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!

ASSIGNMENT 4. Two figure studies and a self portrait

1. Line – Seated Model in an Upright Chair

A1, dipping pen and Chinese black ink

I’ve been looking more carefully at the way other artists use line to suggest shapes rather than drawing outlines. In order to achieve a variable line I used a dipping pen and ink rather than a drawing pen, which I have only ever used for writing. I found it incredibly satisfying to be able to use the same tool to variously describe different fabrics and also hard surfaces and shadows.

My first attempts at the model’s slippers were too loose for the effect I was aiming for. I remembered previous feedback about the need to be more considered when applying pen to paper, and tried a more controlled approach which works much better.

I used a photograph of my Mum taken during a fun evening with friends, we were taking panoramic pictures of everyone and playing with the effects we could create by moving whilst the picture was being taken (multiple limbs, fractured faces etc) and Mum was trying to find the feature on her phone and laughing.

I liked the slight foreshortening of her legs and the chair, and the strange angles of the door and hallway behind her; by paring those background areas down to simple ‘cartoon-like’ lines, I thought I could put all of the viewer’s focus onto her and in turn follow her focus into the phone (it could mistakenly be seen as a comment on people’s obsessions with phones to the detriment of their experience of real life, but that isn’t the intention here). I think this worked well.

I didn’t manage to capture her laughter, a disadvantage of working in ink- you only get one chance! Lesson learned from this is to draw the most important thing first, not last.

I’m pleased with the portrayal of the different fabrics, especially the checked blouse, and I’m satisfied that I have created the impression of weight and volume of the figure. The shadows were interesting as there were several light sources around the room.

2. Tone – Reclining Model

A1, compressed charcoal

I enjoyed doing the tonal study of the standing figure with willow charcoal so wanted to do something similar on a larger scale. I bought some big blocks of tinted compressed charcoal and have been intending to use them for this piece all along. Again, unfortunately I don’t have access to a live model to hold a pose for long enough so I used an image from which had a strong light source producing a full range of tones.

The finished piece captures volume. The sepia tones and absence of background, along with the pose, give a feeling of vulnerability. I’m pleased with the skin tones and the hair works well. The shadows under the torso are nowhere near deep enough.

3. Self Portrait

I used a photograph of myself in bright sunlight for this piece. I chose the green paper so that I could use it to augment shadows and leave it untouched for the eyes (I have green eyes that are quite vivid in bright light when my pupils contract).

It is a fairly good likeness of me, but as I worked on it, somehow the eyes became slightly too far apart. I almost wish I had stopped after this first image, which I like far better than the (overworked) finished portrait. Putting the darker tones in diminishes the contribution of the green ground and takes some of the life away…. I’m quite disappointed with it.

PART 4. Project 6, Exercise 3, Portrait from Memory or the Imagination

I’m a big fan of the Detective Thorne series of books by Mark Billingham. This author deliberately does not describe his protagonist’s physical appearance and is interested to hear the different mental images that readers have of him.

This exercise was a lot harder than I expected it to be. I have quite a clear picture of what I think the character looks like – serious, focused, with heavy features and dark curly hair – but haven’t managed to quite capture it on the page.

PART 4. Research Point 6, Self Portraits


Rembrandt van Rijn

One of history’s more prolific self-portraitists, Rembrandt painted around 100 self-portraits throughout his life in various media. This is one of the earlier ones, showing the artist in his early twenties ( He is already beginning to experiment unconventionally with expression, also seen in ‘Self-Portrait in a Cap, Open-Mouthed’ 1630 below.

Compared to other work at time (Picasso)

Symbolism (Frieda Kahlo)

Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year….. diff styles of winners and others who stood out. Pick up those who applied more than once and see how they changed?

PART 4. Project 6, Exercise 2, My Own Head

5 minute sketches to find a pose

Leaning on hand to distort features… not sure I could maintain the pose and draw!

Sideways view from drawing position is interesting and practical, even if it results in an extra chin!

A2, 8B graphite stick on found “leather”-textured paper.

Quite happy with this, I struggled a bit with the furthest away side of the face where it meets the hair in the background, these tones are too dark and give the appearance of a deliberate outline drawn around the forehead. The textured paper caused an issue around the tip of the nose when it caught and pulled my graphite stick to the left. A bit Pinnochio-like, but I didn’t want to risk smudging the picture by trying to lift it off with putty or an eraser. I do have prominent cheekbones with relatively dark shadow underneath, but I could have been more subtle with the treatment of that. Otherwise I achieved a good likeness.

I hadn’t used colour for a while so decided to use soft pastels for the second image and went smaller, back to 30cm x 30cm. I wanted another try at the receding side of the face so I sat up straighter and used a similar pose.

