Category Archives: REFLECTION

Reflection: concepts of modern art – From Fauvism to Postmodernism. Edited by Nikos Stangos: Third edition 1994

This book has transformed the way I think about art.

That said, even though I have a BA in Hermeneutics I only understood about a third to half of it. The language was very dense. However, I ploughed through as I was getting a great backdrop and context for understanding art… even if I couldn’t answer many questions on the details of the different ‘isms’!

There seems to be three kinds of ‘art’.

In art it seems to me you either make (1) a high value commodity (traditional oil painting); (2) a political/social argument (modernism and postmodernism); or (3) a mixture of the two… most of the ‘isms’ from 1900 to the 1950’s.

But art criticism seems to change rapidly (even over ten years) which makes the criticism itself an historical record… primary evidence of contemporary views about art. But even so I think you can make some big distinctions.

Commodity art: 

Is high value property owned by a single person (and can be bought and sold)… it is unique (unlike craft items which may have an equal degree of skill but are mass produced)… involves a high degree of skill… is high value… produced by a known individual… and traditionally in Western culture is owned by the white, heterosexual male who are economically and educationally privileged.

Even today, a bottom end professional oil painting would start at around £2000, which would preclude most people having one in the living room!

Success is judged in financial terms.


Is art as polemic – which at times can seem little different from graphic design used to further an argument.

It can deconstruct (modernism) the present system by exposing stereotyping and the power structure… art used to challenge meaning and the conventions of meaning… or it can deconstruct and build (as in postmodernism) by forming notions of sexuality, nationality, environmental, ethnic and/or gender.

It is not owned as such and is not property (it is an idea)… it can be mass-produced in videos, on the internet, and in magazines… created collectively… and if it is ‘owned’ [maybe by being consumed?] it is owned by everybody… it is a mass product.

It doesn’t have to involve any traditional art skill – such as a copper rod sunk into the ground or my thoughts at a certain time of day. The ‘art’ is the idea and its value is its effectiveness. As such art is opened up to non artists.

It has no monetary value as a unique object.

It exposes conventions which have been internalized and are taken as real, and by making them explicit challenges the status quo and seeks to replace it.

Success is judged in how effective the idea is.

Modern art (or the art of ‘isms’)

Here – in simple terms – it seems art (hacked from its job as visual recorder by the invention of photography) was finding new ways of investing itself with value and purpose. And it did so by attaching theories, of art and life, to painting. The modern world in Futurism… or the true nature of seeing in Impressionism.

These were often supported by a dense manifesto and pushed by powerful artists with groups around them… but the groupings weren’t stable and broke up. The ‘ism’ fading and the next one taking its place.


So, it seems to me we have two extremes.

Art as unique object judged financially in a cash market… like a footballer or an opera singer – highly skilled and in very short supply; and art as a mass ‘object’ judged by its political/social effectiveness in raising awareness, like a political idea.

But a lot of art strides both camps… early religious paintings promote Christianity and are full of symbolism but they are also valuable objects. Perhaps because the means of production meant they were produced as unique objects, and the skill of the artist made them into valuable items in spite of the ideological restrictions.

How many multi million pound church paintings are produced now?

As an artist this raises the question of what do you want to do in your art practice? How ideologically driven are you going to be? How financially driven? Are you going to work for a ’cause’… or work for the market? Or a bit of both?

Art cannot be neutral… choices have to be made.

It might come down to a definition of terms but I don’t think art is the idea. I think art is the unique object (produced with skill by an individual) and mass produced images supporting an idea are political.







Birmingham Museum/art gallery

There’s a little bit of a walk into this before the serious art stuff but this visit was quite a significant experience!

So, I was lucky enough to find myself in Birmingham shooting an episode of Doctors… by 10am on the final day we’d finished up my last scene and I was back at the station. Should I get on the train and head for home – no, this was too good an opportunity to miss.

And there’s a handy left luggage office.

