“One Long Day…”

Coming Home

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It’s been a long while since I wrote anything on here. A good three or so months since my last actual blog post, but I have been writing bits here and there to put on here, none of it’s seems very relevant any more, I have just felt so disjointed and all up in the air, and all of a sudden I feel as though my brain has  let me start being creative again. Hurrah!

Wow.

I’ll start at the end first- logic y’see!

So this morning (Monday 20th March 2017) I posted what felt like an embarrassing SOS on the drawing 1 forum basically explaining that I have been in a terrible place mentally and physically for the last few months. Just leading up to the last few months I was extraordinarily productive and churned out loads of work, something that I will certainly been on the lookout for in future as it was a pretty big indicator that I was experiencing a manic episode. I am diagnosed with bipolar type 1 which if you want to know more about can be discovered abundantly on google with no real effort…. (here is a link to loads of articles on google about it –Bipolar Articles– see, you really didn’t need to put in any effort at all!)

I was amazed at the lovely responses that I received after just a few hours of posting that SOS, I had, it seems, no reason to be embarrassed and every reason to believe that the people who I am sharing the journey of this course with are basically lovely, supportive, and generous folk who are a lot like me…. I had a big grin on my face to replace that glum, solemn grimace that I had been wearing earlier in the day.

As any fellow BP1-er will know, those euphoric highs are pretty much always followed by a crippling low. This was form in that regard.  In addition to that there is also the small matter if the dissociative disorderly stuff, chronic anxiety and various other mental health stuff- and then just to add another layer of fun and games, I hurt my back, which made my physical problems a great deal worse… I have the added benefit of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue… deep, deep, resounding joy!

There I have been since the tail end of that wonderful productive period (I will also be writing a blog post with drawings that I made during that time later, I need to get this off my chest first!) dipping and dipping further and further, until frankly I just didn’t feel able to get back up. The first thing that goes, every time this happens, is the ability to be creative. That’s not to say that the feelings are only there when I am manic, that is not the case, I pretty much feel creative all the time. When I am manic and euphoric that creativity is massively increased, but it never fully goes away, the feelings don’t anyway, the ability to use them, to have those feelings manifest works of art- this is what diminishes. Along with the creative purpose that reduces, I also find that the state of me and my flat are also hugely affected. Often, I end up living in and living as a total mess!

The reason I decided to name this post ‘One Long Day’ is because it feels exactly like that to me. Each day doesn’t seem to end with any kind of satisfying, restful conclusion, boundaried by undisturbed sleep, rather it just drags on and on with unrelenting sadness, emptiness and ultimately despair…

I lived in that one long day for months. Now it is time to start another…

After I posted that plea for support I knew that I had to take action and do something about the situation. Not just sit there and hope that it will go away or somehow magically change into something more positive. This has just been a snag. There may be others, there may not, but it is likely that there will be.

I took out my folder which had somehow acquired the same emotional qualities as a giant five headed monster with big teeth and the attitude of what would happen if Katie Hopkins and a rabid T-Rex were to somehow create an especially angry two-year-old.

With sweaty palms and a raging headache I decided that I couldn’t do it by myself, so I called a friend for the emotional support necessary to open it.

Friend on board, I falteringly opened the folder at the required page and realised that rather than being a hugely pissed off toddler, I was faced with no more than a slightly vexed puppy. Maybe one who had just found out that its tail was attached to its body and endlessly chasing it wasn’t going to achieve anything. Pretty much that. Or maybe the puppy was actually me?

SO the rest of the story is pretty non-descript in terms of narrative, basically I read the stuff I needed to, got some paper, pens, pencils, gel pens, a biro and a drawing board and sat down and sketched several pages worth of drawings, felt really happy about it and now I am writing this. I’ll include photos of the drawings in my next post…

Thanks for sticking with me and helping me to trust the process. It isn’t always easy, painless or fun but the process always wins out in the end.

Turning The Cogs…..

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.

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Jon Snow- Game of Thrones
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John Snow- Game of Thrones

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.

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Jon Snow- Game of Thrones
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Jon Snow- Game of Thrones
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Jon Snow- Game of Thrones

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.

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Victoria Wood
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John Cleese

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…

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“A Few Of My favourite Things” Final Piece for Drawing 1 module 1

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!

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Steve Hogarth “H” Marillion Lead Singer (2016 photo shoot)
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Steve Hogarth “H” Marillion Lead Singer, younger days photo shoot, with the album Afraid of Sunlight

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- Research Point

Odilon Redon - Two Trees 1875
“Two Trees” 1875

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:

Odilon Redon- The Trees
“The Trees” C1090’s

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:

Odilon Redon - Exhibition in 1882 1
Unknown. (could not find a title or year for this but it fits in with his other ‘noirs’)
Odilon Redon - Sphere
“Sphere” C1890’s

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 - The Smiling Spider 1881
“Smiling Spider” 1881

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:

Odilon Redon - Crying Spider 1881
“The Crying Spider” 1881

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.

Some More Texture and Nature Studies & My First Still Life

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:

shell 1
Spiny shell from above, biro, graphite pencil and colouring pencil
shell 2
Spiny shell from underneath with graphite pencil, biro and colouring pencil

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:

brown paper study
Brown paper study, Stick, Iris, Holly, Stone, Pine Cone, Fuchsias; Biro, graphite pencil and colouring pencil.

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:

Irises both
Irises and buds on brown paper, Biro, Graphite Pencil, Coloured Pencil

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.

irises progress 1
Irises Progress 1- first basic iris drawn with graphite pencil and colouring pencil, not yet complete
irises progress 2
Irises Progress 2- Getting the second flower down, looks a little fuzzy round the edges until I  added the finer detail in with biro

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:

charcoal skull study
Still Life- Charcoal on Cartridge paper, first attempt at using charcoal to draw such intricate detail.

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.

Charcoal Skll Study Close Up
Still Life close up Study

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…

Til next time Xxxxx