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 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)

Assignment 3 Reflection on assessment criteria

ASSESSMENT CRITERIA COMMENTS

DEMONSTRATION OF TECHNICAL AND VISUAL SKILLS

The unusual view-point shows observational skills, design and compositional skills. I have had to really concentrate of getting the parallel (and in places angular) perspective right. I also have had to work on making verticals vertical. The depiction of light shows visual awareness and observational skills. My use of charcoal demonstrates an understanding of that medium, its fugitive nature and the ability to work and re-work, including lifting out highlights.

QUALITY OF OUTCOME

The content of this piece matches the assignment criteria in that I have demonstrated knowledge of linear perspective (and hopefully have shown improvement over the course of the exercises). I have presented work in a logical, coherent and progressing manner. My initial sketches include reasons why the scene interested me in the first place. I have followed these through with studies that start to conceptualise my thoughts and communicate my ideas. These also show the evolution of the design process.  Finally I worked on my final assignment piece drawing on these ideas. My final piece is not the best bit of work in this assignment, the graphite and water studies show far more atmosphere, presence and tension. Whilst I can discern these pieces are better than the final piece I am conflicted by the requirements for certain technical aspects specified in the assignment brief. I would have loved to have submitted one of the graphite and water studies as a final peice.

DEMONSTRATION OF CREATIVITY

I hope that the unusual perspective of these pieces displays imagination and invention. Using my imagination hasn’t gone too well for me in previous assignments so I have reigned it in here to improve an existing scene rather than create an entirely new one. I had to experiment and move the view-point to get a more interesting scene. I don’t think that I am showing much in the way of development of a personal voice, but possibly the studies in graphite and water show a move in that direction. Certainly my reaction to them would suggest that. In these studies I do explore media with which I have not had much previous experience, with great results.

CONTEXT REFLECTION

I have shown how I was influenced by artists working in black and white media, most notably David Bomberg and John Virtue. Both these artists also produced much work from a bird’s-eye view and I had that in mind as I elevated my view-point in the sketches for this piece. I have reflected on my process in my learning log as I have gone along and have tried to be critical of my work. I am starting to understand the process of discernment and recognise that better work may not always be your planned work!

Assignment 3 Reflection on assessment criteria

Assignment 3 – ‘Down the Hill’

The Aim

  • Draw an outdoor scene of your choice. Include natural objects as well objects with straight-lines. Chose a view that will demonstrate your understanding of aerial or linear perspective.
  • Do some preliminary drawings including broad sketches in charcoal or diluted ink.
  • Draw your final piece on A2 or A1 paper, spending up to 2 hours on this final image.

The exercise

I decided that I wanted to draw a townscape scene so I could show my continuing development in my ability to draw vertical lines (!) as well as my understanding of linear perspective. I happened upon a scene of terrace houses on a hill that I really liked. It was a bright day and what caught my eye in the first place was rows of chimney pots gleaming in the sun against a couple of quite dark, tall trees. The houses descending down the hill provided an interesting sky line too.  This scene, quite an ordinary suburban scene, had all the elements required for the assignment so I decided to make this my subject. The problem was that it was 20 miles from home, so once my initial sketches were done I had to rely on photographs for any further reference.

The Process

Preliminary sketches

Sketch 1
Sketches 1 and 2

I started with a couple of quick sketches to try to locate the best composition. I was standing at the top of the hill with my eye level to the chimney pots of those houses at the bottom. Initially this made the relevant houses seem very far away. The trees in the background were quite majestic but my view straight ahead was quite boring. I decided very quickly that the two lamp posts had to go, they added nothing to the scene.

The road had a bend in it as it neared the bottom row of terraces. This produces two different sets of receding lines for the buildings. I drew a second sketch emphasising these to get the feel of the change in direction. I also ignored the bottom row of parked cars which allowed for a solid ‘ground’ line which i think helps anchor the scene.

