I have now started Painting 1: The Practice of Painting and my new blog site is emergingfromarockpool.wordpress.com, link here.
At the commencement of the course I had two main objectives:
- to try various drawing styles
- to move from an accurate depiction of the visual appearance of the object to a more expressive, non-representational image
The drawings I have chosen to be assessed demonstrate my development across these two areas. Throughout the course I have used various media including pencil, pen & ink, conte crayon, willow charcoal, compressed charcoal, charcoal dust, graphite dust, oil pastels, soft pastels and acrylic paint. Whilst I did experiment with media it was not until Unit 4 that I fully embraced this concept and this started to change the way I drew.
Drawing 1 demonstrates where I was at the commencement of the course. This is one of the preparatory drawings for Assignment 1 and shows my technical ability to accurately depict an object. However, even this drawings shows my willingness to experiment with the composition and go in close to an object and not take a traditional viewpoint.
Drawings 2-4 are based around my theme of looking at man’s impact on the environment, an area in which I have an interest. Drawing 2 is in response to my tutor’s feedback where she encourages me to look at the Dada movement and use the accidental in my drawing. Here the background is created from freely flowing watercolour paint washed over the paper (imitating the waves on a beach) and the organic/inorganic beach finds within the line drawing are not always clearly differentiated, inviting the viewer to try to identify some of the objects. Drawing 3 is in response to my research into still-life paintings and shows how I am able to base my drawing on historical research in a new way (both in terms of drawing style and the objects themselves). Drawing 4 (Assignment 2 finished piece) continues to explore my theme and challenges the still-life genre. The colours are loosely applied and an accidental element introduced via the use of a wax resist, this contrasts with the more precisely drawn elements (stairs and leaves). I recognise there are some issues with the perspective within this drawing but the overall effect for me is more important.
Drawing 5 is one of the extended exercises for the 360 degree view. This sketch was completed on location with a roll of paper attached to a drawing board. This sketch was the basis for Assignment 3 and was far more successful than the actual assignment drawing. This is because I completed this sketch on location and did not over think the drawing. Assignment 3 itself was my most challenging assignment, mainly because I over-thought the whole process and kept changing my mind on the subject matter as I struggled with the outcome.
Drawing 6 is one of the drawings from Assignment 4. I choose this drawing as it linked into my research into the use of the female nude in art and the male gaze. I therefore choose to draw a male model who is an artist himself (a photographer). I also choose this drawing as it reverses the traditional black on white.
Drawings 7-11 are all from Assignment 5 and demonstrate the progress I have made in both my drawing style and my movement towards a less-representational image. I believe these drawings also begin to show the development of my personal voice as I begin to explore my personal experiences of being the youngest child in a large family and how that has shaped me as an individual, in particular my previous reluctance to show my art.
I mounted all the drawings on mount board. The first four boards show individual drawings from either the exercises or assignments.
The next three Boards show the work from the final assignment.
As I had worked on individual sheets of paper rather than hard bound sketchbooks I collated the supporting work for these assessment pieces into two books and used a Japanese binding to hold them together. Tabs were added for ease of assessment.
I then pulled together all my individual sketches and realised I would go over the weight limit if I included all my life drawing sketches (which were mostly A1/2 size). I therefore selected a range of life drawings, demonstrating the use of a range of media and techniques. I bound all my sketches and physical research pages into five individual books.
Overall, I am very satisfied with my outcome. The drawings represent a direction I would never have envisioned before starting both this course and this assignment. As someone who usually likes to control everything and has preconceived ideas of the outcome before even starting, the nature of this personal project has shown me that having time to think in-between drawings and coming back to issues after a break to re-consider, can have enormous benefits to my art.
The series as a whole hangs together well. The common elements of a square format, rubbed in method of layering and repeated motifs in many of the images works well. Whilst I considered using colour, I think my choice of black and white for me worked better. My memories of my childhood for some reason are in black and white with only brief glimpses of colour (perhaps it is to do with growing up with black and white photographs and television). I also choose to have the first and last images slightly larger than the middle three; this for me marked the beginning point and the end point of my journey.
I especially like the narrative in each of the drawings and though I know what they mean for me, I am equally comfortable for the viewer to take their own meaning from either the series or individual drawings.
My drawings tools for this project have been mainly cotton wall balls, ear buds and charcoal sticks/pencils. Not the tools I would have favoured at the beginning of the process. However, as time spent on this project went on, I realised that my ideas and the need to communicate certain events in my life, if only to myself, were the important factors. Using a photograph in a drawing would not have been an option I looked at prior to this course and now it is in one of my final drawings.
