Top-Down Drawing Technique

Drawing can be a frustrating experience if we don’t have a fail proof technique. This is one of my favourites, known by many names including the top-down or ‘figure in the stone’ technique. In order to accurately capture the dimensions as well as plot the composition on the page one begins with quick broad strokes to capture the largest general shape first (demonstrated below in orange.) Once we’re satisfied that we have the overall shape as accurately as we can (taking note of angles in relation to one another) we ‘carve out’ negative spaces and angles in a generalised manner too, demonstrated in black pen below. Obviously this is all done lightly in pencil in a typical drawing.


If we’ve done this correctly, adjusting as we go along until we’re satisfied with the angles, ensuring that our relationships / proportions are accurate, attention can be given to drawing in the details as demonstrated in the image below.


This technique works with any subject matter, be it still life, landscape or portraiture. For demonstration purposes I drew a simple tea cup on the iPad which I coloured with digital watercolour and shaded with hatching.

If you’re frustrated by drawing give this method a go, and let me know if it works for you. Remember you can improvise as you wish once you have an accurate drawing on paper, allowing your personal style and creativity to flow freely. I deliberately wanted a loose style of drawing as can be seen by my pen strokes.

Cuppa anyone?



Daily Prompt: Witness

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Gestalt Theory

The Gestalt Principals are about the brain’s ability to create order from chaos through a process of organising information. Our brains naturally seek and recognise patterns. Psychology has defined these principals as:

  1. The Principal of Figure / Ground
  2. The Principal of Proximity
  3. The Principal of Similarity
  4. The Principal of Common Fate
  5. The Principal of Good Continuation
  6. The Principal of Closure
  7. The Principal of Area and Symmetry

Therefore when these principals apply the brain will perceive another object, independent of its parts. This is best demonstrated in the image below where the brain perceives a large triangle in front of the circles even though what is presented does not include a triangle, merely three circles with ‘pie slices’ removed from them. When we ignore the triangle and focus only on the circles they start to take on the shape of ‘pacman.’ The gestalt therefore is the perception of a shape other than the parts of the whole.

The Gestalt Theory can be witnessed in text too as the spaces between letters which gives these letters the ‘shape’ of words.

“Gestaltism — a human behaviour theory that describes how the mind structures and arranges visual data — suggests that human beings naturally create order out of the things we see.”



A brief description of the 7 Gestalt Principles.


1. The Principle of Figure / Ground

The two images have the same composition, however the image on the left is perceived to be a grey square (figure) on a white background whereas the image on the right is perceived to be a grey object (figure) with a hole in it (placed on a white background.)


2. The Principle of Proximity

The Principal of Proximity demonstrates how we view items in relationship to each other. As shapes are repeated and aligned we perceive them as being part of the whole.


3. The Principle of Similarity

Elements that are similar are perceived to be more related than elements that are dissimilar.


4. The Principle of Common Fate

Elements that move in the same direction are perceived to be more related than elements that are stationery or moving in different directions.


5. The Principle of Good Continuation

Elements arranged on a line or curve are perceived to be more related than elements not on the line or curve. In this example the red dots on the curved line seem to be more related to the black dots on the curved line than to the red dots on the straight line. This is because the eye naturally follows a line of curve. The relatedness of continuation is therefore stronger than the similarity in colour.


6. The Principle of Closure

We tend to look first for a single, recognisable pattern when looking at a complex arrangements of elements.


7.  The Principal of Area and Symmetry

The eye seeks symmetry, a ‘flow’ through the design.




Symmetry vs. Asymmetry
Gestalt Principles of Visual Perception
Gestalt Theory for Interaction Designers
Use Gestalt Laws to Improve your UX (part 1)


Post Humanism

What might we look like in a Post Humanism world?  My dark creative mind immediately conjured a dystopian future. Yeah, pretty grim stuff but someone’s gotta do it.

I had so much fun playing with iPad art in this project and was somewhat influenced by David Hockney during my artist research. For those of you who don’t know, Hockney is considered an influential figure in the British Pop Art movement and has embraced technology as a new medium with which to create art, the iPad being one of his favourite ‘canvases.’

Below follows an excerpt from my concept statement (to add context) and a few of the drawing outcomes.

