Exercise: Points of View

24/10/14

Exercise: Points of View

Exercise: Points of View Sketchbook and Notes Bickton Mill Sluice Gates

Exercise: Points of View
Sketchbook and Notes
Bickton Mill Sluice Gates

Points for consideration:

  • Zoom in or expand the view
  • Forms of the landscape
  • Map out main areas
  • Relationships between features
  • Do not get involved with detail
  • Work swiftly
  • Foreground, middle and far distance
  • Strong horizontal, diagonal or vertical lines?
  • Rhythmic shapes?

After the first drawing, applying the above considerations, we were to turn 90 degrees, complete another and turn again, repeating until covering a 360 degree rotation.  There was a similar exercise in Part 3, that I followed to the letter, however, I am hoping that my current efforts will be forgiven as I really want to focus on the sluice gates and as there was a distinct possibility of my getting very wet I skewed the brief a little.  Drawing in a 360 degree circle would mean I was looking outward from my viewpoint, however, I decided to keep the sluice gates as my subject and move around said subject.  I was still creating a 360 degree view but looking inwards.  I have to admit, I did begin to include too much detail, although some was necessary to bring the foreground objects into focus.

Conditions:

24/10/14 12.07 – 13.14

Very overcast with dark clouds forming.
Began raining lightly but steadily as I started drawing.  Being dressed in waterproofs, I was dry but my paper was becoming wet.  I had decided to use black Sharpie pens to avoid erasing any marks and using thick and thin points to help describe distance.  The pens began struggling against the damp paper and would barely make a mark at all as time went on, so I had to switch to pencil to mark out the drawing. My intention was to reiterate with pen on my return, which I did.

Although I still would like to concentrate on the sluice gates, it was a welcome change and fun to concentrate on the foreground branches and foliage in the last drawing.  It was quite noticeable how many leaves had fallen from the trees since my last visit on 22/10/14, many more branches were bare and the distant trees had more oranges and russets in their remaining leaves.

Drawing One (Detail) – Looking North

Exercise: Points of View Looking North Bickton Mill Sluice Gates Sharpie Pens A4

Exercise: Points of View
Looking North
Bickton Mill Sluice Gates
Sharpie Pens A5

 

This viewpoint was from the footbridge, looking North up river.  I’m not entirely satisfied with the far distance in this drawing, it is indistinct which is what I was aiming for, however, the tone is a little too dark and doesn’t imply how far away the vanishing point is.  If I decided to develop this view further in future drawings, it may be more successful in colour.  Although a beautiful view with real distance (in life), I am reticent to choose this as it’s quite a traditional composition and I had set myself a goal to avoid the predictable.

 

 

 

 

Drawing Two (Detail) – Looking South

Exercise: Points of View Looking South Bickton Mill Sluice Gates Sharpie Pens and pencil - A5

Exercise: Points of View
Looking South
Bickton Mill Sluice Gates
Sharpie Pens and pencil – A5

 

This drawing, in particular, suffered from damp paper, so is half in Sharpie pen and half in pencil, with some reiteration of line done back at home.  This is an interesting view in, due to the radiation of diagonals from the top right corner.  The mechanics of the sluice gates are quite visible, although I feel I should have strengthened the lines in the turning wheel nearest to us a little more.  The rust on the iron and the lichen on the concrete buttresses were more pronounced at this angle and proximity.  The shadows under the foot bridge were also descriptive in life, which again, would be easier to portray in colour should this view be developed.  The perspective of the diagonals, although, not entirely accurate, does help to describe the distance and also highlights the lack of the same in the previous drawing, particularly as here the buildings are much closer to me.

 

 

Drawing Three (Detail) – Looking West

Exercise: Points of View Looking West Bickton Mill Sluice Gates Sharpie Pens - A5

Exercise: Points of View
Looking West
Bickton Mill Sluice Gates
Sharpie Pens – A5

This viewpoint is the least interesting for me. It has too many horizontals, with the main vertical being almost in the middle of the frame.  I didn’t notice this at the time, as I was concentrating on placing the wheel to the left.  The opposite river bank has no real draw for the eye to take it towards the distance, and as the distance isn’t far away and stops dead at the fence, the most that can be done is looking left to right and back.  I do like the turning wheel and the gearing in view though, so maybe I could include these in another drawing or focus in on them in another way.  The smell of the congealed grease at the bottom of the wheel’s mechanism was really strong.

 

Drawing Four (Detail) – Looking East

Exercise: Points of View Looking East Bickton Mill Sluice Gates Sharpie Pens - A5

Exercise: Points of View
Looking East
Bickton Mill Sluice Gates
Sharpie Pens – A5

 

This was a welcome change from the hard lines and industrial feel of the other drawings.  Situated across the river on the far bank, crouched under the overhanging trees, not only was the actual view different, I was also lower down so could see more distance over the main wooden bridge adjacent to the sluice gates.  The overhanging trees and reeds worked well in silhouette, with the river a pleasing rest for the eye in front of the gates, the current was fairly still with clear reflections.  From here the sluice gates took on an impression of merely a bridge, there was no obvious rusty iron, or mechanical workings visible.  I could see over to the other side towards distant trees and some sky.  Unfortunately, in the drawing, these distant trees are reduced to light scribbling to maintain the illusion of distance.  However, again in colour, these may be more obvious, whilst still retaining the aerial perspective.

