Parallel Project – Drawing with Light

I want to do some research into drawing with light. This arises out of a review of earlier work and selecting light motes as intriguing found drawings. It also plays into future Part 5 themes of drawings developed over time and  my parallel project looking at absence/presence and traces.

There are various ways one might draw with light. Perhaps the most obvious is to make cyanotype prints using light sensitive paper on which an image can be made in several ways. Light can be excluded from the paper by stencils of various sorts, paper, thread, object, or the paper can be used in a pin hole camera to record traces of the sun or environment. 

Alternatively, the path of a small, powerful light can be traced in a longer exposure photograph, as in Gjon Mili’s photographs for Time magazine, where he attached lights to a figure skater, or those he famously took of Picasso drawing in space (Page, 2017).

Another way of harnessing light might be to prick pinholes in a support, possibly in reference to some image on the support and back-light it so that small, selective highlights are created.

I wanted to see if I could capture the light motes in a more direct way than photographing them. I have some Jacquard Solarfast light sensitive dye left from a textile project a few years ago which could be pressed into service. I had no success with this on paper in the past but decided to have another go. The fluid was applied to paper in a darkened room. Not being sure how best to apply it, I started with a sponge roller but progressed to a sponge brush as the roller produced an uneven orange peel effect. I chose a very bright day and set up an exposure bench outside with a cutting mat, a sheet of glass and my reflective object, a copper kettle.

My initial exposures produced solid blue sheets. I had thought that a long exposure would be necessary, but quickly realised that the background light was burning out any image and that the copper light motes were not very bright. A large card board box was positioned to shade the paper whilst allowing the light motes to be reflected back on to the paper. An exposure time of about 2 minutes allowed the light motes to be exposed before the whole paper was completely exposed and the marks were lost. However, only the strongest are captured and the delicacy  and extent of the whole is not recorded.

Perhaps I could produce a better image by using a uv light source in a darkened room with stronger light motes produced by cut glass. Unfortunately, this failed to develop at all, probably due to my led torch not producing enough uv. The dye only develops when wet, and the paper dried out before any development at this light level.

The glass light motes are much stronger than the copper, so I tried producing these with the sun as the light source. The light has to go through the glass rather than reflected back, so shading the paper was not possible, and you can’t project just the light mote.

Initial results were uninspiring, but I did get better at exposure, subject selection and dye application.

Old, heavily cut glass worked best at scattering the light. A flower bowl with internal holder probably produced the best image. All these glasses are really old and inherited it from my grandmother 40 years ago. This gives these pictograms added layers of trace and significance for me. They have a connection to Cornelia Parker’s images of glasses.

I did manage to record some light motes but I would much rather not have recorded the glass objects producing them. The light motes have a mysterious beauty about them which is negated by showing the objects. Since the light has been concentrated, rather than excluded, by the subjects, these images will always be low contrast.

This has been an interesting piece of research for a very sunny day. If I want to pursue it further, I think I have to invest in proper cyanotype chemicals and be able to expose dry paper using a focused light source.


Jason D Page. 2017. Light Painting Photography History. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 8 July 2017].

Celtic Fringe Travels

I have been in Britanny, walking the coast path. A satchel of art materials went with me; coloured pencils, a small tin of Inktense blocks to use as pan colours, a few pencils and brushes, A4 and A5 pads, all designed to be compact for packing and walking around with. As usual, I hoped to draw every day, but I underestimated how tired I would be after a day’s walking, averaging about 12 miles, and how uninspiring a campsite can be for sketching in the evening.

However, occasionally we were within walking or cycling distance of a neolithic site, or on a campsite with a view. The megaliths, stone alignments and  dolmens particularly appeal to me as subjects and they relate to my parallel project as  traces left in the environment of past peoples, their beliefs and, in the case of their burial structures, their search for a connection between their own world and something beyond.

Stone alignment at Camaret Sur Mer, Finistere, 2xA5, Inktense pencils

The stones reflecting the setting sun, 2xA5, Inktense pencils

Falling dark fast, A5, Inktense pencils

‘Allee Couverte’ chambered burial, Mougau Bihan, A5

I had cycled back, up hill, about 4 km to this, after a days walking, so my hands were really shaky!

