Reflecting on the whole of this course presented a challenge as there is so much work to look back on. I re-read all of my tutor reports and, in spite of the course limitations, overall I am generally happy with the progress I have made.
This course started off well and I received good feedback for parts one and two but I did not really connect with part three which was hugely disappointing. The exercises were tedious and repetitive and there were too many of them. It felt flat and dull so was not enjoyable. Part four was better, mainly because I found a local group where I had access to a model, although there was no tuition so I felt lacking in terms of learning. I had no model for assignment 4 and used past drawings but didn’t achieve what I hoped. I have since come to understand my preferred way of learning is visual and experiential, I like to see others drawing in order to understand, and discuss methods, something that is very difficult to achieve on an online course.
I tried to focus on the positive and revisited the areas I had enjoyed most, assignment 2 was a pivotal moment as my artistic voice started to develop. What I took from part 3 landscape was to look at landscape differently although I did not process this information until after I had completed it.
Although the key criticism was to focus on what I can see before me, rather than using photographs, it’s not always practical on a distance learning course, obviously. However, the most enjoyable part of the course has been drawing faces so, having no other ideas to work from this was my starting point.
I spent hours looking at contemporary art online and reading the course books and borrowed some from the library. I noted the ones that I liked and simply started drawing faces that attracted me in my sketchbook. I wasn’t sure where I was going with it but I was certain I wanted to draw these faces, faces I find interesting, with lines and shadows and irregular features, faces that have lived life that shows on the exterior. I also felt this was an opportunity to experiment with materials so used a variety including ink, inktense pencils, graphite, Art Graf block, biros, markers, coloured charcoal etc.
At this point I came to a complete standstill, unsure how to proceed so I drew something I knew I would enjoy, a large face in charcoal:
My aim here was softness, trying not to overdo the detail. I wanted the face to emerge out of the background, rather than to be precise and exact. I was thinking of Richter in particular at this point.
I decided to try colour next which made me refer to my artist research. The one that came to mind was Marie Laurencin, in particular, Cecilia de Madrazo and the Dog Coco. I like the simplicity and use of colour here. The limited palette, with greys and pinks, adds emotion, suggesting sadness. The colours seem to be applied in blocks and I like this method. I’m interested in how colour is used here.
Marie Laurencin was a French painter and printer. Her work is both lyrical and graceful with subtle colours and softness, softness was something I wanted to try and achieve in my own work.
This inspired me to draw a larger work using coloured charcoal blocks, again avoiding too much detail and aiming for simplicity.
I then decided to look at other artists’ work again and tried to copy them in my sketchbook. I looked at Gerhard Richter, Leon Kossoff, Peter Coker, Max Uhlig, Giacometti, Frank Auerbach, Kathe Kollwitz, Franz Kline, Georges Seurat, Federico Barocci, Paul Gaughin, Pablo Picasso, Antonin Artaud and David Bomberg.
The following are excerpts from my sketchbook copying other artists’ work:
This may have been the best, most useful exercise I have undertaken in the whole of the course. I felt like I was making some progress and was happy with the results.
It gave me many ideas to work with and they were all instrumental in the following drawings. I was particularly inspired by Richter, Kossoff and Auerbach and tried to use the elements of their work that I most liked, mostly monochromatic, dramatic and expressive. My aim was to draw more expressively.
It helped me focus on where to direct my efforts. I went back to Richter. Earlier on in the course (assignment 3) I was inspired by Gerhard Richter’s chairs and again have found him to be a source of inspiration. This time his image of Sigmund Freud lead me to copying it. I love the blurry soft features, it’s a different representation of a portrait. I read that Richter wanted to make everything equal using this technique. Perhaps it is a distancing technique, about showing and hiding at the same time, there is certainly ambiguity in his work.
I then decided to work on black paper with white compressed charcoal and my next works were these:
I used white compressed charcoal on black paper and eraser, I really loved the effects of this. I tried to be restrained here and not overdo the detail. I keep coming back to this theme of what’s visible and what’s not, the mark-making and erasing, revealing and obscuring.
The next two pieces:
My aim was to create a lot of contrast whilst keeping it simpler, without all the lines of energy I usually put in. I liked the result. Still, I wanted to try another medium so used oil pastels:
I wasn’t sure about this so used turpentine to smooth it out but I think it’s ended up being too smooth.
Another attempt was to use white compressed charcoal on black paper, using an eraser to create the shadows. It’s quite difficult to use the eraser precisely, especially the electric one but it feels more expressive:
Next I created a charcoal background on a brown sheet of kraft paper, again using the eraser:
Quite an interesting result from the ridged paper, the charcoal did not adhere that well and even the eraser rubbings are clinging to the paper.
My final piece was based on Richter’s portrait of Freud. I drew it quickly, without an eraser as I was trying to capture emotion and the smallest hint of detail:
Although I did not know what my initial plan was this became a personal journey of exploration through portraits, using monochrome. Whilst it didn’t result in one final image I have produced a number of interesting images along the way, inspired by the artists Richter and Kossoff.
My process was not strategic but it did flow and whilst it might not make much sense to anybody else it was a genuine process of exploration for me. I have spent a lot of time thinking too much about where this was headed and ultimately followed by own instinct.
I am most happy with the sketchbook works and the white on black works. I tried very hard not to overdo things and was as restrained as I can be right now. I suspect this will take time to better achieve.
ARTICLES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY
Guy Noble, Drawing Masterclass: 100 Creative Techniques of Great Artists, Thames & Hudson, 2017, London
Colin Wiggins, National Gallery Company, 2007, London, Leon Kossoff: Drawing from Painting
Klemens von Klemperer, the Passion of a German Artist: Käthe Kollwitz, 2011, USA, Xlibris Publishing
Sarah MacDougall and Rachel Dickson, Bomberg, Ben Uri, 2017 London
Liz Rideal, Self-Portraits, National Portrait Gallery Insights, London, 2005