Sketch 3 - Portrait
Sketch 3 – Portrait

Worried that the whole scene was too complicated I tried sketching just one row of buildings (sketch 3), thereby concentrating on just one set of receding lines. This also enabled me to have a think about landscape or portrait as the most suitable format. The problem with this was that the trees were mostly pushed out of view and I lost the lovely contrast of sunny chimney pots against the dark foliage. I also didn’t quite get the height of the buildings right in this sketch, but I did realise that I was drawn to the great skyline the chimney stacks produced. In carrying out research of landscape/townscape artists I have been drawn to those that portray a ‘bird’s eye’ view (see below).

This got me thinking to how I could get nearer to the chimneys! I was a little constrained to getting very much higher but I did manage to get a bit of extra height by standing on the car door.

Sketch 4 Landscape
Sketch 4 Landscape

By standing on the car and looking down the hill at houses whose roofs I was almost level with, I managed to get sketch 4 done. I have reverted to landscape format to try to get the bend of the road and a tree in. I have exaggerated the height at which I am viewing this scene which was a little hard to do and get the perspective right but it made the row of chimneys the focal point and had the advantage of being above the level of most of the cars down the hill. I didn’t manage to get the mid-ground roof and chimneys right here but I felt this composition was coming together. I liked the way that the nearest chimneys run off the top of the page. It adds a sense of intimacy to the scene.

Sketch 5 - tonal values
Sketch 5 – tonal values

I hadn’t really considered any tonal values in these sketches. It was the contrast of the pots in the sun against the dark trees that first drew me to the scene. Further observation revealed that the sun was shining in such a way that the roof tops had bright flashes of light amongst the dark shadows caused by the chimneys and that the front of the buildings were progressively more in shadow as they receded down the street. The row at the bottom was completely in shadow. I was running out of time so I made a quick study of the tonal values of the scene (sketch 5). I was worried that this dark row of houses at the bottom would make the composition unbalanced (here I haven’t added any detail of these houses). I realised that in this tonal sketch I have lost many of my mid-tones in the roof, confusing darker colours with light tones . More was in sunshine than this sketch would suggest.

Sketch 6 - Tonal values of the rooves
Sketch 6 – Tonal values of the roof tops

As such I made final sketch (sketch 6) of the pattern of light and dark on the roof tops, trying to work out which chimney belonged to which house at the same time. I also deliberately left out a couple of the mid-ground houses to try to simplify the composition a little.

At this point I took some reference photographs and went home.

 

Research Influences

Way before I got to this part of the course I came across a drawing of a London skyline “Evening in the City of London’ by David Bomberg which I fell in love with (http://www.andrewgrahamdixon.com/archive/readArticle/233). It’s a charcoal drawing but the original is much better then this slightly washed out digital image would suggest. I was really drawn to the juxtaposition of light against dark and loved the aerial view. I made a small sketch of part of this drawing (previous published with my sketchbook images almost a year ago) http://wp.me/p5Tzmx-4W

Sketch of detail from: David Bomberg Evening in the City of London, 1944
Sketch of detail from:
David Bomberg
Evening in the City of London, 1944

In the process of doing research for landscapes in general I came across more of his work in charcoal, again lots of aerial views with a play between light and dark contrasts such as https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/419819996487784541/ andhttps://uk.pinterest.com/pin/419819996487784530/

I have also been very drawn to the black and white townscape drawings of John Virtue, introduced to me though the course material. The link to my previous post about some of his works is https://annapike99.wordpress.com/page/2/

With these two artists in mind I set about using my reference sketches and photographic material to create some studies.

More detailed studies

Study in charcoal
Study in charcoal

Using my sketches, and with help of photographs to check the perspective, I completed this more detailed charcoal sketch of the view that I wanted to depict. I did use a ruler to help me get my lines straight and I have concentrated really hard in getting my vertical lines vertical! It doesn’t have the drama of a Bomberg drawing but I really like the outcome as a drawing in its own right and quite like the movement that the view of the descending roof tops, all at slightly different angles, gives the image – like a line of steps.

