Assignment 4. Reflection on assessment criteria

1.Demonstration of technical and visual skill

I hope that I have displayed some technical skill in drawing these three pieces. On the whole I feel quite comfortable drawing the human form except for the face! During this part of the course I have become increasingly anxious about drawing portraits. I have had some success but mostly my inability to see a head and face as a connected whole to the body is evident (culminating in a headless body!) it was therefore with great trepidation that I attempted my final portrait. it is not perfect but it demonstrates an improvement in technique. Up until now I have only really drawn outlines of heads in media that can be rubbed out and re-worked – or left blank. Now I have been forced to add features in a coherent manner, something that I have struggled with, so to end up with a believable portrait that actually captures a likeness is quite a success. My final drawings perhaps don’t display a huge range of materials, charcoal, coloured charcoal and conte crayon, but my preliminary studies that led up to these three final pieces used a greater range of medium including wet media. Compositionally I have taken into consideration the viewpoint and the effect this has on the viewer, as well as considering the negative spaces in the drawing. These factors add atmosphere and narrative to the images. I hope that I have demonstrated different techniques, in particular the idea of drawing a line with an eraser. This type of line is quite different to that produced by the conte crayons in the portrait, In addition to different line, I have produced different tones. In the reclining pose tone has been very much added by smudging and layering the pigment on the paper. In the portrait, tonal values come from different colours of the conte crayons, and blocked in using line.

2. Quality of outcome

I have presented my work in what I hope is a coherent manner, however I am aware that I lack the seemingly required set of small thumbnail sketches outlining ideas and preliminary work. I understand the benefit of this approach and I was just starting to get the hang of this as a way of working in assignment 3, where the benefits paid off, but I have to say that it isn’t a particularly natural thought process for me. This is once again evident in this assignment and I fully expect to be criticised for it. My experimental approach for this part was to try different poses and different materials in a series of quick (and some not so quick) larger drawings. I often felt constrained with my work space (or rather lack of it), bad lighting and lack of access to a compliant model for hours at a time. This led to me working by doing lots of drawings in different media and in different styles, grabbing the opportunities when I could. Each study should be considered an exploration of the human form and my final pieces grew out of trying lots of things rather than detailed small sketches. I would argue that the process was the same as a series of small thumb-sketches even if the execution was different.

I was also constantly battling with time, not just to fit drawing in with general life (I certainly put the hours in) but the time I feel I wanted to spend on each exercise. I felt a constant nagging in the back of my mind to get a move on to the next set of exercises when I really wanted to stay on one set of drawings and keep on experimenting. If I hadn’t had deadlines to deal with I would still be on part 1! Not because I am slow, but because I haven’t mastered it yet!!

3. Demonstration of creativity

Much of the preliminary work was experimental, which I really enjoyed and became quite engrossed in. In my last assessment feedback it was suggested that I try drawing with a pen on a stick, or using my non dominant hand. I tried both of these several times throughout the whole unit. The results were quite liberating. With regards to my assessment pieces I feel that I have demonstrated creativity but placing an overlay of a severed neck onto my headless model. This has turned a quite boring pose into a statement piece. My portrait ended up being quite experimental, using line and colour to create tone – and in pinks too. I suspect that I could have used any colour series to the same effect, but it was liberating to draw in colours that I would not naturally warm to. I chose pink for two reasons, firstly because I had several tonal values to choose from and secondly I have never drawn with them before! The blue shades in my box have had many more outings!

4. Context reflection

I have tried to put my work into a context by referring to artists who have inspired me. I used my research file quite a lot to leaf through in between drawing time. I think this reflective time led me to come up with my line-tone cartesian space, thought the observation of different styles of drawing. I was they able to understand my own practice more thoroughly, leading me to try interesting ideas such as drawing with the putty rubber in the way Jenny Saville does for instance. I have spent a considerable time researching artists suggested in assignment 2, Marlene Dumas, Lucien Freud and Jenny Saville for instance. I found that the artists suggested were very much to my taste and relevant for how I see my artistic practice develop. I am not sure I have developed much more of an artistic voice, but I am becoming increasingly aware that it may be quite a dark side of my character. I am constantly drawn to the darker, more edgy and energetic type of drawings. The stand out drawings that I have discovered in this part have been no exceptions.

 

 

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Assignment 4. Reflection on assessment criteria

Assignment 4. Reflections on my drawings

The drawings

Reflections

Putting my final three images together allows me to see that there are variations in my approach of line and tone. I was worried that the seated pose would be too tonal to count as a line drawing but I was very much using the putty rubber to draw lines into the charcoal. These drawing of negative lines is clearly visible in all areas of the pose. In contrast the reclining figure has no obvious line markings, neither positive or negative. I did use a putty rubber but to remove large areas of tone, leaving little evidence behind. I wasn’t drawing with the eraser this time. It is amazing that the process of removing media off paper can be two totally different experiences (drawing or erasing) and yet the ultimate goal of removing that medium is in fact the same in both.The seated drawing is my favourite of the three. I actually like the fact that it is headless, and the superimposed marble neck adds a question mark to the work. at first glance you may not realise that you are looking at a severed neck, but when you do notice it superimposed it makes you stop and wonder what is going on here. It makes it a deliberate act (rather than a random act of an artist running out of paper).

Compositionally I am pleased with all three drawings but for different reasons. The seated pose is very central with only the barest suggestion of a room behind. Without the severed neck overlay this may be seen as quite a boring position, but with the addition of the overlay, the closeness of the pose to the view and the full frontal view create quite an impact. The body becomes a statue in that space. The reclining figure is placed fairly centrally on the page too, but the foreshortening of the pose add interest. I haven’t placed the figure in a room, I don’t think it needs to be. The drawing is a believable pose without a setting, the model is firmly lying on the floor (I am very drawn to this type of uncluttered pose). The position of the limbs is important in this image. The strong diagonal that the raised leg provides is mirrored by the raised arm and elbow, and then balanced by the laterally extended arm. There are several triangles to be found within the pose which allow your eye to remain within the frame. I was drawn to this pose because of the negative shapes provided by the limbs, but in fact the negative spaces are more strong in the two other drawings. In the seated pose the negative spaces within the confines of the chair are very strong as is that defined by the models left knee.

