Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.
I think that at this level I have demonstrated the beginnings of a strong foundation for both technical and visual skills. This has been shown throughout via my varied use of media and techniques to create the desired outcome for each of the exercises. I have shown a knowledge of light and how that relates to tone and mass and shown a visual awareness by translating this into my work. My compositional sketches started a little weaker and at the early stages I wasn’t too sure what was expected of me, however during assignment 1, I have honed this process and at present I am happy with the way I am organising my compositions and evolving my ideas. Of course there is still room for improvement but at this stage of the course I am happy with my progress.
Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.
I think I’ve been careful to apply my new found knowledge to my work. I have set my initial sketches out in a clear and concise, organised way which makes it easier for me to look back and make any necessary adjustments or decisions to move forward. I think I have been objective when reviewing my work and made suggestions on how to change things I’m not happy with and also to keep things that I like. My online log is well laid out an easy to navigate depending on what a person may decide they want to look at. Although at the early stages of the course, I have already developed a process from start to finish that enables me to move smoothly throughout the exercise or assignment. This process may of course need to evolve in some way and only time will tell, I’m sure that some changes will need to be made but I think I have a good starting point to work from. My written and communication skills have always been reasonably good and I feel that I have communicated my ideas and the evolution of these in a concise manner.
Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice
This has always been the most difficult part for me. Many people are extremely imaginative and can easily put an image in their mind to paper, I unfortunately have the inverse. I can copy what’s put in front of me and I can observe reasonably accurately (of course these are still skills that need to be improved upon and developed), in my own mind at least. This of course inhibits not only the imagination but also the personal voice side of this course which I think can take a bit of finding, especially in the early stages. I am currently writing up on a study visit to the “America After the Fall” exhibition and an artist by the name of William H Johnson seemed to take until he was almost 40 to find his. Therefore, I am not overly worried and actually I have good ideas that I think at times can be inventive and outside of the box, my assignment piece for example I think was a clever way of arranging, quite a personal still life and is probably a little different. Without the subject in front of me however, I would struggle to create a realistic representation, I’m sure this is a skill that can be improved upon, the same as any other. I am reasonably experimental and I think that throughout the first part of this course, this can be seen. I have experimented with a large range of different media, I have tried using different marks, creating different textures and to an extent, different supports. I have also experimented within each medium, using them in different ways and there is, at least in part, a culmination of this in my final piece.
Contexts reflection – research, critical thinking (learning blogs at on and, at second and third level, critical reviews and essays)
I have tried to find a selection of respectable sources for each piece of research i.e. websites ending with .edu .ac or .gov although this can sometimes prove difficult to find, however I on occasion will use a different source i.e. .net .org etc. if I can find the same fact said on more than one website. Whilst I have tried to read a fair amount before commenting, I have tried to leave the history of each artist to a brief paragraph, editing so only the most important or influential parts of the artist’s life are listed, these are important to know as they will certainly have an impact on the art but as many of these facts are easily accessible, I try not to linger on them in my blog. I have heard it mentioned a couple of times that what is most important in my review, is how I feel about a certain piece or artist and why. What I find fascinating when I look at a specific piece is the techniques that have been used to create these extraordinary effects, I find this most important and in my blog, you will often see me trying to dissect a specific work. I also like to try and think not only about the how but about the why, what the artist was trying to achieve? What is the message? And of course, is there even a message to look for? Again these thoughts are present. This way of critical thinking, I can then bring to my own art.
Overall I am quite happy with how the first part of this course turned out and until I hear from my tutor with some feedback (which I will post on here in full), I plan to continue doing what I have been. Once feedback is received of course, things may need to be slightly (I hope) adjusted.
I struggled with the brief for this assignment, I find it difficult to find emotion in objects; People, absolutely, a beautiful landscape, definitely, but not in objects. I find that an object is designed to suit a purpose whether that be decorative or as a tool. It took me a couple of days to realise that rather than trying to find objects that intrinsically evoke emotion but to use objects to represent something that does. This led me to the idea of my family in still life. I walked around the house looking for items that to me represented each member of my family, being myself my wife my daughter and my son. This led me to the following items:
Wicker fan – This item reminds me of my wedding day, the foundation on which my family has been built. We ordered delicate bone china fans as favours for the ladies but when they arrived – the day before the wedding- what we found were these rather indelicate wicker fans. Rather than be defeated I just slipped a couple of references into my speech and carried on. They were actually rather popular and even now I have relatives with them hanging on the wall.
