Pause – Review – Evaluate

Using the discipline of the learning model:-


I am feeling confused again so have paused my process to re-evaluate what is going on. There are the 3 elements,

my ageing skin:- so far have investigated this less than the other parts.  I am interested in my skin, like its diversity, discolorations, wrinkles, I wear my experience in my skin and I am content with how it looks.   I have not been able to find older women to draw and this has been a frustration.   Perhaps I need to go back to drawing myself in some detail and at some scale.   I greatly admire Jenny Saville’s epic drawings and paintings but it is not that which I want to achieve.   It is the detail the layering the way the skin itself is a metaphor real and imagined for the lived life, the stresses and strains,  good (stretch marks of the belly) and bad.

  Also aware that these thoughts are in direct contrast to society’s notion of ageing, beauty, and the hierarchy of imagery that places the young, ever younger, perfect, flawless beauty of youth at its pinnacle. The longer-lived population, growing with each decade is the burden of society (at least in the West) celebrated so long as we keep in the background and don’t challenge the acceptable norms…..

Artistically very few depictions of the older woman.  Why do I like Dix and his Pastiches (what does this mean) of the harder, uglier side of ageing, sex, is either this or homely granny by the fireside. Dix exhibition Dix was uncompromising in many of his 

the body shapewear :-   This is still an area that interests because of the way it implies limitations of shape and image acceptable for the female body.   The modern day corset – which I would like to spend much more time on but can’t at the moment – the way to make us conform to the norm….

 As I am thinking about it I think this needs a different kind of treatment than my skin, plastic, or something less pliable except that the empty shapewear is like a ghost of the body it once enclosed.

doll parts:- these are still important because they allow the example of the ways women’s bodies have been objectified.   The doll parts signify a sort of alien existence – an other world but also one created, like the shapewear, as a way of codifying childhood.

Of the 4 ways forward I have worked with each of them variously:-

Imprinting:- I think the concept of literally marking the paper by intending or embossing with “my words” is an important aspect of the experiments I have tried. This way of biting into the surface of having an imperfection – word or letter stand out from the surface of the skin of the drawing resonates strongly with the way some words recall strong emotions or past experiences.

Layering – using the latex:- So far the main image where I have used the latex to obscure and then reveal has only gone through 3 stages and am pausing in thinking about how to extend into the full 7 layers of “skin” without completely obscuring and loosing everything – but the question is does it matter?  What should or should not be kept or lost?

3-D Collage – Layering:- Building the 7 layers via pages in the sketchbook has been interesting in itself although it would be good to be able to move the pages around – these pages move towards thought of memory and glimpses of the past.   One other way of approaching this could be to draw through the layers in different configurations. This would then literally be a “peep show”! 

Shaping Paper:- Tried to distort various papers in sheet form without making a papier mache shape but once they were released from their moulds they just became creased paper without any particular interest or reference to what I was aiming to achieve. Could now  attempt to build some papier mache out of more flexible materials….don’t know what.


There are interesting elements in all the 4 ways forward so far but rather crude in some cases.

The charcoal drawing of the shapewear is more interesting because of the layers of imprinting, outline, and overdrawing.   I think however it would be even more interesting at larger scale with the mark making becoming more deliberate rather than generalised.    The whole treatment could be more discerning. More aspects of memory could add to the depth both physical and intellectual.

The layering with latex has produced some fascinating combinations but again these are random rather than deliberate in their achievement.   At the stage now with the mono-print I am uncertain of the way forward. Need to think about isolating some “thoughts” that is sections where the configuration of the marks speak to me.

N.B. The “Woman” mono-prints in acrylic paint

Using the 3D-Collage is a more dynamic approach and could almost see a Francis Woodward (?) Joseph Cornell even assemblage  – approach where a box of layered “scenes” could be built using the child with her long strip come into and out of the scene …accompanied by the mother  “tagged ” to different scenes/surfaces – frottage appeals here.

Building a “belly” in papier mache would move this examination on – so far not much to go on. Not sure how strong this is as a way of approach.   It would be interesting to find a way to mark a surface – like a balloon and then deflate it – what would happen.

