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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
This one I did as a preliminary sketch for the final piece for the playing with colours part of the module.
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.
This one, above, was a change of subject again, black and white pencil on black paper of a sheep’s skull.
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!
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!
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 Sketches For Drawing 1 Part 2- Intimacy, Exercise 1. Further Studies and Experimental Drawings.
I started to share in my previous post some of the detailed observations of natural objects that I have chosen to work with. This has been a riot of mess, colour, fun and ideas. Manly I have chosen to work with seafood, fruit and vegetables and this will continue through the next project -I have already made a start to this, and there is a lot of continuation from one project to the next as I read forwards to the next on and find that I have been doing some of it anyway! I like to keep the next project as a surprise. I don’t read forwards at the beginning because I want to be able to approach each topic with my own ideas and not just be led by what is in the folder so that I can see how things develop organically for me. It is interesting how much of what I have been doing already then shows itself in the next project!
I have been doing lots of sketches of natural objects paying attention to the object individually and as a group if there is more than one- as you can see form my perevious post, looking at background as well as subject (something which I have now discovered comes up in project 2!)
I used different materials, papers, drawing implements and styles.
I re-drew the apples from the first part of my sketches using oil pastels to see if there was any improvement on the soft pastels. I actually think that this works really well.
I included this doodle in my sketchbook after reading about ‘Memento Mori’ and being inspired somewhat by the subject matter that these artists paint and draw. I decided to keep it in my sketchbook as it was interesting. What amused me greatly though was that when I photographed it and looked at it as a whole picture and not just the individual aspects of it, I realised that the silhouette in the middle bottom of the doodle looks remarkable like a female bottom wearing slinky knickers. This was quite by accident, though I wonder what my unconscious mind was trying to tell me!!?
This is a bit of a study on just the negative space aspect of the drawings that I was doing initially after researching artists who use negative space in still life. I used a piece of plain cartridge paper and a black felt tip pen for speed. I wanted to have an experiment with negative space in more fine detail as I think it would work better with the style of drawing that I prefer.
These were some really simple doodles on the back of the cabbage study that I included in my first blog post of this part of the course. I used different colours of felt tip pen and a white pencil just to get some idea of colour choices.
This is a group of garlic based on the study that I did of the garlic. I used garish colours of felt tip pen just to try something new. I actually really like this drawing even though it is nothing like I have ever drawn before and is not anything like the kind of thing I would normally have in my house, I would actually really love to have this on my kitchen wall, it’s great fun and quirky and quite a joyous little sketch!
Another experiment that I did with the drawing of the pepper that I drew (example in the previous post) I decided to experiment with lines to imply the shape and form of the pepper. I actually really like this one too. It is fun and colourful and I like the way that it gives a sense of looseness but in actual fact is really carefully drawn. I used fine liners an biro and just layered up lines and colours to make this effect.
This is a sample sheet of some paper that I made. I used pieces of crumples greaseproof paper which I painted a square of white acrylic pain. I had planned to just do that and draw directly onto it but the paint made the greaseproof paper really flimsy and thin and it would have been impossible to make any kind of marks on it that were pressed harder than a very delicate touch. I decided to persevere with the idea of making this paper and tore up a piece of plain cartridge paper into small pieces and layered them up onto the greaseproof paper with the acrylic paint then finished it with a thick layer of white acrylic paint to make the drawing surface. This made a really robust drawing surface once it had dried, albeit a little bit shiny. I experiemented with a dozen or so different drawing implements (from top to bottom):
Broad black felt tip pen
Colourful artists ink pens
Soft pastel (I had to put a layer of stick tape over this to stop it smudging as I couldn’t use fixative)
Oil Pastel (again added sellotape)
Regular HB pencil
Ink Fine Liner
Gold Permanent Ink Paint Pen
The most successful of these with this drawing surface were the HB pencil, the biro, the colourful artists ink pens, the fine liner and the roller ball pen.
With this in mind I did a few sketches on the handmade paper:
This was the first, a whole mackerel which is not that successful. I was really getting to grips with the surface ass I was drawing on it. It was really lumpy and shiny and hard to use but I thought if used in the right way could produce some interesting results.
Mackerel head based on the larger drawing of the mackerel that I did in soft pastels (further down) I think that this is much more successful. I used biro and artists ink pens, smudging and blending the colours for different effects. I used the white background to pick out shiny parts of the fish… And finally:
A brown crab. I think that this one works really well! Again I used biro and ink pens. It looks like watercolours and I think works really well. This drawing is based on the sketch that I did of a crab that I bought from the fish market. I really like this one and think that it is the most successful of the three that I did.
