Moving on…..

I have been assessed on my Drawing 1 course and did much better than I expected. I think this is down to understanding the academic process more than my drawing skill, and we could have a whole discussion about that…

I am moving on to Printmaking 1 on the OCA course pathway. If you would like to travel with me, my course learning log is at http://greenmangle.wordpress.com/

I can’t now imagine not having OCA in my life.

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Thoughts on the Drawing 1 Course

My objective in undertaking this course was to achieve a sound grounding in basic drawing skills. I chose Distance Learning because I work irregular hours, part time. I have no previous art qualifications.

Distance learning has it’s drawbacks, of course, but, if you need to fit learning around other commitments, it is an excellent option. It offers great flexibility to progress at your own pace. The difficulties of distance learning were most evident in the Figure Drawing part of the course because of access to models and remote (both in space and time) tuition.

I certainly think that my draftsmanship has improved immensely. The course has also massively broadened my ideas about what drawing can be.  I have had a great introduction to art history and found this more interesting than I would ever have imagined. However, I think that the single biggest outcome for me has been acquiring a disciplined approach to producing a coherent body of work. I feel that I can now take an initial idea (or lack of idea) and, through a reasoned process, develop a journey leading to, hopefully, a well thought out destination. No more sitting around thinking ‘what shall I draw?’ or ‘I feel like making a print, what shall I do?’.

This course has empowered me. I can’t wait to do the next one!

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Assignment 5 – Option 2

I have set myself the following objectives for this final assignment:

  • be ambitious
  • work with colour and texture
  • develop from the techniques used in Looking Closer and Torn Collage
  • produce a piece with a rich, interesting surface
  • use the technique of obliterating and restating
  • reflect a sculptural shape and interesting shadow

I looked back through all my sketches, especially ‘Different Angles’, and did further thumbnail sketches to decide on my composition. I wanted to get dramatic lighting, so I experimented with a darkened room, spot light and a box. In the end I decided to suspend my stone in the box. This gave me:

  • an interesting, offset shadow
  • contrasting texture of the string and stone
  • perspective of the corners of the box
  • highlights the hole in the stone
  • a centre of interest with the knot through the hole.

I experimented with media which I could work over again. I settled on a roughly brushed gesso background (several layers for toughness) with coloured charcoals in a very limited palette (tan, brown, grey,blue).

In the composition I aimed for:

  • the string to be on about the 1/3 line
  • the stone and shadow to give a diagonal
  • the string and shadow to not be fully resolvedstone layout001
  • the texture, colour and tones of the work as a whole to mirror those on the stone
  • very simple and strong, so, in the end, I edited out the edges of the box

Having prepared my support, I toned the background by sweeping coloured charcoal over it, and then reworking with gesso and acrylic medium. I  started to place loosely the stone and shadow. I kept drawing in charcoal, rubbing over, painting over and getting more texture. I gradually allowed the shapes to appear, layering up the colours. Eventually I started to concentrate on details of tone in the stone, but when I did, I over filled my texture. I obliterated the shapes almost completely and started again. This time I was careful not to use charcoal too heavily, and to try for an impression rather than detail.

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I am pleased with:

  • richness of texture
  • restrained colour
  • three dimensionality of the stone and knot
  • integration of shapes and colour
  • flow around the drawing.

I am not sure about:

  • lack of definition on the stone? just not sure about the balance between clarity and texture
  • the shadow is not shapely enough
  • I tried to make an interesting but very simple composition, but I am not sure it is interesting enough
  • is the drawn element of the picture obvious enough? Does it need to be?

If I was starting again I would:

  • if I was using this technique again, I would work on a much bigger scale.
  • I might crop in much harder

I really enjoyed the process of developing the image using paint, charcoal and my fingers. I felt a real, physical connection with the work and the subject.

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Looking Closer, Torn Paper Collage

For this exercise, I looked back at one of my ‘Draw and Select’ tonal drawings in charcoal of a large flint with many facets. I used four strips of paper to isolate areas for consideration.

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I think several of these are interesting. I have chosen to develop the last one, but can see myself returning to explore others in the future, in different media.

I have struggled to replicate the lighting on this stone, which is crucial because of the highlights on the sharp edges and glassy faces. I drew the original in very early morning light and the season has moved on. An anglepoise placed low doesn’t have the same effect as the sun. My selection rotated the angle of view and I found this hard to get my head around. The stone is a rather dull brown with no variation apart from that created by lighting. I thought, therefore, that I would try and interpret tone as colour, like solarisation in photography. I tried some colour combinations in my sketchbook using lush, soft pastel colours, and fixed on a range of purples and oranges. My stones are not big; I am drawing a 2cm sq area, so I developed and exaggerated the variation in the area.

P1020936Although I was trying to capture reality in an unreal way, I don’t think this works on a representational or abstract level. I think the drawing has suffered from trying to cover both, and I should have been representational or abstract, not both. I think I would have fared better working just from my tonal drawing and not worrying about the reality of the stone.

I thought I would try again from a different, simpler tonal drawing.

