Cloud Formations and Tone

By now, I should be getting used to the fact that the exercises are often harder to execute than I imagine. I have been waiting weeks for the white, uniform clouds to move on and to see some variation happening in the skies above. On a positive note, I have been observing the sky more than I normally would, and noting how fast the clouds move on windy days and how they hardly seem to budge at all when calm and still.

I have ended up drawing from photographs as I couldn’t wait any longer for the weather to change.

The first one is drawn in soft pastels, which are becoming my favourite thing to use, I like things I can stick my fingers in, and move around. I tried using a brush but it didn’t really work well, I think because it is too hard.

This was a real case of layering in chunky strips of colours in blues, whites, and grays, then rubbing in softly with my fingers and then more finer, sharper layers for more details. I was thinking of Vija Celmins, thinking of how long she must spend creating her intricate works, and I’m just trying to recreate a semblance of clouds.

After I finished I sprayed it with hair spray, which has made it rather grey, which I don’t like but I think it has added some texture, which I do like. A few people had recommended using hairspray as a fixative but personally I won’t be using hairspray again.

photo-29-06-2017-14-11-59-e1498827196362.jpg

clouds in soft pastels

I spotted a dramatic cloud photo on Facebook so I decided to attempt a version in oil pastels, which I am still learning to use. They are somewhat tricky and I used my fingers again, and the hard brush. I’m not sure about the end result if I’m being honest but here it is anyway.

Photo 30-06-2017, 14 12 07

clouds in oil pastel

This was not very successful. I found myself really laying the oil pastels on thick so I could manipulate them and blend them but I may have reached the point of resistance! This is often a problem for me, I need to learn when to stop and pull back. Using a wet wipe to remove some of the pigment worked somewhat but I find this overworked.

For my final cloud I chose compressed charcoal which seemed the perfect medium for an overcast day. My approach this time was rather like an underpainting with the darkest points marked in first, then adding medium grey and white for the highlight. I blended it in and ended up with this:

Photo 04-07-2017, 16 21 07

clouds in compressed charcoal

As soon as I saw this uploaded, I decided I wasn’t convinced it was finished so I added a layer of white slanted lines, that looked like this:

photo-04-07-2017-16-23-24.jpg

clouds in compressed charcoal version 2

I quite like this effect but it looks like rain, and it wasn’t raining. Although I think the diagonal lines add some movement, the clouds still don’t have enough weight to them.

Photo 04-07-2017, 16 24 52

clouds in compressed charcoal version 3

I blended in some more and am left with an amorphous tone, which lacks definition.

Finally, I worked into this some more.

Photo 05-07-2017, 13 52 40

final version of clouds in compressed charcoal

I don’t think I can do any  more on these clouds. I’m not fully convinced by them so have decided to stop anyway. I think I have to settle for these.

From a distance some of these images seem to work well, especially the first two attempts. My conclusion is that clouds are very challenging to capture well.

Advertisements

Vija Celmins

Continuing with the theme of expanse, we are introduced to a different way of drawing landscape with the work of Vija Celmins. She is best known for her highly detailed, monochromatic paintings and drawings of nature. She was born in Latvia in 1938, relocating to America in 1948 as a refugee from the second World War, her career spans six decades.

Her graphite drawings focus on natural elements, such as the ocean, the moon, spiders’ webs, the sky,  shells and close-ups of rocks.

Her night sky images are perhaps what she is known for best, these are pictures of huge, vast natural phenomena that is hard to capture and yet she does capture them, in painstaking detail. There is no focal point, or horizon or even perspective in some, but the detail of her work allows you to really examine it and get lost in it.

For many of her works, Celmins followed Ad Reinhardt’s 12 Rules for Painting, 1953, which dictates no form, no colour, no movement, no light, no colour etc.,  thus determining a ‘pure art’, where more is considered less. Celmins’ work epitomises these rules, the lack of horizon enables her to imagine that “I wrestle a giant image into a very tiny area and make it stay there so that it seems inevitable that it is there¹.”

I find her work a little difficult to explain well and I suspect that much of its significance comes from the process of making her work and why she makes the work. I know that she collected images from childhood, some of her early work of war images is probably a reworking of her early years when she was caught up in the Second World War. This use of found images was popular in Pop Art but she was more influenced by Magritte and Morandi than Warhol. The two dimensional aspect of her painting is important to her, labouring to capture a three dimensional living, moving object, into the two dimensional picture plane of a canvas. It’s important to note that her works are not drawn from the subjects directly but rather from found images, or newspaper clippings or photographs. This suggests a distance from the subject but the meticulous detail of her works suggests something closer, more intimate. I feel like there is a whole lot more to her work than just the microscopic detail of her drawings.