Study in oil pastel
Study in oil pastel

Next I completed a study in oil-pastel. I find oil-pastel quite hard to work with and struggle to get it to work in ways I would like (for instance smudging and erasing). This study ended up being quite a stark image but I quite like that as it was the bright areas against dark backgrounds that drew me to the scene in the first place. I was trying to add more drama to the image but I haven’t got the tones in the windows right here. They should be a little more graded as they go own the hill. I have made the nearest just as dark as those further down. The bend in the road is lost in this study, the drama of the study in charcoal that the change in road angle gives is lost.

I wanted to challenge myself with a different media and also try to loosen my style up a bit. Given the final piece is to be quite large, using a drawing pen doesn’t appeal. I would struggle with a fine lines over A1 size. So I tried a different approach. I had some broad graphite and coloured charcoal sticks. Using wall-paper lining paper (it holds water well) sprayed with water I quickly drew into the wet surface with lines and broad sweeps from these chunky sticks. I kept added more water to areas of similar tone and let the pigment run down the paper. I did a series of these drawings, really enjoying myself. Each one only took between 10 and 15 minutes and were very fun and spontaneous. I loved the results and if I hadn’t got a deadline to complete this assignment I would have done more!

Study in graphite and water 1
Study in graphite and water 1
Study in graphite and water 2
Study in graphite and water 2
Study in graphite and water 3
Study in graphite and water 3
Study in graphite, coloured charcoal and water
Study in graphite, coloured charcoal and water

I didn’t really stick to my sketches for these, the buildings have become simplified in various ways throughout this series, and the chimneys more and more exaggerated. This doesn’t matter however there is drama in the representation of the houses.  My favourite is study 3. It really shows the part of the scene that drew me to find it interesting in the first place and I love the texture the water creates with the graphite. This effect adds atmosphere to the whole series. I feel these studies have some of the drama that I like in David Bomberg’s work. I’m enthused by the coloured study. I like the texture of the house brick work and I think that I have got the gradation of window tones about right. The tree however doesn’t seem to work in colour – it’s too bright. The texture and colour of the slate roofs and brick chimneys work better, but they are not such a good compositional group as the study above it. They are too spread out and seem a little more disconnected. The sense of light on the roof tops is possibly stronger in the coloured study however.

My Final Piece

I decided that I was going to use charcoal for my final piece. I like its fugitive nature and the way you can smudge it and move it around with your fingers and erase bits with a putty rubber. I also felt that charcoal would allow me to keep a certain freshness about my drawing my being able to rework areas in a more loose manner if I felt it was becoming too ‘tight’ and less fluid. As my aim was to show the contrast of light and dark having been influenced by the drawings of David Bomberg and John Virtue. Both the charcoal study and the oil-pastel study show this.The graphite studies had more drama about them but I don’t think I can do a drawing lasting 2 hours with that technique.  I have decided not to use colour here, rather keep the monochromatic theme going again to emphasis the contrast between light and dark.

I used an A1 piece of heavyweight cartridge paper in landscape format. I needed to use a ruler to check my perspective lines as working at that scale caused me some problems (i couldn’t step back from my easel far enough to judge the lines by eye). I aimed to spend 2 hours on it, in reality it took 4 hours to complete.

'Down the Hill'. Charcoal on heavyweight cartridge paper, A1
‘Down the Hill’. Charcoal on heavyweight cartridge paper, A1

Reflections

I think my graphite and water series show a spontaneity and a freshness that my final piece doesn’t have. My best work to date has been work that has been quick and spontaneous. I have (quite rightly) been criticised for producing longer, more thought out drawings that are, to be quite frank, boring. The problem I have is that I have no idea how you maintain this spontaneity in a two-hour drawing.

This was not a kind of drawing I would have ever considered attempting before embarking on this course and never considered that I would choose to depict buildings for an assignment. I realise that if nothing else I have at least grown in confidence and willingness to try new things. I have mixed feelings about this as an assignment piece. On one hand I don’t think its the best of the pieces I have done for this assignment (I definitely prefer the graphite and water Study 3 as a finished piece of work, but it doesn’t fit the assignment brief) but on the other hand I have demonstrated an understanding of linear perspective from quite an interesting angle. I have been criticised for my previous assignment pieces work being too ‘tight’ and overworked (probably over-thought too) so to have to do a 2 hour drawing presented a significant problem for me: I do not know how to maintain freshness and spontaneity on a drawing that takes so long to do. I tried to limit this problem with my choice of medium. Charcoal allows a lot of reworking, so provided you don’t get too bogged down in detail you can make fresh marks throughout your time period. I struggled to maintain this in some areas of the final image: for instance the windows of the houses in shadow. I went in too heavy too early and even with a putty rubber had trouble removing some of the marks to lighten them.

