Part 2 has been, to say the least, quite a journey for me – even after adding a month to my intended submission deadline I still haven’t really finished it properly. I’ve only done one initial Monotone Drawing (Part 2, Project 3 Ex4), when I had intended to do a series of them and pick the best. I didn’t manage to get to the experimentation with mixed media (Part 2, Project 3 Ex3) at all – despite plans for a number of things I still wanted to try. In fact, that is a summary of my Part 2: A lot done, but so much more that I wanted to do. I fully intend to “back fill” the missing material, but we will see if the other parts are a packed as Part 2. If so, time might not allow…
The work being submitted for the Part 2 submission includes:
- Assignment 2: Completion
- Project 4 Ex 3: Material differences, with Ex 1 and Ex 2 covered by the submitted sketchbooks.
- Project 3 Ex 4: Monotone
- Project 3 Ex 2: Still life in colour and tone
- Project 3 Ex 1: Still life with line
- Project 2: Lichen
- Project 1 is covered by the included sketchbooks.
Project 3 Ex 3 (Multimedia) has not been completed yet.
One of the observations my tutor made is that my book work is somewhat ahead of my actual drawing work. As he observed, this is partially because I have a research background but it is also because of the way that I have to split my time for working on the OCA course. Some of my time on the course is spent on a train going to London, which is better suited to book work than major drawing. I am, however, finding that if I ignore the curiosity of my fellow commuters I can get away with some practice and experimentation in my sketchbook. That has been important in Part2.
The following written material from Part 2, however, is worthy of consideration:
- “Impressionist Still Life” and “Cabbages and art“. These aren’t great pieces of art writing, but they do inform the change of style I’ve been approaching for my Assignment 2 piece.
- “Negative Space” and “Composition of still life” are also explanatory of the thinking I’ve been doing during the part as a whole.
- The Modigliani visit turned out to be much more significant than I expect it to be – even shortly after the visit. I think this brought visual language and personal voice to life for me in a definite way.
Journeys of part 2
It may be worth a quick word on why Part 2 has been the start, or significant step along the path on, a number of significant journeys for me. A lot of it comes back to a lack of past experience to draw on. I knew when I started Foundation Drawing that going from not art study to Degree level was going to be a major leap – and this is definitely proving to be the case. The first of the major journeys I’ll mention, therefore, is Composition. Although I’ve clear come across the concept of what a composition is previously, the approach to building a strong composition is still fairly new to me. I’s say I have a way to go, but I think I understand the basic concepts more thoroughly than I did at the start of Part 2.
The next major journey this part has given me a reason to focus on is drawing in colour and the whole background of colour theory. Even simple concepts, such as the use of complementary colours rather than black to darken, is relatively new to me. Hence, the number of experiments I’ve been completing in this area. This journey is then entwined with a whole bunch of other ones: the different media that are used in art. I’ve needed to experiment with and learn to use in at least a basic way a whole host of new media: Inks, Oil Pastel, dip pens and soft pastels to name just a few. This is one of the reasons I de-focussed the mixed media still life – much of the part has been a host of experiments in media I don’t really understand for me.
A journey that is at last starting to bear some blossom, if not fruit as such, is my understanding on artistic context and placing my work within an overall context. I’m beginning to start to consider the works of others, and how I might “creatively steal” from them whilst producing a work that is my own.
The last of the journeys that I’ll mention here isn’t a new one for me – but this part has definitely brought significant development in, and that is the balance between detail and stylisation. I really like highly detailed and realistic images and carvings. I even enjoy trying to make work in this way. here is a certain mind state I enjoy trying to get ever more realistic detail. There are two issues here, however: (a) If you have done the job really well you end up with something incredibly realistic that is better produce in other ways; and (b) I’m not that good at it. My best work definitely comes from taking a much more expressive approach. I can get lost in the detail, and miss the fact that the holistic properties of the piece just don’t work. This has been a challenge for me for quite a while.
In this part I started experimenting with using a grid approach to improve the accuracy of my work, based on the challenges that I’ve been having placing parts. This helped in improving my representation, and the results can be seen in the Still Life with line and Still life in tone using colour results. I think both of these represent some improvement in my ability to place items and more carefully represent them. From the monochrome image forwards, however I deliberately changed approach to try to be less finicky about detail and accuracy. Here I was focusing on a more expressive style. As an example, in the composition for the interior image I experimented with graphite an conte for representation. The graphite was able to produce a more accurate and detailed image, but I decided to go for conte to get me to focus away from detail and on to a less detailed approach. Much of this was off the back of the life drawing work I’ve being doing as practice through the part.
Reflection and Evaluation
What went well?
Across the part I believe the degree of learning I’ve undergone has been a success. The part has caused me to make progress on a number of significant fronts. Some of this builds strongly on Foundation Drawing skills, and others are new to me – as described in the Journeys of part 2 section.
In terms of success, I think (even though it is just a piece of broccoli) the composition and rendering of the Still life in tone and colour represents significant progress for me. I think the Still Life using line represents a step forwards as well. I feel both pieces represent improvements on my previous position, though are themselves steps along a potentially very long journey. I would like to have a capability to do very detailed and accurate drawings where the situation calls for it, and this represents progress towards that goal.
