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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Exercise 4.0

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

Fill It Up - FAST!

This was always going to be a challenge. The deceiving simplicity of the brief was bait to the challenge that was ahead. Sitting in one place and fill up a sketchbook, fast. To begin with, the sketchbook I set my heart on for this part of the course was a small 14cm x 9cm book. I didn't intend to complete the book in one sitting, that's a lot of pages to fill on one subject, however I did plan to fill a good few! With it being small, I foolishly thought it would be easier to fill, and in some cases it was!

The sketchbook felt good to carry, easy to put in the pocket and something I felt didn't draw too much attention to me, which at the time seemed a necessity. I felt light with this, able to shift around if needed which was important for me should I need to finish quickly and move on.

This took a few attempts to complete. I think I'm still getting to grips with what to draw on location and when. The more attempts it took to do this, the more confident I did get in deciding those two points; what and when.

The other deciding point I was wondering, or at least whilst I reflect on this as I type, what is the subject I'm most interested in? Is it the landscape, the conversations or the people that pass me by. What am I going to do with these drawings after? Will they serve me? Do they have to serve me? It's just practise at the end of the day, right? Perhaps the questions for myself are irrelevant at this stage, doing is the key, and doing it for no reason is the challenge.

The first location,

Free Palestine Protest

15th May 2021

On the 15th May 2021, two protests were planned for two very different reasons. The first gathering I attended with the intention to draw from, was the beginning of the march against what was happening in Palestine. In this time I watched the crowd grow as they prepared to head off on their march. Police gathered, with rows of vans parked creating an intimidating presence, albeit peaceful at this stage. Signs were being pulled out from the back of vans and cars, whilst a buzz was filling the air. I moved around a lot to get a sense of the energy, and the different people that united. Here I got the first taste of sketching and trying to fill the pages fast.

Although I didn't manage to get many sketches done across a number of pages, I did feel to have captured a glimpse of what was happening in preparation to the march. Flags were being handed out at the entrance to Hyde Park, and signs were stacked all around, free for people to take. As the crowd got bigger, the view of flags became a river flooding the entrance.

I didn't continue with this protest to capture more energy during the march. I believe parts of this protest ended in violence, which I know would make great drawing, but I didn't fancy putting myself out there. I did however move on to the next protest of the day which was at the opposite side of the park.

Freedom March

15th May 2021

The second protest was a huge vibrant and positive march for freedom. The power was electric and being amongst so many passionate people that share the same expression as one another was inspiring and liberating. Such an incredible contrast compared to the narrative that we have seen for over a year. The weather took a turn at some point, for a short time, which made me learn a new important lesson when using the sketchbook. The pen I used was very easily effected by the water. However, I was able to get a few pages filled.

I really hoped I could channel Veronica Lawlor during the protest, and observe some great moments. I learnt that I was very easily overwhelmed by drawing in the heart of a protest, and not being able to focus on people was difficult. I didn't know how to fill the pages quick enough.

I was disappointed in myself for not taking full advantage of such an event, but you can't be perfect on the first ever attempt at drawing fast from life. It definitely takes practise.

Second location

Kensington High Street

Waiting for my time slot for an exhibition at the Design Museum.

Here I had a little more time to sit down and take it slow. I was able to get a fairly detailed sketch of the garden I sat in beside the museum, and watch the people that passed by. During this time, small cleaning vehicles parked in front of me, moving slightly left and right, forward backwards, whilst guys dismounted to clean the floors at the entrance. It brought interest to the scene and a challenge that I quite enjoyed. The vehicle looked like it should be a massive road cleaner, but packed into a tiny miniature, perfect for public footpaths or crowded spaces. It was around 10am and so the pace felt slow. Foot traffic was mostly dog walkers or mothers with their young, and the occasional runner.

I'm really pleased with the sketches from this occasion, but again I couldn't get enough done! I'm not sure if it is a sense of boredom that kicks in once I've drawn what is around me that is interesting, or a lack of focus when sitting with the sketchbook. I'm calm, slow and feeling comfortable, yet I watch what is happening rather than draw it. I still have a long way to go to break through this feeling.

