Choosing Content

(Part 2/Ideas/Choosing content)

Exercise – Choosing Content

If this were to be made into a film, I envisage the main character would be tall with a slight stoop, around fifty with greying failing hair. His complexion would  be sallow the rather more lines than might be expected at fifty on his clean-shaven face .He would be a rather diminished ‘well-built’ man, not overweight but verging on the portly. His face would not easily smile and his fists would clench erratically from time to time.

He would wear a dark suit, ageing but well-looked after. There is a button missing from his right cuff although it does not seem to bother him. His shirt would have been white but now it has a hint of grey although it too is well-maintained and has been ironed. His tie is plain maroon, cleanish, tied neatly but a little too slack at the neck showing the top button of his shirt which has been reattached carefully at some point. Over his shirt he wears a maroon  sweater, bought, not handknitted but with a couple of almost invisible mends just above the waist ribbing.

His shoes are traditional men’s brown brogues, well-worn but polished clean and covering thick grey socks.

The room is stark with a plain brown lino-covered floor and well-worn mat in the centre. The mat may have had colour at one time but is not a greyish shade. There is a single light not quite big enough for the room. It hangs inside an inverted glass bowl where several flies have expired.

The large desk of dark oak is central with a large Georgian window on the two sides overlooking the street.

There is a wooden captains chair behind the desk with a thin, worn red cushion on it. A second, similar chair stands in front of the desk and a further two plain wooden dining chairs stand with their backs to the wall beside on of the windows.

The walls lack any kind of lustre having had a coat of pale green distemper many years ago. This does not hide the fine filigree of cracks in the plaster which has fallen from the wall in a neat round shape where the door knob  catches it when thrown open.

There is a plain dark bookcase rising to waist height and full of books. A further bookcase almost up to the ceiling is full with mottled grey box files with faded labels. A two-drawer filing cabinet of shiny grey steel sits beneath the window on top of which sits a typewriter semi-hidden by a cloth cover.

A traditional bent-wood coat and hat stand lurks near the doorway looking as if it may leave the room anytime.


This is a 1920’s basic oak desk of the exact type I envisaged for the office room.



These are examples of 1930’s filing cabinets. Brass handles were very much de rigeur even on utility pieces.


My chosen word to describe the mood of this piece is STARK

Stark – adjective
empty, simple, or obvious, especially without decoration or anything that is not necessary:
It was a stark room with a bed and chair as the only furniture.
The stark reality is that we are operating at a huge loss.
In the suburbs the spacious houses stand in stark (= extreme) contrast to the slums of the city’s poor.
severe (PLAIN) often disapproving
Plain and ordinary

completely or extremely:
The children were splashing in the river, stark naked.
If I didn’t exercise, I think I’d go raving mad (UK also stark staring mad) from sitting at a desk all day.

empty or without decoration:
stark white walls

Stark also means completely clear:
The dim halls made a stark contrast with the bright, sun-drenched apartment.



The Mood board above  relates to the word I have chosen – STARK. All is bleak in the text excerpt. I see a greyness all pervading with almost monochrome colours. The items I have chosen for my mood board all have a grimness to them. They are plain, undecorated, basic, utility. Even the book has a plain grey back cloth. There is nothing cheerful about it as in the text.

Textures are largely ‘uninteresting, smooth, bland, serviceable, non-reflective.

I selected a grey background for the board to establish the starkness of the concept. It is a joyless board.

My Portrait

I decided to situate the portrait of the detective in his own surroundings as described in the text. I thought this would better enhance the feeling for him and the mood of the piece.

I did a simple outline pencil sketch first then considered what to do next to achieve the required mood. Thinking back to the mark-making project and the previous exercise on monochrome, I decided that black and white would be most appropriate, it would also have echoes of sketches from that period which were rarely coloured.

I chose charcoal and chalk which I don’t particularly like using but it seemed suitable. It took a while to create the finished effect I was looking for. Having finished it I used the computer to see if I could improve the effect of the image i.e. to make it even mull STARK or bleak.

I then re-read the text and noticed I had omitted to set the man’s arms behind him as they were described.

I decided to try again using a different approach. I did a line drawing of the figure then drew where the light from the window would touch him. I then coloured the rest of the figure with a black felt-tip pen. Then I cut out the figure and put it on different background to see what the effect would be.

What I really wanted to do was lose the part of the figure which was in shade altogether. I used the computer to eliminate a bright green background and replaced it with the navy blue (Black felt-tip!?) Colour. I achieved the effect I was wanting and am pleased with it although I am not sure the man looks as if his hands are behind his back.




Initial pencil line drawing

The pencil drawing is copied on to yellow pastel paper with a slightly textured surface

Above the drawing has been coloured in with charcoal and chalk

The charcoal shading is modified and darkened in places. Refined.

The shadow of the man on the desk was missing. Here it has been added carefully so the light lines are not spoiled.

The sketch is transferred to the computer and displayed in black and white.

Here the existing colour has been left but the contrast has been changed on the computer.
The yellow background is more effective.

Finally, on the computer, the sketch has been posterised to see if the effect is more or less STARK.
I think the word GRIM is probably more appropriate here. The yellow background is good.

Pencil line portrait drawing 2 shows the detective standing with his arms  clasped behind him

The part of the man which is in shade has been coloured in with a large black felt-tip pen. It looks navy-blue,

The figure, having been coloured is now cut out with scissors and placed on a grey background to see the effect.

This is the figure placed on a black background. Unfortunately light from my window has rendered it too ‘grey’

I placed the cut out figure on a bright green background so it would be easier to cut out the black and the white on the computer.

This is the effect I was looking for. On the computer I matched the ink colour to the background and made everything except the white ‘disappear’.

I noticed the figure on navy-blue had slipped and was too upright – he needs to be leaning forward. I changed that on the computer and then made the blue into black to achieved the effect I had envisaged in the first place and echoing the previous ‘black and white’ section.