ASSIGNMENT 5 – Final piece

I used A1 watercolour paper in an attempt to allow the ink to flow further away from the figure as it had in my tests with wider margins of water. I didn’t use quite enough ink to achieve this, and was being slightly cautious. The wash dried lighter than it looked when wet in my tests, and even more so on this paper I bought for the final piece. Whilst the ink marks are not as striking as I intended, I still think they are effective in enhancing the feeling of movement of the figure.

Using charcoal on this paper with such a strong tooth necessitated an unforeseen change in technique that I had to break off and test before continuing. In addition I was doing this in very hot weather and didn’t want the oils from my skin to influence the charcoal. I used a tortillon to blend the charcoal instead of my finger, which gives an almost pointillist effect in some areas.

I’m pleased with the final drawing. I think using the ‘potential energy’ of a pose to capture movement is effective and works well in this piece.

The abstract suggestion of movement with ink, as an augmentation to the movement proposed by the pose itself, works well with the absence of background. The feeling of uncontrolled falling is very like isolation, which I found was accentuated by an absence of background in my final piece for Assignment 4. I’m happy to have been able to use this as an active element of the drawing once again.

Progress shots:

FINAL PIECE

Composition

On the advice of my tutor I tried to draw moving figures by watching gymnastics videos. I want to (loosely) follow the idea of using the potential energy of a figure to portray movement but my sketches of moving figures are too brief to develop. Apparently capturing quickly moving figures is as yet beyond me but I will keep trying.

In the meantime, I found a series on posespace.com of a model throwing himself backwards from standing into a beanbag and have used a side view of the ‘action shot’.

I want to somehow augment the figure so that I can portray movement whilst being able to employ my favoured absence of background.

I think this pose will work well but I need to develop the augmentation idea.

Final considerations of overall composition, after other investigative work:

Multimedia tests

I want to try to use ink and water to suggest movement in an abstract way. Dropping ink into an area of water allows it to spread out in an uncontrolled, organic way. I hope to use gravity to influence the direction in which these ‘movement marks’ spread in order to achieve the effect I am seeking.

My idea is to create this area of a piece first then add a detailed charcoal drawing to it, thus creating contrast between the subject and the space they have just passed through both with media and method.

Tests of ink and water; various relative amounts, orders and methods of application:

Similar tests, including pencil and charcoal. Test 5 is closest to what I want to achieve, and the area around the knee in test 2 is also on the right track:

Larger scale, A2. I was unable to give the ink a wide enough margin of water to achieve the desired effect without buckling the paper:

Watercolour paper, A3. This is almost the effect I want. I need to source some larger paper to give me a larger area in which to influence the movement of the ink. I especially like the hands and feet. (I wonder if the impact of the area around the hands will be lost once populated with charcoal detail? Perhaps I should use coloured ink):

Checks with wider margins of water:

(Top to bottom)

– water first, ink applied with stick next to top edge

– water first, ink applied within water

– ink first, water pushed against it with a wide brush

The top one is the effect I want to achieve.

Tests to check I can still achieve a good finish with charcoal on Watercolour paper:

The surface of the watercolour paper has a deep tooth. Using the technique I employed for my final piece in Part 4 does not achieve a fine enough finish (top sketch). A slightly different method is required; several layers of charcoal worked into each other with a paper stump to achieve depth of tone (bottom sketch). I found that the result is somehow richer than on smooth paper.

Another impact of the deeper tooth is that the charcoal crumbs leave much darker marks on the paper as they roll down it:

In part four I enjoyed this effect and left the marks in place but for this piece they are contrary to the effect I’m trying to achieve. To minimise it I thought perhaps I might turn the piece on its side and let the trails go over the ink wash…

… but having tested it quickly on a dry inkwash, I’m glad I didn’t just ‘wing it’; the two types of mark are incongruous and absolutely don’t work together.

How to portray movement?

I’ve looked at many artists’ methods of portraying movement. I initially thought I’d like to try multiple layered images such as the method used by Marcel Duchamp for his various Nudes Descending Staircases, but the more I look at, the more cluttered they feel, which is not what I want to explore.

I wondered about a more subtle variation on this idea but my first study of this put me off completely because of its cartoon quality:

I also tried the same study but with blurred lines on ‘trailing’ surfaces. This also seems crude but could be developed:

Another way to portray movement is by portraying a subject with stored potential energy.

