Note to self. Stop thinking and analysing. Get on with scribbling, splashing, experimenting and enjoying yourself. (Do a bit more thinking as you go along).
I had a hangout with my tutor to discuss Assignment 4. I also received this written note of our discussions. Tutor Feedback Assignment 4 Janet Davies
As well as discussing my work it as also useful to discuss the timing of the submission of Assignment 5 and which degree pathway I should pursue. I was urged not to rush Assignment 5 for the November formal assessment, which I thought over and agreed. I will now be aiming for March formal assessment. I am also in discussion with “the office” at OCA as to whether I should switch to the Fine Arts degree pathway from Painting.
Reflection on tutor feedback
I was a little deflated by the feedback. I had reflected that I had struggled with the creative element of Part 4 as I was concentrating on getting form and line right. But it seems I didn’t do well on that either.
I had to submit work physically for this tutor assessment, but I am now unsure as to what I should have submitted. The guidance said to send the two large drawings, portrait and preliminary studies (which I did) and a “sample of your research for this assignment…”. So I sent two life portrait pieces, a moving figures sketch, one of my self portraits, which I received mainly positive comments on. I also sent 2 of my sketchbooks.
I was therefore confused by my tutor’s statement that “there was very little life drawing or quick sketches of the figure”. I had completed all the drawings for the exercises, often completing more than one sketch for each exercise. In total I had drawn around 30 sketches and studies, but I didn’t do them in my sketchbook. I also didn’t blog all the warm-up exercises that I did at life drawing sessions as I thought that would be repetitious. I can only assume that my tutor hadn’t looked at these on my blog, or that more than 30 are expected. Still, I am not going to labour on this as I don’t consider any of my life drawing work is good enough for formal assessment.
I had positive comments about my learning log which I will build on. I am urged to continue to develop less conventional approaches to my drawing “that allows the materials to inform the outcome” because of my weak observational skills. I do like using different materials and approaches, but I do think I have reasonable observational skills and I want to work on those too. I intend to continue with life drawing classes as I can see that I have improved over this last few months and I enjoy the challenge. However experimental I get I do want my work to be under-pinned by good observational drawing.
One other thing we discussed, which isn’t reflected in the feedback note, is avoiding over-working. Knowing when a drawing is finished is difficult for everyone I know, even professional artists. I think this happens most when I am experimenting, and to a certain extent this is unavoidable when learning (reminder to self you are still learning.) Linked to this is leaving space on the page. I have successfully been cropping images to good effect, but I don’t need to cram everything in, even within an image areas can be unclear or ambiguous. I like David Shrigley’s view about his “deliberately crude and childlike” drawings: “that hold just enough information for their message to be recognisable” (Stout, 2014:67). He says “I suppose holding back information acts like a catalyst. Sometimes you only have to say a certain amount and it captures the imagination of people. If you need to describe everything, tell the story in full, then you’re probably not telling it vey well.” (Ibid.)
I will look at the artists suggested. David Hockney I know very well, and I have already studied the work of Julie Mehretu and William Kentridge (but always worth going back to). I will look further at the work of Luc Tuymans, Paul Noble, Dryden Goodwin, Kate Atkin and Gemma Anderson. The Rabley Drawing Centre does look interesting too.
Self-assessment against assessment criteria: August 2017
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills
I had done some life model drawing before but Part four on the figure and the head really made me focus on observation. I valued the exercises looking at proportion, form and structure which helped with the accuracy of my drawings. To some extent, particularly in life classes, this meant that I didn’t experiment too much with materials and techniques as I was concentrating on accuracy. Blind drawing was a new experience that I learned a great deal from and which I also used to an extent in drawing moving figures. Drawing with my left hand was also surprisingly effective. I am keen to continue with life drawing classes as I can see that with practise I will be able to be more expressive and experimental as my confidence with the basics grows.
Quality of outcome
Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment
These comments are unchanged from Assignment 3. I have reviewed them and they are still relevant.
I am increasingly aiming to draw subjects which provide me with a narrative so that I am engaged with the work. I think this is leading to better outcomes. When I look at other artists work I aim to analyse how I might use their technique, composition or approach in my work. I am now also aiming to consider conceptual issues matters in my work.
I am continuing to working in a way that helps me step back from my work to gain distance and perspective. I find that working on more than one piece at a time allows time for reflection and better decision making on whether a piece is “finished” or needs more work. However, I am aware that I need to guard against over-working or over-analysing a piece of work.
Demonstration of creativity
Imagination, experimentation, invention, personal voice
Although, as I said above, I did not experiment a great deal in life drawing classes I have continued to try out new materials and approaches in my sketchbooks and other exercises. This includes using: masking tape; coloured carbon paper; acrylic and gouache; temporary drawings (admittedly by accident); digital manipulation of photographs; collage; transfers (two methods) and mono-print.