My Post Human world visually focusses on a dystopia that dehumanises citizens through genetic modification. In this world people are divided into groups according to their designated roles and duties. Their bodies are genetically engineered to grow multiple body parts that facilitate enhanced productivity in their assigned social duties. Labourers are allotted extra limbs to enable faster and more efficient productivity; citizens designated to the breeding group develop extra wombs to facilitate multiple pregnancies simultaneously. Scientists and academics assigned to the ‘thinkers’ group grow extra heads, thus two brains instead of one; and law enforcers develop chameleon-type eyes that enhance their vision, enabling them to see in multiple directions at once.

Thanks for reading, now go make some art. On your iPad.


Anndelize Graf. Thinker. 2018. iPad drawing & digital collage.


Anndelize Graf. Labourer I. 2018. iPad drawing & digital collage.


Anndelize Graf. Labourer III. 2018. iPad drawing & digital collage.


Anndelize Graf. Breeder II. 2018. iPad drawing & digital collage.



Mark Making with the Body

While examining the marks we make on our environment with our body I decided to focus on an old pair of favourite shoes that I have thoroughly worn out. The stitching has come undone over the years leaving holes though which my toes peep. Old leather, old comfortable favourites like old friends that I feel sentimental about. Unlike old friends though I can no longer be seen wearing these in public, however they have pride of place in my art studio now where I wear them with great fondness.



Enlightenment for Sale

Following up from my last blog entry I completed the body of work in the previous painting unit. My concept changed somewhat however (as is typical for practicing artists) resulting in work that addresses a serious issue with humour and absurdity. This was my Statement of Intent:

My work will address the theme of Light with a series of oil paintings loosely done in the style of chiaroscuro to evoke questions surrounding the darker nature of so-called ‘enlightenment’ associated with the New Age / Pagan movement.  I chose chiaroscuro, typically dark dramatic paintings, to juxtapose the ‘love and light’ approach of New Age spirituality in an attempt to draw attention to this underbelly of the movement; the appropriation and subversion of spirituality. This will be a focus on the exploitation of people seeking spiritual enlightenment by individuals who have commercialised spirituality, making it a consumer commodity, to lure people with false promises and absurd claims whilst motivated only by money.

I intend to depict objects that typically would be found on a Pagan altar to represent the elements; Earth, Water, Fire, Air. However, to draw attention to the consumeristic angle of the New Age movement these sacred objects will be replaced with mass produced supermarket products instead. The labels on these products will reflect the absurdity and hilarity of claims made by self-professed Gurus who exploit spiritual seekers. Oil paints as my medium of choice is a connection to the classical as well as to the longevity of the old Pagan religions. Using humour I hope to draw attention to the seriousness of spiritual exploitation by the financially motivated whilst engaging the viewer in a lighthearted manner.


Anndelize Graf. 2018. Water. Body of work: Enlightenment for Sale. Oil on canvas. 40×40 cm.

earthAnndelize Graf. 2018. Earth. Body of work: Enlightenment for Sale. Oil on canvas. 40×40 cm.

Anndelize Graf. 2018. Fire. Body of work: Enlightenment for Sale. Oil on canvas. 40×40 cm.


Anndelize Graf. 2018. Air. Body of work: Enlightenment for Sale. Oil on canvas. 40×40 cm.


Anndelize Graf. 2018. Trust me, I’m a Guru. Body of work: Enlightenment for Sale. Oil on canvas. 100×100 cm.


Working with Time: Interior & Exterior

After a 3-month study break to ward off mental fatigue I am ready to tackle my next unit; this time I will be engaged in traditional painting techniques to reinterpret one of my earlier exercises in which I examined Light.This involves setting up a still life arrangement and photographing it at different times during the day to record the changing light, then choosing the best to paint on canvas.

When I originally did this exercise I chose an hourglass, a crochet soft-toy (that I had made) and a lotus for my still life. The overarching theme was Time, I chose the soft toy to represent youth and the lotus to represent ageing. The exercise consisted of two parts, an interior still life (as mentioned above) and an exterior setting depicting the changing light. For the exterior exercise I chose our mail box as I was focussing on lost love letters delivered decades later whilst musing about how the delay in delivery might have affected the lives involved. Time, such a fragile thing isn’t it? Lost time, like lost letters, being most tragic of all.

In the exterior painting I wanted to attempt abstraction and quite liked how it turned out, especially the play of light and shadow as the nearby tree cast its shadows against the mail box. The style that I was playing with in both paintings is Fauve Expressionism, whereas I will be attempting classical realism in the reinterpretation of this exercise over the next few weeks. As I prepare for the start of the next unit I am spending time reconsidering this exercise and how I might approach it next.

