Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Check and log

28 Sep 2010

I have most certainly found and used new ways to use my drawing tools - having previously been very comfortable with charcoal I have discovered real limitations inflexibility to create textures and my own skills in using them. Charcoal is fabulous for creating shade and introducing softness to drawing yet is limited in depicting 'hard' definition, or certainly my skill in doing so is limited in textural depiction with charcoal. Pencil and different hardnesses are far more successful - the pencil allowing control of shape and from whilst shading, hatching and different mark making lend themselves to representing texture of different forms. Ink remains a surprising delight in being able to convey soft, fluid forms whilst also benefiting from firm, hard' representation using different application types. A fluid drop and dribble can create a completely contrasting texture to that deride from the pen driven application. Different application of textures also, in turn create a different mood or feel for a drawing or composition - albeit something determined, purposeful and manmade to that of a more organic depiction.

Meanwhile I have had wildly differing success in implying form with little or no tonal hatching (not that hatching is something I have mastered yet!). My representation of form in my experimentation of texture squares were very poor representation of form whilst frottaging lent little to form itself - they being simply a representation of the thing being 'frottaged'. My composition of cleaning items however do clearly depict (I believe) both tone and form without the use of hatching - the items have a depth, a clear depiction of what they are and are interesting to the eye. It confirms in my mind that there is room for many approaches to depicting an image.

Frottage is an interesting addition to the 'tools' of drawing and one that I would like to employ further - the representation of something 'real' into a representational composition introduces and interesting dimension to a piece. I can see the value of frottage to a number of different compositions - especially a personal representation of something. It clearly has limitations due to it's 2 dimensional, flat qualities but this could be exploited as a contrast within a piece of work or as 'statement' within a work. I also enjoy the immediacy of frottage and can envisage further, yet unknown exploitations.

Once again, fabulous learning with surprising results.

Exercise: A drawing with textures

Tuesday 28th September 2010

Having looked at my earlier experiments depicting texture I embarked upon this exercise initially with some trepidation as it is not easy to represent texture well or convincingly.

I determined that I would gather cleaning products and represent the textures within a composition - initially wanting to use a feather duster as the key object and a dead sunflower head. On gathering my items however they appeared 'un natural' or incongruous and were of strange sizes and dismissed the idea. I instead arranged smaller items and then decided to use frottage as a background!

Capturing my homes edwardian heavily painted and embossed wallpaper through the technique of frottage with a very soft olive drawing pencil I created the background on an A2 peice of drawing paper. I then rearranged my composition and determined that I would use ink and an ink pen to make my drawing - the ink and rigidity of the pen (a cross ink pen) being a good way to capture the bristles of the brush and also the texture of the cloth. I included a spray can (despite it having a smooth texture - deliberately to juxtapose the remaining textures in the drawing) although was unsure of how to represent its texture with pen and ink and concluded I would work it out as I went along. I also overcame the horror of not having any 'correction room' as ink was clearly permanent and decided if it was a disaster I could simply start again - happily that was not needed. I started with the brush bristles and moved on around the picture ...

The smooth texture of the spray can was overcome by the abandonment of the ink pen and the use of a calligraphy brush dipped in thinned ink, and I think makes a good 'relief' in amongst the rest of the texture.

I also made the deliberate decision not to put in all the shadow that the objects on the platform which they stand due to the use of the background frottage as I feel this would have detracted from the textures conveyed - the composition 'working' as it does. Am surprisingly pleased with this drawing in its interest and appeal to the eye - the composition of a 'cross' also working reasonably well.

Am now going to apply this learning into my painting of the 'peacock man' that I am attempting!

Project using texture

I have had a grand time playing with textures!

As instructed I drew several boxes in my sketch book and then experimented with textures and the use of different materials to help the depiction. I referred back to my previous exercises exploring line making before embarking so I had a good idea of which medium created the most helpful marks.

My real challenge to start with proved that of finding enough textures as of course everything has a texture but I struggled to find things of an interesting or explicit texture to capture.

I accidentally discovered the value of using a tissue to remove ink which worked well for orange peel which I had not envisaged - a heavy blob needed cleaning and hey presto! I also liked using a very soft pencil to represent the fur on a cushion whilst I rediscovered the joy of ink (previously happened upon in my exploration of mark making). I repeated the same texture using different techniques to experiment e.g. a piece of coal using charcoal (effective although indistinct), pencil (reasonable but lacking real definition because of my hatching) and ink (not successful in describing the form but great at depicting the hard texture).

The experimentation of frottage was a revelation and took me back to being a child! I roamed around the house and garden for over an hour experimenting with different surfaces and mediums. I am unsure of how I might use this technique but resolved to explore further.