I embarked on the graphite and water series to see what I could do quickly and spontaneously without really thinking of what I was doing (beyond the idea). At the time I just got lost in doing these studies and sort of churned them out, but on reflection I realise that not only was I enjoying myself but I was exploring the relationship between the roof tops and the light, as well as trying to capture the pattern of the almost-marching chimney pots. In my final piece I think I have managed to keep the chimney pots as the main focus of the drawing and I wonder if this would have been the case without these quick free drawings.

Overall compositionally I am quite happy with this drawing. There is certainly a sense of the houses going down the hill and the elevated position of the viewer adds a feeling of intimacy or belonging to the scene. There is also a slight air of mystery: I want to actually look in the upstairs windows of the first house – what is in there, who might by looking out?? I have made the ground floor window line a little too high in the mid-ground houses though.

I deliberately avoided the use of colour in the final drawing (and recognise the fact that it didn’t play much of a part in my preliminary studies). The reason behind this was that it was stark contrasts that drew me to the scene, that and the regimented feel of the buildings. Colour wasn’t important but the white and black was. I have tried to add a bit of texture to the houses and their roofs without adding too much detail. On the large scale of A1 this was quite difficult to do. I didn’t want the slate patterns (which were in fact quite hard to make out in reality) detract from the light. I do wonder, however, if I have introduced a slight comic air to the drawing by keeping to this monochrome palette.

Summary

Without a doubt my graphite and water studies are far better drawings than my final assignment piece. They have atmosphere, tension, a sense of journey and a sense of place about them. By contrast my final piece may fit the assignment brief but it is quite mechanical, without the same expressiveness of the studies!

 

 

Assignment 3 – ‘Down the Hill’

Project 2 Research Point: Landscape Series

All websites accessed 10th/11th  Jan. 2016

I looked at the landscape series created by David Hockney and George Shaw in my earlier landscape research post so I won’t repeat those artists here. I spent a little time exploring the work of Nicholas Herbert as suggested. I absolutely love his series entitled ‘Silent Spaces’ http://www.nicholasherbert-drawings.co.uk/drawings-2013.html These drawings/ paintings have been done in a limited palette with muted, earthy tones that particularly appeal to me. Whilst I don’t really know the Chilterns very well I do get a sense of British weather when I look at them. They are atmospheric – partly I think due to the muted palette used. Herbert uses layering techniques a lot. This seems to add a sense of depth to his work as well as atmosphere. This contrasted beautifully with the next artist I looked up: Peter Doig. I ended up looking at paintings for his 2013 No Foreign Lands exhibition (https://www.nationalgalleries.org/whatson/exhibitions/peter-doig/highlights-23495). Here we have an artist using a much brighter palette depicting landscapes in a tropical climate. In particular I like his ‘Red boat (Imaginary Boys)’ painting. Here his depiction of tropical vegetation is a mixture of positive and negative shapes with areas of diffuse painting. The effect is to present a tangle of jungle. Such undergrowth is hard to capture as there is so much going on but Doig uses tones to convey this rather than concentrating on individual plants. This he leaves to the higher, more defined tree tops. Doig also uses layering, but in a more etherial way than Herbert. For instance in ‘Cricket Painting (Paragrand)’ there is a figure layered on in the distance with the background clearly showing through in a kind of ghostly way. This perhaps adds to the sense of depth to the painting

John Virtue is famed for his monochrome landscapes (such as his London paintings: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artist-john-virtue/exhibition/land706.htm) and Seascapes: (such as those inspired by the North Norfolk Coast http://issuu.com/marlboroughfineart/docs/1544_john_virtue_artwork_02_issuu) In both sets there is a dramatic play between light and dark across the canvas. For his London landscapes he uses perspective to draw your eye into the painting. In ‘Landscape 707’ this is enhanced by the curve of the road with light reflecting of it and the distance buildings in outline only as if the sun is shining on them (in contrast to most other London landscapes which has building depicted as black shapes). I am really drawn to these dramatic landscape paintings, but less so to his equally dramatic seascapes. They have very powerful projections of the sea  but are more abstract in the sense that where sea ends and sky begins is open to interpretation. I suspect these paintings are very impressive seen in life rather than on a small screen.

