Project 2 Research Point: Odilon Redon and the atmospheric potential of tone

Important note: This blog post forms the reflective part of this research task. It accompanies research and notes on contemporary works recorded manually in a paper learning-log. Due to copyright law this log will not be posted on line. It will, however, be made available in electronic form to tutors for the purposes of assessment. 

Odilon Redon (1840-1916) was a French symbolist painter whose use of tone is particularly strong in his early (pre 1890) charcoal works. Redon’s ‘noirs‘ are a collection of visionary works in various shades of black. Maslen and Southern (2014) suggest that when a drawing is made, not only must the material nature of any objects be depicted but that the energy of the absorbed or reflected light that makes those objects visible must also be depicted. This is achieved by differing tonal values within the drawing of those objects. If this same principle is applied to the negative space around objects then in my mind the artist is creating ‘atmosphere’. Areas of white and pale tones can be perceived as having lots of energy whereas areas of dark, draw you in creating negative connotations, sucking the energy from you! Godfrey (1990) discusses black in drawing as ‘the colour of death, extinction, […..] and the void’. He suggests that by use of tone, negative spaces and the shapes within them ‘become charged: we are forced to stand back inadvertently.’ This I think is a wonderful description of the power of drawing to have an ‘atmosphere’.

In the case of Redon, his charcoal drawings certainly have an atmosphere associated with them but it is a dark, oppressive atmosphere. In his ‘Two Trees‘ the dark tones lead you along a path into the murk beyond. The inky black charcoal of ‘Christ‘ and ‘Spirit Forest‘ draws you in closer with the highly contrasted facial images moving out towards you in a ghostly fashion sending shivers down your spine. His hallucinogenic spider images ‘Crying Spider‘ and ‘Smiling Spider‘ have less of an atmospheric quality to the negative space of the drawings but it is the use of deep black tones for the spiders contrasted with the lighter background tones makes them quite sinister. It is this tonal contrast that makes ‘Eye Balloon‘ so powerful too, not allowing the viewer’s eye to drift away from the massive eyeball floating up into the sky. Even in Redon’s later colour paintings tone is very important at creating an atmosphere, usually as a result of contrasting objects in full light against a dark background as is the case in ‘Coquille‘.

Until completing this bit of research Redon and his work was unknown to me. I have found many of his images, especially the early charcoals to be fascinating in a slightly grotesque way. They are very powerful drawings indeed.

Godfrey, T. (1990). Drawing today. Phaidon Press Ltd: Oxford

Maslen, N. and Southern, J. (2014). Drawing projects: an exploration of the language of drawing. Black Dog Publishing: London

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Project 2 Research Point: Odilon Redon and the atmospheric potential of tone

Project 2 Exercise 4 Shadows and Reflected Light

Aim of Exercise

To draw two objects with reflective surfaces showing shadows and reflected light.

The Process

I chose to draw a stainless steel coffee pot and a stainless steel teapot placed in natural light from a window. Although the window was south facing, it was an overcast and rainy day resulting in a diffuse light that remained at a similar low intensity throughout the exercise. I drew with charcoal on A2 lightweight cartridge paper, starting with marking down some important lines to define the pots. I put in the deep cast shadows with sweeps of charcoal on its side, including the areas of shadow on the coffee pot from the tea pot. I then delineated the areas of direct reflected light (the areas on which the light fell directly onto the stainless steel). I then lightly coloured in the mid tones around these areas. This then enabled me to pick out with a putty rubber the areas of reflected light that were then reflected in the opposite pot! I smudged the charcoal as i found this to be a good representation of the smoothness of the steel surfaces. Some adjustments to the coffee pot lid and the furthest edge of the cast shadow of the teapot were needed when I stepped back for a long view. The outline of the original marks can still be seen in my final image.

Tea or Coffee?
Tea or Coffee?

Reflections

I am really rather pleased with the outcome of this exercise! Not only have I managed a fairly accurate likeness to my tea and coffee pots (all those curves!) but I feel that the reflections and shadows are believable and suggest in both cases that the pots are made out of a shiny metal. Smudging the charcoal to give a smooth finish helps with this.

Tea of Coffee? Detail
Tea of Coffee? Detail

I particularly like the way that the two pots are reflected in each other, albeit in a distorted fashion due to the roundness of both pots. Some things didn’t work out so well, the side of the spout of the teapot appears a bit flat as if the spout was formed from angles in the metal ,when in reality the sides are rounded.

