Detailed Observations of natural objects #2- “The Hornet Chronicles- Studies in Monochrome”

As part of the detailed observations of natural objects, I decided that I wanted to examine dead animals. Of these I found that the ones I was drawn to were mackerel and other sea life, and hornets.

In this blog post I will be writing about The Hornet Chronicles- studies in monochrome.

My aunt found a Hornet on the patio one morning and immediately knew that this was something that would interest me enormously!

I immediately wanted to draw this beautiful, dead creature. I have no desire to be around living hornets, but dead, though a little freaky, I felt that it took on a delicate yet somewhat sinister beauty. I must admit that handling the creature- even though dead- was somewhat scary! I had an irrational fear that it would somehow spring to life and get me on the finger or worse, face! but obviously it didn’t….

My initial study of it was in regular hornet colours. which is here:

Yellow Hornet
Yellow hornet, Colouring pencils on brown paper

I was really pleased with this although it was very tricky to draw, they seem huge when they are flying round my head threatening to kill me, but when I came to draw him, all of a sudden the detail seemed minute and intricate. I purchased a magnifying glass. This helped.

This drawing really, really piqued my interest. There was something morbid, curious and beautiful about this creature. They are so scary when they are alive, they are ruthless and horrifying. Dead though, it was amazing to see that the whole creature is covered in hairs, tiny little fine hairs, and the markings are terrifyingly beautiful.

Moving on from this I started to draw the hornet in blues. I drew him first just in solitude as a hornet on a page:

playing with colour, blue hornet
blue hornet: Monochrome studies

I mixed the media that I used with pencil, colouring pencil and biro and think that this is a very successful study, I am really happy with it. Again, I really enjoyed drawing this. I am realising that my loves for drawing are largely organic items, animals, faces, the human form, living and dead creatures, wood, leaves, life.

I decided to draw the hornet in a matchbox to give it some context and intimacy, given the title of the module. This is here:

blue hornet in a matchbox
blue hornet in a matchbox

I drew the hornet literally just nestled in the corner of the box. I just wanted to ground it rather than have it suspended in space. As it happens I was not as happy with this depiction of the hornet, it just wasn’t as successful as the first blue hornet.

I decided to explore the idea of having another object or subject in the drawing and as I had struggled so much with holding the dead hornet, I decided to draw myself holding it. Holding the hornet, though it was dead, was actually really scary. Like I said, I was somehow afraid that it would spring to life and sting me, even though this was irrational. I wanted, therefore, to portray me holding the hornet in the most uncomfortable way possible. There was a real push pull to the way that I was having to hold the creature. I needed to have it close enough to be able to see the detail on the hand and the hornet, but my instinct was to hold it as far away form me as possible. So I had to contort my hand in a very weird and uncomfortable way to make both of these things possible.

This actually works really well as it happens, I think, because it allows the whole picture to LOOK as uncomfortable as it felt. The push pull I think comes from the pulling the hornet close to me, then pushing it further away in the same movement. The picture really shows this weird relationship.

hand holding hornet study
hand holding hornet study in blues

I was really happy with the way that this turned out. It is really effective. I think that the detail and the tone on the hand is really well portrayed.

Having now established that I wanted to put both my hand and the hornet together, I needed to place it in some kind of background.

I wanted to have a wash or some kind of ethereal looking background that would contrast with the jarring image of the contorted hand and the dead beast, somehow making the conflict even more obvious, the background I wanted to be serene and calm, whilst the blue hand is stiff and contorted and the beast, though dead was once dangerous. I set about trying out different colour combinations for backgrounds using an ink wash. To add to the ethereal nature of the ink wash I splattered tiny dots of masking fluid onto the paper before putting the wash on it, so that it looked almost other worldly.

potential backgrounds for hand hornet
potential backgrounds for hand hornet

Out of these colour combinations I decided that the ones that worked best were the yellow/blue/green combination. I felt that the red and yellow was too much like a warning which wasn’t offering enough of a conflict. The purple and blue and black were too dark and brooding and the pinks and blues looked too pretty.  The green and yellow and blue seems very serene and that would really conflict with the contorted hand and scary hornet. I wanted it to be a drawing of conflict and each part of the drawing to make all the other parts increasingly less likely and comfortable.

