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.
In past exercises I have first chosen my subjects and then begun by drawing each object one by one before arranging them into a few different compositions drawing a very quick, small sketch of each and then making a decision on what I wish to do and how I wish to do it. This time however, as the whole premise is to show how one object relates to another in terms of reflected light, I thought it would make more sense to move straight to composition but rather than using a quick line sketch as before to explore composition, I would use both line and tone with a lot more detail and on a larger scale, I began in my A5 sketchbook. This worked very well and I soon realised that actually all art is about how items relate to one another whether that be through light, tone, shape, proportion etc. and perhaps spending more time worrying about composition and less worrying about single items floating in space is preferable. Of course drawing the subjects singularly can also useful but more so for feeling the shape or borders. In conclusion, moving forward, I will probably use quicker sketches to describe each single object and spend more time than I have been exploring the relationship between them.
After sketching out a few compositions, I was torn. I preferred using the paper in landscape which allowed me to include the sink and plug, which of course are also highly reflective. However using the paper in portrait allowed for the use of less negative space which was not only a requirement of the brief but allowed me to make the main objects, being the tap and soap dispenser, larger which makes it easier for adding finer details. After some contemplation I decided to plumb for drawing in portrait, the final reason that led me to this conclusion was the sink and plug in landscape didn’t show a huge amount of reflected light and with this being the main focus of the exercise, this could then e construed as additional negative space rather than being part of the main subject.
I am rather happy with the outcome. Although, as always, there are some inaccuracies such as the spout being a little small and the ellipse at the top of the tap being slightly misshapen. Overall though I have managed to show the highly reflective qualities of the subjects, the tap is reflected into the soap dispenser an vice versa. You can see the tap being of stainless steel, the soap dispenser being pale and reflective and you can even see the sink being ceramic. I was a little disappointed that the paper seems to have had some kind of defect, you can see a line running horizontally in the bottom quarter of the page. There was nothing behind the paper to show through and I’m not really sure what else could have done this. The problem is that it makes the subject seem transparent. I have decided that as this is an exercise rather than an assignment piece to leave it as it is.
Bertrand-Jean “Odilon” Redon was born 22 April 1840 in Bordeaux. Redon narrowly missed being an American, his father having emigrated to the United States and making his fortune in Louisiana and marrying a Creole woman. I fact his brother Ernest was born in New Orleans and it wasn’t until Redon’s mother, became pregnant for the second time, that it was decided they move back to France.
Redon began his artistic training at the age of 15, however to please his father at the age of 17 he turned to architecture though he was not too successful, failing the entrance exam at the Ecole des beaux-arts in 1862. Redon begun studying under Jean-Leon Gerome but found his teacher overly academic and rather sterile, describing himself as “tortured” by the teacher. He in 1865 met Rudolphe Bresdin who had a huge influence on Redon, teaching him the technique of etching he admired Bresdin, so much so that on one of Redon’s earliest etching he signs the piece “pupil of Bresdin”
Redon was drafted for a short spell as a soldier in the Franco Prussian war and whilst his term in the army was short, the horrors that he witnessed made him the Odilon Redon we think so highly of. He married to Camille Falte on 1st May 1880 at forty and had 2 sons, he struggled to support them financially with his art and it wasn’t until the last 10 years or so of his life that Redon was able to live comfortably.
Huysmans was a strong advocate of Redon and it was he that introduced him to Stephane Mallarme, leader of the symbolists and from here Redon often participated in the mardis, a Tuesday reception held by Mallarme for the Parisian art world in the 1880’s. It was here that he met the likes of Paul Gauguin, Maurice Denis and the dealer Ambroise Vollard among others, catapulting his reputation as one of the most influential symbolist artists amongst the avante-garde.
It wasn’t until 1903 after Redon had turned 60 that he received the Legion d’Honneur, his first honour and in 1904 the Salon d’Automne devoted an entire room to Redon at their first annual show, He was soon able to live a far more comfortable life in a more affluent area. Redon died on 6th July 1916
Odilon Redon, Two Tree’s c.1875 (charcoal on paper)
My first impression of this drawing is of gloom and danger. These 2 old trees are in the corner of a forest with such a darkness behind and in between them you can’t tell whether this is the edge of the forest or whether there may be a path leading somewhere further and beyond. I put this feeling of gloom and spookiness down to not just the ominous setting but also the high contrast, the juxtaposition of darks and lights at their most extreme for example the branch of the left hand tree or the left hand side of the right tree. I’m not sure I’d want to go there but I feel that if I were there I may, against my judgement, be beckoned towards it.
