Permission to Draw January 2023 Block 2

Replay Block 2.1

Extras Block 2.1

Extra easy

Put a biro and paper somewhere where you spend time, like your desk, kitchen worktop, sofa.

Doodle on the paper in some of those ‘in-between’ moments, when you’re listening to something, watching tv, thinking, on a Zoom call – just allow the pen to glide around the paper and enjoy making different kinds of marks with no particular purpose.

Extra quick

If you have 10 minutes to draw, try using one of these artists’ work as inspiration for some mark making practise. Don’t feel like you have to copy the image accurately, just look at the way they have used line and use this as your starting point to develop your own kinds of marks.

Antony Gormley, Feeling Material II

David Hockney, Man in restaurant

Rembrandt Van Rijn, Elephant

Extra focused

Go bigger! Get some big paper or cardboard (it might help to tape it down), stand up to draw and try making marks from the elbow and shoulder as well as hand and wrist. Your graphite stick and charcoal would work well on this scale. After doing some big scribbles and marks to warm up, try drawing from an object you hold in your hand which you look closely at. Remember that you are taking little bits of visual information in with your eyes and transferring them to the paper/card with each mark. Observe how different your marks are when you use your arm and shoulder more and have fun playing on a bigger scale.

Replay Block 2.2

Extras Block 2.2

Extra easy

Make a dot and take it for another walk! If it helps, imagine it’s a ant exploring – do this at an ant’s pace so you slow right down and pay attention to your line. You can do this while looking at a 3d object in front of you instead of the room this time. Focus on the idea of it travelling across the object’s surfaces and let your pen or pencil record that.

Don’t expect a drawing which looks like anything in particular, it will be more like a track than a picture.

Extra quick

Play with your conté crayon or pastel if you have one – you can use your sketchbook or any scrap paper. Like the mark making exercise we did in session 2.1, see how many different ways you can use it to give different qualities of mark.

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.

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 £10 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 materials in your sketchbook, making little 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 play with 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. You can then use this image to draw from – it will make the blocks of different tones easier to see.

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

Take a photo of a little still life collection of objects, trying to get a strong directional light on the set up if possible. If in daylight, put it at right angles to a window so the light comes in from one side, or if in the evening, use a desk lamp for directional light.

Then try changing the photo to black and white or using a monochrome filter on it. Also try cropping it (like you would use your viewfinder) to choose an area with an interesting selection of tones.

Extra quick

Practise squinting! Spend some spare moments narrowing your eyes and looking around at the way this changes your perception of tone. Look at the landscape, your garden, the contents of your fridge, your cat, whatever is in front of you and consciously notice where the areas of light and dark are.

Extra focused

If you would like a relaxing 20-30 minutes to focus on drawing, get out your charcoal and start to play with the range of tones and marks you can make with it. Clouds are quite a good starting point for this sort of exploration – you can look at the sky for inspiration or just work from your imagination. Really try to push the medium to see how much it can do and view this as an experiment rather than an exercise in picture making.

If you have enjoyed using the charcoal and want more of a challenge, use your still life photograph as the source image for a tonal charcoal drawing. As in the class, begin with mid-toned paper (charcoal rubbed lightly into the surface) then start to ‘draw with light’ by using your chamois to remove charcoal. Then gradually add some dark shapes, being careful not to go too dark early on. Try to include the subtlety and variety of marks that you discovered when you were playing with the charcoal.

Congratulations, you’ve successfully completed Block 2!