I’d determined to visit the art gallery in every town I filmed/auditioned in. I live 12 miles out of Cambridge so a trip to an art gallery is quite a big investment of time and money. In the past I’d have just come home but now I’m studying art I want to use every opportunity I can to see art in the flesh. To stand face to face with the ‘unique surface’ as John Berger might say.

It was exciting!!!


Birmingham’s city centre is lovely, it’s got lots of cool public art, buildings and very friendly people – I even saw the Birmingham School of Art.

Just 40 years too late!


And statues old and new…

Then into the museum.


There was one big change from visiting art galleries before… in the past an art gallery has been a pleasant bonus (I was quite happy to look and read about art in books) but this time it was different.

The real paintings were so rich and impactful, the colours very different from the photographs, the ‘physical’ impact of the painting was unique, details leapt out from the canvases that I’d totally missed in the books, the brushstrokes and finish made it like you could be standing with the artist.

They had a physical presence that was totally missing in art books.

It was the difference between reading a magazine article about a famous person and sitting down for a coffee with them. If you can make eye contact over a table and have a chat you’re going to get something of their humanity that you can never get from a photograph and an article. Those things can help you understand but the painting themselves affect you emotionally.

I hadn’t realised this as I haven’t been to a gallery for ages but since I started this course paintings, for me, have radically changed.

Another thing…

As I went round four paintings really leapt out – like meeting somebody you have an instant connection with. It’s a bit (probably ten years?) too early to start thinking about a voice. But I thought I’d start making a note of paintings I liked as that might give me a clue as to what I might eventually like to do.

John Melville’s ‘Aston Villa’…


This is much better in real life… to me it has a slightly Van Gough/Gauguin/expressionist feel. I love the way the colours work and how it captures the feeling of being there without having to show us lots of detail.

We’re ‘seeing’ the experience not looking at a frozen visual image.

The others pictures I particularly liked were woodcuts/prints:

One called ‘Inner Ring Road Birmingham’ by Gabriella Oliver (which I can’t find an image of.)

‘Canal Bridge’ by Tessa Beaver:


It doesn’t work 100% for me but I like the visual impact of the patterns and blocky shapes.

The white is too much and makes the supporting surface stand out… tells me it’s a print when I want to lose myself in the moment.

And a Picasso linocut:


Toros. Vallauris 1958 | Picasso, Pablo | V&A Search the Collections

I love the fact it’s two colours, that it uses words, how it pulls you in… and the patterns are delightful. I’m not a huge fan of the cubist element but it works, for me, despite that. Again it has visual punch and instantly works as a whole.

To the rest of the exhibition…

I made notes as I went along:


Which I’m now struggling to read!

Note to self, I need to slow down and maybe have a notebook? And ask if I can take photographs without a flash.

I’m almost tempted when I have a day to take a sketchbook and copy some famous paintings/details.

So, very briefly… I didn’t like the tempera 19th Century art/art and craft paintings. The colour and life seemed to have been sucked out of them. And they were not as technically proficient as the earlier paintings, yet in a similar style. And they did not have anything like expressionism/psychological realism or other elements to make up for the losses.

There was a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition which was great as I’ve never liked these in books. And could never see the point. However, face to face, they were much more appealing and had something beyond the finely crafted photographic surface.


The two things on this that particularly struck me were the colours – the orange, purple of the dresses, contrasting with the lemon green of the grass and the sky picking up the purple of the girls dress made it work like a Matisse (in colourist terms). And the clothes sprang to life… the poverty… and at a glance I thought she’d books on her lap, but it’s a squeeze box.

On the other hand the details and static stillness distanced me. There was no air, movement, breeze or scents… no distant birdsong.

It was almost like there was a passionate man locked in an ideological cage struggling to escape the confines of the overworked (my judgement – sorry!) surface.

In a similar vein the eyes worked here…


They capture something of Rosetti’s soul. It’s not dry, religious… ascetic… flat and dead. But has a passion and a fire which belies the controlled picture surface and outer ideology of the group.

