I used A3 paper for these sketches and often ended up only doing one sketch per page. Since starting the course I have tended to want to sketch on bigger paper than before even when outside; a result of generally being encourage to work bigger so as to free up my rather tight style.
Cupboard under the Stairs
I found that as I was doing these sketches the more elements and therefore more seemingly ‘complicated’ the view, the easier and more interesting I found undertaking the drawings. I also realised how little colour there is in my interior in the background structures, such as walls and doors; I therefore exaggerated some of the colour found.
I need to work on my perspective in many of the drawings and continue to ensure I look harder and longer at objects and the relationships between objects (angles, negative space, etc).
For this exercise I decided to go all out and try a Rauschenberg inspired collage. I sat looking at my found items on the beach and it came to me that rather than depicting the appearance of the items as a still-life, my drawing should reflect how I feel about a current environmental issue. Nature, wildlife and the environment have always been important to me and the current views in America on climate change I find quite frustrating when the scientific evidence points quite convincingly to a trend of warming temperatures. I wanted to reflect this in my mixed media drawing. I first produced a background in watercolours using a roller and blown bubble colour. The blown bubble colour did not quite work as I anticipated so I adapted the technique as I went along.
I then searched for images of coastal nature reserves and areas of outstanding natural beauty; typed words associated with global warming and rising sea-levels; found varies small maps of coastal nature reserves and wildlife-watching sites; a couple of famous denial quotes on global warming from Donald Trump’s Twitter account; and, a number of newspaper articles on global warming. I pasted these onto my background, joining the bits of map together to form an imaginary coastline and this created my underlying collage. I then used the dried seaweed I had collected from the beach to stamp out frond-like images in a lighter colour on the beach area and used the discarded rope from the beach, dipped in watercolour, to draw wave-like structures over the sea area of the picture. This partially obscured the collage images and text.
Over the stamped land area I roughly drew the seaweed shapes using a bamboo dip pen and then over the whole picture added wave-like lines and text associated with the zones of the beach (littoral zone, foreshore, etc). I finally added information about global warming from the official NASA site (Arctic ice down 13.3% per decade,Global temperature up 1.7 degrees F since 1880, etc).
Is the image successful? I am not sure as it is way out of my normal comfort zone. As a viewer you do have to look at the image quite hard to piece together all the various bits of information in order to ascertain it is both a comment on climate change and the current political climate in America. I quite like this and I like some bits of the picture where the layering has produced an interesting effect. It is one of those drawings which over time I think I will come to like more.
I should of course have taken pictures of my process along the way but got absorbed in making the image and forgot. A learning point for the future!
As I sat looking through my beach finds for subject matter for this exercise I began to think about how some of the items had been discarded at sea and washed up on shore, maybe many hundred of miles away. The impact of an action in one place can have far-reaching consequences for another place – it was like a ripple effect. This sparked an idea that perhaps my drawing could be of this ripple effect so I began thinking how I would depict this. I eventually thought of my boot causing ripples in a rock pool at the shore (man’s impact on the environment) but of course I did not want to cause any damage to a natural environment. At the coast near Ramsgate is the remains of a Hoverport where most of the infrastructure has been removed and nature is slowly reclaiming the environment. The concrete surface remains and is covered in many puddles so I decided these could be ideal for my drawing.
I decided to capture my shoe going through the water on video and then draw my image from this video.
I drew the image using drawing ink so stretched some A3 watercolour paper onto a board. I masked off the area of my leg and foot using masking fluid, used a sponge to create a light background wash and then a brush with diluted ink to create some of the lighter areas of colour. I created the ripple marks using a broad nib dip pen and ink, diluted with gradually less water, before making the final marks with undiluted ink.
At first, I decided to leave the leg and foot area completely blank to make the viewer look harder at the picture and question what they were looking at – if I drew in the leg and foot I thought it would make it too obvious on the intent of the picture and move it out of the still life genre; however, without it the lines look a bit like valleys and hills. I do think the blank area creates ambiguity and for me symbolises that our impact will one day disappear as we are but here for a moment on geological timescales. However, overall I think the blank area on the right just makes the image unbalanced. I therefore decided to draw in the leg and shoe.
Overall, I am fairly happy with the output from this exercise – the various tones of the monochrome provides the structure of the ripple forms and once you realise what you are looking at you can see the radiating lines of the ripples. Is it a still life as I have included my foot? – well, a shoe is inanimate and so are jeans so I guess it can fit into the genre.
For this exercise I had an idea in my head about how far removed we are from our food sources. I know things have got better in the last few years for some people in knowing where their food comes from but I think there is still huge proportion of the population who for one reason or another (often linked to income) have no idea what goes into their food or the source of that food. As I was looking at my beach finds I kept looking at the shell of a crab I had picked up. I then thought about crab sticks and how some time ago how I overheard someone saying how they like the taste of the crab in the sticks. Crab sticks contain little or no actual crab meat but are mainly made of surimi (ground and processed meat of white fish – usually pollock) and starches. I decided to combine crab and crab sticks into a drawing.
I decided to use coloured pencils for this drawing on A3 paper. I put the crab on top of the crab sticks to provide a link between the two but to place them on the end of a shelf and draw them high on the otherwise empty page so the viewer would question why they are balanced in that manner. Is it about the two or about the perilous state of our food chain? I wanted the viewer to construct their own narrative.
When I viewed the image against the brief for this exercise I realised it did not really meet the brief of adding layers of colour, varying my marks and working quite spontaneously. I therefore decided to draw another image using these criteria. I had collected egg cases (catshark, ray and whelk) on the beach and thought the image would show that life goes on.
I used A2 paper and Conte crayons for this image, using both the side and ends of the sticks. I also tried to vary the marks, be more energetic and layer the colours more in order to fulfil the brief. This has worked better on the catshark egg cases on the left than on the ray and whelk cases to the right.