This is a detailed sketch of one of the whole mackerel that I did then cut out and mounted onto a crumpled piece of greaseproof paper which I mounted onto a piece of heavy brown paper. This was not without difficulty as the greaseproof paper did exactly what it was designed to do and wouldn’t stick! In the end I had to use gorilla glue which kind of leaked from behind the sketch and left some weird discoloured patches. I need to look at different types of glue rather than just relying on pritt stick!
This is an A3 sketch of a brown crab bought from the market. I don’t normally have an issue with dead animals, I love skulls and such like, but this felt rather macabre drawing something that actually still looks alive once it is posed. I did this by just drawing in the dark patches and the shadows using cross hatching.
I decided to do a more detailed drawing of just the crab’s leg which I had to pull off. I think this is rather successful though it looks better in the photo than it does in the original drawing- as is the same with the whole crab sketch. I included more detail of the tezture and tone in the crab’s shell.
And finally…. This is an A2 sketch/drawing of the mackerel head done in soft pastel. Though I had sworn off soft pastels I decided to give them another go on a much bigger piece of paper. Gosh, I love this drawing! It is beautiful to look at, really love the detail, which I have struggled to achieve before. What I did differently was to draw it and blending the colours then putting a bucket load of fixative on it to stop it from smudging but also to give the drawing a rough texture again. I have always found that after a while the grain of the paper becomes saturated with the soft pastel and it becomes impossible to get detail onto the paper. From experience I know that fixative makes the surface rough again in the right quantities and I was able to draw onto the fixative with a small amount of biro and then another layer of soft pastel and then more fixative. I think the colours look sublime and I am really pleased with it. My partner really loves this one. It is big and bold and colourful and rich.
Beginning part 2 of my degree course, with lots of sketches of organic subject matter, really exciting to be moving forward with this and getting ready to release the might of my passionate self! Hear me ROAR!!!
Starting part 2 of the first part of my degree has been somewhat easier than the first part. I seem to be finding my pace a little bit and enjoying the process a LOT more.
I am really happy with the comments from my first assignment, lots of positive feedback and comments that I can work on (such as adding a separate menu to my blog for the assignments and learning log relevant to the degree course and several artists who I will go and research who might inspire me and be relevant to my studies!). I was amazed most of all about the fact that my tutor said that I had submitted a lot of work, when I thought for sure I hadn’t done nearly enough!
One thing that I was really thrilled by was the suggestion that I might do more of the personal art that relates to my feelings and enjoy doing so, connecting more with whats going on and being more passionate. I feel that I have managed to do that more in this second part and also stay more relevant to the degree course in the process. Athough still life is not something that I have really felt that I could throw myself into in the past, I have REALLY enjoyed the process so far and have heaps of ideas that I would like to explore moving forwards.
First I just put a load of natural objects that I found in the house in a still life arrangement to do some preliminary sketches. I photographed the still life from several different angles to see what they looked like at a glance, some of which I have included in my sketch book, then I did a sketch of the whole thing from above and front and then a few more sketches of the angle that I most liked the look at and refined the idea of using negative space. I have researched several artists using negative space and still life subjects online and really enjoyed looking at other artists work.
I chose this hugely famous and enormous piece of work by Picasso as an example of work to look at and explore because of his use of lots of contrast, though it is not a still life piece, I love how he has managed to create such an imposing piece of work that feels oppressive with so few colours. I have not seen the originals to any of these pieces of work that I have chosen, sadly, though can only imagine how completely overwhelming this piece of work that he created must feel in person. It is absolutely huge for one thing and the subject matter, though disjointed and in the cubist style is disturbing and feels almost aggressive. I am not fully “au fait” with the actual meaning of the piece of work as I refrained from looking at the intention of the piece until I want to look at it in more depth wanting more to explore my reaction to it and understand how it makes me feel just by looking at it and absorbing the feeling that it evokes. Honestly it reminds me of the feeling that is in the world around me at this point in time, in a political sense. I can feel a real sense of despair when I look at this painting and feel exhausted and despondent, there is a really impactful aura of loathing that I can’t tell if maybe I am feeling because of what is happening in the world in real time and I am looking for in this painting, or if it was actually the artist’s intention to evoke that kind of real visceral response?! It reminds me of people being forced to do things against their will and being hurt in the process. This is the first time that I have really allowed myself to look deeply into a cubist painting, (which is probably shocking for an artist!) and I must say that I am surprised at the level of the feeling that it has triggered in me. I feel almost breathless with the heaviness of the feeling of being almost crushed.
