Category Archives: Part 5

Reflection – Part 5 Tutor Feedback

For Part 5 of the course, since it is the penultimate and therefore the last chance to discuss current and future work, we had a Google Hangout tutorial. I find this very useful as it allows question and answer and a wider discussion. I submitted my notes to my tutor who incorporated them in her written report.

She praises me for moving away from iconography but wants me to do more work around the ‘falling man’ motif, especially using solar bleaching. It is now mid-winter and solar work is difficult. In any case, I am not sure how that fits in with the thrust of my final parallel project work. I have proposed an artist’s book and related video. I was concerned that I have not been able during my preparation to produce a video to a standard of finish that I want. She has advised me to embrace this so that the amateur quality is part of the texture of the work.

My tutor wants me to show planning and progression of my artist’s books in my sketchbooks. I have tried using the sketchbook in this way but it seems more like technical drawing and note making. This is an area where I find it difficult to know what should be in my learning log, and what in my sketchbooks.

I have revised the critical review as suggested, tightening up the text and relating it more directly to my own work in the parallel project.

All in all, I am very encouraged. I have very limited time to get work ready for assessment, about four weeks, so, no time to waste.


Assignment 5 – Reflection

This part of the course has required be to examine my own processes in a new way. Often drawing is about what we draw, why we choose that subject, what the media or technique is, or about the outcome but this part of the course has forced me to consider the depth of my process, both for me as the creator and for the viewer. Of course, the thought that goes into something, the density of idea or what one might call intellectual content, is something which is developed throughout this course but this penultimate part brings that into focus through the use of time. I know that I am prone to snatch at ideas. I enjoy quick, spontaneous working, but I see that that is not necessarily in conflict with allowing ideas to mature over an elapsed time. There is a seduction to plugging away at something, perhaps repeating over and again, possibly quickly, until a resolution of some sort is realised. Both my motorway drawings and subsequent artist’s book, and the endeavour of repeated self portraits, have taught me a lot about sticking with something. Exploring something simple, in both these cases just what was in front of me at the time, working at it over and over, creating layers of content, has resulted in some work which has more depth of interest for me and the viewer.

This is not to say that I think my self portraits are excellent; I clearly see that they are not. However, I think that they are interesting and that the process is interesting, especially seeing the ebb and flow of the tension between representation and the expressive mark. The video shows this well and I am told by fellow students who have seen it that they found it absorbing. The book of portraits allows the viewer to look into the details of the drawings in a way that a video cannot. He or she can turn back and forth comparing and considering.

The final long self portrait is not as powerful as I would like. The temptation is to use strong mark making as an end in itself. I very much liked some of the strong marks half way through drawing this, but wiped them out with my hand so that they almost disappeared, because the presence of the marks was stronger than the presence of the face. My first OCA tutor said that I should never be afraid to obliterate a lovely mark in the wrong place because the mark would always come back when needed, and I now understand this as excellent advice. In fact all the marks are still there but now whispering rather than shouting. I am pleased that I was brave enough to tear up the drawing and recompose it so that it really captures drawing from a mirror.

I have debated whether to present this as Assignment 5 since I think it reflects a culmination of work. One of the difficulties that I have had with Investigating Drawing is that the assignments often feel like a new project rather than the culmination of the previous project work. Obviously, you hope to draw on what you have learnt through the previous projects but all too often the final assignment seems a slight sideways step. I started thinking about and preparing my altered book quite early, as recommended, with the consequence that it feels completely tangential to the other work.

The altered book has been fun and I have enjoyed the act of curation. It has produced an artefact which can be held in the hand and explored over time as a personal pleasure, and I shall continue to add to it. I think the idea of layered memories of two people (myself and the original owner) overlapping in time and within the same object is a powerful one, but I think the execution is weak. Poor draughtsmanship is exposed in this format. Ultimately, I don’t think that it is sufficiently embedded in my own feelings or experience. Making artist’s books, on the other hand, has been a revelation and a deep pleasure, and I can see that they will continue to be part of my practice long after the current course.

