PART 2, Reflection

My video session with Ilsa was really positive and enjoyable. The tips and guidance given are very valuable, and the fact they are so specific and detailed gives me confidence that broadly, I am doing well.

I had tried to concentrate more on shadows after the feedback from Part 1, but this was picked up again as needing more focus. It is only upon reflection that I can see that I still did not pay enough attention to what I can really see, and to how I translate that onto the page. I reworked one of the stones from Proj1 Ex1, and can see a big difference. I particularly paid attention to the relative tonal value of the stone versus the shadow at each point along the boundary. I must take more care with shadows so they don’t become my nemesis!

Original:

Photograph of subject stone:

Reworked drawing:

Proj2 Ex4 Monochrome – this was the first time I have purposely stepped away from my favoured ‘traditional’ composition and I didn’t manage some elements particularly successfully. Ilsa’s guidance here was particularly insightful to me; the drawing is less successful, but with such a minimal composition, the demand is much higher. I have learned that composition isn’t just about viewpoint, it also impacts other aspects like technical requirements.

Proj3 Ex3 Material Differences –  I had never considered that we take for granted the work of artists in previous centuries, so Ilsa’s observation that my exploration of perspective using the panoramic feature on my smartphone is something ‘new’ that I’m undertaking on my own was both surprising and pleasing. I suppose as I research more and more contemporary artists, this will become harder to do. I’m relatively naive at the moment. The piece itself was not successful in my view, I need to find a solution to the dominance of the ceiling in the middle of the piece. I will probably circle back around that in a months’ time after my holiday driving round Europe, during which I need to be at the ‘landscape stage’ of Part 3 to take advantage of my travels, so I have to spend my time on the preceding exercises between now and then.

Assignment piece – I loved that this picture seemed to have caught Ilsa’s imagination; I got a little glow getting what felt like ‘additional’ feedback that was a distinctly personal response to the unusual aspects of the drawing! Again, some useful direction on small points to be careful and mindful of.

Sketchbooks – I hadn’t really appreciated that they should be used as a repository as well as a place for sketches. Mine now contains photos and reflections from studio visits and I shall continue in this vein. They will be lovely things in their own right I think.

Recommended reading – ‘Unnatural Wonders’ by Arthur C Danto to develop thinking and language, and ability to better collect and verbalise my thoughts and opinions. I’m 20 pages in and already slightly stunned by what I’m reading!

Ok, I’m off to draw some trees   :o)

 

PART 2. Research Point: Domestic Interiors by Contemporary Artists

Find contemporary artists who focus on domestic interiors and analyse their choice of content, medium, format, etc. Consider how their work reflects its context in terms of era, fashion, mood, current issues, and so on.

Cressida Campbell

Mainly depicts scenes from own or sister’s home. Muted but highly varied palette, very calm and comfortable feel.

‘Her intensely laborious process combines both painting and printing, in an innovative technique which results in two unique artworks – a single painted and engraved woodblock, and a one-off woodblock print on paper’ (design files.net)


Dexter Dalwood

‘Typically, Dalwood’s works depict imagined and constructed interiors or landscapes, usually devoid of figures, that act as memorials or descriptions of various historic people, places or moments’ (tate.org.uk)

‘Almost all of Dalwood’s paintings initially start out as small collages – compositions he assembles by literally cutting and pasting from the pages of magazines and art history. In the subsequent large-scale canvases the abrupt disjunctures and sharp, clinical edges, are faithfully reproduced, preserving the slightly unnerving, almost jarring quality at a sometimes exhilarating and monumental scale’ (tate.org.uk)
 ‘Kurt Cobain’s Greenhouse’ (2000) ‘Sharon Tate’s House’ (1998) ‘Camp David’ (1998) ‘Betty Ford Clinic’ (1999)
Do Fournier

Sumptuous domestic scenes drenched in golden sunlight, feel really warm and lazy. Distorted perspective and high viewpoint.


