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!
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
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.
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:
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
It’s been a weird few months, with my resolve wavering with regards to my degree and my commitment towards it in the actual doing of the work and being able to hand it in. Mentally and emotionally I am totally committed to the degree, I really want it, like really REALLY want to do this. I have wanted an art degree for as long as I can remember, but after pursuing a life of excess and actively living to forget the somewhat harsh reality of the details of my life for so many years after leaving college doing my A-Levels, I had only dreamt that me doing a degree was a possibility.
When I found the college that I am doing my degree with and found that it was so geared towards people like me, people who suffer with problems that mean that they find it so difficult to leave the house that doing a degree by going to an actual university was nothing more than a pipe dream. That the degree that I wanted actually exists, to do the qualification solely based on my drawing which is indeed my favourite way of being creative- I class painting somewhat under this term too, in as much as it is drawing but with a paintbrush and plan to do at least one painting module as part of this course. Honestly, when I found that there was an achievable way of gaining the long sought after degree that I have tortured myself with the absence of for so many years…. I was a complete wreck of anxiety and excitement- which incidentally feel very similar physiologically, something that I have to remind myself of almost constantly as the anxiety conspires in my belly to make me sick with terror, I have to remind myself that the anxiety that I am feeling could very well be a mixture of excitement and anticipation.
When I enrolled on the course, secured my funding and started the degree, as I posted here in the beginning, I was so fired up, though so completely nervous about opening the folder and seeing what was inside that I couldn’t even make a start for over a week and a half. But…. when I started the work, I found that the commitment was further solidified by an absolute joy at what I was doing…. then I ground to a halt.
It was suddenly hard to do the work, suddenly hard to do the written work. Despite knowing that I am most happy whilst drawing and painting, I shuddered to a despondent halt, stopping all working and writing immediately, including writing on this blog for a long while.
I realised with some disappointment that when the college had asked me if I wanted to hold fire on starting until my support worker/mentor was in place so that I would have the right kind of support and not be completely on my own working on a degree in the confines of a space that I hide myself away on from the outside world; I had insisted that the degree would be doable and fine to continue without the support mentor, that I had everything under control…. the truth was that I really very much needed that extra support and would go on to struggle without it.
I finished my blog post about the artist Odilon Redon- Research Point, but failed to publish it, and began to immerse myself in a world of practical need and need fulfilment, such as ‘I’m hungry- I’ll eat’, ‘I’m tired-I’ll sleep’. Neglecting all but a small number of portraits, all of which (bar a couple) have been stuck in my sketch book as I figured that any and all work was relevant to the module I was doing as it had organically evolved from found objects and still life to looking at the textures of skin and hair and fabric, all of which are a major part of my portraits. In fact this was all I managed to do except for the final piece as the first part of the module…. I entitled it “A Few Of My Favourite Things” as it is a group of objects which are meaningful to me for different reasons…
I chose the boot because it belongs to my partner and she wears them literally ALL the time. I bought them for her for Christmas a few years back and they still creak like new shoes, gotta love a pair of decent quality boots that also look awesome…. I chose the glass bottle because I love glass bottles, and the reflections and the way that light catches the bottle in different ways really intrigues me. I chose the stuffed bunny rabbit at the back because my Aunt gave it to me after she made it and I chose the skull, shell and starfish as they are all organic objects which appeals to me enormously. I really enjoy drawing anything that you can find in nature, that, along with drawing the human form and faces fascinate me as I draw them due to their organic and fluid nature. I love irregularity and imperfection and getting my hands dirty, I guess all this is true in my life outside of art as my partner and I maintain a wonderful veggie patch in the back garden as well as cultivating beautiful flowers and shrubs. I chose the mannequin because it reminds me of my folks who always have been and still are my biggest supporters when it comes to my creative endeavours… They bought it for me from IKEA when I really insisted that I needed it for my art work… well it came into it’s own! And I chose the green fabric because I love drawing the way that fabric falls and love it as a backdrop to most items that I draw. I spend as much time working on the folds in fabric and bringing that to life as I do on the objects in the foreground.
I decided to draw the final piece in colouring pencils and pencil primarily, mainly because I was really excited by the colours of the objects that I was drawing. Also I have done lots of studies using colouring pencils but not many larger pieces * the final piece is A2.
So that was my final piece drawn and done. Very happy that it is done, not so happy with the result if I am honest. It is mediocre at best, but it is done and I have done the net step too of sending it off to my tutor!
Anyway after much dilly dallying I actually had my learning support worker/mentor approved and was able to make my first contact with her a couple of weeks ago. Her name is Becky and she is lovely. I was so happy that I had been allocated a learning support mentor that I actually feel safe in the presence of and happy that I feel comfortable with her and have to say that I wish, in way that I had started my degree once I had her support in place, as I have found that it is so much easier to make deadlines and stick to them with her support. As it was I didn’t and have struggled somewhat to keep on track.
