Assignment three

A1 Paper, pastel.


(1) Technical and visual skills:

Part three deals with trees, landscape, composition, perspective and townscape. So I am referring my assessment to these.

Materials: I chose pastel as I wanted the softness and fluidity of charcoal (for a ‘country scene’) but with colour. I think this worked well with the vegetation and trees. Less so with the building as pastel is not suited to fine lines… maybe I could have used a different media here… pencil crayon which would have given me control. And for people pastel had positives and negatives… it was good for modelling and tone but not good for any fine marks… creases in clothes or details of faces.

But given that the drawing is mainly water and vegetation it was a good choice.


I had to overdraw quickly and boldly as the paper had limited bite and not constantly rework… the colour goes grey and the pastel slides over the top. This meant looking and thinking hard before applying the pastel.

Another technique was laying a light blanket colour (say black). Then working in vegetation and building up quick layers of pastel. Finishing by adding hard black for the darkest shadows, working over the edges and adding highlights. This was what I did for the trees and bushes learning as I went along. I think the technique worked well.

I discovered the paper left pinpricks of white paper even when heavily chalked… it was like another colour… and had to decide whether to leave these in, or blend over them using a finger – which softened, evened and greyed the tone – or a stump (but it tended to scrape away the pastel and left it shiny and unworkeable).

Colour hygiene was vital… wiping finger, stump and pastel before applying as they all picked up colour easily.

Finally, I put the paper on a drawing board and worked from the top downwards so the falling chalk didn’t spoil my previous work. Constantly blowing to remove the dust.

All of these, though not mastered, I think I coped with well.

What I didn’t realise was that I couldn’t pastel over the pencil… so that’s a technique I’ve yet to master!

I don’t know how I’d draw this directly with pastels????? Or whether there a way of sketching it first that you can easily colour over?

Observational skills:

Difficult for me to say but I think I observed the shapes and colours well.

Visual awareness:

Not sure how this differs from observational skills?

Design and composition:

I’m quite pleased with this… I decided to split my drawing between town and gown… the colleges with their ornate gardens and manicured hedges, money and ancient buildings. Nature tamed and controlled… academia and study. And the other half the town… tourists having fun, open, wild, uncontrolled with random punts.

I used the building and gardens for the college and the river and people having fun on the punts for the town… the university bound by the wall (which slices the drawing in two) and the river unbound.

This meant I couldn’t use the river for perspective (I only had one bank) so I used the river wall for linear perspective.

There is aerial perspective in the people and trees getting smaller and losing detail. The colours on the people are less bright in the distance.

In the composition I wanted no people on the university side and the river to be full of people… and those people to tell a narrative… lots of little stories going on.

Also the people on the river are having to work – they are not rooted – as soon as they stop punting they would get washed away. Whereas the buildings are much more permanent… not skating but almost part of the land.

In terms of design I’ve got half the drawing dominated by lines and colour and the other much more monochrome and random. Which I think works well.

Finally, this is a much simplified and altered view. I’ve taken out a bridge – removed hedges and flowers – moved boats around – put somebody on the bridge.

(2) Quality of outcome:

I think the final piece realises my basic concept well without overstating it.

That is, the drawing works as a pleasant drawing of the river Cam and the punts and can be enjoyed on that level.

But the eye is constantly flickering between the colourful ‘gown’ and the busy ‘town’ and you tend to view each other separately. But they are connected.

However, each time you visually switch you have to cross the boundary, the wall, which is a metaphor for the very real boundary between Cambridge city and the universities. You can’t look at them both together. I think this works really well.

Less effective, are the narratives of the people on the boats. They are recognizably people but the detail isn’t good enough for the viewer to read their stories.

(3) Demonstration of creativity:

It’s difficult to judge your own creativity!

But… I think it’s quite creative to take a traditional format… a view of the river Cam. Drawn with a traditional medium. And subvert it to make a political drawing.

Political in that Cambridge is a divided city – with animosity on the town side for the power and privilege.

And to find a way to put that into a ‘pretty’ drawing is creative.

(4) Context reflection:

I’m really enjoying reading ‘concepts of modern art’ From Fauvism to Postmodernism by Nikos Stangos. I’m about half way through on Abstract Expressionism.

What really hits me is that art, post photography, is not a linear progression.

But (at least in the period covered by this book) a series of attempts to give a soul to art. It seems very ideologically based… as if the artists had to have a manifesto worked out to justify and validate their art. The artworks then became a reification of their theory.

When one theory failed or reached a dead-end another was born like seeds in sand. To use a biblical reference, they quickly blossom and die.

What this means is they can’t be ‘copied’ because without the underlying understanding (of the manifesto) the paintings won’t be ideologically coherent. But then the manifestos were often fluid, driven by a single powerful individual, and changed over time. So, although we might intuitively know an American Abstract Expressionist painting when we see one… it might be difficult to state in exact terms precisely what that is.

And then, you’re also into the arena of who determines which definition of, say ‘cubism’, is ‘correct’?!

They may be useful labels but seem to be more about the history of the psycholgy of art and artists than useful artistic terms.

However, as I go through the course I’m trying to relate my practice and works of art I see to the different ism’s. The ideas in the ‘isms’ are useful for understanding how a particular approach might work… just not useful as a straight jacket!

My conclusion (at the moment) is that art is as multi faceted as humanity. It affects the viewer because of the human element they recognise and connect with… be that an emotion, a social point, aesthetic beauty, surface ‘reality’, the spirit of the age… anything which makes up a human is the matter of art.

So, all the ‘ism’s’ could be seen as an existential crisis. Artists putting themselves in ideological boxes to give their art meaning, a meaning that was robbed by photography… when, quite simply, humanity’s soul is art’s soul.

With this in mind, I’m trying to give my Assignments a meaning.

In the context of modern art I don’t see this assignment as belonging to any ‘ism’ but in the nature of all art – I’m thinking of plays, film, music… it is both entertainment (a pretty picture) and has a meaning (shows us the divided nature of a city).

See below for preliminary sketches:












Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s