Project 2: Visual Research – Exercise 2.1 Identity/labels – line drawing

This exercise is all about exploring identity using different forms of visual research.

I was asked to find an image of Everything in My Bag #28 by Elise Engler – this artist literally drew or sketched everything in her bag and was part of a series of 65 drawings that she did of the contents of women’s handbags.  I confess to being amazed at the patience or commitment that Elise Engler demonstrated in this project and this has carried through to many other projects she had done both before or since – yes this is her style but I am still amazed at her perseverance!

For the exercise I had to use the contents from my handbag – interesting considering I rarely carry one!  Although I love bags and only use ones I have made myself I do not have a regular bag or regular contents other than car keys, phone, wallet and notebook and pen plus a small hairbrush so this meant me going through other bags to find items stashed in them for days when I have taken items with me.

The first exercise involved continuous line drawing …. okay yeah this will be easy she said laughing – famous last words here!!  When trying to focus on the object itself and keep the pen on the paper without retracing lines started or correct any lines it is far more difficult than it initially sounded – downright infuriating comes to mind!!

My first chosen object was a small circular hairbrush which promptly got dismissed in favour of my car key.

Initially I started by trying to focus on the drawing and the object at the same time to try and get a level of accuracy – after a couple of initial tries.

The next two pages however I felt I had started to really get the hang of it and was more confident in solely concentrating on the key rather than the drawing – I want to try and effectively blind draw the key with looking at the paper as little as was possible.  I admit my peripheral vision almost became a distraction because despite trying to look purely at the key I was aware I was partially looking at the lines I was sketching in order to keep a sense of order and sense of what the object actually was.

I changed my object to a simple lip-salve and found it actually more difficult to work in this continuous line drawing technique – the shape was simpler but I want to get in some of the details on the tube with the continuous line.

My attempts are I feel semi-successful and I realised I had to relax and just let the line almost draw itself.  Usually I like working with smaller sketches but I automatically felt the larger size worked better and found trying to sketch a reduced scale just did not happen.

I tried changing my views of the lip-salve in order to gain differing perspectives as well as creating a differing series of line drawings.

I do understand the technique and there are some interesting shapes and lines produced which could potentially be taken forward in a design – this is something I feel I can add to my repertoire of drawing techniques but how much I will use it at this stage I am not honestly sure … I think it depends on my patience as I never did find it got any easier than my first impression!!

As a final note on this part of the exercise the pink felt tip pen that can be seen in the above photo is from the next drawing on the following page – I quite like the image combined with the lines of the lip-salves as it gives almost an underlying image that could be played with and experimented with in a different way in a future exercise.

The next part of the exercise involved choosing another item from my handbag and so I chose my front door key with the 3 different key rings attached.

The course instructions were to draw about the object in felt tip pen before moving it and drawing around it again in a different colour and then repeating one last time to create a 3 layered image.

I much preferred this technique although my mistake was to use a thick Sharpie pen for the first layer before using fine liners for the subsequent 2 layers – the Sharpie pen bled through to the other side of the paper and disrupted the previous part of the exercise although I also like the effect produced as mentioned above.  However I do like the 3 layer image that was produced with the variety of differing shapes produced that almost seem to be a shadow or moving impression of one another.

I did do a second version of this 3 layer image but this time just using my MP3 player – a simpler shape than the complexity of the key and key rings but nonetheless I feel it is relatively successful.  I can see the possibility of future development of both images and can certainly see how I could use this technique with regards to developing design ideas.

For the final part of the exercise I was required to find at least 10 objects and place them on a piece of A1 or A2 paper in an order of my choice before drawing around them all individually and then adding blocks of colour if wished.

I chose to group my objects with regards to shape or size before adding simple watercolour washes to my sketches.

As said above I do not carry very much in my handbag on a day to day level and so had to do a little scrabbling through other bags for enough items!  I am happy with the outcome on this A2 sheet and also now understand the level of work Elise Engler undertook as well as perhaps why she took on her project – it is interesting to look at the objects in my bag as a direct source of inspiration and ideas.


This group of exercises has proved to be interesting to do as it has, as I have stated above, made me look at the items in my bag/s from a different viewpoint and with the potential for new creative ideas.

Elise Engler’s work is very much documentary in nature and one of her projects was to draw or paint everything in her own bag and that of other women.  Many of the objects the artist has drawn are different sizes but she has reduced or increased their scales so that they are in proportion to one another and has also grouped objects together. Elise Engler has included more detail in her individual sketches despite the sizes being changed and this gives a hint of realism – the viewer knows precisely what each object is and the scale becomes irrelevant.

The first exercise is one I do understand the point of – ok I do not fully understand it in truth other than the fact it taught me to work with continuous line drawing and I forced myself to attempt to look purely at the object rather than the paper with varying amounts of success and this in itself made it an interesting exercise.  The other two exercises I found I understood much more and feel there are some valid lessons learnt here – the exercise with the 3 outlined layers has scope for further design potential as I really liked the new shapes and patterns that have emerged.  The final exercise has really made me look at the items I own not just as material objects in a very commercial world but as individually designed items that have creative design potential when drawn in a linear way or when blocks of colour are added.

The drawings are beginning to show my personality – the objects speak of who I am with the fact that I do not like to carry many items on a daily level.  There are certain objects I like to know where they are – my keys, my phone and camera for instance and these were important to me that they were in the sketches as I always have them with me irregardless of whether I in fact carry a bag.  I think the final sketch of all the items is the most successful because the use of colour – the paper is not watercolour paper and I like the way it has dried creating areas of light and dark tones.  I also feel that that final sketch is the one that gives an insight to who I am – the others are merely line drawings of singular objects that could be carried by any person but the final image has more personal items such as my mirror and a handbag hook along with my folding hairbrush (the three round items in the top right) as well as my inhaler which I should carry far more than I actually do!

My drawings and sketches relates to Elise Engler’s work by the very fact that these are items from my bag/s and in particular the last sketch is of a documentary nature – the artist has shown her personality and the personality of the women whose bags she also documented and now by trying this exercise I have done likewise.  Documentary drawings like this may seem mundane but they have their uses – mundane details of lives, cities, landscapes etc that you may otherwise not notice may well be the most important details of a sketch or painting or simply for the person’s life and many great artists have focused on the mundane.


Elise Engler.  1996-2017.  Other List Drawings [online].  [Date Accessed:  14 March 2017].  Available from:

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