Assignment 3 Expanse

Initally I had planned to draw a seascape, after being inspired by Vija Cilmins and John Virtue but, on reading the directions for this exercise, I realised I would need to include a man made object which made me reconsider. I really had no idea where to start with this assignment, nothing immediately came to mind.

By chance I happened to read a quote by the writer Olivia Laing about loneliness. I immediately googled it and came across an interesting article, How Art Helped me See the Beauty in Loneliness. It talks about the connection between creativity and isolation. It struck a chord as I had always liked Andrew Wyeth’s work and had recently come across a Monet painting, The Red Cape, which caught my attention. I haven’t thought about loneliness as a topic but, living away from my home and family and friends, it is something I understand. This led me to a little research. I had already been interested in the theme of absence and thought maybe windows would be interesting to consider.

I was really surprised to learn that Andrew Wyeth made over 300 hundred images of windows, I also discovered there is more to windows than light, having symbolic value too. In some of the research in expanse we learnt about artists using trees as an obstacle, to stop the viewer coming too far in. I liked this concept and it made me think about the view outside my back window, the back field can just be seen but the trees in front block the way. I drew a quick sketch of this in crayon, just to see how I felt about it. I quickly realised it was missing a man-made element so dismissed this idea quite quickly.

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crayon sketch of back field

I still couldn’t figure out what to draw and, thinking about isolation, remembered visiting a beach where there was a cottage, right next to it. This appealed to me as it is quite a remote beach and it’s very wild and windy there, it would be quite lonely to live there. I did a quick charcoal sketch.

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charcoal sketch of Achill beach cottage

As I was still unsure, I also drew two other ideas, one of some cottages in a bleak landscape and another quite hard image of a ruined castle on a striking bed of rock.

 

 

Whilst I like the contrast of the ruin on the rock it didn’t seem right for this exercise and I felt like the three cottages was a more interesting composition.

By now my head was all over the place and I was still confused about what to focus on so I drew a number of thumbnail images that appealed to me. This was a slightly different approach for me as I usually like to work things out by drawing. Afterwards I realised they were all of cottages so this seemed like the obvious path to follow.

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thumbnail sketches of cottages

I then decided to reflect on advice from previous assignments, one of which was to take time to develop my ideas. I may be in danger of taking too much time on this one, I do think about the assignments a lot. The other advice was to take creative and material risks, this is a tricky one for me and I know I need to do it but find it challenging.

On this note, I was quite taken with the Seurat drawings , and figured I would experiment by drawing in conté sticks like him. It was harder than I thought but I drew two drawings in this style.

The result was fine, the mood seems evocative and dramatic and I quite liked the composition of the one on the left.

In an attempt to try something else, I drew this scene in a soluble graphite to create a wash.

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cottage in soluble graphite

I’ve never done this before so it was new but I quite liked the monochrome aspect so thought I would investigate with a limited palette next.

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cottage in conte sticks, limited palette

This became my preferred subject so I decided to to a drawing in chalk pastels, taking longer over it.

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cottage in chalk pastels

Whilst I was relatively happy with the result it wasn’t what I wanted, plus it was a safe option, I do like drawing in soft pastels but decided perhaps it wasn’t challenging enough. Did I learn enough from drawing it? Probably not so I decided to go back to an earlier sketch and do an oil pastel version.

So I used oil pastels and then, perhaps because oil pastels seem so stark, I decided to use turpentine on it. I had planned just to use it on the background to smooth it out, to loosen the focus a little bit but, once I started I thought it would look odd to stop half way through. I quite like the end result. I left it to dry overnight before going back in with the oil pastels for some more definition. The middleground seemed quite weak so I needed to rework that some more.

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final version oil pastels

 

The oil version is the one I’m choosing for this assignment. It’s not perfect but it is a much more interesting scene. It’s quite bold, which I like, the composition has strong lines, which I also like but, most of all, I like the dirty, grittiness, the overgrown, slightly uncared for aspect.

ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I really considered the composition for this exercise and ended up choosing the one with a strong composition as I thought it was most appropriate for the exercise. I have learned about perspective and think I have achieved a competence in both angular and aerial here, although I would not say it was perfect.

I’m not sure I am learning as much as I would like when it comes to using new materials and techniques and this needs to be an area to work on. When reading other blogs there are always lots of things I am not aware of and spend time googling them but I feel quite unsure how to approach some of these.