I think that my personal voice is starting to emerge in the way I think about my subject matter. One of the themes that came out strongly for me in Part 4 was about communication and connections. I am beginning to understand that my “voice” is more about what I want to say, rather than the technical aspects of how I say it – though the latter is not unimportant.
Reflection, research (learning logs)
I regularly attend exhibitions, and have aimed to see more contemporary art such as the BP portrait awards and the Graphic Witness exhibition. It was exciting and revealing to be able to talk to one of the artists at the latter exhibition to get his views on his work and process. I continue to aim to translate what I see at exhibitions, and what I read in books, into meaning for my own art practice – both from a technical point of view (mark-making; techniques; composition) and conceptually.
I am starting to think about my work in a more conceptual way, in particular my self-portraits and the use of masks and what they may say about identity and recognition. I had originally thought I might undertake the Painting degree pathway but I am now thinking I might pursue Fine Art as I find reading about the context and culture of contemporary art stimulating. I don’t want to slow down on the practical side though as I really feel I am only just starting to gain confidence and some competence. I will be discussing this with my tutor.
I continue to have excellent library facilities at Morley College and the (recently discovered by me) Drawing Room, of which I make good use. Although the internet is a useful source of information I am keen to have broader sources of information for my research. I access the OCA discussion forum to look at issues and debates across disciplines. The photography section is particularly lively and I find there is a lot of discussion there that has relevance for drawing and art more widely.
Figure study using line (A1) – Seated model in an upright chair
I must admit to having “Assignmentitis” for this exercise. I wasn’t sure whether to use a clothed or unclothed model; what media to use; what background; and the thought of producing something on A1 made me anxious. But I needed to make a start so I went and bought some sheets of A1 paper in black, white and mid-grey.
Review and research
As this study was about using line I went back over my previous work as suggested. My tutor has indicated that I often get better results when using fluid media (ink etc), that in larger pieces I need to a variety of marks (no filling in for the sake of it) and should vary the quality of the line. I have had success using line on a textured/collaged background (Part 2, Exercise 1, and Assignment 3). I have also enjoyed using charcoal and conte on a larger scale when doing life drawing classes.
I looked again at artists I have studied including William Kentridge (perhaps more for the tonal study), Henry Moore (tempting but I wanted a simpler line), Tracey Emin (too scribbly) and Egon Schiele. In particular I sought out further clothed drawings by Schiele and printed off a few for my sketchbook (Fig. 1.) .
I like his flowing and economic use of line, the changing weight of lines (perhaps a different media?) and also the subtle tone he uses for the clothed figure. My doodle in the corner of this page is my practising with charcoal powder – dry and wet.
I decided to use my partner as a clothed model as any life classes would not guarantee that I would get the right pose or length of time to dedicate to this drawing. I wanted to get an unusual angle for the composition so I tried a few different views and photographed them. The ones I thought most interesting were when I was looking down on him as I was standing on a chair. I liked the way that it seemed to increase the intensity of his study of his mobile phone (which he is never off) and I could see that the line across his body to his legs could form a pleasing diagonal for the final drawing. I photo-shopped the drawing to make the lines clearer and gridded it up so I could see ratio and use for scaling up (Fig.2).
I then had to decide how much to crop the image. I wanted to fill the A1 sheet of paper as much as I could, so the temptation was to put all of the image in. But playing around with A4 paper (which is smaller but the same ratio as A1) I decided to crop part of the head and the feet (Fig. 3.).
This also has the benefits of providing some interesting negative spaces between the figure and the edge of the paper. I don’t want to leave the model’s right foot exactly meeting the edge of the page though so will have to adjust for that, but I don’t want to crop that foot as I like the shape. The decision now is whether/how I should fill some of the empty space at the top right-hand side, perhaps introducing a table into the drawing to add interest and balance the composition, or to leave empty to allow the drawing to “breathe”. I like the textured effect on the carpet that digital alteration has revealed.
This texture reminded me of stained glass windows. So when I finished with the scaling up I converted the original photo (Fig. 4). I have practised stained glass effects previously in my sketch book. But I am too nervous to try this out on a larger scale for the assignment.
Testing formats and media
I didn’t want a complicated background for this as I wanted the lines to speak for themselves. But I did experiment with a few different colour backgrounds and media (Fig. 5.). I tested out the composition on a sheet of A5 white paper.
The grey paper (top right) I didn’t like at all as it didn’t show the lines properly. I wasn’t too sure about the white on black. Chalk is effective but the white ink isn’t definite enough, and A1 will be too large to use my fine white ink pen. The orange was chosen as it’s the colour of my partner’s football team. It has some possibilities, particularly if purple used as a contrast, but I am not convinced I could pull it off in A1. I think the colour might be too distracting. Black on white can be bold or delicate depending on the medium used. I was keen to try out black media on larger sheets of white paper (Figs. 6 and 7.).
Both have possibilities but I think the media in Fig. 6. will be more suited to a figure study using line. I can get good sweeping lines of varying thickness with the Tombow, and it is water-soluble so you can get a wash from it. Though I won’t over-do that as this is about line rather than tone.