Game controller and headset – This represents me. I was originally going to use some of my art supplies but I had a couple of issues; firstly, I thought it may be a little predictable and second, (and most importantly) if I was drawing my art supplies I would be limiting what I could use to draw with i.e. if I’m drawing them I can’t use them. Other than drawing and painting my other big hobby has always been gaming. Ever since I was a little boy playing on a spectrum, I remember when the first Nintendo was released and playing Mario for the first time, my time as a youth I spent many an hour in the arcades and even now in modern time with the revolution of online gaming, I am still wasting hours on them, it really was an obvious choice.
Perfume and Lipstick – This is to represent my wife. She is a very beautiful and glamorous woman and maintaining her appearance is important to her. She never has a hair out of place and anyone that knows her will often see the makeup bag making an appearance for the “top up”. She has many different perfumes but I wanted to pick one with an interested shape and surface and I think the once I chose worked nicely.
Medals – These represent my daughter. She is passionate about gymnastics and in her first competition a couple of months ago, she came second in her age group and second again more recently in a regional competition. We are extremely proud of her for the practice and work she has put in to reach her current standard and her tenacity with which she continues to improve.
Spiderman Toy – my son is an absolute Spiderman fanatic and it is extremely difficult to get him to watch, play and even dress in something that isn’t in some way associated with his favourite character. It was therefore the only real choice.
After choosing what I was to draw I decided to do some preliminary sketches. With a pencil, I roughly sketched each item just to get into the flow and get used to the outlines. I also played with textures and significant patterns as well as viewpoints and perspectives. Nothing here has had much forethought, I wanted this part of the process to be loose, spontaneous and fluid, I didn’t spend too much time on any of it (other than the pattern in the perfume bottle).
After my initial sketches, I started to experiment with both composition and media. I did 5 A5 sketches each using different media. My compositions seemed to evolve rather than choosing 5 different options to begin with and picking from the “choice” which is something I had done in previous exercises. I think it worked better this way. I will go through each of the sketches below reflecting on both the composition and media used.
Composition 1 – Pro Markers, Brush Markers and Nib Pen
I decided that as I had worked in monochrome up until this point, I wanted to introduce a bit of colour and I really enjoyed using the artist marker pens, they have a real vitality to them which gives a bright illustrative look to drawing. The main downside is that you have a limited palette and whilst you can blend them to create slight variations of colour you can’t really mix them. It’s also quite a slow process, you must continually reapply a combination of markers to create a blend.
In terms of this drawing specifically I struggled with the colours on the fan, they are far too bright, I also think that the controller and headset look more grey than black. The problem here is the difference between the darkest grey marker and the black, there is quite a large step in tone and if I use too much black drawing becomes flat and so there is a fine line between not enough and too much. The colours on all the other items worked really well although the indigo didn’t really work as a shadow colour for the ribbon in this case. One thing that worked well was the using the nib pen to outline the main shapes. It helped to control the bleed and separates each subject, making them pop.
This first composition had a few things I wanted to change straight away, it’s amazing how they can look good together in life but once on the paper you can immediately notice issues. The major problem for me is too many items on the page, it looks rather jumbled, I’m sure in some instances this would be the effect you were after but I felt that in this instance I wanted to clearly mark a part of each of us and this composition was confusing that. I had a few proportion issues here too, especially on the left-hand side of the drawing. I think the medals are too big which makes the controller and headset look too small, also I think the headset is too small to the controller. I think the rest is roughly correct although perhaps the lipstick is a little too stubby. The other issue with the medals is that they seem to be sitting up from the surface, they are not grounded, even though they relate well to each other.
Composition 2 – Graphite stick and soft pastel pencils
I have used pastel pencils before although usually with pastel batons/sticks as a means of adding finer detail. I have decided that for this subject matter they really didn’t work well at all. I think for these man-made objects with clearly defined lines and dramatically different colours sat next to each other i.e. on the Spiderman toy, this is the wrong medium to use. I, in the past, have used pastel for both portraits and landscape and they have worked a lot more successfully for this. For creating soft blends, they work wonderfully. They also didn’t work well with the graphite. The graphite seemed to blend in with the pastel and made the drawing look dirty.