When I begin to look closer, I find it hard to believe this is drawn in charcoal, it looks to me like an etching that Redon is famous for. The texture in the trees is made with sharp, scratchy (and in areas, incredibly fine) marks that look as though they have been scraped away somehow. There are other types of marks, most prevalent at the bottom right of the right tree looking like undergrowth, that show bright highlights through the charcoal they looks as though a liquid has been sprayed on with a toothbrush to create this effect. Again there are leaves on the branch of the left hand tree with bright highlights on a very dark background and blades of grass to the bottom. It is hard to imagine the darks being drawn in and the highlights left with such accuracy and delicacy and whilst this is a possibility I wonder if Redon had a way of removing the charcoal so cleanly perhaps with a solvent.
Odilon Redon, Guardian Spirit of the Waters, c.1878 (charcoal with black chalk, stumping, erasing, incising, & subtractive sponge work, heightened with white chalk, on cream wove paper altered to a golden tone)
I think what first attracted me to this drawing was its description. Firstly it answers many of my initial questions with regards to the processes Redon uses. The description is so honest, he clearly doesn’t wish to keep his processes to himself but instead decides to give an insight into what he does, I imagine to some this would be the equivalent of a magician revealing a secret.
The work itself, unlike Two Tree’s I find comical initially a huge, friendly almost clown like face looking over a comparatively tiny sail boat. This of course is a very different depiction of a guardian or god to what is usual, they would normally be depicted as warriors ready to punish insolence or disrespect severely. I wonder whether he is making a mockery of paganism or perhaps he feels that a god should be seen as mild and compassionate. Although the image is still high in contrast it doesn’t have the same feel to it. I think this is because in this drawing the background is light and airy where as in Two Trees the drawing is predominantly dark giving a more oppressive feel. I don’t find this image as technically appealing although there is plenty to look at, the hair has a great feel to it as does the water. I am also drawn to the white gull towards the centre of the sea and the outline of the sail and of course that big dreamy eye right in the centre of that round head. Overall, the lightness of subject and comic look of the guardian in this drawing makes me smile each time I return to it.
I started this exercise exploring different types of marks in a number of different media. The brief suggested trying pencil, ballpoint pen, dip pen and ink and a drawing pen. I have all of these and so decided to follow the suggestion. For clarity I will give my thoughts on each of the type of marks I made separately to my thoughts on how well my use of each type of media worked or didn’t.
Creating Shadow using Lines and Marks – Experiment 1 – Pencil
Creating Shadow using Lines and Marks – Experiment 2 – Nib pen
Creating Shadow using Lines and Marks – Experiment 3 – Dip Pen and Ink
Creating Shadow using Lines and Marks – Experiment 4 – Biro
Straight Hatch Marks
I started using this type of hatching sticking strictly to horizontals, using very little (if any) outline. I used different pressures in combination with varied distances between lines to create darker or lighter tones. The closer together the marks and/or the heavier the pressure when making them the darker the tone, the same of course is true of the reverse. The finished result whilst showing form has a blurry, out of focus look and could be effective in certain situations. I can imagine using this technique sparingly maybe to show something buzzing or vibrating or perhaps a speeding car or the view from a train window.
After a couple of attempts in different media (pencil, nib pen) I decided that the horizontal hatch marks had limited use and decided to try instead to use a single direction without sticking strictly to straight or horizontal lines. I started working with/along the form of the subject. This worked a lot better there was a greater 3D effect and now the subject was still in place and I think a lot more representational and less graphic.
I liked the cross hatching technique, I found that I relied a lot more on instinct and I think once I have explained my process it will be understood why I feel that to be the case. I started by using horizontal marks only and covered the majority of the subject leaving only the highest lights completely blank, I then used verticals to cross over the horizontals (at 90 degrees) for the next shade down the diagonals in each direction, and so on crossing lines in different directions, getting darker and darker as I went. Now a third element has been introduced in order to create darker tones, the three now being; distance between lines, pressure used to create marks and now number of times a line crosses over itself. There are a now a huge number or variations of using these three techniques in different combinations to darken an area and so instinct kicks in and tells me where I should use one or all or a combination of these that pleases my eye. I worry this is a part of my personal voice that I will find extremely hard to define, especially in words. I like the effect of cross hatching It has a similar look to that of an etching and I can understand why this would be the case, using short, straight marks in a number of directions seems to me (without any knowledge or previous use) would be a good choice when using a tool to scratch into metal.