Whilst undertaking my research into the still-life genre I came across this image by Juan Sanchez Cotan. What intrigued me about this image was the unusual composition with the items tiered into an almost hierarchy. It did not depict wealth or status like many of the Dutch still life of the similar period, but rather, just a tiered arrangement of items which work both as individual items and as a group. Cotan made a series of similar images of objects in boxes with some suspended.
I decided to recreate this image using my found beach items. The first decision was to select the items to display. I wanted a mixture of organic and non-organic items and eventually choose a partial crab shell, a large bi-valve shell, a crushed beer can, a crushed top of a sports water bottle and a spiral piece of piping. I made a display box out of black foam board and started to play with the arrangement of the items. After some time I made a decision to have the organic items hanging from the thread (to symbolise that life in the sea is hanging on by a thread with climate change, sea pollution, over-fishing, etc.) and the non-organic firmly placed on the shelf, representing that these things come from the land (terra firma). After hanging the items I found that the crab shell was not big enough or the right shape so I substituted a different shell.
I wanted to use predominately line for this drawing and decided to create the background first. Initially I was going to create the whole image using a free hand hatching technique, however, due to the size of the drawing and the large amount of dark background needed, I decided to use a ruler for the lines of the background, box and shadows, varying the number of cross-hatch lines to create the areas of different tones (whilst the floor of the box is lighter in my image than in reality I made this choice to make a clear distinction between the various areas of the image). This left the space for the actual items, in an almost reversal of the positive and negative shapes. I liked these clear white areas and whilst originally I was going to draw the items in a gestural manner in ink, to contrast with the ruled background, I decided instead to just draw them with a light pencil lines to suggest their main internal structure.
Whilst this was just an extension of the exercise I liked the result, especially the background and the shadows. The almost reversal of the positive and negative spaces make the drawing different and interesting. The items themselves have no external drawn outline as the shapes are created by the ruled lines of the background.
This exercise is about line rather than tone. I decided to continue with my theme on nature and the impact of man on the environment. Whilst visiting Deal beach I had collected a range of inorganic (crushed beer can, boat rope, container top) and organic detritus (two types of seaweed, part of a crab shell, shell) so I thought I will set these up as a still life to show how litter gradually becomes part of the natural environment and as we become more used to it being there, people gradually stop seeing it; within the drawing I wanted people to look and question for some items – is that seaweed or plastic?. Deal beach attracts a lot of litter from the sea due to its position on the coast (close to Dover and the main ferry routes and channel shipping lanes) and the tidal currents.
I first drew some small sketches to try out the composition.
I liked the composition of the top left sketch as it mixed up the inorganic and organic matter and from the drawing it becomes hard to differentiate between some of the items. In the bottom left sketch I divided the group into two and put them on the edge of the table (as in Caravaggio’s Basket of Fruit – see post below). I like the arrangement of the crab shell more in this drawing but not the divided group. In the final sketch I placed the items on the floor and sketched them as if you were seeing them as you walked along the beach but this arrangement did not work for me. I therefore decided to combine the composition of the first two sketches for my final composition.
As I prepared to draw my final image I keep thinking about the table top arrangement of the objects and how this was not suitable for this type of subject matter. I wanted to produce a background that reflected the natural environment without going overboard in producing a landscape rather than a still-life.
I therefore decided to make a background using a more chance effect, influenced by the ebb and flow of the sea. I therefore produced a background using watercolour paints, flowing freely over stretched paper.
Once I had the background I decided to start the line drawing. At first I was using pencil but this was not dark enough against the background, particularly as the drawing was not about tone, just line. So I then tried a grey pen but had the same problem. So finally I used a black ink pen to draw the image.
I added a representation of the pebbles on the beach using a yellow ochre pen. Overall, I like this drawing especially the chance nature of the coloured background and the white patches that remain on the paper. It does give an idea of the things that are found on the beach and how rubbish is mixed with the natural detritus of the environment. There are a couple of things wrong in the drawing including the container top on the left which is not drawn correctly and the shell on the right is not quite grounded enough on the rope. The drawing could have been darker to reflect the dire consequences if we continue to pollute our environment but this is difficult to achieve with a line drawing with no tones. I could have of course made the background much darker but will keep that in mind for future drawings.
Nature and the impact of humans on the environment has always been an interest of mine so I thought it might make a suitable subject for some of the drawings in this unit. For this exercise I visited Deal beach and collected a range of organic and non-organic items to draw.
I selected a broken shell, piece of chalk and a flint pebble for my quick drawings so that I could select one item for the final exercise drawing. I initially picked the flint pebble as I liked the shape. I then did a couple of drawings using colour pencils to determine the position of the flint – vertical or horizontal and tried out a couple of other media for the drawing (ink and fine line pens). In the end I decided the flint pebble did not have sufficient detail to make it an interesting subject for this exercise. What it did confirm for me was that I wanted to go in close to the subject to break that concept in still-life drawings of objects on a table.
I therefore reverted to drawing the shell. I choose this broken shell as it symbolises for me the state of the environment today – the animal which once occupied the shell is dead and gone; and, the broken nature of the shell signifies the state of the natural environment.
I drew the shell close up so that it almost fills the page and used a range of hard and soft pencils to bring out the detail and tone. Whilst I think overall the drawing is fairly successful in capturing the shape of the shell, on reflection I do not think there is sufficient contrast in the tones to define the form fully.
Following this drawing I then drew the image again with conte sticks but this was not successful; I think it is because I am using the conte sticks like pencils. This image has been included in my sketchbook pages and I have started a short exercise in learning to draw with conte sticks as I would like to improve my technique with this media.