Category Archives: Part 3

Assignment 3 Reconsidered

I was disappointed in the outcome of Assignment 3. I am increasingly interested in process and trying to be less concerned about outcome, and I found the process interesting and productive, yet remained bugged about the outcome. Thinking hard about this, after piercing questioning by my tutor, I realise that an important part of my process is examining and analysing marks after the physical process is complete. When I had completed drawing to music, marks were obscured under layers, and whilst this made for interest in some places, it was merely an unintelligible jumble elsewhere. By photographing details, I was trying to isolate them, and my dissatisfaction lay less in the layering and more in the lack of negative space. Marks work by their interaction with the surrounding negative space.

With this realisation, I have resolved to rework the exercise, but I plan to use a succession of supports and make only a small series of marks on each (though the marks may be large) or work only for a short time and then move on to another support. I could even work off the edge or across a couple of supports and then change their relationship. Of necessity, these will be smaller than the huge sheet originally used, and in order to retain the freedom of using my whole arm, I shall continue to work on the floor with media of different scales. My plan is to the review them and perhaps rework them by addition or subtraction, by cropping in or even joining them up.

I created a stack of supports using B&Q lining paper. This is an attractive support for its liberating low cost, big rolls, smooth on one side and rough on the other and an ability to cope with the addition of some moisture. The supports vary in size from A4ish to A2ish but don’t have rectangular edges. I drew to Pink Floyd’s ‘Endless River’ again, but also some short classical pieces such as ‘Night on a Bare Mountain’  by Mussorgsky.  Having learnt a lot from my first efforts, the work was videoed as a record of process, with an example below. This uses music subject to copyright, so the video is passworded using my student number 509995.

A series of drawings was created of different shapes, sizes and density of marks.

A selection of drawings, showing range of marks:

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Details

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The music creates energy and spontaneity in the marks. I wondered if I could use one of the larger drawings where I had created a denser mesh of marks, as a starting point for another drawing, and retain this sense of energy. I am particularly interested in ways of creating energy and lively mark making within my life drawing, so to explore this, I used on of the drawings as a basis for a self portrait. This involved finding areas and shapes within which to locate my composition, smoothing the marks on some areas and developing them in others, whilst trying to retain the energy of the original marks and make new ones with a similar energy.

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A2, charcoal, carbon stick, white pastel

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Detail, showing history of layers of marks

Derek Overfield creates large life paintings with the kind of energised marks which I had I mind. The figures are not fully resolved, giving the impression of a fleeting pose that he had no time to capture in full. The poses themselves are energetic with the body coiled or tensed for movement, so I imagine that, indeed, they were brief, and his use of monochrome adds to the drama. Oldfield given an insight in to his working practice here. His works on paper show how he combines line with blocks of tone to create both movement and volume. Interestingly, he seems to always omit feet. Perhaps this is because concentrating on the torso gives him the volume and power he is looking for in the composition. Including the whole figure can lead to a long, linear composition unless the model strikes a very closed, compact pose.

Another contemporary artist who manages to get this raw energy into his marks for life drawing is Korean artist KwangHo Shin. In the examples of his work shown on this webpage, there is a series of oil portraits followed by some monotone drawings using conte. The paintings lack the excitement of the drawings; the marks are smaller and more repetitive in form in the former, perhaps caused by the constraint of producing a work for sale or a likeness, whilst the drawings have a wild exuberance. These drawings in conte seem to be created from a dense directional scribble as an initial description of form, which is then wiped and softened to find mass before further linear marks are added, producing veiled forms with a sense of mystery.

Returning to the other drawings in the series, I selected several with the most interesting range of marks and stuck them down to a much larger support (two strips of lining paper, joined). I then sketched the layout in my sketchbook and thought about how I could again work to music to link them into a larger composition. This would mean working spontaneously to music but with some mental framework to direct my mark making.

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1.2m x 1.5m appoximately charcoal, compressed charcoal, graphite, carbon

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Details

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Analysis

This has been a much more successful exploration of drawing to music than my first attempt. I did not necessarily fulfil all the objectives which I set myself but the final, combined work does capture the sense of the elemental power of the music. The value of using music is the energy and spontaneity it creates in the marks. It was interesting to try to use such a drawing as a starting point for a self portrait, and it made me use freer marks than I might usually, but the result is rather peculiar; it feels like one thing shoe-horned into another. The drawing lacks any calm areas where the eye can rest.

In contrast, the combined work where I have taken the original drawings and extrapolated them with the same family of marks into a very large, abstract design, feels much more authentic and lively. It evokes some embodiment of the forces of nature, certainly something organic and alive. If I wasn’t working to music, my shapes and marks might be better considered or placed and some are repetitive, in response to repeated rhythms and chords, but the gain is the feeling of energy and excitement. I could imagine taking this drawing as a starting point for a drypoint print, inscribing into a plate with a point and a Dremel and using a brush with glue and carborundum.