The least successful drawing for me remains the second in the series – Eight of Eight. This was my second attempt at the idea of being over-shadowed by my siblings and there is still something which says to me add more into the image. I also know however, the more I put in, the more it will just become a representation of the visual appearance of a woodland setting. Also, sometimes when I look at the third drawing Unfinished Referral something about the perspective is not quite right. In the end I have decided not to obsess about these factors.
I thought long and hard about giving titles to the images and it was only right at the end that I finally decided to assign titles. One part of me was conscious of not wanting to influence the viewer by my choice of title (after reading Ways of Seeing by John Berger) and the other wanted to help the viewer navigate the series and understand my intention. In the end I choose titles which I think alluded to my idea behind each image without explicitly stating it.
I have realised at the end of the series that others influences on this series have been the narratives of Paula Rego, the move from realism to abstraction of Victor Passmore and the photography of Gillian Wearing (all artists I have seen at exhibitions during this course).
Response to Tutor Feedback
My tutor feedback was overall positive and encouraging of the progress I have made in my drawings. Two main areas were highlighted:
- ….But One did not really fit into the series
- the drawings could appear even more dark and mysterious by changing some of the tones.
On reviewing the work I do agree that ….But One does not fit into the series. However, I do feel that this one image sets the overall context for my idea of growing up in a large family but in many ways being a single voice and often alone. I therefore decided that this image could act as an introduction to the series and come before the Artist Statement when the images were displayed.
On the second point I felt that making the images too dark could result in a negative perception of my childhood which I am keen to avoid. Whilst I had issues, I come from a loving and supportive family and did not want to portray my childhood in some dark and sinister way. I therefore decided to darken down some of the tones and make some small adjustments to the tones within the images without changing the integrity of my idea for these drawings.
This exhibition brought home to me once again how diverse the definition of drawing can be. Pencil, performance drawing, charcoal, video, stitch, oak & iron dye to name but a few of the mediums across an equally diverse group of subjects.
This exhibition reinforced my need to push my personal project and I wrote about a couple of the artists in my sketchbook (right-hand side of page).
Clockwise from the top of the left-hand side are:
Caroline Holt-Wilson, Traces, 2017 – this drawing of a tear in the page has a strong narrative for me of pushing through barriers and leaving something of yourself.
Tahira Mandarino, Portrait of Father Sitting, 2017 – another drawing with a strong narrative signifying family, love, loss, How a simple, single object can have such meaning for an individual and bring back powerful memories.
Lucinda Burgess, Borderlines, 2017 – this drawing crosses the boundary between a drawing and sculpture as it moves from the wall onto the ground. The drawing for me not only talks about the boundaries within art but the boundaries we place on people and society.
Another work I found interesting was a video by Ann Mendes, On Drawing. The most interesting element for me was the interview with the Moroccan cleaner of an artist-in-residence that Mendes attended. The cleaner could not read or write so she had a little notebook in which she put down telephone numbers and other information, notating them with drawings showing a particular characteristic of the individual so she would remember who the number belong to, giving an insight into her thought processes. The drawings also had a child-like simplicity which we often try to return to in our art.
Venue: Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury
This exhibition was arranged in three sections :
- Abstraction, Elimination, Revelation – which looks at experiments in abstraction
- The Emptiness of Precision – art dealing with the city and machine art
- Home-Grown America – art dealing with a return to the land
There were quite a few images which caught my attention in the first section –
- Edward Steichen, Le Tournesol (The Sunflower), c. 1920. The simplification of the shapes and the bold use of colour with complementary colours next to each other to increase their intensity.
- Paul Strand, Abstraction, Bowls, Twin Lakes, Connecticut, 1916 and Abstraction, Porch Shadows, Twin Lakes, Connecticut, 1916. Both focus in on the subject to such an extent that the resultant outcome is an abstract image.
- Georgia O’Keeffe, Black Abstraction, 1927. Here is not the image and the narrative behind the image that attracted me – it depicts the moment as O’Keeffe is losing consciousness as she goes under the anesthesia.
In the section section:
- John Taylor Arms, The Gates of the City, 1922. The composition of one of the bridge towers fills the frame with the suspension wires crisscrossing the image and the lighter background images fading away into the distance.
- Jolan Gross-Bettelheim, Bridge Cables II, c. 1940. The massive bridge cables soar from the bottom to the top of the image, they have a sense of weight and strength. Again, an image where close-up representational art becomes abstraction.
- George Josimovich, Illinois Central, 1927. A simplification of the shapes of the building and the city landscape is flattened in both shapes and colours. My eye moved round this painting picking out different shapes; colour had been repeated in different areas to provide unity and aid the movement of the eye of the viewer.