After spending around an hour sketching in the drizzle and looming cloud, I decided to call it a day.  I didn’t really observe much difference in the quality of light over that time.  It was fairly static due to the heavy cloud and tonal qualities were subdued.  I have tried to indicate what I saw and to apply aerial perspective, with varying degrees of success, in very gloomy conditions.  However, with the multitude of considerations before me when drawing outdoors, I consider the exercise very successful, with a collection of drawings that will help me decide what to develop next.  I am still very much drawn to the original idea of the sluice gates being my subject, however, the last drawing from under the trees has made me question how to move it forward.  I will mull this over at the weekend.

 

Exercise: Finding a View

22/10/14

Exercise: Finding a View

After initial research see Selection of Personal Project for Final Assignment, I was sure where I wanted to focus my view, although, not how to tackle it.  Today I have spent around an hour at the site, sketching, looking and taking some generic photographs to better understand the area.  Below are the pages from my sketchbook with the thumbnail sketches and notes made at the scene and on reflection back at home.

 

Exercise: Finding the  View Sketchbook thumbnails 6B pencil, liner and Sharpie pens

Exercise: Finding the View
Sketchbook thumbnails
6B pencil, liner and Sharpie pens

 

Exercise: Finding the View Sketchbook Notes and Reflection

Exercise: Finding the View
Sketchbook Notes and Reflection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos were taken as reference and reminders of the area – also to retain some colour comparisons.

Sluice Gates Looking North

Sluice Gates Looking North

Sluice Gates Looking South

Sluice Gates Looking South

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sluice Gates Looking North from Footbridge

Sluice Gates Looking North from Footbridge

Sluice Gates Looking North East from Footbridge

Sluice Gates Looking North East from Footbridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sluice Gates Regulating the Flow of Water on the River

Sluice Gates Regulating the Flow of Water on the River

Water Level

Water Level

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photographs may, or may not be appealing, however, I am  hoping to express my inspiration in using this scene in an interesting, unusual and textural way.  We will see how my experiments progress through the coming exercises and preliminary work.

 

Selection of Personal Project for Final Assignment

20/10/14

A choice needs to be made from the previous assignments to carry forward and develop for the final assessment of the Drawing Skills Course.  I have read through the exercises assigned to each option:

Mark Making and Tone
Observation of Nature
Drawing Outdoors
Drawing Figures

After thinking it through, I have decided to eliminate Drawing Figures from my selection.  I currently attend regular portrait and life drawing classes, therefore, I think it wise to select from the remaining three to expand my experience and variety of challenges.

Below I have noted the points for development highlighted both by myself and my tutor from previous assignments’ critiques.

Part 1 – Mark Making and Tone

Self:  Conceptualisation of thoughts; demonstration of creativity and being original.
Tutor:  Frottage experiments; experiment with colour; be mindful of the volume of text and not to be repetitive (learning log); explore each exercise and embrace mistakes; vary the scale of working and don’t be scared to alter this if needed.

Part 2 – Observation in Nature

Self:  Concept and communication of ideas; move away from the predictable; need to show more inventive thinking; once written down, self-analytical and critical thought to be explored and made into objective goals.
Tutor:  Try to work more loosely and make use of the characteristics of the media  in order to help to achieve this, (for example allowing acrylic ink to run); open your mind to less representative outcomes and methods.

Part 3 – Drawing Outdoors

Self:  Have struggled with perspective in this section, so continue to practice this; maintain variety of media, don’t forget charcoal; continue to loosen up my work and become more expressive.
Tutor:  Act on own analysis of work; continue to practice perspective; use charcoal as a media option; keep challenging yourself by choosing interesting and ambitious subjects.

Part 4 – Drawing Figures

Self:  Bring my imagination into play more freely; carry the freedom and looseness through from the sketchbook into the final piece of work – have courage; push, surprise and experiment!
Tutor:  Currently in review – to be updated.

One conclusion I came to from this exercise was that the learning log and reflective side of the course has helped me immensely.  The articulation of my own development points has improved and become more specific from the extremely generic comments in Part 1.  I am also encouraged by the progress being made with each of the points, they have actually filtered into my brain and have, in the main, been applied within the following sections.  I am therefore, looking forward to going a little wild with my final assignment.

Mark Making & Tone

The subject matter in this option is to explore rooms and areas within the home, outbuildings, sheds, workspace etc.  Look for interesting corners, explore tonal opportunities, light sources and experimenting with mixed media.  Looking around the house, I was intrigued by a cupboard that doubles as my wardrobe and storage for hats, shoes and boxes of “stuff”.  I would lean towards that as a subject – it would provide opportunities for tones and textures.  This is a tempting choice.