I now see a video as an outcome in its own right, rather than just a record of process, and my skill at producing a well lit and recorded video is improving. I think that watching the marks develop, change, appear and then disappear has its own fascination and I hope to develop this idea further in my parallel project.

Part 3 – Reflection on Tutor Feedback

I elected to have a Skype tutorial with my tutor and the discussion was stimulating and productive. The opportunity to have a conversation, with give and take and an exchange of ideas, was wonderful. The deal with these tutorials is that the tutors put their time into the discussion and the students write the assignment report, with additional comments added by the tutor. In the assignment report the tutor’s comments are in red.

My tutor was very encouraging about my experimentation and the fact that my work is becoming more abstract. The subject of presence and absence is a strong one with lots of possibilities which she encourages me to explore, not just through representation but through the presence and absence of materials. I was pleased that she found my material experiments such as snow and rust productive and not an indulgence.

I have a ‘to do’ list:

  • rework assignment 3
  • drawing on different surfaces
  • consider the relevance of primitive art to my themes
  • explore non rectangular supports
  • reading
  • develop video ideas

One comment from my tutor has given me particular pause for thought. She says, ‘The process is an important factor for your work and it’s interesting that you take an alternative viewpoint as to what drawing can be. Is it more for you, the artist, than the viewer?’.

I have deliberately tried to become less concerned about outcome, feeling that embracing risk and not worrying about spoiling something can liberate me. But I think the answer to her question is that my art is for me and is about the process of me making it, much more that it is about any possible outcome or a viewer’s opinion on that outcome. I make art for the deep satisfaction that creating something gives me, for the sensual pleasure of working with the materials and for my own visual pleasure when I discover something interesting in the outcome, no matter how small a detail, often a reaction of the materials which I have merely facilitated.

Part 3 – Reflection

Experimentation, both in materials and techniques always excites me. Using iron filings to draw’ so that an image is created in rust, has been the most rewarding recent experiment. My researches into materials and techniques inspired by Anish Kapoor’s drawings have also been stimulating and productive. The experiments using Rauschenberg’s transfer method resulted in one of my favourite works so far in this course.

This part of the course has not often called for visual observation but has required me to look inside myself and respond to emotions and ideas. I think my skill in tuning into these and using them in my art has greatly developed through the projects and also through my parallel project work so far. In spite of having my dominant hand in a splint, I continue to attend life drawing classes on a regular basis which I feel is like going to the gym to keep my visual observation skills exercised. I try to use any limitations which occur in my life positively in my art. The splint has pushed me to experiment with drawing with my non-dominant hand, and many, many hours travelling to a sick relative was harnessed through a drawing machine.

My work has become increasingly abstract, simple and conceptual. Any shortcomings of design are instantly exposed. I am trying to find new ways of working in my sketchbooks to develop ideas, rather than representations, into compositions but I am right at the beginning of a new path, and am finding that challenging.

I have produced some pieces of work of which I am proud and which I feel are strong enough to be ‘contemporarily convincing’. Most of these works have come out of course-work or exhibitions feeding into into my parallel project which is starting to consume me. The drawing machine pieces which related to my personal circumstance are all the stronger for that, and I feel that this connect between academic exercises and art relating to my experience is my personal voice starting to assert itself.

Study and exhibition visits, together with reading, not only feed me with ideas but stimulate by establishing connections between artists and between ideas. Workshops are particularly stimulating and although I have not taken any recently I have four booked for the months ahead. Beyond the content of a course, I find coming together with others really fires my creativity.

The balance between exploring all the different things that drawing can be and investigating any area in depth, is difficult to find. One or two of my investigations have come to some sort of fruition, such as rust drawing, but others didn’t, such as drawing to music or using snow. I enjoy beautiful mark making but it has to be harnessed to some underlying idea of substance and value for a strong outcome.

In the past, I have been quite precious about my work, but now I am quite happy to pursue a piece to destruction. It maybe that a resolution is achieved at some point, and then past and the work destroyed, but that no longer worries me.

When I look at my favourite drawings, below, from this part of the course, they are quite pared down, even simple, and seem miles away from drawing skills as I conceived them before this course.

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24-30 October, 526 miles

24-30 October, 526 miles

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Fractured Memory

 

 

 

Exhibition – Rodin Drawings

I was excited at the prospect of this exhibition at The Courtauld because I had been enthralled by Rodin’s drawings which I discovered whilst studying Sculpture 1 and it is unusual to find an exhibition concentrating on a sculptor’s working models and drawings rather than final works.

The central element of the small exhibition is a series of small plaster models which he had cast from clay forms which he made. These are rather like the traditional artists wooden model in that he made a pointing arm, say, and had multiple copies of it made which he then combined with different other body parts to create small figurines in different poses. This gave some of the figures a rather peculiar look but others a rather abstract one.