An artist working closer to home for me is David Prentice who produced a stunning series of landscapes based on the Malvern Hills. What I like about these images is that they are painted from an unusual perspective – elevated above the hills themselves (apparently he flew camera’s on kites to take images). He had several different styles. Earlier paintings of the Malverns were quite realist in his approach (such as this one which I can not find a name for but saw personally few years back  https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/1f/03/f8/1f03f8d6dbc6bbdc52e53fb8b42f6e4d.jpg ). His use of colour depicts a beautiful light over the hills which makes me smile. In this painting the path following the ridge of the hills leads the view off into the distance where Prentice used aerial perspective to paint the distant landscape in cooler more indistinct shades. Later he produced a series of more abstract paintings (such as ‘Primal Measure’http://www.johndaviesgallery.com/exhibitions/16/works/artworks_standalone9550/). The light is still beautifully rendered and although more abstract in the foreground, the background still is cooler and less distinct again giving a tremendous sense of distance. Looking at this body of work puts me in the body of a bird soaring high above the landscape, a feeling I find most fascinating and draws me back to the work.

Project 2 Research Point: Landscape Series

Research Point: landscapes across the eras

Landscapes: A consideration from the Song Dynasty to the present day.

I realise that a history lesson is not what is required in these research exercises, however, as I know so little about the history of art and, I am rather ashamed to say, the work of individual artists, I can not escape the ‘art timeline’ format. My reflections on the images are included.

The coursework brief suggests considering artists using landscape as their main subject within the Western World, from their emergence in the Renaissance period. However I would like to start early and briefly contemplate artists from China around 900 – 1000 a.d. landscapes have played a very important part in Chinese art from a much earlier age compared to western art. For instance Li Cheng’s “Buddhist temple in Mountain” (c.960 a.d) shows remarkable drawing skill and dramatic compositional effects. There is clearly a fore- and back-ground with the temple nestled in the mid-ground. The composition is vertical displaying the massiveness of the mountain. A sense of depth is provided with areas of the back-ground depicted in less detail (the sides of the mountains for instance).

It wasn’t until the 13th and 14th Century that landscape became more familiar to western cultures. Landscapes started to be featured as backgrounds for narratives. One of the earliest forays into such landscapes was Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1338-1340) with his panoramic frescos. His ‘Effects of Good Government in the City and Country’ (1338-39) shows an expanse of hills dotted with people working the land. There is a sense of depth to the painting facilitated by the cooler, receding colours of the background. Although this is undoubtabley a landscape it was done as part of a series of frescos depicting towns and countrymen at times of contentment and (with his Bad Governance series) strife. The landscape here serves a purpose – to carry the message of the human condition.

It was not until the 15th Century and the Northern Renaissance and Albrecht Durer that we see further development of landscapes as art images in their own right. Durer’s beautifully rendered watercolours depict scenes without necessarily a human narrative to accompany them, such as his ‘View to Arco’ (1495)

Throughout the late 15th and 16th Centuries landscape art increases in popularity. Pieter Brueghel often used landscapes to display a narrative. In ‘Hunters in the Snow’ (1565) he offers us an almost birds eye view of a valley scene. With clear fore-, mid- and backgrounds. His mark making becomes less defined in the background and the colours slightly less saturated allowing the scenery to recede into the distance.