Observation of Nature

Choosing natural objects such as plants, feathers, stones, leaves, animals as subjects.  Exploring their shapes from different viewpoints, line, tonal and colour studies and torn paper collage.  I have collected many found objects in a cardboard box and sorting through these I found a small rat skull that I had spotted whilst digging the garden.  A little macabre, but a fascinating object, I could imagine increasing its scale in a vigorous drawing, adding textures and abstract elements using colour, frottage and collage.

Drawing Outdoors

This is pretty much an infinite subject!  Where to start, the garden, parks, the New Forest near where I live, the beach again not far away, towns, villages etc.  A lot of the preliminary work here, is finding the view, experimenting with differing viewpoints, light, weather conditions, practical considerations not being the least.  Do I include people, animals, buildings, water etc? Plus of course, my old nemesis, perspective.  I’ve made progress, however, that is still a big development area.  I would need to make detailed studies to assist my composition and representation.  However, from my regular dog walking, I pass one place regularly, it’s down the end of our lane and I am constantly fascinated by it.  I live near the River Avon, it is a major river and has been known to burst its banks dramatically in the past, flooding large areas of the village and nearby town of Fordingbridge, big clue in the name!  Over the years many methods of controlling flooding have been employed, from the natural water meadows that are allowed to flood to ease the pressure, to the sluice gates that control the water levels from one part of the river to the other.  These gates are controlled by large iron wheels, the structure itself is rusty and mechanical, there are walkways over it, a couple of bridges and these are all at angles to one another.  There are wooden posts, in various states of decay, lichen grows over them and the river itself is fighting against the restrictions being put on it.  An opportunity for mixed media, frottage, perspective and compositional design.

Conclusion:

The choice is obvious, Drawing Outdoors it has to be.  I am trying to ignore the fact that it will soon be Winter and there are the remnants of a hurricane coming across the Atlantic.  The chance to envelop all my development areas, draw something to which I have an emotional attachment, plus the many textures and natural erosion that can be depicted with all sorts of techniques and media is too great to pass up.

Decision made!

 

 

Assignment Four: Reflection

Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills:

I work very hard at the technical aspects of drawing and composition, with these things becoming more like second nature the more I do.  I feel more confident in self critiquing my work as I am learning more of what is expected of me.  This section of the course, Drawing Figures, has pushed me to hone my observational skills, particularly by sketching people out and about, trying to tell their “story” in a few lines and marks.  I have tried to use more and different drawing tools, in particular the bamboo pen and ink.  This was the first time I’d tried it and I enjoyed the different feel and variety of marks possible.  Design is a part of composition that has come to the fore as I can now envisage an image more clearly in the lines that I see ie diagonals, verticals and horizontals, and how they lead the eye around a scene to create a drawing or painting.

Quality of Outcome content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas

I believe now, that I am more confident of translating what I have in my mind onto paper or whatever, the effort put into planning and trying out ideas has paid dividends.  I am learning not only is what is included, but also what is excluded can be fundamental to the final result.  Having recently converted to using an online blog, I enjoy collating my work and thoughts into a format that is clear and readable visually.

Demonstration of Creativity imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice

This is still my biggest area for development.  I think I will always say this because it is the crux of progression.  However, I need to bring my imagination into play more freely.  My sketchbooks are my lifeblood as I go through this course.  I am beginning to use them more experimentally, noting things as they occur to me, planning, playing and analysing, noting things for later, referring backwards and forwards.  I still have the tendency to be free within the sketchbook but tighten up when producing a final piece of work.  I need to learn to carry this through to the end and not lose courage.

Context reflection, research, critical thinking (learning log)

My learning log together with my sketchbooks contain a lot of self analytical notes.  Recently, I have noticed that I tend to “argue” with myself over points in pieces of work – “is that right?”, “I’m undecided about…” etc.  I’ve realised that if I have to question something I’ve done, then it’s not right for me and it needs more work, if I can be happy with what I’ve done, it’s probably the best I can do at the time, if not, it’s a case of “that’ll do” and that’s not good enough.

I have tried to review previous points for development and test my progress against them, this was particularly useful in this last assignment.

I have enjoyed reading other students’ blogs, looking at other artists and see how they use found objects in their work.  I am looking forward to revisiting some of the sections in the course in Part 5.  I hope to push and surprise myself and experiment more.

Assignment Four: Part Two: Tone

Preparatory Work 07/10/14

Assignment 4 Tone Composition and Pose

Assignment 4
Tone
Composition and Pose

Assignment 4 Tone Composition and Pose

Assignment 4
Tone
Composition and Pose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assignment 4 Tone Composition and Pose

Assignment 4
Tone
Composition and Pose

Assignment 4 Tone Media and Drawing Tools

Assignment 4
Tone
Media and Drawing Tools

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As before, I have had to take photographs for this drawing.

We were asked to produce a reclining pose, paying particular attention to tone and to focus on the pictorial qualities, making the background as important as the figure.