Trying to capture the monumentality of the stones.

Struggling to depict bright, setting sun and intense, interior shadows.

Burial mound, Ti Ar Boudiged, Brenniliz, 2xA5, collage and Inktense

I had some painted newspaper in my bag for collage and tried it here. I hoped it would give presence and solidity to the mound but this is pretty hopeless.

The same view in washes

I haven’t done pen and wash for ages and I really enjoyed it.

View of the entrance and the dark, mysterious internal space, A5

The contrast between internal darkness and external play of light fascinated me. It has been established that some of these structures were revisited many times for multiple burials or ceremonies. I image that the builders had a similar feeling of moving from one environment to the another, from their everyday world to a frontier or portal to something beyond. This mound has a huge block towards the end. I think the burial chamber would have been beyond this, and the space in front may have been visited. In the ‘allee couverte’ at Mougau Bihan, above, someone had placed a jar of flowers in the inner space and scattered rose petals to surround the structure. These places still have a hold on us.

A4, soft graphite block.

Soft graphite has best captured the play of light and shadow within the structure and the presence of the enclosed monolith.


Assignment 4 – Reflection on Tutor Feedback

My tutor report for Assignment 4 has been very encouraging whilst still giving me lots of food for thought and issues to confront. I have tried to distil it down to major areas to concentrate on, as I near the end of the course:

  • focus – review previous works and processes, analyse strengths and weakness and decide on forward focus
  • experimentation is good, but now its time to stop experimenting in all sorts of directions and bring things to some fruition
  • critical review – I need to join up my thinking and bring together all my research as a coherent discussion
  • parallel project – work on trace, history of marks, consider incorporating the ‘falling man’ (which I had abandoned as too literal), decide on focus for submission.


Parallel Project – Media Removed

This post analyses further researches in to present and absent media though repeated applications of paint and then removal to build a history of marks.

At the London Original Print Fair, I saw Basil Beattie’s mono-screenprints on Two Rivers paper. Some years ago, when I was painting watercolours, I bought some of this wonderful handmade paper, but have never used it, partly because I have moved on from mannered watercolours, but mostly out of fear. It is just too beautiful and too expense to leap into. I see the proprietors occasionally through canal and life drawing connections and at art fairs where they demonstrate the handmade process. They often have Oliver Lively demonstrating on their papers and his process is very interesting to watch, as he often scrubs away, quite violently, at the surface. Last summer, Oliver suggested that I buy one of their small sketchbooks to liberate myself of paper fear. This came back into my mind after see the Beattie prints and also some recent sketchbook disasters trying to paint on cartridge.

I have phoned Two Rivers to order sketchbooks for summer travel. Chatting about painting and printmaking on their papers, their advice was to use it, and then if that wasn’t a success, scrub it off under a tap and start again, because the surface sizing will take repeated media removal. Suddenly, this long drawn out thought process over their paper has played into my researches on adding and removing media.

The paper is highly textured and stiff as cardboard, with irregular deckle edges on all sides. For my experiment, I used acryl gouache, as I hoped that this could be removed, especially if not completely dry, but the acrylic content might mean that it would not be completely removed. I want to leave ghost marks, although i have no idea what their character might be.

Detail showing the record of earlier marks in the paper texture.

Each layer has been allowed to dry a little more so that the marks have gradually become more defined. This latter layer was allowed o dry overnight and then a scotchpad taken to some areas. So, no paper fear now!

28cm x 38cm

This, probably final, layer uses rich, black, barely dilutes gouache. The character of the paper is clearly visible even in the blackest areas.

This is amazing paper. I cannot decide whether this is ‘finished’ and whether it has any great merit beyond research, although, in that respect, this was a very useful experiment.  I enjoy the rich and varied tones and the layers and variety of of mark. The final layer of marks was developed in response to earlier marks using a photo and drawing app on the ipad, but the sweep of paint at in the lower half has come out too symmetrical. This goes away into a folder for a while, to be got out later and considered more objectively. It may get developed, or completely painted or scrubbed out to produce a new surface, or left alone.