I will think about using the media in Fig. 5. for the figure study using tone. Again on white paper. Could even dig out my oiled charcoal (thank you Odilon Redon) for some of the darker areas. But that’s another drawing.
This is my final drawing for Assignment 4.1 Seated model in an upright chair (Fig. 8.)
Reflection: The unusual aspect, as I planned, does focus the viewer on to the hands and the phone. Which is why it is a shame that I didn’t execute the hands better. The model’s left hand is OK but I had real problems getting the right hand right so it doesn’t look natural.
I improved the composition and narrative by adding a table and iPad at the top right-hand side. If he’s not on his phone he’s on his Ipad. I think it works OK but it would have been better if I had worked the composition out properly at the start. What I really wanted to do was to draw square. But then that wouldn’t have been A1.
The lines on the clothing are not very well observed. I was trying to be loose with my lines, but they ended up a bit messy. This is always a tricky one for me. It doesn’t help that I was working from a photo. I only had an A4 reference. I tried doing this on a easel but resorted to a table after a bit. I can get more expressive marks when I am stood at an easel and use my whole arm. But I was keen to get this accurate so I scaled up from a photo with faint pencil lines to get the proportions right.
I like the chair seat and leg. It’s a tricky angle but I think he does look like he’s sitting on it.
If I were to do this again I would use brush and ink rather than Tombow pen.
2. Figure study using tone: Reclining model
Sometime just selecting the model and pose is the hardest part. My partner is not the lounging type. Trying to get him to sit down on an upright chair while I took some photos was hard enough. He doesn’t do reclining. But I wanted to do a companion piece for study 1 so I asked him very nicely if he would do some poses on the sofa (yes, the ubiquitous “husband on the sofa” pose). I took a variety of reference photos, but also some quick tonal sketches in my sketchbook (Fig. 9.).
I wanted to ensure this time that I had the composition figured out properly before I started. I thought the most potential was my first sketch, but which I would need to crop further to ensure there was no wasted space and that the figure was the focus. I moved the lamp around to get some good, strong shadows. There were also some good diagonals with the shape of his arms and the angles of the legs. I also welcomed the opportunity to practise foreshortening. It’s the longest my partner has sat down for ages.
I have been practising in my sketchbook, and drawing at the National Portrait Gallery, with graphite pencil, charcoal and graphite. So although this isn’t particularly creative I wanted to try my hand at a drawing on a large scale. I re-visited some of William Kentridge’s drawings, in particular Bird in a Cage, 2005, in which he uses a series of marks and erasings. I printed this out and kept it next to m while I drew.
Again. I scaled up from an A4 photo, but also had my tonal sketch. To be honest, the sketch wasn’t detailed enough, but I think just doing it does give you a better feel for the mood than just a photo alone. I drew main outline in pencil, then rubbed powdered charcoal all over the drawing to break up the white paper. I knew I could add to this with pencil and charcoal and also remove areas with an eraser to bring out highlights. So the charcoal ground acts as the mid-tone. This is the result (Fig. 10.).
I wasn’t optimistic when I started this drawing. I was desperate to find a model and get this done – not the best attitude to have. There is an anti-narrative to the subject as it’s my partner in a non-typical pose – hence the lack of phone for one thing. But as I got into the process of the drawing, particularly the achievement of tone and the foreshortening I started to really engage with the task. I actually got a bit obsessed with the tone. As soon as I made one bit darker then I had to darken somewhere else. In the end I set myself a deadline and stuck to it. As I write this I am still inclined to tweak it but I need to move on and get it posted off to my tutor. I need to make sure I fix it properly too as it is easily smudged – particularly the charcoal.
Overall I am happy that I have achieved a range of tone, the photo doesn’t reflect the tone on the face very well, and I do think there is more work to do there. I am not too sure if I have over-done the tone on the bottom of the feet though. I have caught the highlights around the toes, but perhaps there should be more modelling on the bottom of the feet.
I paid more attention, and simplified, the folds on the clothes this time and I feel this has been successful. The hair, with pencil, charcoal and flicks of a tiny eraser also works well.
The model’s right hand was tricky as it was in a strange position, so I don’t find that convincing. I did move the fingers around quite a bit but it needs more work. The model’s left hand is better, but looks a little large. Also, the drawing technique looks different on the left hand – softer. It was in more shadow and the highlights were more complex but I think it is successful.
The shadow around the model’s body gives a sense of sinking into the sofa. I am also pleased with the texture of the sofa, which I made up to add interest to an otherwise blank area.
There may be a mixture of too many different marks used but I was seeing what would work.
3. Portrait combining line and tone
As I had done exercises on self-portraits I decided to work on a portrait for this exercise. I attended a life drawing sessions with a clothed model. She had a very distinctive and interesting face. She was very upright and had a very slight smile on her face and was looking to her right (my left). I was in a group situation and didn’t have a choice of where to sit so the profile was full on and the lighting diffuse with natural and artificial lighting. Nevertheless I think she has sufficiently interesting features to make a good drawing.