I love this painting, the peaches are so soft and real looking. One thing that I thought looking at this picture was that when I am drawing a still life picture, something that I would like to do is marry up the detail and realism of the subject matter- fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood maybe? with the stark and plain negative space. I love how the focus is all on the fruit and the foreground- in this case the fruit and the leaves and the plate, but if the background was detailed or a lighter colour, the fruit and plate and the leaves would lose all context and vibrancy. There would be a real sense of things being lost if there was a paler or detailed background in this picture and the heaviness of the negative space lends a real warmth to the peaches that I think would be lacking if there was any more detail in the background. This is something that I would really love to use for my own work. I will explore more about negative space and incorporate this into my own work. I adore drawing organic objects and would love to tun out something with this much warmth and gentleness.
This is the only drawing (as opposed to painting) that I have included in this selection of other artists and I included it partly because of this fact and partly because I liked the effect of the use of negative space (again) and the mixture of shapes in the subject matter. It is somehow a combination in some ways of the Picasso piece and the still life above, in as much as it is very geometric (such as the cubist Guernica) and it includes really good use of negative space. I have never heard of this artist before and though this is not a piece that I particularly enjoy looking at, it is useful in terms of how I can use it to influence my own work. This really makes me interested in using negative space and actually at the point at which I saw this drawing I started to sketch my still life with more negative space in the background which was an effect that I really like. Again I find this piece rather bleak and depressing and heavy, which I am surprised at because I wouldn’t expect to have an emotional response towards a collection of jars and containers drawn in blacks, whites and greys… I have decided for sure that I am way more interested in drawing and depicting images of much more organic subject matter. I love the twists and turns and curves and dips and divots and beauty of natural objects and the human form (though I will have to wait my turn to get into the drawing of bodies jsut yet!)
I’m a huge fan of Bruegel, I studied some of his work for my A-Level, and wasn’t so much aware of his still life work as I have really only looked at his more sinister scenes of death and destruction with skeletons and mounted warriors and their wholesale murdering of crowds of people in bleak and depressing landscapes. This was a surprise and I saw the picture and selected it before I even knew who had painted it. Again, flowers are not something that I would necessarily choose to draw myself, I love them and have painted hundreds of them but they are not something that I have drawn many of, the reason I chose this painting was because here Bruegel has chosen a very organic subject matter and as I said, this is what I like the best. I also was really keen to seek out more work from artists who place emphasis on both the detail and tone and feel of the subject matter using colour and realism to depict the flowers in this case- the peaches in the painting above- and the heaviness of the background and the monotone of it which in relation to the detail of the fruit I would have imagined would have almost ‘drowned out’ the colour and the tone of the natural object but in actual fact I am amazed that rather than the background jumping forward and obscuring the beauty of the natural objects, actually helps to bring them forward and define them, making the softness even more so by way of being such a stark contrast. Almost as if in juxtaposing the softness of the detailed fruit with the blank and stark darkness of the background, both are emphasised and compliment each other. This is a surprise to me and something that I hope I can do justice.
So this is the still life that I put together on a board on a Lazy Susan so that I could move and turn the still life to get an angle and frame it in a way that I liked best. I took a good number of photographs and sketched a couple of different angles until I found the one that I liked best.
This was the first sketch I did of the whole still life. I hadn’t really given much thought to the idea of using just a section of a still life composition before, pretty much always just assuming that if I put together a still life set up, then I had to draw the whole thing in one go! when I started looking at the photos that I had taken I realised that the reason that this sketch is not very successful, for the most part is because there is no sense of a focal point in this sketch, there is too much going on, the eye is not drawn to any particular part of the drawing, there is just too much going on. I realised that there doesn’t even have to be an object in the focal point of the picture for it to work either as I moved forwards drawing different sections of the composition, there simply has to be a flow and a place to which the eye is drawn. In later sketches I used the lines of the bananas and the framing of the apples and the negative space to being a sense of completion to the pictures.
This was the second sketch I did, drastically decreasing the number of objects in the drawing and wiping out the background, giving the drawing a bit more negative space. Removing a majority of the objects in the picture immediately improves it, though i was still not happy with the overall look and framing of the objects nor the angle that I was happy with, I think that this drawing is much more successful than the first.
I decided to experiment with different materials at this point whilst I made my mind up about which angle I liked best. This drawing was done on a coarse graned paper using black biro and graphite pencil. This is in more extreme close up than the first and second as I was more interested in the look of the materials that I was using. I like the detail in the drawing but I think that it really loses something by not having any colour in it, I also really think that it needs more negative space in the background and a better sense of flow and direction to make it work.
