Practical Exercise 3 – Recreation of Sketchbook Scenes


Cardboard boxes
Acrylic paint – white, black
Wooden clothes pegs
Photos – using digital camera
Children’s toys


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As part of this project I want to recreate scenes in my childhood sketchbook. This is part of an exploration of a broader theme of ageing and the impact of that on individuals and family.

Within the sketchbook are several drawings which I particularly like, one of which is a sketch of a skyscraper complete with chimney. Looking back, I have no idea why the skyscraper would have appealed to me but the addition of the chimney, which appears in drawings of different ‘buildings’ (including a toadstool) is less mysterious as we have always had a coal fire in the family home. A coal fire brings back memories of coming home on cold winter nights, making toast using the toasting fork, even, occasionally, using it to boil pans of water when there was a period of prolonged power cuts.


For this module I have been researching the work of Ian Kiaer and Joel Shapiro.

Images of Kiaer’s exhibitions often show what appear to be a random selection of objects scattered across gallery floors and walls. Initially, I struggled to make sense of this but, as I was thinking about how I could recreate scenes from my childhood sketchbook, I began to connect with Kiaer’s work a little more and I could see that aspects of his work could help with the interpretation of these drawings.

  • Using found materials – his work uses a wide range of found materials including plastic bags, textiles, kitchen stools, Styrofoam, chairs, fan heaters and canvases.
  • Playing with scale –some of Kiaer’s installations are influenced by architectural models and he uses small-scale models to influence the relationship between the viewer of his work in the gallery and the objects they view.
  • Association of objects – Kiaer often uses references from the past and present to create what can, at first, seem to be quite random associations and uses these to create small tableaus within a gallery which have an intellectual as well as physical association.

Through research into Kiaer’s work I came upon a reference to Joel Shapiro and the small cast-iron houses that he created in the 1970s. The small-scale houses – and sculptures of other objects such as a chair – were intended to be metaphorical and to spark viewer’s memories, creating an emotional response. In their scale and lack of decoration these small objects were stripped back allowing, even inviting, the viewer to bring their own memories and feelings into play.

In recreating scenes from the sketchbook, I want to work with some of these ideas, in essence

  • Using found materials and items from the family home
  • Thinking about the arrangement of each ‘scene’ and its relationship with the viewer e.g. the associations between particular objects, how the scene is physically presented and the scale of items in relation to the viewer.

Session 1

Model painted

Model painted

For the first part of the project I created the skyscraper using an old cardboard box and acrylic paint. I tried to be faithful to the original drawing and replicate the shape of the building and detail of windows and door.

Peg dolls

Peg dolls

From wooden clothes pegs I created peg dolls to represent the figures standing outside the building. Looking at this photo reminded me of notes that I had taken at an exhibition of work by Francisco Leiro, where the shadows of the sculptures were an important part of the staging of the exhibits.

Session 2

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For the next session I created two scenes in the garden of the family home. Initially, I used the skyscraper model and the clothes peg figures to recreate the drawing.

I wanted to play a little with the relationship of the objects in the scene and used a doll, small wooden table and miniature tea set which were among some of the items we had rediscovered while clearing the family home.

Using combinations of the cardboard model, doll, table and tea set I took a number of images. I wanted to try taking these in the style of old family photographs so, while taken with a digital camera, I used filters while editing them to create black and white and ‘toy camera’ effects.

I also recreated the picnic scene from the sketchbook. For this I wanted to keep it very simple using only a tablecloth, plastic plates, a plastic tumbler and straw all of which, from memory, were components of childhood picnics. I was less concerned here with a realistic picnic scene. I wanted to be faithful to the original drawing with its aerial viewpoint so these were photographed from a bedroom window. My aim was to take images which would allow me to explore ideas for the composition of a painting of the scene.


Technical and visual skills and quality of outcome – My intention with this exercise was to work outside my comfort zone. In line with the brief for this part of the course, that of working outside the traditional studio environment, I wanted to create work outdoors and to use this to inform other exercises within this part of the course.

My aim has not been to recreate complicated replicas of the drawings but to stay faithful to the child-like quality of the sketches and to use found materials and items from the family home to set the scenes. Even with the photographs my aim has been to take quick snap style images, reminiscent of the family album, rather than artfully arranged photos.

I hoped that working in this way would help to generate ideas that could be developed into paintings related to the drawings and to the recreated scenes. To that extent the exercise has been successful as I now have a lot of ideas that could be developed moving forward.

Demonstration of creativity and context – Creating even basic models and taking the photos in a deliberately lo-tech style has made me think in different ways about scale, the consideration of physical location, the use of found materials and the effect of lighting.

Initially, I was uncertain about the work of Ian Kiaer but, once I started to think about his ideas in relation to my own childhood memories and associations, I began to have a better understanding of the thinking behind it. The work of Franciso Leiro, and the impact of lighting on how a work is viewed is something else that I would like to consider further.

Notes for Studio Practice

  • Review photos and consider options for developing paintings related to this theme.
  • For paintings think about scale – the size of the painting itself and the size of elements within it – consider approach of aboriginal artists. Practical Exercise 4 shows work related to this.
  • Think about narrative scenes in the paintings/installations. Starting point was childhood memories but has this process shown other options?

Related Posts

Practical Exercise 4 – Artwork – Picnic –

Things That You Find in the Long Grass –

Ian Kiaer and Joel Shapiro – Research Notes –

Leiro –