This composition again needed some improvement. I prefer less on the page but with this arrangement there was far too much negative space. The fan is far too small now although the rest seems to be about right, also the medal is sitting on the surface now which is an improvement. I missed the lipstick it had a great reflective surface and heled with the transition from the black to the left and the reds to the right. It isn’t very big and so didn’t think it would clutter the page too much by reintroducing it. I also didn’t like the medal I chose to keep, whilst it shows the position my daughter cam, it doesn’t actually have any reference to gymnastics, which was the point of using the medals to begin with. In the next composition, I decided to replace this with the other one. Also the medal was too far forward, because it is quite small, it leaves too much space to both the left and the right at the front.
Composition 3 – Graphite (pencil) and coloured pencil (soft)
I decided, this time to try and tone down the colours and try and give a more subtle, desaturated version. For this idea I started drawing just in pencil, not just to create outlines but also to create the tones. Once this had been done I applied a layer of colour hoping it would just give a hint. This worked in areas such as the blue parts of Spiderman’s legs and just looked dirty in other areas such as the fan. I think it works better where there is a more dramatic shift in tone and less so where more detail is required. The pencils were nice to use and had a creamy feel to them and as with the pastels, I think they would work better with a subject that requires less definition. Also on a larger scale the detail would be less fiddley and I think this would work better too.
In terms of composition, I think changing the medal and reintroducing the lipstick was a good idea. I also put the medal up higher to balance out the height of the Spiderman toy and this is partly successful though there is till to far too much negative space at the top, much less at the bottom though which is good. I thought at this stage that maybe I should get closer to the images to try and remove this extra space. I might also make the toy sit down, though I was worried it may topple whilst trying to draw it so I held out for the time being. The proportions are much better in this one so I hoped that I had mastered this part of the composition. My other thoughts were that the gap between the controller and the lipstick was too big although I liked the overlap of the 3 items on the right-hand side, it added some depth and interplay between them.
Composition 4 – Dip pen and ink with watercolour pencil.
I like the dip pen and ink. It dries really dark and shiny, giving a print effect. I did find it difficult to control though and in some areas you can see where it leaked from the pen a little, at other times it was scratchy and hard to release the ink at all, I’m not sure if this has to do with the quality of the pen I’m using or if I’m not using it correctly. I will have to practice with this medium some more before coming to a conclusion. In parts I tried to create tones by adding some water with a brush to certain areas and spreading the ink to create lighter tones. This didn’t work particularly well on the toy and again I think this is probably due to the scale. It was more successful when I made a wash on a palette rather than on the paper e.g. the shadow of the controller on the fan. For the most part I used different hatch marks to create tone and this works well. The water colour pencils were a little bland when dry and I would be better off using the coloured pencils if I wanted softer, more subtle tones. When I go over them with a water brush however, the colours really pop, creating a vibrant colour and you can create tone by either reapplying dry pencil on top or by using a lesser concentration of pigment.
This composition still had too much negative space at the top and I was definitely going to try and sit the toy down for the next one. The cropped composition worked nicely, it created a bit of interest and drew you into the centre of the drawing, also creating less space between the objects themselves, bringing them together. The medal didn’t sit too well in front of the fan, there was no real shadow and so I think it looked too far in front. I preferred the smaller gap between the controller and lipstick, though I would have liked them to be even closer and eliminate any space at all.
Composition 5 – Line and wash (nib pen and watercolour)
I’ve not used watercolour before and bought some specifically for this experiment. I’m glad I did, I really enjoyed using them, they are a great combination of both drawing and painting. You have to work from light to dark because it is very difficult to take pigment away once it’s laid down. You can lighten or correct to an extent by applying water to the area you wish to lighten and then lift the pigment with something absorbent i.e. a paper towel or even a cotton bud. It’s not as difficult as I thought it may be, I applied thin layers, slowly building up tone and colour and because of this I didn’t feel the need to mix my colours that much unless their was the need to tint or shade, which was only occasional. It can be a little difficult to control, especially with the thinner layers, the more water the more unpredictable but I quite enjoyed embracing this looseness and working with it. Another thing to be aware of is that watercolours dry lighter. You don’t really need the nib pen, but it does make the drawing pop and it also makes the finished piece more of a drawing and less of a painting.
