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:

music-2-of-2 music-and-life-2-of-16 large-music-2-of-2 large-music-1-of-1music-and-life-3-of-16 music-and-life-4-of-16 music-and-life-7-of-16music-1-of-2




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.


A2, charcoal, carbon stick, white pastel


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.


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



large-music-2-of-10 large-music-7-of-10


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.


Parallel project, rust print, A3


24-30 October, 526 miles

24-30 October, 526 miles, drawing machine


Fractured Memory, parallel project




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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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


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.

3.4 An Emotional Response

I asked friends and fellow students via Facebook for emotional prompts and, after editing out closely similar thoughts, arrived at the following list of ten.

  • Thousands of people hate me
  • I’m frightened of going outside
  • I want to stand on top of a mountain
  • I used to live for music
  • I love stormy weather
  • Will he ask me to dance?
  • I don’t like Mondays
  • I am falling from the high wire
  • I  live inside a tree
  • Raindrops on the window remind me of tears

I did not have a willing model, so I considered my options for an alternative. I wanted some degree of complexity and perhaps anthropomorphism in my subject and considered household objects, including a very old teddy bear but decided that all of these had too much family history which might intrude to overpower other emotional input. The local charity shop provided a doll from their bin which I felt would be perfect. It had huge manga style blue eyes which I mostly removed with nail varnish remover and improbably long, blond hair which I roughly hacked. Its proportions are completely unnatural, so any thoughts of life drawing and getting hung up on realism could be forgotten.

A variety of drawing mediums, my A3 sketchbook and a couple of A3ish gessoed supports were spread out on a table next to my easel, facing the doll which was placed at chest height. The only prior decision I made was that I would work on the same size support each time and try to use a different medium for each drawing. In order to get my eye in and loosen up, I made a couple of sketches of the doll in pencil, in the same way we warm up in a life class.

For each drawing, I changed my technique. This was spontaneous rather than considered, for instance, I stabbed at the paper with wax crayons in my fist in response to ‘thousands of people hate me’.


Pencil, A3 sketchbook

A pinger was used to measure 10 minutes and I made myself move quickly from one drawing to another without analysing what I had or hadn’t done in the previous one. Some of the drawings were done in a lot less than 10 minutes because if I found myself thinking ‘that foot is way too small’, I lost the emotion and my marks completely changed, so at that point I stopped.  The drawings were completed in two sessions, as I found this surprisingly intense and tiring. I could feel at a certain point that I was loosing my concentration on the emotions and flagging.


‘Thousands of people hate me’, A3+, Wax crayons used in fist, red watercolour paint applied with fingers and brush


‘I am frightened of going outside’ A3, graphite stick


‘I want to stand on top of a mountain’ A3, XL graphite block


‘Will he ask me to dance?’  A3 felt tip pens, water


‘I used to live for music’ A3, XL graphite, rubber


‘I don’t like Mondays’ A3, carbon stick


‘I am falling from the high wire’ A3, graphite block and powder


‘I live inside a tree’ A3, Inktense pencils and water


‘I love stormy weather’ A3+, Inktense blocks, wet finger


‘Raindrops on the window remind me of tears’ A3+, gouache applied with finger tip, wet in wet


In this exercise, I was not trying to project each emotion on to the subject, but to take on the emotion myself, whilst I was drawing. I am really surprised by the variety of physical response to the emotional prompts. The strength of response is partly because I did not allow myself to analyse my drawing during the process; I tried to stay in the emotion and stopped when I lost the feeling, and partly because I changed my technique each time. Whilst drawing, I was really looking at my subject and trying to represent it, but even so, the doll’s face has taken on a completely different persona in each drawing. Some are wistful, some positively psychopathic. The power of the drawing also changes markedly; some are tentative and others are really strong. The biggest surprise was the drawing in response to ‘I am afraid to go outside’. Without intention, the doll is much smaller on the support than the other drawings. My mother used to say, ‘Never sew when you are angry, you’ll just make angry stitches’, how true. This exercise has shown me just how much of ourselves and our emotions we put into each drawing, even if we think it to be closely representational. We cannot subvert our emotion and personality, so we should harness them.


3.4 Contextual Focus – Erased De Kooning

In 1953, Rauschenberg decided to challenge what could be construed as Art, just as Dumas had before him. He had begun this process in 1951 by producing pure white paintings from which he had eliminated any sense of brushwork by using house paint applied with rollers (Craft, 2013). Wanting to push his White paintings into drawing, he conceived the idea of taking a drawing, a work of art, and destroying it by erasure, thereby leaving its trace but not the ‘art’ content. This would not only question or destroy ideas of what art was but also destroy a physical piece of art. He tried using his own drawings but felt that they lacked sufficient significance. He fearfully approached de Kooning, one of the foremost American artists of the time, and requested a drawing to delete, ‘I bought a bottle of Jack Daniels…..praying….that he wouldn’t be home’ (svsugvcarter, 2007). Accounts differ as to whether de Kooning was reluctant or intrigued by the proposal, possibly both.

Rauschenberg remembers de Kooning saying, ‘I want it to be something I’ll miss…..something really difficult to erase’. He selected a drawing in charcoal, oil paint, pencil and crayon, and it took Rauschenberg a month to erase it.  He comments in this interview that people thought it a gesture, a protest against abstract expressionism or vandalism but when asked what it represented for him, he said ‘its poetry’.