Stippling is a slow arduous process that involves using lots of tiny dots, closer together for darker tones and further apart for lighter. Whilst it takes a log time it is very forgiving, after all one tiny dot in the wrong place won’t effect the overall drawing too much. The overall effect is actually very pleasing to the eye and you almost feel as if you are looking at an optical illusion I did find however that unless you have a very dark colour it takes a lot to build up darks and in fact I found it difficult to get as dark as I would have liked in certain places without fully blocking in.
I used what I’ve been calling a squiggle technique which is basically just scribbling using tighter squiggles for darker areas and looser squiggles for lighter. This is a very quick and loose way of drawing, yet you still manage to get a nice 3d form to the image. Again it is quite a forgiving way of hatching especially if you start with aa lighter pressure and move gradually towards the darks. I tried not to take my pen off the paper and was reasonably successful at this, I may have skipped once or twice but this was more a concentration issue rather than a technical one.
Types of media used.
As previously mentioned I tried all of the above types of hatching using a range of media, these were; 2B pencil, nib pen, dip pen and ink and ballpoint pen or biro. I wasn’t overly happy with my first efforts in pencil it started off looking ok but as I worked on the page and closed my sketchbook in between etc. It began to smudge and fade. Perhaps I should have used a softer pencil although this by nature would tend to smudge more, giving less detail and becoming more of a tonal drawing. In reality, if using pencil when drawing, I would more likely use tone for creating darks and lights and use hatching and marks more for details. I found that the best effect was the stippling and whilst this was the hardest to lay down and the longest process, it smudged less. AS previously mentioned, I probably wouldn’t use pencil again for a drawing made purely from hatching.
Hatching is, as far as I can see, the only way to use a nib pen. You could probably add water for more effects and I will try this at some point but I imagine that this will only cause a bleed effect and that the main line would, for the most part, stay intact. The nib pen gives a bold, narrow line and although you can’t really vary the pressure to create lighter marks, I found that if you tilt the nib so that it is flatter against the paper it gives a sort of diluted mark almost as if the pen has begun to run out of ink. I would certainly use nib pen again for drawing, I like the graphic effect it leaves and find it strangely forgiving considering you are unable to erase or lighten marks.
Dip pen and ink
I love the richness of colour you get from using a dip pen with ink. If you look at the photo above you will see just how dark and bold the marks are. It has a very loose and free feel about it and I find myself swooping the pen across the page quickly and loosely (except for the stippling). Varying the pressure doesn’t make the marks lighter/darker but narrower/wider with quite a bit of variation. The main downside is having to continually dip the ink Back into the well and whilst this can interrupt the flow it can also be of benefit as once the ink begins to run out in the nib you can use the lighter marks produced to your advantage. If you use the nib on its side it produces a scratchy feel which gives an etched look to the finish.
Ballpoint pen (Biro)
I only had a blue biro to hand which may perhaps have affected my stance on using this medium. I have to say I felt like I was doodling whilst using it and this probably goes back to my school days when I was often found being berated for doodling in my exercise books. The overall effect though was ok and whilst it would almost certainly have looked better in black (especially against the other sketches) I was reasonably pleased. It was also reasonably smooth for such a cheaply mass produced item and I was able to manipulate the pen in certain ways to achieve lighter and darker marks. I was at least in part pleasantly surprised with using the biro.
I think in general, unless you wanted to create a certain effect for a specific purpose you would use a combination of these marks in variety to achieve a certain look for a particular texture or detail. It reminded me a little of the exercise “Experimenting with Texture” where I would naturally and without paying too much attention to what I was doing, use a specific pattern or mark to create a detail or effect specific to that texture, this time of course I was aware of what I was doing and I think these initial experiments helped me with the next stage of drawing a group of objects in line. I think for a drawing purely in line the best medium to use is nib pen though of course for any medium you would use hatching to some extent or another making it a very important technique to master. I am still reading The Practice of Science and Drawing by Harold Speed (1913) and in this book there is an entire chapter dedicated to Line drawing (chapter IV), within this chapter he states:
“If the student neglects line drawing, his work will lack the expressive significance of form that only a feeling for lines seem to have the secret of conveying” (Speed 1913)
This quote to me sums up this exercise and I will endeavour to bear it in mind going forward.