Her work lacks colour, probably originating from her source material of newspaper images which mostly came from black and white newspapers. After the war images, she also painted very severe objects like lamps, space heaters, etc, in an attempt to reject her earlier learning and progress her thinking about art, “I was trying to get back to some kind of a basic thing where I just look and paint, and sort of an old-fashioned kind of way of starting out³.”

Her work is intense, she is studying, examining and then recreating what she sees, in relentless detail. In her interviews she talks about capturing the essence of the subject, so that the subject matter and the image exist together at the same time, they become enmeshed and she wants the viewer to have that same experience of recreation. It creates an intimacy with the subject that you can’t get from the subject itself, e.g. the ocean is too big, constantly moving and splashing but in her pictures it is still so just for a second, if you could suspend it in time, that is what it would be.

The lack of horizon is also intentional, “I want to place the work in a wall, I don’t want to make a pictorial picture where you might imagine a horizon and what’s other the horizon. I want to keep you in that rectangle³.”

 

Whilst her galaxy pictures are about infinity, with no perspective, her cobweb series offer us a map of surface texture, inviting us to look up. They can also be considered as negative or eraser drawings where a black background is laid down with charcoal and erasers used to bring out the image from the original paper. There is no spider, shifting the importance onto the structure rather than the creator. I think this may be as personal as reference to herself as any; she does not seem to really enjoy talking about her work but she wants us to study her work, and interact with it.  She is as considered as her work.

In the video she discusses how she doesn’t think of it as drawing but more “using a pencil as my medium”. Later, when discussing her sculptured stones  To Fix the Image in Memory 1977–82, she says “the point is not to mimic but show a kind of attention span and a thoroughness of putting the paint down and looking at the found object and picking this tiny, tiny area, remembering it and putting it on another object which I had made.” Whilst her picture is still, with no obvious movement, a still life if you like, the natural object is moving, spinning and turning. She is redescribing and remembering a moment in time, capturing it forever.

Close up her pictures are like photographs, highly detailed and textured but from a distance they seem empty and lonely, there is no focal point or people, this feeling is emphasised by the lack of colour and use of greys. There is a real sense of space and time, of movement captured, achieved through the intricate, repeating patterns created throughout her structures.

I’ve read a lot about Celmins now and I’m still struggling to fully understand her approach, in her interviews she talks about her fondness for scientific images, such as the stars and galaxies because they are anonymous². She doesn’t give anything of herself away in these images, rather they are intense studies, almost microscopic in detail, which I would love to see close up. She examines photographs of her chosen subject matter, to “relive that image and put it in a human context, and I would like you to be able to scrutinise it and relive the making of it the way that I have been doing for a long time¹.”

 

Footnotes

  1. Kennedy, Randy, February 9, 2017, New York, the Artist Vija Celmins Conjures Sea and Sky with Brush, accessed 27 June 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/09/arts/design/vija-celmins-matthew-marks-gallery.html
  2. Tate Shorts, April 4, 2014, Vija Celmins Artist Rooms, accessed 27 June, 2017, http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/tateshots-artist-rooms-vija-celmins
  3. Sussler, Betty, 18 October 2011, New York, Interview with Vija Celmins, The Museum of Modern Art, http://www.moma.org/pdfs/docs/learn/archives/transcript_celmins.pdf, accessed 27 June 2017

Bibliography

Manchester, Elizabeth, 2005, Tate Website

Goertz, Ralph, 2011, Cologne, Vija Celmins Desert, Sea and Stars, Institut für Kunstdokumentation

https://art21.org/read/vija-celmins-building-surfaces/

Landscape Artists

When we think of landscape art there are a few artists who spring to mind, Turner, Monet, Van Gogh and we might think of green fields or haystacks. Surprisingly this genre wasn’t taken seriously for many years, only emerging from the background in the seventeenth century. Today it is a major theme and takes all forms, with a variety of subject matter, and media.

ALBRECHT DÜRER

One of the first European landscape artists was fifteenth century artist Albrecht Dürer, as well as painting he is also known for his woodcut prints, and his writings on perspective.