Investigating Drawing continues to challenge me to be the best artist I can be. In these projects I have tried to be fearless (or at least ignore fear) and honest and to push my own boundaries. My outcomes are often not what I hope for, but the course has really helped me understand that search for ‘something deeper’ as Auerbach says, and the strategies I can employ to direct the search.

Assignment 5 – Developing the Altered Book

I continue to consider my altered book and whether this or the long self portrait will form my assignment work. I have been adding further sketches informed by looking at the pencil sketches of Indian figures by Sir William Rothenstein in the Tate. I was interested to see that he had chosen the sorts of characteristics I imagined a European would; exotic robs, headgear, etc. I have copied a few of his sketches into my book and added more of my own using period photographs from the internet.

Amongst all the saris etc I felt it was important to have some reflection of poverty

I have also enjoyed adding further effects inspired by India fabrics and block printing.

The section of the book which nods to WWI has been developed with family photographs of granddad in uniform etc and condolence envelopes with black edges (my granddad survived but lost all his cousins).

I have added lots of other family photos from that generation and over artefacts, like stamps. The family photos have just bee stuck in with a little glue across a corner. I could have embedded them, like some of the Indian illustrations, with acrylic medium etc, but I though that this was more true to how someone might slip a photo into a book as a keepsake, rather than some embedded memory.

Gilding this particular lily is fun. My work has got rather intense towards the end of this course, and it is a pleasant change to indulge myself in colour and decoration.

Assignment 5 (Possibly) – A Four Hour Self Portrait

Initial Thoughts (Rethink) and Research

The passing of time is the theme throughout all the projects in this part of the Investigating Drawing course. The course asks us to consider our approach to the final assignment early and to make a drawing which is developed over a period of time. I chose to make an altered book which not only required elapsed time to make but which had memory, history and passing time at its centre. However, since then I have undertaken a project drawing 50 self portraits in  fours hours, producing a video and an artist’s book of the process over time. Suddenly my idea of the altered book feels superficial and insufficiently embedded in the earlier projects of the course. I feel that the assignment should be a culmination of the projects, and that in deciding early on the assignment piece, I have not built on the learning through the projects.

The upshot of this thought process is that I want to continue with the self portrait challenge as proposed by Robert Kaupelis in ‘Experimental Drawing’ and draw a single self portrait over four hours. That may not seem a very long elapsed time but, in life drawing classes, I struggle with the longer poses and even 30 minute poses seem like a life time, resulting in fiddly overworking.

I am not sure what I expect of this drawing but I know that I don’t want it to be banal. I am not sure what my agenda should be, or even if it would be right to have an agenda for a self portrait. I have been looking at self portraits to inspire and inform my eye.

This famous self portrait by Auerbach shows tearing out of the support and replacing it and also laying down of charcoal and working back into it with an eraser. The charcoal has acquired the character of a wash and gives the drawing a subterranean feel. Auerbach and Kossof used to sit for each other and I thought it would be interesting to look at a Kossof self portrait. This charcoal drawing in the Tate has lots of mark making and character. He has retained line much more than Auerbach and the marks are harder, even aggressive; not softened into washes. Whilst Auerbach’s portrait feels rather tranquil and a bit remote, this is immediate and forceful.

Looking at these has reminded me of an artist I looked at in D1, Zoran Music. I find his work powerful and often painful. His self portraits, such as this painting or this self portrait, are wild, confused, obscured and unavoidably tragic. He was interred in Dachau as a spy and drew the horrors there until his liberation by the Americans. He abaces himself from his self portraits as if seeing a ghost.

I suddenly found myself with an uncommitted morning as so I went to the National Portrait Gallery to see what I might find there to feed into the process. I didn’t have time to join the queue for the Cezanne portraits and went to look at the general collections. I had forgotten how few contemporary works they have on permanent display. Looking at the early twentieth century works, I was struck by how dull and predictable nearly all of them are, especially compared with the few modern paintings such as this by Chris Ofili. As always, making a sketch of a work really made me look at it harder and appreciate its construction and composition.