Drawing a group of objects using Line
Creating Shadow using Lines and Marks – Practising with Dice
Creating Shadow using Lines and Marks – Practising with Chips
Creating Shadow using Lines and Marks – Practising with Cards
Creating Shadow using Lines and Marks – experimenting with composition
With my experimentation done I moved on to the task of drawing a group of objects using only line and through my previous experience, decided to use the nib pen. I chose to use 2 dice, some playing cards and some gambling chips, the cards in particular interested me as they have little to no 3d form and this – reading ahead a little – is something that is mentioned, with regard to light, in the next paragraph of the course guide i.e. how light behaves on a flat surface. They also all have very simple outlining shapes which I thought would be ideal and follow on from the previous part of this exercise. I started by sketching all of these items from different angles, using different marks and set them up in different ways. I also tried some blind contour drawing to get my arm, wrist, shoulder etc. moving. I the looked at some different compositions. One thing I struggled with was the size of the subjects, they are all extremely small and therefore picking up detail becomes extremely difficult, it was for this reason I decided to work on a smaller scale than I had done in previous exercises and given the nature of the medium I ended up drawing on some A4 Bristol Board. Another complication was that whilst I had been practising drawing light dice with black spots, my son lost one whilst playing with them ad so I ended up drawing the dark dice with the white spots which of course is the polar opposite and so I had to adjust a little.
I was conscious whilst drawing to use a variety of line and marks I.e. stipple, cross hatch, straight hatch, along contour etc. unlike in the experimentation stage where I stuck a lot more rigidly to a certain type of line, I thought this would give a lot more realism to the outcome. I believe that it did. Overall I am happy with the drawing, I did find it difficult to create tone on the cards as the ambient light made the light falling on them a little flat. I did use a little artistic license here and emphasised certain areas and I think this worked quite well. I had a few issues with the perspective, in places it is a little out – such as the right hand side of the left die and the bottom of the stack of chips, I also thinks it looks a little like the top 2 playing cards are standing up a little. I am not too concerned about this though as it is not really what the exercise is about and so I wasn’t really concentrating on that side of the drawing too much. In terms of light and darks I think I have done a good job. Each part of the subject looks three dimensional where it should and conveys light and dark in the correct places. The cast shadows are realistic and you can see that the light is coming from above and slightly from the left. You can also see the reflected light from the stack of chips onto the right hand side of the right hand die, which was where it was most apparent. It does have a slightly graphic feel but I think that was to be expected and I quite like that style.
Speed, Harold (1913) – The Practice and Science of Drawing, Dover publications inc.
After reading the brief for this exercise I concluded that I was to demonstrate an understanding, awareness and ability to observe light, darks and the mid tones in between. It was for this reason therefore that simplicity in terms of composition and objects used are required in order to help highlight this. With that in mind I found two random, pale objects – being a candle and a flower pot – and set them simply on a table using a studio daylight lamp to light the subject quite dramatically from the top left. In the previous exercise I had already done something very similar, a number of the objects I drew were pale and quite simply shaped and so I felt I had already done enough experimentation to jump straight into the piece. In hindsight I should have done a couple of preliminary drawings in my sketchbook even if only very quick simple sketches. Although the drawing looks nice I have made a few errors in terms of shape, this is especially noticeable on a couple of horizontal curves on the pot and possibly the right hand side of the pot too. In future I shall make an effort where necessary to do a few sketches before I begin, if only just to warm up and get my eye in. This exercise though was about observing tone and in this this sense I feel I have been successful, I have tried to not only observe the darks and lights but to study them trying to find the origin of both which can be seen in the diagram above.