So I went for the green, blue and yellow.

I did a small piece of paper with a wash and the masking fluid. Once the ink wash was dry, I peeled off the making fluid and then drew the hornet over the top of the wash. This was the mock up of what I hoped would be an effective piece.

hand hornet mock up on background
hand hornet mock up on background

Next I wanted to do the drawing of the hornet on the background in more detail. I was happy with the way that that the mock up came out and felt confident that it would work on a bigger scale and  started out confidently.

One thing I did decide to change was instead of using the masking fluid, I found that when I was trying to peel it off, it was lifting off layers of paper as well as just the dry fluid. Instead I decided to flick tiny spots of white ink which was not as effective but worked out ok.

As it happened, it wasn’t as successful as I had hoped. I found it really difficult to achieve the same kind of wash as I had in the mock up, it came out rather a lot darker than I wanted and though the hand and hornet were obviously more clear and the colours more pigmented, as I had intended, making them more striking and stand out better, the overall effect was not as pleasing.

hand hornet idea for final piece maybe
hand hornet idea for final piece maybe?

I think that the idea is good and I think that it would benefit from further development and thought. I would really like to use the hornet as I LOVED drawing it, it would be a shame to leave it behind completely and I am hoping that there will be an opportunity to ise it again. But I am not entirely happy with the finished article and think that it is definitely still a work in progress.

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Exercise 1: Still life using Line: Line Drawings

for this part of the course we were asked to draw a still life composition using just monochrome to imply texture and tone without excessive shading.

To start with I decided to draw a bag of apples.

line drawing apples in carrier bag
line drawing apples in carrier bag, white ink on black paper

I decided to draw a bag of apples on a small table. I used white ink on black paper. Even though this is a pretty good representation of what I was looking at, I am not really that enamoured with the outcome. It could be a cabbage or a pile of rags, there is nothing that determinable about it that makes it shout apples! So I decided to add in the bunch of bananas again to give it some context which then made the apples make sense.

white pencil on black paper line drawing fruit and bag
white pencil on black paper line drawing fruit and bag

I drew it again on black paper with a white pencil crayon. It was difficult to avoid blending and shading as this is something that I do a lot of when I am drawing.

I decided to try doing this same image, either as a whole or small sections of it using different colours and different materials.

I was finding  it more challenging to do this exercise than I thought I would. I have enjoyed it though.

line drawing fruit in carrier bag
line drawing fruit in carrier bag with white ink on black paper

I did the same colours and the same composition but using white ink again and using a stiff paint brush.

I think that this worked better than the white pencil drawing of the same style and type.

I like the flow of the ink and the way that it sits in some lines much more thickly and with greater saturation and in others more thinly and more delicately. I have not drawn much with ink in the past but I really liked using it.

I decided to try doing something a bit more different later on with various pens and also a couple of drawings that were more abstract and then a picture with different subject matter.

The next couple were felt tip pens in different colours on differently coloured papers. I also had a go at pointillism.

I added a paper bag and moved the composition around slightly and drew on white paper with a fountain pen with purple ink:

purple fountain pen on white paper, fruit and paper bag, preliminary sketch for playing with colour final piece
purple fountain pen on white paper, fruit and paper bag, preliminary sketch for playing with colour final piece

This one I did as a preliminary sketch for the final piece for the playing with colours part of the module.

mackerel heads pointillism
mackerel heads pointillism

I decided to draw a few different monochrome pictures with different subject matter. This one is of three mackerel heads.

Although I really do like the effect of pointillism it is very time consuming and a bit tedious. I have to remind myself whilst I am doing it that the outcome will be very pleasing and striking so that I don’t get fed up and give up. This is a small drawing (A bit bigger than A5) stuck in my sketch book and it took around an hour or so to draw! All those tiny dots instead of shading takes absolutely ages!