In the final section:
- Paul Strand, White Fence, Port Kent, New York, 1916. It was the narrative in this photograph which drew my attention – why is the fence preventing entry, what is going on in the barn and the house?
- Edward Hopper, Night in the Park, 1921; also, Night Shadows, 1921 and The Railroad, 1922. These drawings had the hallmark single figure so indicative when I think of Hopper’s images. They create narrative of a single figure in a vast empty space – what are they doing, why are they alone?
This exhibition made me think a lot about my personal project and how I needed to take my drawings further. I wanted to simplify them and make them more abstracted, to create a greater sense of narrative for the viewer. On my return home, I put a couple of the more influential images in my sketch book (left-hand side of page) and wrote about them.
Overall, the exhibition was thought-provoking and reignitied my interest in abstraction. At this stage, I don’t think I want to draw images that are fully abstract as I find the images based on an actual object/view have more narrative within them than those which are fully abstract. Of course, as I progress through the degree programme that might change.
Venue: Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
For the whole series I decided to use a square format, with the first and last images slightly larger than the middle three (32.5×32.5 cm vs 27.5×27.5 cm) as I wanted to show the start and end of my journey to showing my art. I wanted them on larger portrait rectangle paper (56×37.5 cm) so the edges acting like a framing mount. I thought this format would give a contemporary feel to the drawings.
I therefore using masking tape and glassine paper to mask off the clean mount edges. When using charcoal and graphite powder this was not always as successful as I would have hoped and I still had to clean up the edges using an eraser.
Image 1 Searching For Simon
I applied charcoal powder to define the form of the clouds and to represent my body lying on the ground. I added some darker lines with charcoal sticks and charcoal pencils.
I masked the white spot area to represent my presence and covered the whole ground with graphite powder rubbing it in and lifting it out with cotton wool balls/buds. I kept adding and removing charcoal in both dust and stick form, fixing it when necessary to build up the layers.
I finally removed the masking fluid and added the Aries constellation.
Image 2 Eight of Eight
I intended to use a similar process in most of the drawings.
Masking fluid and then graphite powder applied.
I used charcoal powder, sticks and pencils to build up the layers. In this version I stylised the trunks of the trees more and the slope of the ground, keeping the forms flatter and cleaner. I added the overhanging branches in charcoal pencil.
I finally added darker tones to the branches creating a lighter texture before removing the masking fluid.
Image 3 Unfinished Referral
I started to write about my childhood and factors which I perceive made me a reluctant exhibitor in pencil and then erased the writing.
I continued writing and erasing until I had come to the end of my story. This resulted in five layers of writing being erased.
I then followed the previous process of graphite and charcoal powders building up the layers until adding the unfinished end of the suspension bridge. I added the construction side bars in charcoal pencil and lifted the masking fluid.
Image 4 ….But One
As I was using a photograph this drawing followed a slightly different process. Graphite and charcoal powders to build up the image around a mask of the photograph.
I then stuck the photograph on and added the background figures (the poses taken from my Life Drawing sketches, chosen to fit in with the photograph). I started to integrate the figures into the photograph.
Finally, I added more tonal values and further integrated the drawing marks into the photograph. The white dot was added and overlaps my image to indicate that in the previous images the white dot represent myself.
Image 5 Reveal
A similar process was applied to the final image.
Final Five Images.
As presented with white borders.
I attended two exhibitions whilst thinking about my progress on my Personal Project. Both exhibitions changed the nature of my final drawings.
The first exhibition was America’s Cool Modernism – O’Keeffe to Hopper at the Ashmolean Museum and the second was the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017 at the Sidney Cooper Gallery. At the former, two images in particular caught my attention – Georgia O’Keeffe, Black Abstraction, 1927, which depicts her memory of losing consciousness whilst going under anaesthesia (link to image here); and, Paul Strand, White Fence, Port Kent, New York, 1916 which interested me for the tonal value and sense of narrative (link to image here).
The Jerwood Prize 2017 exhibition really made me think about the definition of drawing. Three works caught my eye and I put images of these in my sketchbook. Caroline Holt-Wilson, Traces, 2017; Tahira Handarino, Portrait of Father Sitting, 2017; and, Lucinda Burgress, Borderlines, 2017.
A full review of the exhibitions are under Research.
Seeing these exhibitions confirmed in my mind that I had not pushed the drawings far enough so I began to think about how I could develop my final images. I still wanted to go with the idea of landscapes as a metaphor for events in my childhood which have shaped me as a reluctant exhibitor of my art but perhaps to make them more abstract and conceptual. I wanted the viewer to have to think about the image and try to perceive what it means either for me or them.
