Posted in Assignment 1, Assignments

Assignment 1: Tutor report

Overall Comments

Thanks for sending the first batch of work. You’ve produced a lot of content on the blog and I’m not in a position to comment on everything. You have a background as a researcher so I’m not surprised by this attention to the archive. What’s important is to use the new knowledge to develop your practice. If there is a particular post that is a little ‘off-piste’ that you feel is crucial, then please highlight it when you email me. If you don’t there is a chance is will be missed. Your writing about exhibitions and books is already more than most students manage over the whole Unit.

I hope that what follows addresses the things that need addressing and/or encourage you to push on with the work you’ve made. I haven’t written about everything.

Feedback on exercises and assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Expressive Lines and Marks and Texture: You worry about this kind of exercise. Your misgivings are fair enough, but what the result show me is that you can make lots of different kinds of mark. Try and keep the results of this exercise in mind when you work (and feel free to repeat it with any new media you encounter). It’s also useful to realise that using a difficult medium or technique can result in the production of stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily make. Creativity — whatever anyone tells you — isn’t about freedom.

Basic Shapes and Fundamental Form: You write that you used a 6H to start with. While there aren’t any rules as such, I’d counsel against the use of such hard pencils. They’re impossible to erase / edit (see comments below) and often leave a groove in the paper.

better to use a softer pencil (4B-6B) lightly. Get the most of the pencil by leaning into it when drawings. The resulting dynamic line will have more life about it that the one made by a hard pencil. You ‘consider’ how to ‘best move away’ the technical feel of the exercise. I’d recommend making twenty drawings and to think while working. The solution might be somewhere in the middle.

The ‘ceramics tools’ work is ambitious as the forms are complex. The charcoal drawing on the packing paper is a little but more convincing than the ink one. The marks seems more fluid and they hang together better. The larger work has lines that are less thoughtful and the centre of the group is hard to read. You’ve used two pen widths (I think) which complicates things as it looks like two ‘registers’ conflated onto one surface.. The charcoal piece is one width, but with a variety of mark — thick/thin and pal/dark — gleaned from that. In the ink drawing there’s also a tendency to scribble. Use hatching with care to indicate the flow of things (and go to their edge if possible). Look at how Morandi (in an etching) organises the lines to describe shape, form, and shadow. Everything is working hard here and it emerges from his patience:


In this Van Gogh ink drawing, the lines are very rhythmic and, despite being similar to one another, are all slightly different due to pressure. That produces a surface interest while describing form and space:

Van Gogh

The ‘blocks of tone’ drawing of cups and filter and two vases are good. Probably the best drawings here. The charcoal/conte forces a boldness in the mark-making and the forms are solid and convincing. Using tone in this way, and editing it, has resulted in a robust quality that’s missing elsewhere. I recommend pursuing this technique. Well done’ for linking to Morandi. More please. I recommend putting images of other artists work into the relevant parts of the blog as they will catch the assessors eyes much more than the mention their name. In short, stick a relevant Morandi in here and reflect on the similarities / differences a bit.

Your line work is less convincing, especially when doing in fine-liner or similar. It’s hard to get a variety of line into the work. Better to use a dip pen and risk a mess.

The pressure cooker and cleaver drawing build s on the success of the other large charcoal drawings. The textures work and there’s an interesting tension between control and freedom that works. Don’t worry too much about ‘accuracy’ as such. You’re editing the view anyway (cropping, making monochrome, making it flat) so a little bit if waywardness is fine. The point is that these charcoal / conte drawings are interesting in their own right.

Assignment One: This is ambitious. There’s a lot of colour to deal with and lots of patterned surfaces. In short, I think you’ve bitten off a bit more than you can chew. The good points are that you’ve filled the page and not been over-faced by complexity. Unfortunately this sort of subject needs real attention in the editing process. Even Matisse (who you should look at) imposed himself on the subjects and pushed them around on the page in order to exploit particular elements of the subject (shape, surface pattern, colour, etc.).:

More preparatory work would have helped, I think, as it would have revealed the complexity. Little decisions mater. Had you picked a contrasting cloth for the background the objects would appear more solid. As it is they are struggling to escape their context.

A word on shadows: The shadow of the vase looks false and ‘added’. Shadows, especially in a subject or work like this, are seldom black. They also need to feel like they are part of the surface onto which they fall. In your work the shadow is a thing in its own right, like an amorphous flat shape that lies between us and the drawing. You’ll notice in the Matisse work that he often ignores shadow. It’s not a bad strategy.

To sum up: The charcoal / conte work is the most effective. It makes demands on you and your struggle with it results in touch looking work. The line work is less convincing, as the variety of mark falls away a bit. Try using a single dip pen and getting the most out of it other than using fixed with nibs.


Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

It’s good that you’re making quick / quackish sketches of the world around you. Feel free to stick stuff made elsewhere (and cut from publications) into the book. Make things collide a bit.

Some of the drawings look like they could benefit from some editing. Use an eraser as a way of making marks as well as a way of deleting errors. It may help to use a softer pencil, too. I wrote this blogpost about using an eraser which might help:

Editing / amending drawings often results in ‘ghost’ marks being left behind. They can, as shown in the Matisse drawings, add to the rhythmic surface of the work:

I wrote this blogpost recently about a very successful and interesting Drawing One sketchbook practice:


Context,reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Your analysis of the work of other artists is good with lots of references to the writing of others. In the Redon piece you use texts to help understand the work. Make sure that you interact as directly as possible with the work you encounter, too. You should document YOUR reaction to the work as much as possible. Read – and quote – critically. You aren’t studying art history or art theory, so think always about the practicalities of the work, too.

Your summary of Ways of Seeing is good. It’s worth returning to is now and again as the issues are still relevant. The implication of unfettered digital reproduction is a huge one at the moment, for example.

You write that:

One of the areas I am still struggling to build a real understanding of is the context of art and approaching considering a work of art’s meaning and purpose. The idea of considering the theme, or themes, that a work might fit into might provide me with a useful lens for the meaning and context of a work. It has also illustrated this with a large number of examples drawn from contemporary and modern art works.

I wouldn’t worry too much about this at the moment. There are as many different reasons for making work as there are artists. Often it’s a to grapple with a contradiction or to use drawing / painting to explore something. Art is much less didactic than it used to be. Don’t worry about making ‘art’. Do the work. Let others fret about what it is.

Learning Log

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

As intimated in the introduction to this report, you’re writing a lot on the blog. The ‘book’ research is ahead of the accounts your own work. Take time to consider he following once you’ve completed a section:

  • what works?
  • what doesn’t
  • what would I do differently next time?
  • what an I take forward into other work?
  • are there any ‘happy accidents’ that I need to process (It’s worth reading my blogpost ‘In Praise of the Happy Accident’)

You do this a bit, but it’s important that this becomes the dominant narrative in the Log.

Suggested reading/viewing


You’re turning up some interesting artists to look at and your ability to make sense of it is good. Its’ important to start connecting them to produce a network of relations. It might help to develop a large, ongoing, mind-map to plot these.

Pointers for the next assignment

  • Reflect on this feedback in your learning log.
  • Follow up on the suggestions I have made.
  • Make stronger connections between your work and that of others.
  • Be patient and focus on the potential for the media to make marks. Don’t try and make ‘finished’ works.
  • Make lots more preparatory work


Well done, I look forward to your next assignment.


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