Part 5 – Option 2 – Observation in Nature – Exercises

1. Draw and Select:

Inspired by the Rossa Boners stunning historical record of a 18th century French horse fair that I have discussed in some length here . I though the stables would make a good place to start. Again I was reminded how tricky it is to draw a moving subject and did question my chose of drawing animals for the final assignment wondering if I may have set myself up for a fall. But luckily my stubborn struck quickly prevailed as I though to my self ‘ well if it’s not challenging is it worth doing?’

Here are the results of some brief studies made in my A3 sketch book that literally made in the field whilst the horses went about their daily grazing.


A3 sketch book studies in the field.


A3 sketch book studies in the field.



A3 sketch book studies in the field.


Next I turned my attentions to one of the three dogs, Titch.

Here you see  him indulging in one of his favourite things, a nice long nap. Not a great drawing but a nice starting point. One brilliant model who for an animal stays still for much longer than most! Also I find his yellow coat fantastic as I see so many contrasting tones in there. The other two dogs are black which would present limitations on palette with drawing media you tend to get a border spectrum of earth tones than black/greys. Although of course I could have gone for blues with the greys I just think the yellow coat has more scoop.

The shape of this dog is also favourable. He has slightly baggy skin but definition of underling anatomical structure is clear. One of the other dogs is long coated and I find him tricky as there I no clear definition to follow.



Titch – expert in sleeping and chosen ‘object’ for part 5. A3 soft pastel life study


Every day I drive past a small holding on the edge of Epping Forest. Here a mix of pigmy goats and various fowl roam free in an idilic setting. A very lucky bunch of animals! I though it would be fun to go and make some drawings of them. I was not wrong. A very peaceful place to sit under an ancient oak and make studies of this little scene. I thought how primal this scene was and felt connect to a distant pasts. I would not have be surprised to have seen Boudicca roll past on her chariot.. ( she spent a lot of time in Epping forest you know.)


A3 sketches made in the forest, small conte pastel set and sanguine pencil


A3 sketches made in the forest, limited conte pastel set


A3 sketches made in the forest, limited conte pastel set.


A3 sketches made in the forest, sanguine pencil


Ganders going about their business in the Forrest. This was made using reference photo in soft pastel on orange paper. Chosen as it matches the colour of there beaks and legs. Tied to represent the contrasting light and shade. The geese seemed to glow in the sun light viewed from under the shade of the canopy.


The Cow Serise: 

One morning I just felt like doing some large physical drawing to work through some ideas. i have a  loverly stock of cow photos from a walking holiday in Cornwall some years ago.  These lucky bovines spend their life’s (however long) roaming the lands that mark the end of the peninsular by meeting with the sea. I thought back to the expressive animal drawings of  Mark Adlington. Find my article on the artist here. I notice with his drawing how no line is wasted. Every carefully thought mark plays a significant role in describing the subject. Just enough is put down giving a striking effect on the plane back ground.

Mine are a far cry from this perfection but the cows did offer a nice subject to practise on with there cylinder torsos.


A1 – graphite stick – exploring tone and shape


A1 – Charcoal – unfinished . A charming scene of mother and calf in near on the coastal path near lands end.


A1 – soft pastel on blue. Bullock


A1 – Sepia and singue hard pastel. rubbing out used to increase the fading memory effect provoked by using sepia tones as it nods to old photography.


A1 – Soft pastel , another bullock


As I drew this young beef calf it trigged a sad memory I have of meeting veal calf’s when I was very young and not realising there sad and short existence. only to be horrified by it when I was older and released what this encounter truly was. The little chap in this drawing was really roaming free. so even if his life was short it was at least happy. For me the red shadow silhouette represents his mother. It’s awful how calfs are removed from there mothers so young.


A1 – Two young Bullocks in charcoal. I like this one. It made me think this idea could be continued in to a wire drawing


In the end I decided on the Yellow dog Titch.  The dogs are the most easily accessible to draw from life. Titch is the best model and has interesting form.

2. Different Angles:

The dogs are , helpful, always providing me with different angles. here a just a few of the options they provide.


Titch and Tess – different poses, different angles



Tess – Foreshortening at work. Always tricky to get the angles correct to place them on the ground convincingly.