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Again I isolated an area. I moved the elements nearer and exaggerated them to get a better design. I wanted to make the surface more interesting, so I developed a piece of cartridge with several acrylic grounds of varying texture. My idea was to be able to lay down layers of colour to get a richness and depth. I then used pastel to lay down basic colour areas and tones and then matt acrylic medium to wash these into a fixed, base layer with a bristle brush.

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I started building up layers of pastel using hard and then soft pastels, brushing and rubbing them to fix them and build texture. I tried to get freer and freer as I went, developing from the representational to a more designed effect. In the end, I was using sweeping arcs of unnatural colour to unify the image and, hopefully, give flow.

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Detail

Detail

I don’t think the underlying design is strong enough, but I enjoy the texture and colour. I can really see the value of this exercise for providing a route to exciting abstration.

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Detail

Detail

I moved on to working with the same enlargement in collage. Here I tried to work with large pieces of paper in a bold way, rather than trying to map the tones and colours exactly in a mosaic. I also tried to include pictures with identifyable elements such as body parts, plants, seed pods, and a trapezeist. I thought it would be fun for the images to operate at two levels. I concentrated on the rhythm of shapes and colours. I unified the design with bold sweeps of acrylic paint.

I thoroughly enjoyed these exercises but was disappointed with my outcomes. I didn’t think the designs were nearly strong enough. I would have been better using other pieces rather than the tonal drawings. However, I acquired lots of new ideas and methods.

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Exercise Introducing Colour

Initial thoughts:

I am really relishing the prospect of working in colour even though my subjects are quite monotone. I will need to seek out subtle nuances or invent colour based on tone. I want to explore different media. I could use:

  • pastels hard/soft block and pencil
  • watercolour pencils and washes
  • oil pastels
  • inktense blocks/pencils and washes
  • acrylic paints
  • coloured backgrounds, textured backgrounds
  • artbars
  • felt tips
  • any combination

Initial experiments:

In my sketchbook, I tried out some of the media I had in mind. The cartridge paper wasn’t up to supporting some of the media, especially when I experimented mixing wet and dry marks. All the media had their merits apart from the artbars: I have not found any good modus operandi for these yet.

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I continued my experiments on heavier cartridge and watercolour paper. I also looked at resists and ways of preparing backgrounds by washes, spattering and applying tissue paper. I found that small scale experiments didn’t always demonstrate the effectiveness of a medium, so I decided to do a number of larger works experimenting with several media.

My first attempt was using inktense pencils on Arches heavy NOT watercolour paper using masking fluid to reserve highlights. I hoped that the texture of the paper would be picked up by the pencils and give a sense of the gritty surface. This didn’t really work and I found the effect quite dead and flat. The masking fluid produced a crude effect even when applied with a bamboo pen.

stone on arches001

I then tried spattering ink on a heavy cartridge and used tissue paper to create texture in places. I developed this with Inktense blocks and pencils. I used white soft pastel and acrylic ink to reclaim some of the highlights. I cropped the stone into a square format.

cs3 I think this was more successful in terms of the interest of the textures, tonal range and design, if not so accurately representational.

I wanted to explore a medium which I could work back into, scratch through and keep developing in order to show the sculptural shape of a stone, rather than its texture. I thought oil pastels would provide this. I lit the stone from one side with a daylight bulb which produced strong, blue shadows. I chose a limited palette of earth colours and a few cold blues, greens and purples for shadows and the traces of algae. I wanted to trace the contours of the stone in a similar way to my earlier pastel drawing.

cs1

flint

I didn’t find the oil pastels as responsive as I had hoped. I reworked areas with solvent and then layered up again and scratched through, but I couldn’t achieve the effect in my mind’s eye. I would have liked  more subtle blue tones for the shadow, but my set is limited here.

I don’t think the oil pastel is as effective as soft pastel, so I thought I would turn back to soft pastels but try an approach which concentrated on the surface textures of another stone. I brushed gesso over cartridge paper with a bristle brush to produce a textures surface with some tooth. I then loosely painted an underpainting in watercolour concentrating on tone.

cs5

When I started working into the surface with hard pastels, I found they didn’t sit very well on this surface, and soft pastel filled it very quickly. I should have used a grittier gesso. The underpainting was very dominant. I felt as though I was getting nowhere with this approach but persevered. Eventually a textural representation appeared from the murk.

cs6

I like the way the brush strokes show through and the mixture of linear, speckled and scumbled marks. I don’t think I have accurately represented the tones on the different facets and angles of the stone, but I have captured the three dimensionality of the holes. I found it difficult to differentiate the glassy, smooth facets from the crystaline ones. Flints are so interesting.