David Hockney

Huge variety of styles.


Jane Patterson

Very cheerful sweet palette, feel light and summery

 

Reference List

http://www.cressidacampbell.com/intro/  – accessed 22/07/17

http://thedesignfiles.net/2013/09/interview-cressida-campbell/  – accessed 22/07/17

http://www.browseanddarby.co.uk/artists/patterson-jane/1991/  – accessed 22/07/17

http://www.tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.com/2014/11/Do-Fournier.html  – accessed 22/07/17

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-st-ives/exhibition/dexter-dalwood-and-tate-collection – accessed 22/07/17

 

PART 2. Research Point: Positive and Negative Space

Look at a range of artists working today and see how they incorporate positive and negative spaces in their work.

Gary Hume

Gary Hume’s work covers a wide variety of styles. I particularly enjoy those where the negative and positive spaces are not immediately obvious to the eye. In his Blackbird piece the background contains both black and white areas and there is a degree of ambiguity around which represents sky and which represents foliage. His piece entitled ‘Yellow Hair’ at first glance to me looks like a dark haired person turned away towards a yellow background. Alternatively you see that it’s actually a black face surrounded by yellow hair. I guess the title is a bit of a clue! ‘Study in Black’ is really beautiful in its simplicity. I see a woman’s right hip, navel and right elbow as she crosses her arm over her chest but then others may see a whale’s tail and a drop of water.

Christina Troufa

The artist describes the theme of her work as being “about my life, about myself and my beliefs. I explore in my work the self-representation in the looking for my inner self, my self-portrait.” (saatchiart.com)

I think to achieve this, she deliberately assigns a ‘zero value’ to her clothing and equally to the surroundings. I feel that is quite powerful in focusing the viewer’s attention to her face and activities in each scene.

  ‘O Dom’

  ‘Eu Inferior’ 2011

 ‘Negro’ 2017

Ilsa Brittain

Ilsa, I debated for a while about whether it would be appropriate to include your work in this research point, but when I started the course I researched you a bit and was struck by your use of negative space, although I didn’t know the term at the time. I’ve always preferred art with ‘no background’ because of the strength of focus it puts on the subject. I think this is what you did with Pause and Two Eyes, in an exaggerated way. I find the relative tonal values in White Scarf really intriguing. It feels a bit like being in a nightclub when the black-lights come on!

 ‘White Scarf’ 2016
 ‘Pause’
 ‘Two Eyes’ 2014

Kai Althoff

In his 2000 series of untitled watercolours, Althoff has some subjects portrayed vividly and others almost inhabiting the negative space. The tonal values he assigns are really unusual, it makes me wonder what the significance is, for example in the dinner scene it might be a portrait of someone who has left or died.


Graham Little

Little uses neutral negative space and does not strongly delineate it from the positive. In these two pieces he uses sharpness of focus of the features to define the positive space, the effect is quite unsettling.

 Untitled, 2001


Untitled, 2002

Andrea Bowers

Bowers makes strong political statements with her work. To me, her series focusing on participants from various rallies, singled out in a huge empty negative space, emphasises that each voice is individually small, and by inference that together all the participants are strong.

  ‘Fight for $15 March (December 4, 2014)’ (2015)

  ‘For My Transgender Sisters (May Day March, Los Angeles, 2012)’ (2012)  ‘Legalize my Man (May Day March, Los Angeles, 2012)’ (2012)
Reference List

https://www.saatchiart.com/CristinaTroufa, accessed 20/07/17

PART 2. Research Point: Still Life Genre

The ‘Still Life’ genre, from the Dutch “stilleven”, is the depiction of inanimate subjects, either man-made and/or natural objects which do not move or are dead. In the seventeenth century, the French Academy established a ‘hierarchy of genres’ in which still life was ranked lowest after history, portraiture, genre-painting and landscape. Landscape and still-life were considered less important because they contained no human forms, and that the painting of lowly immobile objects was merely a technical exercise and not a ‘divine’ pursuit.

Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century

Whilst depiction of such objects occurs in antiquity, Still Life did not arise as a distinct genre until the sixteenth century. Various sources cite many different artists as being the originator of the genre but they generally agree on the timing as being early 1500s. These fore-runners include Jacopo de’ Barbari with his 1504 piece ‘Still-Life with Partridge and Gauntlets’ (visual-arts-cork.com), and Pieter Aertsen, who ‘anticipated pure still life, seen for itself’ (Piper, 2000:162) in works such as ‘Christ in the House of Martha and Mary’ (1559), ‘interposing huge piles of food and flowers between the observer and the central scene’.

 

With the development of oil paints and techniques during the Renaissance, artists were able to achieve high levels of realism in their work, which likely drove more close observation of form and tone of a wider range of subjects. The rise of scientific thinking also prompted artists to begin painting secular scenes, a practice first seen in Italy, which then spread outwards into the rest of Europe. The popularity of still life increased in Northern Europe during the Reformation, which further released people from the controlling influence of the church and saw a decline in religious painting. It is interesting to ponder such works as Aertsen’s 1551 piece, ‘A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms’ against this social backdrop and wonder if the inclusion of the human figures and the title were ironic when clearly he takes far more interest in and care over the still life in the foreground.

There are sub-genres within still life. Memento Mori is a Latin phrase meaning ‘remember you must die’. They are artworks ‘designed to remind the viewer of their mortality and of the shortness and fragility of human life’ (tate.org.uk), and typically contain skulls, and often symbols of time passing like clocks or hourglasses. Related to this is Vanitas still life, which expresses the view that worldly pleasures are worthless. These are of subject matter such as musical instruments, wine, books.

While reading around this subject, I was stunned by Hans Holbein (the Younger)’s 1533 piece, The Ambassadors. It contains a skull that is so distorted by a ‘mathematically exact trick of perspective’ as to be unrecognisable, but when viewed from an oblique angle, can be seen in its true form. ‘When it is so seen, the two men blur, and eternal death overtakes all’ (Piper, 1981:156). I find this piece astounding in its innovation. It is completely drenched with symbolism and I find it fascinating that it is nearly 500 years old.

The artists used various methods to direct the viewer’s attention to the subject matter, some used spatial compression, foreshortening the background, for example with a physical wall as in the de Barbari piece above, or surrounding the still life with impenetrable shadow. Others, like Aertsen above, filled the negative space with less distinct subjects.

In the seventeenth century, still life became popular as decoration, with French aristocrats commissioning ‘opulent and trompe l’oeil’ pieces (visual-arts-cork.com). The focus on the subject matter became even tighter, and with increasing scientific exploration and botanical discoveries, floral pieces became fashionable.

 Willem van Aelst, Still life with a watch (c. 1665)

 Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder , Flower Still Life (1614)

 

Paul Cézanne

There is an overwhelming amount and variety of information and opinion available about the work and influence of Cézanne. Having read chapters and articles ranging from dry and factual to pretentiously nonsensical, I found a quote online that seems to succinctly reflect my thoughts. The following can be found in the ‘Legacy’ section of the Cézanne page of theartstory.org; ‘When looking at Cézanne’s late work, it is impossible to miss the emergence of a unique artistic approach. The rules of the Academy completely abandoned, and the aesthetics of Impressionism having been successfully employed but not copied, Cézanne offered a new way of comprehending the world through art’.

My personal response to his still life work is one of affection, born of familiarity. I find the homely and seemingly naïve portrayal of the form, tone and arrangement of subjects really beautiful and instantly recognisable. The knowledge that he could spend hundreds of hours on a piece leaves me wanting to know what it was he was pursuing.

