Sunday, 24 April 2016

Project 3 - Narrative

The brief says "Think of a person for whom you have strong feelings or hold a strong opinion." 

I've done this the wrong way round in that drawing with icing made me think of my mum who is a cook and a skilled cake decorator. She also enjoys sewing and gardening so it was a small step to objects that give a sense of her as a person.
Although I intended to draw with icing the strongest image was of a food processor and a fork.
So it made sense to draw with a sewing machine. I looked at examples of other practitioners, Kristin Loffer Theiss and Marion Boddy-Evans have done some lovely loose portraits and figures and Danny Mansmith does some very detailed pieces. 
I had a little doodle with my sewing machine and put some test spots of my red cabbage "ink" on a scrap of fabric.

I enlarged the small drawing on some rough paper to confirm that the layout would work on a larger scale.
Then drew the outlines lightly with charcoal and machined them in on a piece of old white sheet.
The image is very simplistic and stylised, my mum is a very straightforward person. To complement the plain lines I added colour with my red cabbage "ink" because my mum loves blue and is fond of experimenting with recipes. I did some tests on the computer with Photoshop to confirm I wanted colour.
Then threw colour at my drawing

Initially it looked awful, too much colour and too purple so I did add some water on the bigger patches of colour and it mellowed as everything dried.
So now, a couple of days later this is what it looks like.
Although you can't see it on the scanned and coloured image the charcoal didn't wash out completely so I tried drawing the lines directly on the sheet in red cabbage ink.

Them machined over the top

and added some more splurged and flicked colour
Given a couple of days to set/fade this is the result

The colours are bolder, I liked the deep effect with the spots of colour in my experiments
but I guess that won't happen when applying colour to fabric rather than paper. 
I'm not sure that the sewn drawing and the "ink" drawing work together. To me the strongest piece (apart from the original thumbnail) is this brush drawing.
but the medium doesn't tell you as much about my mum, the sewn line is much more relevant and I know she despises loose drawings and prefers lifelike detail. The original sketch was enlivened by my multiple lines as I searched for the correct one.
and this is something missing in the sewing machine drawings as I have aimed for a continuous line so I repeated the exercise using multiple sewn lines.

It still looks rather premeditated but I think it is a slightly stronger drawing. I hesitated to add colour to this one yet as I'm not sure that it is working so I tried some photoshop mock ups.

It's a bit dull without colour so here goes....
I think this is a better image for the more restrained addition of colour. I love monochrome drawings but they are read as more hesitant than something that has added colour.

The medium which is used to create a drawing can be important depending on how it is applied. Oil paint is not drawing but tends to be used in such a subtle manner that you forget what it is, the Dutch Masters painted their still lives in such a realistic fashion that the paint isn't obvious. The medium selected for a picture can complement it, a sketchy pencil drawing for a fleeting moment like these reportage drawings by Louis Netter. Or Veronica Lawlor's pen, ink and mixed media drawings which beautifully convey the urgency of the moment. Michael Craig Martin uses sterile flat lines and curves to depict dull everyday objects but manages to elevate them to something that people stop and look at instead of taking them for granted. If you are going to draw in a contrasting or clashing media there is a danger that the media will overwhelm the message of the drawing, the example of the oil and steel drawing of a baby would depend on the manner in which it was executed, the imagery would have to be strong to adequately convey the message. 
Marcus Harvey did this successfully with his painting Myra which shocked the media by using a childs handprints. It encourages the viewer to consider what is ethical and appropriate not just to view the picture and move on.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Project 3 - Narrative - Preparation.

Experiments with traditional media

The basis of project 3 is that the media used for an image conveys a message of it's own which is in addition to the picture which it is used to make. The dull uniformity of a digital image, the scratchy energy of a quick sketch. I've done mark making exercises for previous courses so I decided to work in my sketchbook through all the traditional drawing materials I have available to me and note my emotional response.

Experiments with non standard materials

I wandered round the garden and picked up a daffodil, 
some grape hyacinths, a sprig of rosemary and a piece of eucalyptus bark.

Only the rosemary and the hyacinth made a mark.

I like the effect of the hyacinth which retained the blue colour so I added some lines with blue and green ink. I like the results.
Lots of people paint with coffee so I tried tea but even letting the bag steep for ages and reducing the resultant liquid in a saucepan it didn't become a very strong colour. I read that you can stabilise it with gum arabic but I'm underwhelmed by the colour so I can't see that it's worth it.
I did enjoy experimenting with carrot water so I bought a red cabbage and boiled it up which makes a pinky purple colour which becomes more of the blue spectrum of purple as it dries
As it covers everything with colour I shredded some more raw cabbage with a sheet of paper on my chopping board
This might have some potential. Turned upside down it looks like a forest so I added some hikers.

I wondered of the colour change as it dried was due to the heating process so I liquidised some raw cabbage and lay it out on a tray then laid a sheet of paper over it  and pressed down in a random fashion to transfer the colour.