The portrait is unusual and attention grabbing because of the long, thin format and the way in which he has placed his head at an angle across the frame. This reflects the fact that he has been looking past his easel to a mirror. The paint has been laid on in thick, gestural marks and then scratched back into.

Ofili’s thick paint is nothing in comparison with the amount of paint lathered on by Kossof in this self portrait.  Kossof and Auerbach used to sit for each other and were close friends and fellow students of Bomberg. I think this portrait clearly shows his and Auerback’s influence on each other and Bomberg’s on them both.

The other work which interested me was this self portrait, by Kitaj. Again it uses a narrow frame with Kitaj’s head positioned right at the top, on a pillow, and that is all we can see of him. He has bedclothes tightly drawn up over his shoulders and these take up all the rest of the area apart from a solicitous arm bottom right. In his bed, with red, feverish eyes, we have to assume that he has been ill. The figures on the pillow fabric have come to monstrous life and are dancing about and off the pillow. Below the pillow, the bed is calm with soothing, green and blue flowers and that tender, caring arm. It is an intriguing painting. Subsequent research has shown me that the year of the painting, 1994, was a significant and painful one for Kitaj with his annihilation by London critics and the death of his wife (Adams, 2013).

It is interesting and informative to compare these paintings with a drawing (and then transferred into an etching) of Kitaj by Auerbach. The economy of the drawing is striking, especially compared to Kossof’s toffee thick paint. Using lines of two different tones allows him to build the image and suggest softer areas of shadow such as under the eye. I am not sure how this was achieved in an etching unless he combined two plates.


My set up for this portrait was the same as for the 48 because I wanted to build on that experience and the previous set up had exploited the directional light available to me for modelling the features. However, this time, I planned to work much larger at about A3. I used charcoal as this will allow me to work and rework the drawing, which is obviously going to happen extensively over that length of time.

Once again, I planned to video the process and condense the video down to minutes. This time I worked completely uninterrupted for a solid four hours and unfortunately my camera hit some unexpected limit and switched off after about 30 minutes, without my realising. The video is still interesting, as I watch myself redraw my eye over and again in the some place, and not the redraw the mouth when I have given myself far too long an upper lip!


I did pause a couple of times to take photographs.

One of the the fascinating things about a self portrait is that every little crease, scar or feature is examined and recorded in vicious detail. Having drawn them in, I then started to soften the hard lines. Normally, with lots of time I keep adding adding and adding, but here I wanted to strip back to a less detailed essence.

This process continued and the light also started to fail so that my face started to look as though it was emerging from the gloom.

I like the way the figure is starting to merge with the background but, in softening the features, some tension has gone out of the drawing. At this point I ripped it up, changed the angles and stuck it down to another support. Suddenly this has more impact and gives the suggestion of looking in the mirror. I had been struggling to see the same amount of my right eye consistently, so I decided to reflect this by offsetting it.

I then started working back into this new support.   I love the way that the torn edges of the paper pick up the charcoal. A single, considering eye is now the centre of the whole drawing and everything else has been pushed into the background. It wasn’t conscious at the time, but I can see how looking at Chris Ofili’s self portrait has influenced me whilst the influence of Auerbach’s charcoal washes was conscious.

60cm x 60cm, charcoal


Adams T. 2013. RB Kitaj: an obsession with revenge. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 7 November 2017].

Assignment 5 (or maybe not..) Altered Book

I have continued to develop ‘Indian Birds’ with found items, period images and sketches, populating the pages of this old book with imagined memories of an earlier owner. I have also included the sort of thing which I slip into books.  Approximately a quarter of the pages are now developed, some in very small ways such as introduced iron mould or tears, some with two page spread paintings.

I have had great fun thinking of things which I think would be remembered, finding a reference for it and sketching. The very soft, almost felt-like cheap paper makes getting media on the page difficult, even with the layer of gesso. I am enjoying doing some watercolour which I have have not done for ages. They started off very ‘painting by numbers’ but are improving with practice although this is a dreadful support for watercolour. I don’t think that it matters that the sketches are not polished; that isn’t the nature of the book. I have added plenty of gold gouache for jewellery and the Golden Temple etc because I can imagine how these would stick in your memory and it also adds a richness to the book.