In the Baroque period the classical landscape tradition starts. Atmosphere becomes very important along with the depiction of scenes of harmony and idealism. For instance, Annibale Carracci creates an image of harmony in ‘The Flight into Egypt‘ by composition (trees at the flanks, figures central, distant hills) and lighting (figures bathed in sunshine; darker trees, set against great tonal contrasts of the sky). similar themes are continued into the Rococo period such as with Claude Lorrain’s ‘Pastoral Landscape with a Mill (1634). Here the light on the figures is very important in creating atmosphere (contrasting with the dark trees). There is a wonderful sense of depth in the picture provided by the purple distant hill. His use of tall trees to guide you around the painting takes you into the distance too. This is seen in many of this landscape paintings such as in `Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Silvia‘ (1682).

In the 18th Century the British School used landscapes to create dramatic effects for settings of figurative work. Thomas Gainsborough used very dramatic skies to create atmosphere in his landscapes, such as “River Landscape with Rustic Lovers‘ (1754) or ‘Drinkstone Park (Cornard Woodland)‘ (1747).

Atmosphere was especially important to the Romantic landscape artists for the 19th Century, such as J.M.W. Turner and Caspar David Friedrich. In Turners ‘Boscastle, Cornwall‘ the expressive mark making depicting both the turbulent sea and the sky create drama. The light areas of the sky provide tonal contras to the more dramatic storm clouds, which in turn contrast with the light falling on the land. It is dramatic tonal contrasts that provide the drama in a more sedate scene in ‘Mortlake Terrace’ (1826) where the strong shadows cast by the silhouetted trees conflict with the calm boating scene behind them. The background recedes into the bright sun. You can feel the glare coming out of the canvas. Casper David Friedrich  strips out all but the basics in his ‘Monk by the Shore’ (1810). As such this painting, whilst of a vast open vista of the sea, no longer becomes about the landscape, but about the lone-figure on the shore.

The impressionism movement of the late 19th Century was all about achieving greater naturalism in art. Claude Monet in particular was interested in the same scene changes in different light / weather conditions. His work has a sense of immediacy about it, achieved by undefined use of brushwork and bright colours. His ‘Poplars on the Epte‘ (1891) show all these elements. Money painted a series of these poplars in different weather conditions, exploring how the colours, light and forms changed although the ultimate subject remained the same. Poplars (Autumn), 1891 and Poplars (Wind effect) 1891 show this very well.

Artists with a large landscape repertoire from the Post-impressionism era include Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne both of whom use colour and texture to depict landscapes. In Cezanne’s ‘Montagne Sainte-Victoire series (1882-1906) we can see that the artist is exploring his subject in different light conditions but also in different states of realism. Cezanne takes the essential forms that make up his composition and plays around with them creating images still recognisable as the subject but in a mass of tonal values loosely defined by simple marks. In a way many of Van Gogh’s landscapes also break down the various landscape elements to simple forms, but he them represents those forms with and exaggerated, almost textured approach using coloured swirls to enhance lines and curves, for instance ‘Les Alpilles‘ (1889) or ‘The Fields’ (1890).

Moving into the 20th Century T.S. Lowry painted mostly industrial landscapes. His painting ‘Industrial Landscape‘ (1953) shows the general elements of fore- mid- and background, with a sense of depth provided by use of perspective and the loss of color and tonal differences in the distance. Amongst contemporary artists, George Shaw also depicts urban landscapes in paintings that are full of realism of modern life including much of the urban landscape that is deemed un-pretty, un-loved and boring.  I particularly like his ‘Ash Wednesday‘ (2004/5) series.There is nothing romantic about his work and much of what he paints is in some state of dilapidation. But but judicious use of light and tone Shaw brings out the beauty in such urban areas.

Sarah Woodfine is not an artist I have previously heard of. Amongst her work she creates 2d images of landscapes and turns them into 3d images by way of their support. For instance in ‘Somewhere’ (2007) she has mounted on 3 sides of a perspex box allowing the viewer to explore the drawing in 3-dimensions. This is a similar process used to produce ‘Alfred’s story‘ 2007. I particular like her 2003 winning Jerwood Prize for Drawing ‘Wyoming‘ which shows that landscapes need not be full of detail to evoke an atmospheric response. I look at this diptych and instantly feel a sense of open space and vastness even though I haven’t actually been to Wyoming).