Having said that is IS very striking and effective and a good way to use monochrome to achieve a totally different effect.

monochrome sheeps skull black and white pencil on black paper
monochrome sheeps skull black and white pencil on black paper

This one, above, was a change of subject again, black and white pencil on black paper of a sheep’s skull.

monochrome skull still life, black and white pencil on black paper
monochrome skull still life, black and white pencil on black paper

Above is a still life composition of sheep’s skull and various other shells, bottles and paint brushes which I drew using the black and white pencils on black paper. I really liked this one. I like the composition and think it looks very effective. I didn’t pursue this one any further. I wish that I had all the time in the world to pursue loads of the things in this module, there is so much scope for developing nearly everything that I have done!

abstract pepper
abstract pepper

This one on the right is an abstract line drawing of a capsicum pepper.

I decided to use lots of colours for this one just as an experiment. It was just a bit of fun, but it was so effective and fun that I decided to stick it in my sketch book after all! I also did a row of a few colourful garlic bulbs in a similar style.

I used loads of different ink pens, biros, felt tips, gel pens and fine liners and a fountain pen for the pepper and a mixture of coloured felt tip pens for the garlic.

Although I deviated from the initial brief for these ones, I think that they are really effective and they were great fun to draw too!

abstract garlic
abstract garlic

Again this was a most enjoyable part of the course and something that I really could take further. It will be really difficult to decide which parts to develop when I am finally ready to prepare to get things wrapped up and ready for assessment. Although it has taken me a long time to get things sorted out, this has been a hugely important and exciting journey for me, where I have come up against a lot of my own demons, barriers and walls but also been enormously inspired and excited by what I have done so far!

More About Negative Space & Research Point

Leading on from the artists that I chose to look at earlier regarding their use of negative space, the course literature suggested that I look at the work of Gary Hume.

These are the images that I have chosen to look at:

Gary Hume 1994_love_loves_unlovable_
Gary Hume ‘Love Loves Unlovable’ 1994

the image that I chose first, ‘Love Loves Unlovable’ I thought was relevant to the work I have been doing as it involves the use of large areas of black and the use of foliage. I really like the way that the colours pop out so much in contrast to the large areas of black.

Gary Hume 'pinks' 2000
Gary Hume ‘Pinks’ 2000

The second Image that I chose was ‘Pinks’ which again I decided to look at because of the use of organic matter.

I have been working on my own pieces using apples and bananas and foliage against a dramatic black background, using the foliage in relief rather than adding detail, much like the work of Gary Hume,  I have done a number of sketches and have a rough idea of what direction I would like the drawings to take.

FIrst off I have done a number of sketches of the fruit in detail using various different media. These are in my sketchbook and I have included some here.

I decided to carry on and work with the apples and bananas and foliage and had a lot of thoughts about the composition of the drawing. I want the eye to be drawn in to the middle of the drawing and have explored the best way to do this in my sketchbook.

negative space
practicing the foliage for the background

I first practised the foliage in the background once I had decided on the composition of the final drawing. I wanted to have a range of different sizes of leaves but also not to complicate the foliage aspect of the drawing too much as I want to have the focus of the final piece to be the fruit and the foreground and for the foliage to enhance that aspect not drown it out.

I decided to keep the colour completely flat and blocked so that the detail of the fruit and the colour really stands out. Much like the work of Gary Hume. I decided to do a mock up of the final piece in rough so that I could see what the outcome might look like.

negative space mock up for final piece idea
mock up for a final piece idea.

 

I have decided after much deliberation that I want the size and shape of the drawing to be tall and narrow rather than a typical ratio. I think that this will be more interesting and quirky, almost as if it is a view through a door that is not properly open…

After all the sketches and preparation for the final piece this was what I ended up with. I am not entirely happy with it, as I think it would be better much bigger, additionally I think it would work well in paint rather than pencil. I did draw some of the preliminary sketches using oil pastels and soft pastels and mixed media as well as exploring other vegetables and fruits but this was what I decided on and I think it is something that would benefit from working on the idea more and exploring more ways of presenting it.

negative space final piece idea
intended final piece for this part of the module, however I think I Would like to work on this idea further.

