Thursday, 31 August 2017

Conclusion and work for assessment

For me Drawing 2 has been about relinquishing control. I don't like tight controlled pieces of work when I see them produced by other artists but in my own work I was unable to break free of the need to be neat and accurate. Left to my own devices I was making drawings like the dog and cat pictures for Part 5, Project 3 A finer focus.

The feather drawings for Assignment 2 allowed me to make a picture that was visually pleasing to me but contained random marks because, even with practice, the feathers had a tendency to do their own thing.

The colours are a bit tentative but I can feel movement in the drawing.

Drawing from a distance for Part 3 Project 2 meant that I had to work the wobbliness of my lines into my finished drawings.
This drawing influenced the way my parallel project progressed. Is it more of a study than a finished piece? In the past I would have said yes but contemporary artists such as Tracey Emin don't make highly finished work, and those that do, such as George Shaw make pictures that are still and lifeless, even if there is the tension that something may be about to happen.

The skate drawings for Part 3 Project 3 removed control because I was using the lines created incidentally by something that wasn't a traditional drawing implement, also the resultant lines were abstract so there was no expectation that they would represent anything but themselves.

 The coloured versions have overworked the original idea so I repeated them in black and white.

Though maybe I prefer them cropped.

I feel that when I got to Part 5 I had got into my stride and started to make work that feels authentic. In the past I have felt that my coursework is not genuinely my work. Project 1 A changing scene led to some drawings which I would be happy to display and gave me techniques that work for making drawings outside of the demands of the course, I drew runners in a half marathon and people at the Tate in the same style.

Project 4, Time and the viewer led me to make the hagiographs, something completely different to anything I have done before. 

I enjoyed combining practical making with the unexpected way that the cut paper behaves when the hagiograph is turned. I made plans to film the machines working, but subsequently decided that the whole point of them is that the turning of the handles controls the passage of time, the viewer/operator can move quickly or slowly. I hope that they can survive the journey to Barnsley and turning by the assessors.... 

Here is the finished original box.
This is what it looks like under the window.

This is the small hagiograph

There is more development that could be done with these, what happens with different paper cuts and different viewing windows?

Finally the daffodil drawing for Assignment 5.
It is the development of an idea that I have been carrying with me for some time and, on the face of it a controlled, detailed drawing. Until now I have been unable to make the idea for the drawing work and this has been because I couldn't cope with less than perfect drawings of the flowers. I have realised that the errors that I see don't matter. The drawing is about the uniqueness and imperfections of the flowers as they bloom and fade. I want you to study them for their faults and differences and enjoy them for what is "wrong" about them. I have wrestled with concepts of colour for this piece and ultimately left the drawing in black and white, I think that the addition of colour in the test pieces is a distraction. The drawing is about the equal beauty of the flowers whether they are buds, or in their last stages of life. When I have time I would like to repeat the drawing on a smaller scale and either add colour from the start or make myself add colour and see what develops, but my recent experiments have led to too many overworked drawings.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Parallel project

I've kept a separate blog for my parallel project because it ran alongside my normal coursework. If you're interested its at . As ever any comments or criticisms are always welcome.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Artist research - Stephen Farthing and Kelly Chorpening

Stephen Farthing has a variety of drawings on his website using ink and watercolour, crayon, charcoal and mixed media. He employs a variety of styles from loose diagrammatic drawings (Taxonomy of Drawings, The drawn history of painting) abstract drawings (Drawing the atlantic) and rough childlike drawings (HMS Victory) I think that the best drawings on his website are A man reading a newspaper which were influenced by Jean Helion's painting The big daily read. They look as though they have been done from life and are full of energy created by the loose scribbled lines and bold use of charcoal. As a professor of drawing he has written extensively on the subject.