I have struggled with part three so possibly haven’t made as much progress as I did in part three.

Quality of Outcome

I think I am logical in planning the assignment, I spend a long time thinking it over in different ways. This time I tried a few different approaches to trigger the creative flow and I got there in the end. I try to write clearly but expressively about my process.

Demonstration of Creativity 

Sometimes I think I lack imagination. I have tried to experiment but I need to develop this a lot more. I think I am discovering my personal voice, I have a lot of ideas that attract me and try to work on them. I’m only really getting into the habit of using sketchbooks now and I need to improve this but I think I am starting to appreciate them more so again, more focus required on this area.

Context Reflection

I think this is one of my stronger points, I do think a lot and do research. I try to read around the subject as much as possible. I use my local library a lot, even if it’s just to flick through picture books. I’m currently reading The Complete Artist by Ken Howard, How to Keep a Sketchbook by Michael Woods and Edward Hopper: Portraits of America by Wieland Schmied. I do have a process where I work from an idea or something that has inspired me and I work through it until completion.

References

Laing, Olivia, 28th February, 2016, How Art Helped Me See the Beauty in Loneliness, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/feb/28/the-lonely-city-olivia-laing-edward-hopper-andy-warhol, accessed 14th September 2017

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Assignment Two

It was only when drawing the sketches around the house that I really started looking at furniture as a subject. I felt like I was drawing empty spaces as normally these spaces are frequently occupied. It made me think about absence, although we’re not physically there we do leave something of themselves behind.

I started to obsess with chairs, obviously of Vincent Van Gogh’s chair. This lead me to drawing chairs, lots of chairs, hard, wooden chairs and soft, fabric armchairs. I liked the way Van Gogh had included some personal effects so I tried one with a book and my glasses. I added fabric, a throw, some clothes somebody had left lying around. I looked at interiors, stumbled upon David Hockney’s desk, an everyday item, so functional and yet so overlooked, do we even see it anymore.

I looked at Vanessa Bell Conversation at Asheham House 1912 and was inspired by how she added herself to the painting by leaving her empty chair, we can’t see her but her presence is felt. She is very much a part of that conversation, as if she just slipped out to capture it.

I soon realised the importance of chairs in art and discovered Gerhard Richter’s chair and saw how he transformed a simple chair into so much more, reminiscent of the Pop Art movement think Andy Warhol. This idea of something so banal, so ordinary having an emotional element really appealed to me and that’s when the decision was made to draw a chair.

Out of habit more than anything, I started off drawing in pencil and charcoal but as I needed to do this in colour I decided to experiment with pastels, thinking they would be similar. I had to do some research on pastels and by coincidence found a second-hand book by Barbara Benedetti Newton¹ that gave me a good start on how to go about this.

My first sketch was a plain old chair in pastels

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chair in chalk pastels

I liked the effect of the pastels, I was experimenting here with different marks, trying out different pastelling techniques, crosshatching, light marks with the edge of the pastel, heavier marks with the side of the pastel to block in colour. It seemed evident I could make a variety of marks, something which I wasn’t sure of beforehand and hadn’t been as successful with in an earlier exercise (Project 2 Exercise 2). I decided to continue with pastels.

By this stage I had decided I liked the fluffy throw’s contrast against the leathery cushion of the chair. One mistake I made early one was to sketch the image in charcoal first before using the pastels but I learnt that it is too dark, too muddy against the light pastels so had to use a different coloured pastel.

My second sketch was to attempt to fix down the composition idea I had of a three quarter chair, at an angle with the furry throw added for contrast. This too looked quite interesting. I liked the angles and hard lines, softened by the fluffiness of the fabric.

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chair with throw in chalk pastels

This time I used the chunky pastels to block in the colours and then smaller, harder pastels for more detail. I was satisfied with the texture of the throw, it seems a successful representation, I wasn’t so happy with the texture of the chair. At this point I was asking myself if the picture was too bare, did I need another object, perhaps to add more contrast. One problem I identified was that the chair back was too short, in real life it is longer so I need to be more observant when sketching the preliminary image. The perspective seems a little skewed here too, I’m glad we will be working on this further in part three.