I do really like the composition of the piece and loved drawing apples and bananas and have decided to concentrate on these as a subject for further parts of this module, though I have explored lots of other subjects too.

I love how warm the colours are on the fruit, and think that it works really well. having said that it definitely needs work.

Playing with Colour and Still Life

If at first you don’t succeed….

FOr this part of the module we were asked to design a still life composition and to play around with colour to achieve texture, tone and depth, using colours that were not what we would expect to use, rather than ‘just’ drawing in the regular colour scheme.

I was really looking forward to this part of the module and was developing something of a real respect for the humble apple and banana. I had also become aware of the importance and significance of texture in drawings and therefore decided to stick with my theme of apples, bananas and carrier bags.

I have done extensive drawings in my sketchbook of these things using various different materials and achieving varying levels of success.

I decided to go all out and use bright and garish colours to depict these subjects and dove right in with my first attempt.

playing with colour #1
playing with colour attempt #1

I was getting along nicely with this one and thoroughly enjoying it, then massively overworked the carrier bag in the middle of the drawing. I was disappointed because until then it was working rather well. I was having fun playing with alternative colours and thought that it was going to plan, but got a bit obsessed with the carrier bag handle and over did it!

playing with colour #2
playing with colour attempt #2

So I started again…. same subject but honestly, lost all interest in it because I think that the colours went from being quirky and fun and a bit different to just looking rank and offensive …. time to try again…..

playing with colour #3
playing with colour attempt #3

number three started, I was a bit happier with the colours but then realised that as I had shifted my position without realising it whilst drawing the initial sketch for the shapes, I had inadvertently and unknowingly caused the apples at the back of the carrier bag to appear as if they were floating and not sat on the table top properly. Completely unsatisfied with that outcome, I decided to stop again and start a new one…..

Also reflecting back over this exercise, I had not done a very good job up until this point in terms of making the apples look shiny and round, the way that i have drawn them, the very shiny, round parts of the apples look like they are actually flat and shiny.

playing with colour #4
playing with colour attempt #4

drawing the outlines again, I managed to sort out the floating apple issue and get that part of the drawing right, but then managed to pick colours for the bananas which were in danger of triggering a migraine. I am all for creating challenging pieces but added to the frustration at having started the same drawing 4 times was the fact that the colours that I had chosen were making me feel nauseated…. I decided to sling it to one side and start again…..

playing with colour #5
playing with colour attempt #5

Studying the still life composition carefully for the 5th time, I managed to draw what I thought was an accurate depiction of what was in front of me, I accidentally ended up with a floating apple. Not deterred, I persevered and finished the outline then plucked possibly the most disgusting colour out of the 200 or so colours that I have to choose from and coloured in the wall behind the fruit all in that colour.

By now I was tearing my hair out somewhat as this previously pleasurable and enjoyable task was now becoming a migraine-inducing, nausea promoting pain in the backside!

I decided at this point to take a hiatus from the carrier bag of fruit and leave it well alone for a couple of weeks and get on with something else.

WHen I came back to it some time later I decided to do things a bit differently. I swapped the plastic bag for a paper one and put a bunch of bananas (obviously not the same ones) on the opposite side of the composition instead.

This actually was way more pleasing on the eye!

The I set about taking into consideration everything that I had learned from my first five attempts at drawing this picture and set to.

This time…. IT WORKED!!!

playing with colour final piece
playing with colour final piece

I think that this works really well. I much, MUCH prefer the colours that I have chosen to use. The only part of the drawing that I am not happy with is the dark shadow on the left side of the apple at the front of the drawing looks like a hole and not like a shadow…

I like the use of light and dark and how I have managed to achieve some quite striking differences in tone with out using obviously contrasting shades of black and white. I am having something of a love affair with brown paper, I LOVE drawing on it and think it gives a really great effect.

Over all this was a really interesting if a little frustrating exercise at times. I think that I have met the required outcomes and I am happy with the result.