This exploration also prompted me to sit and draw in my sketch book for the sheer pleasure of it and was more relaxed that I have been for some time and was pleased with my results. I am continually surprised and delighted by how much I am learning and noticeably improving in my work - thinking about my application and being more considered in my work.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Exercise: Observing negative space & perspective

Completed today the exercise observing negative space and perspective ...

Initially caused me some panic as I followed the instructions to the letter which was not an approach I have ever tackled before!!!

I was however fascinated as the image emerged and I relaxed into the process - exploring the negative space was really instructive in developing the images and the drawing very quickly developed with pretty good accuracy. The picture only needing some small tweaks to ensure that the objects were correctly proportioned.

Undertook the first drawing using charcoal and so decided to use a soft pencil for the second piece of the exercise - drawing the outlines without taking my pencil off the board.

I resisted the urge to take my pencil off the board to correct and, again, was surprised at the level of reasonable accuracy. I fully expected it to be a nightmarish mess and needing to do it several times to feel satisfied - however first attempt was successful.

Really good learning as I also realise I do look at negative space to draw and paint so am reassured that this is a good approach. I am more fearful of the next project looking at texture.

Check and Log: Project Still Life


This project has been a real challenge for me - the composition of still life not being an area of particular interest or experience for me.

I have found it easier to suggest 3 dimensions on man made objects rather than natural objects as they generally have more defined lines and form from which to identify reference points and tonal variation. Using straight line hatching is easier on man made objects for the same reason. However I find it easier to draw the 'outline' of the form rather than the structure of the natural objects and I think this is because I find natural objects more interesting but also that is more room for 'mistake' as natural still life objects do not have a necessarily uniform form and therefore a failure of absolute precision can be more easily forgiven on the eye. Man made objects have an expected and universally understood form that needs to be precise as viewers have universal expectation. My own expectation also increases. Man made forms also have more solid edges and hence shadow and can be more easily represented in tonal depiction.

I created a sense of solidity in my compositions through shadow and strengthened shadow under the objects to illustrate where they sat on the platform - thrown shadow also helped. I was not always successful with this and the 'busier' compositions undermined this approach with the man made objects particularly looking like they floated rather than 'sat'. The positioning of the light source proved to be essential in creating the shadow and tone to convey this solidity. Again, this has not always been successful - for example the pen picture of the sunflower looks effective as an 'illustration' but does not necessarily appear 'positioned' or sat on something.

Changing the arrangement of my composition made a huge difference to my approach to both man made and natural objects still life - staring with both using many objects and poorly lit compositions led to the reduction of objects and improved lighting. Complicated images did not allow for the capture of shadow (underneath the objects and cast against others) which undermined the solidity of the objects and also the representation of themselves - it all became a messy blur! Simplified compositions allowed observation of the shadows and tones and cast shadow helped illustrated the respective items in a more convincing way creating depth, perspective and crucially form. I continue to really struggle with hatching and having a simpler composition with stronger illustration of shadow and tone helped me practice more in consideration of how to use this approach. The shift in composition also freed me up to use different approaches such as 'squiggles' with pen to capture the image.

I changed the position of myself in drawing the still life several times - up, down, below and around - in trying to change the way I saw the tone and shadow whilst also trying to be reasonably comfortable whilst drawing. I think I was initially quite lazy in my initial sketch, sitting in my usual drawing chair and just cracking on - however recognising the picture was then so flat (Man made no 1) I changed my position, the lighting and the content of the composition. I had not previously fully appreciated the importance of my positioning and has been a key learning point.

So, key learning points:

1. My positioning is vital
2. A simpler composition works better to capture shadow and tone
3. The sketching approach (ie. hatching/shading/squiggles) is really important to the final image and sometimes intuition is not always right!!
4. Lighting is vital to create the necessary shadow and tone
5. The subject matter is important - I need to be interested otherwise the picture is not interesting!
6. Need to practice hatching more
7. Small is good (big is not necessarily better!).

Really fantastic learning!

Exercise: Composition of natural objects

24.9.10 - 27.9.10

On completing this exercise I decided to do 3 sketches echoing that of the previous exercise to strengthen my learning - and to explore other techniques taken from my previous exercises. I decided upon a composition that were of a "Mediterranean garden' including a sunflower - sadly the flower died before I completed the exercise so my composition was forced to change! An interesting learning point in itself!

Sketch no 1: I used hatching, simple line and simple shading for my first attempt with lighting from behind and a simple straight on view point.