 Still Life with Basket of Apples (c. 1890)

 

Cubists

Early Cubism ‘rejects naturalistic colour, Renaissance perspective (and) consistent lighting…. subjects being sometime not only arbitrarily lit, but seen from slightly different angles’ (Piper, 1981:396-397). The movement was led by Picasso and Braque, ‘working together so closely that it is difficult to separate their work’ (Arnason, 1969:193), indeed Piper (1981:397) describes the question of primacy as ‘controversial, and perhaps otiose’. Still life was the principle subject.

The artists broke up the lines of the subject matter and used colour and tone in expressive ways. Negative space was often treated in the same way as the positive, making the subject indistinct from its surroundings at first glance.

  Picasso, ‘Still Life with Compote and Glass’ (1914-15)

  Braque, ‘Still Life with Musical Instruments’ (1908)

 

Contemporary Artists

Tom Brown – (tombrownfineart.blogspot.co.uk)

There is a clear Cezanne influence to Tom Brown’s work. He uses vibrant colours and lots of light, often grouping fruit with reflective items, particularly glass.

  ‘Salt & Pepper’ (2008)

Untitled (2012)

He has ‘push(ed) the traditional still life in a new direction’ with his ‘Not-So-Still’ still life series. It is quite amusing; the fruit appears to be zooming into the frame. It occurs to me that this could be interpreted as specifically exaggerating Vanitas as it shortens duration even further… “all things will soon be gone” and these things only just got here so they’re even more fleeting.

 

Margaret Morrison – (woodwardgallery.net)

Margaret Morrison uses oil on canvas to create large hyper-realistic pictures. This exhibition features confectionery and toys. Food has always been a staple of the still life genre, but Morrison brings this right up to date by choosing modern subject matter. There is little or no negative space so that the focus is entirely on the subject, but still she does something interesting in a few where the subjects cast multi-coloured shadows by virtue of their translucency (Gummy Worms, 2007) or she evokes a slightly reflective surface underneath by adding colour to what, at first glance, appears to be a simple shadow (Candy Corn, 2007). Her paintings of marbles are wonderful, filling the page with a riot of colour (Cat’s Eyes, 2011)

Sydney Bella Sparrow – (sydneybellasparrow.com)

This artist’s work is reminiscent of the 17th century Dutch painters with the rich, hyper-real colours and the black backgrounds. It has a modern feel with simpler composition. I absolutely love it, especially the eggs and the cotton reels.

  ‘Broken Sky’ (2006)

  ‘Boxes and Bobbins of Jade’ (2008)

 

Through this research point, I have formed the impression that contemporary still life often seems to carry symbolism that is very personal to the artist. For example, Margaret Morrison’s subject matter is a relatively recent change following diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. She ‘turned to imagery which to her presented physical and psychological therapy. Bold colors, large scale candies and toys started to predominate her paintings’ where her palette was previously muted (widewalls.ch). Perhaps this highly personal connection has always existed between artist and subject but simply was not documented in past centuries.

 

Reference List

Arnason, H H (1969) A History of Modern Art, London: Thames & Hudson.

Piper, D (1981) The Illustrated History of Art, 2000 Edition, London: Chancellor Press.

http://sydneybellasparrow.com/paintings.html, accessed 05/07/17.

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/m/memento-mori, accessed 11/06/17.

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-cezanne-paul.htm, accessed 22/07/17.

http://tombrownfineart.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/still-life-in-motion-by-tom-brown.html, accessed 03/07/17.

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/genres/still-life-painting.htm#history, accessed 11/06/17.

http://www.widewalls.ch/margaret-morrison-art-woodward-gallery-new-york, accessed 03/07/17.

http://woodwardgallery.net/exhibitions/larger-than-life, accessed 03/07/17.

ASSIGNMENT 2. Interior Scene

This assignment is designed to pull together the fine observation and practice that you’ve done on this part of the course. You’re free to choose your own source material and media. Whatever you choose to draw, be selective and remember that your subject matter might be quite different to your source material. Much can be expressed through sensitive composition and creative use of materials. 

