Sessions and ideas to try

1. How do we convey emotion and atmosphere through art? Could you draw or paint the following in an abstract way? (See the session)

An emotion - joy, fear, sadness, etc.

A sound - high or low pitch, quiet or loud, etc.

A smell - something nice, horrible, etc.

A temperature - hot, cold, etc.

How do you, or could you, evoke a particular mood in your drawings or paintings - whether figurative or abstract?

emotional colours click image to enlarge

2, 3 & 4. Select a subject - perhaps from current affairs, news, your local community, or family.

Paint or draw a scene that conveys emotion and atmosphere. Your work can be figurative or abstract. (see more...)
(See the sessions)

5. The Secret Life of a Matchbox.

Draw a matchbox from an unusual angle or perspective. Scale up the size to fill an area of your paper.

You may represent your matchbox from exactly what you see - or add an element of mystery. (See a couple of examples by our artists)

Matchbox drawing

6 & 7. Simple Card Sculptures.

Create some simple sculptural forms from geometric card shapes to explore form, space, light and shadow. You could use Anthony Caro's 'Promenade' as a starting point:

Anthony Caro - Promenade

See some card sculptures made by the group here

See session reviews 5-8 here


Try your skills at Trompe L'oeil
(see examples in the techniques section). Although it can be quite challenging, it really causes you to concentrate. You have to look very closely and become quite precise in your draughtsmanship - not to mention testing your ability to mix colours. Having said that, it can be a highly enjoyable activity. Suggestion: See if you can paint a 3-dimensional pen laying on your paper.

Try a bit of illusion. You can try this in a small way by taking a piece of white card and folding it a few times, standing it upright, and then sketching the outline of a word from one view-point.

folded card reality illusion
You don't have to do anything as complicated as the room above... but it's an example of the idea.

Have a go at creating an illusion of depth.

Cut a piece of paper into a shape that might represent a hole. Lay it on the table and create the impression that there is a real hole in the table. What is in or through the hole?

Create a drawing or painting from listening to a piece of classical or instrumental music. Think about any imagery that the music creates in your mind. Perhaps you know something of the history in the world when the piece was first composed. Does this evoke other feelings that can be conveyed in your work?


Select an object to draw or paint, but instead of painting to represent the material it is made from, paint it as if it were made of an opposite material. For example: a hard object becomes a soft object.

Sculpture Ideas

Simple light sculpture experiments. Cut out some shapes from pieces of card:

Bend the bottom of each shape and stick the pieces in a random fashion on another piece of card, a plate, or straight onto a table, so that they all stand vertically. Shine a torch through and around the sculpture in various directions and observe the shadows created. Now try using more than one torch. Notice the subtleties of shadow and light.

Take a coat hanger and dangle the pieces of card from cotton of different lengths. Hang the sculpture a short distance from a white wall and, with the room darkened, shine a torch through the sculpture so that its shadows are projected onto the wall.

Take a piece of grease-proof [oven] paper or tracing paper and place it in front of your card shapes. Shine a torch from behind so that the shadows appear on the screen.

Take two or three torches and cover the lens of each one with a different colour of transparent plastic. (You could use 'Quality Street' sweet wrappers or similar). Shine the torches through the shapes and observe the shadows on the table, wall, or screen. Notice how the colours blend and change in subtlety and intensity.

Sketch Books

It's a good idea to have a sketch book to jot down thoughts and ideas, scribbles, drawings, etc.


Having a camera (or mobile phone with a camera) with you can be useful for capturing images, objects, or scenes, that inspire you.


Most artists become avid collectors of resources for use in their work - from items and objects (to draw and paint) to collections of all manner of bits and pieces to use in their sculptures.


The Violin door in Chatsworth House

Shadows by Richard Gentle
Mixed Media Ideas

Fashion Illustrator,Gretchen Roehrs, Completes Her Dress Sketches With Food:

by Gretchen Roehrs

by Gretchen Roehrs

View more...

Also see a different technique for using plants on our 'forced perspective' page.