Feedback on project work, sketchbooks development leading to assignment
(1) Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity.
When I’m drawing I like two things… solving technical problems in how to observe and draw better (to see, understand and reproduce what’s in front if me – a lot of my annotations are about this) and to engage with what I’m drawing… (which is also, I discovered, helped by on site notes)… that can be by forgetting myself or an emotional attachment.
For me it was interesting to hear from Doris that my most finished drawings were from the sketchbook walk. These were done on site over several hours (a couple of hours for each sketch) and without – in a conscious sense – thinking about what I was doing. It’s like I was having an unself-conscious conversation with the paper fully engaged in the moment. Looking and drawing.
She compares the garden picture to a Lucien Freud etching of his garden… a little!
Lucien Freud, The Painter’s Garden, 63.5 x 88.6 cm, 2004
My Garden, 2017, A4
There’s a lot less detail on mine but it has a similar feel.
So, I’ll take that!
She also said a couple of the drawings from the sketchbook walk should come out of the sketchbook, which had never occurred to me. This made me think how they then become stand alone pieces. And the energy and life that needs to go into a stand alone piece is no different to work in the sketchbook… you just take it farther. Rather than thinking of it as a stand alone work, as a completely different thing, and risking it being stiff and still-born!
And that they didn’t need upscaling. It hadn’t occurred to me that a sketch so small could be complete or have value.
This lead to a discussion of how to translate that freedom to a stand alone piece. I think it’s a bit like acting… you do all the preparatory work and when the director says ‘action’ you totally relax and switch yourself off, you listen to the moment and react.
In contrast when I’ve thought of a finished piece of art it becomes something I’m trying to make as good as I can from the outside. Like a test… and it stiffens up. I’m focussing more on what people will think about my drawing than on what I’m drawing.
Which is the total opposite to professional acting and the opposite to my sketchbook work.
So anything… notes… objects… from the real world I can take with me to help me connect are useful… as is the actors imagination putting myself in a scene.
Doris liked and thought my initial sketches were promising. She commented on my double page spread with annotations and said this could become a format in its own right, drawing attention to Dick Whall’s Return Exhibition.
Apart from the level of complexity (both of the drawing and the notes – mine being much simpler) and both drawings using notes there are some fundamental differences.
His drawing is much more architectural and finished with most of the notes bounded round the edge. He finishes the bushes and the two men whereas I have no finished drawing.
But the fundamental difference is intent. Reading a comment underneath his drawing I’m struck that this is about using drawing as a means of coming to terms with his death – it is religious as well as academic covering botanic, art historical, literary, archeological and a zest for life. It is erudite and poignant.
Mine is a practical process working composition (both meaning and visual) on the paper… a sort of external version of what was going on in my head.
Bot are unities is as far as my comments are not observations after but part of a process that involved language and drawing. His picture is a unity too… but I suspect his was composed and controlled whereas mine was frantic and exciting!
She then comments on my charcoal sketch:
… saying she enjoyed the energy, that the drawing unified architectural features with organic foliage and abstract patterns on the river. The tension between the military architecture and the unruly boats making the composition challenging and interesting… which is good, as that’s what I was planning.
And says there’s a far-fetched connection with Jeff Wall’s photographic retake of “A sudden gust of wind” which I might be able to see.
It’s a feel… maybe it’s the connection of the unruly array of boats in my picture with the unruly paper fluttering out of control in the wind. And the men in suits standing for the order of the colleges. Both in a natural scene.
Dorothy then comments on our chat about the final piece. And the problems of translating the freedom and looseness of the preparatory drawings to the finished piece. She picked up on the building which I struggled with – pastel is not a good medium for military precision and straight lines. In retrospect I should have used mixed media – black ink lines loosely filled with pastel. But at the time it didn’t occur to me as I was still locked into this being a finished piece in pastel.
The result is the college is stiff and wooden.
I had more fun with the bushes and she says these a reasonably translated. The hedges and trees were technically difficult and I discovered the most effective way as I went along. The difference is I have a connection with trees having been brought up in the country and didn’t lose interest.