I decided to wait for the evening so artificial light could be used to throw shadows and produce more tonal contrast.  I used only the lighting available in the room ie an adjustable standard lamp and the secondary light source from the TV screen in the opposite corner.  I took photos from many different view points and angles to try to help build the structure and three-dimensional aspect in my mind.  The background was definite but not overwhelming, I omitted a large pot plant behind the figure as I decided there was enough to make an interesting image without it and I didn’t want it to look overcrowded.

I made a few sketches to establish the composition.  I particularly like a sketch taken from behind the model looking down on his head and along the length of the sofa he was lying on.  However, the light source did bleach out a lot of the tonal contrast.  I decided on the first sketch for the composition due to more tone being evident.

I was  determined not to use the photographs at all in the final piece of work.  This was to test myself in the following ways:

  1. Did the sketch have enough information eg tone, structure and background?  (This was a failing in a previous section “Drawing Outdoors”).
  2. Could I use my memory of previous numerous drawings of the same model together with these sketches to achieve a likeness? (As in the exercise “Portrait from Memory”).
  3. Could I translate the tonal sketch into a colour study? (Something that I have previously struggled with).
  4. As this was to be a drawing incorporating the background to explore pictorial possibilities, could I achieve realistic and accurate perspective in the drawing? (Again a struggle in the previous section “Drawing Outdoors”).

09/10/14

Assignment 4 Tone Final Drawing 50x65cm Pastel and Coloured Pencil

Assignment 4
Tone
Final Drawing 50x65cm
Pastel and Coloured Pencil

Results:

  1. As I had simplified the tonal ranges in the sketch from which I was working,  it was much clearer where light and dark occurred.  I also, in the final drawing, sketched out the entire image in black conte stick and then hatched in the same dark tones in a dark blue pastel before blocking in with colour.  this again described the darks clearly before working in to them. (Note to self: Must take more work in progress photos as this was a particularly interesting and new way of working for me).
  2. The sketches were a good starting point for achieving a likeness.  As the drawing neared completion, I was drawn to the face and was not happy with it.  A few adjustments with coloured pencils and a basic likeness appeared with which I was satisfied.
  3. As the sketch had clear definition and the tonal under-painting was in place, I did not consciously consider the problems I had had translating tone to colour previously.  The precautions I had taken initially made it a natural process.  I couldn’t have been more pleased at this result at this stage in my progress.
  4. The perspective element is something I need to keep working on so I tried not shy away from it in the final drawing.  The aerial perspective seems to have been successful with background objects being described subtly, however, I am still unsure about the sofa.  I can not blame the source photograph as the sketch was in proportion.  I think that as I was working on a larger sheet of paper with slightly different ratio of width to length, that I overcompensated and made the sofa appear too long.  I’m not sure – I need a neutral point of view to case an eye over it I think.

Overall

I think that the sketch works slightly better proportionally than the final drawing.  However, tonally I am very happy with the outcome.  I enjoyed exploring another process by marking in the tones first in one colour as an under-painting, especially as it seems to have worked.  Another note to self: if unsure whether something has worked – it probably hasn’t!

 

Assignment Four: Part one: Line and Shape

Preparatory Work 30/09/14 & 01/10/14

Assignment 4 Line and Shape Prep Selecting a Pose

Assignment 4
Line and Shape Prep
Selecting a Pose

Assignment 4 Line and Shape Prep Facial Features

Assignment 4
Line and Shape Prep
Facial Features

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assignment 4 Line and Shape Prep Hands

Assignment 4
Line and Shape Prep
Hands

Assignment 4 Line and Shape Prep Hands

Assignment 4
Line and Shape Prep
Hands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assignment 4 Line and Shape Prep Composition and Placement

Assignment 4
Line and Shape Prep
Composition and Placement

Assignment 4 Line and Shape Prep Media and Support

Assignment 4
Line and Shape Prep
Media and Support

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assignment 4 Line and Shape Prep Media and Support

Assignment 4
Line and Shape Prep
Media and Support

 

Assignment 4 Line and Shape Prep Media and Support

Assignment 4
Line and Shape Prep
Media and Support

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This assignment has come at a time when my primary model, my husband, has had a change of work place and is not so readily available to pose.  As a result I have much less time to draw from life, and have had to change process significantly to achieve the assignment.  Much as I avoid using photographs as source material ordinarily, needs must.  However, I am determined to make the best of this and have made preliminary sketches to establish composition and pose.  I took many photos from all angles, zoomed in on head, face and hands and have tried using all of these to build my drawing.

I am aware that the camera has only one lens, whereas we have two, this can lead to flattening and distortion of an image.  Things closer to the camera are unnaturally enlarged.  Trying hard to avoid this I made myself work from my sketches rather than slavishly copying the photographs.  Once I’d decided on a viewpoint, I considered the orientation of the support, the media and drawing tools, plus the size of the paper to be used.  I settled on using a sharpened piece of bamboo with sepia acrylic ink.  I wasn’t, however, confident enough to draw straight into the work with these.  I drew and adjusted the drawing in pencil initially to try to ensure accuracy.  Had I been working directly from the model, I may have omitted this stage.