In the portrait it is the negative space behind the right ear and neck that is so important. Its dark tone balances out the dark tones of the eyes and the hair. The drawing is so much stronger for the pose to be positioned to the left of the paper than had it been central. This skewing of position allows the twist of the model’s head on his shoulders to be determined, which adds dynamism to the image. It also allows the quite hard stare to connect with the viewer. Whilst the model is clearly stationary in this pose, the space to the right of the head allows the view to perceive that the model could move into it should he want to. Looking at the portrait again whilst I am typing this, I think that I should have more shading on the models t-shirt, especially on the right side.

Overall I am pleased with these. I think they are compositionally strong, each for different reasons, show development of technical skill and expansion of drawing practice. I will reflect on these specifically in the next post as I reflect on the assessment criteria.

Assignment 4. Reflections on my drawings

Assignment 4 Part 3 A portrait or self-portrait combining line and tone

A portrait combining line and tone

The first thing that I did for this part of the assessment, before I did any preliminary sketches or studies, was to draw a head to go with my headless model from the previous exercise. I concentrated on getting this head the right size to match the existing drawing with some notion that I could perhaps join the too together! However I was more careful to get the features in the right position (i am becoming a little unsettled by doing portraits and I find myself getting a little anxious doing them now which tends to tighten my style up). This has led to a more tonal, less dynamic study, one in which I didn’t use the putty-rubber to draw with, rather just to erase with, so the two drawings don’t match in style Any here it is to try to aswage my guilt of not drawing a head before!

Portrait of Owen. Charcoal. A1
Portrait of Owen. Charcoal. A1

I have managed to capture a likeness although i have managed to make him look younger than he is now. This could have been him 20 years ago. The lighting was quite interesting to draw as it was an overhead light coming not quite from directly above. It became very important to put in some subtle tones around the edge of the face to make the form recede down away from the visage. I framed the whole image to give it some structure, but purposefully left the large areas of blank paper around the portrait. I think that it turns the pose into quite a reflective one. One where you may wonder what it is that the model is pondering with his eyes closed but raised up to the skies.

Having done this portrait I turned to the assessment task proper. I wasn’t really sure how I wanted to proceed with this part so I did some quick studies using different media and different methods. I was keen to do something a bit different for the previous studies. First I tried a quick portrait of my eldest son using an ink wash with conte crayon lines added to darken areas and delineate some features.

Portrait. Ink wash
Portrait. Ink wash and conte crayon

Whilst this was a very quick study it wasn’t overly successful. It hasn’t captured the likeness of my son (or rather I see my much younger son in it!). I am aware that my portraits are all from front on views at greater or lesser angles to the paper. This is mostly due to lighting and space constraints when I am working. I have managed to set this up so I had a light coming in from the side, rather than the ubiquitous overhead light. However I am going to have to be a little more inventive to find more interesting poses.

I still don’t feel I am managing to get facial features down on the paper with any accuracy or with any particular reference to the true age of the model. feeling a need to rectify this, I tried to position my husbands features down on paper with a drawing pen whilst he was reading a newspaper (ie still and not looking at me) and block some tones in with hatching and also graphite and water.

Portrait study drawing pen and ink
Portrait study drawing pen and graphite and water.

Apart from messing up the tones with the graphite and water thus making him look like a panda I am more confident that his features are in the right place here and I have managed to portray him in an appropriate age group! Seeing the results of this 5 minute study reminded me of a Marlene Dumas portrait that I had come across during a research exercise ‘Supermodel’ http://www.moma.org/collection/works/101748?locale=en. I thought it would be interesting to see if  could make a similar image of my husbands face. The Dumas image is quite stylised as it has little in the way of the skull beyond the area of the visage. My husband has a very interesting shape to this facial plane so I though it would make an interesting study in the style of Dumas. I drew the features in place with pencil first, then used a mop brush to apply an ink wash (indigo) to the whole area. I then used a damp tissue to remove areas of the ink. I then dropped in indian ink to make the dark areas, again lifting them out to reduce tones where necessary. I went in a bit too dark in the eyebrow region, but got better at it as I worked down the face. Finally I added the neck with one sweep of a broader mop brush.

Portrait in the style of Dumas
Portrait in the style of Dumas

I got Owen to look at me for this exercise but he was at a slight angle hence the asymmetrical jaw line. This asymmetry isn’t really reflected in his eyes or mouth (but is to a degree in the nostrils) giving the head a distorted look. Dumas’ marks are much more fluid than mine. In addition she has put the head at a jaunty angle compared to the neck which adds a certain tension to the image. A straight head and neck is boring in comparison!

In this whole part of the course I haven’t paid much attention to colours, having concentrated mainly on monochrome studies. Working from a photograph of my eldest son I decided to dig out some old oil sticks and try drawing with these on canvas. These are quite chunky sticks and fine marks are not possible, however you can draw with them in a similar way to soft or oil pastels. The only problem being that they don’t dry very quickly!

This study took about 40 mins and was made by just layering and re-layering to adjust colour and form. As the paint got thicker, the surface retained the mark of the stroke. I have tried to use this to describe form, drawing with the oil paint.

Portrait in Oil Sticks
Portrait in Oil Sticks

This is a better likeness than the quick ink wash above. I am pleased how the lines of the paint add to the form of the cheeks in particular. I haven’t quite got all my shading right, the left side of the face is a little too bright I think, making the dark hair seem very flat. I quite like the cropped view this drawing has. Does this count as a drawing or a painting? I am back to that old question again of where is the line drawn between the two (or painted). I used paint (suggesting a painting) but I held the paint in a stick/crayon form and drew lines (suggesting a drawing) onto a canvas (again suggesting painting). I have used colour for tonal variations and you can see the lines of the paint that help produce form, but I am not sure that this counts as combining line and tone in the sense of a drawing. I am coming down of the side that this is a painting after all. One thing that did come out of doing this was that I realised that I needed to sort out a palette if I was going to use colour. I changed my colour scheme at least twice in this portrait, firstly from more blue greens to adding some yellow and purple tonal areas and then some more red tones. The result is quite a busy mess of colour although I have tried to put all the colours in across the drawing/painting to try to tie it together. Not having used colour in a while this was quite an important lesson.