Then I added a little white vinegar to wash the colour off and make some "ink"
I painted this on some undyed canvas to see if the colour changed due to reaction with the paper. It is less blue and more purple.
I flicked and sprayed my inks onto paper
then drew into them when they had dried with fine liner

and on a bigger sheet chased the wet droplets around with a hairdryer

Drawing with a hairdryer. I like the effect, it's impossible to control but maybe with practice...? That said maybe the whole point is not to have control?
Some more sketchbook work:
On the left brush strokes with added tails to make them look like leaves or seedpods. On the right I copied drawings made while watching a video of a talk by Gosia Wlodarczak and used my "ink" to add some colour.
I worked into some of the random marks. This was a drawing of the eucalyptus tree in my garden at dusk made with felt tip pens and fine liners over a sweep of colour. I added some "ink" that had burnt to represent a smaller bush. I have rotated the original drawing 90 degrees anticlockwise and it looks more interesting and a bit abstract.

 I flicked colour at paper then drew petals around it when it was dry
Made a wash of tea in my sketchbook then drew over it and closed my sketchbook over some splashed colour. The bottom shape looked like bird so I used splashed "ink" and a hairdryer to make the wings and tail feathers.

Icing can be used to draw
 I used shiny card and sugar paper. This is not an easy one to send to my tutor
Interestingly the lines developed bubbles as they dried

On the advice of other students in the Drawing 2 discussion group I've been reading Will Gompertz's excellent book What are you looking at? Although it wasn't much appreciated by the Guardian's reviewer I found it very helpful at putting artists and movements into context. I had long suspected that lots of things would make more sense if they were introduced in chronological order and I knew what the artist was reacting to. 
Amongst the artists I was introduced to was Lucio Fontana and I realised that it was possible to draw by cutting into the paper. This sort of links to the last project where I was scratching away the surface to make drawings. I glued some scrap sugar paper onto card and drew with a scalpel blade.
This is based on the leaves of the eucalyptus tree outside. Maybe the paper doesn't need to be glued down although it helps to stop the top surface from ripping as it is cut. This is taken much further by Jessica Palmer and Akira Nagoya

Friday, 1 April 2016

Project 2: Mark-making materials

This project has been challenging, I think I've spent too long on it and made some very poor images.
I made a variety of supports but found scratching the top layer off both challenging - my top surfaces adhered far too well, and  stressful - like scraping a blackboard with a fingernail. This made it hard to develop the drawing fully.

First sharpie on polystyrene scratched with a scalpel blade;
Sustained scratching on the left side pillar creates a nice texture.
original drawing - the arches at the entrance to St Pancras Station

Acrylic paint on board also required a scalpel blade to scrape;

Original drawing looking up from the basement of the Wallace Collection - I was interested in the way the curved windows reflected the supports of the glass roof.

Oil pastel over acrylic paint - this came off easier so I could use a penknife, screwdriver and the back if some tweezers to reveal the underlying colour;

Original drawing, a hyacinth and daffodils which have started to droop.
Orange household paint on silver card. Originally, because of the colours I wanted to draw sweets

 but the paint flaked off in big pieces although it looks bit better in the photo than in real life.

The flaky paint suggested the branches of a shrub or tree so I made a rough drawing,
 and had another go. 

It doesn't quite work because the first drawing wasn't properly worked out and the colours are wrong which doesn't make it easy to understand what you are looking at however the shapes of the lines are good and the technique could have potential if better considered. What also could have worked was to scratch into the silver card without applying paint. Sadly I don't seem to have any more card but I will look out for more.

I also tried oil pastel on the cover of a black drawing book, that won't come off with anything, and Jiff smeared thickly on my fridge door which doesn't show up well enough.
Left over icing on a chopping board which didn't want to dry

and acrylic ink on photo paper which is possible to remove but only just. I used a scalpel blade both the point and the flat edge.
The effect is very much like the work of John Virtue and looks much better scanned, cropped and considered.

This was the original sketchbook drawing
Inspired by the cropped image I worked into it a bit more using a pen knife, sandpaper and a scourer.
The effect varies where the ink wasn't applied evenly giving some ghostly effects and making a scraped line look uneven. I abandoned the original drawing to experiment with swirls and curves which means that the finished picture lacks coherence. I didn't paint the ink to the edges of the paper so that I could handle it whilst wet and I like the uneven shape.

This and the plants are the most successful of my experiments.
The course notes suggest study of paintings with particular reference to mark making specifically study of two pieces:

1 - Two Thatched Cottages with Figures at the Window, Rembrandt, 17th century (pen & brown ink) which is available online via the Bridgeman Education Library. This is a study in what can be achieved using a pen and ink. The ink is sepia/brown except for a couple of intriguing patches on the roof which are grey. Is this as a result of ageing or some sort of glitch with the ink? He uses thick bold lines, thin scratchy lines, scribbles and squiggles. The lines that describe the scene are so beautifully loose and expressive, the figures just a suggestion of lines. I love the way he has drawn a third roof on the far right hand side of the paper but not supported it with a building. Lack of time? Loss of interest? I enjoy sketches so much more than finished work.

2 - The Raising of Lazarus, Caravaggio, 16th century (also Bridgeman Education Library) This is a larger and more complicated drawing which makes it harder to appreciate the complexity of the lines online. Using dark and light on a medium coloured ground creates depth and interest in a picture, the accompanying text does not state what medium is used to create the white areas. The white on the folds of the clothing indicate strong sunlight but do they depict undergrowth or water in the body of the picture? In the distance the mountain appears snow covered and inhospitable. The dark lines expresses the stunted trees and distant buildings. Both colours are used to describe the distance (no arial perspective here)