Overall the approaches seem very separate and without a clear path of how to move them on together.   Realise that I have not really used my skin aspect so far expect to use it as the metaphor to build the layers – could this become just a text-ual device?   Colours, surface, shape etc.  not a drawing in itself?


I am going to include in this the influences of reading Drawing Now (2007) as well as my recent visit to the Jasper Johns exhibition at the Royal Academy..

In the introduction to DN (2007) notes that they “abandon the resort to appearances presenting instead the use of experience of something..rather seek to experience what is NOT visible…the invisible or the unbeseen.” (p xiv)  This has been an enormous revelation in terms of a way of thinking about drawing without yet having a way to achieve this in order to convey my own interests.   I believe I am achieving glimpses of my unique perception on the subject but as yet I do not have a vocabulary with which to describe my “experiences”.  What I am now engaged with is a way of looking at developing this vocabulary. It is additionally interesting that I am pulled right back to the beginning of this unit to the expressive mark-making whilst realising how relatively unexplored is this most essential aspect of drawing.

There are the beginnings of my accessing “memory”  through the imagery which I have chosen but as devices for interpreting my investigation they are as yet rudimentary.  This is because I am not at all sure what my question is – what is my investigation about?

“How can I interpret the experiences of life as a women through examining my own skin and the superimposed skin of female body image as controlled by society?” 

Again I am drawn to John Berger quoted in DN and his 3 categories of observation, idea and memory.. 

“conceptual drawing encourages a journey round associative thought that does not have to be logical or resolved, …provokes an aggregation of memories, and impedes access to resolved meanings.”

I am literally hardly scratching the surface of my experiential content.

Jasper Johns – Royal Academy

I am including this exhibition visit here because it has been important to begin to draw together the above recognition with looking at work of an artists who I would have previously not have chosen to view.

“making the familiar unfamiliar”

What he clearly achieved was a way to ask us to view the everyday in a different way using the chosen objects to convey layers of meaning often ambiguous in interpretation. Sometimes he used the same images, flags, maps, targets again and again but each time tilting the inquiry slightly differently by the use of materials, viewpoint,  amalgamations of objects etc.

jj fragments of a letter

“Fragments of a letter”  2010

The two different versions of a letter from Van Gogh to Emile Bernard in words and in american sign language. This is a real challenge to understanding, one we might know (although it is translated) and the other we might not comprehend unless we have been told.   It raises the question do you need to know the references to be able to appreciate a piece of art?

What really interested me given my present inquiry is that in the section Time & Transience it was mentioned that his interests lay in:-

  • moments of transition
  • uncertainties of memory
  • inevitability of change
  • fleeting nature of existence

which had me think that my main interest lie in:- (working examples)

  • the naming of realities (whose?)
  • the uncertainties of memory
  • the lived experience
  • the imposed interpretation

More recently Johns has been working with found photographs and tracings (without identifying from where) where they are “free from the information that images convey”.  However what really spoke to me was the way he has been interrogating the same ideas over decades, moving backwards and forwards across actual time whilst staying with his early questions.

So it seems to me that if I can frame my questions I can then begin to find the framework for thinking about what imagery I wish to use and how to use it.   Simple but immensely difficult to achieve.


  1. Need to do far more investigation into the thinking about and behind the process of drawing
  2. My “vocabulary” in drawing needs to be extended and more defined
  3. In order to develop my analysis I need to ask myself questions more objectively in order to investigate both written and artistic material more effectively.
  4. Finding it hard to piece together the thinking and doing as well as dealing with the un-answered or un-answerable questions.
  5. Look more closely and critically at other artists work.   Ask myself questions about their questions
  6. Become looser in the way I think about and interpret my areas of interest, work associations, mind maps, image maps,,,


  1. Create a “theatre” of the layers of the collage and draw through them :- movable parts that tell the story in different ways in different order from different angles – the nature of memory
  2. Create much larger scale drawing of part of the shapewear – looking at ways drawing can be interpreting experience.
  3. Flexible – belly :- build layers of latex and paper to create extended belly – drawing or painting between the different layers – allow to deflate…
  4. Try using balloons or other inflatable media to draw/fill with water/sticks – allow to over stretch and deflate.
  5. Continue building layers on original layered drawing.
  6. Try going back to some of the early samples of different fabric and surfaces and use them as mono-printing plates.