I felt in terms of the natural objects that this simple approach was appropriate and congruent with the subject matter and I liked the effect of light on the back of the objects BUT the drawing lost the necessary shapes and tones to create real interest or depth.

With that in mind I determined that the next sketch would use the dark tones to create the image and I would try a pen rather than a pencil. I also determined that a simpler composition would strengthen the image.

Sketch no 2: Using a simple roller ball pen I embarked upon capturing the image focusing on dark tones and simple lines. I started with the sunflower and the approach worked with good effect. I had a strong line from the side which shined through petals as a great contrast to the flower head. use of the pen however proved to be too harsh for the fruit and veg. My conclusion being that the pen would work far better with man made objects.

Sketch no 3: Taking my 'discovery' from the second sketch I decided to strengthen the light source and changed my perspective and to use both pencil and pen - just to see what would happen. (Sadly the sun flower had gone to the compost so does not feature - note to self: if using perishables do them quickly!) I also resolved to use hatching and short lines to see if I could make it work - despite it being counter intuitive.

The strong light illuminating the outer edges worked well to create sense of positioning and depth. I also took more of an aerial view at 45 degrees which worked better. Surprised to learn that hatching with the including of some short determined lines also worked well creating a depth despite the rounded objects not really having straight lines in reality. The small application of pen also helped determine some interest and was valuable in creating the sketch.

The further simplified composition also worked surprisingly well as shadows are more clearly seen - giving a sense of positioning. I also had relaxed into undertaking the subject as a sketch rather than a finished piece which freed up the exploration of hatch and tone.

Excellent learning.

Exercise: Still life sketches


To personalise this exercise I decided upon a composition of items depicting 'teenage years'.

Sketch 1: Starting with a number of objects, using hatching and shading lit from the side with side on lighting. I drew the outlines of the objects which worked quite well initially but then became a poor image as I put in shade and tone using hatching and shading. It all became too complicated and looked messy.

Tone was poor and created a flat image that was too complicated to view with the subjects not clearly evident. It was not interesting to view and looked very flat. I decided to try the next sketch with a reduced composition and to emphasise form rather than descriptive outline.

Sketch 2: Reduced the amount of objects in the composition and drew in the shadows and tones rather than the outlines.

Again, I felt that the 'illustration' was poor and the drawing itself was not technically good however the overall effect was improved. The headphone wires complicated the image and was not well represented.

I was also aware that the composition itself did not really 'grab my interest' as an artist and therefore would not for the viewer. Poor. Decided to change the composition again and concentrate on using hatching to develop my skills and see what effect I could achieve. Also decided to change the lighting an my view point.

Sketch 3: I changed the composition introducing an interesting shoe and simplifying the lines of the other objects. I strengthened the light source and changed my position.

Hatching and focusing on tone strengthened the composition with reasonable effect. Depth of tone creates more depth within the picture.

The composition is more interesting and hence makes the picture more interesting - however I could have (on reflection!) strengthened the depth of tone which would have strengthened the composition further. Hatching worked well - but I am still really struggling with hatching!! I have more confidence with charcoal and hence great practice with pencil.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Reflected light: Check and Log

Check and Log:

Having completed this project exploring reflected light - including the research points exploring Redon and Caulfield I reflect to consider that I have learnt much - and still have much to develop.
I find shadows and light fascinating to look at and continue to struggle to observe the 'mid tones' within and also struggle with simplifying the image however exploring the the shadows of reflected and direct light was extremely helpful and I now recognize clearly also the importance of conveying light accurately to add depth and form to the drawing. Previously I have been careless in my drawings - being fortunate with more luck than judgement.

The exercise of applying the shadows rather than the form was a fabulous learning point in realistically and believably representing a form without actually drawing it! This is a key peice of discovery for me.

So, I had a number of difficulties in separating cast shadow from reflected light and shade but could clearly identify the difference in tone so would on occasion 'work backwards'... however on having identified that could then identify the light source in subsequent attempts within the same picture. Truthfully, I did at one point consider 'well what does it matter' if I draw what I see it should be alright, however on identifying the difference I could see that it does affect the representation and subsequent development of the drawing and depiction.

I have shown how shadow and light follows the contours of the objects by ensuring the tones represent this whilst also introducing the reflection and darkened shadows within those. I have also enjoyed using bold areas of light to enhance the darkness of the shadows in the appropriate areas to convey the shape of objects.

I have really enjoyed this exercise - challenging my focus, understanding and application of learning ...

Exercise: Shadows & reflected light and shade

Using charcoal and putty rubber on A1 paper ...