I spent about an hour on the initial pencil drawing (Fig. x.), making sure I had the measurements and relationships right and adding some tone. I believe I have caught the liveliness of her expression in this drawing; her upright posture (she was a dancer and actress before she retired); her hooded eyes; and her asymmetrical bobbed hair which was beautifully styled. I was keen to keep the character of this face into a final drawing.
Light box transfer
As part of the class exercise we were urged to copy the drawing to another sheet of paper using a window as a light box. I was interested to do this as I hadn’t tried it before. So I transferred my original drawing to another sheet of paper. I had rather too much background around my initial drawing ( a common fault of mine) which I did on A2 paper, so I transferred it to A3. This is a useful method as I can use the initial drawing again to make other copies and use different approaches to the final drawing. The only negative side was that you have to use fairly lightweight paper to transfer on to as you need to be able to see through it against the light to the initial drawing. Therefore the paper I used for my final drawing was not ideal, particularly as I went on to use pastels and the paper didn’t really have enough tooth.
I completed the final drawing in two stages. Ideally I would have completed it in the live session, but there was only enough time to add some detail to the pencil drawing so I concentrated on getting some of the hair and skin colours and tone on the face and neck (Fig. xx).
It was suggested that we use pastels, which I have had varying successes using in the past, but I thought I would give it another go. This time I wanted to avoid over-blending and try and keep some lively marks.
I wasn’t able to take a photograph of the model so I completed the drawing at home from memory, and a bit of imagination – particularly the clothing and background which I hadn’t focused on in the live session (Fig. 3.).
I used frottage for the background, for which the thinner paper was ideally suited. I tried to readjust the final drawing to indicate a slight smile which I seem to have lost at stage 1.
Reflection: While I am still not at ease with pastel I feel I have used it fairly well in this drawing. I haven’t over-blended. Compositionally it isn’t very imaginative, but I feel that the character of the face is enough to draw you into the drawing. I have also tried to add some variety to the background and clothing to pull the eye around, but I didn’t want to over-emphasise to detract from the face, which is the main focus of attention. I have used a range of colours for the skin and hair to add depth and I have echoed some of these in the background and clothing to pull the piece together.
Assignment 4: Overall reflection
I have enjoyed life and portrait drawing but feel that I have only scratched the surface of its, and my, potential. It is hard enough to get an accurate likeness, never mind being creative in how you do it, and have a message or mood to put across. Perhaps aiming for all three, at least at my stage of development, is too much. I think that I need to decide if my aim is accuracy, or mood/message. Though I know that my accuracy will improve (has already improved) with practise. I also know from looking at other artists (Giacometti, Schiele) that expression and getting to the essence of the subject is critical. But it’s not easy.
I have received prompt, helpful and specific feedback from my tutor for Assignment 3, some of the exercises, my sketchbook and blog. This was based on accessing my blog without seeing any physical materials.
Overall comments: “You are working hard and continuing to make progress. Some of your project exercises are confident and demonstrate an ability to handle a range of materials. Your final piece is inventive and well executed. Your log and sketchbook continue to positively support your development.”
I do feel I am growing in confidence, particularly with experimenting. I am pleased to have received good comments for this assignment (which I didn’t do for 1 and 2). I did more preparatory work, which helped enormously. I also tried to get away from the idea that the final assignment piece must stand out. It took the pressure off me by thinking it was just another exercise and something I was trying out, instead of something I must get right. I must get used to working on A2 paper more often too. There is something daunting about a larger sheet of paper but if I use that size more often I will get used to it I know.
The biggest surprise for me was the second exercise I did on a townscape using line (the yellow-based pareidolia approach). This started as a casual bit of work that I did in between exercises when I had a few minutes to spare. I did pay attention to composition, colour, variety of mark-making and perspective, but in a playful way. I was genuinely surprised to get such positive feedback: first of all from fellow students; then from my tutor. I need to give more thought on how I can develop this further.
So, going forward I will aim to:
- continue to experiment, but also develop the techniques and approaches I have investigated to date;
- remember to check tonal contrasts;
- work bigger and more expressively;
- follow up on recommended research/reading: Jenny Saville (I have already looked at her work but will refresh this for life drawing); Egon Schiele (who I know but looking forward to finding out more); Paula Rego (whose dark work I came across in Part 2); and Ana Maria Pacheco and Chantal Joffe (both new to me);
- continue to enjoy myself.
I feel that this drawing for Assignment 3 meets the parameters set in that it includes natural and straight-lined objects and demonstrates my understanding of linear perspective.
In my preliminary sketches, photographs (not shown) and drawings I have experimented with composition and media to determine the final drawing (Fig. 1).