Composition:

I have used one end of an angled panoramic photograph of my lounge to give me a guide to the distortions and foreshortening seen in this piece, and of a constant light source. I used A2 rough paper, soft pastels and conte sticks.

Progress shots:

Final Piece:

I’m very pleased with the final drawing. I feel I must qualify the tonal values of the walls by saying that they are actually different colours in real life. The walls on the left that form the corners in which the bookcases stand are chocolate brown, and the others are a mushroom colour that matches the lampshade. It is fairly close to the colour in the drawing.

I’m surprised and very happy to have been able to achieve the level of realism I have done with only soft media, on rough paper that cannot be overworked since it starts to break up.

I like the composition; it is unusual enough to make the picture interesting without distracting from the warm, homely feel of the scene.

My favourite part is the bright sunlight coming through the curtain. I also am pleased with the sofa; I have successfully captured the sagging cushions that form part of the much-travelled feline route to the windows, next to the pristine ones that no-one ever sits against. This gives me a strong emotional connection to this picture.

What isn’t successful: The angle of the top of the left hand bookcase is completely wrong. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice that until I took a photograph of the picture. The sunlight coming through the door was almost as bright as that coming through the window but I couldn’t seem to be able to capture that. As mentioned above, this paper does not withstand too much working so I was limited in my attempts to correct this. Perhaps I will just use it for studies in future rather than final pieces. Using a photograph as reference, I felt sometimes like I was just copying a picture and not referring to the real scene enough. I think having used it to set out my guidelines in order to capture the distorted perspective, and as a reference for the bright sunlight, this feeling is perhaps unavoidable.
 

 

PART 2. Project 3, Exercise 3 Material Differences

By now you should have a clear idea of the basic elements of your drawing. For this exercise, work on a large scale (A2 to A1). Map out the composition, choose appropriate materials, observe light falling on subjects and be careful with tonal values.

To recap – I wanted to emulate this over-the-head panoramic shot with a long thin piece, using charcoal and pen.

 

Attempt 1 – this went in the bin! Proportions are completely off…

A1 cartridge paper (what a waste!), soft pastels, conte sticks, pen.

 

Attempt 2 – as is often the case, I forgot to take progress shots.

I found I couldn’t combine drawing pen with the charcoal, soft pastels and conte sticks I was using; the softer media just clogged the pen, or obscured it if used afterwards.

The resulting drawing looks like a page from a weird colouring book. The straight architectural lines, and the deliberate omission of some items in the dining room area add to this effect. The ceiling dominates the picture too much, even more so in the cropped final piece.

              

A2 rough paper, soft pastels, conte sticks, pen.

After being excited to try this idea, I’m really disappointed with the results.

However, I still want to use this room for my assignment piece. I noticed that one end of the ‘diagonal’ panoramic shot shows a really interesting arcing view of the lounging area. I’m going to use that picture as my guide for my final piece as it gives me a static record of the light streaming in the window, casting great highlights on the furniture, floor and ceiling.

PART 2. Project 3, Exercise 2 Composition – an Interior

I made sketches of the room I want to study in more depth. I didn’t feel particularly inspired by them, although they are perfectly nice drawings.

   

I’ve included my sketchbook below, but in case the text is not legible, it is transcribed here:

The lounge/dining room is my favourite room in the house and is an unusually long space. It made a huge impression on me when we first viewed the house and 14 years later I still love that it is so versatile; effectively it is three rooms.

I’d like to try to exaggerate that quality and try a long thin piece, maybe more than A1 width. I enjoyed the multimedia exercise so I’m going to do that again, in monochrome (browns) which will be close to the real colours.

I want to draw inspiration from the Antony Green piece in the course material (Mrs Madeleine Jocelyn with her Son, 1987) but with less distortion. My mind keeps referring to the Oasis album cover of ‘Don’t Believe the Truth’, taken with a fish-eye lens, and also their ‘Definitely Maybe’ cover (not sure why – I’m not a ‘super-fan’ but I’ve always liked their album artwork as well as the music).