Tea or Coffee? Detail
Tea or Coffee? Detail

In addition, the angle of the top of the teapot handle is not quite acute enough. This doesn’t detract from the final image however, and I love the way the handle is reflected in the body of the teapot both in shadow and bright reflected light.

The cast shadows were interesting. It may have been the diffuse light but the intensity of the cast shadows varied a lot throughout the composition – more than I was originally expecting.

Tea of Coffee? Detail
Tea of Coffee? Detail

This is best seen in the cast shadow of the tea pot which had very dark areas under the teapot and towards the furthest edge, but the shadow cast by the teapot handle literally petered out as suggested in my image.

On reflection (no pun intended!) choosing two objects with different surfaces may have provided more contrast (such as the example of a stainless steel pot and a ceramic bowl given in the narrative for the exercise). I did experiment with various objects (ceramic cups and bowls) before starting this exercise but thought that the intensity of the light was too low to make interesting reflections on the less shiney surfaces that all my ceramic bits and pieces seem to have. Thus I chose two stainless steel objects which I felt presented a more interesting challenge for the task in hand.

What I learnt

1. This exercise required really carefully observation of tones to get a realistic impressions of reflections.

2. The curves and angles of the reflections needed to be quite accurate to give an impression of roundness of these objects

3. Working in natural light was more successful that on previous occasions, probably due to the lack of really bright sunlight.

Project 2 Exercise 4 Shadows and Reflected Light

Project 2 Exercise 3: Creating Shadow using lines and marks

Aim of Exercise

1. Practice using cross-hatching and stippling to create tonal sketches of a simple object in four different drawing media 2. Complete a quick, loose line drawing of a group of objects using cross-hatching of stippling to create tonal shadows

The Process

For the first part of this exercise I chose to draw in a B pencil (top left), a blue felt-tipped pen (top right), a ball point pen (bottom left) and a medium-tone charcoal pencil (bottom right). My simple object was an apple and from my experiences of working in natural light for the last exercise I tried to set up a direct light source this time. However I managed to break the lamp in the process of setting it up so had to resort to natural light from a window after all!

Cross-hatching 1
Cross-hatching 1

It wasn’t long into this exercise that I realised that an apple is not that simple when it comes to tonal values! Again the natural light made the mid-values quite difficult to see. The different drawing implements made a big difference to the outcome. I found the felt-tipped pen a bit cumbersome and unforgiving for this task. I had to produce different spaced lines as varying pressure made no difference to the tone of the marks. The other three implements allowed a varying degree of pressure changes to manipulate tone.

As I was doing this exercise I remembered that I had once been told that a plain white box was a good way of working on tonal values, so I repeated the exercise using just that.

Cross-hatching 2
Cross-hatching 2

This time I tried to incorporate some of the tone of the background as well, rather unsuccessfully I fear.

For my third exercise I chose a different object, this time a plain bar of soap. I also changed the position of the soap so that 2 of the three visible surfaces appeared in deeper shadow.

Stipple marks
Stipple marks

My tonal marks here were made with spot type marks. I started using a small stipple type action, a process I found tedious and boring! In building up the darker tones of the pencil image I became more impatient and found my marks deviating away from stippling and becoming quick squiggles and swirls. The felt-tip was the most successful in using plain dots. The charcoal pencil allowed bigger circular marks. For the ball point pen, again I resorted to squiggle marks to build up the tone. In all cases however I lost the sense of a mid-dark on the left-hand side of the box.

I chose as my group of objects some more fruit to join my lone apple from the first part of this exercise. As the brief suggests a loose, quick drawing that was not bogged down in detail and accuracy I chose to draw in ball point pen. It is unforgiving: once a line is down that is it, but I do know that I would be tempted to reach for a rubber if I worked in pencil or charcoal.

Fruit
Fruit

  I quickly established some important outlines and then started blocking in the shadows without outlines. I am quite pleased with the result despite the pineapple being hopelessly inaccurate. My mistakes are rather glaring: the main body of the pineapple is not the right shape for instance. You can see how I had to change it on the far left as the marks just above the apple should not be there (in the lightest area!).