I started the drawing by preparing a background of newspaper, stuck on to A2 heavy paper and torn off when dried to give a random effect. then gessoed over this and added a blue ink tint (Fig. 2.).
I used a previous study (see previous post Fig. 8.) as a basis for the composition. That was in A4 so it was relatively easy to scale it up by doubling measurements to A2. Again (as I did with the study) I masked off areas where I wanted to keep the lightest tones and applied a wash of watercolour (black, white, yellow ochre, burnt umber, slightly diluted) to the whole surface.
When dried I added detail with coloured pencil, Tombow pen, crayon, white ink pen, and a little gouache. I scraped through some areas to add texture and to lighten. Having a heavier paper supported this enormously. I had prepared the background a few days ago and I set myself 2 hours to complete the drawing.
Overall I have achieved what I set out to do. I wanted this to be looser than my previous assignments and I think I have succeeded. I like the range of marks and textures I have achieved. The range of tone is OK. I particularly like the bushes in the foreground. I think the limited palette works well with small highlights of colour. The composition leads the eye around the drawing to the different areas of interest, with the view and rail tracks disappearing into the distance the main focus.
There are a number of things I could do to improve this:
- I wouldn’t have the initial background so dark, the added blue tone was difficult to lighten so I don’t feel I have achieved the range of tone that I could have.
- The houses top right look unfinished and could probably do with some more work to blend them in. This was more successful on the study.
- The graffiti on the lower right is a little small. The graffiti next to the lamps stands out too much, I could take it back a little.
- It probably is a little too muddled, I would use less texture in the background next time to allow myself to build texture through the layers.
Overall I enjoyed doing this. I found out that it pays to keep a small vacuum cleaner nearby if you are scraping bits off a drawing, particularly if you are doing it in the living room!
Self-assessment against assessment criteria: May 2017
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills
I am using a broader range of materials, particularly in my sketchbooks, but increasingly in exercises and assignment pieces. I am starting to free myself from the notion that I need to be technically competent with a medium before I use it. Sometimes incompetence leads to interesting effects and better learning.
The exercises on perspective and drawing statues have shown that I need to continue to work on my observational skills, but I feel that I am continuing to improve and that the next part (Part four: The figure and the head) will build on this. I am probably still a bit staid with my compositions, but have tried a number of techniques such as heavy foregrounding and using varying perspectives. I continue to look at the work of other artists to gain insights and inspiration.
Quality of outcome
Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment
I am increasingly aiming to draw subjects which provide me with a narrative so that I am engaged with the work. I think this is leading to better outcomes. When I look at other artists work I aim to analyse how I might use their technique, composition or approach in my work.
I am also developing a way of working that helps me step back from my work to gain distance and perspective. I find that working on more than one piece at a time, and not necessarily in the order set out, allows not only time for drying if wet media are used, but also time for reflection and better decision making on whether a piece is “finished” or needs more work. This means that recording on my blog is in chunks as I am still aiming to present in chronological order, but I keep careful notes and photos as I go along, particularly on process and reflection, to ensure that they are contemporaneous.
Demonstration of creativity
Imagination, experimentation, invention, personal voice
I wanted to spend more time on this part of the course as I felt I had not left myself enough space to experiment before. I have experimented with a number of techniques including collage, mono-printing (sketchbook), layering, digital manipulation, non-traditional drawing media and sgraffito.
I am continuing to enjoy the spontaneity of making images from my imagination, but still have a nagging doubt that this is are not “real drawing”. I guess it’s that they are not directly observed. But I have started to have an idea about incorporating direct observation into imaginative drawings.
I still don’t feel that I have a very strong personal voice, though I do think I am starting to recognise a few approaches that I like using such as layering and drawing from my imagination. I am still enjoying exploring and learning.
Reflection, research (learning logs)
I regularly attend exhibitions, but want to attend more contemporary, less well-known ones as well as the blockbusters.
Most of my reflection of my own work and others has been on technique, approaches and composition. I haven’t forayed deeply into conceptual matters, though I have thought and written about some issues such as gender and humour in art (Rauschenberg). Theodore Gracyk’s The Philosophy of Art is continuing to tax my brain cells and I will aim to introduce some concepts into future observations.
I have discovered the very well-stocked library at Morley College and have started accessing books on artists to broaden my range of understanding. Frank Brangwyn I have written about. Richard Diebenkorn I have recently discovered and am currently looking at.
I have an interest in art history, particularly how artists have influenced each other over the years, and how the various “isms” have arisen (Surrealism; Cubism etc). The biography of Picasso was interesting in this respect, and I still have another biography on him to read about Guernica.
I feel that my blog is well organised and that the reflection is to the point, yet insightful. I have tried to avoid being discursive, but know I can slip into tangential matters sometimes – hopefully interestingly so.
Key points for Assignment 3: Outdoor scene including straight-lined and natural objects; demonstrate aerial or linear perspective.