I feel that I have got very bogged down with this assessment and have lost sight of what it is I am actually supposed to be doing. With a deadline looming in just 3 days time, I took my ideas gained from the quick studies above and tried to formulate some kind of a plan. I decided that I wanted to try to use line to produce tone, but to include some colour. I started to think about the ways in which line can be used to create the tone. As I was doing this I was thinking the self-portrait by Mikhail Vrubel who has created a wonderfully dynamic image using different tones of lines to combine tone with line and pictured on my line-tone continuum.

Self portrait by Mikhail Vrubel 1885
Self portrait by Mikhail Vrubel 1885

I decided to try to find a palette of conte crayons that would allow me to use lines of similar thicknesses to create different tonal areas. I chose a series of pinks to work with.

Studies for portrait combining line and tone
Studies for portrait combining line and tone

I am very aware that I needed to find an interesting angle for my portrait. Having got my by now long-suffering husband to again agree, we had the problem of lighting and space to work in. I decided that the best was to do this was to use the bright light coming in from the outside to light up the side of his face. If I could get low enough I could draw a slightly imposing view of him looking down. I couldn’t get low enough and still use an easel so I ended up taking some photographs and used those to produce my drawing.

Portraite. Conte crayon
Portrait. Conte crayon

I have tried to match the lines to the form of the face and use the darker tones for darker areas. I haven’t totally avoided sweeping, curly lines, but I have tried to stick to straight lines throughout. Compositionally I am pleased with the drawing. I have managed to get a view that is quite imposing. By positioning the face to the left and leaving the space to the right there is a sense of the model looking down at the viewer with a slight air of superiority. There is an intimacy about the drawing, the viewer and the model definitely know each other. This is heightened by the fact that I have, as an afterthought, let the model’s hair, which was originally cropped by the framing, extend out over the frame bring the whole body forward into a different plane. I like this effect. As I was quite low down when I took the photograph for this image, the lines of the walls and ceilings are at interesting angles. I have preserved this and have depicted each wall and the ceiling in lines that run in different directions. I hope this has the effect of making the image quite dynamic. Your eyes are caught by the deep black eyes of the model, following he ceiling lines down to the right, pick up the wall lines down to the left then follow the highlights along he side of the face back up to the eyes again.

Assignment 4 Part 3 A portrait or self-portrait combining line and tone

Assignment 4 Part 2. Figure study using tone (A1)

reclining Model

Revision of tones

This assignment required work that would be situated at the very top of my tone axis in my line-tone cartesian space.

My drawing line - tone continuum
My drawing line – tone continuum

Unfortunately the timing of this assignment was such that I did not have access to a model clothed or otherwise, so I had to rely on photographs for this work. I chose a set of poses out of Cody, J. (2002). Atlas of Foreshortening: Human figure in deep perspective. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. New York. This book has various photographs from different angles of the same pose so I was able to explore different viewpoints.

Having chosen my reclining pose I did a quick conte crayon sketch in my sketchbook, using the broadside of the crayon to make quick sweeping marks. This really was to get my eye into the pose. The problem with using these reference photos is that the models are not in any setting. For me this isn’t a problem as I happen to like drawings of figures with no particular background. As long as you can ‘ground’ the figure, I don’t see this as an issue.

Reclining figure study. Conte crayon
Reclining figure study. Conte crayon

The problem with this study though is that I haven;t managed to do this. The top half of the model appears on a slightly different plane to the bottom half. This high view-point makes the pose quite impersonal too. Not my favourite!

Having got a feeling of the space occupied by the model on paper I looked at how pastels (or charcoal) could be used to create tones. For this I chose a side view of the pose and after some preliminary thoughts and sketches in my sketchbook made a quick study using 3 pastels on sandpaper. I chose a highlight, mid-tone and dark-tone colour (the sand paper in my view wasn’t dark enough to use as a mid tone).

I decided that with pastels of different colours, you can either chose to block the tones in with each pastel or you can blend the tones. The study below was blocked in. It gives a more stylistic look to the drawing, blending the pastels so that you have quarter-tones (and more) would provide a more realistic style of drawing.

 

Exploring tones with pastel
Exploring tones with pastel

Again I wasn’t too enamoured with this viewpoint, too horizontal. Some foreshortening as in the first view would be good, but from lower down to make the pose more intimate.

I next explored the idea of using ink for tones. To create tones with ink you need to apply different dilutions of ink washes in layers. My initial sketches were not too bad.

Exploring tones with ink
Exploring tones with ink

My first ink sketch was of just the models legs and doesn’t really fit into a tone only theme. i took a white oil pastel and drew on white paper (so not quite blind, but hard to see what you are doing). I then covered the area with an indigo wash to reveal the drawing the second attempt was a applying layers of Bistre Ink to create different tones. It proved quite hard, however, to create dark areas with this naturally made ink.

I liked the pose much more. It is from a much lower viewpoint, so there is massive foreshortening of the legs. This provided quite a challenge (especially the model’s right leg which has quite a lot of mass associated with it)! There was also a lovely negative space above the raised leg and the raised elbow that I hoped would be inspiring to draw.

Some Longer Studies

Enthused by this pose, I continued with a few larger ink studies, drawing with a mop brush dipped in ink directly onto A2 heavyweight cartridge paper.

As you can see my initial attempts were not that successful. It was hard to map out the areas without some guiding lines. However, I do think study 2 is starting to show some weight through the pose. I have managed in both cases to preserve the white of the paper for some of the highlights too. I noticed that when I tried to manipulate ink with a wet brush it tended to lift the ink out which gave me the idea for the next study. Here I have washed a layer of ink over the paper, then used a wet mop brush to remove various areas.