Our first meeting we decided that I would have a deadline of a week to hand in and complete the first module, at least to the point where I could hand something in. I had been in contact with my tutor via email to apologise profusely about not having handed in my work yet and that I have been struggling with my mental health over the last few months. Moving from a manic phase to a crappy, depressed phase which has been hard. She was really nice about it, reminding me that I am in no rush, not that I have to make sure everything is perfect before handing it in. This is a huge problem for me. Unless something is perfect and presentable and exactly-just-so, I find it incredibly difficult to hand in work, or pass on a portrait that I have completed…. or what ever really…
Anyway, I booked the collection of my portfolio from my home at 10.30 AM on Tuesday 11th October and by 1.30 PM it had been collected by a nice man from ParcelForce and then it was delivered and signed for at midday the following day. I can’t fault their service and the cost was reasonable too, I also managed to find a shop on eBay who sell A1 sized postage bags that I can fit my art folder in comfortably. So off it went, delivered and received and it is in the lap of my tutor now to decide if I am actually on the right track and have what it takes to do this qualification. I am not going to lie, I am terrified about receiving it back. hey ho.
I saw my support worker again this week and she was hugely helpful, doing a short guided relaxation and breathing exercise and we set a couple of deadlines for me to meet, such as finishing the second module by Christmas at the latest. I have another appointment with her next week…. I am actually looking forward to it, now that I have a weekly point of contact, suddenly deadlines seem like my friend and not my foe!
On another note, I do feel like my portraits are improving immensely, I have practised quite a lot and feel that I have moved forwards in the quality and feel of my drawings and seem to be getting a lot of feedback that backs this up!
Odilon Redon was born in Bordeaux on April 20, 1840 and died on July 6, 1916. The young Bertrand-Jean Redon acquired the nickname “Odilon” from his mother, Odile. He started drawing as a ten year old and even won a prize for his drawing but upon his father’s insistence switched to architecture as a teen. He failed to get into the architecture school at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts which ended that career before it started however continued to study painting there in 1864 under Jean-Léon Gérôme before returning to Bordeaux, where he took up sculpting. He studied with the draughtsman and engraver Rodolphe Bresdin who introduced him to etching and lithography.
He continued with his artistic career until 1870 when he was called to fight in the Franco-Prussian War.
After the war he returned to Paris and worked almost exclusively in charcoal and lithography and entered his “Noirs” period, making what he called his visionary works, almost entirely in shades of black. This picture above and the one below are very similar in their composition and feel, though done almost 20 years apart:
I have picked out a number of his works spanning the era of his use of charcoal and which reflect a wide variety of his works during the period of 1875 up to 1900, all of which show great depth, tone and shading which Redon portrayed so well.
In the first two pictures I am instantly drawn to the centre of the picture by the lines of the trees, the depth and shading give the picture a feeling of mystery and gloominess. I feel a heaviness in these two pictures which is alleviated when I inspect the pictures more closely and see that he has picked out spots of light and dappled greys on the bottoms of the trees, implying a more fantastical quality to his work, almost like he is illustrating a fairy tale about a deep dark woods.
At first the pictures look heavy, verging on clumsy, but when I study them more closely, there is fine detail in the twigs and fronds of leaves in the undergrowth. In the first picture I feel almost as though the relationship between the two trees is almost conspiratorial, secretive and as though one tree is whispering to the other, the trees seem to take on a more human form. In the second picture the trees are leaning away from each other, like they have fallen out, it is almost as if the second picture is the conclusion to the first picture when viewed as a pair.
I decided to look at the way that Redon has used shading on more spherical objects, using the patches of light and dark to give weight and imply lightness also:
What I think is amazing about these two pictures is that the subject is the same, the sphere, yet with a difference in shading makes the top one have such a hugely heavy weight like a giant cannonball and the other looks light as a feather, like it is floating. It shows that with the right kind of shading any ‘weight’ of object can be achieved and the shading that he has used in these pictures gives the objects a very 3D appearance. I also really like the delicate use of shading on the lighter areas of the object and the lighter areas on the pictures as a whole. There is no solid ‘line’ around the whole sphere in either picture, all of the shape is implied using shading.
Odilon Redon was greatly inspired by the author/poet Edgar Allen Poe, though he had been dead for 33 years at the time that Redon was involved in making lithographs. Although his picture seem somewhat surreal, they are not classed as such, instead being described as realistic yet macabre and ethereal, Redon described his work in the following way: “I approached the unlikely by means of the unlikely and could give visual logic to the imaginary elements which I perceived.” [more about this can be found here]. Above and below are a couple of his Edgar Allen Poe inspired pieces:
I really like how Redon has implied menace and the macabre through his use of heavy black and minimal light areas picked out of the blackness. Again on first viewing these pictures they have an air of naivete but on looking, and really seeing the mages, there is a certain maturity, a conveying of real emotion which is achieved purely through the sensitive use of one colour.
sometimes life just shudders to a despondent halt…..