“An object can store energy as the result of its position. For example, the heavy ball of a demolition machine is storing energy when it is held at an elevated position. This stored energy of position is referred to as potential energy” (physicsclassroom.com)

What I mean in this visual context is that the eye and brain recognise that this stored energy has been established by movement and also must be released by further movement; ‘what goes up must come down’. Therefore the image is perceived as movement in progress. The most striking, and beautiful, example I came across was a body of work by Karolina Szymkiewicz portraying a Japanese dancer:

I find this idea very intriguing.

References

http://karolful.com/portfolio/ma-exhibition-2/ (accessed 11/05/18)

https://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/51449.html (accessed 11/05/18)

http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/energy/Lesson-1/Potential-Energy (accessed 27/06/18)

Impact of type of mark upon portrayal of movement

Picasso: Demoiselles d’Avignon

Looking at the various studies for this piece, I was struck by how different they are and note that by using different marks and media, an artist can give versions of the same idea completely different dynamics. The simple line sketch is static and flat with mainly vertical lines. The painted study makes the subjects indistinct, giving the impression that they are restlessly moving, there are no strong directional aspects to the composition. The third study below is full of angular, diagonal strokes that evoke a lot of movement.

As I’m thinking about my final piece, I keep coming back to the notion that I’d like to use charcoal for a detailed figure again as I’m getting a better result each time I do that and I really enjoy it. However, I want to somehow at the same time find a way to make the figure seem to be in motion. Perhaps this means venturing into multimedia territory again.

Artist’s Statement

SUBJECT

‘Portraying Movement of the Human Figure whilst Preserving Some Realistic Detail’

I found Part 4 of this module the most engaging. As I approached the end of that part, I knew I wanted to use figures for assignment five. My most successful pieces in Part 4 were, in my opinion, the large charcoal figures . I really loved working on those drawings so I decided to do a similar exercise but try to incorporate some other aspect that I hadn’t worked through as well as I would have liked.

During my tutor feedback session for Part 4, Ilsa advised me to ‘not miss out on the experience’ of drawing moving figures in real time. This comment planted the idea of trying to capture movement.

I had previously been toying with ideas around ageing incorporating my own artwork I did as a teenager, or to perhaps see where working on a very large scale would take me, but neither idea truly grabbed me. When I later thought of combining my charcoal work with some kind of depiction of movement, my thoughts started running away from me and I had to grab pen and paper to catch them all!

ARTISTS

The research exercises of this course interest me greatly (even though I’m not very good at writing them up in a timely manner…). I come across many works that I instantly love, instantly hate, or that make me want to look at other works by the artist. As I view more and more work, I’m beginning to form a coherent impression of a context into which my own work may fit; a growing list of artists with whom I feel some affinity. This feeling bears closer inspection- I want to try to identify the element(s) that cause it. In some cases it is obvious to me, it will be, say, the use of negative space or the treatment of light and shadow. Other times it is much harder to discern; it might be a subtle quirk, or just gut feel.

MEDIA

Even though I am already certain I want to use charcoal for this piece, I’m considering mixed media depending on where my investigations lead me.

THEMES

I strongly feel that an absence of background is part of my ‘voice’. If it even occurs to me to consider adding background detail, it so rarely feels right to me to do so since it detracts from the subject. Therefore I’m fairly sure I will do this again.

I also have preferred my monochrome work in recent exercises. I appreciate that this is probably just a function of using charcoal but again I suspect that this piece will be in monochrome.

PLAN

Initial thoughts:

Areas to investigate:

  • Will just a lack of focus in some areas do it? Portray in water? Distortion?
  • How do other artists portray movement?
  • Lines, smudges, ‘potential energy’
  • Looking at other artists:

Karolina Szymkiewicz, Tom French, Scott Hutchison, Matthew Ritchie, Marcel Duchamp

PART 5 – Self Assessment

Part 1 – Form and Gesture

Looking back at my work in Part 1 I see evidence of how self-conscious and reserved I was about trying processes, but I can also see how much I was enjoying trying new media.