Once sketched out, I then used the bamboo pen lightly to reiterate the outlines.  Once that was complete I worked at varying the line strengths and then worked into the figure with pen and ink only to establish form by using the folds and creases of the clothing.  I felt, although this was a line drawing that I had to indicate the hair and beard more darkly, not for tone, but for likeness purposes.  these are such identifiable aspects of the model, that it wouldn’t have worked so well without this.  Initially, the figure, its chair and table plus the lap top, were the only things in the composition.  I did feel, however, that this left a lot of empty space not only on the paper but in the narrative of the drawing.  Again using pen & acrylic only, I decided to indicate the room as background.  The vertical and horizontal lines added more interest and context to the whole image and as these were drawn with fainter line, they were useful to show depth with their perspective.

06/10/14

Assignment 4 Line and Shape  Final Drawing

Assignment 4
Line and Shape
Final Drawing 57x77cm

 

What didn’t work?

  • I am still undecided as to whether the nearest hand is too large – has the camera influenced me negatively?
  • The additional chairs, I think, need to be there, but has the perspective worked? The most questionable for me are the legs to the chair opposite the figure.
  • I’ve used line to indicate form and shadow on the face and I think the line on the nose is too strong.

What did work?

  • The composition I like – it’s a little unusual although I hope it’s described the form of the figure successfully.
  • The additional background gives a fuller image and composition.
  • The bamboo “pen” worked quite well in varying line strengths and marks.  Once I was using it I felt more confident with it than the dipping pen, which I decided not to use in the end.

I decided not to erase the initial pencil marks as it show the process and I didn’t feel the need to “tidy up”.

 

Drawing Figures – Project: The Moving Figure

30/09/14

Research Point

Go and do some people watching.  This could be at the supermarket, on a bus or train, in the pub or cafe, in a cinema or concert queue.  Whenever you find yourself amongst lots of people have a really good look at them.  Look at how they stand, what they are carrying, what they are doing with their hands, what their chins are like, the difference between a man’s head and a woman’s.  If possible do some quick sketches; or remember and draw up what you observed when you get back.  Record your observations in your learning log.

I started this task over a cup of tea whilst watching BBC Breakfast News.  They were interviewing Michael Palin and I noticed, how striking his position was.  It was probably more so as he was wearing black trousers and sitting on a red sofa, but the camera angle made it interesting.  He was sitting very upright but relaxed and in a typical male pose.  As the camera viewpoint moves every few seconds, I had to remember the position and sketch from that, occasionally, the same view was flashed up but not for long.  I then looked at how the female presenter was sitting, elegantly cross-legged in a very feminine way.  This was also more difficult to catch as although, similar camera angles came up on-screen, due to the more complicated position, a slight difference in viewpoint made a huge difference in the drawn pose.  I tried to memorise it but the drawing is not overly representative.

Project: The Moving Figure Research Point 6B pencil in A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Research Point
6B pencil in A4 sketchbook

After this, as I needed to do some shopping, I packed up my sketchbook and pencils and headed off to Fordingbridge.  I decided to sit in the car park for half an hour and sketch people coming and going.  It was around 9.45am, so a fairly busy time for shoppers.  Most of the people I saw were retired, young mums, small children and some delivery guys.  I began by trying to draw “action” and movement, a man on his mobile phone walking along with his other hand in his pocket, a gran strapping in her young ward in the back seat of the car, a woman searching for change at the parking meter.  It was difficult to understand what was really required of me and not just to repeat previous exercises.  Then I noticed an elderly lady passenger in a car that drove past me and thought I’d try to sketch her from memory.  I was quite pleased with the result and started to notice characteristics common in her age group.

Project: The Moving Figure Research Point 6B pencil in A4 sketchbook

Project: The Moving Figure
Research Point
6B pencil in A4 sketchbook

I decided to concentrate on this aspect of the figures around me, what describes an older person from a younger one?  Some observations from this people watching session are detailed below:

  • head and neck appears pushed further forward
  • chins merge with neck as a result
  • the neck merges into shoulders with less definition
  • stance can look strangely unbalanced when standing with weight evenly distributed over both feet
  • older people tend to hold their shoulders much higher as they walk, even those that appear sprightly
  • also noticed how the elderly can appear more androgynous – similar can be said about young babies – I’m sure there are obvious biological reasons for this as well as social/environmental ones.  Examples of social/environmental reasons could be: women tend to have shorter hair and wear less makeup as they reach old age, many people put on extra weight around the middle or appear thinner – both may merge the male and female silhouette to some extent.

Another woman I managed to sketch was younger, maybe in her thirties or early forties and her overall demeanour was very different.  She was lighter on her feet, her head held a little higher, with a defined neck distinguishable from her chin and shoulders.

I suppose I had noticed this before but when studied to this degree, it becomes quite startling as an indicator of a figure’s age.  It is also a lesson to me that good posture is very important and is probably a much more successful method of reducing those signs of aging than miracle creams!