To mix things up a little I tried a version in oil pastels

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I think it looks quite messy, slightly dirty and not as clean as I would like so I returned to the chalk pastels once more. Having said that, maybe it’s more interesting because of that, it does have more movement in it but it was a quick sketch.

The angles continue to elude me and, by this stage I tried adding another element, something to contrast with the smooth chair. A pineapple seemed obvious as I had challenged myself previously to draw one and enjoyed it so set about drawing it again, this time in colour.

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chair with throw and pineapple in chalk pastels

I added more colour to the background and smudged it for a softer effect, choosing blue to contrast with the yellows of the chair and the fruit. I liked the overall colours and felt the sketch was progressing. The proportions are better, the textures work quite well.

One thing that was worrying me was there wasn’t a lot of difference in composition so I spent some time taking lots of photos of the chair in different positions.

Evidently I have one particular composition I keep coming back to so thought I should try something different. The options were to zoom in and draw a close-up or to uncover more of the seat, reveal another leg/arm of the chair, did it need another vertical line adding for a believable structure?

So whilst my intention was to draw a close-up it didn’t quite work out that well, the resulting image was not that much different from earlier versions, although I uncovered the other side of the chair, adding a vertical counterpoint.

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chair with throw and pineapple in chalk pastels

 

I did not like this drawing at all. I think you can tell I was feeling challenged and a little frustrated. I questioned my efforts and wavered about whether to keep pursuing this idea or start a completely new drawing.

By the following day I decided I really would draw a close-up version before abandoning the idea altogether. This time I made myself a couple of viewfinders. Feeling at an impasse,  I also changed the format from portrait to landscape. Instead of charcoal as an under sketch, I used one of the brown colours, having realised that the charcoal was leaving a dirty tone that didn’t work well here.

One of the dangers of pastels is your colours mix on the paper, which works wonderfully in some instances and messes everything up in others! Because of this there were areas that had to be worked into again and again as it was a struggle to keep it completely clean.

Here is the final version

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final version of chair with throw and pineapple in chalk pastels

Ultimately I am happy with the overall result. I like the palette of colours together, it’s a much brighter image than I had intended but I like the contrast of the blue and orange with the yellow/orange of the pineapple.

The fabric came out well, I think it looks fluffy and a bit unruly in capturing the folds. The pineapple does not appear quite right in its angles but I like the textures of it. There is an interesting mixture of angles, the landscape view gives an interesting perspective on the still life interior.

  • use of colour

In planning this I went with the colours that seemed to represent the objects as they are in real life, apart from the background which is, in fact, grey. The reason for this choice was to help recede the background and to give it a little interest, in contrasting with the yellows of the fruit and the chair. The colour shows depth and tones to effectively represent this image.

  • most appropriate medium for the subject

Pastels seemed most appropriate for this colour drawing, they were challenging to use and I have learnt more about them through this assignment. There is more to learn and I am excited to try a different technique next time, using the information I have obtained through practice. It is possible to create light and shade, tone and contrast and think I have achieved that to some extent. It made me learn about different mark marking techniques which will be relevant to other materials.

  • Composition and context

I explained my process of getting from a chair to a chair with a throw and a pineapple and, whilst there is no significance to the objects, they don’t look awkward together, they sit together rather nicely, perhaps because of their contrasting elements. I enjoyed researching other artists’ chairs, most notably Van Gogh and Gerhard Richter.

  • Mark-making and contrast of line and tone

This at first was challenging but I learnt to use the hard side of the pastels to add finer details. I did try different techniques but I’m not content that I have exhausted this area, there is definitely more to learn. What I did use was contrast of colour in areas, I used a blue to recede the shadows more and used them in the background. I used a different mark for the background as this added some interest and served as a additional contrast to the soft material.

  • Accurate and expressive depiction of form

I’m still learning how to be expressive and I hope I am adding some expression to my work, this is perhaps a subjective opinion though so I will listen to all feedback with interest. Is it accurate? Yes I think it is as accurate as I could manage right now, given that I am learning to handle new materials this is not without a challenge, but I quite like those.  I have commented on the areas that perhaps didn’t work well, the pineapple doesn’t look convincing, this was challenging as it is on an angle, but I like the different angles in the piece so wanted to keep going with it. The chair and the fabric turned out quite well, the fabric better than I thought.