My tendency towards minimal or absent background was there from the start with the exercise to capture reflective surfaces for which I drew a stockpot and stove-top coffee pot [P1. Proj2, Ex4]. I am strongly drawn to other artists’ work which have the same, such as that of Christina Troufa and Wendy Artin. Having examined this preference over the past several months I now recognise it as a characteristic of my work. That is not to say that I won’t ever attempt to include background; I have found that it can be used as a device to augment the impact of a piece such as the line drawing of a seated figure in part 4 [AS4].

My reflection on my assignment piece for Part 1 was quite detailed but I was oblivious to the problems with the shadows, which is a shame because it is a successful piece otherwise with only a few minor things I would change. In retrospect, having focused subsequently on shadow under advice from Ilsa, those on the right hand side jump out at me straight away as being extremely inexpertly done, almost carelessly.

My ideas then of how I thought I should learn are interesting; I commented about not being experimental enough. This was influenced by seeing the varied work of my fellow students. I didn’t appreciate then that I should be following my own individual path, developing ideas that catch my attention and interest, not churning out a huge variety of work for the sake of volume. An example of this is working on different grounds; I have no interest whatsoever in drawing on unconventional grounds like newspaper. I’ve done it a few times when I liked the effect, such as my mixed media still life [P2. Proj2, Ex3], or it was relevant, such as the ‘sand’ under stones [P2. Proj1, Ex1] or green shadows and eyes in my final self-portrait [AS4].

Points I took from Ilsa’s report that I still apply now:

  • Shadows are complex. They require close attention and, to an extent, interpretation in order to be believable.
  • Relative tonal values. View the entire piece, not just the area you are working on. Reading back over this feedback, I better understand that the point being made about ‘average values’ refers to the piece on a macro level, then ‘working within’ these ranges refers to the next level of detail and that this establishes a strong framework from the start.

My response to the tutor feedback was thorough but showed I didn’t fully understand the points raised.

Part 2 – Intimacy

Investigations into composition and different media, particularly choosing the most suitable media for a particular subject were a very valuable and enjoyable experience. My studies and drawings of seeds, both the multimedia exercise and the line drawing were particularly successful, but the monochrome exercise was less so. The main learning from this was that larger scale requires a different discipline.

I’m still very pleased with my final assignment piece of a room interior [AS2]. During my tutor review, I couldn’t see the issue that Ilsa picked up about the sofa seats. In retrospect, having not looked at the drawing for several months, I can see that I didn’t quite capture the depth and that the seat cushion looks as if it is on the same plane as the back cushions. It is interesting that an amount of time away from a piece can give a fresh perspective upon review. I’m glad to find that I still really love the way I managed to portray the light through the curtain, and the unusual composition.

I very much enjoyed researching the Still Life genre, but really just for its own sake. I didn’t consciously try to adopt anything I found interesting into my own work. During the tutor review, Ilsa gave me guidance about making the research relevant to me rather than following the course instructions to the letter. I have done this in more recent months but still need to develop these skills further. I think I try to avoid emulating others’ styles but perhaps by purposely making my research more focused, I would pick up subtle influences that would change and refine my own work. I have started to isolate what I find interesting in others’ work such as negative space and the effects of light.

Part 3 – Expanse

Sketching trees for this exercise was, I think, the first time I have ever taken a sketchbook outside to draw.

The first place I sat was in the middle of a large grassy roundabout at the bottom of the hill I live on. The area is surrounded by mature woodland full of old oaks that have sections that no longer sprout leaves, creating interesting gaps in foliage. There is a tree like this by the roundabout that catches my eye when I drive past. Positioning myself there also helped me get over my self-consciousness at drawing in public. I had plenty of drivers staring at me sat in such a strange place- fortunately no crashes.

Producing sketches of trees was a great way to develop observational skills, and the ability to find a way to suggest the leaves rather than draw in detail. This learning process is clearly evidenced in my sketch of my cherry tree; very detailed leaves on the lower branches, and attempts at different types of marks other branches trying to find a ‘shorthand’ that works [P3. Proj1, Ex1]. In producing the sketches I found that it is the shape and texture of the trunk and branches that most catch my attention. I’m particularly drawn to oaks and birches for this reason.