This was the first picture that I drew with colour for this composition. I used a coarse grained paper again and used soft pastels. I was not happy with the result of using jsut soft pastels, though I liked the colours, I was unhappy with the level of detail that I was able to achieve using just the pastels because they don’t lend themselves to the kind of realistic fine detail that I like to portray in my drawings. I was really getting into the process of finding the materials and composition that I wanted to settle on at this point and really finding pleasure in the work. I decided to use the colouring pencils that I so love to use and try a different angle with more negative space in the background too.
For this first sketch using a different angle of the still life I just used pencil and did a quick sketch, for speed more than anything just to see if this change in angle was what I wanted to achieve. I was really pleased with the look and the feel of the picture and felt really excited about drawing the picture with colour. I love the use of negative space, mixing up detail in the foreground and then just drawing the outlines and using monochrome in the background leaves. As it turned out I really really like the composition of this drawing. It really works. So I decided that this was the composition that I would like to use if I take this drawing further. I went on to draw this using the colouring pencils and being a lot more heavy handed with the background negative space.
I love this drawing. I love these pencils so much! I think that the detail on the fruit works really well with the plain black background. I love the different colours in the apples and the cheerful bright boldness of the bananas. I love the way that the leaves and twigs pop out in the background juxtaposed against the heavy black of the negative space and really emphasise that space, without the colours and the warmth in the foreground fruits would be lost. I think this works really well, however I drew some tiny sketches in my sketch book, increasing the height of the background and making the overall feel and direction to the drawing much more pleasing. I don’t have a photo to share of those pictures. I plan to draw the picture larger and in those dimensions as a sort of ‘final piece’ as I think it works so well in a small sketch.
I then moved onto my next subject matter and drew a bunch of detailed veggies and some mackerel.
First up was this cross section of a red cabbage. I drew it using prismacolor premier pencils on brown heavy brown paper. I really loved drawing this cabbage, it was a really wonderful thing to draw. I was amazed at just how many colours were in the cabbage. It looks at first glance to be “just” purple and white, but on closer inspection there are all layers of purple, burgundy, mauve, red, white, grey, creamy yellowy colours, brown, it was absolutely fascinating to draw. I love how the lines are so swooping and curvy and the layers remind me of the cross section of a tree trunk. I love the way that the purple started to bleed more and more into the white with different tones of red and purple. I decided to draw more vegetables and other food with the same materials in order to study them more closely. I really love the effect of the lovely vibrant colouring pencils on the brown paper, though I will be exploring other drawing surfaces too.
After I had finished the cabbage, I decided to look at a red pepper in detail. I chose the same materials to draw with as the cabbage had been so successful. I realised that I have drawn multiple peppers over the years but never truly looked at one in great detail and just on a whim I decided that I would like to take photos at regular intervals whilst drawing this picture. I wanted to learn a bit about my own process, how I put together a sketch and the different stages of it. To my amazement, when I looked back over the photographs I realised that I am actually incredibly organised and methodical when approaching this type of drawing. In my life outside of drawing I am so messy, disorganised and somewhat chaotic at times. so it was a real surprise to see that there are also times when i am able to be very neat and considered. I think that this is something that I need to harness in other areas of my life, such as meeting deadlines for important events, both in and out of my degree course, and being more organised in general, I have the ability I just need to grab hold of it! I also thought a bit about how much I struggle to create when my home is in a mess. This has been something that has held me back enormously in the past. I have literally held the art of creating as being something sacred and had a distinct need to be organised and ‘proper’ about it. This really makes me sad because it contradicts what I know about my need to be creative… Yes it is a sacred and wonderful part of me, the ability to create, however, I think my need for perfection, that is unattainable for one thing, is so intense that I actually think that I hold myself back in so many ways. I think that particularly after the rape when I was 19, the fact that it revolved around my artwork has really thrown me off kilter. I have, since then, had a need, a genuine desperation to almost keep my art sterile, to stop it from bleeding out from its neatly contained edges. This has meant that the actual work that I have allowed myself to do is most often involving me really holding back and not putting all of that raw passion that I know I feel into the art work.