Reflections

I have rarely drawn in anything other than pastel and charcoal and have, out of habit, really only used smudging and different pressure marks to create tonal values. This exercise therefore took me right out of my comfort zone. I have often looked at other people’s use of cross-hatching and thought how effective it was. However when I have tried it on the odd occasion in the past I have always been rather disappointed and thought my attempts not very successful! This was reinforced rather by my initial attempts at cross-hatching and stippling on simple objects at the start of this exercise. I was thus quite surprised and very pleased that my final fruit arrangement actually turned out ok. The cross-hatching worked and gave the shapes form.

I was surprised at how different the different drawing items would feel during this process. in particular I quite liked cross-hatching with the ball-point pen. It was quite a fine pen and flowed over the page smoothly allowing quick movements. The other mediums I found to be rather clumsy (even the pencil for some reason).

Stippling I decided is probably something that I would not choose to do. I found the process very tedious and had to really force myself to carry on with the task and the results were far from satisfactory! I think the quicker process of cross-hatching suits my disposition better!

Pen, whether it is felt-tipped or ball-point is unforgiving to draw in. Once a line is made you can not alter it. It was for this reason that I chose to do my composition sketch in ball-point pen. It did prevent me worrying about accuracy and detail. I also wanted to capture some of the success that I felt working with the pen in the initial exercises. This was a quick sketch taking no more that approximately 5 minutes. I found the mid tones the most difficult in all the exercises, not helped by the fact that I had to use natural light for this task and that was variable depending on cloud cover. I think that I do struggle to distinguish between primary light courses and reflective light when working in medium other than charcoal. With charcoal I have the habit of leaving white paper blank for primary light and lifting off charcoal with a putty eraser for reflected light. This gives the reflected light a softer, more diffuse quality. I haven’t been able to do this in this exercise and my fruit picture doesn’t really distinguish between the two. I think my depiction of form in the last 2 exercises has not been too bad, in particular with my mushroom drawing. However from doing this tonal exercise, I have started to look more closely at gradations of the mid tones. I am appreciating that it is the subtle gradations of these mid-tones that add real substance to form. I have also become a little more confident in blocking in without outlines.

What I learnt

1. Cross-hatching can work although practice is needed using different materials to make it work 2. Stippling is not for me (but I get the context!) 3. Mid-tones are the hardest values to depict but very important when it comes to describing the three-dimensionality of an object, especially if that object is curved.

Project 2 Exercise 3: Creating Shadow using lines and marks

Project 2 Exercise 2 Observing shadow using blocks of tone

Aim of the Exercise

To draw two pale simple-shaped objects using tone to depict three-dimensionality

The Process

I chose to draw a pair of mushrooms: pale, simple, rather pleasing shapes. It was a very sunny (albeit cold) day so I decided to draw outside using the natural light which produced some very strong cast shadows. I quickly blocked in the cast shadows before the sun moved around too much. The light areas next to the cast shadows were very easy to spot as it was so bright, however the curve of the mushrooms meant that the light areas were not defined by a neat line! I found the mid tones quite difficult, especially as by the time I got to them, clouds were drifting in and there would be periods when the tones blended into one. However I persevered and as the sun came out I was able to block in the dark mid tones. The light mid tones were the greatest challenge as it was hard at times to distinguish a true light tones against the pale pinky white flesh of the mushrooms. That presumably was one of the points of the exercise. As I was drawing outside the backdrop to my set up was rather boring vegetation. The whole area was quite dark so I decided to  make it a plain backdrop rather than any detail. I am not sure I got the overall shape right, but it does give a lovely contrast to the highlights on the top surfaces of the mushrooms.

Mushrooms

I chose to draw with charcoal on an A2 sheet of lightweight cartridge paper. It had enough tooth to grip the charcoal rather well and was far nicer to draw on than the sugar paper from my last project. I particularly like the way the charcoal used on its side added a realistic texture to the mushrooms.

Reflections

I enjoyed this exercise: the idea of producing a large drawing of the humble mushroom appealed to me very much. I have been practising proportions in my sketchbook and found that it wasn’t as difficult to get a realistic image as it has been in the previous exercises. I definitely feel that I am getting ‘my eye’ in again after not drawing for a while. Evaluating the tones in shifting sunshine was a challenge, especially the mid tones. They kept shifting as the light changed. The underside of the mushroom on the right was a challenge as it had very pale areas that were in definite shadow. I like the simple composition and feel that the mushrooms have both three-dimensional form and texture. However I may not have got the relative positions of the two quite right. There was no cast shadow from the mushroom on the left on the visible surface of the one on the right. However the direction of the light depicted in the drawing (from very high up on the left) suggests that there should have been. Either my relative positioning is out a bit and the mushroom on the right should have been a little further forward than my drawing suggests or this has arisen due to the light changing.