My more detailed study was a 30 foot high birch tree on the farm where my husband and I rent a workshop. I was able to sit with a big board on a grassy track in the sunshine and really observe it well. I chose to use pen so that my marks would be more controlled – I find I tend to make much looser marks with pencil or graphite – in order to describe the bark more effectively. I drew the lower foliage in detail and simplified the other areas which helps achieve a sense of perspective. Capturing areas of shadow in the simplified areas was really satisfying. [P3. Proj1, Ex2]

I can see that throughout Part 3 I was exploring the media, choosing what I thought was most appropriate, and refining my methods to mitigate earlier issues, such as starting to use masking. I was also learning more about capturing light and coming to think of it almost as a ‘negative shadow’. I think if I were to choose to work on landscapes or townscapes I would still have to practice capturing necessary detail quickly to subsequently develop further. I tend to have to rely very heavily on memory for the atmosphere, and photographs for detail and composition. When I was able to spend longer, for example on the sketch of the harbour in Monte Carlo [P3. Proj5, Ex1], the result was quite successful. Working quickly and loosely was outside my ‘comfort zone’ at the time. I have found that this is essential in life drawing and my skills have improved in this regard during Part 4. I wonder if I would now be better at fast landscape sketches.

Clouds were a great subject with which to develop the use of media whilst strongly challenging observational skills. I can see that close appreciation of tonal values was the most important aspect to me, which I didn’t fully appreciate at the time. This was a challenge in the final piece and discussed with Ilsa in depth in order to better understand the reason behind the difficulty. We also discussed shadows again in the context of my final piece. I depicted them as flat and black – the town was in stark silhouette. Ilsa has since explained that this is a particular hazard of using photographs as a reference.

Part 4 – The figure and the head

See Reflection on Tutor Feedback for Assignment 4

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In the guidance for assignment five there is a note on the value and necessity of sketchbooks and how as technical skill develops so will critical capacity. The advice is to keep reviewing the sketchbooks and past work. In carrying out this self-assessment, I have found that this really is the case; I can understand earlier tutor feedback better now after just one year. I didn’t expect to see such clear evidence of personal development.

Reflection on Tutor Feedback for Assignment 4

I found this Hangout session incredibly motivating. I’m having a difficult time at work which has prevented me from spending the time and energy I want to on art recently. After enjoying the new experience of drawing from life and producing a good volume and quality of work that I found engaging and fulfilling in the first couple of months, I had convinced myself over the last several weeks that I had not achieved much in this part of the Drawing 1 module. Ilsa’s positivity and enthusiasm for my work is infectious and has been a tonic.

We talked about ‘vocabulary’ in an artwork in the context of my reluctance to include background detail in my work beyond perhaps a simple line. Ilsa made an interesting point by saying that this approach requires more care in a drawing than in a painting. Absence of any background in a painting seems deliberate, whilst in a drawing can simply make the piece appear unfinished. This is a useful distinction to bear in mind in future.

We discussed the artists and pieces I chose to include in my research points. I can appreciate that I need to more explicitly analyse my own responses to the work that catches my attention and consciously try carrying the intriguing elements into my own practice to see if I like the influence and impact. For example, I could try using no line at all in sketches, emulating Wendy Artin, or try to create images that are a ‘slow read’ like the digital portrait I couldn’t identify the source of.

The subject of shadows came up again. This time I better understood Ilsa’s guidance because of the context she used to explain it; when using a photograph to draw from, shadows appear flatter than in life because the source image is already two dimensional. In real life, our eyes adjust whilst looking into shadows and pick out contrasts that are not captured on film.

Other limitations of drawing from photographs is that the image is still and you have ‘slowed down’ to capture it so to deliver an image describing movement is very difficult. I will draw moving figures from life as advised in order to experience and appreciate the difference.

Ilsa also recommended that I do more drawings from imagination. I have some very large paper that I am itching to try- I think I’ll do some whole figures from imagination once I’ve installed my super-sized drawing board, hopefully this weekend.

I found Ilsa’s guidance on my unsuccessful final portrait particularly useful in helping me understand why it is still of value. Some of her phrases particularly struck a chord, such as “you were trying to make a mark without making a mark”, “it is better to go too far than not far enough”, and “don’t try to keep something you’ve already lost; use it as a learning tool”. I have a tendency, which I’m sure would be mitigated by doing more sketchbook study work, of always aiming for a ‘finished drawing’.

Thank you Ilsa, I still only have an embryonic idea about what I’m going to do for my final assignment piece but I’m much happier about it now!