Monthly Archives: February 2016

Part 1: Project 1: Exercise 2 Experimenting with Texture

This has been a revelation and nightmare in terms of taking far too long in terms of the course.

Firstly I got totally stuck on ‘What is Texture’… how could I draw texture if I had no idea what it was.

Was it surface? Everything has a surface… but then what about clouds that were translucent and whose ‘surface had depth? What about water which is clear and reveals what’s beneath (but altered) and reflects what’s above and around it… so the reflection is the surface but when the surface is disturbed by wind it reflects light in its own right and its ‘surface becomes visible’.

When does a surface become an object… an orange has a skin which has a surface but it also has a shape. At what point does it become a study of an orange rather than a surface. Can it be both.

Surfaces have colour and reflection but they have physical characteristics like crevices, bumps and hairs. Get close enough to the surface and it ceases to be a texture and becomes a landscape. So is a surface a texture or are they different – or are we trying to draw softness, hardness, featheriness, hairiness etc. – but these are all effected by what we recognise it to be and the colour and reflective quality.

A good friend told me to paint surfaces and not think about it too much otherwise I would never finish the course!

So that’s what I did.

I also took the opportunity to experiment with different surfaces (found paper) and different mark making tools.

It’s been glorious if slow and I’ve learnt so much… when I look at objects now I’m looking in much more depth and analysing the surface and how the light plays on it, the differences in tone… whether to choose local colour which doesn’t express what I’m feeling or change it – I’ve discovered you can change colour but tonal differences are very important and a whole area of painting in themselves.


Woven cotton jumper

Woven cotton jumper

Fine black artists pen and graphite line 0.1mm on white sketch book paper.

A ‘bumpy’ surface.

Very interesting to look so closely at the pattern made by the weave. Could almost be corn? The texture works independently of the colour.

The ‘object’ is unrecognisable.




Brown hen’s egg

Chalk pastel on white sketch book paper.

Trying to do surface but the surface is curved so ended up doing an egg… which has a surface.

Noticed many things about the surface that I hadn’t before such as the little white  pock marks, tiny brown freckles and the tonal changes over the surface.

Couldn’t resist putting in the shadow to ‘put it on a surface’.



Constructed surface

Constructed surface

Wood charcoal, art markers (felt tips), wax crayon, finger and twig on waxed paper.

Here I was not ‘copying’ a texture but trying to create one and playing with layering marks on a surface.

In the back of my mind I had Rothko.

The end result looked something like old plaster that had been painted and then the house abandoned. Or the paint on an ancient sculpture before it finally degrades and we are left with just the surface.



Oyster shell

Oyster shell

Conte crayon on furry cardboard (the back of a smoke salmon packet with the gold paper peeled off).

Nice surface as the texture of the surface made the background look like sand and the shell stand out.

The surface ‘filled up’ with crayon and if overworked wouldn’t take colour.

I really like this – the shell has great emotional memories for me – it doesn’t capture the shell in naturalistic terms (though it suggests it) but has captured the emotional feeling of the shell. When I look at it it feels like the shell which is weird.

I can only think that I drew what was in my head rather than draw the shell in front of me in photographic terms – and that some of that meaning has made it into the drawing.

Old lap fencing

Old lap fencing

Fine art pen on a chip bag.

I wanted to see how the words on the bag affected the drawing. Whether they would be visual ‘noise’ or incorporate themselves in two the drawing and whether I would still want to read the words or look at the drawing.

And it was an interesting surface.

I hadn’t realised you could see the teeth marks of the saw on the wood and that there were some intricate patterns.

The lap fencing isn’t readable to anybody but me (I don’t think?) and the words Cod, Haddock stand out… but have no relationship to the drawing.

It might be fun to draw a scaly fish… then the words would take on meaning in relationship to the drawing and set up ideas. Such as making the connection between a living creature and a battered piece of food. This would set up a dialogue in the mind of the viewer.

Might be something I could do later.

