Research: Personal Project

When undertaken research for my personal project I looked at artists who were influential in my choice of subject matter, style of drawing or chosen medium.  My overview research centred on the set book Vitamin D:  New Perspectives in Drawing by Emma Dexter, Phaidon Press.

Artists who captured my initial interest include:

  • Anna Barriball – drawing over photographs
  • Shannon Bool – drawing on found paper
  • Michael Borreman – narrative and figures facing away from the gaze of the viewer
  • Ernesto Caivano – multi-narrative panels, use of pen and ink
  • Matt Greene – style including use of more freely applied ink areas as background with precise drawings for main subject
  • Yun-Fei Ji – style
  • William Kentridge – use of charcoal
  • Julie Mehretu – way marks pull together fragments within the wider drawing
  • Vik Muniz – style, particularly Prison XIII, the Well, After Piranesi, 2002
  • Glexis Novoa, use of graphite on rose marble paper in Dia de la Victoria , 2002 and graphite on travertine marble in From Murano Grande, 2002
  • Silke Schatz, geometric lines and grids
  • Zak Smith, style of free and expressive marks

I also looked at Contemporary Drawing from the 1960s to Now by Katherine Stout.  Artist include:

  • Grayson Perry – narrative and self exploration
  • Tracey Emin- exploration of self and monoprints
  • Gilbert and George – use of photographs in drawing
  • Paul Noble – style and imagined places

I pulled together scanned images of the drawings into my sketchbook as  a sort of inspiration board so that I could refer back to some of them and ensure I was pushing my work as far as I could.

R.A.Overview

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Research: The Shock of the New

Chapter 9:  The Future That Was

The final chapter in the book looks at the role of the museum and the end of modernity.  Hughes looks at the birth of the Modern Art museum with MoMA and the role of the museum in changing the purpose of art.  He presents works such as Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII, 1978, which he states is totally dependant on the setting of the museum as the only place where bricks could be seen as art, otherwise in other settings they are just 120 bricks; the museum gives room for a debate about space associated with this work.

He also looks at the rise of the art market and the increasing values associated with art.  This leads onto the role of artists who have tried to come out of the art ‘system’ by presenting land art or performance art.  He looks at the work of Michael Heizer, Complex One, Central Eastern Nevada, 1972 and Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970, both of which at the time of conception had no value attached to them, could not be traded or move, were difficult to see and took time both to visit and see.

He ends by looking at the work of Auerbach, Freud, Hockney, Pearlstein and Fischl as Realism re-emerges.

Research: Alex McFarlane

My tutor suggested I look at this artist, who is mainly a painter and sculptor.  She particularly wanted me to look at his Industrial series, where he combines the use of drips and accidental paint runs with accurate renditions of the object.

I must admit his art was a revelation to me – the large industrial landscapes, the combination of accuracy with free expressive use of paint, the drips and runs to depict the foreground trees or water coming out of the pipes and finally, the incorporation of actual pieces of metal pipes/plumbing attached to the painting, providing a transition between painting vs sculpture.  For me many of his painting had a sinister psychological feel and reminded me of scenes from the George Orwell novel ‘1984’, despite the colourful nature of many of the images.

Two of my favourite paintings, for their grimly atmospheric industrial feel, integration of the drips of paint into the water flowing from the pipes, colour palette and use of actual plumbing supplies are River View and Soot 2.

Looking at this artist inspired me to have a look at drips and runs more, and the use of bleach on inks and watercolour.  I also went out sketching to Dungeness to have a go at my own Alex McFarlane inspired image and then took this further into other drawings using drips and more accidental effects.  These appear in a separate post.

Link to artist website here.

Research: Cubism

After reading the piece on Cubism in the Shock of the New by Robert Hughes (see previous post), the thing that stuck in my mind was the statement that our knowledge of an object is made up from multiple viewpoints.  I decided to create a drawing of these different viewpoints in a cubist style.

I used a silver metal Indonesian statue as my object and drew it first from the front (black) then from the side (red), then from the back (blue) and finally from the top and bottom (green), overlaying the lines.

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I quite liked the outcome but thought I would take it to the next stage by tracing over different parts of the drawing to get multiple viewpoints in one image.  The lines traced were part choice and part chance as it was quite difficult to follow one set of lines.  I do like the way the bowl in the hand is repeated three times from different viewpoints, the two part-profiles of the head, and the two viewpoints of the bird from different angles.