My research led me to this video lecture in which he draws drawing and discusses what it is. His definition of drawing is ; "a 2 dimensional representation of multi dimensional events".
Until I watched the video I did't understand the diagrammatic drawings on his website. I like the way that he includes maps and writing in his classification of drawing. I believe that if you can write you can draw, its a skill you can learn if you are sufficiently motivated to practice. He also says that the judgement of whether a drawing is good it whether it conveys what it set out to, not whether it is aesthetically pleasing. On this basis a map is an excellent drawing and the drawings of drawing are better than the man reading a newspaper. My judgement is swayed but what is aesthetically pleasing which is probably why my primary interest is in illustration.

Kelly Chorpening works in 2 and 3 dimensions. Her statement talks about works that focus on the unseen back of a painting and her 3 dimensional work is flat pieces peeled off the wall. Her older works are reminiscent of complex cityscapesinteriors, and scaffolding. She also has some great, restrained, text based work which becomes more lively when projected onto a wall creating layers of image. I think that this is her best piece of work.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Study Visit Brian Sanders at the Lever Gallery and a degree show

Brian Sanders was interviewed by Robert Elms on Radio London.  I'm not old enough to remember his work but it has a lovely familiar feel so I guess I must have seen it when I was a child. The Lever Gallery is dedicated to showing illustration and when I visited it was being manned but a very chatty man who told me loads about the process of creating artwork in the 1960's.
The figures in the drawings are realistic but loosely executed, Sanders used a confident flowing line to draw. The backgrounds are realistic but he isn't afraid to make buildings lean or have his people at an angle to make the pictures dynamic. The exhibition focused on his commercial work from the 1960's and reportage art made for the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The original work for Kubrick has been lost so this part of the display was of prints made from photos of the works. I was fascinated by the way he had painted the space suits which looked as though they reflected the light. The bubble and streak technique which was very popular in the 1960's was an attempt to recreate the effects of acrylic paint which was available in the states but not here. It makes paintings look as though they have been stitched and must have been incredibly difficult to handle without making them look muddy. They represent a world where illustrations were much more common in magazines. Sadly many of the originals were never returned to the artist and either got thrown away or were taken by magazine staff.

I also went to the degree show at the University of Hertfordshire - just about. Its always quite difficult to work out when it is but this year I had a tip off from another OCA student. The problem was that it was only open for a few weekdays between 10 and 4 which is when I'm at work. Apparently you could apply for tickets to the private view which was a Tuesday evening but I wasn't aware of that and it was too late. Luckily a very nice staff member let me in to the illustration room for a quick peek although as she was about to finish work it was hardly relaxed viewing. The work was well executed and presented but there seemed to be a very strong house style which I found a bit disappointing. I expected a degree show to be much more experimental. I post this because I felt that as a distance learning student I have a much better deal. I can look at what is produced by my fellow students but its influence is no greater than the influence I gain from other established artists so I am in a better position to create more individual work. Also, should I make it that far, because I'm an independent student I can (and will) choose the venue and times of my degree show to suit the viewing public.

The RCA degree show was in another league. I didn't understand a lot of the work which included work for the MA in Information Experience Design. In the past I have found that the only way to understand design is to ask the designer to explain their work me but on this occasion I was short of time. I watched some lovely videos form the MA in Animation. There was a lot of stop motion work with models and an interesting piece about children mining cobalt which makes me feel a bit guilty about my art materials, I need to do some research. Short animations are a good way to tell unpalatable stories.

Charcoal drawings by Latifah Al-Said stood out. Her displayed work was about human slavery and was both thought provoking and hauntingly beautiful. The RCA building has three staircases which does seem a bit excessive. She had drawings and lettering on the steps of one of these. I wish that I had taken a photo. Here is her instagram photo of the work in progress

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Study Visit Jo Brocklehurst at the House of Illustration

This was great. Big bold drawings of big characters. The punks particularly leapt off the pages so lively. I hadn't heard of Jo Brocklehurst before but I've enjoyed previous exhibitions at the House of Illustration and I was reminded in time to visit by an interview with Isabelle Bricknell by Robert Elms on Radio London.