Being bipolar particularly has a huge impact on the way that I feel about my artwork, not just art in the classic, visual sense either, other disciplines such as music, drama, dance… All of these things move me deeply and I feel such a huge visceral reaction to hearing/seeing/experiencing beauty and pain and fear and sadness and love in a creative sense and I know that this is something that lies bubbling under he surface just waiting for an outlet to really get going with it. I have so many ideas and thoughts that I literally yearn to produce and make into a real tangible work of art, yet for the reasons I have said, the need for sterility is so pervasive. I can’t adequately describe using words the feeling of absolute euphoria that I get when I am manic nor can I find the ‘right’ words to describe the despair that I feel when my mood plummets. The contrast I guess like the fruit and the negative space, only more so. Maybe this is what draws me to the concept of the beautiful, natural raw warmth of the organic matter and the juxtaposition against the cold, hard, black negative space. It literally somehow describes me, albeit in a watered down kind of way.
What I really want to achieve is the reality of those feelings-NOT the watered down version! If I can’t say them, I can’t sing them, dance them, describe them…. The obvious solution is to create them using art as my medium….
I feel like I am on the cusp of something wonderful, though maybe that is just my mood?!
Reigning in those thoughts for a moment and coming back to the methodical and purposeful creation of the pepper sketch, this was the final outcome of all those stages of creation:
I was happy with the pepper, I still am, but I really, really want to let loose, not be so controlled and contrived, let rip with all of that raw passion and joy and aching pain that I feel so much of the time.
I think that the next sketch, a small sketch of a garlic bulb with a couple of loose cloves that I pulled out of the bulb is rather sweet, but again lacks the passion and feeling:
I do like this sketch but I think it lacks definition, though again I was amazed by the number of colours that I had to pick out of my pencil tin in order to capture the true likeness of the vegetable. I think that I have also managed to achieve a good sense of the papery skin of the bulb, and I really like the natural sweeping curves and lines of the drawing. It is pleasing to look at and it is something that I would consider using in a final piece.
After I had drawn some vegetables and really examined them, I read onto the next part of the folder and discovered that I had wandered unwittingly into a wonderful part of the course, where I get a whole chunk of time to devote to drawing natural objects. It was suggested to me that I might look up the ‘Memento Mori’ arena of artwork. A short definition here: “Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning ‘remember you must die’. A basic memento mori painting would be a portrait with a skull but other symbols commonly found are hour glasses or clocks, extinguished or guttering candles, fruit, and flowers.” (taken from this website here). All of these suggested objects are things that I am interested in and the idea of the memento mori style of working really appeals to me, especially in my darker moods, but not restricted to those times. I love skulls, animal and human and am desperate to procure more of them to add to my collection (currently consisting of a single sheep skull! So not quite a ‘collection’ yet, per say….) I remember drawing a skull several times when I was a teenager as we were lucky enough to have a real human skull in the art department at school, since then I have been on the look out to get hold of a real one myself. Though I guess a really good replica would suffice.
Anyway, I somewhat deviated from the subject matter of a typical memento mori piece of work, but feel that with the next couple of sketches (again using prismacolor premier pencils and and heavy brown paper. I bought and drew three whole mackerel. These fish are astonishing to look at. The colours that they are made of are absolutely beautiful and the beautiful gloss and shimmer of their skin is just a joy to behold.
This was the first drawing I did of the recently deceased trio of fishies, I was again amazed at the colours, this has been a theme so far in this part of the course, ans I was also amazed at how much the facial expressions varied from one fish to the next. Interestingly though several totally independent bits of feedback have been given to me that the fish look really sad and despairing. I didn’t draw them deliberately with this in mind, but with the political climate the way that it is at the moment with the calamitous outcome of the Brexit vote and terrorism being rife in all corners of our spherical home, then most recently the rise and rise of Donald Trump dominating the world media, I have really been feeling the anxiety and confusion that so many of us are feeling during these uncertain times. It is no surprise then that the objects that I chose to draw that were once alive and have faces show some of that anguish that is malingering in our communal headspace right now.
I was really engaged in drawing these fish, I truly loved the whole process. It was a joy, a real genuine exciting joy to draw them and to work at figuring out ways to do the beautiful animals justice.
This was the second mackerel drawing, again the same challenges, colours, the shine, the expression on it’s face, the last remaining vestiges of a short life, forever captured in my sketchbook!
They are a true rainbow of colour and a blaze of shimmering and fiery gloss. Simply beautiful, sometimes silver, sometimes golden, sometimes blue, sometimes green, Even their eye colour varies from fish to fish. I had no idea. I thought they all pretty much looked identical!
After drawing these fish I feel moved to draw other seafood, crabs, prawns, a lobster if i can afford one! Other fish, different types. And a HUGE urge to pursue my need for at the very least a convincing replica of a human skull….!