Life Drawing

At life drawing this week, I continued to work in graphite; pencil and soft graphite block with eraser. This week we had an excellent model who struck unusual, challenging poses.

A3, 5 mins

Arthritis in my dominant hand seems to be progressing very quickly, and I can no longer draw a fine pencil line where I want it, no matter what grip I use. My lines have become very wobbly, so using large, media seems to work much better but difficult on the smallish scale of an A3 sketchbook. This next drawing is horrible with cramped, small legs.

This pose was challenging for us and the model, with her body twisted to almost 90 degrees sideways. I just tried to capture the jist of the pose resulting in a rather abstract sketch.

A3, 5 mins

Lots of folk were moving around to try and get an angle on the next pose which gave them more than a back to draw and made more sense of the legs, one going forwards over the stool, one back, but I decided to accept the challenge of trying to draw the subtleties of the back.

A3, 15 mins

I am trying to crop into interesting sections of the body and get away from drawing outlines with limited success. Large, block media made drawing delicate folds of flesh difficult.

A3, 15 minutes

A longer pose gave me more time to consider How I could respond to the shapes with out outlines. Erasing the graphite models the body interestingly, but the eraser marks are more hard-edged than I wanted and I should not have tried to describe the head, beyond a shadowy smear.

A2, 20 minutes

What an amazing pose the next one was! How on earth did she hold this for half an hour? You can see that she gradually sank into it and eventually her left foot was also touching the floor. rather than worry about the pose changing, I have tried to capture the movement.

A2, 30 minutes

Next, a more conventional pose, and again I have cropped-in to what I hoped was an interesting composition. The proportions of the arm are too slight. I think that I have been dictated to by the paper format here and that a square format would have made a better composition, as in the photo crop below.

A2, 30 mins


It was my week to get backs, which are up there with hands in drawing challenges. The shadows modelling the anatomy of the back are so subtle and I was not able to apply my graphite in the gentle ‘washes’ that I was after. The graphite picked up the texture of the paper too much. Perhaps a makeup sponge would be a good applicator?

I used liquid graphite to wash in the dark background but not as accurately as I wanted in places, for instance the top of the shoulders are horrid, but the right shoulder blade is more what I wanted. I do find it difficult that in life drawing, you have to pretty much make up the background from the maze of tones of easels, other people etc.

A2, 40 mins

Life drawing is wonderful, maddening, frustrating and exhausting.

Assignment 4 Reflection

In creating work for this assignment, I have tried to be experimental and unorthodox in my choice of location and material. I have tried to make work which is on a big scale and which exists outside, to be seen by the public.

The success of the first piece was limited because the blossom did not extend and connect the drawing of the tree sufficiently into the physical space of the bus shelter. I needed about five times more volume of blossom than I was able to collect, and the blossom needed to be on the drawing, and on the glass, the seat and the floor so that it was a real experience for the passenger as they waited or got off a bus. Drawn on a large scale, my tree lost its charm and the shapes became more crude. Whilst I think the concept was sound, it lacked in execution, so I am glad that I decided to make a second drawing.

The drawing of simplified fern fronds is completely appropriate to its environment, both in materials and in subject. The location chosen is visible to passers-by and visitors. A drawing here is not just an assignment piece but a real asset on a dull front drive. For practical reasons, I chose a very simple design. I am not entirely happy with the curves of the frond on the right but I do like the fact that it continues around and over the corner. With hindsight, the balance of positive and negative shapes might have been improved to cover more of the wall surface area, but then the fronds would not have been so elongated and graceful.

Deciding to use moss, rather than just clay, meant a lot more work and risk of failure, but I think the result is much more interesting than flat clay would have been. The moss has a raised texture which successfully negotiates the non-flat surface, and if it grows, will eventually have a range of greens from the variety of mosses used.

One of the great pleasures of this part of the course has been creating art to share. I have tried to make work which is simple and accessible whilst being unexpected and which enhances its environment and connects the observer to the location.