Following the last exercise I decided to reflect on my progress on the course so far. Whilst my tutor feedback has on the whole been positive, I am still reverting to my safe option of drawing the visual appearance of the object without experimenting enough. This tends to produce a drawing that is OK, however, I feel I am capable of much more but for some reason am not realising that potential.
At my last feedback session my tutor advised me not to treat the course as a tick-box exercise but to approach the course in a more organic way – cross fertilising ideas between different exercises, research and sketches, taking forwards things that have worked and looking back at previous work to see what elements I think could be used in future drawings.
I do have a tendency to put the previous unit away in a portfolio once it comes back from my tutor and never look at it again. I therefore got out every piece of work I have completed so far and laid them out on the floor so I could reflect on my progress.
One of the first things I noticed was that I was more experimental in the first unit when the subject matter was looser than in the still life unit when I stiffened up my approach, which in many ways has continued into the landscape unit. It would be easy for me to blame the unit exercises and say it is because they are more perspective in the choice of subject and style of drawing but that would be untrue. I have always felt I have a great deal of freedom from my tutor in my interpretation of the exercise requirements.
Looking at my work laid on the floor I seem to work best when approaching the drawing from two seemingly opposite views point – focusing on detail and being experimental. My drawings of the clarinet, texture of objects, the bath and the stairway all focus in on the detail of a view and are therefore quite analytical. The drawings of recycling waste on a KFC bag, frontage prints, continuous line drawings and panorama are more experimental in nature and have a vitality lacking in many of my other drawings.
It is also clear from looking at my drawings that narrative in an image is important to me. This can be seen in the drawing of my feet in the bath and the series of still-lifes on man’s impact on the environment.
I clearly get better at drawing when I repeat a subject and work larger, as well as when I just play – such as my continuous line and blind drawings. Surprising for me, my pencil drawings look the weakest whilst my pen/ink and charcoal drawings the strongest. On looking back at my pencil drawings this is probably because I am not using enough contrast in the tones, with the range of values far too narrow.
In relation to research even though I go to exhibitions and undertake research, once that post or piece of research is written, it is forgotten and I am not actively taking forwards much of what I have gained from seeing the artist ‘s work. The except to this is the skeleton drawings following my research into the shelter drawings of Henry Moore.
So, why do I return to trying to portray an accurate rendition of the visual appearance of the object when my better work includes an element of experimental and randomness? Well, amongst other things it is easy, safe, I think it is what the assessors will want, it saves thinking too much and culturally, it is probably what I have been conditioned to think is ‘good’ art and this rises from my sub-conscious each time I try to produce a drawing.
Why I am not taking forwards previous ideas and successes from past exercises and my research? It is because once completed they are filed away and will not see light of day until I go for assessment. This has clearly got to change. I need to keep everything together so that I am continuously reviewing work and research and incorporating what I have learnt in future pieces. In effect, keeping a visual diary of work for the exercises, sketches, research notes in one place so that each time I pick things up I can refer back to sparkle new ideas. I thought I had started to achieve this by working mainly on A3 paper so that I can bind it all together at assessment time. But clearly these are still being put away as completed and not seen again until the assignment due date or assessment. I will reflect on how to move this forwards which works for me.
- Focus on detail where appropriate
- Be far more experimental (paper, medium, mark-making, random events, accidents, process, etc), expressive, and enjoy the moment (stop over-thinking)
- Include narrative where appropriate
- Interpret and re-interpret the exercise
- Stop trying to be neat and be more uninhibited
- Continually review past work and research to incorporate it in future work
- Bring everything together in one visual diary to achieve the previous point.
Following this self reflect I looked at my tutor feedback reports for assignments 1 & 2 (another thing I file away) and unsurprising, all the above has been mentioned. Sometimes however, you need to discover it for yourself in order to move forwards.