I had enjoyed the abstract shapes produced by my continuous, unsighted line drawings and wanted to see if I could develop this idea with colour. I used a white oil pastel to draw unsighted onto w/c paper. I then developed the background with washes to try and represent the texture of the surface of the stone. I used ultramarine and burnt sienna because they are complimentary colours which produce a good neutral when they mix. I dropped and spattered them back into the wash, and also used sienna acrylic ink and salt. This was great fun but I think the result isn’t especially interesting. I think it would have been better with more earth colour and a softer blue or perhaps something like Paynes Grey instead.

cs4

I thought it would be interesting to try the same approach in positive rather than negative. A damped a support and draw into it with my finger dipped in the neat ink. I had to work very fast. I really like the abstract effect of this and how the paint has moved on the drying paper.

cs2

In my initial experiments in my sketchbook, I had enjoyed the results of felt tip pens on a  prepared background.

holey stone002I thought it as very effective at capturing glassy facets, crisp edges and highlights. I tried to develop this on a larger scale but but I don’t think it worked. The delicacy of the medium was lost.

stone felt tip001

I have really enjoyed experimenting with coloured media, and perhaps got a bit carried away. I still have not achieved what I wanted or explored every idea, but I want to move on to exploring a close up view.

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Exercise – Tonal Study

I have been trying to explore the different characteristics of my stones in a variety of tonal studies. In this first study, I wanted to describe the roughness of the stone. I used soft charcoal to capture the overall tones and then used harder marks to convey the small roughnesses, pits and edges. I  slightly exaggerated these surface features. I have tried to contrast the soft tones in the background with the hard edges in the stone. I have also tried to use the background and shadow tones to create flow around the drawing.

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In my next study, wanted to convey a more mystical aspect of the stone, thinking of it as a prehistoric Venus, or maybe a standing stone. Inspired by Henry Moore, I have placed my stone in an imagined, empty landscape. I used a small led to provide narrow dramatic light almost from underneath.

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I used charcoal with black pastel, which gave me a greater range of tones. I scraped the pastel for dust to capture the crystalline, pitted surface. Actually, I think the stone must be a rain god, because the threatening storm and shower just seemed to draw itself. This stone has definitely assumed a character of its own in my mind and I think this drawing does capture a sense of power. However, I thought I would like to draw it much larger and really try and get its sculptural qualities.

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Using soft pastels in grey and black, I drew a rough shape and then started to manipulate it with my fingers and the heel of my hand. I really pushed the pastel about, obliterating and then restating. Using my hands, it felt as though I was sculpting the form. I really loved this. I entered a zen moment and became one with the stone! I didn’t think much about what it looked like, more about how the shapes felt. I like the totally different character of this drawing and how it conveys the 3 dimensional shape.

I wanted to push this idea of obliterating and restating further. I turned to a flint with multiple facets and textures, to see if I could convey this different quality. I first dipped my finger in indian ink and drew very sweeping shapes on the paper as if I was stroking the stone. Not waiting for the ink to dry, I then used a 1″ bristle brush and white acrylic to partially obliterate my marks. I repeated this several times. I used heavy body paint to get brush marks and thick strokes of paint. I then used black and white pastel to develop the different facets, highlights and shadows. I tried to concentrate on the feel rather than the look of the stone.

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This photo doesn’t show the globs of paint or the shiny, metallic look of the ink. It was a very interesting experiment  and I really like the textures produced. The stone ended up a bit round. Here is my original tonal drawing for comparison, albeit from a different angle. I am having so much fun on this part of the course!

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Research Point – Working with Line

I haven’t been able to find much internet accessible line drawing by either Mackintosh or Hockey, but I have been looking with interest at line drawings encountered during general reading etc. This week, I came across this drawing in a library book:

Smith, J A (1992) The Pen and Ink Book. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications

Smith, J A (1992) The Pen and Ink Book. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications

It is particularly useful to have the artist’s comment an the drawing. I have been struggling with the idea of ‘flow’, what it means and how to achieve it. I had been thinking more about the connectedness of the marks, rather than the connectedness of  space. I had not thought explicitly in terms of how the eye moves around the drawing.

Here, he has also conveyed a wealth of information in a few economical lines. The volume of the nappy is described by the solid curving shape.  The pudginess of a baby at that age is beautifully described by the lines intruding into the arms and legs and stopping. In particular, he has captured the little crease  at the top of the thigh and back of the neck. Only babies at just that stage have this and it is beautifully observed. The baby is crawling into the frame which gives movement and draws our eye from right to left.

The essense of the drawing is the acutely observed, beautifully fluid, but ultimately unconnected lines.

This drawing by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska uses different devises to tell us what he wants us to know about the subject. He has exaggerated the characteristics of the figure that shows us this is a super strong man. The arm, leg and neck muscles have been exaggerated and the waist and head have been reduced in size. Our eyes would normally be drawn to a face but he is directing our eyes to those immense thighs. Interestingly, you can also see where he has ‘drawn through’ the arm for the torso.

Wrestler 1913 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891-1915

Wrestler 1913 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891-1915

My other artist, whose line drawings I have been constantly looking at, is Kokoschka. This drawing is from an old gallery catalogue (1986):

Nude: young woman seated in profile, 1953

Nude: young woman seated in profile, 1953

Here he has used colour in the way others might use weight of line to pull a leg forward or push one back. His lines do not have the fluid continuity of Gaudier-Brzeska and he has often restated. This gives the drawing a liveliness and an organic reality – this a very real woman, not idealised. Using paler colours for her head and turning her face away, he has directed our eyes to the weight of her lower body. I get a real sense of solid flesh contrasting with softness of hair.

Using just line, without tone (well, almost), or background context, these artists convey a wealth of information with great economy.

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