He introduced classical motifs into Northern Art through his travels and knowledge of Italian artists such as Raphael, Bellini and da Vinci. He is one of the most important figures of the Northern Renaissance not only for his art but also his treaties on maths, perspective and ideal proportions. Before Dürer’s ideas, painters would have worked on instinct alone, by using mathematical systems, advances were made in portraying human proportions, linear perspective and space.

His first known painting is The Wire -Drawing Mill, c1489, clearly he has established foreground, middle-ground and background through a combination of perspective and colour. It seems a little unreal in ways and somehow modern at the same time, his precision probably deriving from his goldsmith training.

He painted the same scene again,The Willow Mill, c1496/8 this time with more expression and less precision, with the landscape playing a less important role.

His travels in Italy had a huge and direct influence on his art, his watercolours from his time in the Alps were described as some of his most beautiful creations, “depicting segments of landscape scenery cleverly chosen for their compositional values, painted with broad strokes, in places roughly sketched in, with amazing harmonisation of detail. He used predominantly unmixed, cool, sombre colours, which, despite his failure to contrast light and dark adequately, still suggest depth and atmosphere¹.”

Though he moved to portraiture he often kept landscape in the background, in the style of Venetian and Florentine paintings of that era. His later works became more expressive and more detailed. He also spent time observing nature at close hand, animals and plants in particular, see his young hare.

His eye for detail led to the exploration of perspective and proportion, resulting in several publications, among them a treatise on fortifications, the first printed book of its kind, using advanced perspective ideas such as bird’s eye views. His woodcuts revolutionised printmaking, elevating it to an independent art form. His tonal range added a dramatic element to the previously flat lacking texture and tone.

CLAUDE LORRAIN

In the seventeenth century Lorrain became known for his idyllic landscapes based on classical proportions and references to mythology. He extended the concept of landscape by adding biblical and mythological characters thereby giving it historical significance and raising its importance. His figures are classically dressed,  set in pastoral settings, representing man in harmony with nature.

This is one of his most famous works, The Father of Psyche sacrificing at the Temple of Apollo, the landscape clearly dominates the scene, the huge trees overshadowing the picture.

He travelled from his native France, spending time in Italy in the hills around Rome. He was noted for his draughtsmanship, showing an eye for detail and carefully planned composition, yet his sketchbooks were filled with realistic detail.

He was meticulous in his work, making copies of all his paintings into a ‘liber veritatas’, in order to defeat forgers, but also as a personal reference and source book. He inspired Turner, Constable and Keats and even influenced the design of many English gardens.

Whilst his style and subject matter are consistent his compositions become increasingly complex. His earlier works are described as charming and picturesque, yet as he matured they become more classical in tone and theme.

His work reflects his appreciation of light and its many effects, almost all of his work shows dawn and twilight, the most poetic times of day. Like Durer he observed nature closely showing a naturalistic style and yet his vision is nostalgic, almost dreamlike, and serene.

L. S. LOWRY

Known for his industrial landscapes, Lowry’s works are very familiar to those who grew up in the North of England. I certainly was aware of Lowry’s ‘matchstick men’ before I understood the concept of landscape painting. See Industrial Landscape, 1955

Although his works were imaginary, they showed panoramic cityscapes, which contained recognisable places such as Stockport Viaduct. He gave a generalised impression of urban environments, dominated by the less attractive city elements such as smoking chimneys, and industrial wastelands.

His earlier work was similar to the Impressionists but without the light which made them brooding in atmosphere, the people like worker ants, faceless, almost non-human. Often described as ‘lonely landscapes’, they were empty, desolate views of Cumbrian hills, grey and bleak landscape.

He said “my ambition was to put the industrial scene on the map, because nobobdy had done it – nobody had done it seriously²”. His pictures unsettle the myth of the land of hope and glory, it’s a commentary on how the wealthy depend on the ceaseless labour of the poor, the human condition of repeated work until death. This is shown through the rigid, faceless figures, the huge dominating factories, drab housing and bleak atmosphere. Yet throughout the bleak imagery there are flashes of detail, bright colour, flowers in a window, or someone waving or whistling, a sudden break in the routine.

GEORGE SHAW

Born in the Midlands, he is known for painting the urban estate where he grew up in 1970’s Britain. His style is highly detailed and naturalistic, but his subject matter is one of English suburbia, the mundane and the overlooked.  It’s a nostalgic view, looking back on a simpler time, no people are present but we somehow still feel their presence. “To me, they are teeming with human presences. The people I grew up with, family, passersby, they are all in there somewhere, embedded in the paintings³.”

