Assignment 1: Tutor report

assignment pictures (detail)

assignment pictures (detail)

I received my first OCA tutor report yesterday.  To my great relief, it didn’t say ‘what on earth are you thinking of… you can’t do this!’  Nope, not even once.

Here’s what it did say, however.  My responses are written in italics.


Overall Comments

Thank you for submitting Drawing 1 Assignment 1.  You have clearly embraced this assignment, the projects, and exercises and have responded very well to new techniques and viewing skills.  It is clear that you enjoy researching the work of others and have displayed this clearly throughout your sketchbook and learning log as you have progressed through to the final Assignment drawings.

The techniques and visual skills displayed are good and you are clearly not afraid of taking on new things. Your sketchbooks display clearly energy and an enthusiasm for your subject and you write clearly your feelings around working through new processes and with new materials.

The larger drawings are sensitive, well observed and demonstrate a good grasp of tone, scale, texture and light. You have used the work of others throughout but in a sensitive and indirect way.

Not entirely clear on what was meant by ‘have used the work of others throughout’ – maybe that I made reference to particular inspirations where they seemed relevant?

Your learning log is good, thorough and detailed throughout.

Overall this is a really good start to Drawing One and I hope that you find the next Assignment just as invigorating.

Assessment potential

Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2.  I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.

I will definitely be putting my work forward for assessment.

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Project Making Marks

A great set of exercises, annotations and learning log comments regarding the outcomes you have discovered for pencil, graphite pencil, compressed charcoal, pastels, biro, water-soluble pencils, fine liner pen and inks. A really good start, so well done.

Exercise Doodling

You have submitted three pages of doodles that demonstrate your ability to understand the exercise and expand on it expressively.

Exercise Mark–making techniques

You have submitted a huge sample of mark-making techniques in boxes which demonstrates your keenness to expand and experiment and work particularly hard at it too! You have annotated well and in an organised way so that it is clear to understand your progression as you move through the exercises set. You have expressed your thoughts about the processes both in your sketchbook and in your learning log. Well done, a great exercise for you, clearly.

I really did enjoy that one!

Exercise Using Charcoal

Again, another great set of experimental drawings. It is good to read that you are extending the process by listening to music as you work. You will no doubt expand on this further at a later date. This definitely gives it a more free flowing appeal. Your annotations are good and your notes in your log are extensive.

Exercise Line and other marks

You have submitted another great set of experimental exercises laid out well in your sketchbook. Each drawing is different and of course, some are more successful than others but you have annotated clearly through, emphasizing the influences of other artists, as well as materials that are very good and your log entry is good. It is also great to see that you have a page of experimental ‘new media’ works that is exciting and extends beyond the expectations of the course, which is a positive thing to see, well done.

Research point

You have submitted in your learning log (blog) a great set of examples of drawings by Van Gogh with titles and bibliography. You have described personally the work and your findings at looking at the work well and in an articulate and educated way. It is also great to see at this early stage that you have explored the work further by making your own drawing in a similar style. This is a fantastic way to really get to know the marks within the work of others as well as your own.

Van Gogh’s drawings were too inspiring not to try something in his style!

Project Basic shapes and fundamental form

Exercise Boxes and books

Your learning log to support this work really explains the unexpected difficulties you had with this exercise. It was great to see that you had read further to attempt to understand what it is you were looking at and why and it is great to see that you prepared well for this exercise in terms of masking the floor where you were sitting, etc. As you progressed through this exercise you were clearly moving forward, but I feel that you should try to get to grips with it more, perhaps by attempting to draw in small squared up boxes as in earlier exercises to really try to get all the boxes to fit on the page. A further understanding of perspective can also help, so remain open about this exercise if you can. The log underpins the difficulties well and it could be an idea to return to that for further reflection later on.

Entirely fair comment.  I did struggle with this one.  The suggestion to try again by drawing in small boxes is a good one.

Exercise Jars and jugs

You have written a good account again of the difficulties you encountered with this exercise, however it does feel that you have progressed well with this exercise and have a fuller understanding of what you are doing, i.e. elongating the objects and not getting them all to fit on the page. If you can, read up on measuring objects by height and by width as well as thinking about mapping the objects out before you start by making small marks on the page outline the top and bottom lines of the objects etc. This will come later in the programme so I am in no doubt that you will grasp how to manage these issues later on.