Using a viewfinder and some willow charcoal I started with a very basic outline drawing just to separate the negative space from subject using the borders of the support and then started laying in the darkest areas (leaving the lightest areas) using the side of the stick and then trying to blend away uneven pigment using my finger. As I blended the charcoal it lightened up quite significantly and I lost a lot of the darkness, so I reapplied some more charcoal in an attempt to darken everything back down again, whilst this was an improvement it still wasn’t going as dark as I would have liked it, in order to show a full range of values. This is possibly down to the paper I was using, it is a mixed media paper with a medium tooth and whilst it does mentioned being suitable for charcoal/pastel I wonder perhaps if a dedicated pastel paper may have worked better and I will definitely try this the next time I use willow charcoal. For this reason I switched to compressed charcoal which is darker in nature and this seemed to work much better for me. I continued layering in the darkest areas and blending them out towards the lightest parts and then reapplying charcoal to the darkest areas until satisfied. There are of course areas that need not be blended and I used an eraser to remove pigment creating bold highlights and applied thicker layers of charcoal for the shadows. I like the look of this drawing it has some atmosphere to it, I think this is partly due to the dark background but also there is quite a high contrast between the darkest dark’s and the lightest lights due to the strength and proximity of the lamp. Whilst drawing this piece I tried not to see the objects as they are – being a candle and a flower pot – but rather as blocks of tone. I think I was successful in this and in fact I didn’t realise the cast shadow from the candle onto the flower was just that until around halfway through the picture when I stepped back to assess what I had done up until that point. This drawing looks three dimensional and has form, this is certainly achieved through the use of tone as I have drawn this piece almost exclusively in this way. I haven’t been hugely experimental throughout this exercise, choosing instead to entirely concentrate on the exercise at hand. If I were to do this again however, I may choose to be a little more experimental, though this probably would have occurred a little more naturally if I had done some preliminary sketches, mentioned earlier.
I wanted to begin by experimenting with yet more media whilst at the same time practice drawing my chosen items. I browsed over my increasing collection of mediums and chose a few being; charcoal, which I have used a number of times in the past alongside conte crayon, graphite stick and Pro Markers all of which I hadn’t really used before.
Without thinking much about which media to use for any particular object I was to draw, I picked up my conte crayon and started with a tea canister and a couple of tea bags. I found the conte quite tough to use, it is harder and “scratchier” than similar mediums i.e. charcoal, chalk pastel etc. and is also difficult to erase/remove the pigment once it has been laid down, however it has an expressive feel to it and because of the difficulty in erasing, you need to loosen up and not worry too much about so called errors or mistakes and I enjoyed using this looseness, using broad strokes to create form.
The picture itself I’m reasonably happy with; the proportions are pretty good and the perspective is roughly correct. I have also managed to portray textures, the canister being smooth and solid and the tea bags being much more fluid in form and slightly transparent. I learnt a very valuable and often cited phrase in art which is to draw what you see and not what you think you see. Initially, I started by drawing the lid of the canister in a much more square shape, as of course it is in reality, however when I truly looked at the object in front of me, I noticed that in fact from the position I sat in, the lid appeared more triangular and so I had to go back, trying to amend it.
I used a 6B graphite stick to draw a bag of sugar and a teaspoon. Graphite stick had a very soft, smooth feel to it, I was able to lay down tone very quickly and it was reasonably easy to control. It was difficult to get any fine detail using the graphite stick as the edges wore quite quickly but this would be easily remedied by using pencil.
I struggled a little to differentiate between the label and the main body of the bag though I think I managed to show it in the end. I also had difficulty in making the text on the packet to move along the contours of the folds. On the positive side the folds look realistic, I used a putty eraser to create highlights at the peak of the fold and darker tones in the crevices. The sugar bag has weight and you can see where the sugar lays at he bottom of the bag. I have shown where the sugar inside the bag finishes by using a crease directly above it. The spoon, although the shape is slightly off at the rounded end I feel has been rendered quite well, it clearly has a metallic look – which I attribute too the smooth highly contrasted shading – and you can feel the depth at the concave end and the thinness in the handle.
I used charcoal to draw the cup. I really like charcoal as a medium, I find it extremely versatile; either laying it down to use broad strokes of tone or on its edge for line work. It also comes in a variety of forms; willow, compressed, pencil, tinted etc. It is also inexpensive and widely available.
I’m happy with the drawing of the cup. I started by sketching a rough outline, then I laid tone the main tone – mid tones first and then adding shadows and highlights – before finally using some hatching marks, following contours to create shape and form. I feel this drawing is in proportion and the perspective is good it has a nice sketchiness to it.