David Hockney is another contemporary artist renowned for his landscapes. His work is quite stylised, he is not too concerned with fine detail. His use of lines reminds me of Van Gogh’s style (with out the swirls) for instance ‘The Road Across the Wolds’ 1997. In ‘Yorkshire Landscape’ he uses cooler colours to recede the background. He is not too concerned with perspective in the foreground, with exaggerated camber in the winding road. The whole landscape is made very powerful by the use of strong red lines to emphasis shape aspects of the curves, plough lines and tree trunks.

Bibliography

The following sources were used to provide me with a time-line and suggested artists to consider within each era.

All websites were accessed on 15th December 2015

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

The online art magazine:  http://www.theartwolf.com/index.htm

 

 

 

 

 

Research Point: landscapes across the eras

Exhibition – Marc Chagall

I have been lucky enough to live near a gallery that has just held an exhibition of Marc Chagall original lithographs and etchings. Chagall (1887-1985) was born in Russia where his Jewish upbringing later became a source of ideas for his works. He moved to Paris as an artistic émigré where he became a member of the modernist avant-garde.  He was a prolific artist working in many different mediums. Much of his work is of a religious nature. Chagall is famed for used vivid colours  and thick outlines producing images that appear quite simplistic and lodged on the edge of fantasy. It is said that Picasso remarked ‘When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is’ (http://www.pablopicasso.org/picasso-and-chagall.jsp). His exhibition of lithographs and etchings were mostly from the 1950’s-1970’s.

chagall 1
Lithographs from Chagall’s Bible Series

 Chagall’s Bible series ( shown here from the exhibition catalogue) shows his use of colour and his quick simplistic style to great effect. it is the vivid colour that first catches your eye, off-set by the thick black outlines of the figures. The actual themes of the images, in my mind, take a little working out. This images also show the variety of mark making used by Chagall in his work. For instance compare the fine detail shown in Moses III (bottom left) with the broad marks of The Angel (centre right). As these are original lithographs presumably each colour had to have its own plate made.

Chagall's Etchings for La Fables de la Fontaine
Chagall’s Etchings for La Fables de la Fontaine

Chagall was commissioned to produce a series of etchings to accompany the text of La Fontaine’s Fables. Here we have quite dark backgrounds produced by all manner of marks which allow the individual characters of the Fables to stand out and he highlighted in colour (this set was apparently hand coloured by Chagall personally!) At first glance I thought many of the figures were outlined thickly. On closer inspection I realised that Chagall has actually used darkened areas to contrast with highlights to create found edges. This can be seen particularly well along the neck of the bull in The Frog who would grow up  as big as the Bull (top left) and the limbs of the boy in The Boy and the Schoolmaster (bottom right).

chagall 1_0002
Chagall etchings with aquatint from the ‘Celui qui Dit les Choses sans Rien Dire’ series

The Celui qui Dit les Choses sans Rien Dire series displays a different side to Chagall’s style. These etchings are far more delicate than the other work shown here. There are no thick heavy black lines or dark tones in the background. The use of colour is also muted in this series. These were illustrations for the French Poet Louis Aragon who was one of the founding members of the Surrealist movement, perhaps explaining the subject matter of these etchings.

chagall 1_0003
Chagall’s etchings for Gogol’s Dead Souls

Another series of illustrative work on show were etchings produced to accompany Gogol’s Dead Souls. These were the earliest work that I saw, having been done in the 1920’s but not issued until the late 1940’s. They show a different style again, this time very limited use of colour (sepia only). The figures are again drawn very simply, such as in Mort de Mets les Peids dans le Plat (top left), with only small areas depicting tone and form. Not having read Gogol, I am not sure of the subject matter (beyond the title). However I feel there is a certain amount of humour behind these works. A review written by AS Byatt (2004) about a translation of Dead Souls into English described it as ‘a linguistic phantasmagoria – full of people and things with a hallucinatory reality that rushes into the surreal’. (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/oct/30/classics.asbyatt) May be that was what I was picking up!

Exhibition – Marc Chagall