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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
THE MAIN THINGS I’VE LEARNT
- 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.