I’m glad to note that perspective is covered specifically later in the course, as it’s not something I’ve studied before.

Exercise Supermarket shop

You have submitted some lovely preliminary drawings before starting the supermarket shop and have annotated as you have worked through, which is also a great thing to do in order to reflect on your learning. The final painting/drawing is well observed, sits well on the page, and holds items that are in scale generally, although perhaps the bottle may be slightly on the small side overall.

The bottle was a non-standard size – an HP Sauce bottle is the nearest I can think of in terms of size, although the bottle I used was round.  Looking at it again, though, I can see that I did make it slightly too short, as the top of the lid should come to just under the top of the Q on Quaker’s Oats.

Considering this is a first attempt at using inks to colour you should be very pleased overall as the colouring is overall not bad at all. The only things I would remark on is that the oat box frontage appears very flat (perhaps a little shading here could have helped?) and possibly darker tones beneath the objects would have grounded it on the table top further. However again, this is a really good effort overall and you will learn about tone more as you move through Drawing One to help you with these downfalls. Very well done again.

Yes, I can see now that the warm yellow on the oats box should be a darker tone than the bright yellow of the Marmite lid. I think this would have given a greater sense of depth, too.  The table top was a bit of a problem as it’s marble and rather mottled, which made it difficult to see tone very clearly.  This might have been resolved if I’d depicted the marbling, but I was concerned about over-complicating  the picture.

Project Tone and form

Exercise Observing shadow and light formation on a surface

You have demonstrated well the difficulties at looking hard and well at objects in your log and sketchbook. You have also reflected well in regards to explaining the amount of time it takes to look, then squint, and then draw. This is a good exercise again, executed well and reflected upon, well done again. You have been critically engaged in the work again demonstrating a full understanding of what is expected of you in your learning.

Exercise Tonal Studies

You have clearly found hatching difficult and frustrating and I am in the mind to think that perhaps using a fine liner may have been a bit of a harsh material to use. Try in the future to perhaps use pencils of varying grades and only hatch what needs to be hatch. This may seem more sympathetic.

Very good point. 

Research point

Odilon Redon

You have used some great quotes in your log outlining Redon’s approach to work as well as describing his tools and processes to making work. Again, you have referenced your reading material. Good research overall.

Project Reflected Light

Exercise Shadows and reflected light from one object to another

You have submitted a drawing of a glass orb and tin that you have annotated well and in context as well as describing the learning journey at length in your learning log. You have described the difficulties you have had in shading the tin and your love of drawing reflections in the glass. A successful exercise completed, so well done.

Exercise: Shadows and reflected light and shade

You have submitted a large drawing containing a colander and a teapot. Overall this is a successful drawing in terms of scale, tone, shading and reflection. There are some very well observed parts to this drawing, particularly the reflective qualities in the teapot, and the holes in the colander are well rendered and the colander handle is well described too. Overall it may have been less invasive if drawn a little smaller, however the composition itself does just about fit on the page.

I drew the objects large in response to the guidance in the course material to ‘leave very little background/negative space’.  I may have overdone it a little!

The tonal aspects depicted on the table top are well observed, allowing for the objects to be grounded and not floating above the surface or in space which has been well considered, and to me the only slightly less convincing aspect of this drawing is the teapot spout as it looks a little narrow overall which makes it look droopy rather than upright and also the teapot handle looks flatter than expected also. However again, a really good attempt at combatting elliptical issues as well as tonal and you should be very pleased with the result.

The spout was tricky, and I agree it does look a little narrow.  I think I could have improved the handle by making the lower part of it slightly wider.

Negative space and positive space

You have completed a series of negative and positive space drawings. You have annotated clearly in both your sketchbook and log and described what you have learnt from looking at Patrick Caulfield’s work. To achieve a flat finish, gouache paint is often the easiest and best solution in terms of paint. You have also researched Morandi and his restrained paintings, as well as extending your research to even Patrick Caulfield’s headstone. All good.

Interesting to read about gouache and its usefulness for flat applications of paint, especially as I used it for the first time just a few days ago.