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I throught the top of the image worked better than the bottom so I cropped it and enlarged it onto A3 pastel paper.

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I then used coloured soft pastels to fill in the shapes, keeping repeated elements the same colour to provide unity to the drawing.  I brought the lines back out using black ink.

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From a bit of creative play, triggered by a phrase in a book, I ended up with a drawing which is fairly successful and a process that I could use in future drawings.  It has sparked a number of ideas I could use in my final assignment for this unit.

A Self-Reflection on Progress to Date

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.

The Future

  • 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.

Research: Landscape Artists

There are so many landscape artists that this research point became almost overwhelming.  I therefore decided to provide a brief overview in this post on the named artists in the course manual plus other artists whose work I have recently seen in exhibitions.  I will then pick a couple of artists whose work I find interesting to research further in later posts.

Durer’s (1471-1528) landscapes are the earliest surviving examples in Western art of pure landscape studies.  During a journey through the Alps in 1494-5 he recorded a series of topographical watercolours; these studies were then often used in this later etchings and woodcuts, for which he is probably better known.

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Durer, Study of a Rock-Face in a Quarry near Nuremberg c 1495-6.

Whilst Claude Lorraine (c 1600-82) lived prior to the Romantic period his landscapes to me have that idealised, romantic, pastoral feel.  Figures are often present in his landscapes and the peasants have that clean, happy, contented feel which is probably far removed from the actual reality of often living in poverty with poor working conditions. Whilst I can admired the technical ability in his landscapes the works themselves do not really engaged me as the viewer; perhaps they are just too far removed from my own interests.

Lorrain, Claude, 1604-1682; Landscape with a Goatherd
Lorraine, Landscape with a Goatherd, 1635-36

As landscape as a genre in itself becomes established, there is a proliferation of artists working in this field.  JMW Turner (1775-1851), John Constable (1776-1837), Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) to name just a few.

Perhaps one of my favourites painters of this period is Samuel Palmer (1805-1881).  It is the fairytale, mystical quality which his drawings and paintings process that I find intriguing;  I can look at some of his images for a long time and keep finding new things.  Also his range of mark making and the stylised quality of this forms draws me into the images.  This stylised form recurs in later landscapes I have seen by artists such as Paul Nash (e.g. The Falling Stars, 1912 and Landscape of the Vernal Equinox (III), 1944) and even Grant Wood (e.g. Young Corn, 1931).

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Palmer, Early Morning, 1825.

I recently visited the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and his landscapes moved away from depicting the ideal to depicting reality as he saw it.  I particularly admire the mark-making in his drawings and his ability to show the ordinary as a subject worthy of drawing or painting.

Carpenter's workshop, seen from the artist's studio window, 1882 blog
Van Gogh, Carpenter’s workshop, seen from the artist’s studio window, 1882.

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is probably best known for her close-ups of flowers, however, it is her landscape which I enjoy.  Her ability to take a panoramic view and just put the essence of the shapes and colours into the image without it being distracted by detail is something I would like to achieve in my drawings; the shapes in many of her landscape take on animal or human form.

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O’Keeffe, Purple Hills No. II, 1934

L.S. Lowry (1887-1976) is a painter whose paintings I know well but actually know very little about the artist.  I grew up seeing Lowry’s pictures on television and knew the associated phrase (wrong in my view) ‘matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs’, later made into a pop song.  Lowry painted the industrial north and the associated houses and landscapes.  I have never been that struck by his paintings as I found them a bit of a ‘variation on the theme of’.  However, on looking closer at his paintings one of the things I gain from the images is the depth of field he creates in some of the images by having a strong fore, middle and background, whilst using aerial perspective to fade away the background.

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Lowry, The Football Match, 1949

I went to the recent Paul Nash exhibition at the Tate (see post here) and have always been drawn to his early images of trees (e.g. The Three in the Night, 1913 and Tree Group 1913) and also his depictions of the battle fields of World War 1 (e.g. We Are Making a New World, 1918).  At the exhibition I found the landscapes whilst he lived at Dymchurch fascinating.   Perhaps it is because this is very familiar territory to me that I was drawn to these images but what I particularly liked was the strong graphic nature of the paintings with very little detail, highlighting for me the isolation of the individual in a vast expanse of the landscape and man’s need to control nature.