It’s a landscape most are familiar with, evoking a remembered experience of what it is to be a working class teenager, waiting around. His works captures memories and moments from adolescent life.

He reinforces this feeling of nostalgia with his choice of paint, his favourite medium is Humbrol enamel paint, the very thought of which conjures up images of teens concentrating on getting that Airfix plane just so, sitting in their bedroom of a terraced house. Almost photographic in style, the enamel paint gives the paintings a unique flavour of a particular era yet raises it from a purely representational state, its old fashioned but somehow timeless at the same time. He elevates this bland suburban places into something more important, in the same way that Lorrain elevated beautiful landscapes from the background of historical genre paintings.

For the exhibition “George Shaw: My Back to Nature”, Shaw spent a lot of time in the National Gallery studying the old masters. He studied the clash of cultures, linking classical stories to the modern world and religion.

Painting his home town of Coventry he said, “the work came out of an abandonment of plans. It was not just about going back to a place physically, it was a return to a metaphorical place where I existed as a positive, passionate adolescent, unhampered by the history of my ideas or other people’s, a place where I did what I did because it grew from me – and didn’t question it. If you can’t find yourself in your own backyard, you’re not going to find yourself in the Serengeti, are you? So for me, it was taking those clichés of epiphany and the sublime and putting them in a place where great thoughts aren’t rumoured to happen³.”

His work is often described as sentimental, but are devoid of people, perhaps they are more nostalgic, although as he says “I don’t know why sentimentality has to be a negative quality. What I look for in art are the qualities I admire or don’t admire in human beings. And very rarely do I meet people who aren’t sentimental.” (4)

In his exhibition My Back to Nature, he painted a series of woodland landscapes, described as scenes of intense human drama. the moment has just passed, is about to happen or is happening now. Even though we don’t see any signs of people there, they have clearly been there, marks made on the ground, a page left behind, red paint dripping on a tree trunk. Shaw’s woods are like scenes from a movie, with the possibility hinted that maybe you are not alone, the feeling of anticipation that anything could happen.

The tree is humanised, cut down, lying on the ground, one end charred by matches as if tortured. His trees almost have faces.

SARAH WOODFINE

Trained as a scupltor, Woodfine’s landscapes are imaginary worlds, evocative of familiar childhood memories and fantasies. Her drawings are monochromatic and very precise and carefully considered, lending an almost sinister atmosphere. Everything might appear to be magical and dreamy but there is a slight apprehension evoked by the lack of colour.

Drawings form the main body of work but, extending the miniature worlds she has also created 3D scenes housed in cases and glass domes. She considers drawing a form of scuplture, creating the illusion of three dimensions, worlds that exist on their own.

Even some of her pencil drawings look like miniature scenes, and slightly foreboding in mood, The Crypt, 2010, perhaps because of the subject matter.

Whilst creating realistic worlds, she has also created surreal, dreamlike ones, always depicted in moonlight, reinforcing that other-worldly feel, with a sense of threat.

In conclusion, landscape is a huge and diverse topic, which will take you on many winding pathways but all of them manage to convey a sense of place and time, which is pretty remarkable.

 

Footnotes

1. Britannica website

2. Winterson, Jeanetter, June 13, 2013, L.S. Lowry’s Rage Against the Machine, The Guardian, accessed 20th June 2017

3. O’Hagan, Sean, February 13th 2011, Sometimes I Look at My Work and its Conservatism Shocks Me, The Guardian, accessed 20th June 2017

4 and 5. Kellaway, Kate, November 15, 2015 George Shaw, 49, Every Second, Every Ounce of Time has to be Accounted For, The Guardian, accessed 20th June 2017

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Farthing, Stephen, 2010, Art: The Whole Story, 2016 edition, London, Thames and Hudson

Gombrich, E.H., 1950, The Story of Art, 2016 edition, London, Phaidon Press

Suchin, Peter, Sarah Woodine CV, Exhibition Press Info, 2015, London, accessed 21st June 2017

Robinson, Fiona, Interview with Strange Worlds artist Sarah Woodfine, 2017, London, accessed 21st June 2017

Victoria and Albert museum website, Newfoundland by Sarah Woodfine, 2005, London, accessed 21st June 2017

 