During my wandering looking at townscapes I had taken a few photos of my nearest train station (Denmark Hill) and realised the potential for perspective: train lines and trains running into distance; long platforms; buildings – some old, some new. There are also trees and shrubs. Some intended, like hanging baskets: others a gift of nature, seeds blow into difficult to access places and the plants flourishing there. So I returned for this assignment with my sketchbook (see below) and camera.
I noted another visual “gift” – the graffiti, which provides additional interest, colour and marks for a drawing. I noted in my notebook that perhaps recording graffiti was another way of developing a theme about urban change. I had already looked at some scenes near my home where a new extension had been added to a row of old houses. Also I aimed to depict a new(ish) type of town shopping environment with the demise of the old traditional shops. I know a little about the history of graffiti, and while scribbling on walls itself is not new (the ancient Greeks and Romans did it), the elevation of graffiti to an art form is relatively recent development. A quick peek at the Wikipedia entry on graffiti reveals an even richer history than I had imagined. This theme is something that might be worth exploring further.
Robert Kaupelis (Kaupelis, 1992:101) suggests as an exercise cropping parts of a photograph or image to achieve new compositions. He then suggests developing these in a number of ways, including rendering:
· one as precisely as possible – then a series in freer ways;
· tonal drawings: in a variety of ways, including reverse tone;
· tonal with one/two areas of colour;
· working a large version (say a 4’ x 6’) in an expressionistic style
With my assignment deadline looming I didn’t have time to explore all these fully, but I did crop one of my station photos to reveal a composition of some of the graffiti, which I aimed to render in a representational style (Fig. 1.).
This was a useful exercise. Although this composition does not fulfil the brief for the assignment, it did allow me to experiment with materials and methods. I began this drawing with a pre-prepared dark wash background. I have a range of pre-prepared sheets of paper in a range of sizes (this is A4), I usually use left-over ink or watercolour and print, paint or roll it on. What I didn’t do here though was make a note of how I did the background. I need to remember to note on the back of the paper how these are achieved in case I want the same effect again.
The background was very dark brown/red vertically streaked with no white paper showing, it was matt. I had to work out ways to add light areas and colour to this to vary the tones and marks. I did this in a number of ways, some new to me.
I had already used a sgraffito method in my sketchbook after looking as some of the work of Frank Brangwyn (Llewellyn/Esser, 2015:21), so I scratched through some areas to reveal the white paper beneath the brown wash; other areas I scratched through layers of oil pastel to indicate areas of dried/dead grasses and twigs.
I tried to use highlighter marker pen to brighten the middle set of graffiti, but it wouldn’t take very well on the dark background and stained the tip of the pen. I then discovered if you put some marker pen on a glass or ceramic surface (I used a plate), mix it with a tiny bit of white gouache, and then apply it to the paper with a small brush it works brilliantly. I particularly wanted to use marker pen as this echoes the use of it in actual graffiti. Some areas were highlighted with chalk, white crayon, or gouache. Darker areas were achieved with oil pastel and crayon.
I think this is a successful piece in its own right. The dark background has helped pull it all together and given it a grungy feel that I wanted.
Going back to my sketches and photographs I looked for a composition that would fit the Assignment remit better. I decided that I would aim for the sketch that showed the train lines emerging from the tunnel and disappearing off the page for the perspective. This also included the graffiti which I wanted to incorporate into the final piece.
My first tentative A4 sketch (Fig. 2.) was in conte crayon.
I just wanted to get a feel for the composition and how it might all sit together. It was on plain white paper. I was concerned about the immediate foreground and how I would add interest there. I also wanted to more fully explore the possibilities of using a looser approach, and on a larger scale with a different medium.
So I moved to A3 blue/grey sugar paper and taped three coloured pens (black, orange and purple) together to draw the scene (Fig. 3.).
I really liked the sweeping effect of the rail lines across the page. It was difficult to control the pens though, which might not have been a bad thing but I couldn’t get any firm detail in where I wanted it. I ended up adding some detail with Sharpies in orange and purple. I still wasn’t happy with the immediate foreground.
For my next sketch (Fig. 4.) I thought to introduce the ornate lamp-post from my sketchbook into the foreground instead of the signals.
I was happy with this decision. I did think about foregrounding it much more heavily, but I wanted to get the detail of the lamp-shades in as the shapes echo those of the tunnel and the doors of the houses in the background, which will help pull the composition together. .
I toyed with the idea of adding litter, or a pigeon in the foreground too, but I didn’t want it to look too contrived. I also considered whether I should do the final piece in line and wash – which I haven’t experimented with to any extent to date – but thought that perhaps this was too delicate for the effect I wanted, which is something grittier.
Having used a sgraffito method in my sketchbook and for the graffiti drawing my next experiment (Fig. 5.) was sgraffito through black ink on red paper (no gouache). I stuck with the same composition.
