Assignment 1

When deciding on a subject matter for this assignment I thought about the things I am interested in so that there would be a personal connection; these include wildlife-watching, music, cooking and, of course,  art.  Since school I have always been interested in music and started playing the french horn in the school and a local orchestra.  However, the french horn was never my first choice for an instrument but it was the case of playing the instrument which was needed to fill a place in the school orchestra; I had always wanted to play the clarinet.  So a couple of years ago in my mid-50s I finally started to learn the clarinet.  I decided this would be the subject for my assignment.

I collected a few things together (clarinet, reeds, cork grease, metronome, reed case, cleaning rag, etc) and tried a few quick small sketches to look at the composition.

The trouble with the clarinet was its length compared with the other objects made the composition unbalanced so I preferred the close-up cropped composition.  I also thought this would give a more abstract quality to the drawing.  Drawing objects close-up and detailed was quite difficult so I used a transparent picture finder with a grid inscribed to focus in on a small area and ensure I always came back to the same position when viewing the objects.  I completed a small A4 study using various grades of pencil to see if I liked the composition in a slightly larger format.


I did like the resultant image and although the perspective on some of the keys is slightly out and some of the white tones could have been whiter, I thought the drawing itself was fairly successful.  However, it did not have that abstract quality I was seeking and after experimenting during the unit I knew I had fallen back into the safe option for the assignment and produced a drawing showing the visual appearance of the objects.  I thought about repeating the drawing using more free and gestural marks but I felt this still meant I was not taking enough risks.  I began to think about Ernst and the Surrealists and wondered if I should try a Surrealist drawing.

I decided to have a go at an automatic technique as a basis for a final drawing and settled on the oscillation technique used by Ernst (see Ernst post below) as this seemed to fit in well with the rhythm and beat of music.  I set up a cage (an old cloth wardrobe frame) and hang a small bottle with the hole in the bottom from string and then swung it is a pendulum motion.


At first the ink just dripped rather than flowing freely so I had a number of attempts before getting an effect I liked which showed both drips and lines.


I now started to look at the result and used my imagination to see what images emerged from the lines.   I could see an orchestra pit, a clarinet player, footprints, etc but each time I tried to develop the image it just did not work.  I then decided to take time out and let the image emerge but the more I looked, the more confused I became.  After about two weeks of doing not much,  just staring at the page and getting depressed at my lack of imagination,  I abandoned this experiment and decided I would come back to it another time.

I still wanted to try a surrealist type drawing so began some thumbnail sketches to make a ‘clarinet landscape’.  I thought about the important elements of playing a clarinet – embouchure, fingering, timing, listening, reed and incorporating these into the landscape. I finally found a composition I liked with a cityscape at the top of a hill (it now reminds me of a visit to San Francisco earlier this year and a view from the harbour front).

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I then started to produce the final drawing (A3 size).  The music I had heard as a child which made me want to play the clarinet was Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto so I decided to use the music score as both a background collage and to form some of the buildings and trees.


I wanted to keep the drawing quite free and used an old metronome arm to print the foreground plants marching across the front of the drawing.

I think the drawing is quite successful and includes a lot about my quest to learn the clarinet and play the Clarinet Concerto (a work still in progress).  The composition does not quite work, as originally I wanted the eye to flow up the drawing from lower left to right in a zigzag motion until the top is reached; however, the inclusion of the building at the bottom right means the eye is drawn more to the right side and moves in a vertical motion up to the top buildings.  I think the collaged music score text and the use of the staves for the buildings and some of the trees is quite successful.