it’s just a sketch in my sketchbook , it was from the result of all the ink drawings.

This shape creates height and drama like the old structures used to, but with far more elegance and intricacy. I can’t wait to put this shape on the canvas! I am going to use a thin brush and white oil paint to apply the shape, the same technique that I used for the older structures.