3. Line Drawing:


I really enjoyed this exercise. As well as freeing up the hand and eye It produced some interesting results that could be taken forwards.

I drew quickly with a continues line so as not to over thing the shapes but feel my way around the contours.



Titch, Ted and Tess – I like the jumble of shapes they create.



Line drawing continued

4. Tonal Study:


I started off with some pencil studies from photos. It can be a little frustrating when the object is always changing pose every 2-15 minutes. To increases my knowledge of the head I decided to commit a in and draw from photo. I still need to do some more familiarisation work. Particularly with the head. I intend to look as structure an anatomy as well as making more head and muzzle studies from life.

I do struggle with this tonal drawing. I know how I want the drawings to turn out. They always fall short as they lack depth and there fore a sense of form/volume. Practise surly can be the only thing for it. Maybe I should go darker with the the dark shadows?


A3 tonal studies. One of the rare occasions I have used photo reference as wanted to become familiar with shape of elements of the head.

Always remember with tonal drawings:

  • Turn the form – imagine turning a carved object. in the same way stroke the pencil/caracole across from dark to light.
  • The darkest shadows must come at the out skirts of object. Darkest areas with in the object betray the illusion of volume.
  • Turn the largest volumes first. don’t get caught in the detail (as I always do). draw like a painting. Work large shapes to small shapes. darkest shadow points of small shapes should not be darker or equal to that of darkest shadow points of large shapes.


This next lot of drawings are back to working from life on mid tone grey paper. I used caracole pencils and a white pastel pencil on A4. I tried to evoke the style of Cecile Aldin . Quite a long way short of the mark!!

Again the drawings are in various states of finish due to changing position of dogs. I have come to except this parameter. for drawing animals ad work with it. It is merely one of the challenges of drawing this subject and no point getting frustrated about. It the dog stays still for surfactant time and I get a good start down that I am happy with I have taken to photographing the model so finishing is an option. Although the depth and range of shadow and high light is never as pleasing with photo it can add producing a more completed drawing.

Not all the drawings are of  Titch. some are of his partner in walks Tessa. Some times she just pulled a more inspiring pose is way.


Didn’t stay in this pose for long at all which was a shame as I was feeling it.


Same here.. Loved the way the tail snaked round the back leg.


Although I have used black and white to represent light and shadow seem to be drawing in line more than mass. Perhaps a tool capable of filling large areas quickly such as caracole/graphite stick or pastel would be more appropriate.


Nodding off




Here I tried a light yellow conte pastel for anther high light tone. This drawing was improved when I lifted some of the dark internal marks out with putty rubber. The area between the shoulder blades got this treatment. I think it has helped with the volume illusion. Still a long way to go with getting to grips with tone drawing.


Is this any better? It’s tricky!!

5. Introducing Colour:


Here I have made some studies all in front of the subject standing at an easels. I used a small set of 12 earth tone soft pastels from Inscribe that I picked up inexpensively. They are a handy size for transportation and I thought the tonal range offered suited the tones of the dog. They are however not exact matches being a little ‘brassy’ compared to the soft tones of the yellow dog.

The drawings in the sketchbooks where warm ups. He was fidgeting a bit to start with hence the many different beginnings in various stats of finish.

the head drawing lakes volume. It was excited hurriedly filling the largest shapes first. Should have worked into it more really.

The last drawing is more successful. Again I have made his coat look a little shaggier than it is. I Think I have achieved a sense of volume. for this I am pleased. Could do with getting to grips with fabric more.




A3 sketchbook, trying out 8 earth tone soft pastel set. The poses last as long as the dog/model/object wants to hold them. Hence the varying states of finish of each study.


‘Dreaming dog’ A peaceful pose on A2 in conte. Very flat looking. No sense of volume. This is a look I try to avoid.


‘Dog sleeping in garage’ A2 8 earth tone soft pastel set.

6. Looking Closer:


I had the idea I would like to try and incorporate some of the textures from my experiences with the mutts. The activity we enjoy together the most is walkies. Walking through arable land on the out skirts of Epping Forest we are presented with an endless array of vistas. The sky is an ever changing painting from Constable to Turner depending on the weather. The fields change colours and textures marking the passing of the seasons. Treasures such as feathers, stones, plants and unexpected objects such as dying helium balloons or dear antlers crop up from time to time. All together they make up a rich tapestry of colour and texture that I am keen to try to filter into my drawing some how.. I am always struck by how beautifully the yellow dog blends with the golden fields of summer. Maybe this is the place to start..