The exhibition was in two small rooms, lined with his drawings. These included some drawn from the models but also life drawings with his famous drawings of Cambodian dancers the most interesting. These were executed during performance with a hand, say, drawn in multiple positions as the dance progressed.

He added to the sense of mood and movement of his drawings with later additions of watercolour. I was surprised to learn that he also collaged them, in this example, two separate sketches together to make a new arrangement.

Ultimately, I was disappointed in this exhibition as I felt the drawings on show were some of his poorer works and many did not have the excuse of being relevant to the models. The exhibition did include. one small sculpture of Nijinski, which was exquisite.

Normally I enjoy sketching in exhibitions, but on this occasion my dominant hand was in a splint and drawing was a frustrating experience as I had no fine control over my pen or pencil. Here are my poor efforts.

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Assignment 3 – A Response to Music

The object of this project of this assignment is to make work in response to a piece of music. I chose Pink Floyd’s ‘The Endless River’ for its variety of rhythms, meditative feel and abstract qualities.

As a warm up exercise, I taped a large piece of brown paper to my easel and worked in response to the music using charcoal. Increasingly, I am finding ‘warming up’ useful, not only to get into a creative mood and relinquish external thoughts, but also as a physical warm up, loosening my muscles, getting my whole body on the move.

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Charcoal on kraft paper, A2

For my assignment piece, I decided to work very large so that I could use my whole arm, and to work with a range of large oil sticks, pens, carbon and a brush on the end of a stick, in order to allow loose, sweeping motions. The sword-liner brush was chosen because of the wide range of marks it can make, both small and large. I cut a section from a large roll of paper and taped it to the floor on top of an old plastic table cloth. Having prepared my media, including tubs of yellow ochre, burnt umber and black gouache, I set up a tripod with a camera using a wide angle lens, set to record video.

The video has been  sped up and abbreviated.

I made marks in response to the music, without regard to previous marks. At the end of the record (which is 53 minutes long) my whole support was covered with a riot of marks.

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Oil stick, gouache and carbon, 150cm x 105cm

Analysing the results, I found the effect to be rather chaotic and undifferentiated. There were groups of strong, large marks which gave some sense of design, but on the whole it just seemed a mess.

Looking at it with fresh eyes, the next morning, I could find lots of areas which reminded me of Japanese or Chinese painting, but which were overcome by the density of marks around them. Once isolated by the camera, they could speak better.

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The sword-liner has generated calligraphic marks creating the Japanese feel. The limited palette has also worked well, adding depth to the layers. Hard, solid and soft, broken marks are produced by more or less paint. The silver oil stick and the carbon stick have created broken texture which in places resisted later layers. In comparison, a large brush tipped pen which I briefly used, created uniform, mechanical marks and was quickly abandoned.

Working on such a large support, with large media and extended gesture really allowed me to sink into the music without being cramped physically.

The next stage seemed logical; take the same support and start obliterating it, again to music. I used white gouache, and gesso for their different covering power and flow, and my largest brush. The ambition was to use a few, wide, sweeping marks.

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Sweeps of white gouache brushed over, gesso poured on, prior to brushing through

White designers gouache was washed in sweeps to soften and isolate areas of marks. Gesso was then poured over and swept through with a large brush. The obliteration was rather more total than I had intended and I used oil stick to join areas and reassert some of the underlying areas of darker marks. Using my whole arm with the oil stick has generated rather uniform sweeps, so the oil stick was rubbed in with a cloth to soften it, and also to soften the edges of the paint in areas.

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Once again, I needed  to walk away from this for a while and come back later to reassess it with fresh eyes. The big looping marks are too regular, both in arc and in thickness. I think that the obliteration process really called for something the size of a floor mop and the marks needed to be large but broken, in the style of Franz Kline. I tried to find something of value in small areas:

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The work has taken on an extra presence through the addition of gesso, applied impasto and the silver oil stick has picked up and emphasised this texture. Whilst most of the original marks have been lost, ghosts of them exist through the gouache, greatly softened and much more subtle.

Possibly the work would benefit from one or two really big marks. I printed out some photos of it and tried painting over them to explore this.

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It could potentially bring the piece to some resolution but I don’t have any tool big enough. An alternative was to extract an area of the support which had marks from every layer and revisit the original mark making process using the original music and brush to generate marks in the same family. Instead of white, I used yellow ochre and burnt umber, mixed on the brush.

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As always, I have my favourite part of this. I don’t like the vortex shape which has appeared in the upper left.

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This is were the works stands at present, but I can envisage returning to it and continuing to develop it, and even extract other areas of the original support and use them as a base for further pieces, even for life drawing, the original marks adding to the sense of a moving figure.