Drawing Figures – Project: Self Portrait

29/09/14

Research Point

Investigate some artists’ self portraits.  Look at both well-known self portraits – such as Rembrandt and van Gogh, and at lesser known artists.  Make notes in your learning log.

I decided to avoid the most obvious self portraits (although many are favourites eg Rembrandt, van Gogh, Degas etc),  if there is such a thing, and looked for well-known artists that come to mind a little further down the list so to speak.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) – Mexico City

A fascinating life and many self portraits.  Frida Kahlo loaded her paintings with symbolism and story

Research Point Self Portraits Frida Kahlo - Self Portrait

Research Point
Self Portraits
Frida Kahlo – Self Portrait

telling.  I think she very much captured the essence of herself, not only in her features but in adding the relevant narrative for that specific time in her life’s story.  I watched a documentary about her some months ago, this followed her life, loves and tragedies which can be read throughout her self portraits.  Recovering from a horrendous traffic accident as a teenager, she had many months of recuperation and was never fully free of pain afterwards.  Therefore, she had nothing but her painting and, confined to bed, probably no other subject than herself.

She also depicted, sometimes quite graphically, her inability to carry her three pregnancies to full term due to her injuries. Not shy of describing her conditions and personal tragedies as a woman, she was revered by feminists for her illustrative candour.  Her life ended at the age of 47 in 1954 but had spanned many turbulent and transitional world events politically, artistically and religiously.  Religion and her Mexican culture played a large part in her life and therefore, her paintings.  If anyone truly painted themselves, it was Frida Kahlo.

Research Point Self Portraits Frida Kahlo - The Broken Column

Research Point
Self Portraits
Frida Kahlo – The Broken Column

I chose Kahlo because of the extra narrative she brought to her self portraits, the symbolism is rife within them and I can not begin to imagine how to use that in my own work.  I hope that over time, I can find such a personal voice to demonstrate feelings, emotions and beliefs in such a way that they inject more life and meaning into my images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egon Schiele (1890 – 1918)

Another prolific painter of the self-portrait, Egon Shiele was way ahead of his time in my humble opinion.  A few adjectives and phrases come to mind: stunning, expressive, disturbing, flexible, explicit, innovative, graphic, contortionist, self-aware, uninhibited…

Research Point Self Portraits Egon Schiele - Self Portrait

Research Point
Self Portraits
Egon Schiele – Self Portrait

Research Point Self Portraits Egon Schiele - Self Portrait

Research Point
Self Portraits
Egon Schiele – Self Portrait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schiele was mentored by Gustav Klimt and his influence is sometimes clear, yet he has a very distinctive style of his own.  Exaggerating his own skinny physique with strong, jagged line and knobbly joints, Schiele manages to produce wonderfully twisted and expressive poses.  How on earth he managed to do this I don’t know – multiple mirrors, memory, a multitude of sketches?  However he did it, his work is unmistakable.  The facial expressions are numerous and vivid – I can’t imagine how he managed keep his expression and reproduce it at the same time.

His untimely death at the age of 28 leaves one wondering what he would have gone on to do had he lived longer.

Onto my supposedly lesser known artists and their self portraits.  I had whittled my list down to four:  Bryan Lewis Saunders, Paula Modensohn-Becker, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Kathe Kollwitz.  For the purpose of this research point I’ve decided to go from the sublime to the ridiculous with no insult or pre-judgement intended, so it’s Kathe Kollwitz and Bryan Lewis Saunders.

Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945)
(Käthe Kollwitz. [Internet]. 2014. The Biography.com website. Available from: http://www.biography.com/people/käthe-kollwitz-37900 [Accessed 29 Sep 2014].
Supporting information from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%A4the_Kollwitz

A quick introduction:
Kathe Kollwitz was a German draughtsman, painter and sculptor born in Kalinigrad, Russia formally known as Konigsberg, East Prussia 1867.  She studied at art schools for women in Berlin and Munich.  she excelled drawing working people and studies of the human condition.  I have to admit, I didn’t know of this artist until discussing self portraits at my life drawing class and her name came up.  I have researched some of her drawings and her self portraits are simply brilliant.  Again, a very expressive style with an abundance of emotion and feeling encased in her mark making.

Self Portraits Research Point Kathe Kollwitz - Self Portrait 1898

Self Portraits
Research Point
Kathe Kollwitz – Self Portrait 1898

Self Portraits Research Point Kathe Kollwitz - Self Portrait 1910

Self Portraits
Research Point
Kathe Kollwitz – Self Portrait 1910

Self Portraits Research Point Kathe Kollwitz - Self Portrait 1938

Self Portraits
Research Point
Kathe Kollwitz – Self Portrait 1938

Self Portraits Research Point Kathe Kollwitz - Self Portrait 1924

Self Portraits
Research Point
Kathe Kollwitz – Self Portrait 1924

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A selection of self portraits spanning 40 years.  The likeness is always there, with the added life experience clearly depicted.  I especially like the 1924 charcoal drawing on tinted paper, such an economic style but speaks volumes.