The most effective and inventive part of the drawing was the handling of the water surface and boats. Here I had a total ball – and basically danced on the paper (not literally, with the pastels!). I didn’t feel confined by any limits and used the pastels in different ways and made marks intuitively. As an actor I love character so doing the people was a joy.
Doris said the two parts of the drawing don’t integrate and I agree.
This is partly because I’d made a mental divide between collages and town. And feel much freer in the town… this psychological/emotional state affected my drawing. A bit like acting – how you feel and think – consciously and subconsciously – affects your voice and posture… and it must be the same for art.
Whereas when I did the charcoal I didn’t approach them as two separate areas but as one.
She points me in the direction of John Piper’s prints of buildings and landscapes, specifically the, “… marvelous lithography of the Dordogne”.
I love his work and prints – thank you Doris!!!
This is a screen print – I don’t know anything about printing but am saving up for a course as I like the images they produce… so I don’t know how it was produced. But it’s bold, organic, loose, characterful… yet has weight and shape and form. It’s imposing and strong and the drawing works as a whole in its natural environment.
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
Doris likes that this section is full of critical enquiry – assessment of artists with reasons – and that I engage with art works through comparison.
I find this almost as useful as the drawing… assessing my own and other people’s work honestly helps me to realise what I’ve learnt and apply it. I often don’t realise what I’ve done until I analyse it… it helps me to see mistakes and strengths, and things I might be able to use.
This then puts me in a different position to start the next work. So it’s like a continual evolutionary process.
She likes that I’m reading an art primer on early 20th Century art.
I love it and it’s giving me a sense of what art is – and it’s possibilities – in a wider society/world context. Art is almost a thing… a sea… full of corals and fish, sharks and turtles… pollution and drag nets.
Suddenly to become aware of this is wonderful – and is already radically changing the way I look at the world around me (and I now see ‘art’ in the strangest places… and all around me) and how I view art in a gallery.
It’s different to the acquiring of skills, like drawing what’s in front of you in a life class… but will, ultimately, inform my art and help me find a voice.
The recommendation here was Ruskin’s Elements of Drawing Volume 15 which I downloaded as a PDF and skipped through the drawing section.
Very interesting… what I got from a brief look was the importance of the shape… that he recommends an outline even if none exists in ‘real’ life (though I would think that depends on the context of your drawing)… how you can break a tree down just as you would a body…
Sketch the trunk, branches, leaves… and then put it all back together. Understand how a ‘tree’ works.
And that every tree and every leaf is an individual. You can’t just draw generic leaves to order, it will look dead. Which (in as far as you can’t study every single leaf on a tree or indeed that a drawing in not necessarily a copy like a photograph). That the ideal is to draw several leaves on and off branches and then be aware that each is living and individual as you draw – and this will inform your practice.
Pointers for the next assignment
To work in series and extend the course… and think of the final drawing as an extension of the preparatory work not separate from it – as I did with the last exercise!
In acting you do all your prep then when the director says action you turn off yourself and time stops. You are in the moment. It is not a performance or a test… you’re not aware of anything… it’s more akin to being somebody else outside the restrictions of your own personality.
But is based on all the work you’ve done to that point building the character, understanding where he is in his day/life… how he comes to that scene.
Never ever is it a judgement. It is living.
So too, with my final pieces I need to do enough work so that I live the drawing and am not thinking of it as a test to see if I can pass this module.
I think that’s a very important point.
Timed drawings were also suggested.
I think it depends on the purpose but I’m certainly going to mix in timed drawings to my practice as they focus the mind and capture different qualities.
She also suggests longer poses in context (and mentions Emil Bonnard – who is one of my favourite artists!!!!)… it helps gets the foreshortening right and also says something about the sitters personality. (Depending how posed it is!)…
Finally Doris says that longer poses would give me a good chance to use pastels – I think that’s what she means by continuity of learning – and suggests I buy pre-coloured Ingres paper A1 size.
I hadn’t thought of this but it might be a good idea for my final piece?
Cost of materials is an issue so I’d have to be well prepped as I bet A1 shaded pastel paper costs a bob or two!!!!
Great feedback and very useful.