I took panoramic pictures with my camera to see what distortions and foreshortening effects this would produce. I expected it to be either this shape (see picture), or this ….. but it is full of strange curves and actually makes me feel a bit ill! I tried taking the picture sideways in an arc over my head, with really great results. I’m going to try to emulate that – I hope it works! I’m going to use drawing pens, then add tone with charcoal, or maybe start with blocks of charcoal tone and overlay pen refinements…? I’d like to achieve an element of realism in terms of proportions and light, unfortunately the weather forecast is  rain for the next few days and the room is fairly dark. I may have to use artificial light sources, but that may spoil the effect of the two bright ends of the picture.

(later comment – it was sunny for a good portion of the day!)

PART 2. Project 3, Exercise 1 Quick sketches around the house

Aim to work your way around most rooms in your house over several sessions and maybe also rooms outside the house such as the garden shed. In each room make four quick sketches, turning 45 degrees after each one to face another area of the room. You’ll find that looking into corners works best. Make fast visual notes without getting involved in detail.

I used charcoal for this exercise as I tend to get pulled into too much detail if I’m using pencil. I was able to capture the rooms really quickly and I can see that this will be a useful skill when I move on to the later parts of the course. I was beginning to run out of time to meet my deadline so I have not done as many as I should have done. The strongest are the last two, I think because they are of a bigger room. Drawing smaller rooms makes me feel frustrated…. perhaps need to examine that feeling more, because I can’t presently explain why.

I’m going to concentrate on the bigger rooms for the next exercises.

PART 2. Project 2, Exercise 4 Monochrome

For this exercise you’ll work towards creating an image in a single colour – combining natural and man-made objects and contrasting materials. Select a medium that suits your subject. Are you aiming for detailed complexity of line or an expressive looseness of mark, for example? Ensure you’re able to create a range of tones for your chosen colour by practising in your sketchbook first.

I was really struggling to think of a subject for this. Inspiration struck whilst I was having breakfast and I looked down and saw a bowl full of different reds.

I wanted to try an ink wash because I had seen a couple of fellow students use this successfully, and it seemed a good way to cover negative space whilst sticking to the monochromatic palette. So I was already thinking that the piece might be slightly abstract. I tried the ink wash to portray the bowl, thinking it would be analogous to the small splashes of strawberry juice, but it doesn’t work. I’m very interested in completely empty negative space, so I decided to use the wash for the background and leave the white bowl as completely blank paper, and take a viewpoint from above the bowl to make it a natural frame.

I looked at using coloured pencils and watercolour pencils, but found that I got a richer colour from oil pastels that is much better suited to the succulent fruit. The drawing is on A3 cartridge paper.

Progress Shots: just one very late one. Here I was struggling to get highlights using any pale pastel, even white. I don’t know whether the hot weather played a part in this. I found that the pastel just picked up red from the page instead of overlaying it. I waited until the next morning when it was cooler and used a white watercolour pencil with just enough water to slightly soften it and pushed the pigment onto the red, to quite pleasing effect. I also used my trusty whittled bamboo skewer to remove red from the cut surfaces of the fruit to reveal a paler colour for the internal structures.

Final piece:

On reflection, I wish I had masked the white bowl! I spilled ink on it (I could say it was intentional and meant to be strawberry juice but that would be a fib…), and I am not yet practiced enough to keep my fingers off the page so there are some faint red fingerprints on it too.

The spoon handle looks odd. There was a dark line of reflection all around the whole edge, but it does not translate well into a realistic drawing. Perhaps adding an artificial light source would have solved this.

My favourite thing about the piece is the seeds, some are almost in silhouette on the ‘shadowed’ surfaces as a small amount of light passes through the fruit, some are pale colours as the light hits them directly, and the highlights around them accentuate the slight indents in which they lie.