Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
I believe that I have developed my visual skills as I have worked through the exercises to the final drawing. However as noted previously I think that my initial drafting needs to be more precise. The design and compositions meets the criteria I had set myself to shadow the work of the artists which I have noted. But I think that the whole drawing could have been much tighter and have therefore created more drama to the composition. The finished drawing is interesting but not compulsive. I would assess this section as a 2.2
Quality of Outcome
I think the drawing is a competent realisation of the ideas that I was trying to portray. Much greater judgement was used that I have previously brought to my work. However if I had not been impatient I think as I have said that I could have redrafted the whole drawing and made more competent decisions. Again I would assess this section as a 2.2.
Demonstration of Creativity
Again I believe I have shown some development throughout the process of the exercises and have been analytical about the content. I particularly enjoyed making the connections with other artists’ work, Crivelli, Sanchez Cotan and Greenwood in order to find a context for the drawing and ideas. In the past I have taken a very superficial view on different artists’ work – do I like it/ don’t I like it. I have found myself more drawn into the pieces and the history of art than I had expected I would. The struggle for me is not to get too drawn into the research process and away from physical drawing. It was a surprise to me how personal the still life became and an effective articulation of past experience. I think this section could be bordering on a 2.1
The whole span of context was opened up through this drawing exercise which has been a very welcome development. It is what I have been searching for and these early shoots I have found very satisfying. I am not sure about whether the breadth is wide enough. However I was very interested to chance upon the Hockney debate about camera lucinda and its impact on image depiction.
The use of this blog (learning log) has become more natural but finding the balance is once again a challenge. The balance between doing the actual drawing and reflecting/researching is tough for me.
My sketchbook work is developing slowly and I enjoyed joining a local sketchcrawl and lifeclass which has helped with widening my drawing experiences in a more regular way. I think this is also a 2.2.
What I think was successful:-
- Bringing context to the drawing through the research and reading with historical references
- Being challenged to stay with a piece until it is finished – this has been a problem for me as I have tended to work quickly and get bored of things – I realise this is because I have not been happy with something and have not had the staying power to work through the difficulties which I have encountered.
- Working with thought and making decisions about what media to use where. Some of the previous exercises have helped me to become more discerning about what I am trying to achieve.
- Beginning to understand more about tone and how this can be rendered in a drawing.
- Depicting different surfaces and expanding my repertoire of mark making
- Bringing my learning from looking more closely at drawing from different artists, Van Gogh, Samuel Palmer and Odilon Redon into my consciousness
- Enthusiasm for drawing generally. I am feeling much more engaged in the process than I thought I would be and have joined a lifeclass as well as participating in a sketchcrawl locally.
What has been less successful:-
- I think that my drafting skills need to be better. I am not yet naturally checking the location of the objects, and the negative space accurately enough. I need to remember to do this from the start so that I am not worrying about location later on in the drawing process.
- I do not think that my understanding of perspective is as honed as it should be. I need to address this by looking at some drawing exercises which specifically address this.
- Although I used a variety of media some of the objects are more successful than others. At the earlier stage I was satisfied with the flowerpot but as I worked on this is less convincing. I was afraid of making everything the same – tonally and did not want to overwork certain places.
- When I got to the pause point I think I could have started again and been bolder in how I was depicting the objects especially the doll which seems to have retreated. In the future I need to do more exploratory sketches so that by the time I address the whole drawing I am clearer in my mind what I want to do where.
- I worked object by object and not around the piece as a whole. I think this is reflected in the fact that as a finished piece it does not “read” as a whole. In future I need to try to work round the drawing more objectively.
- I was hesitant because I am not used to as much thinking about what I am doing. To some extent I think this has compromised my drawing style by making it tighter than I like.
This is a page from an interesting book by David Hockney (Hockney, D. (2006) Secret Knowledge. 2nd edn. London: Thames & Hudson. ) in which he analyses the drawing styles of many of the old masters and has come to some very interesting conclusions. He concludes that artists were using various optical devises in order to create their images and notably the camera lucida which I had never heard about. In the illustration above he captures how but taking a photograph today with the fruit and vegetables in the same relationship as the painting depicts will achieve a very different outcome. He believes that artists were using the camera lucida to plot the detail of each individual object separately and that is what has caused the painting to achieve its particular placements and proportions.
I started out by considering the mark making exercise from the first part of the course and was not at all sure how I could integrate these into a formal setting like a still life.
Made a couple of fast drawings with pen and ink – currently my favourite media to get the feel of the image.
By this time I had fiddled with the placing but had not documented the different layouts. I realise I should have done this and also done some quick sketches of these and then be able to state my reasons for settling on the one which I chose. This was partly because it was so fiddly and also the other great worry I have that I can spend a lot of time on the details (like the research) as a way of putting off doing the work. This is an on-going problem as I think often the work I do quickly has more character.
Kept looking at the mark making exercise and chose the media that I enjoyed working with the most, charcoal, compressed charcoal, pen and ink, pencil (to a certain extent), conte sticks.