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Untitled. 2017. Oil paint on canvas. 50x50cm. 

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Untitled. 2017. Oil paint on canvas. 50x50cm. 

Shaun Tan – Featured Artist

Australian artist Shaun Tan’s landscape painting created from objects found at the site.

Behind Lace

A few weeks ago I was working on an art project that involved subverting an architectural structure in a way that changes its original meaning. The building I focussed on was an old Victorian theatre (built in 1876) which I decided to conceal behind lace. The concept and how I came to deciding on my idea of subversion is drawn-out, so I won’t go into detail, but I took clues from the Victorian era (hence the lace) as well as from the original purpose of the building (to entertain) which I turned around into something hidden from view rather than exposed. This idea was informed by the decayed and neglected condition that the building is in now.

Whilst on site I took many photographs and spent hours absorbing the frayed and forgotten energies of the place; I discovered and observed cracks and holes in walls floors and other surfaces that became ‘peep holes’ through which I could see glimpses of its history. This eventually developed into a theme of concealment through which to subvert the historical meaning of the building.

I might write more in a later post on the different stages of my process, but for now here is one of the outcomes; homage to what was once a vibrant architectural structure built to entertain thousands of people in an age gone by. An old theatre that now echoes silence; forgotten and hidden from view amongst the dust and debris.


‘Loving Vincent’ a Review

If you haven’t yet seen the award-winning film Loving Vincent I’d highly recommend that you do. Not only because it is about the life and death of one of the world’s most beloved artists – Vincent Van Gogh – but because of its unique production. It is the world’s first fully painted feature film using oils on canvas. The storyline was derived from more than 800 letters written between Vincent and his brother Theo.

Loving Vincent is a biographical animated drama about the life of Vincent Van Gogh, but more specifically about the circumstances surrounding his death. Comprising of 65,000 frames, each one is an oil painting recreated in the same style and technique as Van Gogh’s; the animation bringing to life each painting. The project includes the work of 125 painters, hand-picked from 5,000 applicants, who worked for five months to painstakingly paint each of the 65,000 paintings. The attention to detail is astonishing as every brush stroke counts when the paintings are blown up for the big screen.

All the characters in the film are based on characters that Van Gogh had painted throughout his lifetime, each painted scene in the film is based on live action, the cast was purposefully chosen to resemble his portraits. For the film production the actors were filmed on a green screen, these actions were then turned into black outlines and projected onto the artists boards. They painted in the full scene using Van Gogh pictures and references to inform them. Each completed painting was then photographed after which all the paintings in a scene were edited together to create a sequence, each painting being screened for a 12th of a second.

I left the film feeling sad for Van Gogh because of his obsession to be an artist yet he was not appreciated during his lifetime. I wonder how valued he might have felt if he could have known how many artists would have laboured to make this film. The results of which are breathtaking.

How do you paint 65,000 pictures like Van Gogh?
BBC’s piece about Loving Vincent, the world’s first fully painted feature film. 
Loving Vincent: The Paintings


Artist’s Quote

If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint', then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

Artist’s Quote

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.

Review: Interview with Doreen Garner

I came across an artist interview in BOMB Magazine online called Memory and Ritual: An interview with Doreen Garner by Forrest Muelrath, confronting the legacy of J. Marion Sims, the father of modern gynaecology. It concerns medical Apartheid, the medial abuse of African American women by a white male doctor. Sims has been exposed by “historical accounts of the brutality involved in the development of his surgical techniques and his racism against black people (Muelrath 2017).” The artist reconstructs severed limbs from prosthetics and other materials that informs her process and supports her conceptual premise. The Sims statue in Central Park, currently surrounded by police barricades and protestors, is the subject of Garner’s November 30th 2017 performance in which she addresses the exploitation of black people.

Her discussion of glass as a medium is insightful, argued to be very flesh-like in its molten form, rigor mortis being simulated as the glass cools and hardens.

The performance exhibition includes a surgical procedure, a vesicovaginal fistulas closure, by black women surgeons on an effigy of Sims, simulating a degrading and painful procedure performed on black women without anaesthesia.

This harrowing and emotional exhibition centres around exposure of a sadist who received acclaim as a white male doctor at the expense of many black female patients. Rather than memorialising him the artist is exposing him for many cruel and degrading procedures he performed that people are unaware of.

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Muelrath, F. 2017. Memory and Ritual: “An Interview with Doreen Garner by Forrest Muelrath.” BOMB Magazine. Archive Issues.

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