In terms of composition I think this one works the best. I liked both the composition and the medium and in fact I felt that may even just make a larger version of this on watercolour paper. All the items in the drawing relate well to each other being grouped quite closely together, creating depth and minimising the negative space. I thought the background to be a little sterile in white and so for the final piece I thought about adding a wash in order to tone it down a little. I also liked the way your eye was led around the drawing, starting from the left your eye is lead to the right up to the medal and then along the stem of the Fan back towards the left-hand side of the drawing. I also thought that this drawing worked symbolically, using the fan as a backdrop and symbolising marriage, the controller and perfume with lipstick towards the left most area and the toy and medal towards the right with the medal highest, representing my daughter who is the eldest. There are a few things to iron out, for example, the rows on the fan needed to be a little more precise and evenly spaced and so I needed to pay a bit more attention to that, I also needed to keep a check on all my proportions and I tried to keep this in mind before starting my final piece.
I decided to use A3 watercolour paper as I had this already to hand. I started by making a quick outline sketch of the Piece whilst paying extra attention to the rows of the weave on the fan. I then used the nib pen to create a darker outline. This took quite a long time but I wanted to make sure that I got everything accurately especially the fan where I used quite a lot of detail to get the texture correct. Following this I used my watercolours in layers building up tone and where appropriate adding some highlights with a white gel pen. In general I got the proportions correct there is a slight skew on the medal and the perfume bottle is blown out slightly to the left hand side. I think I started off correctly in my pencil sketch but by the time I’d added the pen and watercolour it became slightly obscured. I also had an issue with the paper buckling, I did use the correct watercolour paper and so I thought that this would be sufficient to keep the paper flat but once dry it did warp. I think in future when using watercolour I will still have to secure the support with masking tape, and having since done a little research I find this to be the case. In future this is definitely something I will need to take into consideration. I think this drawing has been successful, I have taken into account the things I’ve learnt towards the beginning of part 1, I have paid attention to the texture of each subject, I have paid attention reflected light and I have also paid attention to both line and tone creating mass where necessary. This can be shown in the fan where I spent extra time paying attention to the texture and also in both the highly reflective lipstick and perfume bottle where you can see the reflection of the Spiderman toy and also you can see in the perfume bottle lid the highly reflective surface. You could also see in the controller the colour of the perfume bottle reflected on to the right hand side. You may have noticed that I have left out any of the coloured weave in the fan this was deliberate I felt it was taking away from the detail and making it overly complicated, I think this was the right move. Overall I’m very happy with the way this piece turned out and I would certainly look to use this medium again.
And so as a new adventure begins. I have started by asking myself; What do I wish to gain from this course? How will I approach exercises and research points? What kind of artist am I? What kind of artist do I wish to become? Of course most of these answers are difficult to put into words given that they are more emotional ideals rather than logical conclusions. Clearly my end goal would be a BA (Hons) in painting but I want more than just a piece of paper declaring proficiency in a subject. I want to emerge myself into one of the oldest and most revered traditions throughout history. What intrinsic value does a true piece of art actually hold? Other than a few exceptions, the frame is worth more than the canvas, this however is not the true value of art. When a person is prepared to pay an exuberant amount of money for a piece, what are they actually buying? I would suggest that they’re not paying for a painting but for how that painting makes them feel. This shows us just how strong the pull of art can be and this is a large part of what fascinates me. I also find drawing/painting extremely therapeutic which given the amount of concentration and thought involved is paradoxical. I tend to be representational when I paint and whilst I often find the more abstract art to be pleasing on the eye, I confess to not truly understanding it. I recently began to read The Practice and Science of Drawing by Harold Speed and in the preface there was a short paragraph that resonated with me
“If anybody looks at a picture by Claude Monet from the point of view of a Raphael, he will see nothing but a meaningless jargon of wild paint-strokes. And if anybody looks at a Raphael from the point of view of a Claude Monet, he will, no doubt, only see hard, tinny figures in a setting devoid of any of the lovely atmosphere that always envelops form seen in nature.” (Speed, 1913)
This indicates to me that whilst art is subjective and an individual may have certain preferences, it is important to understand and experience other forms of art, after all no one would argue against both Monet and Raphael being masters of their craft. It is with this in mind that I shall endeavour to keep an open mind during my research and whilst on occasion I may not personally like what happens to be in front of me, I will try to understand and at the very least admire and respect it.
I will be setting myself deadlines and try to do a little each evening and more on the weekends both practical and theoretical, slowly progressing through the course. I hope to complete each unit in around a year or so to finish within the 12 year time limit. Of course it is very early stages at the moment so these are very loosely defined right now.
My next steps will be to finish reading through the study guides have another look through the course and complete “An Introduction to Studying at HE”. Once I have done this and had a chat with my tutor I will be reporting back after completing the first exercise.
Speed, Harold (1913) – The Practice and Science of Drawing, Dover publications inc.