I have also decided to experiment with not only other drawing media but other types of drawing surface, fabric, different types of paper, card, plastic, metal, tin foil. After drawing the last mackerel I actually created my own drawing surface out of a piece of screwed up grease proof paper, onto which I painted a block of white acrylic which I planned to draw directly onto. This was not actually possible as the acrylic was wet and made the grease proof paper very flimsy and thin. So I used my imagination and tore up a piece of white cartridge paper into small pieces and stuck it in layers onto the acrylic paint with layers of paint in between the paper and finally a thick layer of white acrylic over the top of it. I was planning to draw on to the dried rough surface with graphite pencil, but when I tried to make a mark on the ‘paper’ that I had created with a graphite pencil it barely left an impression on the shiny surface, I decided to have a go at drawing a rough sketch of the mackerel directly onto the paint with blue and black ball point pen. This was somewhat successful, however I plan to experiment with making more of these alternative drawing surfaces and trying out other forms of drawing materials on them, ink, pastels, oil pastels, charcoal if it will work. I will include samples in my sketchbook and upload photos when I have them.
Over all I am thoroughly enjoying this part of the degree course and my art studio is nearing completion at long last, so in the near future I will be able to move in there with all of my materials and a huge dose of enthusiasm to get things moving….
But that’s another blog post entirely.
For anyone who has stayed with me to read til the end of this enormous blog post and stream of consciousness, I thank you and I am grateful for your time.
As I have already shared, this has been a difficult time with my mental health and physical health too. (Actually I think I only shared that my mental health has been poor, I didn’t mention my physical health…) Well my mental health has started to stabilise now, I am feeling a lot more ‘together’ and ‘with it’. Physically though, there is a very different story to tell.
I have been suffering with a huge flare up of whatever is wrong with me. My GP is sure that all that ails me is fibromyalgia, but I can’t help feeling like this is a somewhat ‘dustbin diagnosis’; basically I feel like I have had the label of fibromyalgia slapped on me because nobody can be bothered/will make the effort to run necessary tests and diagnose me with the actual thing that I am ill with! .
Starting from the bottom up, feet first, there is literally not a part of my body which does not cause me pain, though for the majority of the time it is in my joints, not just soft tissue. I also have very hypermobile joints, meaning that the flexibility in my joints is over extended, even though they are sore and tender. My ankles particularly are very weak and I fall a lot, though this is not just the joint pain causing me to fall, but the fact that in addition to the pain I am in, I also suffer with chronic debilitating dizziness. I have had this investigated and the only things that they were able to say with certainty are that a) I have a rather low blood pressure, which stays low even when I have been standing for a while, and b) I have something called psychogenic syncope which roughly translates as “falls over because of psychological reasons”.
I cannot argue the low blood pressure, there is evidence to back that up, but the psychogenic syncope, which is rather vague, basically means that because of my mental health I have fainting fits. It seems to tie in with the dissociative symptoms a lot. I have had several really nasty falls which have occurred at times when I have been blissfully unaware of the fact that I am even awake, let alone not maintaining my balance.
Twice I have broken bones in my altered state, the first time I cracked my cheekbone, not badly but badly enough that 18 months later it still gives me pain. Then last time I did some serious damage whilst unaware I broke my top thumb knuckle into three pieces crushing it under a chair. I don’t actually remember the breaking of the bone, but when I woke up, some part inside me had had a field day wrecking my living room in bizarre ways…
I woke up in the morning with an extremely sore thumb. I was, at that time, being assessed to see if I had Lupus- still a possibility but they have not taken that ‘evidence’ seriously or to the next round of testing because I think that they think I am making a fuss about nothing. Anyway I woke up with a sore thumb and assumed that it was joint pain, so I put a heat patch on the whole of my thumb and held it in place with a wrist splint. I then set to cleaning my flat because I had had a huge flood in here, unbeknown to me I was cleaning vigorously with a shattered thumb knuckle. I cannot even describe how painful it was. Anyway, I took the heat pad off and saw that my thumb had gone several shades of purple and was nearly three times it’s normal size, so my friend brought me to A & E and we discovered that not only was it broken, but badly broken. Six weeks minimum in a splint after 2 weeks in a full arm cast. NIGHTMARE. It was also my right thumb I am right handed- which made everything difficult and lots of things impossible.
What upset me the most though was the fact that I had and still have no recollection of the fall. When I woke up the scene in the living room was really disturbing. I had spread several packs of gardening seeds all over the coffee table, I had placed plushy dog toys under all the legs of all the dining chairs. All my photos were upside down. All of the blankets and cushions out of the living room were in a pile by the front door. One of the dining chairs was lying down- which the doctors and so on thought was how I broke my thumb by falling on the chair and crushing my thumb underneath it. scary stuff. I had also emptied two pencil cases FULL of pens and pencils into my bin. It was so weird. Like I said though, I still have zero recollection of what happened that night and it was traumatic piecing it all together.