Project: Still life

Exercise Still life sketches of made objects

You have produced some really quite charming thumbnails in preparation for approaching still life drawing including hatching, considering viewpoints, composition and so on. Your depictions of objects using inks are particularly successful despite your shoulder injury and all the frustrations with that.

That’s a relief to hear, as I had worried that the injury might have affected my work adversely.

Exercise Composition of natural objects

You have submitted some equally charming studies of natural objects looking at composition, framing, selection and materials. You have produced some lovely coloured examples of drawing feathers and your quick sketches depicting tonal aspects of each drawing are well rendered and sensitively drawn.

Exercise Observing negative space and perspective

A well-articulated struggle with another seemingly ‘easy’ exercise. It will be of benefit to you to really understand what negative space is as throughout your drawings you are still drawing elements of the objects that are not the negative space. It is actually simpler than you expect, but absolutely necessary to grasp as it will help your drawing no end when you do understand it fully. However, you have made several attempts at this, so well done for those.

It’s quite frustrating as I can see negative space fairly well when looking at objects.  Something obviously gets lost in translation, though!  I will keep an eye on this.  The related exercise in Part 2 should help, too.

Project Using Texture

Exercise Experimenting with texture

You have submitted a great range of textural drawings here despite your worries of reoccurring textures within your flat. Similarly, the pages of sample frottage are also good and you have annotated well throughout. Despite your concerns you have really gone over and beyond my expectations regarding submission and your pages really look at experimentalism throughout.

Really good to hear this.

Exercise A drawing with textures

You have submitted a textural drawing of a basket with mistletoe and scarf that is sensitively executed and delicate to look at. The textural qualities are well done and there are lovely expressive qualities to the drawing such as the scarf fringing and basket handle. Perhaps the drawing would have benefited a little in terms of depicting a slightly larger area of the surrounding floor, however a reasonably well implemented piece. As ever you have annotated well in both your sketchbook and learning log.

As with the colander and teapot drawing, I was trying not to leave too much negative space in this one, hence the minimal area devoted to the window-sill.  I can see, though, that I must be wary of following course guidelines to the possible detriment of a drawing.  It’s a fine balance, and one that I hope I will strike as the course progresses.

Project Enlarging an image

Exercise Enlarging an existing drawing & Exercise Enlarging a simple flat image

You have submitted the full exercise of drawing a mug and then enlarging it by gridding up to scale, and then selecting a range of objects and scaling those up accordingly. Despite your difficulties with this exercise as highlighted in your log, you have completed and fully understood what was expected of you. Your second drawing of multiple objects is much better having learnt from your first mistake, and you have annotated well throughout.

Assignment One

First Drawing

You have submitted a full assignment, from submitting small samples of drawing natural objects, through to playful composition, to the last revision of composition, in a free and exciting way. Your preparatory colour studies are well observed and sensitively done throughout, looking at tone, shadows, scale and composition, demonstrating that you have learnt and reflected on your learning from the projects and exercises set. You appear to have a particular grasp of water-soluble inks and colour work in general, as well as have a keen eye for detailing which makes this particular assignment point good for you. It also gives you the chance to be expressive and at one with nature, which appears to lie very comfortably with your skills at the outset of Assignment One. You have at times a particularly illustrative approach to drawing that is demonstrated perfectly with your depiction of branches with water-soluble ink and ink wash, thus allowing you to move freely around the final piece with little distraction.

I do enjoy using water-soluble inks, in particular.  I was quite surprised to read the comment regarding colour, however, as I’ve worried that it’s not one of my strongest areas – so this is reassuring.  The observation about being at one with nature made me smile.  It’s a subject close to my heart, and one I would like to express well.  The mention of an occasionally ‘illustrative approach’ is interesting, as I’m contemplating following the Drawing course with the Illustration one. 

The final drawing is sensitively drawn and coloured, and the simplicity of colour and line makes it a very attractive drawing. Overall the tone is good, although perhaps in places it could have been a little more tonally diverse, but overall your hard work and perseverance pays off, so well done.

On reflection, I think I was so intent on depicting the tones of the branch, that I possibly lost a little in tone with the bracken.  Glad to hear that this didn’t affect the final drawing too negatively, though.