Research – Meaningful Materials, Iron and Ice

Iron

I have been considering the symbolism of colour and medium in drawing. In an earlier work, I used clay as a drawing medium with its connotations of place and geology. I have also used carbon sticks and charcoal,  carbon being a basic element of life but also being a relic of fire. I would like to consider fire as a drawing medium and am considering how I can safely and effectively do that.

Iron is also a basic element of life. Its ability to readily oxide allows it to transport oxygen around a body. It is also one of the elements created in stars. When astronomers detect iron in the spectrum of a star, they know that its years are limited and that it will soon (relatively) die in a supernova explosion. In the past I have printed with rust but I wanted to try drawing with it. I collected filings from my husband’s grinding machine (he builds steam engines) and applied these to  a small paper sample which had been dampened with lemon juice.

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The lemon juice dried before it had any effect, so my next sample used distilled vinegar.

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Design ideas and first samples and notes in sketchbook

As a design, I tried drawing the suggestion of a figure, which relates to the themes I am exploring in my parallel project. This is rather like the Turin Shroud of Anthony Gormley’s oil body prints. The design isn’t very clear; the paper has been flooded with fluid too much.

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Trying to control the spread of iron mould, I used less fluid and left the image to develop longer. Here I have returned to the Zen Enso design which relates to completeness but also imperfection. I have added two other marks, one inside and one outside the form, seeing this as an extension of the dichotomy of presence and absence within or beyond the void.

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Enso, rust, A3

Although I used less fluid, I still used enough to cause run off. The rust has almost formed a crust on the paper but it is completely integrated with it. After developing, the paper was soaked to remove the vinegar and and particles of iron which did not shake off. The rust was undisturbed by soaking. In this next experiment, I used even less fluid and left the filings overnight. This has produced an even stronger stain.

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Abstract form, rust, A3

I think these two images work well together as a diptych. I used strong Japanese paper which I knew would take repeated soaking because of its long fibres, but even so, a couple of tears occurred during handling and the paper has been hard to press flat.  In fact, trying to press it flat has caused extra wrinkling.

I have considered developing the rust drawings with additions in graphite, ink or paint, but I think that this would appear very contrived.

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Feeling that I was ready to use a better support, I returned to my original design using good quality watercolour paper.

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The rust has imprinted completely differently on this support. Less texture has been retained in the dense areas, but a wider variety of marks and range of tone has been achieved. Then figure is clearly represented but is only solid in places. It has defined edges in places but in others melts into the background. The fluid bleed gives the figure life, even perhaps burning or exploding with energy.

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Detail

Although I have done rust printing in the past, and I know that it is a popular technique with textile artists such as Alice Fox, I have found very little reference of the internet to anyone drawing with iron. An exception is Esther Solondz who produced very large works using this method. I can see that sprinkling iron is an imprecise drawing medium and so well suited to working large.

These rust drawings combine a meaningful material with texture, colour and soft, complex edges. It is possible to produce bold and simple designs, but complex designs would require working at a much larger scale. The quality of the support is important to withstand the wet process and archival quality is questionable. I suspect, over sufficient time, the rust areas would develop holes in the support which would be really exciting but, ultimately, destructive.

Ice

It snowed this week and I was excited to see if I could use the snow as a drawing medium by combining it with ink or paint. I hoped that I might get marks on the paper like those you see on the edge of glaciers caused by algae and dust or on the edge of geysers caused by minerals.

The snow have frozen over night and was icy and thawing by 9am, but collected a basin of granules. scattered them in arcs over my support and dripped Indian ink into them. I also scattered some ground up charcoal because it would be non-soluble and float on the water, hopefully to the edges.

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I realised that the ice was producing a lot of water. I used a brush to join and spread out the puddles a bit, but instantly wishes I hadn’t, that I had just left the water to do its thing.

I was very disappointed with this as it progressed. The ice produced so much water but slowly enough to buckle the paper in to basins which retained the water. Some interesting edges were achieved, mostly due to the charcoal.

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I tried the experiment again, this time with much less ice, with which I mixed a little ink and charcoal.

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This has melted into more interesting shapes but the ink is far too strong and solid. The paper has wrinkled locally again.

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The edges are rather hard and uninteresting, so I have lightly sprayed the paper with water.

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Spraying has made this more interesting but I don’t think it qualifies as drawing with ice and is not at all the effect I was after. Research has revealed that it is possible. This work by Andrew Goldsworthy, using a snowball, is more the sort of thing I was looking for. I suspect the use of a snowball means that it can be removed from the support when it has released the desired amount of water. I had intended to continue this experiment on a much better quality of support, once I had learnt about the parameters, but now the snow has gone for the time being.

These have been extremely interesting experiments with the rust being particularly successful, producing visually exciting results with a repeatable technique.