Reclining model. Ink wash lifted out with water
Reclining Ink Study 3. Ink wash lifted out with water

This drawing is not automatically recognisable but once you know you are looking at a reclining person, you can see the form. I quite like the abstractness of it. The highlights were a lot lighter but as the paper dried ink seeped back in along the wettest areas and the highlights became a little lost again. An interesting exercise never the less.

I decided to switch to A1 paper but before doing a longer study, I did another white oil pastel drawing with indigo wash over it. I enjoy doing these types of drawings. To say you are drawing totally blind would be wrong, you can see the oil pastel against the paper, but only just. Your eyes never get an overview of where you have been so it is still a bit of a surprise when you brush the ink over to reveal the ‘hidden’ drawing.

Reclining. Ink Study 4
Reclining Ink Study 4. Oil pastel and indigo ink wash

I am quite pleased with the result, it is recognisable and has a certain amount of weight to the pose. The foreshortening of the legs comes across. The problem was the size. My oil pastel was just too small to cover the large areas effectively as you can’t really see how well you are covering an area. I tried to create a mid tone by spacing my marks with the oil pastel out which has worked in some areas, but not in others. For instance, I think the mass of the visible thigh comes across well, but the lower leg is less believable. I also haven’t got the angle of the torso quite right.

This drawing technically isn’t of the right category for this section as it isn’t a tonal drawing rather a line drawing. I started to play around with the effects of ink when dropped into water. i chose a completely different pose for the next study in order to try to simplify some of the shapes. I chose a reclining back view.

This was rather an experiment. Again using A1 cartridge paper I covered it with water then dropped a dark acrylic ink onto it and let it run. I then tried to manipulate the ink with a brush, in an attempt to lift our selected highlights. the result was a bit of a mess and what ended up was the ink being too dark in several places. I should have stopped at this point as at least the pose was recognisable, but I didn’t. I decided to add highlights back in by dropping on white acrylic ink on top! This was fine until i needed to manipulate the areas again, when the inevitable happened and the inks mixed to a murky tan colour. Here is the resulting image. It is vaguely recognisable!!

Reclining Ink study 3
Reclining Ink study 3

The image is useful to consider two points. Firstly, what is the definition of a line?. i was definitely drawing lines with my brush here, albeit thick ones. I was trying to get the edges to remain diffuse so the effect was tonal (with varying success)  but I was making sweeping movements with my arm in the same what I would if I was drawing a line on a large piece of paper with charcoal for instance. Secondly, I felt that I was venturing in to the realms of painting with this drawing, the only reference to ‘traditional’ drawing really was the use of paper. I suspect every drawing student needs to consider the problem of when drawing becomes painting. Is it defined by the medium you are using, the mark you are making, the medium you are ‘drawing’ on or the fact that you can have part of that medium showing through? You could argue any of those factors in favour of either drawing or painting! To me however, this drawing ‘felt’ like painting! As such I decided to end my studies of ink and return to a more structured drawing using coloured charcoal.

I also returned to my original chosen pose. Using pigmented charcoal on A1 cartridge paper I produced the following tonal drawing.

Reclining figure. Coloured charcoal
Reclining figure. Coloured charcoal

On the screen this looks like it is done in normal charcoal, it isn’t. I have used pigmented charcoal (a reddish colour has been added that hasn’t reproduced very well). This means that the charcoal has much more staining power compared to normal willow, making erasing highlights more difficult. Overall I am quite pleased. The body is grounded and there is distinctive foreshortening of the legs. The models left arm doesn’t quite sit on the ground as it should and the position of the right knee is making the right leg sit at an odd angle (along with the lower part of the same leg not quite having enough mass to it, and not having quite the right light along the line of the tibia). It was a hard pose to draw and I spent a long time getting that right leg to the state that it is in now. it is frustrating not to have got it right but the paper was so stained in the end it that redrawing again was counter productive. I know I would have been more successful if I had used willow charcoal and that I would have been able to produce more tones, but that does tend to be my default material so it is good to have deviated away from it (although not by much I know!!) As ever if I had more time I would do it all again. Perhaps when I get to the end of the course I should just start at the beginning again.

Assignment 4 Part 2. Figure study using tone (A1)

Assignment 4 Part 1.Figure study using line (A1)

Seated model in an upright chair

Revision into line mark-making

I started with a review of various line mark-making from images that I have collected in my research file. To me it appears that line drawings fall somewhere on a spectrum of methods ranging from one end of pure form lines, to pure tonal lines at the other, with a myriad of styles in-between. At the former end of the spectrum line(s) describe the form being drawn in the way of a contour line. That line may be continuous or consist of many lines, but each is concerned with the form of the object. Tonal areas are produced by the lines going over one another in some manner, either closer together or just greater in density. This adds to the sense of form. These drawings are very gestural in nature. An example of a pure continuous line drawing is ‘Cowboy’ by Christopher Mudgett. Here there is no tonal value provided by the line itself. To create tonal regions, the lines can be placed over one another creating areas of darker tones that add to the sense of form, for instance ‘Jake’ by Frank Auerbach. At the other end of the ‘line spectrum are drawings where lines have been used to describe shadow areas or large tonal contrasts, and it is the building up of these areas that create form. For instance, hatching can be used to depict tonal variation and form that is distinct from lines creating the form outlines. An extreme example of this is by Mikhail Vrubel below.

Self portrait by Mikhail Vrubel 1885
Self portrait by Mikhail Vrubel 1885

Here the artist has used lines to create a large tonal ranges in a self-portrait. Those lines are not really describing the form itself, the tonal value is. In this drawing there is very little ‘pure’ form line. The effect is a stunning tonal drawing but it is made up of line mark making.

Of course many drawings fall somewhere between these two extremes and have of both styles in them, for instance form lines with hatching to produce shading.

I ended up making a continuum of ‘pure line’ to ‘line as tone’ and placing a few selected drawings onto it. As I was doing this I realised of course that you can add a tonal axis to the idea, from using line as tone through to using pure tone in drawing. I will consider tonal variation more in the next post but below is a photo of my resulting cartesian line – tone system!