I made some drawings in the sketch book trying to work something out that would depict dog but hint towards the agricultural area we walk through.

At this time of year the cereal crops have just been harvested leaving interesting striped contours on the ground that follow the rise and fall of the land and demonstrate the principle of vanishing point beautifully as they narrow and come together as they recede. This seemed the obvious way to merge the two subjects. Also the contours would aid me on my quest to depict form and volume convincingly.

I experimented with different crop possibility’s in the end settling on the head and shoulders option. Although I was conscious this was probably not the best for the subject. The more abstract rise and fall of the ribcage works better as a landscape. I stuck with this one as I feel I need all the head practise I can get.

I had decided oil pastels would give me the look I desired. But after working out the colours I was unhappy with the range available. So at the last minute I switched to water colour. I did regret this as I found it tricky to produce the stripes I wanted with the wet media and ended up pushing a puddle around the paper diapering a little. It looked a bit of a shambles after this stage. I do think the felt tip contour lines save it some what from complete disaster.

The natural, rural field theme I was after seems a little lost instead its looking decidedly psychedelic! So I’d like to now think of it as dog dreaming of field walking instead.


Sketch book exploration. Trying to bring dog and dog walk together.



Looking at colour technique and medium in sketch book


I did square up for this one from a photo. I mostly prefer to draw free hand even from photos. I wanted to draw the face and head really accurately to get a feel for it as it is the trickiest part. I like the contour drawing. I think I may refer back to this ref photo of it when drawing form life next. It’s a hand aid.


A2 – water colour and felt tip. It’s gone a bit 70’s.. But I don’t altogether dislike it!




7. Torn Paper Collage:


I went off on a bit of a tangent for this one. Just to satisfy my personal curiosities really. I wanted to try to make sense of all the textures swimming round in my head from the dog walks that I talk about above. So I embarked on a little bit of water colour experimentation. Why water colour you ask? Because during the time spent on this course I have become fascinated by this difficult medium. So much so I am going to pressure this interest by taking ‘Water Colour Practise’ as one of my next modules. So far it’s possibilities have alluded me as I tend to crate a lot of muddy puddles. I really like the wet on wet look. I just love to watch the colours grow into each other like the tendrils of stalactites speeded up. I want to find a way to freeze them at their most beautiful before they blend to much and become muddy. The problem is the water takes to long to dry allowing the flow to continue. So I’m thinking a solvent such as turps, white sprit might do the trick as the liquid part evaporates more quickly. Any way I digress…


Experimenting with water colour texture – Gesso


Experimenting with water colour texture – oil pastel


Experimenting with water colour texture – wet on wet


Experimenting with water colour texture – using cling film and assette


Experimenting with water colour texture



Experimenting with water colour texture


Experimenting with water colour texture


Experimenting with water colour texture – using string to mono print. Didn’t work so well on this occasion but nice idea.


Experimenting with water colour texture – going completely off on a tangent using making tape and fluid in connection with layering washes.


Experimenting with water colour texture – ok so now I’m just painting. There’s a vague connection a they are dogs! must get back on track with this..

I’d wasted far to much time doing all this and I was starting to panic. I’m keen to leave time for the assignment piece as I’v got some ideas to work through their also. So I just dashed off a quick collage that looks very kinder garden. I used the textured water colour papers I made before. I like this approach but it should be more considered to produce an more sophisticated palette the the one I went with.

I started by drawing shapes found on the water colour contour drawing on the coloured papers then cutting round. I worked form small to large as this seemed the quickest way to go about it. I think with lots of time I could produce something I quite like in this way. The offering here is merely and experimentation on the path to some thing better. (I hope)


A3 collage using water colour textured papers.



Hind sites a wonderful thing! T his is the crop I should have used. It already sort of looks like rolling fields. If I have time (snowflakes chance in hell) I will return and have a go.




About Emma Perring

Artist, oil painter


  1. Fantastic work Emma 🙂 If I could do a fraction of what you achieve I would be very happy!!

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