I have included some images from contemporary bird books, printed on tissue paper which integrates well with the book pages.

 I imagine all the images of Gods would stick in the memory of someone visiting or posted to India from Edwardian England. This is Shiva as Lord of the Dance.

Some of the dates in the book are just prior to WWI, so I have included some photographs which I imagine the owner might slip into a book later. I have assumed the owner to be young and male, based purely on an interest in bird watching and the ability to travel around and see all the birds ticked off in the book.

I have made some stamps a bit like Indian wood blocks and applied them to pages.

I slip leaves and feathers into books to press them, so those have been included.

I think sari clad ladies with exotic nose rings would be a visual shock to someone from grey Britain. I have added a book mark made from recycled sari fabric.

I can imagine the sinuous sexuality of some of the temple statues being surprising and rather shocking to European eyes in the early 20th century. This gorgeous statue with fabulous jewellery is actually in the Met Museum.

I think he stopped for some chai somewhere and loved the way it was poured.

This is a period letter from the archives of the British Library.


The Golden Temple, Amritsar. The gold gouache doesn’t really show here. The watercolour takes in an interestingly different way on the gesso compared to the untreated paper.

A pierced stone screen. The book is about added detail and this perfectly fits an Indian design aesthetic where enough decoration is never enough.

What would a lad from England in 1912 have made of Ganesha, an elephant headed, multi-armed God?

A cow with flower garland.



Print of a 1912 penny, and a much used bank note.

Here I have glued several pages together in order to cut a recess to accommodate a piece of embroidered and painted fabric.

Some of the pages are now very decorative. However, many pages are quiet and understated. You have to turn the pages carefully to discover everything. The effect of the gesso is to push back the original text without totally obscuring it, creating layers.

This is a work in progress and it is enjoyable to just sit and add to a page or two. However, I am reconsidering this as my work for Assignment 5. I feel that there is a conflict between having chosen an assignment project early in the course section and the usual objective of presenting a work which is the culmination of what I have learnt through this part of the course. This altered book is not embedded in or arising from the work I have done on the other projects and now feels completely tangential. Whilst the subject of layers of memories is relevant to my parallel project, the drawings are not typical of my working practice and venture into the realm of illustration. Book art will figure strongly in my practice from now on, I am sure, but probably not in this format.

Assignment 5 Laying the Ground

I have been think about and preparing materials for this assignment for some months. I have been on the look out for a suitable book to alter. I wanted something with a patina of age and a history of use. It would be ideal if the subject was one which linked to my parallel project or be relevant to me in some way. Finding old books is now much more difficult than it used to be; every town used to have a damp and musty second hand book shop full of old, foxed books. I have been looking out for any that still exist when every I go somewhere new, and eventually found one in Devon with the sort of old book I was looking for. I chose ‘Indian Birds, A Key to the Common Birds of the Plain of India’. It has the visual presence I was looking for; old fashioned, gold embossed, cloth cover, foxing, cut pages, hand written notes and dates ,the stamp of the original booksellers in Bombay and then another in Devon (and I bought it from a third). The culture, colours and designs of India are a constant appeal and observing birds is a daily pleasure though I have abandoned bird watching books for a App.

I want this book to represent the layered memories of its original owner and my own. I slip things which I want to keep flat into books on my book case, sometimes coming across them years later. The memories of the original owner are, of course, imagined but I am thinking of the book as a sort of sketchbook or scrapbook of moments. 

My first consideration was whether to alter the pages, obliterating the text in order to create a surface to draw on. This is a balance between keeping the character of the book and being able to use the very soft, absorbent, old paper. I chose to paint the pages with tinted gesso in such a was as to retain the text whilst pushing it back. The gesso should provide a better surface to work on.

Painting each page has taken a considerable time. The paper absorbs all moisture from the paint and, if not allowed to dry completely, the pages stick together. However, this also has interesting effects. Text can be transferred from one page to another, reminding me of disjointed or confused memory.