I’m happy that I decided to change style to a representational but looser style. This was fuelled partially by the visual research that I was doing, and partly by a wish to try a shift of approach feeding into that research. To a degree I think the shift of approach was successful, in that there are elements of the images that follow which I like. Clearly there are areas for improvement, but it is a stylistic shift that I think will work well for me.
I think my approach to preparatory work is improving: including my research of other artist’s work as well as my own experimentation and consideration. I believe both of these aspects have been demonstrated strongly during this part. I have also been considering a fair volume of theoretical underpinning work, from colour theory to the approach to botanical drawing.
I still need to do more practice pieces and experimentation, but time limited my ability to do as much I would like for the part. I could easily have added at least another couple of months to the completion of the part to do all the experimentation and drawing that I feel I would like to be able to. What I am starting to understand is the value of different types and approaches to preparatory drawings, including thumbnails for composition and tonal studies.
What could have been better?
For the detailed observation of natural objects studies I think the end results could have been much better. This was partly a lack of thought in the composition of the works and partly a need for skills development. To a degree I fed the need for this improvement into the Assignment 2 image, but that deliberately had a different focus when completing it. If I’d tried to produce a detailed image using charcoal pencils on black paper that might have been a better demonstration of learning from the earlier work.
My tutor suggested I consider the line work of Van Gogh for inspiration. I happened to come across an article on his line work (https://www.artistsnetwork.com/art-mediums/drawing/portrait-drawing-van-gogh/) which was illuminating. The gap between this and my own line work shows me how far I have to go. In particular, the ink he is using allows a wider range of marks than that which I’ve been experimenting with, and that needs consideration itself.
For the later images I think that practice, practice, practice is the main differentiator that would have produced a better quality of outcome. As my tutor has said: don’t do one drawing do 20 and pick the best. I think this is especially true when using this much looser style. There is significant scope for happy accidents and self-evaluation based improvement.
What other research might I have done?
There are a number of areas that I would like to be able to find time to study further. Two strong examples are composition and colour theory. In both cases I feel I have barely started to scratch the surface of what I would ideally know even at this stage.
My tutor’s suggestion of starting to build links and associations between artists is also being an interesting an fruitful avenue of investigation. The relationship between Cezanne and cubism, or rivalry between Matisse and Picasso are good examples of relationships that have added context and meaning for me. It is also leading me to consideration of new artists and approaches.
Assignment 2: Suitability for submission
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills (40%)
Overall I like the image and feel it has succeed in more aspects than it has failed in. I definitely feel it is a significant step forwards from my Assignment 1 submission, though there are areas where it doesn’t read as well as I would like. The native-space emphasis has worked reasonably well, and I’m happy with the level of context that I selected to include in the form of different branches. The more impressionistic feel using oil pastels on black mountboard has also been mostly successful, and has funnelled me away from attempting excess detail.
In the end, the oil pastels were slightly less opaque than I believed they would be, and in combination with the lack of tooth on the mountboard has meant that the brighter areas are somewhat less bright than they might have been. This is an area that needs further consideration when I try working on a black background in the future.
As outlined above there is definitely scope for improvement in the way that a number of areas in the drawing read. The piece twisted around the twig on the centre-right, for example, hasn’t worked as well as I might have liked.
Quality of Outcome (20%)
I am much happier with the Assignment 2 piece than I was with the Assignment 1 piece at the point of submission. I put much more thought and direction into the conception and delivery of the work, and I hope that the improvement in the result speaks to this. The presentation on mountboard fits the medium well, as the thicker board supports the oil pastel layer.
The use of a varnish on top of the work was a calculated risk that will hopefully help the longevity of the work. Unfortunately the cost of this is a reduction in the depth of the black on the mountboard. I tried the approach on my preparatory drawing, and so was aware of the issue, but normal fixative was ineffective on another sample. Similarly, other oil pastel experiments in my sketchbook have been damaged, and so the risk to the drawing in transit was material. If I continue to use oil pastels I will need a better approach to fixing them, or otherwise protect them in transit.
Demonstration of Creativity (20%)
The description of creativity for assessment is “Demonstration of Creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention, articulating independent judgements and a personal creative voice.”, and (for me) the assessment image fits all of these criteria to a degree. The use of oil pastels on mountboard, and getting oil pastels to represent the lichen to an acceptable degree required a level of imagination and invention. The selection of approach and material reflected a definite decision to move away from detail and towards a new representational style for me. This was based on consideration of the work of other artists, and yet the work is my own rather than based purely within their voices.
This is probably the first time when I can realistically suggest that I can place the work in some form of context. Influences include Van Gogh’s cherry blossom, and well as my consideration of the Impressionists and even the work of Chris Lanooy in his cabbages. The blend of this influence with the approaches of botanical drawing and their emphasis on detail and accuracy has resulted in image that I feels talks to the chaotic and symbiotic nature of the subject whilst avoiding the scientific accuracy and influences of the botanical works.