I showed my inexperience with the medium and approached the piece as I would a painting, laying down shadows first. I then learned that the pale pastels are not strong enough to sit over them to the extent I assumed they would. However, I still quite like the effect and the finished drawing is quite ‘painterly’.

I’m really pleased with the nearest eye; it is exactly as I see myself. Unfortunately, the receding side of the face is even less successful this time than in the graphite drawing, not least because the eye is too high (my right eye is higher than my left) . The nose is right this time, but the mouth is too small even after I made it bigger once, giving a slightly mean expression. Apart from the nearest eye and cheek, and the nose, this isn’t as good a likeness as the graphite drawing.


I decided to try again with the pastels and not lay shadows down first. I also went back up to A2 size. The skin tones were more realistic but the furthest side of the face isĀ even worse this time, and the piece has a cartoon quality. Irritating. Finishing the hair seemed pointless. I have written in my OCA folder on the assignment piece page – “eye levels!!”

PART 4. Project 5, Exercise 2, Groups of Figures

This is from a photo I took at the Goodwood Revival of people swing dancing. The day was sunny so the marquee was bright and colourful. I’m a bit disappointed with this outcome as the bright colours give a cartoon feel to it. Also, a characteristic of this dancing is that the men dance on light feet with bent legs. The proportions of the left-most man are not right, and that suggests that all the figures have too-short legs! Frustrating. In isolation, I’m pleased with the couple in the foreground as I think I’ve captured their easy interaction and movement.

This is from an old picture of one of my favourite bands. The figures gel as a group and I think I’ve captured the atmosphere of a small music venue, but again it feels a bit cartoonish.

PART 4. Research Point 5, The face

Alec Shao

I am not certain that I am correctly attributing this piece to this artist as I had to try and trace it through an unreferenced Pinterest page. I cannot find anything about this artist online except some tumblr users asking ‘where did he go?’. His tumblr page is inactive.

I came across this piece whilst researching and find it totally compelling. It looks like it was created digitally. There is so much ‘going on’: gossamer-like lines across the face, heavier, almost vegetation-like marks around the neck and the clothing, strange tonal work, blurring and distortions, clear ‘canvas’, ‘finger-painting’. All combine to create a highly atmospheric portrait of a wistful, lonely subject.

Daniel Ochoa

Ochoa produces composite faces to eerie effect. Some features are very clear and appear to rise out of the page like the nose of this piece, ‘Painting Study 8.10.16’, whilst others have an element of realism within a fractured framework that almost looks like collage, as in ‘C.R Portrait’, 2015 below.


PART 4. Project 4, Exercise 2, Three Figure Drawings

1. Standing, not drawn from a live model.

A2, Charcoal. I spent just over three hours on this piece, I’ve been missing spending a long time on a drawing during this unit so it felt like a nice indulgence.

This is the first time I’ve ever used a grid to map out a subject and I found it very helpful. I’m actually not sure this doesn’t defeat the object of this exercise by removing the need to imagine the skeletal structure. I chose this picture as a subject ( because of the way the strong light source accentuates the musculature. This is something I don’t get the opportunity to capture at Life Drawing sessions.

I’m very pleased with the outcome of this drawing. The strong light source and consequent dark shadows help immensely in creating an impression of volume and weight.

I had this upright on an easel. The tiny crumbs of charcoal left faint trails as they rolled down the paper, creating an interesting effect which I’m really taken by.

2. Seated

This drawing was only a 15 minute piece, but I consider it ‘finished’. I used very fine willow charcoal on A2 rough paper.

I’m very happy with all the proportions, and with the foreshortening of the left arm and leg. The left hip was slightly raised as the model’s weight was on her right leg, tucked under the left. Since she was leaning to the right against the table, and looking downwards, this dropped her left shoulder slightly and curved her spine in a backwards ‘C’ from this viewpoint.

I tried to adopt a style of suggestion rather than aim for realism, given the short timescale and a desire to add some of the model’s surroundings, and I think that has been largely successful. In retrospect I would have liked to improve the fingers, and the shadow beneath the buttock and thigh needs some refining and some extension to the folds of fabric and right ankle below.

3. Lounging

A2 Charcoal on fine grain heavyweight paper. I used the method of imagining the skeleton to help achieve the correct proportions with the legs. The model was posed with her upper torso as the highest point, with arched back, hence the wide position of the arm, the protrusion of the bottom of the rib cage, and the face not being visible except for the nose. The foreshortening of the arm is better than most of my attempts, and the hand, wrist and fingers are believable (as opposed to only suggested in most of my studies). Overall I am happy with the proportions. I’m generally pleased with the tones, which effectively portray the planes of the body and limbs, although the area under the right knee is too dark. The angle of the top edge of the right thigh is not correct and should curve down slightly as it disappears behind the left shin.