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Nash, The Shore, 1923

Grant Wood (1891-1942) is probably best known for his painting American Gothic which I recently saw at the Royal Academy exhibition, America after the Fall.  However, he also painting landscapes using stylised forms (as indicated previously) and it is these which I found interesting.  In many ways they do not show the poverty and problems of the depression of the time but rather a sanitized version of reality.

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Wood, Young Corn, 1931.

John Piper (1903-92) is another artist I have always felt drawn towards for his often dark depictions of buildings, such as The Gatehouse, Knole, 1942.  What I was less aware of were his depictions of the wider landscape, such as Tryan Mountain, 1950 and his move towards abstraction, such as House at Niton.

Seaton Delaval 1941 by John Piper 1903-1992
Piper, Seaton Delaval, 1941

I came across Barbara Rae (b 1943) a few years ago and what struck me in her paintings was her ability to take a landscape (sometimes focusing in on one small part) and convey the mood she feels when painting the image.  She creates the drama she sees in the landscape with vivid colours and abstract strokes; getting away from representation is something I struggle with, so I admire artists who can do achieve this style.

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Rae, Blue Fence

George Shaw (b 1966) is not an artist I was aware of before undertaking this research.  His early paintings of the estate where he grew up remind me of my own upbringing on a council estate.  He paints the ordinary houses, garages and other buildings which were as familiar to him as the London churches and squares where familiar to JMW Turner.  I really like the absence of people and for me the way his images, rather than conveying a harshness and brutality, convey a warmth, understanding and sympathy with the surroundings.

Scenes from the Passion: Late 2002 by George Shaw born 1966
Shaw, Scenes from the Passion: Late, 2002

Sarah Woodfine (b 1968) creates drawings mixing the real and the imaginary.  She uses optical illusions and puts the drawings into a three-dimensional space to create a fantasy environment; this seems to come from her training as a sculptor.  I have never thought about cutting up drawings and creating in effect mini-theatrical scenes.  Something I might try in the future.

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Woodfine, Somewhere, 2007

 

Assignment 2: Reflection Against Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

During this unit I have again experimented with a range of materials and techniques. I mainly drew in black and white prior to commencing this course and so during this unit have tried to use colour in a variety of different mediums (where appropriate). I have used collage in an exercise and a mixed medium approach in my second assignment,

I have started to sketch more and have found that rather than using small pages I am better at using A3 paper. This stops in being so tight in my drawings and I am slowly getting over that fear of sketching in public. I continue to use loose sheets for sketching which I attach to an A3 Drawing Board. I have started Life Drawing Classes and this is developing my observational skills and visual awareness.

Quality of Outcome
Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment

I am very satisfied with second assignment outcome. I have pushed myself to make a mixed media drawing, in a larger format I would normally attempt. I like the composition of the image, the colour range and the different mark making in the drawing, from the smooth of the steel frame to the freer, more gestural marks in the vegetation.

Demonstration of Creativity
Imagination, experimentation, invention, personal voice

Throughout this unit and in my assignment submission I have struggled with the still-life genre. I have therefore tried to think beyond the usual coffee-pot type images and engage with a subject matter/idea which interests me, as well as fitting the criteria for the unit. In this way I think I may start to develop my personal voice more. However, in many ways I wonder if I have over-thought the unit and should have just done the exercises using the normal suspects as my subject matter?

In this unit I have also tried to concentrate more on the final image which portrays my idea rather than it be more about the process of making the drawing. This was a deliberate move on my part as I am trying to discover which camp (if any or both) the making of my art and my interest lies. Perhaps it is too early to look at either?

Context
Reflection, research

I have visited exhibitions, Study Days and undertaken a number of areas of research and then experimented with what I have discovered. I need to develop my academic writing more and to write more on what I am discovering. I still struggle with the on-line blog and am keeping exhibition and some other research notes in hard copy with a brief summary entry on my on-line learning log. I am hoping this will develop into more of a visual diary, learning log and sketchbook combined so that it is easier to look at some form of cross-fertilisation of ideas. As this is my first Level 1 course I think it is the ideal time to find the right format for me.