Anyway, the reason for my bringing this up, and getting side tracked (hahaha, nothing new there!) is because my physical health is really dreadful at the moment. I have had five falls in the last two and a half weeks. smashing my phone, getting gravel all embedded in my hand and knees, covering myself with mud, denting my ego rather spectacularly, and mostly really hurting myself. Part of the problem is lack of awareness and the fact that I have done myself real damage.
So yeah the physical side of things is really not good. I am having to use my crutches more and more to enable me to leave the house, and I HATE it!
Having said that, the lack of mobility means that I have ample time to sit and draw. And once I had gotten over my hump of not being able to draw, I was drained and depressed and mentally not in a good place.
I began to draw things out of the garden, flowers, leaves etc, and from photos that I took on holiday (Pete the Duck for example!) and using different media to emphasise tone and texture.
I did a couple of drawings of flowers after I had enjoyed doing my Iris pictures so much, but found that they lacked the depth and detail of the irises, I think that I just prefer the colours and the shape and the unusual markings of the irises more than I do on these flowers… they would make good greetings cards but not much else…
And then I did a few other different pictures, the “Pete the Duck” pic being one of my favourites!
Not so happy with the hand one although I like the colours, it came out somewhat chunkier and more manly than my actual hands! Still an interesting and fun picture to draw, it was difficult to achieve the fine detail with soft pastels on a paper with a bit more tooth.
Finally I drew some pictures of non famous people, one was a commission piece of work for a birthday present for the person who was the subject of the portrait- and she loved it! wow! the other ones are my cousins, Maisie and Reddvers.
Maisie loved her portrait. She is still very young (13? 14?) but an incredible artist herself, so busy drawing everyone else that she doesn’t do any of herself and nobody else does either, so it was a nice surprise for her to get it!
Re-engaging with the drawing of objects form the garden, animals from photographs and other organic items was so much fun. I enjoyed it and managed to include some of the items from previous work
As you can see I included the skull that I eventually had in my final piece in these two still life studies. Actually I had never drawn a picture exclusively in charcoal before and though I was at a disadvantage, my paper was flat on the table as I did not have an easel or a drawing board that would allow me to elevate the paper, thus I ended up with a wonky picture with poor perspective as It was being drawn flat on the table. It actually looks worse in the photo than in real life because I had to angle the camera in such a way that it actually took the picture, let alone managing to get the perspective corrected. I will be investing on a tilting A1 drawing board just as soon as I can afford one as it is absolutely essential unless you keeps stopping and standing over the picture and preparing to draw the lines in using a ruler for accuracy, it would really make my work a lot easier to have a board on a stand so that I am facing my work rather than having it stretched out in front of me looking all wonky when I am done with it! still, I had a go and having never drawn a picture exclusively in charcoal before I was actually pleasantly surprised with the results!
Having enjoyed the texture studies so much I decided to carry on doing some drawings of items from nature to explore texture using other drawing media than just pencil. I particularly enjoy drawing with biro, colouring pencil and graphite pencil together for a really dark and detailed effect. I started out drawing this shell from two different angles, the top and the underneath:
Having enjoyed drawing this object from nature I decided to collect a group of objects from a dog walk and my garden, an iris, a stick, a stone, some fuchsias, holly and a pine cone. I decided to draw directly into my sketch book onto the brown paper rather than on white paper and sticking it in. This was the result:
I’m more or less happy with this, although it is a study I still like the composition of this the way the items are stacked together, though there are no real shadows cast between the objects as the light was really bright in the room and not from any particular direction, I will be using a spot light in future as I will need to light still life set ups from at least one side and my table is in a dark corner f the room.
In the future when my studio is built (it’s being built on September 8th, I’ve been keeping a countdown calendar!!!)I will have a huge table to draw on (80cm deep by 180cm wide) which will be height adjustable and a MUCH better chair that has been made for me to suit my needs. I went to get assessed or these a few days ago and they should be manufactured by the time my studio is finished being built. The table will be side on to the window in the studio so there will always be a side on light naturally but I will also be investing in a lamp with a daylight bulb and spot lights for lighting up still life and objects to be built. I really cannot wait for this to be built as it will help me enormously in the pursuit of the right working environment…..
