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


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.

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