Iris bulb

Iris bulb

Oil pastels on the back of fish and chip bag.

On the back so the words would be visible but faint and not readable.

Didn’t enjoy oil pastels as the pigment seemed to have no strength and they were not controllable on a small area. That is they weren’t very good for detail.

The bulb was very tonal  and I thought the pastels would be a good medium for this but they mixed together and turned ‘grey’, wouldn’t layer on top of one another and were difficult to control as tended to slide on the chip bag.

I went over the background in black to make the shape of the bulb. The ‘texture’ was matt with tiny bits of sand and the earthy fleshy consistency of the bulb.



Red bowl conte?, wood charcoal and white conte on the back of cardboard.

Skin has a surface but a difficult texture as it’s elastic, a bit shiny and broken up with tiny hairs.

Even though the colour is all wrong – it was nice working on brown ‘paper’ – this still reads as a hand. And I quite like the thumb.

Even though the lines of the cardboard showed through it didn’t seem to matter… and that was really only on the black areas.

By reading it as a ‘hand’ we read the texture as skin. I was very surprised that the local colour mattered so little. Again this meant something to me and although simplistic it somehow has a feel of ‘hand’.


Old hawthorn tree bark

Old hawthorn tree bark

Pen and ink and wax crayon (cheap kids wax crayon) on cardboard.

I copied the pattern of the cracked tree skin in pen and ink. Switching between looking closely and copying every detail and sitting back and looking at the whole log to make sure it all fitted together.

When I waxed in the little pieces of bark some pushed down and gave a 3d effect which I thought worked really well. I hadn’t expected this to be effective but I was pleased.

What struck me at this point was the importance of getting the right tools for the job. Just like a carpenter wouldn’t try and drill a hole with a saw so the artist has to choose the best mediums (both mark makers and surface) for the job.

Orange peel

Orange peel

Watercolour on green flyer for organic online grocery.

I chose watercolour as I thought it would be able to handle the subtle changes in surface colour and the paper seemed quite absorbent. And being green I thought it would ‘take’ the orange better than white which might be a bit harsh.

The colours and pigments were beautiful and a joy to use. I painted wet on wet to subtly blend colours together.

It was fascinating to see the thousands of tiny dimples in the skin and the way the shape was described by the subtle tonal changes.

I was quite pleased with the final result which apart from being great fun – the watercolours were wonderfully flexible – captured both the texture and feel of the surface as well as the ‘shape’ of the segment.


Slice of orange

Slice of orange

Having had such a good time on the skin I decided to extend it and try and capture the texture of the slice which included the pith and the ‘juicy’ orange itself.

The grey was lovely to work on and seemed to enhance the colours which I hadn’t expected. This time I tried wet on dry and found that you could layer the colours.

My brush wasn’t fine enough for the fibrous cells so I had to experiment in painting and overpainting.

The different shades of pith from almost pure white to white with a hint of orange was particularly interesting. And the small orange dots in the peel.

Doing these exercises I’ve discovered that shadows aren’t black/grey but full of colour… and that not all blacks are the same. They affect the colours around them differently in a similar way that different light affects how we see colours. So one black mixed with a colour can darken it more or less and change it’s colour in different ways.

Am not happy with the shadow on this which is far too ‘black’.

Stone that jams open garden gate

Stone that jams open garden gate

Graphite pen 0.1mm with pastel on grey Amazon packing paper.

Having had such fun with the grey paper for the orange I decided to keep it but try a different medium.

I drew the stone and then ‘coloured it in’ with pastel. Again enormous fun as the pigments are wonderful and the combination of contour from the graphite pen and subtle tones worked well.

I was amazed as the tiny scribbly patterns on this stone (it reminded me of some of Twombly’s marks) and the how the browns and greys made a patchwork of colour on the stone.

I tried to incorporate colour into the shadows.

This taught me how you can suggest an impression of a surface and don’t have to overwork it. The wood table was quickly sketched in pastel and yet ‘reads’ well as wooden surface.

