Permission to Draw 2024 Block 2

Replay Block 2.1

Extras Block 2.1

Extra easy

Practise sighting – all you need is your trusty pencil and a few spare minutes. Get used to holding your arm out straight, elbow locked and pivoting from the shoulder. Line up with something you know to be vertical then compare to other angles and note the difference. No drawing necessary – just get used to seeing this way and holding your pencil correctly.

Extra quick

Try propping up your sketch book so that it’s tilted up at an angle – this will reduce the chances of distortion. Standing up, do a bit of sighting as above and transfer some lines to your page. No need to draw a whole scene, just practise measuring an angle and moving it to the page to draw a corresponding line. Go back to sighting again to check whether what you’ve drawn looks right. Mentally note your mistakes, but don’t feel like you’re not doing it well – this is a very challenging thing to learn!

Extra focused

If you want to continue practising your angles using sighting, here’s a different view of that tricky chair to work from – it’s harder than it looks at first glance…

Grid drawing

Repeat the grid drawing exercise with this image, really focusing on how each line intersects the edges of each square. Try to see each square as a mini drawing in itself.

If you want to try using the grid to help you draw something in front of you, make a simple cross hairs grid on some acetate and tape it to your viewfinder. Draw corresponding cross hairs on your sketchbook and then use the viewfinder to check the accuracy of your lines. This is quite demanding as you are switching between one eye and two, and translating 3D information into 2D, so expect a troll visit at some point!


Lots more to read about the ‘sight-size’ method here» and a good video intro here»

Watch David Hockney uncovering some of the secrets of the masters here»

Replay Block 2.2

Extras Block 2.2

Extra easy

Taking line for a walk – try a different way to use this idea by looking out of your window and imagining a dog running around outside. Draw the path the dog might take. Of course dogs can jump a lot better than ants, so you’ll end up with a more dynamic kind of drawing!

Extra quick

Play with your conté crayon or soft pastel if you have one – you can use your sketchbook or any scrap paper. Like the mark making exercise we did in session 1.5, see how many different ways you can use it to give different qualities of mark. Add in variations of line weight too, to give extra emphasis.

For example:

  • Holding it different ways, in either hand
  • Using the tip and the side
  • Pressing hard and very lightly
  • Making broad strokes and very fine ones
  • Smudging with your fingers or paper towel
  • Erasing with your putty rubber – this can be a drawing tool in itself

Extra focused

Using straight lines to make curves – it seems counter-intuitive but it’s much easier to get your angles and relationships right when you use straight lines rather than curves, particularly in the early stages of a drawing.

onions and leeks

To help you practise this, try making a drawing of a small still life collected from kitchen things. If you choose a mixture of objects with both straight and curved lines, you can feel the difference between drawing the objects with obvious planes and having to work hard to imagine the curved objects as planes.

Conté crayon or charcoal is ideal for this exercise as you can use it on its side. It will also help to go bigger than your sketchbook if you can. A4 paper or even bigger pieces of cardboard or brown paper packaging would work well. Once you are happy you have got your lines in the right place you can make shorter straight lines blending into curves to describe what you see more accurately.


Conté, pastel and charcoal form loose powders on the paper and will smudge. Artist’s fixative is perfect to stop this and the good stuff costs over £15 a can, but you can also use cheap hairspray as a fixative if you want to keep your drawings.

Replay Block 2.3

Extras Block 2.3

Extra easy

Play with your all materials in your sketchbook, making value studies and  experiments to see how you can create a variation in tone with each. Notice how different the results from each material are. Which feels easiest for you? Which do you like most? Which has the biggest tonal range? Make some written notes of your thoughts in your sketchbook.

Extra quick

Using your phone or tablet/iPad, take photo of your shell or another simple object in a strongly lit setting – using a desk lamp in a darkened room is ideal. Then use your photo editing app to make the image more tonal. You can convert to black and white (or reduce the saturation) to remove colour information – this makes the tones more obvious. Try altering the contrast, the shadows and highlights. See how you can manipulate the image to enhance its tonality.

Extra focused

Take about 20-30 minutes to make a copy of this image. Use whichever drawing material you prefer – doing the easy exercise above might help you decide which will work best. Don’t be tempted to start with strong lines, focus instead on the blocks of tone and put down the big shapes of light and dark first, then blend them together. This is an apparently simple image but is actually a very sophisticated tonal study, so expect a challenge but you will learn lots from it!

Georges Seurat, Seated boy with straw hat

Replay Block 2.4

Extras Block 2.4

Extra easy

Enhance your visual memory while you relax and watch the telly. Sit with your sketchbook and pencil while watching TV (something fairly slow like a documentary rather than a thriller!) and choose something on the screen to draw. It will move while on the screen and not be visible for long, so try look at carefully as you can to see the essence or ‘thingness’ of it and then look down at you page to draw it. Don’t worry about what the drawings look like, just try to fill a page with lots of overlapping fragments of what you’ve been watching.

Extra quick

Continue the shape copying exercise, as regularly as you can manage it. Do a new shape every time and don’t spend more than 10 minutes on one, just be sure to note where your mistakes tend to be – do you often make them too wide, too narrow, are the curves inaccurate, are angles your weakness? The power in this exercise is in the repetition rather than the duration, so keep your sketchbook and pencil somewhere handy and challenge yourself with new shapes often. Gradually make the shapes more complicated – move up to level 2 (more curves, negative shapes, angles) when you feel ready.

Extra focused

Go through your camera roll, find photos online or in print that you like – these can be landscape, faces, buildings or anything else but this will work best with images that have some contrasts. Make small notan studies of them using only black and white. Practise grouping the values and deciding ‘is it light or dark?’. Notice which ones are still understandable even as a notan version and which ones look confused.

If you enjoy doing these, try making a larger study of another photograph or even a view from your window. This time use three values – white, black and a mid tone, but still concentrate on big shapes rather than small details – you are analysing the ‘design’ of the image with this kind of study.

Here’s one to really test your ability to discern tone …

small sculptures on a windowsill


Replay Block 2.5


Extras Block 2.5