I started this project by thinking about my strengths, weaknesses, what interested me over the last four units, my tutor feedback and what I wanted to explore further. To help me in this process I constructed a mind map so that one thought triggered another.
From this one of my struggles has always been that I am reluctant to show my art to others. This course is helping me to overcome that barrier and I now attend the OCA Thames Valley Study Group where I share my work with others, however, i began to think back to my past to see if I could understand where this barrier originates. I do have a ‘tormented artist’ background (whilst from a poor background my mother and father did everything they could to ensure we were a loving and supportive family) but did identify on the mind map a number of factors which could have contributed to this barrier. I posed this idea for my personal project to my tutor and she was OK with the concept.
My first exploration was around a story I was always told as I grew up that my father on registering my name after my birth just gave my first name rather than my full name. A small thing I know, but it is something that you remember as your older brothers and sisters continually retell you the story. I produced a couple of sketches to explore this initial idea, using part of my birth certificate in a collage with texture paste in the first and ink/bleach in the second.
Whilst the concept of using part of my birth certificate within a layer of the drawing was interesting, the images themselves were not a route I wanted to take further.
I moved on to look at using the middle names of my 5 surviving brothers and sisters (I am the youngest of 8 children) with my middle name Simon being missing. I used Roman Capitals as names are often inscribed in stone in this font and it seemed fitting that the other middle names would be inscribed in official records but not mine.
I used colour to move the eye around the image and left the empty squares for Simon in grey tones. This was too much a ‘graphic design’ rather than a drawing for me and I was going back to my safe zone of controlling the outcome too much. So I moved on.
I then thought of instead of ‘Missing Simon’ I should look at searching for Simon – finding myself. I also could link this to my feeling that my artwork is never good enough and not wanting to show it. I thought about using landscape as a metaphor for my concept around a series of drawings exploring my reluctance to show art and did a couple of sketches.
The first was an alleyway next to the Registry Office and the second, a dumpster. I liked the idea of landscapes as a metaphor and it links back to my research on Georgia O’Keeffe and her use of images to explore personal issues. However, these two images have very negative associations which I did not feel justified in conveying.
I therefore moved onto a more positive approach and thought about a drawing of woodlands with many paths. I love nature and grew up going wildlife watching so this generated better memories. My first sketch was of a woodland setting with different pathways and my second was from a memory of camping at King’s Canyon National Park in the US a couple of years ago and going up to the top of a mountain with a park ranger, lying on my back and looking at the night sky. I thought I could use this memory for searching for Simon.
I thought the second image had some merit and decided to explore this concept of using landscape as a metaphor further with some of the other issues I had identified in my early background.
As I have said I was the youngest of 8 children and always felt a bit overshadowed by my older siblings; I explored this issue in some landscape sketches.
When I was 6 years old I was referred to an Educational Psychologist as my language skills were not developing at the expected rate – I was not able to construct complete sentences. This referral concluded that I did not need any special support other than the freedom to grow as an individual. The psychologist felt that following the death of two of my siblings, my other brothers and sisters had become overly protective and were anticipating my needs and therefore I never needed to construct complete sentences. I began talking and they finished my sentences for me.
I wondered how to depict this and did a couple of sketch ideas.
At this point I stopped exploring my ideas and wanted to have a bit of a think about the direction I was taking so undertook a bit of research into other artists who inspired me either for their subject matter, style or use of the medium (also see Research post). I put images in my sketch pages so I could refer back easily.
After thinking for some while, I decided to continue my idea of using landscapes as metaphors for my issues and decided to develop some larger, more resolved sketches for some of the issues to see if they worked as a concept for a series of drawings.
I went back to the night sky memory and developed an A3 sketch. I built up layers in the drawing, using graphite powder to draw in the distant hills and charcoal/charcoal powder for the middle distance. For the trees and foreground I poured some ink on a textured floor tile and then printed this onto the paper to indicate the general shape of the trees and the foreground. The tree print became quite solid after printing so I rubbed this back using sandpaper.
to finish, I drew the tree shapes and the ground in charcoal. Finally, I rubbed back the torch beams with an eraser. Finally, I added the star constellation Aries for my birth date.
I moved on to the issue of being overshadowed by my siblings and did an A3 sketch of some mushrooms I had seen. I wanted to go in quite close as a contrast to my first sketch above. I used drawing inks for an element of less controlled and graphite in this image.
My next sketch was around my undeveloped language skills and I used an unfinished bridge as a metaphor for this element.
Finally for my last image in the series I knew I wanted something which signified me emerging as an artist. Whilst on holiday in Wells, Somerset in April I saw a fish in the moat surround the Bishop’s Palace and this immediately made the link for me. From an initial sketch I produced this image.
I think the vagueness of the image is successful – it a human face emerging or a fish face? Also, the link to someone emerging from the depths into the light, struggling to be seen all have strong links for me.
I decided to move forwards with all these images and for the night sky image, experimented with further textures for the trees (using charcoal powder in PVA glue and collaged tissue paper) and then reflected on the drawing and composition, having printed a small photograph of the drawing on an A4 sheet.
I also reflected on the drawing of the over-shadowed mushroom again using a printed photograph of the drawing on A4.
Again, I paused and thought about my direction with this project. I still was not entirely satisfied that I was pushing myself and these drawings far enough. They were still too representational and literal. I wanted my final project to be more contemporary, be routine drawing and reflect something about the future direction of my art. ‘Personal voice’ as a concept kept coming into my head. I took a short break and decided to visit a couple of exhibitions so I could look afresh at my work.