Bryan Lewis Saunders
http://bryanlewissaunders.org/drugs/

A quirky choice which I described as ridiculous earlier.  This is not to be derogatory regarding his skill and style but maybe could have referred to his methods of one particular self-portrait series.  Saunders another prolific self portraitist, has, since 1995, made it a mission to complete at least one self-portrait per day until his end – over 8000 so far.  He has many hardback sketchbooks dedicated to this task and his drawings take many guises not least the “Under the Influence” series.  In this series, Saunders took a different drug, prescriptive or otherwise each day, and drew himself under the influence.  Not a method I’d recommend, even in my non-medical capacity, I can see this just maybe detrimental to one’s health.  In fact the artist himself admits it wasn’t ideal considering he did damage his brain to a recoverable degree, although he says he’s still continuing the experiment but not so intensively – each to their own.  I have attached a link to his website, as I’m not sure copyright would allow me to reproduce the images on my blog.  I have to say, some of them are very eye-catching and expressive, but then I probably would have expected that.  Here are the titles of those that particularly caught my eye (this is not a shopping list):

1 sm glass of “real” absinth
Bathsalts (?????)
1 “bump” of Crystal meth (can’t believe I’m typing this!)
PCP
20mg Valium
2mg Xanax

I did wonder, though, how much the intoxication actually influenced the drawing and how much was a, however subconscious, pre-conceived image.  Some are very obviously, out there and floating!  However the inspiration was attained, there is a clear likeness running through the images, even the more abstract and/or expressive ones.  From the recipe list above, my favourites are Bathsalts and PCP.

To be fair, some of his portraits were as a result of medication given in the ER for kidney stones.  Maybe I should do a sketch directly after my multi-vitamin in the morning!?

Supplementary Material – Part 4 Drawing Figures

27/09/14

Life Drawing Class

Today’s life class introduced a new model to most of us.  Annie is a very tall, statuesque figure with grace and poise with fantastic curves and lines – a pleasure to draw.

We started with the usual fairly quick poses of 5-7 minutes, perched on a chair back, standing leaning on

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14 5-7 minute poses Pencil on A2 paper

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14
5-7 minute poses
Pencil on A2 paper

the chair and sitting on the chair.  As is usual the first drawing is tight and static, but the standing drawing shows the lean and slight twist in the body with the weight firmly on the right foot.  The seated pose was a little off proportionately but the weight of the figure is on the chair.

 

 

The next two poses were seated on a chair and on the floor.  Standing at the side of the room I had a lot of foreshortening to contend with – I enjoy this challenge and it usually makes for a more interesting image.

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14 10-12 minute poses Pencil on A2 paper

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14
10-12 minute poses
Pencil on A2 paper

The pose seated on a chair, with the model turned towards me showed fabulous long, curvy lines on the model’s right side which were very tactile to draw. I tried to vary the line strengths and use tone to help denote the foreshortening.  However, today, hands are getting the better of me, I don’t think I managed to achieve success in a single drawing!

The next, seated on the floor was again a beautiful pose.  Annie held her hand up in a most elegant way and I totally made it into a bunch of bananas.  In my defence, I was concentrating on the back against the cushions, where the flesh was pressed and folded around the supporting structure.  Again, tried to use a variety of line strengths.

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14 10-12 minute poses Pencil on A2 paper

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14
10-12 minute poses
Coloured pencil on A2 paper

The final long pose was around 40 minutes, I decided to move round to the other side of the model as I could only see one hand (and I obviously need the practice), plus the foreshortened, bent leg was more interesting to draw.  Although I started out plotting the shapes in the space, as I drew I noticed that I needed to make the upper chest area longer, which resulted in slicing off the top of the head unfortunately.  I had also decided to use coloured pencil which I hadn’t tried before in life drawing.  This was probably the largest I would have wanted to draw in this media and although it was nice to be able to vary the line strength as with graphite pencil, I did find it limiting with regards to depth of tone.

As usual, with our classes, there was a specific objective or consideration as a theme.  Today, we looked at cropping to make an image more readable, selective and/or attractive for want of a better word.  We had a selection of pre-cut mounts to put over our drawings to experiment with the final composition.  Although, we try to consider the placement of our subjects prior to beginning our drawings, there are inevitably instances where, another image can be discovered by selecting specific areas on which to concentrate, or, as demonstrated above, if you manage to get the placement wrong, you may be able to rescue this with careful cropping.

Below are some attempts to “crop” my drawings of today:

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14 Placing a virtural mount to "crop" the image

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14
Placing a virtual mount to “crop” the image

 

Here, I chose to crop in this way as the model appears to be looking off into the distance, so this gives her the space to do that.

 

 

 

 

 

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14 Placing a virtural mount to "crop" the image

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14
Placing a virtual mount to “crop” the image

 

This produced a nice diagonal design which leaves space for the image to “breathe” and allows the eye to follow around the space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14 Placing a virtural mount to "crop" the image

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14
Placing a virtual mount to “crop” the image

 

Well, yes, the ulterior motive is to cut out the awful depiction of the model’s hand, however, it also gives a pleasing diagonal design to the image and concentrates the eye on the flowing lines of the figure.