The figures took up all of the paper but there was rarely any background, seated figures with nothing to sit on except each other - many of the subjects were couples drawn together. The works are on fairly thin cheap paper, mainly in pastel with ink and metallic or fluorescent paint in a supporting role. There were touches of collage and hand drawn lettering. Her lines were sweeping, bold and confident. Apparently she wasn't interested in capturing beauty so she was free to draw pouting lips and dead limpid eyes but somehow they still looked beautiful to me. The hands were slightly oversized and knobbly drawn with confidence. The drawings are lively and energetic because she drew rapidly even when there was time available. The lines were often in orange, blue or red, or latterly in fluorescent colours. She drew live in darkened nightclubs whilst wearing dark glasses so I guess whilst she was making them the colour was irrelevant and it was the shapes that she was concentrating on.

Information about the exhibition at House of llustration Some images here and Vice tells you more about her as a person here. She was taught by Elizabeth Suter who also did some brilliant figures of women.

There was also a small selection of drawings by Linda Kitson which are so much nicer in real life than I could have imagined from the online photos.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Assignment 5 - Drawing over a period of time

Its spring so all around me things are growing. A long time ago I had a plan to draw daffodils every day from bud to the end. I've always been fascinated by the shapes that flowers go through as they die off, I usually keep cut flowers in a vase long after a normal person would have thrown them out.

I did some preparatory studies.
The bunch fresh from the shop. Pencil. 

Ink and watercolour
A stick dipped into drawing ink which has become a bit sticky and doesn't work with a pen
Fountain pen
Biro Ink and coloured pencil
Oil pastel

Oil Pastel
Whilst I liked the loose oil pastel drawings it was impossible to properly represent the dying flower with such a thick line.

I liked this little ink drawing
and the subsequent drawing where I added coloured pencil
This is about the passage of time from birth to decay but the original idea seems a bit stylised and forced. Influenced by Lisa Milroy's pictures of collected things, I chose to draw the flowers in ink with a fountain pen mixing them randomly on the page.  

Here is a close up.

Growing daffodils appear in a haphazard arrangement, not neatly lined up. Whilst daffodils flower in the spring, if you buy cut flowers you control the beginning and the end of the cycle, we are playing with time. The drawing evolved over a week, the first bunch of flowers were starting to die off so I bought a second bunch and drew from them simultaneously so that I could mix the stages of the flowers together on the same page. Is this a cheat? If I had just relied on a single group of flowers all at the same stage I would have been unable to mix them up. The shapes of the flowers evolved as the drawing progressed over time. I started close to the middle of the page and randomly worked my way outwards to mix everything up a bit more. 
This drawing is about the clash between the natural and the artificial. I was influenced by Elsworth Kelly's wonderful plant drawings and by the detailed drawings of weeds by Jacques Nimki who was recommended to me by my tutor.
The original plan was to add colour but I really like the picture as it is. I posted the picture in the Critique section of the forum for advice. The opinion was mostly for leaving it as it is. I was surprised at how strongly many of the respondents reacted against the colour yellow as to me the brightness of yellow daffodils is a welcome change from the dull colours of winter. Because it took so long to draw I've become a bit precious with the drawing which I know is unhealthy. To get round this I photocopied part of the picture (it's A2 and I only have an A3 scanner so it had to be a sample) and played with colour on the scan both with Photoshop.

Background colour, aerosol greens and yellows

Here committing the heinous crime of using yellow...
Then working on printed copies.

What worked?

 I like the background colour in this. It separates the individual flowers but still gives them equal importance. However it starts to look like a wrapping paper design.
 Although this has the dreaded yellow it's subtle. It's unifying but a bit tentative.
I'm interested in the shapes of the dying flowers and one of the replies in the critique suggested that I just coloured the dying flowers. This does present a bit of a problem in that it's not always clear when this point is reached and which flowers I should include. Here, using Photoshop, I singled out just one flower but on reflection it's important to me that they are all given equal attention. 