This was difficult to do because I had to actually break the surface of the paper to get the red coming through. I like the stuttering effect of the scrapes, but this method needs either a buffer medium (like the gouache) or a more robust paper – card or board. I used crayon to add other colour/detail. The lighter crayon marks are effective on the dark background. This could work well on a larger scale. The sgraffito could also be used to make marks through the crayon to the black ink.
So far in my experimentation I have worked mostly on plain backgrounds (apart from the graffiti drawing). I wanted to return to using textured background for a few more drawings. I looked into my treasure trove of prepared surfaces and found just what I wanted. I had prepared four A4 pieces of paper by gluing newspaper to the surface – a complete sheet – then a light gesso wash over them (Figure 6.).
I had forgotten that I had used a Guardian article on Paul Nash, you can just see an image of Wood on the Downs on one of them. I hope this will inspire me to greater things! There is not much colour in the newspaper, just some blue tones, and the texture is fairy uniform as I didn’t tear it up.
I then decided I would roll on a watercolour layer with my brayer. I have found that a combination of black, white, yellow ochre and burnt umber gives a nice warm dark effect. But first I masked off areas I wanted to protect for highlights with masking tape and masking fluid. I then decided I would roll on a watercolour layer with my brayer. I have found that a combination of black, white, yellow ochre and burnt umber gives a nice warm dark effect. But first I masked off areas I wanted to protect for highlights with masking tape and masking fluid. I tore off the masking tape before the wash was dried as I was worried it might not come of when dry. The tape tore some of the newspaper/ gesso layer off in places, exposing the plain white background paper, but I liked this effect – so success! (Fig. 7) The masking fluid (which had to dry before I put the wash on) was rubbed off when the wash was dry. I do love a bit of process as you can tell.
This actually gives a really pleasing effect on its own. Not sure you could call it a drawing though as I haven’t added any lines yet. But I guess I have made lines by masking and washing with ink. Food for thought indeed.
The drawing was completed (Fig. 8.) with hard coloured pencil.
I chose some subtle blue and pink colours to highlight a few areas, which link with the blue tones coming through from the newspaper. I am very pleased with the result. Though I do wonder whether I am straying too far into it being a painting rather than a drawing. I think this might be the way forward for my final Assignment 3 piece.
A final experiment was completed in a similar way but with ink and stick for the detail (Fig. 9.).
I used the leftover wash on the glass plate and pressed the prepared paper on to it. This gives less definite lines than the brayer gives. I didn’t mask off the highlights on this one but added some neat watercolour streaks where the highlights were. I finished it off with black ink (neat and diluted) applied with a stick and some white ink pen detail. I like the energy and atmosphere of this piece. A4 is probably too small scale for this, and it needs more variety of marks, but it gives me some ideas for the Assignment.
Better get on with the Assignment now then!
I have received helpful and specific feedback from my tutor for Assignment 2 and the Exercises. I am grateful for these as I sent her all my exercises as I misread the guidance which said to send a selection.
To summarise I need to build on good progress by being bolder with textures, line and tonal contrast. Vary pressure when using dry materials. Continue experimenting, particularly with layering and use of fluid media. Balance cool colours with warmer shades when working in colour. Try and loosen up and be more expressive in final pieces (as with sketchbooks). Get a watercolour sketchbook. Artists to look at: Kathe Kollwitz; Henry Moore; Graham Sutherland; Paul Nash; William Kentridge. Recommended reading on Picasso: ‘Guernica, The Biography of a Twentieth Century Icon’ by Gijs Van Hensbergen.
I also asked for feedback on composition as this wasn’t mentioned in the report. Generally my pieces are balanced, but I can tend to put too much content in some drawings.
I have been away for three weeks and looked at my pieces with fresh eyes on my return. I can absolutely see every point my tutor makes having had that distance. I am still at the stage where I am a little tentative as I don’t want to “spoil” what I have achieved. Still, all good learning and I am looking forward to tackling Part 3 (except for the scary sections on perspective!)
Assignment 2 Drawing: Still Life with Hockney
For this drawing I returned to my quick sketches around the house (Project 3: exercise 1) for inspiration. It occurred to me that a number of them included pictures by other artists, and I decided to continue with that theme (see notes on Exercise 3 Material Differences). I particularly like the large David Hockney print I have in the kitchen. It has interesting shapes, marks and colours. My aim was to set up a still life that would harmonise with this print. I invested in a few lovely tulips that picked up some of the colours in the print, and a few other items that were in the kitchen where I could see I could tie in some of the colours.
I decided to use pastels again. I had used them for the first time for Still life in tone using colour (Project 2 Exercise 3) with some (limited) success. I looked again at the video I had noted and also obtained Pastels for Dummies from the library. I am afraid I am not one for diving in and experimenting, and time was tight so I wanted to get some tips. I did think about mixing in another medium but was nervous that I wouldn’t get it right, and I didn’t have enough time to experiment properly.
Drawing on my learning from Exercise 3 I did a few larger sketches (A5) to get ideas for composition (Fig. 1.).