Green vase

Green vase

Brush pen on card on found card.

Strange but even though I was doing this in black and white it mattered that I was doing a green vase. This was more emotional than tonal. A green vase has a definite feel to it.

I did the negative shape then ‘filled in’ the white shape I’d left with hatching.

It was very difficult to capture the texture and shape of the vase with hatching though I’m quite pleased with the top. It amazed me how effective leaving white paper was. Whereas where I tried to overpaint with white watercolour that didn’t work.

Although the lines aren’t true on the body of the vase it still captures something of it;’s elegance and strangely has a feel of the very specific texture… or maybe that’s just me.


Watercolour, brush pen and oil pastel on found card.

I painted blocks of dark colour for the different areas of hair… let it dry and then painted over highlights as in Delacroix’s Lion Hunt. And it almost worked… but the brushstrokes stubbornly remained brushstrokes not highlights and the more I worked it the worse it got.

Over the top of this I then used oil pastel and repeatedly added highlights and worked the flow of the hair. Getting close and then losing it.

Slowly it made sense and the hair began to emerge. I used the side of the rice paper blender to go over the oil pastel and ‘sculpt’ it.

Silver candle ion glass candle holder

Silver candle in glass candle holder

Oil pastel on shiny silver plastic paper.

I set myself the challenge of using silver plastic paper thinking it may be great for a metal surface.

It very soon became clear that the only medium that would stick to its was oil pastel.

The strangest thing to emerge from this exercise was that if I worked a bit of the plastic the black would stop sticking to it… but the white still would. The different colours had different qualities in how they attached to the surface!

This was very frustrating.

Given that I only had white and black oil pastel and a very unresponsive shiny plastic surface this was never going to be naturalistic.

It forced me to stand and work the ‘colours’ in a different way and almost have a physical relationship with the candle. I had to try and capture the essence of the candle and glass holder.

I don’t understand why but this works really well for me. It’s the polar opposite of the carefully worked watercolour of the orange slice but it is a silver candle in a heavy glass base.

My favourite bit is the base where I’ve left some of the silver plastic bare.

Blue glass egg

Blue glass egg

Chalk pastel, oil pastel and cut white paper on silver plastic.

Similar problems to above but this time trying to show the ‘texture’ of a translucent blue glass egg.

Less successful and resorted to cutting out shape of egg in paper to stick round the edge to get some shape. This was an interesting exercise as it was cutting out the negative shape and I hadn’t thought of the scissors as contouring.

I had to try and imagine the shape the outside off the egg would make in my bit of paper, which involved a bit of mental gymnastics. Managed it in three cuts.

So no line around the egg – as different from the candle – the edge is just where the colours change. Tried painting watercolour over the oil pastel to get the misty colour/texture of parts of the egg.



Oil pastel on gold plastic.

Lovely texture and colours on the toast.

Same problem again in that only the oil pastel would stick to the plastic – it’s difficult to work and the only colour that sticks after working on the plastic for more than a moment is the dark brown.

Tried all ways of applying the oil pastel.

Amazingly, considering no piece of toast is shiny gold, this is recognisable as toast and even captures some of the texture.

This tells me that our representation of objects can be very loose in terms of local colour and tone and still work as a drawing.


I struggled to see the point of this apart from collecting patterns that I could use later.

It was mechanical – I expected it to be easy but it wasn’t and I discovered that there’s a skill to taking rubbings and choosing surfaces.

In the same way that I experimented with surfaces and marking media I thought I’d experiment with different papers and drawing tools.

Frottage (1)

Frottage (1)

From top left clockwise:

(A) Wax crayon on the waxed inside of Thornton’s chocolate wrapper.

Just picked up the dots of wax – with a little streaking across white gaps. I could’t really tell it was bark.

(B) Graphite on the inside of grey card.

Very faint but you can just see that this is tree bark.

(C) Compressed charcoal on thin blue paper.

The black and the blue compliment each other well but it’s impossible to tell what this is from the rubbing.

