Assignment 2 part 2-March of the Mackerel, 2000 Leagues Under The Sea

As part of my detailed observations of natural objects, I was really taken with the humble mackerel. It was my initial thought when I read the first part of part 2, and I immediately went out and bought mackerel and started drawing them only to turn the page and find that the image in the course guide was actually three mackerel on a plate.

undeterred, I have gone on to really fall in love with this most humble, yet most beautiful fish and do many, many drawings of them. Using mixed media, using monochrome, using actual colours, using pointillism, hand made paper. Items such as shells, crabs and buoys  and other seaside items to use in lots of different aspects of marine life. I will include those preparatory studies and ideas in this post too. I have shared some of the images in an earlier post, but I will be reposting some in the interest of bringing more context to this part of the course.

So I had some preliminary sketches of the mackerel

single mackerel study mixed media
Three mackerel heads on brown paper
single mackerel on brown paper mounted on crumpled greaseproof paper

After experimenting with different mackerel drawings, I branched out and did a much bigger and bolder mixed media piece, using mainly soft pastels, of a mackerel head. It is bold and beautiful and colourful and several people have wanted to purchase it off me, which I have declined the opportunity to do….

mixed media, soft pastel mackerel head

I then went on to work with very mixed media. I made my own paper which I have talked about before, I will briefly explain here now. I took regular greaseproof paper and tore up small pieces of the cartridge paper and used white acrylic paint to stick the small pieces on the large piece of greaseproof paper then painted more acrylic paint over the top, then dried it and used it to draw on with various different drawing media. I made a table to find out the best drawing methods to use onto the paper and found that there were several things that worked best.

I drew on this home made paper a few drawings with varying levels of success, a crab and more mackerel.

mixed media mackerel 2
mixed media mackerel


mixed media crab
mixed media crad
Mixed Media Mackerel Head

It was actually extraordinarily difficult to draw on the hand made paper. I would like to do more of it though, explore different colours and techniques.

mackerel heads pointillism
mackerel heads pointillism

After focussing on just mackerel (and one crab!) I decided to draw some other marine related objects , buoys and shells, to see if I wanted to include any of those in as a final piece.

The buoys I found particularly interesting to draw as they are both reflective and transparent and it very much held my attention and interest finding ways to portray both of these qualities in the drawings. I also had the main buoy wrapped in rope which added another contrasting texture to the study which I thought made it very pleasing both to draw and then to look at afterwards.

buoy study
Glass buoy study in pencil

I was really pleased with how this came out, and though I did not include the buoys in a final piece in the end, I would love to take these drawings further and look at other compositions for still life drawings including more of the marine related objects.

I also did a drawing which included lots of shells and ocean-worn stones which was drawn in fine liner, pencil and biro, using  hard lines and contrast as much as possible.

flotsam and jetsam
flotsam and jetsam. Hard lines and mixed media on cartridge paper

This was not my usual way of drawing, though I think as an experiment it turned out quite well. I wanted to explore a bit more of this subject matter in mixed media, as I planned to use at least a couple of different media for the final piece. This study included two of the buoys, one with rope and one without, and although the monochrome and line heavy effect was what I was planning to achieve, I think that the buoys deserve to be star of the show as they are such an interesting object to draw. It was altogether fun to draw this composition because it was SO busy and full and I had to concentrate and plan the drawing carefully to fit everything in!

I would like to redo the final piece at a later date to include a lot more of these items or even do a set of three pictures on this theme maybe including one or two of the items in each drawing, but a different combination, or composition for each one. I don’t know exactly how I would approach this, but as a collection of drawings I think that the marine based sketches were very successful, and had I not already dragged out this project for far longer than I had wanted to initially, it is something that I would love to spend a great deal longer exploring.

I was planning to do the final piece of three mackerel on brown paper, and decided to draw one mackerel on crumpled paper to see what the effect would be:

mackerel study on brown paper
mackerel study on crumpled brown paper- mixed media

Although this is an adequate drawing, I didn’t feel as though it had the impact that I would like to have and not did it reflect intimacy as a subject on it’s own. So I decided that I would do a trio of mackerel in a similar way.