My drawing line - tone continuum
My drawing line – tone continuum

Drawings are not confined to the linear space these continuums provide, they can be placed anywhere in the 2D cartesian space created by the two axis. I have stuck to monochrome examples as the use of colour adds another continuum the use of colour for line and the use of colour for tone. This would have to be positioned in another dimension and my sketchbook was not really set up for 3D work! It would be an interesting project, but possibly a little off track of this assignment.

Preliminary studies

I am quite drawn to drawings of seated figures by Jenny Saville. For instance her Reproduction Drawing III (After the Leonardo Cartoon), 2009-2010 depicts layers of charcoal drawings on top of one another, leaving impressions of other poses. The effect is quite dynamic. I also like the view of many of her images – at a level to the eye of the model as if you were sitting in the same room as them. Saville mixes form lines with tonal values, through which she often rubs out and reapplies her marks. The effect is to add atmosphere and movement into her work. In the above drawing you get a real sense of the young child jiggling and moving around on the models knee. Her view point also engages you as a viewer. It is straight on with the viewer at the same height as the model. In the context of this drawing it feels as if you are in the same room also sitting down possibly having a conversation with the subjects.

I recreated a similar view point for my preliminary sketches – I was positioned at a similar height to that of the model sitting on a chair and asked the model to sit in a variety of ways whilst I did a short series of preliminary studies in pastel pencil (we also swapped the chair for a stool so the model didn’t slump so much!!!)

Preliminary drawings of poses in pastel pencil
Preliminary drawings of poses in pastel pencil

My initial idea was to have the model seated at a height similar to that of the viewer as if in conversation however initially I was drawn to the middle pose in which the model was staring pensively into the distance. I was quite taken with the negative spaces that this pose afforded too so I decided to work with that pose for some quick drawings. I was doing this quite late at night so the model was lit by overhead lights only

Firstly I did a warm up study using my lovely Rudstone on A2 cartridge paper. This rudstone doesn’t erase so it is good for quick loose work.

Seated model in Rudstone
Seated model in Rudstone

Here you can see clearly that I haven’t got the weight of the pose at all, the models right leg is too high in relation to the left. The angle of the stool is also not quite right. I think this was mainly due to me kneeling at a very low easel and my drawing plane not being parallel to that of the model. Being so low down in a confined space I could not move back a lot to take the long view, and I know this has caused me problems before. I readjusted this as best as I could for the next drawing. This drawing was on cartridge paper (A1) using a lump of graphite. This is quite heavy to hold which encourages you to be quick and also as you are not working with a fine point, prevents you from worrying too much about detail.

Seated model drawn with a graphite lump. A1.
Seated model drawn with a graphite lump. A1.

The plain of my easel was definitely better for this pose. I think that the weight through the seat is believable. The model however stopped looking pensively into the distance, closed his eyes and started to sink into his hand. The overall effect is different to that which I had envisaged but still works I think. I know longer (as a viewer that is) what to know what it is that the model can see in the distance, rather what is it that is making him a bit grumpy! The model is however far to far over to the left. I think losing the hand is ok in some circumstances, but not here. Too much unbalanced space on the right. I hadn’t intended to do this and should have started further over to allow for it.

Next I tried an ink and a bamboo drawing reed. Again this is on A1 cartridge paper.

Seated model with ink and bamboo reed. A1
Seated model with ink and bamboo reed. A1

Here I have simplified the stool a lot. It was quite a complicated structure to draw and for quick studies (even at this size) it was a bit fiddly. I quite like the impression that is left. I tried to centre the model better on the page but still failed to capture the whole of the right hand. I have noticed that I tend to draw bigger and bigger as I go along and find it hard to bring size back down again. I will have to work on that! I am pleased with how the weight of the pose passes believably through the stool. I am not sure that it shows in the photograph but I used the negative spaces under the right arm and between the two legs as reference points and found that very helpful.

In order to explore the negative spaces more my next drawing was using oil pastel, which I am not naturally drawn too. They do however make a bold mark and are hard to erase. In order to try to bring my scale back down again I drew this time on A2 cartridge paper.

Seated model in oil pastel and soft pastel. A2
Seated model in oil pastel and soft pastel. A2

This didn’t work quite as I had hoped (although it was the models favourite drawing in the end!). What I should have done was to block in the 7 areas of negative space first and then built my drawing up around it. What I in-fact did was start with the oil pastel, block in the shapes with soft pastel and then re-work with the oil pastel. Even though I placed the model in a better way on the paper I still have lost that hand – a combination of drawing too big and also messing up the model’s right shoulder so that it is not sitting in the correct plane for the pose. As the model was now very nearly asleep I called it a day after having taken a couple of reference photographs. If time permits I would like to revisit this drawing and try to rectify the shoulder. I am aware that I still have to do a more finished piece so will leave it for now.

As I was packing up I got to thinking what it means to draw in just line. It is fairly obvious in my link drawing or my rudstone drawing that we are dealing with a discernible ‘this’ mark. However when you use more diffuse mediums such as pastel or charcoal that line can become diffuse very easily just through smudging. Also how thick does a line have to be before it becomes a filled in area: does something that is 6 inches wide, such as would be produced by a wallpaper brush dipped in ink, count as a line if it is made in one stroke? This brought my thoughts back to my drawing continuum and where some of my drawings would fit on that continuum. The ink, rudstone and graphite drawings above are no doubt line drawings as lines is all you can see, however my preliminary sketches in pastel pencils and my oil-pastel/soft pastel drawing have areas that are tonal. How far can you get from a  pure-line drawing before it becomes a line and tone drawing.

In response to these thought  and using the reference photo that I took of the pose, I did one final pure-line drawing of the model’s head in my sketchbook with a permanent marker pen. I aimed for one continuous line to position it on the far left extreme of my pure-line – line as tone spectrum. It took less that 30 seconds to do.

5-lines in marker pen. Pure line.
5-lines in marker pen. Pure line.

I am very pleased with the outcome. I didn’t quite manage one continuous line, I ended up using 5 lines, but the hand and the skull and face are all one continuous line. I then added the hairline, the eye and the two shoulders. Line drawings don’t come much simpler than this style, however I don’t think I could have achieved this without having gone through the process of all the quick drawings that preceded it, even if I was using a photo for reference.