Frottage (2)

Frottage (2)

From top left clockwise:

(A) Chalk pastel on inside of thin wrapping paper over brick.

This had a deeply grooved texture so I thought it would pick up well. But the pastel would’t stick to the waxy surface.

(B) Pastel on blue Ingres paper over brick.

As this paper is designed for pastels I thought it would work well… but it didn’t.

There are some dots of more concentrated pastel but it’s impossible to tell it’s a brick.

(C) Wax crayon on outside of patterned waxy wrapping paper on brick.

I thought it might pick up the high points of the brick and was interested to see if the pattern would make it more interesting or less.

The wax stuck to the high points and made lines of dots not obviously a brick. The pattern doesn’t work with it in any way.

(D) Graphite on grey card over wood stump.

The card was too thick and the fronttge just picked up the saw marks.

Frottage (3)

Frottage 3

From top left clockwise:

(A) Compressed charcoal on blue Ingres paper over tree stump.

You can just see the rings on the tree but the bite on the paper is so good the charcoal cover is very solid. The yellow dots are from the other page in my sketchbook and nothing to do with the original frontage.

(B) Red Bole conte crayon on shiny Thornton’s Chocolate wrapper over panel fencing.

This recorded the pressure of my frottaging rather than the surface underneath.

(C) Red Bole conte crayon on light green found paper over panel fencing.

The quality of the conte crayon dragged ‘chalk’ across the sunken bits but the paper was thin enough and the coverage light enough to reveal the fencing.

Frottage (4)

Frottage (4)

From to bottom:

Red Bole on inside of an envelope over brick.

My idea was that the red bole is brick coloured and it might look like a negative version of a brick. The markings on the paper would be less harsh than white paper.

(B) Orange pastel, white pastel, wax crayon and graphite on grey card over wood panel.

The pastel didn’t work at all presumably because of a combination of the heavy bite of the card and its thickness.

I could press harder with the wax crayon and it’s just picking up the high points of the panel.

The graphite hasn’t worked either… which I thought it would… presumably because of the thickness of the card.

Frottage (5)

Frottage (5)

From top left clockwise:

(A) Graphite on found grey paper over plastic dustbin.

Traditional frontage over man made object – picks up lettering… too small to see here but on top frottaged a bit of bare plastic and it picked up the tiny bubbles in the surface.

(B) Compressed charcoal on inside toothpaste box over pedal on large sun umbrella.

I tried different pressures to see if that affected the quality of frottage.

Heavy application just covered the card black.

Medium picked up the parallel ridges.

Light picked up the shapes stamped on the packet which was interesting.

Altogether I discovered that frottaging is not easy and you probably have to have white paper and pencil which is traditional but I didn’t try. So it is a skill that I haven’t yet aquired.However the patterns are easily seen by looking at the surface without the need for frottaging. And you also get a lot more visual… and sensual information that way. Though I can see a use for it in making a bank of patterns that you could easily access without the distraction of colour if you wanted to design something decorative.


  • Surfaces have many subtle tones, colours and patterns.
  • When drawing a surface you need both to draw detail and keep the bigger picture in mind.
  • When you draw a surface you also draw how you feel about it.
  • The drawing process involves sitting and standing even if you are drawing a small object in front of you. Your position affects how you work on and look at your subject.
  • Mark makers and surfaces all have different qualities, and you need to choose the best combination for drawing your subject.
  • A mark maker is a pigment in a medium and the way the mediums cover a surface is very different… and the pigments are all different.
  • Watercolours and pastels have lovely bright pigments.
  • In looking at the world around me I’m now much more aware of surfaces.
  • There are many ways of capturing surfaces from the very naturalistic to the almost abstract. All are valid but different… it all depends what you want to express.








The Artist’s Handbook of Materials & Techniques by Ralph Meyer

I read a random page of this because I bought all the course books and wanted to at least dip into them to see what they’re about.

Fifth edition: I lighted on page 142 – ‘PROPERTIES OF PIGMENTS’

Surprisingly this was very useful!