Second Drawing

You have submitted a series of preparatory drawings, as well as a final piece for a still life using man-made objects. Your initial thumbnail drawings are loose, fluid and interesting regarding composition. It is interesting to read that you were expecting to draw using charcoal, and then once you started to look in detail it turned into a pencil drawing! It’s always very exciting when things don’t quite go to play or expectations. The progression from charcoal to pencil is demonstrated clearly on your large paper considering of preparatory component parts.

The transition to using pencil came as complete surprise!  It showed me the importance of both keeping an open mind, and of investigative studies.

Your final drawing is simply exquisite. Compositionally the objects are placed well on the page. The outline of the chair to mimic Patrick Caulfield’s work is an excellent choice and the details within the boots are exemplary. The boots are tentatively placed on top of the chair and the detailing of the background and chair shadows are good. The handle of the umbrella falls short of tonal aspects that would have mirrored the rest of the umbrella and its folds and the umbrella tip and its shadows are really well observed and carefully drawn.

I struggled to know how to finish the umbrella handle, as the reflected light on the right hand side of it meant that the defining edge was lost from sight.  I wasn’t sure whether to draw it purely as I saw it, then, or whether to insert a slight ‘explanatory’ line of my own.  That aside, I’m really pleased with the response to this picture!

This is a really great drawing Mags. The careful selection of objects weighs out evenly with the tone of the drawing, and it is clear that you have worked very hard on both of these drawings, albeit time-consuming, these have proved to be very reflective of the skills you have picked up along the way and are fantastic examples of persistence, diligence and looking at what it is you are attempting to depict.


Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

It is clear that you have picked up a range of skills throughout this assignment. You have learnt that it is important to look, particularly at the finer details such as reflections, tone and light. Your technical skills reflect your open mindedness to new things and you have worked extremely hard in demonstrating this throughout your sketchbooks. You have taken on each project and exercise with gusto and have produced a range of outcomes including ones that were not necessarily expected of you along the way. Your open approach has allowed you to embrace new skills and use them in a creative way, and you are keen to explore the unexpected and the unknown, which has been noted throughout. Your sketchbooks are clear, organised, full and annotated well, and you reference the work of other artists well throughout, both those you are asked to research and others.

Again, this is really gratifying to hear!

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays


Your learning log is clearly laid out with project headings, exercises and assignments. You have clearly embraced this way of working well and have a particular skill in writing up your findings in your own words and reference your reading well and clearly throughout. You have taken photographs of still lifes, your preliminary works, and final pieces throughout, and the research into other artists work is thorough and wide ranging. Contextually your research is spot on. This is a fantastic example of how to set up and use a blog, and the links to other sites throughout is very good. You are thinking critically, conveying this through your log and you are starting to have your own voice in terms of researching others and embedding it appropriately within your own work. Well done.

Great relief to read this, as contextual/critical writing is very new to me.

Suggested reading/viewing


You have already learnt about Vincent Van Gogh’s drawings, so may want to refer to some of the drawings made by the artists below:

Henri Matisse


Salvador Dali

Edward Degas

Toulouse Lautrec

Michael Landy

Keith Tyson

Edward Munch

Paul Klee

Egon Schiele

Frida Kahlo

Tracey Emin

Louise Bourgeois

Alex Katz

Richard Long

Anselm Kiefer

Mario Merz

Very excited to see this list of artists – many favourites there, and names new to me, as well.  I’ll enjoy exploring them all further.

Pointers for the next assignment

Assignment Two: Observation in Nature

Look carefully at the artists mentioned above and look at the way they draw. Use these in your investigations for Assignment Two: Observation in Nature.


And there it is – my first report.  Plenty of encouragement to see me on my way to Part 2, and lots to think about and practise (see below).

Things to do

• re-visit Books & Boxes exercise, drawing in small boxes so as to practise fitting the items into the space allotted

• begin reading up on perspective

• read up on measuring objects, and think  about mapping them out by making small marks on the page

• practise hatching using graded pencils

• continue to focus on negative space

• weigh what my own eyes tell me against advice given in the course notes

• explore the artists listed