I first re-looked at the night sky image which was about my middle name being left off my birth certificate (Searching for Simon) and I thought about myself laying on the ground on my back looking up at the stars, trying to find the constellations pointed out by the park ranger. There was a sense of vastness, and of something being both full and empty at the same time. I therefore drew two sketches, one looking down at the ground and me; the other one of me looking up.
I preferred the latter. The white empty small dot represents me as a child (a signifier which appears in the first four final drawings; on the fourth drawing of the series it is linked to my actual image), the night sky looked circular to me and I added the Aries constellation. I developed this image further as I remember some light cloud cover partially obscuring the stars when we were looking up, which would add some further tonal values to the drawing. I did not want the clouds to dominate as they were very light so try a couple of experiments laying graphite over charcoal powder and vis a versa.
Graphite over charcoal worked best so I reflected on the image and composition using a photograph on A4 paper.
The corners needed to be higher in tonal contrast, bolder marks were needed on the ‘clouds’ and some areas needed to be darker overall. The eye did travel round the image and whether intentional or not the cloud marks also came to represent the feel of my body on the ground as I looked up. I decided to add in the Aries constellation.
The square format suited this drawing and gave it a contemporary, almost photographic, feel and I decided to keep this format throughout the whole series of five drawings to help link the series.
The next drawing was the over-shadowed (Eight of Eight) drawing which now became a woodland setting. This drawing is about me being the youngest of eight children and always feeling a bit over-shadowed by my older siblings.
This was sketched using graphite and charcoal powders, charcoal and PVA glue. Again, after the initial sketch I did a reflection page.
I did work this up into what I thought was a final image. First, masking off the white dot, adding a base layer of graphite powder and then developing the tree trunks using charcoal and charcoal powder. I rubbed in the powders using cotton wool balls and defined shapes with cotton ear buds, using clean bits of both when I needed to rub back an area.
I sprinkled graphite powder and then fixed it with fixative to give the background some texture.
I finally added the overhanging branches using charcoal bits with PVA glue.
Whilst I think this image was successful it was still too representative for me so during the making of the final image I re-worked it (see Final Images post).
My third image concerning unfinished sentences (Unfinished Referral) was still going to be an unfinished bridge. This drawing is about my slow development of language, being unable to construct complete sentences at age 6 and my referral to an Educational Psychologist.
I struggled with this image as I wanted to introduce words into the picture without making it too literal or have the words dominate the image with the viewer reading the words as text rather than as part of an overall image. When reading about Ben Nicholson (Ben Nicholson, Tate, 2008) I came across a technique he used based on palimpsest – a document that has been repeatedly inscribed and erased. This immediately gave me an idea to use this as a subtle background within this image. I wrote text describing my early life and the factors which have made me a reluctant exhibitor and kept erasing them on the area was full.
I also did some quick thumbnail sketches to look at the composition of the unfinished bridge.
My fourth image was about me being the youngest of eight children (six surviving) but because of the age differences often being alone and pursuing my own interests (….But One). These interests often made me a bit of an outsider as I grew up as I liked classical music, learn the french horn and played in the orchestra, sang in the school choir and liked watching wildlife.
As a family one photograph of me is known by all my brothers and sisters – me and my brother being photographed with two monkeys at Maidstone market (not something I would condone today as I do not believe any animal should be used in this manner). I thought long and hard how I could use this image as I wanted to integrate it into my final drawing.
I attended an OCA workshop on sketchbooks run by Karen stamper in Ipswich and she introduce a technique of using Brasso cleaner to remove parts of a photograph. This seemed the solution to me.
I scanned and printed the photograph on glossy paper and then used the brass to remove parts of the image. Both tries did not work out as, in the first, I got a good and surprising negative photographic image for the background figures (I only wanted me to remains a positive image) but a red tint; in the second, I got less red but a more positive image in the background characters. I need me to be a positive photographic image and the rest negative, to give that idea that I grew up in a large family surrounded by people but was often alone.
As this experiment did not work out I asked an OCA Photographic Level 3 student, Michael Colvin, to help me use Photoshop to create a negative and positive image in one photograph. He helped me use a pen stylus to define the outlines, invert the images and take out the background.
I did a quick sketch of figures around one of the photographs to see if my idea would work.
My final image of the series would be the emerging ‘fish’ which I did not want to change (Reveal). This is about my slow emergence as an artist, who is willing to share their drawings with others. I therefore moved on to making my final images, content to make any adjustments as I drew them.