Practical Exercise 4 – Anxieties and Fears – Oil Pastel


  • A3 drawing paper
  • Oil pastels


In this exercise, I wanted to explore the anxiety and fear that I have seen when elderly relatives have had to adjust to limitations to their lifestyle based on getting older. The subject matter is based on a dream that my mother had shortly after moving into a care home, when she was contending with a new environment and having to interact with people who were strangers to her. In the dream she found a mechanical doll in her bedroom. The doll was plugged into a socket in the wall and was hot and glowing.

I wanted to try and convey the sense of anxiety and unease that she felt about the dream. In researching for this I looked at the work of Shani Rhys James and Mona Hatoum as both, in different ways, have created work which is unsettling and makes the viewer question not just what they are seeing but themselves.

I also researched vintage dolls and, more specifically, mechanical dolls. In doing so I came across Japanese Tea Serving dolls which seemed to come close to the way I had imagined the doll in the dream.

Session 1

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Initially I worked with images of the Tea Serving dolls, amalgamating them with the features of other vintage dolls. I worked this in to a larger sketch to try and create the figure of the mechanical doll.

Sketches for mechanical doll

Session 2

Oil pastel of mechanical doll

In the next session I used oil pastels to try out colours and to play with the texture of the surface. While the Tea Serving doll is made of wood I was aiming for a look that was more metallic given the original description of the doll as being hot and glowing.

Session 3

Finally, I worked on thumbnail sketches to try out options for compositions that could be more fully developed.

Thumbnail sketches – ideas for composition

On Reflection

  •  I feel there is potential with some of the composition options to create a more developed piece of work.
  • In doing so I would like to focus on ways to create a sense of anxiety and unease including the colours used and the relationship of the figure in the bed with the mechanical doll.

Related Posts

Practical Exercise 4 – Anxieties and Fears – Acrylic –

Shani Rhys James – Research Notes –

Mona Hatoum – Research Notes –