Third location

London Kirtan


I feel so much confidence with this little book now, and I'm happy to scribble without aiming for perfection. It's been an ongoing project here and I will continue to carry this little book with me on the trips that might not allow for much time.

I would like to try work other mediums into the book. I think I became very reliant on the fine line pens in the end, purely for convenience. It was a trusted medium to work quick when walking and even sitting, it also forced me to not using an eraser. The lines were permanent decisions and, hate it or love it, there's honestly in the lines that I enjoy. That said, I feel as though had developed a technique with the pens that was working really nice for me. Drawing smaller intentional lines quickly, whilst working "half blind" created quite a nice sketchy style I was confident with.

During this exercise and others, I would constantly reflect on my tool kit from Research 3.0. Taking only a small selection of tools with me each time was part of the experiment for working outside. I had real life experiences with testing the pens, pencils and other. What had I learned from the above? I feel I lacked the second tool that would compliment the fine liner. Sometimes I would carry a set of brush pens in different grey tones, a tool like this would help break up the black lines, add shade quickly and lift the drawings from the page. It would be really useful to be in the habit to have a couple of tools that compliment each other.

I also learnt that I can get restless with just fine liners, and desperately wished to try something new, like painting for example, or coloured pencils!


The most pages I seem to reach when taking on this challenge, is around 4 pages. After this, I'm searching for things to draw with a lack of enthusiasm to what is around me. I don't feel as though I am able to "fill it up fast" and if I can then it isn't for very long. I have now tried many different locations with very different atmosphere, and I still struggle to fill the sketchbook 'fast'.

"You made a great start with this exercise and produced some lovely drawings. They have the sense of place in that the figures tell the story of each event and have some movement to them. It was great to see you try different places and different atmospheres and excellent to see the comment about your growing confidence with the little book and drawing live. Some points to consider: Look again at the title of the exercise Fill it up – FAST! It would have been good to see more drawings from each location. More of a focus to fill the sketchbook and create a larger volume of images at one time to further loosen the process. Looking at your reflections, consider how you would go about using different media." - Tutor Feedback

I decided to take a different approach this time and took my sketchbook and kit to a place I knew would be quiet; a cemetery. I chose to go in the evening just before sunset. Still plenty of daylight but a nice change in the light source as it began to get later. I looked at using different media this time as suggested by my tutor, and something I wanted to explore more of when on location.

It was really nice to be able to sit in a quiet place that had many area of interest. I felt as thought I was able to keep drawing the same things and it not get boring. It allowed me to experiment with tools, and mix things up a little. I worked quickly, merely blocking washes of colour in places and and building on them fast. I found a lot easier to fill the pages in with paint and pencils which felt like a positive shift in how I looked at this exercise and my tool kit going forward. I found pleasure in painting on location.

Finding a balance and a healthy confidence in what I was doing, I took one last trip out. This time I paused for sometime beside the local river where the ducks would be gathering.

Again, it isn't pages and pages of work but it was certainly more than the early trips. It feels incredibly satisfying working in mixed media, jumping from paints to pen and then using pencil over the top. I love this combination for sketchbooks and the results are fun. The ducks were a great source of inspiration, and watching as they began to settle for the evening was plenty interesting. The yoga stretching of the legs and wings whilst others would just drop down to their nestled seat beside the bank. If ever a dog was nearby, perhaps making its way to their direction, the ducks would line up to the edge ready to escape if needed. I have to say they were far more interesting to observe than people!

Through the challenge of this exercise, I feel as though I've been through a transformation with how I approach working outside. I have a long way to go, but instead of dread for being on location, I'm optimistic and excited.

At the beginning of this course you were asked to look at quotes from other students, and see which you related with. I looked at the quotes that would describe their sketchbook almost as their right arm, being that they are inseparable, and dreamed of feeling the same connection with my own books. It seemed unattainable, yet I now feel like a different person with an attitude that is similar to those that are attached. I'm excited to keep going with this "fill it up fast" approach and seeing what results I will get.


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