Anyway, after the mixed natural objects texture study with mixed media on brown paper, I realised that the combination of drawing media and the brown paper was beautiful, so I decided to do a more detailed study of just irises, which in my opinion were the better of the flowers that I had drawn in the previous study and chose a photograph of last years irises and long grass like leaves.I really really enjoyed drawing the picture that I ended up with:
Like I said, I am really happy with the outcome, I love the detail and the many, many shades of blues and purples in the flowers. Again, drawing these irises has increased my respect for nature, the exquisite detail on the petals, all the different shades of burnt orange, blues, purples and greens, as well as burgundy, red…. the veins in the petals….Here are a couple of drawings of my progress whilst I was doing the picture, different stages and although I think that the detail is lovely without the finer detail being added by biro, I still think I prefer the more detailed version.
I love the brown paper as a backdrop and can’ believe I have never used brown paper to draw directly onto before and I am thrilled with the results so will be investing in some large sheets of it for future work.
I have also constructed and drawn my first collection of objects for still life work. I chose a sheep’s skull, two class vases, a glass bottle full of water, an empty glass jar, a leather bound book, a glass paperweight and a large piece of calico fabric. I set up the still life on my table and because of the lack of natural light I decided to play with ways of lighting up the piece with different forms of light to cast interesting shadows and to play with reflections and shade In the end I decided on two sets of 4 tea light candles in two spaces in front and to the side of the still life set up, this made some beautiful twinkly light reflecting off the glass and shiny objects as well as some really interesting shadows on the non shiny objects.
I chose to work on off white cartridge paper, A2 in size and use charcoal, just plain willow charcoal sticks in various widths and a putty rubber. I have only ever used willow charcoal once and that as for lie drawing multiple five minute rapid pose sketches and am not familiar with it’s imitations or benefits, so I thought would give it a shot.
I decided to do the whole still life arrangement first on one sheet of A2 paper and found charcoal really difficult to work with I would like to redraw it on black sugar paper with chalk and charcoal together. It was a difficult medium to use as it smudges really easily and makes a huge mess! However as this was my first ever attempt at drawing seriously with charcoal I am pretty happy with the results. I think I got enough detail to make each aspect of the arrangement identifiable. The actual picture is not on the tilt like the photograph depicts it to be, the lines are pretty much straight, though this was difficult to achieve because I don’t have a tilted drawing board at the moment so I was working flat which messed somewhat with my ability to get the perspective correct. When I get my art studio I will be investing in a table top drawing board which tilts to avoid this difficulty occurring in the future.
This is a photograph of the first drawing:
Although the photograph makes t look wonky, the actual still life looks better, it is still clear that ll the objects are recognisable and that the picture mostly works. The only part that really sticks out to me as being wrong is the small jar in the bottom right of the picture, it looks like it is floating because I wasn’t heavy handed enough with the charcoal. I also realised how hard it is to achieve minute detail with a drawing implement that blunts so rapidly. I am pretty much happy with the over all look except the fact that the photograph angle that I took it at makes it all look like the tall items are drastically leaning inwards, I know that they do to some extent on the actual picture but not to this extent.
I decided to pick out a corner of the still life and draw it bigger with more detail. Again the photograph makes it look wonky and again the actual picture is not as only, but this again really highlights the need to invest in a proper tilted drawing board.
I think that this works better in terms of the weight of the objects is far better conveyed, also felt like I was finding better ways of using the charcoal and the putty rubber to better effect, especially on the skull and vases behind it. I ill be doing a couple more smaller A3 drawings of the same still life using other drawing media, maybe mixed media on A3 cartridge paper and maybe an A1 black sugar paper piece using charcoal and chalk, just to see what works well and what materials I am comfortable working with and which ones I need to revisit and practice using more.
I might even do a smaller one directly into my sketch book so that I can check out the effect of working with graphite and biro with this kind of still life on brown paper…
I picked these objects because I LOVE my sheep’s skull, it is old and perished and so full of history,. I chose several reflective objects so that I could pay with the reflections of reflections of reflections, also I wanted completely transparent objects because I wanted to be able to see the calico behind it. I chose the book and jars as they are typically rectangular boy shapes as well as the jars having circles and ellipses, and I chose the flower because I wanted something living in the picture full of inert objects. I don’t actually like the way the flower turned out as a drawing though I do like the way it adds eight to the collection of objects which would otherwise have ended up being all the same height and have no kinds of interesting levels to it.
I did really love the way that the candle light lit up the picture. I would love to try adding just a couple of colours to add warmth to the drawing. I may take a couple of photos of the set up still life so that I can revisit it later when I have time to really get stuck into it as I really do believe that it is worth revisiting…