2.2 Investigating a process

Key words from the brief:

  • Place the focus of your investigation onto the physical properties of materials, how they can be used and combined
  • How you can use your sketchbooks as ‘micro-studies’ to develop and record your research
  • Choose a set of materials (ink / charcoal / paint / pencil etc.) or a particular process/set of processes (collage / stencil / doodling / layering etc.)
  • Isolate some sections in your sketchbook of four pages minimum to act as ‘chapters’
  • Investigate how your chosen materials and/or processes work, how they can be used and what range of effects can be produced
  • What you choose to depict within these studies is totally open
  • Each ‘chapter’ should stand alone as an individual study


The materials and processes I investigated included:

  • Liquid watercolour
  • Indian ink
  • Sharpies
  • Gouache
  • Layering and masking
  • Mark making
  • Collage

All the experimentation was done in an A2 sketchbook

What I did

Watercolour brushes

I’ve used Ecoline liquid watercolour paints since discovering them through doing research into the working practices of comic artist Palle Schmidt. I love the quality of the paint and how easy it is to work with. Ecoline have produced a set of brush pens that use the same paint and my objective in this part of the exercise was to investigate the qualities of these pens before trying them out ‘in the field’.

Investigating process sketchbook01
Simple colour swatch to explore how the Ecoline brush pens thin with water and how they mix.
Investigating process sketchbook08
Left hand page: Colour swatch of Ecoline Brush Pens and Inktense ink pencils. Right hand page: An experiment using the brush pens on a drawing

Here are my first tentative attempts at using the Ecoline Brush Pens on location. Note that at the time I hadn’t received the flesh tone pen set so being constrained by the number of pens I could fit into a jacket pocket, I limited myself to some grey tones.

Layering and masking

As part of my Lucy Austin research I discovered masking fluid which is what she uses to help create her multi-layered paintings. Masking is a technique that I explored during Printmaking 1, and is standard part of the printmakers toolkit. I’d never explored using this as a painting technique.

Coupled with this I wanted to more systematically explore the qualities of Ecoline liquid watercolour.

I created four pages in an A2 sketchbook.

Investigating process sketchbook02
Left hand page: Shows use of layering and masking. Right hand page: Is a grid to test how each colour layers on top of the other colours
Investigating process sketchbook03
Right hand page: Shows thumbnail colour layouts and the effect of layering a wash of watercolour onto Indian ink. Left hand page: Is a development of the Limited Line Drawings Christmas baubles sketch recreated using masking and layering

Marks and textures

Dip pen, Indian Ink and Sharpies are my drawing implements of choice. In this section I wanted to explore extending my repertoire of marks when using these tools.

I was introduced to test strips during Printmaking 1 as a way to explore the range of different cuts and marks that can be achieved working with lino printing. I decided to use the same approach for working with my different pens.

Investigating process sketchbook07
Left hand page: Different sized Sharpie pens. Right hand page: Dip pen and Indian ink using three different sized nibs
Investigating process sketchbook06
Both pages were created using different sized brushes and Indian ink


The objective of the final test images was to explore the qualities of collage and how I might incorporate this together with learnings from my previous experiments.

I’d done some experimentation with collage during Printmaking 1 and come across the work of Lucy Jones, an Edinburgh based artist who creates images of Edinburgh architecture using collage and a number of other techniques.

I wanted to explore some of the techniques used by Lucy Jones in combination with my own.

The images that I worked up were based on commuter sketches that I’d drawn the previous week in an A5 sketchbook.

Investigating process sketchbook05
Left hand page: Has a photocopy of the original commuter sketch and prints of Lucy Jones’s collages. Right hand page: Uses collage (newspaper cuttings and coloured paper), Indian ink, Shapies, liquid watercolour, Posca pan and masking fluid




The second experiment built on lessons from the first.

Investigating process sketchbook04
Techniques and media used on both pages include: collage (newspaper cuttings and coloured papers), Sharpies and Posca pens


What went well

  • I really enjoyed doing this exercise because it pushed some of the materials I’m familiar with in new directions.
  • My Lucy Austin research played directly into the layering and masking experiment.
  • The last collage experiments have something about them that is worth developing. I had Exercise 2.5 Drawing with objects in mind when I chose to incorporate found objects (pages from the Metro newspaper) into the collaged image. So I’m pretty sure I’ll push this experiment further during later exercises.

What I would differently/better

  • Working with Indian ink was a very stop/start process that interrupted my flow of work; this was particularly true when working with a heavy application of ink.
  • The drawing wasn’t very accurate but this wasn’t one of the objectives of the exercise so I didn’t spend time or effort on this aspect of the pictures.
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