 

 

 

 

 

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14 Placing a virtural mount to "crop" the image

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14
Placing a virtual mount to “crop” the image

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14 Placing a virtural mount to "crop" the image

Life Drawing Class 27/09/14
Placing a virtual mount to “crop” the image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two images from one.  The first is again, an attempt to rescue the unsuccessful subject placement, it also helps give the model a support for her leaning pose.  The edge of the crop almost appears to be the object she is leaning against.  In the second example, an area is selected on which the viewer can concentrate and transforms the image from a landscape orientation to portrait.

This, again, was a valuable and timely exercise.  It is something I will take into consideration for the preparation of my forthcoming assignment of two figure drawings.  Of course, the concentration will be on form, structure, line and tone as appropriate but the placement of the figure in the space is also an important factor.  I will look back at my still life drawings in my sketchbook as those arrangements on the page contributed to making the entire image more interesting.

Project: Self Portrait – Check and Log

26/09/14

Check & Log

  • Which drawing materials produced the best results? Why?

Over the course of this project I used varying grades of pencil (4B, 6B and 8B), liner pen, watersoluble pencil, soft and hard pastels and coloured pencils.  The majority of drawings were made in my A4 sketchbook which has NOT water colour paper pages and the colour self portrait was drawn on sanded pastel paper in a neutral green shade.  All worked reasonably well.  The liner pen seems to encourage me to be loose and expressive with my marks, yet still allows me to see what I’ve done.  The graphite pencils, as long as I keep them sharp, are good for more delicate shading and tone in smaller studies eg the Neck Shapes, although I do find them hard work for anything over A4.  My favourite, and therefore the best for me, was the combination of pastel and coloured pencil as in the self portrait – this was also helped by the neutral green tint of the pastel paper.  The pastels were great to block in tones, shapes and intial colours to establish the bulk of the head and neck.  Once the bare bones of the drawing were established it was nice to use the coloured pencils for more accurate drawing, although, once I realised which alterations were needed, I also used them for vigorous hatching and blocking in.  The main problem with doing this was that the pastel paper had a strong, abrasive tooth and wore the pencils down very quickly.

  • Does your self portrait look like you? Show it to a couple of friends or family members and note down their comments.

I think in general it does look like me.  As detailed in the exercise notes, it was fascinating to me how it evolved through a couple of family likenesses before it got to me.  I could definitely see my mother in it at one stage, which is very interesting as our features are quite different.  She used to say she had a “Bob Hope” nose, which although an exaggeration, I could see what she meant (realise this reference may have to be Googled by younger readers!).  I have to say I think the nose I drew is too small.

The Bob Hope nose

Disconcertingly, the next resemblance was my middle brother, we have a strong likeness to each other but I needed to bring in more feminine features.  As to what friends and family think, I bravely posted it on my Facebook page for critique!  In general, the comments were “I only remember a much more smiley Gina”, “looks like an older version of you”, “you’re definitely much more smiley than that”, “…looks even better than yesterday, was worth the re-work”, “eyes are spot on”, “an older version of you”, “…but you’re much more smiley”.  Very interesting I thought, I also noted the caption beneath the example in the course notes: “Boccioni’s frown of concentration is a frequent characteristic of self portraits!”  My conclusions are that: when attempting a portrait, self or otherwise, the sitter will relax into an expression and with the best will in the world can not hold a smile for the duration; a portrait is more than a moment in time, as may be said about a photograph, it is about a living, breathing person that should capture the essence of that person, the viewer should probably feel a connection or some sort of emotional pull that makes you feel you know something about them or have at least met them.  If I take my conclusions, then I probably failed on these aspects because people had specific recollections involving a lot of smiling (apparently), they thought I’d made myself look older, however, I think I got that part right, but I am quite animated when I talk so they don’t often see a “freeze-frame” serious me.  Well enough about me, let’s move on…

  • Did you find it easy to convert your sketches into a portrait?

No definitely not!  My portrait from memory was of my neighbour, and whereas a couple of my sketches do actually have a good likeness – or at least how I remember her, I could not replicate that likeness, try as I might!  I did put it down to the fact that Linda did not want her glasses on when I was sketching, yet that was how I’d always seen her and how I remembered her.  However, going back to the previous point, I think it was more than that, I needed to see her in front of me for the drawing to “be” her.

Court Artist Elizabeth Cook www.theguardian.com

Court Artist Elizabeth Cook http://www.theguardian.com

I have renewed admiration for court artists, such as Elizabeth Cook, who can capture not only a likeness but also the emotions and expressions of the players in a court of law.  They have to remember all these things and have their drawings displayed to the world as a realistic record of events denied to TV cameras and photographers.  See link:
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/court-artists-quick-on-the-draw-9091848.html

 

  •  Were your preliminary drawings adequate?

At the time I thought so.  After leaving it a couple of weeks before re-visiting the drawing, I was still confident until pencil hit paper.  I should have concentrated more on the solid head shape, BOTH eyes and more tonal structure.