What I Learnt

Drawing in natural light presents its own sets of problems Mid tones can be hard to distinguish especially in variable light conditions

Project 2 Exercise 2 Observing shadow using blocks of tone

Project 2 Exercise 1: Groups of objects

Aim of Exercise

To produce a natural composition describing a group of at least 6 objects of differing sizes

The Process

I decided to have my objects spilling out of a cloth bag as if in the middle of unpacking the shopping. Visualising the objects in space including the hidden tins was not too difficult but translating that onto paper was quite a different matter. I chose to work in charcoal on grey sugar paper. I ended up concentrating on getting the relationships to work on paper and found that I wasn’t really using expressive marks, at least not consciously!

Putting away the shopping

The resulting image certainly depicts the shopping and I hope that the relationship of the objects to one anther comes across. I like the composition: there is some tension between the hard lines of the box of bran flakes and the soft folds the the cloth bag. There is a sense of items ‘tumbling’ out onto the table. I didn’t really manage to convey transparency and shine. The soft packet at the back next to the bran flakes was in fact a transparent bag of sugar. This was very hard to depict as this view also hid the writing on the package. I hope that by creating softer vertical lines that the roundness of the packet edges comes across. My choice of paper was may be not the best. It was an old piece I had hanging around but its quite rough and scratchy even for charcol. This made depicting softness quite difficult. I will think more purposefully about my materials next time! I am particularly pleased with the hidden tin inside the bag on the right of the picture. I am not sure that it anchors itself to the table too well, but I like the way the cloth bag drapes around its form.

Reflections

Translating groups of images onto paper is hard. I have not done much in the way of still life drawing so this was quite a challenge for me. I realise that I have to put more effort into understanding the proportion of objects too. In my picture the bran flakes box is not quite the right height or depth. As a result of this I spent some time drawing a stack of boxes in my sketch book, trying to understand all the hidden edges relate to one another.

Stacking boxes

I succeeded I think in making the forms relate to one another but wasn’t brilliant at accurately representing proportions.

Can of Chickpeas

Ceramic bowl

I also tried sketching some ovals: a tin and a bowl. I find oval shapes very hard to do naturally. Again, I need to work on my proportions! My bowl was way out but I couldn’t tell until I actually photographed the it and compared the images next to each other!

What I learnt

  1. Composition matters as does choice of  materials to draw with and on
  2. Visualising the hidden edges of objects helps place them correctly against other objects – allows them to ‘jostle for space’
  3. Practice practice practice
Project 2 Exercise 1: Groups of objects

Project 1 Research Point

Important note: This blog post forms the reflective part of this research task. It accompanies research and notes on contemporary works recorded manually in a paper learning-log. Due to copyright law this log will not be posted on line. It will, however, be made available in electronic form to tutors for the purposes of assessment. 

Is art really capable of expressing emotions?

Expressionism as an art movement arose in the early part of the 20th Century and in its broadest sense is described as an art form that puts subjective feelings above objective observations (Beckett, 1994). Under this definition, an Expressionistic image has the aim of reflecting the artist’s state of mind during the act of creation rather than the reality of the image itself. Over a century later the idea that a drawing or painting can convey some sense of the artist’s feeling continues. However in asking the question if art is really capable of expressing emotions we need to consider whether the viewer experiences the same emotion as the one intended by the artist during the creative process. This is may be less easy to understand.

It is hard to imagine that an artist or a viewer feels no emotion at all during either the process of creating a work of art or viewing a work of art (after all even a simple like or dislike response to the process is an emotional response). Gombrich (2006) describes art as being ‘expressive’ simply when the artist is able to make choices. If we consider a very simple drawing, that of a line, a contemporary artist has many choices to make to achieve this mark: what material to draw with and what to draw on; how much weight to give the line; how quickly to complete the stroke; and should the line be straight or curved, or in fact exist at all! Most works of art consist of more that just a single line, and with each additional mark the opportunity for varying the expression of that mark and conveying feelings through its relationship to other marks increases. The emotional space occupied by the artist at the moment of creation can effect these choices both consciously and subconsciously. Thus the idea of art expressing emotions is both complex and very individual. A quick look through some OCA Drawing 1 blog posts for Project 1 Exercise 1 Expressive lines and Marks reveals how differently perscribed emotions, such as joy, calm and anger are perceived by different individuals. Certainly one may be able to draw some general conclusions. Anger, for instance, is more likely to be represented by thick, heavy jagged lines than calm, however these kinds of marks are not and should not be prescriptive of this emotion.