Alongside this practical work:-

  1. Look at developing reading and academic analysis.







Having reviewed the material explorations on skin I have become aware that I don’t know where I am heading and don’t know if I should know what I am trying to achieve.

Thoughts initially that by getting the ideas out by drawing the mind map below I would have a clearer picture.  However this just made me realise what an immense topic I am dealing with and cannot tackle it all.

So the questions are:-

  • What particular aspect of this enquiry am I trying to clarify?
  • How will I go about it?
  • What tools do I have in order to achieve this?
  • What do I need to find out about in order to move forward?
  • How do I manage my own learning/doing/thinking processes?


So as you will see from the sketchbook I went back to the HE learning package on the OCA website in order to review where I am in relation to this learning model – particularly reflective practice.

Conclusion:- if not nowhere very close to it.


  • I have not changed the way I work since starting the course.
  • I still tend to dive into activities and however many times I tell myself to slow down it is not a habit.
  • I tend to hop about between tasks, writing, sketchbook, reading etc. without stopping to think how things connect together – if they do
  • I still want to make a “pretty picture” even if it is a sampling of materials
  • I am not analysing what is happening in the work
  • I do not have an action plan
  • I do not “look” enough at artists work in order to learn from them
  • My tendency is to do everything quickly and believe in an innate ability to absorb information and learning.
  • I read a lot but do not make notes and do not review what I have understood/not understood in order to make connections if appropriate
  • I am so hungry for learning and doing that I devour everything without tasting


  • Review my learning processes and look for help to assist..

Found an amazing article after some considerable research :- Understanding the Artmaking Process: Reflective Practice, Sydney Walker (Art Education, May 2004)

What I have struggled with so far is the abstract notions in the reflective learning models and needed to find something that explained how this relates to making art, learning, moving forward and making more art….

His questions were:-

  • What is it that artists do when they create artworks?
  • How do artists pursue meaning?

He concluded in 2001 that artists use of big ideas as a major conceptual factor that shapes the artist’s practice…characterised as themes, issues or perhaps questions…often for years”.  

In this article he describes how a group of undergraduates and graduates over a 10-week period  “maintaining reflective documentation…recorded decisions, changes and insights which shaped their art-making and thinking in regard to the artmaking process.”   Observing that “students who  were judged to be more creative tended not to utilise pre-conceived ideas or principles, but rather let the artmaking solution gradually emerge during the process”.  Furthermore they did not “seek out familiar landmarks “, and were “able to tolerate ambiguity and contradictions“.

His concluding remarks were enlightening:-

“artistic practices that characterise more inventive and critical artistic activity such as delaying closure, risk-taking, actively searching for contradictions, rejecting the conventional and familiar and exhibiting tolerance for ambiguity“.

As one student concluded:-

“the course has given me the vocabulary to clearly communicate my ideas to others. In a discipline where all to often the process is based on feelings, it is extremely helpful to have a model that demonstrates the concepts of the artmaking process.”

So at last I have if not the answer but a method of utilising the reflective practice model in a way that makes sense of the process. The five new mantras:-

  1. Delaying Closure – stay in the process without looking for immediate gratification and outcome.
  2. Risk-taking – this is probably obvious but not easily carried through
  3. Actively Searching for Contradictions – if this then this or if this and this then….
  4. Rejecting the Conventional and Familiar – OK this might be “good” or acceptable but is it saying anything to me?
  5. Exhibiting Tolerance for Ambiguity – not sure how much I understand this one at the moment.   Am aware that many writers on feminism and philosophy talk about ambiguity  but not yet at a point of understanding.

I am sure that my response to these 5 will alter over time. Thoughts to take forward.

So having reached this point I am now going to look at preparing an action plan based on what I have looked at so far in my work.