I started using raw colours (straight from the tube) in my hobby abstract painting – student oil colours and acrylics – but still couldn’t get the intensity of colour I wanted. Initially I had mixed colours but these seemed even ‘weaker’. Why?

Another thing I’d noticed when attempting a naturalistic acrylic painting was that when I mixed colours they were dull but when I got a pre-mixed colour they were much brighter. This meant I couldn’t mix self mixed and premixed colours on the same canvas as the difference in the clarity of colours jarred – the brighter ones seemed closer – even if the colours matched.

If colour matching my own colours was impossible how much more so the colours of nature… add in to the mix that colours in nature are usually lit by sunlight whereas inside it’s artificial light or shadow rather than direct sunlight. Luckily I’m not trying to match nature’s colours but capture the emotion and colour that I see in my head.

On matching colours I found it almost impossible to mix the same colour to touch up a painting – and in this course have found different mediums all have different reds, blues, greens – and different ways of mixing on the page or palette.

The final curiosity was that my watercolours (which are a student grade had wonderful bright colours – as did my chalk pastels) compared to the dull oils and acrylics. And some of the oil pastels seemed to have no colour at all! The sticks looked good but they didn’t cover the paper and were dull as dishwater.


My tutor had mentioned that student oils and particularly acrylics were full of fillers but that watercolours had pure pigments even at student grade. I’d heard this but not really registered it. Using watercolour and chalk pastel has shown me in reality and reading Artists Materials has explained why.

  1. All pigments have different chemical and physical structures which dictate their optical properties. The carriers would then be an added element. So even colours that looked to the eye to be identical could be made from different pigments which would have different optical qualities. There’s no way of knowing if my wax crayon has the same pigment as my conte crayon. And if the pigment is different then its hue, tone, cold/warmness and saturation will all be different. It will react differently to light, carriers and surface.
  2. Cheap colours especially oils (and oil pastels) and acrylics have bulking agents added. These modify the colour and adulterate it making it duller. No wonder I couldn’t get the brilliance I wanted from the student acrylics.
  3. Most oils are for the mass amateur market and have adulterants added which smooth out the difference in tinting strength to increase the ‘inter-mixability’ of their paints but also making them muddier and weaker. A bit like a camera having pre-sets for portraits and landscape – they make it a lot easier to take an acceptable photograph but remove the control needed by the professional photographer.
  4. Two types of ingredients are added: adulterants and modifying ingredients. Adulterants diminish the pigment while modifying ingredients enhance specific qualities such as improving their structural stability.
  5. Mixing two colours makes them duller and a third colour increases this. Premixed colours from a single pigment will be clearer.
  6. Not covered by this section but implicit is that everything that is true for the pigment will be true for the surface it’s applied to.

What I take from this is that I like the pure pigments in watercolours and pastels and the freedom this gives me to experiment. Especially with mixing as being brighter to start with they retain more clarity and are less muddy.

Understanding that mixing colours reduces their clarity and that pre-mixed colours are always brighter is useful if you want the colour but with less saturation and hue.

The book then goes into chemical formula and qualities which is great for the paint manufacturer and established artist in control of his materials but for a beginner a step too far. For the moment I will concentrate on experimenting and using the materials to hand.


Experimental Drawing – Robert Kaupelis

Trying to read a page or two every day.

It is in itself a drawing course so I haven’t time to do the exercises as drawing 1 is more than enough to fill my time – but it enlightens and deepens my understanding of the drawing process. And the sketches (a balance of student work – encouraging… and old masters – awe inspiring) is  a revelation.

Chapter one is ‘A Few Words’ which introduces the scope of the book and sets the context in learning to draw.

