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

Exercise 5.0

Taking Stock

Message before going back on the work after feedback.

This course was a battle, truly. Maybe it was the bad timing of starting such a journey in the middle of COVID, or that I feel disconnected when told directly what to put into a sketchbook. The combination felt pressing throughout and trying to stay motivated during a difficult time in the world was hardcore. That said, I am pleased I made it through and didn't quit, yet!

Before I look back on the previous parts of this course, I can't help but feel a little disappointed in myself. I personally feel I have under achieved through this journey, and perhaps didn't push the boundaries as I would usually like. Key Steps in Illustration felt huge in comparison. I felt I had achieved so much more in terms of the amount of work created and finished, and was proud of. In a way, I also feel as though I used a sketchbook more than what I have during this course. I experimented, I worked at different scales, I developed ideas through to finish and was more playful in the experience. This was a major shift in energy, it felt small, the work was less and the results are not my favourite - but I guess that is the essence of sketchbooks.

Despite the disappointment, I do however, also feel I have achieved the possible purpose of this course. I did reach a comfortable place in myself that welcomes the sketchbook back in to my life. I take it with me everywhere and attempt to use it where possible. If the work created in the course didn't mount up to my expectation, it at least pushed me out of a lazy comfort zone that always had an excuse to not use a sketchbook. I now know my preferences when using the book, i.e what book to use, where to use it and how. I'm far from finding my voice in sketchbooks, and have yet to discover what content I wish to focus, however reaching the stage of even opening a sketchbook is an accomplishment. I did play it safe in many of the exercises, and as I say, boundaries were not pushed, but at the end of the day you are encouraged to use the books, not necessarily make amazing works of art; which above all, is the main reason for taking this course.

My process, which I did hope to improve on after Key Steps, remained the same for Sketchbook. I wanted to soldier through each section of the course, collect the feedback and hopefully improve as I would progress through each part, however not change what I had done until the end. I then want to go back and improve the work based on tutor feedback. It is here that I wish to bring the whole work to a close, finish the loose ends and present it in a way I feel best communicates my journey. I know that my struggle had been present through each exercise, which of course is something I wish to share as it is a real part of this journey, however I know that there was positives in each, and it is that which I wish to push further. So on that note, this was my message before the improvements. Now I feel in a good place, with restrictions being practically nonexistent (for now), normality feels real. I'm more inspired by life now than during the course. Things I did originally may change due to the flexibility of being able to attend larger events.


What part of the course would I like to return to?

All of it! I mean, I'm not sure if that is completely true, but I certainly feel that I have a different mindset to the course, and in fact feel I could do more with the exercises should I do it again. I would hopefully manage time better by not taking roughly 3 months off at the beginning.

Surprisingly enough, I very much enjoyed the reportage work. I found Veronica Lawlor's work to be the most inspiring throughout this course. I love her technique and spirit in the drawings she makes. To achieve this level of confidence when drawing lines in motion would be something I would love to reach. I found drawing on location the hardest at the beginning. I didn't know where to let my eyes focus, and what to draw and when (especially when the subject was moving!). Since receiving the feedback on this section, I had completed the rest of the course before returning to improve (as mentioned above). I now have a confidence that I didn't have when I first approached this part. I have spent more time with the sketchbook outside, I have moved with a protest and attempted to draw what I was seeing. I have sat on the beach and illustrated people bathing, swimming and surfing. It felt so much different this time round, and with that in mind, I know this is an area I would not only return to, but continue to do as well.

Another area I enjoyed and would love to do more of is narrative. Although I am still a little torn as to what might be my final course in year one, I am heavily leaning towards Graphic Fiction, and so narrative I believe would be a huge part of this.

In the third part, I made a rather bold statement (sort of) regarding my tool kit. It was going to be the one research task that almost never ended throughout the remainder of the course. In all honesty, I think this is something that will always be revisited as I grow and discover what tools work best for me on location. I learnt that the tool kit needs to be dynamic, it needs to be thought about each time you leave the house based on the purpose. I think this leads me to the question:

Make a list of materials and processes you feel connected with.

I think I'm pretty basic in how I like to use the sketchbook, although this is open for change as I grow more. I've found it easy to work directly in the sketchbook, rather than creating a montage of different papers and textures to work on top. I trust the paper in that it will not destroy my tools, it's smooth and allows me to build what I want. Having a pad that can handle different mediums makes a difference.

Fine liner pens became my go to for most occasions, they just work so well and are most reliable (when you have a few at hand). When you're against the clock, they make you be more deliberate with the decision making, the lines are just what they are once they hit the paper, and in a way it forces you to embrace the ugly. I've enjoyed using them in this way, not just as a tool that cleans the drawings with crisp lines, but as a tool that can scratch a sketch quickly.

Posca pens had that same permanent and deliberate characteristic about them which made them really fun to work with. Although they didn't work well on top of my fine liners, the bold colour that evenly covers large areas is such a handy tool when on the move.