A Longer Drawing

Still aware that I hadn’t done a more considered piece for this part of the assignment I revisited this whole exercise the next day. Looking at my preliminary sketches again I was struck by how much I liked the light falling on the legs of the model in the first pose (with the model gazing up at the ceiling). The foreshortening of the knees is also quite interesting. I only had a limited time with the model, so we recreated the pose and I mapped out the basic shapes using a chunky charcoal stick (1.5cm diameter) on A1 cartridge paper. I then took a reference photo to finish off the drawing when the model had to go.  I worked up the following image making marks with the charcoal and also with a putty rubber, drawing back into areas that have become tonal, in a way that Saville does (my original inspiration) .

Yes my drawing is headless and no, for once I didn’t run off the paper! I drew this without the head although I am not entirely sure why, it was a visceral response. I looked up from my work at some point and discovered I hadn’t included it. If you look closely at the ghost images you will see that I have had to alter the position of the torso and the limbs, but that there was never a head! I can’t say I have been enjoying the portrait part of this course and it is entirely possible that this was a subconscious avoidance of drawing the head.

Seated model in charcoal. A1
Seated model in charcoal. A1

Failure to draw your models head may be seen as unsuccessful but there are several parts of this drawing that I think are quite successful and do show development in my drawing practice. I like the loose format of the image, with the ghost marks still visible. Although this is a static pose, that looseness and the smudge marks add a certain vitality to the drawing. I certainly wouldn’t have been so free with my marks at the start of the course. I really enjoyed drawing with the putty rubber too, carving out form with directional strokes. The sense of foreshortened knees comes across too and I am pleased with the way I have managed to get the light to fall on the thighs. So apart from the missing head I am pleased with this attempt. I hope that I haven’t used too much tone and removed it from the category of a line drawing. I definitely kept the smudging to a minimum and tried to use directional strokes of the charcoal and the putty rubber to suggest form.

I did think that I could make a statement out of the headless thing, and change the neck to be a flat cut off in the way that you sometimes see with classical marble torso statues such as this one.

torsoI was too scared to alter the actual drawing to do this, however I did trace the neck outline on tracing paper and make a definite ‘sever’ point (sorry that is not supposed to be gruesome, I am imaging white marble here). I then overlaid the tracing paper to create a collage. I now have a rather interesting juxtaposition of ideas: a Classical Greek God marble statue clothed in 21st Century clothes. I hope this redeems my efforts somewhat.

The headless model. Collage
The headless model. Collage

Assignment 4 Part 1.Figure study using line (A1)

Project 6 Exercise 3 Portrait from memory or the imagination

The Aim

Draw someone you have seen momentarily or not at all. This exercise should prompt the question ‘What is a portrait?’

The exercise

I chose to draw with graphite putty because you can not get bogged down in detail using it. I wasn’t really sure who I was going to draw as I set up my paper on the easel. I definitely didn’t have a particular person in my mind. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be drawing male or female, I just started drawing. This is the result!

Who is this person? Graphite putty and water
Who is this person? Graphite putty and water

David Bowie was playing on the radio when I started and whilst I didn’t set out to draw him (and this certainly isn’t a portrait of him) I do feel the music playing provided some influences (the prominent cheek bones for instance). The spiked hair was probably influenced by the Zak Smith self-portrait in the course handbook. I started with the nose and the left eye (the person’s left) and worked outwards. I wet the paper in areas that I wanted a darker tone. I made a bit of a mess of the right eye and inadvertently got some water in the area. The problem with graphite putty is that it is hard to rub out once it is wet- it does erase to a certain extent but you are left with a stain. I have corrected the position of the eye but you can still see the original position. It is also still a little too high. I was hoping to be able to rub out an area for the left ear too, creating an impression, but this didn’t work!  I have also gone it too dark under the neck making the face float out in front a bit, but the shadow on the left of the face does serve to anchor it back!

So not an overly finished piece however it was interesting to think about what it was that made a portrait as I have clear done so with no great intention in mind when I set out. I showed the drawing to my husband and asked him who he thought it was and without hesitation said a ‘rock-star’. Perhaps he too was seeing the Bowie influence. Whilst traditionally a portrait is an image or likeness of a person’s face and shoulders, surely what needs to be conveyed is not just a series of anatomical parts arranged in a pleasing manner but something of the vitality of that person. I was reminded of the very first exercises on this course, those on drawing emotions. To work, perhaps a portrait must convey a sense of emotional state of the model – or indeed carry the emotional state of the artist. Given this is a portrait of no-one in particular but was created under the emotional influence of music the latter could be the more important of the two. However if this was to be a true likeness of someone, the essence of that person needs to shine through too- their spirit if you like or a psychological aspect. This serves to add a narrative to the portrait. Even if you don’t know the person the viewer should come away with a feeling of knowing something about that person other than what they look like. Looks are, after all ,only skin deep – except for eyes of course which allow us beneath the skin of a person. I obviously struggle with eyes. Perhaps this is why.

I think my drawing shows an energetic, happy, fairly carefree young person who quite possibly would be an interesting person to talk to. This narrative may be enhanced by including surroundings in a portrait but I don’t think this is alway necessary.

I think that I would have found drawing a really person from memory far more difficult. If I had more time I would repeat this exercise 10 times to see if I had could manage to draw 10 different people – or would they all end up looking the same.

Project 6 Exercise 3 Portrait from memory or the imagination

Project 6 Exercise 2 Your Own Face

The Aim

Create two interesting images of your own face. Don’t worry about producing an attractive or accurate likeness, the aim is to create a believable face with features in more or less the right place! Try to create several small studies before embarking on full self-portraits.

The Exercise

In this exercise I became aware very quickly how I usually draw from life. I like to look at the subject and the paper simultaneously. This isn’t possible for self-portraits and more use of visual memory is required. I found it incredibly difficult to hold a pose that was interesting and mostly I found myself reverting to the frown of concentration and the disconcerting stare (or glare)!! However here are my results.