  • All the masters’ drawings are with different mediums. Charcoal… pen… dry brush… crayon… and chalk on different surfaces… which are not always categorised but include telephone directory and various papers – which I doubt were the brilliant white of a sketch book! So it reinforces the idea in the course of experimenting with lots of media for both the mark making and the surface.
  • The drawings he’s chosen are great to study – just to look at for 10 or 15 minutes – and illustrate exactly what he’s trying to teach. They’re also great to copy.
  • He introduces the idea of really getting to know a drawing you really like as if it were a new lover and living with it… getting your friend’s opinion. I adapted this slightly and am working my way through Art by Andrew Graham-Dixon. Trying to read the notes and look at a painting every day.
  • Finally he mentions ‘Divergent Behaviour’  which is not to be scared of finding new answers to old problems. That every few generations somebody is a mould breaker… Masaccio, Giotto, Cezanne, Pollack and Calder and launches a new artistic genre. The inference is that although we are steeped in teaching and our (subconscious) understanding of Western Art. That we are stuck in a historical, personal and cultural ‘rut’ – we should not be scared of answering questions in the best artistic way possible. Not trying to please tutors – not blindly follow convention but be confident to experiment, fail, succeed and learn.

Chapter two ‘Some Basics’ introduces Contour, Gesture, and Modeled Drawing.

So far I’ve just read about Contour drawing.

Line indicates form. As different from gesture and 3D modelling. Though I suspect a lot of drawings mix all three.

Contour drawing is a line following the ‘outside’ of objects – and ‘lines’ within it – with little shading  or hatching. So a sleeve may have many lines but a face (which is tonal) will be shown by a few lines as in Albrecht Durer’s exquisite ‘Portrait of Agnes’ c1494

I like his idea of ‘touching the object with your eyes… blind drawing (you don’t look at your paper) but study the object intensely. I’ve touched on it in Life Drawing… where you only look at the object rather than your translation of it onto the page.

He has a whole page of exercises for blind drawing and simplifying your line. Which make complete sense when you look at Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches.

Another point he makes is varying quick contour sketches with long detailed observed ones. The quick sketches seem more fitted for gestural work. Or composition… or capturing an overall ‘picture’.

He also touches on ‘Cross Contour’ drawing which looks a bit like an old OS map!

This has really ‘opened’ my eyes to line and how it works in sketches. There seems to be a strong connection with his blind drawing (which focuses intently on looking at a surface) and the exercise I’m doing on the course for ‘Texture’.

I’m looking forward to Gesture and Modelling and how they work together.



Sketchbook 25/01/2016 to 05//02/2016

Not coursework but my sketchbook – I don’t think you can ever match seeing the real thing but I’m trying to do 30 minutes sketch every day.

This is only meant to give a rough feel as the annotations will also change and be added to.

Can’t work out how to comment by drawings… so will put comments here.

  1. Pastels on Chip Paper – friends liked as they said the chip paper really improved the drawing… they said perspective needs work but parts of it really ‘work’. I like it as even though just a few marks some of drawing actually taking on the character of the egg box. Enjoyed finding the shades and shadows. Will try more found materials as I go along.
  2. Abstract – I like this and figure on bottom right brings it to life for me a bit like the Hawk in Derek Hyatt’s ‘Hawk View’ painting. For me it says something about the cares of the world stripping away childhood and the joy of life so we’re grey, careworn and our lives lacking in joy. But… as it’s not ‘real’ it’s difficult for friends to comment on it … they can’t judge it by its roundness (like the apple) or how it represents anything in the ‘real’ world… and it’s not recognised by the art world, so has no value that way. I think this falls into Robert Kaupelis’ beginner’s divergent box?! More generally it raises the question about value and perception and how people ‘look’ at art? On it’s own merits or because experts tell them it’s a good painting? And also the ‘private’ language of a painter – even if they’re trying to communicate to an audience they may have invented a private artistic language that only they understand – versus a public artistic language that everybody ‘understands’. Impressionism didn’t go down well at first but people learned to ‘read’ it and now ‘see’ its value. Blake had a ‘private’ artistic language that made him very difficult to access and he wasn’t (initially) commercially successful whereas Picasso appealed to a mass audience – even though his art wasn’t obviously ‘commercial’ – he captured something universal. It’s interesting to think about high art which rich collectors will pay for versus ‘low’ art which poor people will buy and which appeal to both markets. When an artists paints for an audience… for cash… the audience has to like and understand his work in order to buy it. Flowers… birds… landscapes. And painting to express a vision or an idea may be for a narrower audience. As an actor I’d happily appear in a commercial for a large sum of money and then be in an art film which paid much less but I felt had artistic merit… I don’t see why artists shouldn’t do the same?! Unless you’re Picasso of course… in which case you are genius enough to just do your own thing!