  • Experimentation with idea, material and method

I thought it was an interesting idea to use the chair, especially as it has such a history in art practice, also it’s such a fundamental object that I haven’t really spent much time observing so it was refreshing to look at it again, an object I have seen a million times, with open eyes. This seems essential to making art, learning how to look at things differently.

The method I employed seems a fairly standard one, although I endeavoured to draw more sketches in my sketch book. An interesting challenge I set was to draw a chair over and over again from multiple viewpoints over the same page. Whilst it looks a bit of a mess, I enjoyed it and will draw it again perhaps with a different material. This was a gradual process which employed a lot of thinking and research, more than my previous assignment. For this alone I am content with the progress I have made.

In terms of assessment criteria

  • Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I still find it quite hard to evaluate my own skills, I can only say really that I think I am improving but am not yet at the standard that I hope to be.

  • Quality of outcome

Whilst the quality is the best that I can do at this stage, I am relatively happy with the outcome but hope to continue to improve.

  • Demonstration of creativity

Again, a subjective statement, this is an area I need to improve on. Whilst I am creating drawings I probably am not creative enough. I know that when I read other blogs I am often blown away by other peoples’ art work but I do read them often and try to absorb all the different techniques and materials that people use. This is a steep learning curve, I often have to google products I’m not familiar with but I am constantly learning because of it. I need to be more creative and apply this to my own work.

  • Context reflection

I don’t really understand what this means but I am definitely learning through this process. It’s difficult because there is no right and wrong in the learning process but I do feel like I need more guidance so am happy to get my tutor’s feedback

Footnotes

  1. Newton, B.B. (2013) Pastel drawing: expert answers to the questions every artist asks. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s

Assignment 1

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Final Version of Still Life in graphite, charcoal pencils and compressed charcoal on cartridge paper

This has taken far too long to complete as I had surgery on my finger in December but I figured it was good practice to work on my first assignment. I spent an inordinate amount of time sweating over what objects to choose so finally picked ones whose shapes I most appreciated. The vase on the left is a special memento bought on a recent holiday to Canada, where we used to live and my son was born, so this piece does have a special meaning to me. I chose charcoal because it is my favourite medium although in choosing the pencils my work is not a loose as it would be so a lesson learned there!

Although I hope I have created believable shapes through tone, light and shadow, I would ultimately say this does not convey much feeling. This is clearly an area I need to work on, but I am not a hugely demonstrative personality either so we shall see how that works out!

Looking through my work I have noticed some objects have a tendency to lean to the right so that is something I have been working on, I’m not quite there yet either. You may observe that the right side of my objects are not quite the same as the left, again, a topic for consideration and further practice going forward.

Going back to the beginning of this process, my first attempt was in chalk pastels and a few different objects. As an experiment, to do the opposite of what I had bee doing, I used chalk pastels in unrealistic colours, I wanted to see if I could create a realistic depiction, which I found to be very challenging, perhaps something to be explored again. I deliberately lined them up in a very static composition, I have been looking at Giorgio Morandii’s work and wondered how to get the perfect balance and again tried something that I imagined to be wrong and I was right about that!

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Version One, chalk pastels

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Version 2, willow charcoal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My next quicker version was in willow charcoal which I quite like, even though the bowl didn’t work well, I liked the grouping of the other objects and decided to keep those in.

 

 

 

 

I also enjoyed the next quick sketch, also in charcoal, you can see a theme developing here, but I did try a new object.

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Version 3, charcoal

Time for a change, I decided to go big, and change the composition, not bad but not loving it, more practice though to get the finger working again.

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Version 4, charcoal

When I mentioned my tendency to lean to the left, and my struggles to get the proportions right, it was suggested to me to draw in chalk on black, I cannot recommend this exercise enough. For some reason it seemed to work quite well. I will definitely be using this method again and was pleased with how it looks.

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Version 5, white chalk

Another exercise I worked on was bold contour lines, again as a warm up to my final version, mainly in an attempt to get proportions right:

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Sketch 6, chalk pastels

This penultimate sketch was intended to be my final version but I couldn’t get proportions right.

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Sketch 7, charcoal pencils

Ultimately I learned from this not to over labour things, I still need to practice basic shapes and I need to work faster, freer and show more emotion. I’m now about to parcel this up and send it off so will update this with the feedback from my tutor.