Monday, 19 October 2015

Lots of drawings, what worked best?

I'm still reasonably pleased with my watercolour drawing from my first submission
and I like the liveliness of this drawing even though it's not what my tutor was looking for.

If I'm trying to do what he wanted then I think these are the best drawings
but both probably fall into the illustration category

and in response to his comments I have rewritten my statement

Artists Statement


Using loose flowing lines to convey a frozen moment in the swirling performance of the figure skater. The focus is on the person, a human being working as a machine. The surroundings are a blur, an unimportant background. The figure is glimpsed and incomplete, small and alone in the vast rink.

I want to use drawings as a way to make time stand still so that the uniqueness and beauty of the moment can be captured to be examined and fully appreciated. To do this, for this project, I choose to use ice skaters as my subject because they move rapidly, but in a predictable pattern with repetition. I have had plenty of opportunities to closely observe how they move, and as an amateur ice skater I have myself experienced many of the movements that I have drawn so that I can include my own feelings of how the pose works as well as how it looks to an audience. 

My interest is in the beauty to be found in ugly places and the effort of people to achieve that beauty. My drawings are meant to be contemporary, not historical, I am in the here and now, this is what I am seeing and recording, I don't feel able to comment on the past or look into the future. I fluctuate between wanting to record and expose the rigours of practice which the public never sees or to comment on the loneliness of the performer in front of the crowd, maybe the resultant image is a bit of both. We the viewers look on from the stability and relative comfort of the sides outside the barriers which contain the ice. We could be supportive and encouraging or pushy and domineering. Because we are outside the ice we have only our single window view to try and understand the complexities of the relationship between the skater and the ice, a world we cannot enter unless we are prepared to embrace the unpredictable and step onto the ice.

Before I started I looked at videos of ice skating on YouTube to try and break down the elements of action, and made drawing based on what I saw however I found that I made better drawings by using my memory and imagination which was based on my earlier visual studies.

My work has been influenced by my research into other practitioners, Rubens, Tim Stoner,  the carefully executed dance drawings of Karolina Szymkiewicz and the multiple overlaid lines of Jane Waller. Also the paper preparation techniques of Laura Ferguson.

I have treated every drawing as an experiment so the drawings weren't planned but were allowed to evolve, sometimes successfully, sometimes into a dead end.  The liveliest drawings happened when there is evidence of my search for the best line and when I didn't know how the figure was going to take shape or what they would be doing.  A variety of media was tested and this experiment with different media is an ongoing theme in my work.


Sunday, 18 October 2015

Further drawings in response to tutor feedback

Armed with my research I did some more drawings. First some sketchbook studies.
 of parents and spectators
 of the architecture of the rink
and of the coaches which I didn't do in my normal sketchbook and now can't find....
Working on an A1 sheet of paper I started by trying to convey the shabby environment of the rink using charcoal then added a skater in ink using a dip pen. The two mediums don't sit well together.
I smudged the charcoal then added more skaters, rubbing the smudged charcoal out so that they stand out. Influenced by Ruben's paintings I aimed for a busy group with lots happening.

The background has parallels with the paintings of Colin Crotty
I quite like the technique and the effects of the rubbed out charcoal so I covered a sheet of paper in charcoal, rubbed our the figures and added details in charcoal and white conte. I find it so much easier to draw on A3 paper that I can place on my lap rather than trying to draw on an easel or lean up against something. The lack of an ink outline makes this a rather indistinct fuzzy drawing that wouldn't grab anyone's attention except maybe to look closer to try and work out what is going on and why I bothered.
I switched to watersoluble crayons. This first attempt looks too tidy
So I added water and smeared the crayons. It's better but not quite right yet.
I tried to make the background more ugly and ended up adding some more figures which seems to have some potential 
A pencil study of the potential of this idea
Lead to this drawing in water soluble crayon on blue/grey sugar paper
This approach looks at the repetitiveness of practice and the movement towards performance (the crowd) Is it too self explanatory? The blue grey of the sugar paper has been lost in the earlier photo so after I added some colour I photographed it from a distance then cropped it which managed to fool it into accurately representing the blue paper. I'm sure I've been subconsciously influenced by Cezanne here

The other approach was to look at the loneliness of the skater in front of the crowd and the role that other people play in their lives. With this drawing I wanted the viewer to question the role of the larger figure in the foreground. I used white conte and pastel on black sugar paper.
I tried cropping but I think this is overdoing it
This is better