This drawing started out as a piece about time but became a comment on beauty, equality and ageing. I want the viewer to spend time with my crowd of daffodils and examine them, appreciating their individual beauty.

I don't know if Part 5 just resonated with me or whether this has been the point when it all started to click. The projects that I have completed feel more honest in that I have been able to respond to the brief and experiment whilst producing work that feels like it is truely mine. Others will judge whether the work has any quality.

Assignment 5 appeared to be the least inspiring project to me when I read through the brief but it has generated so many parallel ideas I wish that I had time to develop all of them thoroughly, although I am very happy to take a short break from drawing daffodils. It was the first time that I have posted anything on the Critique forum and I was surprised at how the comments helped to clarify my view of the work and see what I wanted to represent with it. With the help of these comments I feel that I have made a piece of work that has more depth and meaning than I have done before.

The figure drawing exercise at the beginning has improved my ability to capture moving crowds which I have been working on for years. Capturing people, particularly in motion is a recurrent theme in my personal sketchbook work. Artists books are a new area for me and I would like to do more projects like this, particularly working over existing texts which sparked ideas to pursue. When making my artists book I didn’t consider the Edge group of students who made the work that I was subverting. One of the students has subsequently been in touch and the project was shared with them. Their reaction was fortunately positive and I hope to come up with an idea of my own for the next issue so that someone else can give me a taste of my own medicine!

Project 3, A finer focus was less challenging, this is the sort of work that I have been making at home for years. My drawings were too traditional and dull, I should have been more subversive with the subject matter. It did however show me how much more confident my mark making has become, an enjoyable meditative exercise for all that.

Project 4 was totally different to anything that I have done before and there are many adaptations that I could make to my Hagiograph that would tell a different story. My interests lie in illustration and so many of the projects in Part 5 can be interpreted in an illustrative way.

This does feel like an endpoint and I still have to pick up the threads of my parallel project which has been neglected in favour of the Critical review which I found challenging and have spent far too much time on for the quality of work that I have produced. I need to get better at looking at and
interpreting other artists work. I still feel that good artwork doesn’t need a wordy explanation but I need to convey my own ideas and interpretation. The critique of my Assignment 5 provided by others was invaluable to my understanding of it’s potential.

I wanted to do Drawing 2 from the moment that I saw the description of the course but it hasn’t been anything like what I expected. There is a lot of mixed media which suits me as I don’t like my ideas and options being limited by the tools and materials that I am using. It has taught me to think differently and really experiment with ideas and push them away from their source. I like the way that the course is so open to interpretation, is this because it’s a level 2 course? Although the course was different to what I expected I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m on the Visual Communication pathway and I’m looking forward to Illustration 2.


The ink drawing is quite tight and the piece is quite illustrative. This may be a product of working on a large scale and smaller versions, possibly with different flowers, could lead to a looser approach. The coloured versions all have predictable colours, brighter and different colours could work better.
Look at Anya Gallacio, particularly Preserve Beauty. 

Anya Gallacio (also here)
She is interested in the process of change over time using flowers and other materials such as fruit ice and chocolate. They are treated as a performance art which is set in motion then observed over time. The artist and the viewer have no control over how the installation changes but are passive observers in the process. In a world where we try to control and manage everything it is good to sit back and just watch what happens. We also dismiss natural objects when they are not in perfect state which means that we miss some stages of beauty because we aren't programmed to look for it. 
Preserve Beauty is also a comment on our disposable culture, artificially bred flowers which don't last, resources spent to create something that wilts and rots.

Research point - Frank Auerbach

The text gives this link. There is a short article about a retrospective here. Tim Adams, writing in The Guardian links Auerbach to the concept of time "the longer you look at Auerbach’s painting, the more it lets you see" and there are interviews with his sitters here. Auerbach himself says of his process he paints, "to play a small trick with time", turning "the curious nullity of a silent man by himself in the studio into something that happens" (also from the Guardian) He was influenced by his teacher David Bomberg, this can be seen in Bomberg's charcoal drawing St Pauls and the River, and his portrait of his wife Lilian Holt

I prefer Auerbach's drawings to his paintings, but maybe that is because I saw them at the British Library Study visit last year. It is so much easier to appreciate a picture in real life.  I like the feel of the face being carved out of the charcoal marks. Both his paintings and drawings are busy but coherent. They are paintings to study, to stop and consider. 

