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.