I realise that it has been some weeks since i last posted a blog update. Two of those weeks have been spent on holiday in Devon- a perfect excuse to bring out the pencils and paper and draw to my heart’s content… the other weeks I cannot account for other than a feeling of bewilderment and discontent. I have struggled to manage my time, I have struggled to manage my moods and I have struggled to manage my motivation In short I have drawn and written very little and done very little else of consequence with my time- other than waste it!
The date is drawing ever closer and I am drawing ever decreasingly towards the installation of my art studio. I should be excited, I should be climbing the walls with joy and gratitude, and instead I feel as flat as a pancake.
I have nearly finished my research point, the first one in the first part of Drawing 1, discussing some of the works of Odilon Redon. I anticipate that this will be complete some time this afternoon and I will publish it before the afternoon/evening is over then I can dedicate the rest of the week to finishing and handing in the first part of my degree!
I can’t help feeling that this is something of self sabotaging behaviour. I have enviably got exactly what I want, the course, the support of my partner, friends and family, the promise of an art studio…. plus all the basics, a roof over my head, more than enough food in my belly, people around me who I love. This should be easy.
But it isn’t. Life with some mental health difficulties is not easy, there is much that I don’t understand about myself and much that I do. I understand, for example, that I am given to sabotaging myself when things are going well, I do not, however, understand why I do that. Maybe it is fear of succeeding, of actually getting something right. I am managing to sell portrait commissions both of animals and people and these are very warmly received and appreciated, this is good, so what do I do on the back of this? I retreat further into myself, find that space of safety inside and put on that brave face for the world to see when inside is just chaos.
Let me give you an example, for want of a better way of explaining it, imagine that you are made up of lots of different parts. It isn’t difficult. Imagine the language you use when you are talking about an inner conflict about making a decision about something, for example. You might say ‘On the one hand I feel like <example>BUT another part of me feels like <example>….’ or ‘part of me KNOWS that isn’t the best way of doing things but a bigger part of me just thinks ‘fuck it!”. Now you have in mind those conflicting parts of yourself, we all have them, nobody is just a straight down the middle, always in one mind about everything kind of person, we all experience internal dilemma. So imagine then that those inner parts of you are actually very defined and have their own personae, they don’t just represent a differing point of view that you have to yourself, but actually take on characteristics that are completely different to your main character. Like me, I am, in my core self, the part of me who does the most me-ing, pretty flighty, given to swings of mood and temperament, sometimes, sometimes often,anxious about a lot of things. I am driven, I am creative, I am a lover of life, an optimist, despite the anxious streak. Now imagine that there are other parts of me who are well developed and conflicting with the core me, there might be, for example, part of me who is oblivious to any of the trauma that I have been through…. There might be younger child parts who are, in turn, skittish, playful, funny, childish, traumatised, curious, Yes I contain all of those qualities as core me, but those child parts might embody a certain quality in particular, so one child part might be particularly curious, another one particularly playful, one very traumatised, one pre-verbal, one very noisy and bull headed. Maybe there is an adult part who is able to deal with the bill paying, the refund getting when something isn’t right, the phone answering the taxi calling, the doctor appointment attending. There might be an adult part who is very, very critical and mean, a masculine part or maybe two, maybe a self abusive part who likes to sabotage things for the other parts when they are going well, because if we sabotage it for ourselves then nobody can wreck it for us…. Just imagine, for a second, ALL of that happening. AT ONCE.
It gets VERY noisy in here.
I feel weird even posting this as it is so personal, but I promised myself that I would share uncensored the process of this journey and this is something that plays a very big part for me. I am not on my journey alone with this degree, with anything, even when I am by myself. Of course there are times when none of this matters, when I am able to just ENJOY something…. like Game of Thrones, for example. Its not suitable for the younger bits of me, but they can take themselves off to a corner of my mind and amuse themselves whilst adult, coping, managing, grown up me gets to do something for myself. And it’s not all bad, when there is something that I, core me, finds too difficult to cope with, there is always some other version of me who can pick up the pieces and carry on. But it is not without complications. There are very stubborn combatant parts of me who like to cause arguments and trouble for core me, I’m not always aware of time passing or when someone else is doing something, I am not always aware of it. Like the part of me who is writing this, I am very aware of what I am writing, some other part might get a nasty shock when they read it later though!
The upshot of all this is that I have to take things easy and be gentle with myself. I have to be kind to myself and patient because not all the me’s are up to date with the other ones, and most of all I have to remind people around me that I am not always firing on all cylinders. Something that to part of me might seem very straight forward and simple, might suddenly become completely impossible and difficult. I am lucky.. I have a family who are willing to make sense of this with me, I have a partner who is supportive of my pursuits though doesn’t always understand my reasoning, is for the most part willing to join me for the ride. I have good friends and a support network who are helping me to figure things out as I go along.
All these things impact on my ability to function on this degree course.
So on that note, now that I have got that off my chest I will resume with my work, my writing and my drawing work, I will continue to plug away at the degree course and do my utmost to get a good result.
Thanks for trying to make sense of something that doesn’t really make sense to me. I appreciate the concentration span of anyone who got through all that in one piece! off to work I go!
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…