Quick studies

These were not necessary small (ranging from A3 to A2 in size but they were done quickly in the spirit of investigating positions of facial features and areas of deep shadows and bright highlights which are crucial for creating a 3-dimensional face. I have divided these into two groups as i was unable to continue with the exercise after a few quick studies at my first attempt. The second sitting was completed about a week after the first sitting.

1st Sitting

To loosen up I started with a quick study in black marker pen on a 12 inch stick. This was down with the drawing pad on the floor in front of a large mirror (i am kneeling). This meant that I managed to get a pose in which my head is slightly tilted forward which shortens the facial plane from brow to chin

Self portrait. Black marker pen on stick
Self portrait. Black marker pen on stick

The result is quite pleasing to me. Some of the main highlights have been preserved, although I have gone in too heavy with many of the lines around the mouth! I think that the proportions of the face are ok, given that it was a slightly foreshortened view, however, given this my skull line is probably a little small (although I do have a shorter forehead to hairline than average).

Next I tried a sideways pose in graphite. Here I am standing, holding the drawing pad in my left hand whilst drawing with my right.

Self-portrait. Graphite
Self-portrait. Graphite

I messed up my eyes here – the line isn’t quite right for the midline angle of the face, and I have made my left eye (left side) too big. I have also lost the highlights around the eyelids which are very important for believable eyes. The result is quite disconcerting!! I was concentrating hard (I couldn’t maintain a smile!!) but I don’t normally look quite this severe!

Next I wanted to try a different media – I do feel that graphite in my hands is quite ageing! So I chose to draw with a pigmented, water-soluble, sanguine graphite block from Art Graf. The idea behind this choice was to remove the temptations to add detail – it is very easy with a pointed drawing implement to get bogged down with the finer details. A block of pigment is not fine enough to allow this. I sprayed water onto areas of the paper and used the edge of the wet block to draw and spread the colour around.

Self-portrait. Watersoluble pigmented graphite block
Self-portrait. water-soluble pigmented graphite block

Using the same pose as the previous drawing I got the line of the eyes right this time but not the line of the nose!! This distorts the face a little. I liked the less fussy nature of the drawing, and have managed to use the white paper as the highlights. The hair looks flat so more tonal variation is needed here. The other issue I have with this is the outline of the cheek and jaw on the right. The block was too chunky to make a fine outline. On reflection i could have got around this by making the line of the face a found edge against a darker background.

I tried this exercise again, this time looking straight ahead. I used compressed charcoal to experiment adding a little line detail to the drawing.

Self Portrait: Pigmented graphite block, with compressed charcoal
Self Portrait: Pigmented graphite block, with compressed charcoal

This isn’t me at all, but as a random person it does work as a believable face but not without faults. The hairline is too low and the eyes aren’t quite level. What I think has confused me is that my face has been turned to look directly in the mirror but my shoulders are still at an angle. However I also don’t seem to have a right ear which suggests that I turned my head back a little at the point I re-found the line of the cheek. The result is a hybrid of a straight on look and a slight turning away look.

I am pleased with the highlights on my left cheek and forehead.  I tried to get some tonal value into the hair but have lost the really dark areas as a result. Perhaps I should have added more with the black charcoal as I have with the eyes, nose and mouth. The use of compressed charcoal has allowed more detail to be added (compare to the previous drawing) but it does cause some spontaneity to be lost.

At this point I was unable to continue with the next part of the exercise as planned.

2nd Sitting

At my second attempt to complete this exercise I reviewed all my drawings above before embarking on another couple of quick studies (to get me back into the swing so to speak). In order to loosen up I stuck my paper onto the mirror and drew my self in graphite using my left (non-dominant) hand.

Self-portrait. Graphite using non-dominant hand
Self-portrait. Graphite using non-dominant hand

This was an interesting experiment, not least because it was with my left hand, but also because I was drawing to the side of me (so I could see in the mirror by standing next to the paper). The result very much was that my whole face is skewed. If you look at the drawing from the side it is in fact a better representation of a person (even if it doesn’t look much like me!) – a sort of Holbein skull effect in his ‘The Ambassadors’ painting.

Self-portrait. Graphite with non-dominant hand viewed from side
Self-portrait. Graphite with non-dominant hand viewed from side

I repeated this exercise of sticking the paper actually on the mirror but this time drawing with my right, dominant hand and moving back in front of the paper for each mark. This meant I was very much having to remember the image I was trying to copy. I couldn’t look from one to the other as you can in the object is behind your paper is some fashion. The result was very different and once again, it isn’t a portrait of me!! I have a believable person, although those eyes are still wrong (too close together I think) but it’s not a good likeness. I quite like the tension I have created in the neck with the twist of the head, but the fine line of the jaw above the neck on the right side has been lost, resulting in a thicker but flatter area of the drawing.

Self-portrait. Graphite
Self-portrait. Graphite
Self-portrait Graphite
Self-portrait Graphite

Longer Studies

I needed to move on from the quick drawings and do my two longer poses. All my quick drawings had been done in front of a large mirror on our landing. it has the advantage of being large so poses aren’t a problem but it is very near the top of the stairs so moving back isn’t really possible, also the landing is quite dark with an overhead bulb. This means the lighting isn’t brilliant and tonal variation can be hard to see. In order to get some greater contrasts for the longer poses I took an oval dressing-table mirror down onto the kitchen table next to the back door on a very sunny day. With some careful positioning of my easel I was able to capture some poses with greater definition of tonal areas. The downside was that the mirror was quite small.

Self-portrait 1.

I decided to include some of my body in this drawing, to try to put a narrative to my drawing. I am very aware that my quick studies above really ignored the room that I was standing in. I decided to draw the whole mirror image although simplifying the background (the kitchen door). I didn’t want to confuse the background behind the mirror itself so blacked the surroundings in.

Self-portrait. Charcoal
Self-portrait. Charcoal

I am pleased with the outcome of this drawing in the sense that it has narrative and possibly humour. I found that having my body in the image gave me a reference point to return to as I peeked out from behind the easel to look in the mirror so it was easier to map out the drawing and return to the correct pose. However it isn’t a great likeness. I still haven’t got my eyes right! The line is very slightly off and the right eye marginally too  small and too close to the left. it is definitely harder to move on from drawing individual body parts to the face as a whole. All the features need to be drawn from exactly the same viewpoint. Tiny variations in alignment really stand out and distort the face.