Interiors & Research Point Including Final Piece for Assignment 2

Looking at the work of Escher, David Hockney, Anthony Green and Philip Pearlstein and their work on interiors. Also my own slant on this subject. Not my usual choice of subject matter but very enjoyable nonetheless!

for this stage of the module, we were asked to draw different parts of the home in short sketches. I started off drawing in the bathroom and kitchen using pastels and charcoal, just quick sketches and I very quickly realised that I was NOT having any pleasure from doing it in this way. I think it shows in the quality of the work that I produced. Though it fulfilled the criteria for the short sketches it was like pulling teeth and I HATED it!

this is what I produced:

the first sketch is obviously my bathroom and the second one I chose to concentrate on the kitchen sink. It was very apparent to me that I would need to find a way of adapting the task to suit my way of working and to make it an interesting and fun thing for me to do, in order that the quality of the work would be better, I find that when I am drawing something and really not enjoying it, the quality definitely suffers.

I thought for a while about this and realised that the things that I love drawing, people, faces, animals, plants. abstract shapes, all have one thing in common…. none of them have straight lines! this is completely the opposite when drawing things that are manufactured and built to an architects design around the home, there are a multitude of precise angles and straight lines.

On realising this I decided that the way that I would be able to inject something exciting into the work, I would observe the room through my digital camera’s fish eye lens.

At first I frew a very quick sketch of the kitchen with pencil, whist standing with the

fish eye lens kitchen sketch
quick sketch of the kitchen viewed through a fish eye lens

camera, but realised very fast that this would just not be possible fot eh other drawings. I am disabled and standing or even sitting with lots of equipment and trying to draw simultaneously without anything to lean on, would be impossible. I was viewing the room from an elevated view point so this was proving to be very difficult indeed.

I decided that I would need to take photographs using the fish eye lens and work from those instead, offering me the opportunity to get some really quirky angles and throw myself into the task with much more enjoyment and fun!

I went on to draw the living room using biro and pencil, I took a photo from high up looking down on the living room from the corner, and then focussed back on the kitchen sink with the tap running.

fish eye lens living room sketch
sketch of the living room through a fish eye lens, using biro and pencil

 

fish eye lens sink sketch
‘Everything and the kitchen sink!’ Sketch using biro, viewed through a fish eye lens

I was actually really, really enjoying this work now and I am certain that this is reflected in the quality of the work, which is miles away from the initial sketches that I did.

The research point in the course materials presented two drawings. The first is Anthony Green’s “Study for Mrs Madeleine Jocelyn with her son” (1987) and the second is Philip Pearlstein’s “Male Model with Kimono and Female Model with Mirror” (1985) seen here:

Anthony Green 'Study for Mrs Madeleine Jocely with her Son' 1987
Anthony Green’s “Study for Mrs Madeleine Jocelyn with her son” (1987)
Philip Pearlstein 'Male model with kimono, female model with mirror' 1985
# Philip Pearlstein’s “Male Model with Kimono and Female Model with Mirror” (1985)

The first thing that strikes me about these two drawings is that despite the fact that they are very, very different, both of them play with perspective, whether we look at Anthony Green’s study, which is obviously drawn in such a way that it disregards perspective in the typical sense completely, by presenting the whole room in one go , even though it would be impossible to see it in that way with the naked eye, or looking at Philip Pearlstein’s work, where the perspective is actually accurate, the nature of the composition makes it appear that things are somehow not quite right.

I love the ‘push-pull’ feeling that I get when I look at Pearlstein’s work, the legs going in opposite directions and in such a striking diagonal placement, almost draws the eye in a kind of ‘roller coaster’ way, moving the eye around the page drastically and dramatically.

I can also see how the fish eye lens that I have been using reflects the same sort of effect and is a pleasing way of viewing more of the room in one drawing than you would normally see. The addition of the mirror in Pearlstein’s piece offers this same depth, giving us the opportunity to view things from more than just the ‘standard’ perspective.

Looking at these two pieces also reminded me of David Hockney’s work around interiors and the work of Escher who messed about with perspective, perhaps more than I was planning to, but again offering more of the landscape to the viewer than would be there ‘naturally. There was one drawing by escher that I was thinking of in particular.