I decided to do a mock up of the final piece that I wanted to draw. I used a much smaller piece of paper- part of a crumpled, brown paper bag that I had cut up and salvaged the pieces of.

mackerel on brown paper preliminary sketch
mackerel on brown paper preliminary sketch- mixed media

This was exactly what I wanted to achieve. I love the three mackerel together, the way that they work as a composition is simple and striking and I was surprised to see just how much three mackerel could differ in appearance despite being the same species (though I am sure they probably think the same about us!!) I love the effect of the paper being crumpled as a background and think that this is a very pleasing drawing. I love the colours too. I am pleased with the way that I have managed to achieve an iridescence on the bodies of the fish and a sense of them being plump and moist and ‘real’.

Off I set to do the final piece, using the same fish (thankfully frozen by this point so minimally stinking). I had acquired medium-heavy weight brown paper (not quite card, but definitely thicker than most cartridge paper) and planned to use mixed media, drawing pen, biro and highly pigmented colouring pencils. I also decided that I would not crumple the paper despite knowing that this was a really nice effect, It wasn’t practical to crumple A2 heavy weight paper, and because of this, I decided to draw in the crumpled paper background as part of the composition. I had added pencil shading to the existing crumples on the study that I had done anyway, and figured that it wouldn’t be too difficult to draw in the paper that the fish were lying on  myself.

I have to say that I am not altogether happy with the end result of this final piece.

mackerel final piece on brown paper
mackerel final piece on brown paper- mixed media

For several reasons (the main one being pain) I had to draw the whole final piece on a sloping board, rather than having one that was perfectly perpendicular to the ground. For this reason, I think, the mackerel have taken on a somewhat brutish, bulbous and bulging appearance. For want of better words to describe them, they really do look like they have been working out! Truly the bouncers of the marine world…

They also have acquired very human expressions that i am not entirely sure they had as they lay there on that tray on their brown paper. I have nicknamed them (from the top down) “Guilty”, “worried” and “astonished”, which has had me wondering what my frame of mind must have been as I drew this concerned looking trio, unless of course, being caught gutted and sold really does make a fish feel this way? Given that a piece of creative work is always a reflection of the person who creates it, I am fairly certain that the human qualities that their faces contain are  more about me than the fish.

I also don’t think that the crumpled paper background was as successful as a straight drawing as it was as the deliberate, real crumpling that I had decided on in the initial study. Having said that, whilst I was drawing it, I had several incidents of horror as I moved my arm over the drawing and for a fleeting moment thought that I had creased the corners up on the page then realised that it was ‘just part of the drawing’ so I guess that it achieved some kind of positive effect, possibly not the one that I had set out to create, however.

Looking at the drawing as it is, it is not all doom and gloom (unless you are one of the fish…) Again the iridescence that I have managed to achieve is pleasing and the use of colours, I really like. I love how I have managed to include a rainbow of colours in the scales and bodies of the fish, without it appearing garish or over the top. I wanted to do the fish justice in this respect because they are stunning, beautiful creatures, and that iridescence is truly part of their appeal to me, I wanted to capture that and I do think that I have.

I still thing that the composition is what works best for this drawing. I like that it is the whole fish and I like the crumpled paper background, however I think if I was going to do it again I would explore adding in a couple or some of the other marine related objects that I have drawn, or maybe doing a set of drawings as one final piece reflecting several of these objects, including the mackerel but not limited to them.




Author: StarryShapes

I am an Artist and Clinical Hypnotherapist, qualified to Advanced Level, AdvDipHyp, AdPr, DipHyp, CMH CPNLP, currently training in CBT to further my learning and skills. I love to learn and read about the subjects that I enjoy so much. I am also about to embark on the Drawing Degree that I have waited a lifetime to begin! Onwards and Upwards! I love to Write, Draw and Write Poetry.

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