Really enjoyed this exercise and deliberately used the same coffee pot and mug from the previous exercise as I wasn't convinced on refection that I had truly studied and captured the extremity of shadow. Also, having re-read the previous exercise I was not sure I had approached it correctly in that i sketched loosely the forms before putting in the tones. This time I did! I approached the exercise purely capturing the light and shade and the forms simply emerged almost like magic!!

I am still struggling to 'see' some tones - mid tones in particular and finding myself gravitating towards the extremes initially but am definitely becoming more skilled in identifying the mid ranges and applying my medium accordingly.

Exercise: Study of light reflected from one object to another

Prior to getting stuck into this project I was inspired by the work of Redon in the previous exercise and attempted a charcoal drawing that was a bit more imaginative - looking at a photo of my partner I relaxed and went for it. Quite pleased with the results!

Back to the exercise - I used a drawing pencil of green tone to tackle the subject - coffee pot, coffee mug and a shot glass of baileys. I was determined to be careful and thoughtful in my use and control of my pencil, previously being too heavy handed and not always concentrating on my mark making. The result is reasonably successful in that the shadows and forms are well captured but it still seems a bit tight.

I was able to see the shadows and reflections well and captured them quite accurately I think.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Project: Tone and form

I have really struggled with this project.

I realise that I struggle to 'see' tone in its purest form - I tend to see the 'bigger picture' and struggle to focus in on the finer detail. This is great for strategy work in my employment but not so good for drawing!

I have so struggled with it that I have repeated the exercises more than suggested in the OCA manual in an attempt to improve. Predictably, the more I relaxed the easier things became but I still have struggled to capture 4 distinct tones. I think I have but even now I cannot be absolutely sure.

Squinting or half closing my eyes helped enormously to see the differences in tone but I continue to struggle. Interestingly I am looking at tone on the Painting course and am struggling there also and I recognise that my paintings that I have previously done are represented with unusual colour rather than 'tone' in the purest sense.

I also struggled to work with a simple hatch ... and not sure that I really have. My focus on trying to simply hatch enhanced my anxiety, so I resolved to just draw in a way that seemed natural...hatching yes, but cross hatching and 'scribbled shading'. I hope that's ok. As soon as I stopped trying to purely hatch things became easier. That being said I tried hatching as a means of trying to simplify things and it did work but not easy.

Exploring tone pushed me on to trying to capture my friend David which I have been struggling with - not very successfully, but more so trying to capture my daughter from a passport photo. Certainly I am more conscious of tone and will apply the learning in the next projects - hopefully with more success.

Th Research Point of exploring Odilon Redon was fascinating! To my shame I had never even heard of him and approached the task with a degree of dread ('why look up someone I don't know when I want to practice drawing...') and have been totally inspired. I had NO idea he existed or his fabulous body of work. Using my ipad I was able to use the 'ART Authority' application and view over 80 of his works and spent a good 2 hours looking at his work - stunning use of tone in black and white but also truly magnificent mythological representations with breathtaking contrasts of colour and tone. The imagination and creativity were breathtaking. I would like to view some in 'real life'. I was stunned by his application of sculptural awareness to create images that were clearly fictional and yet so 'alive' in their own way. I was not surprised to learn that he had studied in sculpture. He also was clearly not afraid of depicting his inner feelings in his work and I suspect that he probably suffered from depression following his experiences in the Franco-Prussian war represented in his charcoal drawings of trees.

So, CHECK and LOG:

I found it less difficult to distinguish between light from the primary light source and secondary reflected light than to distinguish why it was important - they both conveying a different impact on the subject. I could see the difference in tone/shadow/reflected light at the extreme and could capture that reasonably well but on telling myself that I had to see it as different interrupted my drawing experience. I could see the difference but struggled more with the mid tones. So, no it was not difficult but capturing the mid tones was!

Awareness of light and shade definitely affects my depiction of form - it being the means by which the 3 dimensions can be represented ... however I have struggled as previously mentioned. I struggle to see clear differentiation of tones but also as I type I realize that I have struggled to control my pencil as effectively as I would like. Having read much of Ian Simpson's book on seeing and drawing I have been reminded of being brave enough to draw what I see rather than 'kid' myself - this has led to desperate frustration at times. I have been too heavy on my pencil (often because I am not relaxed enough) and then distorted the tone and wanted to adjust the picture rather than my application. This of course has been helpful as I have repeated the exercises with reasonable effect. I am also reminding myself now to work in my sketch book with other images and not focus on 'rushing through' the exercises.

Looking at tone has also helped my painting as I have successfully completed a painting of my friend Jim with the pure focus on looking at tone - so not all bad!!!