I used the Pro Makers to draw the tea pot and milk jug. I found the markers a fun medium to use though you need to work quickly and must plan ahead a little as mistakes are not easily rectified. I started with creating an outline in pencil to make sure proportions were correct. Once satisfied I laid down a mid tone and then working quickly, before the ink dried, I added layers to create darker areas and a blender to lighten others, I went over the darkest areas with another marker, darker in tone, before going back over the whole area with the lighter marker to blend the 2 colours together where necessary. I found that the more irregular shapes i.e. the handle, lid and spout more successful. I think this is because the irregularity creates a higher contrast between darks and lights to which this graphic style of medium lends itself quite well. I did have a problem with bleeding.. My sketchbook of course is not designed for markers and so whilst it’s ok for a little bleed whilst in the planning stages, a bleed proof paper would need to be used for any finished pieces.
I wanted to experiment with different compositions. I knew I was going to use the kitchen worktop to place my items on. The worktop is shiny and reflective and the kitchen tiles are rough, a contrast in textures which I thought would work well together. I started by putting all the items on the worktop, sat on the floor looking up and used my viewfinder to determine the outer boundaries before drawing a very quick sketch in my sketchbook. I liked the sense of grandeur created from this viewpoint, the subject towering over you, I felt this quite appropriate for the status with which the cup of tea has in Britain. In my second composition, I thought more carefully about the placement of the items and arranged them in such a way to lead the eye into the middle of the drawing, using the spoon on the left and the teabags on the right, I have also used the spouts of both the teapot and milk jug on the diagonals to the top right and top left of the drawing respectively. I have placed the cup, being the receptacle for all the other items, in the centre of the drawing, making it the main focus, which I feel to be appropriate. I like this composition, you can see it has been carefully thought out, it does however show more background which could not be cropped further without losing some of the items. For the third idea, I used a portrait format in an attempt to experiment with a slightly more “unnatural” composition. I placed the objects from tallest to shortest and sketched using my viewfinder again. I find the result is a little more chaotic, which in certain situations might work a little better. I do like the effect of the viewpoint (from above), it leaves little background which again may sometimes work well but in this instance I wanted to show the background as it lends well to the subject and as mentioned before, has contrasting textures, appropriate for this exercise. After some thought, I decided to use the second composition which was the best thought out but to try and add some interest I would draw from a slightly lower viewpoint to give some grandiose to the drawing which I felt was a strength of the first composition.
I was tempted to use charcoal for this exercise but I only had white paper (in A2) available and so in order to make the drawing a little more interested I decided to take a bit more of a risk and use conte crayon as it comes in different colours. I picked a colour that looked like raw umber and started roughly drawing the boundary lines. After I had a reasonably good framework to work with I started moving from left to right taking one object at a time. I lay down the mid tones to begin with before establishing lights and darks building up tone in layers and blending in certain areas before adding detail. I tried to stay loose and move quickly, I think for the most part I think I was successful though there were a few places where I may have got caught up a little and ended up overworking it, for example, the handle on the cup and the lid on the tea canister. Once I had finished drawing the objects, I drew the background, starting with the tiles – again working from left to right – and finally the worktop.
I am really happy with the way this drawing turned out, it is the first drawing on this scale that I have done for a long while. I would tend to use A3 to draw on and so was a little apprehensive to begin with when instructed to use a larger size however I think it would have actually been more difficult with a smaller support, fitting it all on the page would be fiddly. As previously mentioned I feel that I have overworked a couple of areas (being the cup handle and lid of the tea canister) and this was because I struggled with the perspective on these areas and found it extremely difficult to leave it when it didn’t look right to me. I feel I have captured the textures well, you can clearly see the differences in form i.e. which are more solid and which are more fluid in shape. You can tell if an object is hard, smooth, rough shiny etc. And also which materials the objects are made from i.e. metal, wood, tile etc. I think I have also captured the light successfully which is extremely important, it gives form to, not only each object separately, but to the drawing as a whole, the shadow cast and the light reflected from one object to another brings the items together, giving them their place in space and giving the drawing depth. There are a couple of places where there wasn’t enough tonal difference between the object and the background and this is most noticeable on the lid of the tea pot and also the shadow of the spout of the tea pot on the milk jug. In both instances they are a little similar in tone to that of the tile behind. I particularly like the way I have composed this drawing. I like the viewpoint, slightly below, giving that sense of importance to the subject and also the way the eye is continually led back to the centre to the cup the receiver of all the other items. I decided that rather than including the whole background, filling up the paper, I would leave some of the paper showing at the top and bottom. I think this works well, it once again draws the eye back in to the middle but also stops the background from becoming overwhelming and detracting from the main focus.