His work is about charting the small changes over time of a select group of subjects whether they are people or the streets of his home in North London. They reflect time shifting slowly, the pictures aren't purely figurative representations but they seek to capture the subtle changes that occur as they are being made. Even a still life evolves over the day as the light changes. They have to be made from life to really capture the time as it evolves. A painting or a drawing from a photograph is just a copy of that moment in time, frozen and static. Although it is possible to use photographs for reference they are like working in a single hard pencil instead of having a whole array of art material to give texture and colour to the image. In time there is shape, colour, texture, temperature, movement, smells and interruptions. You can choose to ignore these distractions, but if you do you may as well take a photo. A picture made over time can integrate all the senses.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Project 4 - Time and the viewer

The brief says "Make a drawing that forces the viewer to use time differently" I'm still in Artists Book mode and I was interested in how something like a flip book could change the viewers relationship with time in that they control the speed of movement. I found this variation on a flip book in The Huffington Post. Stephen Walter uses a hagioscope to slow the way viewers examine his Nova Utopia map. I remember a scrolling book from my childhood and found instructions to make one for children (you have to scroll a long way down the page to find it I'm afraid but here is a picture)

Some preliminary sketchbook ideas

I experimented with a modified coffee cup.

The burgundy part is the peeled off cover. I drew on the underlying cup and cut a triangular hole (where the logo was) The sleeve can then rotate around the drawing, allowing the viewer to control what they see through the peephole

I found that it was impossible for one person to turn the sleeve around the cup and video it so you will have to use your imagination.

 Moving on, I have an old wooden box which I modified with two pieces of dowel to scroll a continuous piece of paper.

The box had a grubby perspex sliding lid which I replaced with a piece of cardboard. This meant that I could cut a window to limit the view.

I now have a primitive hagioscope. Videos of it in action are herehere and here.
The first scroll was splodges of ink with a darker area to represent night and a wavy line to represent movement.
For the second scroll I glued some black paper to my scroll to make darker night.
The white stars are drops of white ink spread out with a tooth pick.
This is the opposite daytime side.
My visual imagination of time is a sort of tape reeling out into the distance.

I thought that it would be interesting to cut the timeline out of my paper scroll.

Interestingly the two sides of paper, which aren't connected any more, do move at slightly different rates and start to overlap a little over time.

What is drawing without time? Even snapshot sketches require an investment in time to make them and to develop the skill to quickly communicate an idea without lots of preparation. Most drawings take quite a bit longer to produce and can only successfully communicate with the viewer if they are prepared to invest some time in looking at them. Microsoft published some (maybe discredited?) research that attention spans are decreasing.  Whether the research is accurate or not, what is clear is that we are constantly bombarded with images and information and it is a challenge for visual communicators to make their information stand out and seize the time to get a message or concept across. My response to this project has an element of gimmick to it. The viewer needs to stop and actively engage in the process of revealing the drawing. The definition of a "successful" artwork must in some way be whether it can persuade the viewer to spend some time with it. Eye catching or complex pieces may achieve this, but how do you get someone to linger with a simple drawing such as Ellsworth Kelly's Plant Drawings? There has to be some sort of resonance with the image to persuade the viewer to invest their time.


The hagiogaph has potential to be a significant piece. If it is to be sent for assessment it will need to be very well made to ensure that it works for the assessors. It could be represented by video which gives me control of how it is viewed. What is the purpose of the piece? Is it that the viewer turns the handles and chooses how fast it moves or is this dictated by me and presented in the video. Is the piece just about the moving parts or does the supporting box play a part? 
There are 3 different sheets, the cut line is the most successful.