Parallel Project – In the Space Between

I have been experimenting with gouache and ink to explore ideas around layered space, voids, different places or states coming into contact. This particular little sketch, using layers of gouache and areas of water on Japanese paper reminded me of a figure, half seen or disappearing. This goes back to the central theme of my father leaving.


Gouache on washi, 10cm x 10cm

I thought this could be developed into a much larger work using charcoal and eraser, building up multilayered marks which would create depth and space. To allow the build up of marks and provide tooth, cartridge paper was painted with thick gesso in strong, random brush strokes. The A1 paper was cut down to a nearly square format, so that the figure would dominate the drawing but still have space to ‘move’ into.

I would like to explore using multiple photographs of a drawing to create an animation and so I photographed the development of the drawing to learn about the process. The drawing was done on a bright sunny day, on an easel facing a patio window with vertical blinds drawn to provide flat light. An SLR camera was positioned on a tripod and photographs were taken through the process of drawing.

The drawing was build up with charcoal and compressed charcoal and worked back into with a mars eraser. I tried to get a balance of linear and black marks but was conscious that I did not want to suggest and character or features in my figure and removed any marks which, for instance, might suggest hair.

The rough gesso has supported the build up of multiple layers with soft and hard, positive and negative marks. I allowed texture of the gesso to dictate some of the drawing, for instance the beam of light from the left. The texture and rhythm of the brush marks remain powerful in the final drawing.

Final drawing, charcoal, 60cm x 50cm

It is interesting to watch the marks develop through the drawing and see myself taking reactive decisions. The video suffers from the movement of the board on the easel when vigorously rubbing out, so some sort of registration system would be needed if I want to work this way. The camera settings produced violent jumps in exposure, presumably as the areas sampled changed from white to black and sometimes back again. This resulted in some frames being very overexposed and all detail in light areas lost. I need to experiment with different programme settings. The tripod got moved a couple of times as I knocked it with my foot. I need to register the position of the drawing and the tripod, perhaps with tape on the floor.  The fade from one frame to another needs consideration and refinement, possibly with a better video editing tool.


This drawing portrays a figure, half seen, perhaps imagined or dreamt, in a dark space illuminated by light from the right and a dim beam of light from the left. The figure is featureless, with unnatural flat planes giving it the feel of a sculpture, but the turn of the shoulders and angle of the head, turned towards the viewer, suggest a living person. The space the figure inhabits is full of matter which obscures the figure in places and intrudes into it. Where the figure starts and stops is not clear. The viewer may find this work both disquietening and sombre but, hopefully, intriguing and involving.

The composition of the drawing is very simple but the texture and layering of marks create a space beyond the picture plane into which the figure is fading. Increasingly, I am trying to grapple with complex ideas through very simple compositions but which have a richness of detail.

I have posted this drawing on the student site for critique, asking for people’s interpretation of the mood and what the figure might represent. Comments were: ‘detachment’, ‘uncertainty’, ‘sadness’, ‘contemplative’, ‘the unknown’, ‘memory…something fading or emerging from the past’, ‘sadness, regret, something significant has recently happened here’, ‘sombre, deathly and sad’, ‘moving and affecting’, ’emotion is rather neutral shading into the optimistic’. There was considerable discussion and disagreement about who the figure might be, male or female, a statue, and some people found several figures or faces in the drawing. I am pleased to have created a drawing which stimulated both emotion and discussion.


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