I explored scenarios and narratives but ultimately what interested me about this project was the feeling of movement and how it feels to be part of or inside that. Revisiting my sketchbook drawings I drew this sequence of movement which emphasises the repetitive nature of practice required to master a movement.
This drawing was influenced by Howard Brodie's pencil sketch of battle I redrew it in white pencil on denim paper from the Apsley Paper Trail
Then added some colour give it definition
This has a touch of Beryl Cook mixed with Tim Stoner
My reason for doing this course is to push myself to work differently and explore new ideas and I'm conscious that this drawing doesn't answer any of the challenges set by my tutor in my feedback. There is no narrative and the background is abstract and unreal. It is more an illustration than a drawing and lacks academic content.
This is a better response but although I'm reasonably happy with it I don't feel it is truly my drawing or expresses what I want to convey in this project. My challenge to myself was to better represent movement and was partly in response to the criticism of the static skateboarding figure in Assignment  three which I fully agree with. I think the challenge in doing a course like this is to take on new ideas and be responsive to external views and criticism without loosing your own personal style or viewpoint in the process. Following my external research I feel that many established artists and illustrators are employed or commissioned to translate what they see into their own predictable style almost like employing the services of an interpreter. If you order a Julian Opie you are expecting a simple computer generated cartoon style and you're not going to be very happy if he does something different (though his style does appear to be evolving) Well established artists such as Peter Blake seem to manage to work in a variety of styles but it doesn't appear to be the norm. Is "success" a recognisable style or the freedom to work in different ways and how much do you need to let go of your own preferred style and taste to learn and progress as an artist?

Monday, 12 October 2015

More artist research

Alexander Calder was interested in movement, from early kinetic sculpture made for his father. December (1909): For Christmas, Calder presents his parents with a dog and a duck that he trimmed from a brass sheet and bent into formation. The duck is kinetic, rocking back and forth when tapped. (Sweeney 1943, 57; Hayes 1977, 41) through to his trademark mobiles. http://www.calder.org/life/chronology
This is abstract real movement rather than representational drawing but it is a different way of solving  the challenge of celebrating movement. Although he is most famous for his mobiles and sculptures he   did paintings and prints of which I really like Black sun There is movement in this painting encouraged by the way the wobbly lines draw your eye away from the black dot.

I was also directed to Samuel Becket’s ‘Quad’ which is very simple but strangely addictive and provided a repetitive series of movements to draw from.


Sunday, 11 October 2015

More responses to tutor feedback

My tutor asked me to look at my favourite pieces and list about 50 of the strongest words that come to me. My words are:

Flowing, Swirling, Performance, Balance, Grace, Effort, Style, Cold, Moment, Lines, Pop, Bubbles, Purple, Twist, Ice, Slide, Explode, Splat, Rhythm, Music, Dance, Exercise, Movement, Precision, Spin, Bounce, Solo, Alone, Spotlight, Training, Practice, Dedication, Loose, Hesitant, Party, Fizz, Hours, Aim, Cumulate, Target, Goals, Development, Fear, Excitement, Magic, Anticipation, Courage, Sweat, Lively, Rink, Challenge, Athlete.

Then to make these words into sentences:
Flowing grace and style. 
The cold of the rink, the smoothness of the ice.
Anticipating the magic of the spotlight.
A person working as a machine.
The performance explodes with excitement.
Perfectly balanced twists and turns.

A celebration of music and dance, of training dedication and precision.
Hours of dedicated training and practice, overcoming the cold and fear to develop the skills to execute the performance.
Cumulating in the performance in front of the audience alone in the spotlight.
Glimpsed and incomplete, small and alone in the vast rink.

To celebrate the hours of dedicated practice and training to develop the skills, the rhythm and the balance to execute a complex routine alone in front of the crowd. The surroundings a blur, an unimportant background.

Twisting, gliding, spinning, jumping, moving freely across the cold ice, overcoming fear alone in the spotlight. 

Then to form those sentences into two paragraphs.

Beauty and grace in the cold grubby ice rink. Hours of dedicated practice and training to develop the skills, the rhythm and the balance to execute a complex routine alone in front of the crowd. Twisting, gliding, spinning, jumping, moving freely across the cold ice, overcoming fear alone in the spotlight. 

Using loose flowing lines to convey a frozen moment in the swirling performance of the figure skater. The focus is on the person, a human being working as a machine. The surroundings are a blur, an unimportant background. The figure is glimpsed and incomplete, small and alone in the vast rink.