Study of Several Trees

After a couple of false starts, due to the weather, I ventured into the garden and quickly sketched a couple of options:

Yep, they were pretty bad and I suddenly felt quite overwhelmed with this and did not know where to begin. There are a lot of trees around my house and in surrounding fields but they all seem to blend into one. Not sure how to proceed, I took a couple of photos to help me choose an area to focus on. I pulled an image up onto the computer and decided to have a go, not feeling very hopeful about it, just as the clouds rolled in and the rain started. I felt like I had nothing to lose but draw straight from the photograph and I wasn’t feeling very hopeful.

photo-30-05-2017-10-06-32.jpg

It was hard to know where the start but I went with the contrast between light and shade, using chalk pastels because I really did not know how to draw leaves. Pastel is perfect for landscape and if you don’t want to draw fine details, which I was keen to avoid.

I have spent a few hours on this, and I’m not sure if I’m completely happy with it but I felt the need to stop, possibly having gone too far now!

Photo 31-05-2017, 16 30 20

trees in chalk pastel

To distinguish the trees I smudged the ones in the background, to make them look less distinct and darker, and hopefully fade somewhat, whilst the two at the front were lighter and show more detail, and are not as blurry.

To show the mass of foliage I really just went for large areas of colour. showing the small bits of sky that poked through some of the branches.

I used yellows and white to show where the light was hitting the trees, as there are a few trees, and they’re quite tall, there was a clear view of sunlight on the two trees in the foreground.

I have definitely simplified the leaves as there is such a lot of foliage going on, the trees are close together and leaves are overlapping. I have almost obliterated the garage as I thought it would be too distracting so kept it dark to blend into the background.

In future, I need to not panic when drawing outside, trees are a very new subject and I probably need to use the view finder and get more comfortable.

Larger Observational Study of an Individual Tree

I have randomly been taking photos of trees for a long time, even before I started this course, as a consequence I have got them a bit muddled in my head. I thought this tree was local to me but, going through my archive, I realised this was from Parkanaur Forest Park in Dungannon, County Tyrone. We stopped briefly on the way back from a weekend in Belfast recently. Some of the trees here are hundreds of years old, and there is a herd of rare white fallow deer,  so a great place to stop.

I had this tree in my mind so when this exercise came around I knew this was the tree I wanted to draw. It’s obviously an old tree, the bark is very textured and peeling off, and the trunk is covered in moss and plant life, so much to draw!

I used a 0.5 mm lead mechanical pencil, which is good for precision and drawing detail. I probably spent a couple of hours on it as I got quite involved in the minutiae, which I enjoyed but, when I realised how much time had passed, I wanted it to end.

Photo 26-05-2017, 11 54 44

tree in mechanical pencil

This was a fabulous tree to work on as there was so much going on with texture and material but it probably took too long. Whilst the details were time consuming, it was enjoyable to draw, and an opportunity to make a variety of marks. There is a balance to be found between time taken and detail and I’m still working on finding that. Overall an interesting challenge.

Sketching Individual Trees

I was excited to start this exercise, perhaps because it was raining and I was keen to get out of the house but was forced to wait for some drier weather. On sketching the first tree, my immediate realisation was that this was harder than I thought, I had assumed this would be easier than drawing pots and vases but in actual fact it was much more challenging than I had envisaged. There is so much going on with a tree and so many leaves out it was hard to distinguish all of the different parts.

I’m very lucky to live in the countryside and my house is surrounded by trees but, as it rains a lot here, my garden looks like a jungle! It was hard to know where one tree ended and the next one began. I could only find one tree that was distinguishable from the others.

This is it:

Photo 24-05-2017, 09 53 31

2B pencil sketch of a tree

The second tree was amidst other trees but I attempted to figure it out

photo-24-05-2017-10-09-31-e1495617356472.jpg

soft graphite stick

I spotted the third tree in the garden of the town priest’s house, it appealed to me as it was quite a different tree from the others:

Photo 24-05-2017, 09 54 04

4B pencil sketch

Taking the dog for an evening I walk I noticed my neighbour had a fine, blooming labernum:

Photo 24-05-2017, 09 54 24

mechanical pencil sketch of a labernum tree

The first two trees are quite similar in style so I was pleased to spot a couple of different ones around, observation has become a key part of this course. At the back of my mind, I am often considering mark making and am conscious of trying to learn new and different ways to draw. I hope I have managed to show a diverse range of  marks, it’s challenging to get your brain to not think about it but try to expand your repertoire.  An interesting exercise overall!