As well as such expressive mark-making and choice of materials, the actual subject matter chosen by the artist can convey emotion, as can the place and time at which the art is intended to be viewed. Through all of these choices, an artist can certainly hope to convey a certain set of emotions or feelings. However, it must be remembered that humans are emotional beings whose responses to visual stimuli (and indeed aural and olfactory stimuli) are affected by their past experiences. Hence interpretation of an emotion response is hugely personal and highly subjective: what is one person’s joy may be another person’s sadness. The artist most likely has no control of the emotional background and experiences of the viewer and so can not entirely predict the effect an image will have on an audience. In essence, by the expressive choices made by the artist an image can certainly act as an emotional conduit between that artist and a viewer but perhaps the artist can not be too prescriptive as to which emotions are consequently experienced!

The question is raised as to whether it is the image, the medium or the act of creation of an image that makes a work ‘expressive’? From the points I make above I would argue that all three are necessary along with a fourth criterion that I loosely describe as the viewer’s emotional experience. My thoughts echo those of Marr (2013) who states that “without the viewer’s ability to re-imagine the drawn lines, to take them in and possess them, and feed on them [………..] drawing would be meaningless”. Marr’s words may have been referring to the portrayal of a  tree by Monet in 1862 but I believe the same to be true for the conveyance of emotion. Without the emotional background for a viewer to draw upon, an expressive drawing may be dismissed as meaningless regardless of the artist’s intent.

Beckett, W. (1994) Story of Painting. Dorling Kindersley Ltd: London

Gombrich, E. H. (2006) The Story of Art  (16th Edition). Phaidon Press Ltd: London

Marr, A. (2013) A short book about drawing. Quadrille Publishing Ltd: London

Project 1 Research Point

Project 1 Exercise 1: Expressive lines and marks

Aim of Exercise

To inhabit an emotional space and create non-objective images using four different materials.

The Process

materials
My materials

The materials I used for this exercise were charcoal, oil pastel, 7B pencil and ink and a feather. In all four drawings the order I used these materials are as follows: charcoal (top left), oil pastel (top right), 7B pencil (bottom left) and ink and a feather (bottom right) .

I chose to depict CALM first as I thought it would be the easiest state of mind to get into. However I discovered that I had a sever attack of the butterflies whilst setting up my paper and materials so I am not sure I achieved it at the beginning. I did however relax into the exercise, the act of making calm lines had a calming effect on me! My calm marks were lots of smooth curves with no angles or points. the lines were very free-flowing and rounded. Some tailed off into space in a serene way. Repeating patterns were calming in their familiarity.

Calm marks
Calm marks

Making calm marks were definitely easier with charcoal, oil pastel and pencil. In these cases the materials glided smoothly over the paper. The feather however dragged over the surface, catching the paper (which was quite smooth). This scratchiness went against the feeling of calm. The feather quill however was particularly good at tailing off a line into nothing – as it ran out of ink. With hindsight I should have turned the feather around and use the vane end for mark making.

To get myself into a joyful space I sang the coral movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony to myself! This is a loud, uplifting piece of music that radiates out happiness and JOY and always makes me smile. My marks reflected this upward feeling, with lots of peaks heading upwards and firework type explosions. I tried to convey the sense of an upwelling of joy that you can get inside of you until you feel as if you will burst!

Joy
Joyful marks

I particularly liked the ink and feather quill for this (bottom right). The marks shooting upwards with various splatters created by ‘conducting’ with the feather quill, looking like firework sparks. It reminded me of rockets going off. Although I was singing in my head my pencil marks (bottom left) started to look like a mouth with an equaliser line and musical notes emanating from it.

