1.1 Draw Draw and Draw Again

Step 1:

Pick some reference material to draw from, perhaps a single photograph with a figure and some other details. It could be a photograph you’ve taken or one you’ve found.

British Museum Central Court
original photo

I decided to choose a recent photograph of the British Museum. I am fascinated by this building – the spider web sky and the mix of architecture. The central column of galleries reminds me of a de Chirico painting. The spider web roof in particular I though might be inspiration  for Octavia  in Assignment 1.

Step 2

Draw what’s in the photograph – the figure, their expression, their clothes, the setting. Try and record all the information from the photograph in your drawing.

British Museum 1 Photo and Sketch
Drawing and photo

This first drawing is in pencil and crayon. Had I been perfectionist, I would have measured and squared everything up. But I did this freehand.

I like this drawing as a sketch – though possibly I was not following the guidelines exactly enough. The image itself was too crowded to do an exact copy. The drawing is narrower and larger than the original image, cropping off quite a bit of the left hand side. This increased the feeling of height.

Step 3:

Now, draw it a second time but do it quicker. Pick out the important elements in the image and focus your drawing on these. Leave out the information that is less important.

British Museum 2 quick drawing
Quick sketch from photo

This second drawing was done in pencil.

What is and what is not an important element depends on the meaning of the image. I certainly wanted to eliminate some of the very crowded people who ‘spoiled’ my composition. Here I focus in on the couple on the right. I also cropped in further to give a square image.

This drawing needed much more detail on the couple to make them really interesting – something I could have done through a close up of them from the photo, or better- from life. This drawing lacks the feeling of milling crowds in a majestic space.

Step 4:

Put the original photograph away and draw it again, this time from memory and with reference to your other drawings.

British Museum 3 Sketch from other drawings
Sketch from reference material

This third drawing was done very quickly combining elements of both drawings. I did not want to use an eraser, but see what changes ‘were made by accident’ as a way of exploring possible interpretations of the scene.

The perspective is off – but maybe this is something I could play with in simplification.

Step 5:

Finally, draw it again, this time with no reference material at all.

British Museum 4 sketch from memory
with no reference material

This fourth drawing was done with a large clutch pencil. As with the previous drawings I did not want to use the eraser, but see what came up.

I tried to remembers the key elements and start with the big shapes. The first line was the line for the side of the column – this was quite large and determined the scale of the rest of the image. This image was more made up.

I feel working completely from memory in this way did help me to think through much more my feelings about the image. But  as with all these drawings, I need to learn have more practice with complicated perspective from life (rather than simplified construction) and drawing people in life situations and movement. That would enable me to understand more what I am experimenting with and make things up when there are gaps in either the original photo or my memory in relation to the image and meaning I want to convey.

Drawing on  a high key photo


This  image was part of my explorations for Octavia, continuing some of the things I was interested in Hybrids, but using a straight photograph. It was an experiment to see what would happen if I combined drawing on a photo – mixing and matching drawing with its potential for making things up and photographic ‘reality’. I converted the photo to black and white and made it a very high key image so that the pencil would show up. This also made quite a lot of white spaces (more when printing than on screen) and this did leave quite a lot of room for invention. Again I need to improve my life drawing skills in Assignment 2. But I think this technique has potential for further exploration.

Experiments with perspective

These images were also done later as practice images for Octavia. I wanted to see if I could produce more powerful images that would exaggerate the features that had interested me originally – the spider web sweep of  the ceiling and the majestic middle column (like an ancient monolith) with its almost surreal stairs.

I started by playing around with some of my photos of these features, cutting and combining them to distort perspective. Then filled in the gaps with drawings in oil pastel, pastel and graphite. I enjoy working in this way – seeing what I can discover through manipulating what I am given within set bounds of existing photos.


I enjoyed this exercise. Drawing again and again in this way help to hone in on what one really wants to convey in the image. And enables more lively mark-making once one is sufficiently familiar with the image. But in this project I did not explore this potential to the full. I found the photo collages more exciting. I intended to go back to the sketches to see how to combine these into a finished illustration, and also explore the different impacts of different media as suggested in my tutor feedback. In the end I did not revisit this particular image, but different approaches to line and drawing in subsequent projects and assignments, particularly Illustrator style experiments in Project 1.4 Rooms , and Assignment 2 for my images of  Cambridge and Assignment 4 for my images of Aldeburgh. I look to develop an imaginary narrative with more sketches and images from the British Museum at Viscom level 3 when my drawing and perspective skills have improved.

Using photos as the basis for illustration can help produce dynamic drawings, particularly in situations where  weather and/or other physical conditions make sketching on the spot difficult. Using photos in this way allows capturing of more dramatic viewpoints and perspectives – if the original photos are well composed for this, or accompanied by annotation.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.