25/01/2016 to 05/02/2016

Apple in Charcoal

Apple in Charcoal

Spring Flowers.

Spring Flowers.

Yorkshire Moors

Yorkshire Moors

copy of Robert Henri Woman Kneeling

  Copy of Robert Henri Woman Kneeling

Pastel on fish and chip bag - blue eggs in blue egg box

Pastel on fish and chip bag – blue eggs in blue egg box








Amethyst crystals - architects pencil

Amethyst crystals – architects pencil

Grapes in blue bowl - Art Pens

Grapes in blue bowl – Art Pens


Pencil sketch (copy) of costume drawing.

Watercolour sketch - copy - of costume

Watercolour sketch – copy – of costume 

Pencil on paper - self portrait from photograph - unfinished

Pencil on paper – self portrait from photograph – unfinished

Abstract - Brush pen and wax crayons on paper

Abstract – Brush pen and wax crayons on paper


Seeing is an Illusion.

Thinking about Robert Kaupelis’ advice on living with old masters and my thoughts about everybody seeing something different – even if they had the same visual input.

A few years ago when I only had a few minutes a day I looked at ‘A History of Art’ every day for two years. I read it through twice. Each day I did one new artist… just looked at the picture – read the blurb then looked at the picture for about ten minutes. Then started again at the beginning.

At the end (and maybe three or four times) a weird thing happened.

I’d be walking along and I’d see something… a rose, a sunset… or a moss and lichen covered wall… something that caught my attention sufficiently to stop and look. And as I looked at it it reformed into a beautiful picture.

The light changed, the composition shifted, the colours blossomed… it turned from a pretty but mundane view into a work of art… it even framed itself.

I just watched it happen.

I could never remember it afterwards but for just for a few moments I was gifted with a free beautiful painting.

It’s made me think even more that what we see is subjective… it is an illusion… there is no ‘external reality’ we all see… and that art is made up of seeing and capturing.

The ‘capturing’ can be taught.

Each year art schools produce hundreds of artists who are technically competent and can ‘capture’ what they see… but the seeing I don’t think can be taught as it’s dependant on the intelligence and sensitivity of the artist.

How Picasso or Michelangelo held a paintbrush or drew a charcoal line was probably not significantly more technically competent than hundreds of artists…but what they ‘saw’ was very different.

So, it’s the ‘seeing’ that defines an artist not the technical ability.




New Lovers and Divergent Thinking

Experimental Drawing – Robert Kaupelis

A quick note about two points at the end of chapter one.

(1)   Choose Old/Modern Masters to Love: He suggests cutting out an old/modern master from a book and living with it for a few weeks… as the first thing you look at in the morning… last thing at night. Really get to know it as you would a new lover. Show it to friends… reinforce or change your opinion.

To live with great art not just when you visit an exhibition or do research but everyday seems like a great idea… to invest time and emotion and spend time with a great master is a privilege we could all make time for.

I get his drift I’ll give it a go.

(2)   He says most art training (I paraphrase) reinforces or evolves art language that has gone before. And that students should not be afraid of trying new ways of solving problems – thinking outside the box. Not for the sake of it, or for effect… but not to restrict themselves if a ‘New’ solution pops in their heads.

This seems like a good licence for a student as the need for reinforcement and success is very strong – to please your friends, peers and tutors… but that being prepared to ‘fail’, and even be scorned, shouldn’t be avoided is a good piece of advice early on.