The Erased de Kooning as a physical artefact is not a work of art, but the memory of a work of art. The second work of art here is the idea and its execution. In this respect, Rauschenberg was a forerunner of the Conceptual Art movement which gained momentum in the early 1960s. Sol LeWitt ‘In conceptual art the idea or the concept is the most important aspect of the work…it means that all planning and decisions are made before hand and the execution is a perfunctory affair…It is the object of the artist to make his work mentally interesting to the spectator’ (Harrison, Wood, and Gaiger, 2002). Except that Rauschenberg did not want the execution to be perfunctory; he wanted it to be difficult, but, like the White paintings, not to display the hand of the artist. Had he been working 10 years later, he probably would have recorded this as a piece of performance art. He created a nearly blank piece of paper on which the spectator can project their own interpretation and speculations. It is this creation of an arena for discussion and speculation which has kept the Erased de Kooning fresh and relevant for 60 years.

Erasing a work by an important artist was a genuinely creative and original idea. In his ‘Sentence on Conceptual Art’, Sol LeWitt usefully said, of this creative process:

‘1 Conceptual Artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.

2 Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.

3 Illogical judgements lead to new experience.

4 Formal Art is essentially rational.

5 Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.’ (Harrison, Wood, and Gaiger).

Erasing a de Kooning was irrational and, once conceived, followed through with commitment, leading to a new and enduring experience.


Craft, C. (2013) Rauschenberg London: Phaidon Press.

Harrison, C., Wood, P. and Gaiger, J. (eds.) (2002) Art in theory 1900-2000: An anthology of changing ideas. 2nd edn. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.
svsugvcarter (2007) Robert Rauschenberg – erased de Kooning. Available at: (Accessed: 18 December 2016).


Fox, M. (2015) What is the artistic significance of Robert Rauschenberg’s erased de Kooning? Available at: (Accessed: 5 December 2016).
Harrison, C., Wood, P. and Gaiger, J. (eds.) (2002) Art in theory 1900-2000: An anthology of changing ideas. 2nd edn. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.
Katz, V. (2006) A genteel iconoclasm. Available at: (Accessed: 5 December 2016).
Robert Rauschenberg, erased de Kooning drawing, 1953 (2016) Available at: (Accessed: 5 December 2016).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2010) Robert Rauschenberg on ‘erased de Kooning’. Available at: (Accessed: 18 December 2016).
svsugvcarter (2007) Robert Rauschenberg – erased de Kooning. Available at: (Accessed: 18 December 2016).

3.3 Rebecca Horn – Research

When Rebecca Horn was around twenty, she was hospitalised for a year. She had been making sculpture out of fibreglass, not understanding the need for safety precautions, and became dangerously ill. During her long illness, she lost both her parents and found herself, as she expressed it, ‘totally isolated’ (Winterson, 2015). The only art she could undertake practically was using soft materials such as fabric or drawing with pencils. Bandages, pain and the desire to reach out and touch are manifest in her subsequent creation of body extensions, drawing machines, videos and installations.

Pencil Mask (1972) is a framework of fabric straps which enclose the head and fasten at the back. Where each strap crosses, a two inch pencil is fixed, pointing, threateningly, outward, like an inside-out iron maiden. Horn describes how she can draw with the mask, moving ‘my body rhythmically from left to right in front of a white wall. The pencils make marks on the wall the image of which corresponds to the rhythm of my movements’ (Tate, 1973). The mask, however, seems as much sculpture as drawing machine, making the act of drawing difficult and possibly painful. Indeed, the pencils attached around her neck, as a choker, could never reach the drawn surface. The wearer is imprisoned within the mask and communicates by drawing whilst turning their head from side to side. It is the mask which is preserved as a work of art, and not her drawings with it.

This sinister mask contrasts with her earlier ‘body extension’ works such as ‘Unicorn’ (1970/2) which, with its white bindings, reminiscent of bandages, and long horn balanced on top of the woman’s head, evokes a whimsical, mythical, female creature. This was followed by other body extension structures where she seemed to be reaching out to the space beyond the body, trying to sense the surroundings with an altered perception.

‘Pencil Mask’ is more bondage than bandage. If it relates to fairy tales, it is those of Angela Carter’s ‘Bloody Chamber’. It is not a drawing machine; it is not trying to facilitate or generate drawing. Rather, it is mediating between the trapped artist and the desire to reach outside her bonds and create. It speaks of the difficulty of giving internal creativity external expression.


Tate (1973) Pencil mask, Rebecca Horn 1972 | Tate Available at:
(Accessed: 3 December 2016).
Winterson, J. (2015) Jeanette Winterson interviews Rebecca Horn for her retrospective at the Hayward gallery – London 2005. Available at:
(Accessed: 3 December 2016).


Contemporary Art (2016) Rebecca Horn: Body art, performance & installations | installation art, performance art | anxious objects, conceptual art, desire, machines, memory, play, Rebecca Horn, sexuality |. Available at: (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
CLIP3 (2007) Drawing the Line: a Round Table on Rebecca Horn. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).
The Magenta Foundation (2015) Rebecca Horn – magenta magazine. Available at: (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
artclassicnews (2009) Rebecca Horn, Berlin, 1974. Available at: (Accessed: 2 December 2016).
Farrell, J. and AnOther (2016) Rebecca Horn: A stimulating body of works. Available at: (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
Rebecca Horn – official website (2004) Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).
The backbone of Rebecca Horn (2016) Available at: (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
Winterson, J. (2005) The bionic woman. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).