Part 5: Sketchbook 3 – Markings for disguise, distortion, and translucent techniques

In continuation of my search for subject, markings, and techniques, I did studies on figurative drawing (portrait, face) in my sketchbook.

My goals were to understand:

  • the techniques for working with powders, pigment and scalpel
  • how to work translucent
  • techniques of collage and dé-collage related to distortion and disguise (paper, tissue)
  • context: approaches of a few artists (see my visual research)

A4 sketchbook – indoor figurative: variations mixed media









It was quite an endeavour to study a portrait and facial features in the context of disguise, distortion, and simplification. My earlier visual research helped me to understand different angles. However, I have the feeling that I should dig deeper to understand certain features and varieties of markings in combination better.

What marks are more successful?

  • Looking at disguise:
    – layering with tissue or paper (# 2, 6, 16)
    – through different layers (translucent) and markings the effect of disguise can be manipulated. Although too dark markings on the top layer can destroy the effect.
  • Looking at distortion:
    – tearing-off, scrapping-off glued paper layers (dé-collage). By this edges of the glued paper become a dominant edge depending on the amount much markings I put on top (#2, 5, 7, 8). Using japanese paper makes it easier to tear-off.
  • Looking at translucent techniques:
    – layers with transfer paper (#13, 18, 20b, 21b) and/or japanese paper. Transfer paper is more difficult to manage (keep it flat). Although pretty translucent per se. Japanese paper is easier but less translucent.
    – baby wipes are quite a dense material, it works better to disguise  (#6, 16)
  • Looking at ambiguity:
    – use of wrinkled paper for variety in markings (#8, 21)
    – scribbling marks alongside sharp edges and disappearing edges (#7,8, 12, 18)
    – drawing in a reverse mark system (white on black) can create a concealing space
  • Looking at visual effects & atmosphere:
    – a water repellent shellac under layer makes wet marks more drop-shape like (#16)
    – using a broad brush with gouache creates atmosphere and directional brush markings (#20)
    – marking on top of a wrinkled paper creates texture as well as ambiguous marks (#8, 21)

Overall I think the following sketches are more successful, either in its simplicity or ambiguity:
#2: simplicity of scratched marks
#8: ambiguity of edges
#12: simplicity for form perception, ambiguity of markings
#13: atmosphere through translucency of ground and top markings
#16: ambiguity and simplicity
#18: simplicity in sense of form and layering (although the top marks are too heavy)
#20: atmosphere and ambiguity of markings
#21b: translucent and ambiguous markings (although the top transfer paper need to be glued close to the drawing)

What marks are more less successful?

  • Overwork with pigment, gum Arabic and scalpel
    – just a dirty grey something (#3, 4)
  • Not ambiguous markings with enough distinction (# 4,5,14)
  • More attention to sharp and blurred edges (#11)

Next time:

  • More attention to ambiguous markings in relation to translucent techniques. Be careful in layering techniques and amount of markings in order to obtain a desired effect.
  • Try other translucent techniques without collage (e.g. white gouache washes as I did in previous parts)
  • Increase bodily awareness while drawing
  • Facial texture as a tactile approach (see project in Maslen, Southern, 2011)
  • Re thinking translucent techniques in combination with powders with focus on simplicity


  • Maslen,M., Southern, J. (2011) ‘The Drawing Projects: An Exploration of the Language of Drawing‘ London: Black Dog Publishing

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