Anger
Angry marks

I left a little while before attempting the third emotion, ANGER. I tackled the positive motions first as I felt it was easier to follow them with the negative emotions than vice versa. In inhabiting an angry space my marks became wild, uncontrollable, jagged, heavy-handed and raw. I found it to be quite a multi-faceted emotion however in the sense that it could be random, harsh and dangerous as depicted by the charcoal marks (top left, during the making of which the charcoal disintegrated) but also the feeling could be channelled into some direction and order such as with the oil pastel (top right). Anger can also run its course and ‘burn out’ such as with the pencil marks (bottom left) in which the marks were made rapidly, randomly and heavy handedly until the pencil tip wore down and no more marks could be made with the graphite. For the final quadrant I poured some ink onto the paper (bottom right) then dragged the feather quill back and forth through it quickly to convey the sense of  an explosion of anger.

Altered anger in ink
Altered anger in ink

Anger can also make you act in haste – I moved the picture before the ink had dried and it ran, altering the final image (although unchanging the expression I think)

The fourth emotion that I chose was DEPRESSION having unfortunately experienced bouts of this during my life. I felt that I needed a second negative emotion to balance the two positive ones.

Depression marks
Depressive marks

My charcoal drawing depicts the blackness, the never-ending hopelessness depression brings on. The oil pastel (top right) encompasses the loneliness and feeling of isolation depression can bring, removing you from normal interaction with the world by placing you behind a seemingly impenetrable glass wall.

For my ink and feather picture (bottom right), I started making the same marks as I did for joy (fireworks) and then splashed big droplets of ink from the bottle over the whole image. I used the vane end of the feather to smear the ink around, representing the dark cloud that descends in depression smothering any feeling of joy. The pencil drawing represents the turmoil and hollowness that you can feel during depression – the gaping mouth of a scream with no sound coming out and the vortex that sucks you down, down taking you off the edge of the paper into the abyss!

Reflections

Oddly (and possibly worryingly) depression was the most exhilarating of the four feelings for me to draw with! I think this is because I was remembering what it felt like to be clinically depressed but wasn’t actually experiencing it at this time. This act of remembering whilst drawing opened up something inside me and lots of emotions came out: fear, sadness, loneliness, morbidity, darkness and anxiety. i suspect this is the basis for much art therapy. Whilst the other emotions could be broken down into further descriptors of feeling, for instance calm could also encompass emotions such as sereneness, clear mindedness, well-being and clarity, the depressive emotions are possible more complex in their nature. I certainly felt that this allowed for more varied expression that the other emotions. Certain materials were better at the task for certain emotions that others. I think this is to do with how your hand / arm is moving over the surface. Using the quill end of a feather dipped in ink is hard to control if you are making angry hurried, rash marks, however charcoal will move over paper very easily in these circumstances. To immerse myself fully in this exercise I really did have to inhabit the appropriate emotional space.

What I learnt

1. I find negative emotions easier to engage with that positive ones!

2. To evoke a sense of mood in a drawing, it is possible that you have to experience (or inhabit the emotional space) of that emotion. This idea is similar to smiling when talking on the telephone, your voice sounds more positive and uplifting.

3. Different materials convey some emotions better than others. I suspect the material chosen on which to do a drawing will also affect this.

Project 1 Exercise 1: Expressive lines and marks

Warm up – temporary drawings

Aims of The Exercise

1. To create some unusual, temporary drawings using different media.

2. To reflect on the process

The Process

It was great fun wandering around looking for ways of creating temporary drawings. I found a layer of dust that had accumulated on a pile of old frames waiting to be given another life. A problem immediately presented itself: what to draw??

Smiley face in dust
Smiley face in dust

I ended up  drawing a simple smiley face – the kind you might draw on a dirty car!!

Screaming face in dust
Screaming face in dust

As an image it was rather unsatisfactory, too much of a caricature so I altered it to a screaming face by swirling away the dust in the eyes and mouth (Munch’s ” The Scream’ came to mind).

Sinister face in dust
Sinister face in dust

Swirling the dust was very satisfying and so I took it to the extreme and started swirling over the entire image, leaving a ghostly rather sinister face floating behind in the dust. I particularly liked the way that the disturbed dust clumped and forms part of the image. Next I headed to the bathroom taking some golden syrup with me. I drizzled the syrup from a spoon onto the white bottom of the bath. As syrup is quite viscous there was always an initial blob followed by a stream that got thinner as the syrup ran out.