Part way through the drawing. I like the plant in the flowerpot but when I made a wash of the leaves they turned brownish which is less satisfying. Could have been more precise with drawing this but I was beginning to get rather fidgety with the whole thing I have found it hard to stay with the process and make careful decisions about what media to use where. Was thinking that although it is a still life I want it to have life and the type and variety of marks and tone should be doing that. In some places – like the shadow of the sweet potato it has become expressive.
The complexity and variety of shadow direct and indirect I found difficult and at this point paused the work for a few days. During this time the bitter gourds started to ripen and their colour changed dramatically. Love the colours but they are starting to rot…
Thought I had better do a sketch in case I loose them completely.
I really like this because I think I captured the textures of the vegetable and the marks are interesting. However as you will see in the final drawing I did not draw with the same spontaneity and the images are less successful.
The final drawing
When I started choosing the objects for the still life I was reading an article in Turps Banana ( Ltd, T.B. (2016) ‘Jan Bolivar in Conversation with John Greenwood’, Turps Banana, 1(#15), pp. 22–29. In-text citations: (Ltd, 2016) because I was trying to find a way to be interested in the concept of still life which initially didn’t particularly appeal to me. John Greenwood’s pieces create a fantastical world of objects. The way they are placed and often hung seems to be a theatrical space and I am aware that when I am drawing I want things to “be” somewhere. The idea that you can create a place appeals to my need for grounding the experience of drawing somewhere.
Greenwood cites the work of Juan Sanchez Cotan (1560-1627) as an influence. with his hanging fruits and vegetables.
Still Life with Wild Fowl – Juan Sanchez Cotan 1600 ? http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/84709
This image linked with my doll and the idea that if she were hanging she would be tethered- restricted – which resonated with my personal experience.
The inclusion of vegetables reminded me of a painting which I had always found intriguing in the National Gallery, London. This painting – all I could remember was that it has a pickle in the foreground and with the wonder that is the internet I was able to trace it as:-
The Annunciation with Saint Emidius – Carlo Crivelli 1486
This painting has been a difficult one for me to understand because I have a Jewish background and most of the iconography of the church has been a mystery to my understanding. However when reading further about the significance of the various items in the picture the whole concept of the metaphor became much clearer. This immediately illuminated (annunciation) my understanding of my own choices of objects for my drawing.
I read a number of articles which explained this further in relation to paintings of this era. However was aware that I have a tendency to get bogged down in research so have decided to leave further study to a later time if it continues to be relevant.
Choosing the items for the still life appeared initially to be completely random but I soon realised they would become very significant when brought together.
- The Doll :- I have done a lot of work with this doll which was initially dressed and had long hair. A couple of years ago we had a deconstruction workshop where we took an object and slowly deconstructed it whilst documenting the process with photographs. At the time I was aware that I could have taken this further but stopped when I had shorn her hair. She has come to signify a child – or me reduced to bare essentials – more of this later.
- The Plant :- this is a succulent a type of plant that I particularly like. I have what I call brown fingers when it comes to indoor plants and succulents manage to survive because I don’t have to remember to water them too often. There is something that is meaningful to me about the survival instinct of this species.
- The Plastic Monkey:- This is a toy of one of my grandchildren. It is in a box because its playfulness is restricted.
- The Vegetable:- In the next section I will describe the context of the still life but a sweet potato (hanging) seems to signify sweet hopeful nourishment
- The Pickles:- Again in the next section – Research and Context I will explain more but these are not pickles but bitter gourds which I bought from our Bangladeshi shop round the corner. The fact that they are bitter is significant but also they are exotic in some way.
When I put all the items together they became in my mind Allegory to Childhood with a very strong message about my experiences growing up. Staring this drawing course seems to have awakened significant thoughts about what I am trying to achieve in my art. Before I started I was very much randomly working on different ideas but they did not have context. Having to become more discerning and deliberate not only in my drawing but in the thinking behind the drawing has triggered interesting, dark, and significant content.
Postscript: I have always admired Odilon Redon’s vibrant pastel drawings and had not know before this assignment of his”noirs” . I think that they have been a big influence on the choice of the final composition and to some extent content for this drawing task.
The other part that has interested me is reading about the way he sealed his drawings at various stages and with various concoctions. I would like in the future to have more time to look at what this would mean in terms of building up a denser surface over time. Also the discolouration has a resonance with time and change for me.
Another struggle getting the tones. Enjoyed the drawing more than Exercise 2 . However not sure how effective the outcome is. Definitely something I have to practice. Again aware that my drafting errors made the drawing “move” towards the left and is therefore too cramped on the right-hand side. I could have started again but thought that in a way enjoy seeing the workings of the drawing as they develop.
In the past I have used charcoal much more when drawing the figure and have not been a fan of still life at all. So all round I am finding it an uphill task being in this mode. Find myself irrationally angry at the struggle to find form but I know that it is good for the drawing muscles.