Watercolour pencils found to be extremely useful, and a tool I grew fond of towards the end. I even went back on some exercises to include them more as they add really nice texture and interest to illustrations. I'm a fan of the combination of adding coloured pencil on top of watercolours, they're so pleasing to the eye. Artists that I enjoy works in this style are (add names)

Lead holder, slightly different in its performance compared to the above list so far. It is thick but flexible on the pressure that can be applied. It's less deliberate, giving freedom on how I use it. If less confident about what I am drawing, this has become my go to for getting a base sketch down. As mentioned in my research 3.0 task, I wanted to achieve something similar to charcoal, due to the thickness of the holder, it allows me to handle the tool in a similar way as charcoal. I can get a lot of motion in the drawing and its great for working quick.

White Pen, the final tool that I never knew the power of until a few years ago. It's the silent magic that hides at the bottom of the pencil case waiting for its moment to shine. I love that it is versatile in the most simple way. It doubles as an eraser for the pen and it gives the magic touch that finishes a sketch. I find this to be really useful to have, even though it isn't always used.

The small sketchbook became the eureka moment in part four. Typically I like to work big, but realising the course required me to work fast and flexible, I opted for a smaller book that I never even imagined using before. They are perfect for the road. It's less intimidating to fill a page knowing it is about the same size as a bank card, and the white space is less harsh. It worked really well when I was at the protests or other events. I was more confident with the fine liners during working in this book, and I felt the two have become a staple in my technique for drawing on location.

Draw a skull and crossbones and list the exercises or processes you didn’t enjoy doing

Here is my skull and crossbones page.

This was a cool change up in the course! Something of a small direction which didn't specify how to do the skull and crossbones, so I had fun working from my imagination here. I mean, imagination is loose here as a skull is one of those subjects you've seen so often that you draw from memory, either way I enjoyed the mindful task.

"A lot of writing in each exercise, but work didn't reflect"

What I liked about Key Steps was the format in which the course was set in. There was clear stages and direction in Key Steps that felt progressive and playful. Each exercise felt like a new task, a new area to look at and so much variety was produced, much of which was done in a sketchbook. I don't have that same feeling for Sketchbook, although I did actually produce a lot! Really sketchbook just depended on what you saw on the day you took your book out. I have a lot still to learn!

"Case Study: Brand Wallace"

I would have loved to have seen more professional storyboard artists be included here. I would like to discover more working artists that are involved in the industry. This did lead to a great exercise, and I'm pleased to see that it was part of the course.

"Using sketches from exercises in new exercises"

SCAMPER as an example, asked for you to look back on the previous works created during the course and reimagine them. To be honest, this process makes total sense and for me, this is what a sketchbook encourages. My problem was I disliked much of the work created and actually found I didn't have enough that I thought would be useful to reuse (at the time).

Make a list of materials and processes you feel connected with.

Interestingly, I think my list may look different if this question was asked in Key Steps. Reflecting on Sketchbook, the below words certainly felt more realistic in terms of what I got out of the exercises. I wish I could have been more expressive in areas, more imaginative and little more abstract, but I'm happy to have connected this time with the following:


Slow / Fast






Look at the list of quotes from section one and your initial responses to them.

I made a note of two quotes from Part one in my hand made sketchbook, here's a reminder of those:

"Hit & Miss! I sometimes struggle with sketchbooks and know I should do more" - JMA

"I almost never leaver the house without a sketchbook, even if I don't use it, I feel better carrying it around, just in case" - Michi S

Have your opinions and thoughts changed about how you keep a sketchbook?

No! Thoughts are the same, however I feel I could add to them.

Which comments do you now most empathise with and why?

I somewhat fantasise about sketchbooks, and how I would like to use them. A lot of the thoughts are based on comparing with others, which is entirely wrong, however inside I see others and I just think "Thats what I want to do!!". So the next set of quotes from Part one are a combination of reality and fantasy, the dream.

"Initially I was daunted but [I am] rapidly becoming more comfortable."

Having finished the course, this is a confident boost. I am comfortable in using the books again and blank pages are not daunting.

"I struggle with it. I’m still trying to find a way to interact properly with it."

This is right on the money for where I now stand. I struggle less when it is location focus, however I now wish to find a balance for using it as a space to be imaginative as well. The interaction is certainly an area I'm still learning.

"I don’t use it as diary or journal like some people I use it as a tool to progress ideas etc."

This is true to some extent, more so during Key Steps. The more I use the book and see it in my general space, I'm sure will lead to using it for progressing ideas. I feel this connects to the above quote regarding interaction.

"I love being creative but find personal sketchbooks easier. I feel coursework sketches need to be more fluid and chronological and I know they will be judged which makes me hold back a bit and try and keep them neat."

I can relate to this. The course did add a pressure in having to work in order, or cover certain points, which naturally wouldn't happen when using a sketchbook for personal use. It is difficult to know what my relation is with the sketchbook until I've explored it personally.

Which of the exercises and assignments would you like to do more of or return to?

I think I have covered this already, which now I wonder if I have misunderstood a previous question? Reportage I would love to explore more, and definitely find myself in comfortable place when approaching narrative, albeit as a beginner!


My general take from the feedback was to elaborate more. Repeat the exercise but try in a different way, or explore the idea further etc. Something I can agree I lacked. I know myself I didn't push the boundaries on the first attempt of the exercises so I can understand how this tip was a common theme in my feedback.

"I have mentioned in my feedback spending more time on research tasks. Some exercises

could be explored more fully to gain more from the process." - Assessment Potential Part 4


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