I am pleased with the tonal variations in my hair by I haven’t observed the line of the light correctly – as such I have the illusion of waves but the direction of the hair comes out wrong making the back of my head look a little too big. I find that whist drawing individual hairs is not recommended, unruly hair such as mine requires a certain amount of direction drawn into it for it to look realistic. With charcoal it is easier to draw the hair in then remove streaks to get the highlights in.

Self-Portrait 2.

For my second pose I chose to do a more traditional head and shoulder pose, but with me leaning back against the door frame looking down. I chose to draw in pen and ink, but at the last-minute panicked that there is no way I could do that and maintain the pose so changed my mind to a light sketch outline in graphite, with blocking in tonal areas with an ink  was afterwards. I had come across work by Mark Horst in the research exercise leading up to this set of exercises and liked the way he uses ink for tonal variations with a little line added to ground the portrait.

Self-portrait. Graphite and ink
Self-portrait. Graphite and ink

Of all the self-portraits I have done,  this is the one that my family says has the best likeness to me. My children have all mentioned over the last week or so of doing these that I don’t look nearly as old or as scary as some of my images portray! I still haven’t got my eyes right in this drawing, but the actual proportions of my features are better in this attempt. I have lost some of the highlights on my eyelids here (I did try to take some of the ink out of the left eyelid to improve this, with some success). I also failed to get highlights on my hair (let down for this exercise) in a convincing manner. I am pleased with my found edge for the left side of my neck by adding a very light wash to the background. I concentrated so hard on my face that I neglected my clothing and the result is a bit of a mess, especially on the right hand side. here my shoulder line has got a little muddled as sometimes I stood back whist still had my arm outstretched. The lines that you can see are actually the line of my clothing but it comes across as my shoulder twisted forward. There was more of a shadow on the door post, created by my head. That has got a bit lost with my hair.

Overall self-portraits are a hard thing to do. Not only do you have to find ways to deal with not being able to see yourself and the paper at the same time (or at least not in the same relationship as you do with something such as a still life) but you also have to deal with the fact that your images may be very unattractive! For me I definitely found that my drawings in graphite were very harsh and unforgiving – I was told I don’t look that severe and cross by some very good judges – my family! I enjoy working with the more fluid mediums such as pigment and water, or ink,  but they are harder to control – rubbing out is not an option. The highlights on a portrait are so important to give the 3-dimensionality of a face you really do need to map these out carefully so not to destroy them. Taking it slow and planning/marking out however can work against you in that it can remove the spontaneous energy of a drawing.

Project 6 Exercise 2 Your Own Face

Project 5 Exercise 2 Groups of Figures

The Aim.

Draw groups of figures, trying to capture the interactions, movement and atmosphere of the situation.

The Exercise

At a school rounders tournament. Sketchbook with drawing pen

At home I worked up the children standing in line waiting their turn to bat using a photograph and the study above as reference material. I used soft pastel and tried to capture the colour and the interactions between the players (aged 7 – 8 yrs old). I put in the drawing the three children on the left of  the image above, plus two others that I captured in the photograph.

Waiting thier turn. Soft Pastel on tinted paper A3
Waiting their turn. Soft Pastel on tinted paper A3

What I have tried to portray here is the idea of small children all dressed in rather oversized generic school team colours. These children were 7 and 8 yr olds and in most cases their stick-like limbs protruded out from very baggy school issue shirts and shorts/skirts . I also have tried to capture the atmosphere of the line of children. They were all very enthusiastic at actually playing and waited in quite an ordered line, but within that order there was a certain amount of personal distraction: lots of fidgeting, twirling of bats, and chatter. What was most apparent was that they were more interested in interacting with each other than watching how their team mates ahead of them were performing. In fact the boy on the far left of the drawing is in fact the next into bat, but you wouldn’t know it as he was watching the two girls in the middle very intently and actually missed his cue to go up and bat. Whilst this is not such a competent pastel drawing (it was too fiddly and I couldn’t manipulate the pastel with any accuracy) I do think I have captured some of this intense interaction with each other.

Project 5 Exercise 2 Groups of Figures

Project 5 The Moving Figure Exercise 1 Single moving figure

The Aim

Keep drawing moving figures in your sketchbooks. How well have you managed to create a sense of a moving figure rather than a static pose?

The Exercise

This was very hard!.

First attempt:

These figures were all drawn at the British Museum as they were crossing the great court to leave the building. No one was in a hurry, they are best described as milling around or ambling slowly.

Second attempt

Runners in road race. Here the movement was too fast for me to do anything other than stick type sketches. I think these look like figures dancing rather than running.

Third Attempt

A netball match. Netball is not such a fast game that you don’t have some seconds to look at the action – especially when the player is holding the ball as they are not allowed to move their feet. This is much more conducive to drawing the players!

Netball players. Drawing pen
Netball players. Drawing pen

Fourth Attempt

At a shopping centre, with a combination of people moving fast and slowly.

Reflection

This was a hard exercise. There is some sense of movement in some of the sketches, but mostly they are unclear and remain static! Clearly practice makes for improvement but I do feel that I would need to do nothing else for a year for my sketches to do any justice to these moving figures! I can’t say I enjoyed the experience of drawing people on location. I got lots of odd looks. No one actually came to look over my shoulder, which is just as well as I would have found that rather embarrassing given the quality of the outcome. One of the problems I have found with this course is that I feel pressured to move on by the very fact there is an ultimate deadline for completing the module (2 years). I will finish within this time, but ideally I should keep going with these practice sketches until they start to make sense. However there is no time to do this any more than I have. This feeling has been repeated with many of the exercises so far which leaves a slightly unsatisfactory note to the whole experience. However I am behind in my schedule as it is (and have been for every part so far) so I must move on!!

 

Project 5 The Moving Figure Exercise 1 Single moving figure