Golden syrup in bath
Golden syrup in bath

It was quite hard to control but the patten produced varied with thickness of syrup stream and speed of my hand.  A thin stream (producing a fast flow rate) and slow hand speed resulted in a zig-zagging line, whereas a thicker stream (slower flow rate) and a fast hand movement produced a smooth line. The patterns produced were not stable, the syrup flowed sideways and the zig zag patterns became a series of small pools of syrup like beads on a string.   I tried the same idea with different colours of  shower gel and shampoo. These liquids were more ‘gel; like that the syrup and didn’t flow in the same way.

Shower gel in bath
Shower gel in bath

I ended up squeezing them out and moving the substances around with my fingers. The phone rang in the middle of this part of the exercise. I found it hard to get back into what I was doing after I had answered it. Randomly moving the gels around was not very satisfying, however after a while I created a sort of flower with some very pretty pastel shades. Unfortunately my photo was not in focus and the strong light was casting interesting shadows on the bath!

Next I headed outside and drew with my finger a rough outline of a plant in a pot on the patio. The paving slab was quite rough and I was surprised at how much water it took to create an image.

Water on paving slab 1
Water on paving slab 1
Water on paving slab 2
Water on paving slab 2

Even though the weather was not warm, the sun was shining brightly and there was quite a breeze resulting in the image fading and within 10  just shows a ghost of the original image was visible.         Heading back inside I shook some flour onto a baking tray and drew a geometric pattern of circles.

Circle in flour
Circle in flour

I loved the way the flour heaped up at the edge of my fingers creating a 3-D image.

Spiral in flour
Spiral in flour

When I had photographed the image I shook the flour around the tray to create another ‘canvas’. This time I created a spiral pattern.

p10908981.jpg
Negative spiral in flour

When I have finished with this I shook the flour again and noticed that where the flour had stuck to the (presumably slightly greasy tray) a negative of the spiral had been created which was very pleasing!   This reminded me of a child’s ‘etch-a-sketch’ which works of the similar principle of shaking away a drawn image of iron filings and was moved to dig out my kid’s ‘megasketch’. This creates images in a similar way to an ‘etch-a-sketch’ but instead of shaking the image away, you wipe it away with a mechanical handle. This has the advantage of being able to  move the handle down only part way, retaining the drawing below it. I created the following sequence in this way, by partially wiping away the doodles (simple cross-hatching patterns) to build up a bigger picture. In the final photo, some memory of the original cross-hatching can be seen (albeit faintly in the photograph).

Megasketch 1
Megasketch 1
Megasketch 2
Megasketch 2
Megasketch 3
Megasketch 3
Megasketch 4
Megasketch 4

Reflections

I really enjoyed this whole exercise, it gave me a feeling of freedom, permission to let myself go. I had to stop myself continuing for hours . It was also nice to make a mess! I was reminded of finger painting with my children. I didn’t’ mind that my drawings were temporary. I actually got a bizarre satisfaction from watching the shower gel wash down the plug afterwards. I also loved the idea that ‘ghosts’ or ‘negatives’ of images stayed around longer. I did find it hard to choose what to draw. I feel that I was not very good at opening myself up to ideas and when I did, they were fairly basic: a smiley face or simple doodle patterns. However I think that once these simple images were formed I found ways of adjusting and altering them (either physically myself or allowing natural processes to affect the images) which gave these temporary drawings an organic feel.

What I learnt

1. I should try new approaches and to use different mediums and materials

2. Emotion matters

3. I am more at home drawing geometic patterns than random ‘scribbles’

4. Don’t answer the phone mid-project – it ruins the concentration and the ‘mood’

5. Photographing your artwork is harder than you think.

6. Writing a blog takes a long time and I don’t know how to embed images very effectively!

Warm up – temporary drawings

Making a Start!

Having wanted to do a formal art course for several years I have finally taken the plunge and enrolled on Drawing 1. I am excited but apprehensive, the usual questions of an unconfident mind jumping to my attention: ‘have I got what it takes?’; ‘will I have the resolve to see it to the end?’; ‘am I able to improve?’ and ‘am I good enough?’ are just a few!! However without actually committing to this journey (and it really is a journey for me) I will never know the answer to these questions…. and so I find myself here, enrolled and writing a blog! If the answer to any of those questions turns out to be ‘no’ … well I will have at least experienced the open road.

Making a Start!