Additionally, because I had problems before with tone/shadows because of changing light, I took a photo of the outline drawing – then did a tonal study on this which I could use for a reference (Fig. 3.). This was very useful.
I fixed the drawing half way through after 2 layers. Then fixed again after final marks. This dulled the picture a bit but I am sending this to my tutor so guidance advises to fix.
I am fairly happy with the outcome (Fig. 3). The composition is conventional, but I think the added interest of the Hockney print makes it more interesting. I have aimed to link the colours across the piece which I think works well. I have used different techniques to get a variety of marks – blending some areas; short marks and longer flowing marks. My tonal drawing helped me identify the tone more easily – though I probably could have pushed them further. My accuracy is good – the objects look the right shape. I could probably have worked more layers of pastel but as I am fairly new to this medium I didn’t want to push it too far and lose what I had achieved. There isn’t a great deal of creativity here but it’s given me confidence to use pastels again combined with other media.
Self-assessment against criteria: January 2017
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.
I am starting to use a broader range of materials, though I don’t feel I am stretching myself on techniques. I think my observational skills are improving – more consistent sketching practise is helping. I still get phased by detail when looking at a complicated scene (e.g. a bookshelf full of books) – need to work out a way of delivering a “short-hand” version to keep drawings loose. I am still fairly conservative on design, and rely mostly on cropping for my compositions. I need to study the approaches of other artists more to open myself up to fresh ideas.
Quality of outcome
Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment.
I am aiming to present more complete drawings in the exercises – with attention to composition; tone; use of media; and varied mark-making. I think I have been somewhat successful, if a little tentative. I can see now the benefits of preliminary work before I dive into a final piece. My better drawings (in my view) are those where I have explored more in my sketchbook beforehand – trying out techniques, ideas and compositions. And even if the final drawing has short-comings, I realise that the sketchbook work is a useful learning process – and can spark new ideas.
Demonstration of creativity
Imagination, experimentation, invention, personal voice.
I have started to experiment a little more, but know I could push myself further. This course is changing my perception of what drawing is – it’s much broader than I thought it was – and I know I need to embrace that more fully.
I very much enjoyed the mixed media exercise – just wish I had worked larger than A4. I enjoyed the spontaneity of making images from my imagination much more than I thought I would.
I am using new drawing materials but still feel the need to get to grips with technique before exploring multi-media, unusual perspectives etc. I also think I have collage phobia after Assignment 1. Every Exercise I do I say to myself “try collage” – then I draw a blank.
I don’t recognise that I have a very strong personal voice (I am sure it’s in there somewhere). I still feel as if I am a little un-focused, but I think that’s OK at this stage. I remind myself I am only 4 months into this new way of working (for me). I am enjoying exploring and learning.
Reflection, research (learning logs)
I have found time tight on this Section (holidays didn’t help) and I think my research and reflection has suffered as I was concentrating on getting the drawing exercises done. I do regularly attend exhibitions and make notes, but I am aware that I need to make more use of this in developing my own work. But I do think it does go in, even if subliminally. I am more conscious of how artists work and their use of mark-making, and have noted this at the Picasso portrait exhibition and the drawings and work of Henry Moore at Tate Britain.
I am enjoying reading a number of books as a background to my studies, particularly Gilda Williams’ How to Write about Contemporary Art and Theodore Gracyk’s The Philosophy of Art which have given me new insights into how art is conceptualised and written about.
A very quick turnaround on comments on Part one from my tutor, which is very welcome as I dive into Part two.
Overall: ‘worked hard to produce a good range of project exercises, some of which show more potential than your final piece.’ Specific points:
· need to consider shadows, particularly at the base of objects to ground them
· keep varying weight and length of line to keep pieces active
· charcoal is more suited to larger studies in general
· need to consider collage as part of composition, not an afterthought
· (continue to) use sketchbook ‘fully as a place to explore, experiment and take risks using a good range of media.’
· continue to build on learning log (insightful and reflective), keep artists’ biographical information to a minimum.
Suggestions for further research:
· Jenny Saville (use of charcoal in her Mother and Child series)
· Jerwood Drawing prize website for the online catalogue of past exhibitors, which will give a good insight into current concerns in drawing
· Henry Moore drawings (exploration of tone)
· Graham Southerland (range of media – ink, gouache and pastel)
· Kiki Smith (range of techniques, including frottage)
· William Kentridge (charcoal drawings – expressive mark making)
For next assignment: ‘resist the temptation to tighten up too much; use a wide range of materials and drawing techniques. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – important insights and discoveries come about through this process.’
This is a fair and balanced review and I look forward to taking on board the comments and exploring the work of the artists and information suggested. I knew my final piece for Assignment one was weak and muddled, but I learned a lot from doing it which I reflected in my self-assessment. Going forward I will aim to:
· explore more with mark-making and use of media (particularly in sketchbook);
· not get so stressed and tight with the final Assignments and remember to apply learning and plan well (including composition and choice of media);
· enjoy myself.