He cites the birth of new artist movements and how he hated Pollack when he first emerged… but grew to love his work.

His list of divergent artists who created new movements: Masaccio, Giotto, Cezanne, Pollack and Calder.

Experimental Drawing – Robert Kaupelis

So, my grand plan to take a day off work didn’t work… they tricked me into five days.

This Friday I told them I’m taking an art day a week so as the days come in I’m being very clear as I’m leading up to my 4 days. It’s hard when you’re freelance (as more and more people are these days… and not just ‘creatives’) as if you don’t work you don’t get paid… no sick pay… no holiday pay) and you never know when the next job will come. But at the moment I could work 7 days a week as the primary education system is creaking and however nice the money what’s the point of paying off your debts and mortgage if you carry on the same work pattern that made you feel ill?!

Teaching pays the bills but progresses me not one jot.

Acting I can do into my 80’s – art the same… I’ve probably got 5 or six years teaching at this pace left in me so as the road runs out choices have to be made.

On my ‘Moving Forward’ day I can market my acting and have a 6 hour art day… and not be tired.

Experimental Drawing by Robert Kaupelis

I’ve enjoyed dipping into this enormously.

It’s basically a learning to draw book with added zing. This week I’ve picked up:

  1. The importance of both the drawing implement and the surface on which to apply it… ‘The work you produce is intimately related to the materials you have available because it is through particular materials that your drawing/thinking processes are formulated.’

This made me think that all drawing is mixed media… the mark maker and the surface which is marked. Charcoal on newspaper would be significantly different than charcoal on coloured pastel paper or chip wrapping.

Before starting this course I’d naively assumed drawing was pencil on paper. And a little bit of charcoal and some pen and ink sketching.

The first six illustrations from the book illustrate the variety of mediums well:

  • Michelangelo Madonna and Child (Black chalk on paper?) – Italian – around 1564 – believed to be his last drawing and filled with tender emotion.
  • Robert Henri Woman Kneeling on a chair – USA – (Drybrush on paper?) – early 1900’s? – newspaper background – ordinary subject – brazen image – painterly technique.
  • Amedeo Modigliani Carytid – Italian – (Crayon on paper) – early 1900’s? – non ‘realistic’ – overlapping forms, hard, stylised, encased in ‘stone’.
  • Franz Kline Study for clock face c 1951 – USA – (Gouache on telephone book page) – abstraction, calligraphic brushstrokes, negative spaces.
  • Man Ray Drawing, 1915 – USA – (Charcoal on paper?) – anthropomorphic based on human forms… breaking away from academic training and influenced by Duchamp.
  • Luca Cambiaso Hercules (Pen and ink on paper?) – Italian – around 1570 – super confident line, contour drawing, body as geometric solids, very slight variation line in width and character.

So these six beautiful drawings are all VERY different both to the eye and emotionally, all use different combinations of materials and are all recognised works of art.

If you add in colour in drawing… and any number of found materials then the combinations of mark maker and surface are vast.

My conclusion is that there are different tools in art for different jobs just like there are different tools in a carpenters chest. For the carpenter the choice is obvious… he would use a saw to cut wood (though different saws for different sizes and types of materials) and a drill to make a hole.

For the artist the choice is not so obvious… you could draw a person using any mark maker… charcoal, watercolour, pen and ink… on any surface… paper, board, metal. But your materials and their qualities will affect how you draw. Some are more suited to a delicate tender image, others to bold emotional ones.

Then, having made your choice the qualities of the materials and how they work together will affect how your vision is translated into your drawing.

I’ve not progressed enough to make informed choices about materials but it seems to me that an artist might become a specialist in a few materials? Might choose one ‘mixed media’ over another for a particular project? And the qualities of those materials will further affect how he thinks about and formulates his image… the materials might almost have their own ‘one’ or ‘voice’ ?

In short what I thought was a simple choice between charcoal, pencil and ink on paper is an almost infinite choice of mark makers and surfaces.