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

photo-12-05-2017-11-08-03-e1494601578434.jpg

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.

Photo 12-05-2017, 10 25 40

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

Photo 12-05-2017, 10 26 25

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.

Photo 12-05-2017, 11 08 54

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.

Photo 12-05-2017, 11 06 16

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

Photo 12-05-2017, 10 36 45

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

Material Differences

It made sense to carry on with the staircase as my subject, as I have spent so much time in the hall recently, and it was the one I liked most from the previous exercise.

Having already drawn it four times, I decided to do a quick sketch trying to decide on composition and perspective. This is the sketch. My main aim was to get the proportions and relationship between all of the elements balanced.

Photo 27-04-2017, 11 53 32

quick sketch of hallway

Even though I marked the heights lightly I got a bit lost drawing the newel post and consequently the proportions are wrong, made a mental note to get the height right next time. I also decided not to draw the whole door but to cut part of it off. I’m trying to think why this image appealed to me and I think because there are a few possibilities in it, meaning you can go through the door, or up the stairs or turn around to whatever lies behind.

Here’s the final product:

Photo 28-04-2017, 10 30 03

final drawing of the hallway and stairs

 

I used A3 paper as this particular pad has a hardback so was easiest to work on. I started off using a mechanical pencil as I knew I would need to work slower and be more careful with the smaller details. I then used compressed charcoals for tone. I used the pencil again to add texture and detail and used about 3 or 4 erasers trying to get highlights, remove smudges and try to correct some wonky drawing. I finished off using the darkest compressed charcoal to add contrast.

As you can see, I need to practice drawing straight lines, there is some wonkiness in places, not helped by the drawing being photographed ever so slightly askew. However, I am happy with the tonal values, especially as I had used a white charcoal for the highlights and ended up rubbing it out as I didn’t like the effect. There was a lot of erasing and redrawing this one, trying to get all the intricate details right. It forced me to slow down and really take my time over it, which is good because I often work too fast. It shows a few different marks, which I am always trying to expand on, the tonal values have variety and the perspective is not too far from reality, so overall not a bad attempt at this exercise.

Contemporary Look at Domestic Interiors

In researching contempory artists who focus on domestic interiors, I happened upon an interesting article by Nicola Moorby on the Tate website. It discussed how artists from the Camden Town group often painted women in domestic settings, whilst excluding female artists from membership. It’s also interesting to note that at that time, men were responsible for decorating and furnishing the house.

In the Edwardian era things changed, the campaign for women’s suffrage grew and more women worked out of the home. Traditional roles were challenged, as husbands commuted to work so the decoration of homes fell into a woman’s domain. In spite of exclusion from various groups, female artists began painting domestic life from their point of view, finally able to display their own tastes. They painted their tastefully decorated rooms ( see The Chintz Couch), places where they were comfortable, whereas the male artist depicted them engaged in domestic activity, such as Douglas Fox Pitt.

How times have changed, but what I liked about women artists from this time, such as Ethel Sands and Vanessa Bell, they began to include themselves in the domestic interiors in a different way. In Vanessa Bell’s Conversation Piece at Asheham, 1912, the only thing that is missing here is the artist herself, she is very much a part of this social interaction, making a social statement about equality.

Going forward, I discovered some contemporary artists interpreting domestic interiors.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Njideka-Tea-Time-in-New-Haven-Enugu-800x594

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Tea Time in New Haven, Enugu, 2013, Acrylic, coloured pencils & transfers on pencil

Njideka is a Nigerian-born artist, now living in America, her work combines elements from both countries in a mixed media format. This is a large piece of mixed media which perfectly combines many elements, with multiple layers,  representing herself and telling her story.

This is a different way of showing the dining room, the composition has the table almost coming out of the picture, pushing up right into the face of the viewer. The shadows of the chairs are made of other images. The table has many objects, arranged in a casual, non-formal way.

Whilst seemingly an ordinary, everyday scene of a dining room, there is clearly more than meets the eye, there are references to Nigeria and America, making a more global and political. The many layers express her personal journey from her home place to the life of an immigrant. Undoubtedly there are questions of identity, nationality, and gender, woven into a scene, mixed with memories from Africa.