David Hockney 'small interior' 1988
David Hockney ‘small interior’ 1988

With this one I like the way that it almost has the fish eye lens effect, with none of the lines being particularly straight and the feeling of the drawing is that it curves around a centre point. I also like the colours and the way that the eye is drawn straight to the centre of the picture.

I also like the fact that it has loads of detail and content but is somehow really naive and simplistic at the same time! I also liked another of his pictures which I chose to add here too.

This one is along the same lines, the curve of

Tyler Dining Room 1984 by David Hockney
Tyler Dining Room 1984 David Hockney

the drawing pulls the eye into the centre of the picture in the same way as the first one, perhaps even more so. It also has the same quality as the drawings by Pearlstein and Green, in that it offers more of the room to the viewer than you would normally find in a picture of a room, the edges of the room are pulled in to include more detail and space and again, despite the content and detail being very rich, it has that same naive quality.

The drawing that I had in my mind by Escher is the following:

Escher 'hand holding reflective space' 1935
Escher ‘hand holding reflective space’ 1935

I love how this drawing includes both the room and the artist himself. I actually had wanted to find a large reflective ball to draw in the same way, but had to compromise with the fish eye lens instead because I was unable to find one. Again, this drawing, though actually done with less space, and with a smaller area to fill, still offers much much more to the viewer of the room and the space it is depicted in than if it was just a reflection in a flat mirror. I love how we know that those shelves are straight and parallel, but in the drawing they are not. The curves I find really pleasing and exciting to look at and I feel that I have managed to bring something of the same effect to my own drawing.

I initially decided to draw my fish eye lens final piece in oil pastels, and After drawing around a huge bodhran drum to get the size and shape that I needed to draw the lens aperture, I plunged in using a blue colour scheme, after playing with alternative colours in a previous exercise in the module. However this was a huge failure. fish eye lens final piece #1 oil pastel

It looks clumsy and clunky and messy and I was really unhappy with the result. I did endeavour to stick it out and finish the drawing but it became clear after some hour or so of drawing that I was on a hiding to nowhere in terms of making a decent looking picture and I decided to discard that effort (I have included it in my folder though) and move onto a medium that I felt would offer me the opportunity to add detail, but still retain that naive quality that has been a feature of the works that I have seen that I particularly enjoyed looking at.

I actually did not expect to enjoy drawing this last piece as much as I did. I had fleeting memories of the initial room sketches that I had done in soft pastel and charcoal and shuddered at the thought of trying to make something staid and architectural like a room enjoyable and pleasing to look at in picture form. It really wouldn’t be my usual choice of subject and definitely something that I would not have thought would be a fun way of spending an afternoon! To my absolute amazement, I LOVED drawing the whole picture and was a little bit sad when I had finished as I would have liked to have spent more time doing others. I think it would be a really good thing to have a set of three or four of these fish eye lens drawings, in different colour schemes and either different rooms or different perspectives of the same room.

fish eye lens final piece #2 pencil living room
Fish Eye Lens Final Piece- Living room

I chose to use blues and purples on the whole but added in the warm yellow of the standard lamp which I think draws the eye even more to the centre of the picture. I also used the warm tones of the yellow in the light cast on the wall and the sofa in parts. I think that I have managed to capture the light and dark of this interior really successfully, the light that is prevailing is the stark bright outdoor light coming through the windows which has cast some really nice shadows and added a lot of contrast and silhouette in places which is very pleasing to look at and could appear gloomy, but I think presents itself as rather striking.  I’m also really pleased that I have managed to make the fabric of the curtains have a somewhat translucent effect, with the bright external light behind them. I love the curved lines and the way that the walls draw you into the room, and again, like the work that I have admired so far, the way that the perspective that I have used allows so much more of the room to fit into the picture than if I had just drawn a flat, regular perspective drawing.

Overall I am really satisfied that this is a successful drawing and meets the criteria and outcomes that are expected of me, and I very much enjoyed making this.