Paper can stick enough to be torn out of one page and glued to the next. Where this has happened, I have embraced it as representing painful memories; the dates in the book are just before and during WW1. To enhance this, I have burnt the edges of some holes.

Whilst painting each page, I have been collecting visual and physical things to include in the book.

I have also been making relevant small stamps and printing plates of things like paisley patterns, Edwardian coins and feathers.

I have collected relevant images from modern media which I hoped to include via Rauschenberg’s transfer method. An initial experiment with this on the soft paper wasn’t very successful; the paper is too fragile even with gesso.

As an alternative, I have researched images from the era using the British Library online resource. I can see this being a very useful resource for historical digital images for incorporating into printmaking. Selected images have been printed on very light Japanese paper using sepia tones. These are being applied to the pages using matte acrylic medium. In some cases I am selectively hand colouring them.

In amongst this, I am researching other images on the Internet for imagined memories. I plan to make small pen and wash drawings of the type which I make on holiday, as though the original owner has picked up the book and made a quick sketch in it on his travels. I do want there to be a hand-drawn element. I have tried several media mixes and sepia ink pen and watercolour suits the book and paper best.

 It would take me a long time to populate all 230 odd pages of the book, but I do not plan to do that.  I do however, want to populate it enough, with enough variety, to create a richness of content and make something which a viewer could take some considerable time to leaf through and discover all its surprises.

Assignment 5 Initial Thoughts and Research

The final assignment in this part of Investigating Drawing calls for a work which takes a long time to develop and draw to fruition. I was keen to make an artist’s book of some sort, since this has been an enjoyable and productive element of Part 5 and I can see that artist’s books of all sorts will be embedded in my future practice.

Having made several books earlier in the course, I wanted to explore a different approach and alter an existing book. In particular, I wanted to use the content of the book as a layer of history on which I could project other layers. The book should represent accumulated memories of one or more people through time. This is a bringing together of ideas from my parallel project (absence/presence, memory, loss), elapsed time, artists books, curation and my own idiosyncrasies. I am always slipping things into books; found items, something I want to keep flat, a note or till receipt as a bookmark etc. I forget them and come across them later and they remind me of a planned project, a walk, a trip, a moment in time. I find feathers, slips of material, a receipt, a bank note, leaves, grass stems, petals and flowers, recipes, phone numbers…So, ideally a book of someone else’s with their faded memories and modern memories accumulated on top.

The first step is to look at other examples of altered books and curated memories.

Lisa Kokin makes all sorts of assemblages including altered books which she drills, erodes, cuts and reassembles. She uses the content of the book as a driving force for the creation. Threads are an important part of the work. Sometimes she selects specific text and obliterates the rest, sometimes incorporating other text or images. An example of how she uses an original book to inform her creation is constructing a book from the pulped pages of encyclopaedias, destroyed because they contained words objected to by certain states. In her reconstructed book, only the these words can be read.

This is an interesting idea by Helena De La Guardia, where she has captured small, handmade books, presumably full of memories in a ‘Memory Cage’. A feather is trying to escape.

I asked my tutor if she could suggest any relevant artists and she suggested looking at Buzz Spector, Mary Kelly and Shiner Ohtake. Of these, I found Buzz Spector most relevant to what I was looking to achieve. This essay where he talks about the development of his practice from art school onwards is relevant to this and other projects in this part of the course, for instance when he discusses making a grey drawing in response to white paintings. There is a lot to take from the way he combines/accumulates images, overlays old images with new, combines techniques and includes aging effects. I am really inspired by how he considers his own library of books as art media. He can sculpt with them, recombine them into different meaningful installations, photograph them and even destroy them.

My interest in artists books has prompted me to buy ‘500 Handmade Books Vol 2’ which has an amazing range of book forms illustrated.  Artists were invited to submit photos of their books and the content was then juried. This has lead to an excellent variety of content. One such artist is Joanne Kluba who has constructed a sort of ‘cabinet of curiosities’ which she describes, in this video about the process, as a deconstructed book.

Looking at all those books has really inspired me.