Shadows of Beauty – mixed media workshop

Last Saturday I attended the penultimate of the five art workshops I signed up for connected to the City Art Centre’s summer fashion theme. This one, Shadows of Beauty, a mixed media workshop, was run by Paula Flavell.

In this class we explored using alternative drawing techniques and materials. The class was about the process rather than the end result. I hope that you keep that in mind as you see photos of what I produced!


First up we removed one of our shoes and tried different ways to draw it:

130824 shoes

Going clockwise from bottom-left, these are the techniques Paula directed us to employ:

  • Blind. For this I drew without looking at the paper. I quite like the marks made because they capture the essence of the subject, and are quite unlike what I’d do if I were looking at my drawing.
  • Blind contour. As with the first drawing, I didn’t look at the paper. The difference here was that I kept the pencil on the paper at all times and drew the contours of the shoe, i.e. those lines between different materials/sections.
  • Contour. Like blind contour, but this time allowed to glance at the paper while following the contours. However, I was still meant to be looking at the shoe for the majority of the time while drawing. This was surprisingly tricky to do, on this first occasion at least.
  • Non-dominant hand. In my case, I drew this with my left hand. This version you see here actually includes further right-hand work because we were given the chance to work on the drawing we considered the worst of the 4.

This was an interesting exercise, especially to see how a blind sketch brought out key elements which my usual considered drawing would downplay or even miss. I should experiment with this more to see if it was just a one-off, or if it has merit elsewhere too.


Following that warm-up, we moved to the painting exhibition to sketch parts of paintings that caught our attention. I stuck with one painting: By the Bonnie Banks of Fordie (There were three maidens pu’d a flower) by Charles Hodge Mackie in 1897. I particularly liked the figure on the left – a girl stooping to pick a flower. I did a few sketches of her.

130824 sketch 1

For the following sketch, I started with a part-blind technique inspired by the earlier shoe drawing, by drawing lines with only occasional glances at the paper. Then I continued with loose marks to fill it out. I like how it compares to the above, more controlled picture.

130824 sketch 2 part-blind

For the final sketch I did a close-up to have something else to work from:

130824 sketch 3 close-up

We used these sketches as source images for the remainder of the day.


Still before lunch, back in the studio area we tried a technique of drawing with a needle or craft knife, and spreading crushed-up charcoal into the scratches/cuts.

I particularly like the result of my first attempt, where I smudged the charcoal more into the background of the girl:

130824 scratch 1 needle

I did two more attempts where I achieved a fuller shading by pressing a piece of charcoal covered paper over the scratched paper. For the second of these two, I used a craft knife to cut into the paper instead of scratching it with a needle. I prefer the effect produced with a needle.


130824 scratch 2 needle


130824 scratch 3 knife


Over the afternoon we played with make-up. We did lots of experimentation with a variety of make-up materials such as lipstick, mascara, eye-shadow, and other items like vaseline, in addition to more conventional painting media. We also had a selection of surfaces: card, tracing-paper, rice paper, sandpaper, coloured paper, transparencies, and so on. The subject of the experiments was the drawings we had made earlier.

To restate the start of this post: The class was about the process rather than the end result. The results below are not much to look at, but I’m grateful of the experience of going beyond the usual limits. For me, the stand-out discovery was the lovely effect of chalk on sandpaper. I also like the eye-shadow on card.

Lipstick and chalk on sandpaper:

130824 lipstick and chalk on sandpaper

Eye-shadow on card:

130824 eye shadow on card

Lipstick and mascara:

130824 lipstick and mascara

Lipstick on tracing paper:

130824 lipstick on tracing paper

Lipstick and chalk on black paper:

130824 lipstick and chalk on black

Eye-shadow on pink paper:

130824 eye shadow on pink paper

Eye-shadow on paper:

130824 eye shadow on paper

I tried out a lot of things in this workshop, and I’m sure I will repeat these types of experiments throughout my drawing life.


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