The next image is a very different view of an interior by David Diao which caught my attention for this very reason.

salon1

David Diao, Salon 2, 2011, acrylic and silkscreen on canvas

The image on the right shows Andy Warhol, David Whitney, Philip Johnson, John Dalton and Robert Stern in Johnson’s house, a famous modernist building, The Glass House.  The left image shows the artist, comfortably reading a newspaper at leisure, in the same interior. His image is smaller and depicts his own artistic connection to the men on the right, famous architects, artists, the trendsetters of the day, and yet he feels apart from it, perhaps diminished.  Apparently, all the men on the right are gay so possibly there is a connection there too.

The colour turquoise sets a tone of calmness and creativity. and may be a link to another artist, Barnett Newman, an abstract expressionist and colour field artist who often painted in a different shade of blue, known for his existential tone.

To understand this, Newman’s quote about sense of place seems to express it perfectly “The painting should give man a sense of place: that he knows he’s there, so he’s aware of himself. In that sense he relates to me when I made the painting because in that sense I was there… [Hopefully] you [have] a sense of your own scale [standing in front of the painting]… To me that sense of place has not only a sense of mystery but also has a sense of metaphysical fact. I have come to distrust the episodic, and I hope that my painting has the impact of giving someone, as it did me, the feeling of his own totality, of his own separateness, of his own individuality and the same time of his connection to others, who are also separate.”¹

 

rvdv01-0650-1024x686

They are after you, whoever they are. You are not playing against him tomorrow. You’re playing the system itself, 2012. charcoal on paper

Rinus Van de Velde is a Belgian artist who, in dealing with the realities and challenges of life, he has created his own fictional characters. His black and white charcoal works are like photographs, documentary style, adding to the effect of someone playing a role.

Van de Velde says that photographs are viewed as being true and factual whilst drawings are not, they are seen as fictional. He is playing with idea of what is reality, by using a character in his work,  this allows him to depict different situations with changing points of view, without revealing his personal beliefs. In this way, his themes can be universal and have multiple viewpoints.

At the same time, he often uses references to real life people, here it is Bobby Fischer, making a connection between the chess player and the artist. He has said in an interview²  that the caption is clear and specific, adding that we should not trust the drawing. He is testing the possible meanings in an image, and believes that the art work in isolation has no meaning, hence the long captions. He is asking us to question the work, what is real, what is imagined and leaving to us the viewer to decide.

It is an interesting viewpoint from above, reminiscent of a scene from a movie, looking down on the character, trying to get into their mind. The composition cuts diagonally across the paper, the man lies in an awkward, uncomfortable way. The viewer feels the tension which is uncomfortable, looking at this scene.

This effect is similar to that experienced when looking at Philip Pearlstein’s nudes, he uses mirrors to reflect further angles and views. It feels very matter-of-fact, but the complex composition of limbs and cropping the view, adding many folds of fabrics, adds a dynamic quality of movement, direction, form and structure, see Two Seated Models in Kimonos with Mirror 1980. The image seems cramped with so much to take in, it is hard to know where to focus, challenging the viewer.  Extremely realistic, yet we don’t have a full view, often we can’t see their faces fully, or their heads are cut off. Almost as if he is deliberately keeping the full story from us. some would say this makes it more abstract, it certainly makes us detached from the subjects.

Even though this is a photograph, by David Hockney, it’s an excellent example of an image taken from multiple viewpoints and a little reminiscent of Anthony Green’s Study for Mrs Madeleine Jocelyne with her Son, 1987. Taking an everyday object and making into something more interesting, more complex, playing with the horizontal lines of the desk drawers and the vertical ones of the floorboards. The factual nature of a photograph is embellished with a narrative of the multiple views, as if we were actually walking through the room and past the furniture and able to see everything.

hockneydavid-the_desk_july_1st_1984-1984

David Hockney, The Desk, July 1st 1984, Photograph

Hockney believed that photography was flawed because it only showed one single perspective, by using this method it allowed for more and yet these works were inspired by photography.  He called these images ‘joiners’ and believed he could add movement, space and time by using this technique, better than the effect of wide-angled lenses.

 

Footnotes

  1. Sylvester, David (1998). The Grove Book of Art Writing. New York, NY: Grove Press. p. 537. ISBN 0802137202.
  2. www.rinusvandevelde.com

 

Bibliography

Vitamin P3, New Perspectives in Painting, Phaidon

Wikipedia

http://www.moustachemagazine.com/2014/02/joiners/

http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/6aa/6aa429.htm

https://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/artist34.html