My interest is in the beauty to be found in ugly places and the effort of people to achieve that beauty. My drawings are meant to be contemporary, not historical, I am in the here and now, this is what I am seeing and recording, I don't feel able to comment on the past or look into the future. I fluctuate between wanting to record and expose the rigours of practice which the public never sees or to comment on the loneliness of the performer in front of the crowd, maybe the resultant image is a bit of both. We the viewers look on from the stability and relative comfort of the sides outside the barriers which contain the ice. We could be supportive and encouraging or pushy and domineering. Because we are outside the ice we have only our single window view to try and understand the complexities of the relationship between the skater and the ice, a world we cannot enter unless we are prepared to embrace the unpredictable and step onto the ice.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Artist research

Assignment 5 suffered from having to fight for my attention with a period of study for my day job. I wasn't surprised that my tutor complained about my lack of research into the work of other artists in his feedback. My work related studies have returned to a more manageable level so I now have time retrospectively to do the work that I should have done earlier.
On his recommendation  I looked at the drawings of Rubens (also here). His preparatory sketches are simple lines to rough out an idea. They feel very modern with their economy of line. The more finished drawings cleverly use light and dark to make them look three dimensional. His paintings are very busy with figures intertwined and lots of action to tell their story. He does capture the potential for movement very well, even though the figures are painted or drawn in a static realistic way they look like action photos where a representative moment has been sampled. He fills the page, whether he is drawing or painting, there is hardly any blank space. Was this because paper/canvas was so expensive at the time? My drawings contrast in that I always have space around my figures. Is this because I was encouraged in school to make my drawings and diagrams clear and easy to understand? For me paper is relatively inexpensive so I can afford not to fill it up.

Tim Stoner has three distinct styles of paintings, some of his earlier works look like woodcuts. Of his "middle period" I particularly like Anglia, 2009-11 More recent work is very static, has he got fed up with trying to convey movement? (which is probably impossible) Freedom is similar to what I have been trying to do with my drawings of ice skaters. Interestingly the figure is placed centrally and there is only a suggestion of the background.


My tutor suggested that I look at the work of the Futurists, a movement that has managed to pass me by although I am rather fond of Giacomo Balla's Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912). I found this article about female futurists in the Telegraph, I wish that I had seen the exhibition that prompted it. I particularly like this sketch which looks like the preparatory study for Natalia Goncharova's The Cyclist although it appears to have been signed by Umberto Boccioni. This is just the sort of thing I'm trying to do. Boccioni seems to have experimented with a variety of styles and media. In pictures I have seen, the diagonal lines in his abstract States of Mind: Those Who Go and the repeated figures in The Charge Of The Lancers give a great feel of movement. Gino Severini used a similar style of fractured images to make his paintings more alive Le Boulevard is like looking through a prism. I assume they were influenced by the photographic techniques of √Čtienne-Jules Marey. I was familiar with the work of Eadweard Muybridge but didn't realise that Marey was first, what an amazing man. He may have been primarily a scientist but his work is much more artistic than Muybridge's photos, (take a look at the Flight Of A Seagull) although both are fascinating. I think Giacomo Balla is my favourite Futurist, during my research I discovered The Hand Of The Violinist which combines diagonal lines and repeated images to represent a very simple range of movement in a brilliant way.

As part of my studies for my day job I was lucky to go to Washington and visited the National Gallery of Art where I saw some Degas sculptures of dancers.
 This interesting way of supporting a delicately balanced sculpture.
A woman drying herself which captures the feeling of motion in progress but stopped still for just a moment.
and a woman in a bath, The Tub

There were a number of Rodin sculptures. I've loved Rodin since I stumbled upon the Gates of Hell in the Musee D'Orsay and I was fascinated by the Evil Spirits.There is a video on You Tube here which focuses too much on the feet but does give you a better ideas of the three dimensional form.


I also went to an exhibition in the Library of Congress which had this lovely reportage drawing by Franklin Mc Mahon of a group of African Americans gathering to register to vote in Dallas.
 Also this drawing by Howard Brodie who was a courtroom illustrator. The crowd look like they will take flight at any moment.
Pencil captures the tension of movement well, the slanted lines in this drawing make it lively.

Consistently the pictures that interest me generally have very little background and lots of focus on the action of the figures in the foreground (The Degas dancers and Franklin Mc Mahon's picture above don't conform to this "rule" but there have to be exceptions) They also are generally drawn in pencil or ink and look as though they have been dashed off on site whilst the action went on around them. The picture is placed quite centrally and the view is as though the scene is being observed through a window. Maybe I need to expand my horizons.