I liked the simplicity of the introductions in each room giving an accessible entry to the paintings.

The 18th and 19th century art (room 23) seemed strangely dead. Nobody was alive and the group portraits were disconnected. Like somebody had cut and pasted the people onto a backdrop – and they had no relationship with each other.

Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) – A Christmas Carol At Bracken Dene


What struck me about this was the little girl with the misletoe. She could be straight off a 1930’s poster – or rather the other way round! The 1930’s poster people used these kind of dead over emotional images. Disney emotion – feeling without content – emotional manipulation.

There was a room considering portraits which got me thinking. It said how portraits were the preserve of the landed gentry… then the upcoming middle classes… and now everybody can do a selfie. They had examples of ‘social’ portraits showing local ‘ordinary’ people around Birmingham in the 19th century.

Too big a subject to go into here but ticking away in my brain as I complete Part 4.

A final picture was:


What struck me about this was that the models sat in the open, in the freezing cold, to get the sense of light in an open boat. And how, generally, the artists painted from models… copying meticulously. And how this must affect their art… make it static and detailed… photographic like.

And how this differs from a portraitist who might have five 2 and a half hour sittings for a painting. I forget who that was – he painted straight onto the canvas.

But in a portrait you’re capturing the presence of a person – as well as in the past his wealth and possessions, so the person in front of you is part of the painting. But in the Ford Maddox painting you have a dramatic scene. Spray would have been flying, it would have smelled salty, the travellers would be full of fear… the boat would be rocking and tossing. And yet you’re painting a friend or wife for hours sitting in a field dressed up in costume.

However good the painter the process is going to affect the outcome.

Would a press photograph capturing the same scene – then reinterpreted through the soul of the painter work better. Not an option he had… but modern cameras can capture (freeze) a moment… it’s not how we ‘see’ but could be useful?

The Ford Maddox Brown has lovely details such as the child’s hand beneath the cloak. But it’s detached… and doesn’t capture anything of the imagined moment. It is more like mannequins in a museum (I was reminded of Yorvik where life like mannequins are dressed up and put in a ‘real life’ viking village) than starving, freezing cold people being tossed about in a small boat – latter day Syrian refugees escaping poverty instead of war – facing an uncertain future and leaving behind everything they know.

But another painter might take you there… like John Melville took me to the football match!

All in all a brilliant 3-4 hours… and a great deal for £4.95 in a little cafe (though she didn’t have any change and I ended up with 16 £1 coins!) for a sandwich, water and crisps!


Reflection: Expressionism from ‘concepts of modern art – From Fauvism to Postmodernism’ Edited by Nikos Stangos

My tutor suggested I read this book to give me a more systematic overview of modern art.

I really like the introduction where he challenges the whole notion of whether he would categorise ‘modern art’ in movements… and how the artistic world now views this period on time and ‘categorises’ it.

Interpretation is fluid and truths change.

Think for yourself!!!


This is my take on this chapter so apologies to Norbert Lynton who wrote about this ‘chapter’ or ‘art movement’ in advance!!!!

It seems to me fundamental in understanding art.

(Always remembering there are very few black and whites and lots of greys).


LOW CONTENT SUBJECT: a milk bottle on a table… a scrubby tree in a field… most still life and landscape. Subjects of and in themselves that if you just took a photograph of would elicit no artistic response.

(Whereas if the same subject was painted by Picasso it would generate an enormous artistic, and financial, response!)

HIGH CONTENT SUBJECT: a message, a meaning, a narrative, a feeling… something extrapersonal to the artist that they wish to express. Aesthetic truth, confirm a faith, glorify a battle, describe a narrative, capture an intimate moment, social campaigning, confirming government or religious loyalties etc, etc!!!! Subjects that by their very nature and concept connect with and audience… speak to them… engage in a dialogue.

Added to this you have:

(1) PERSONAL: The artist is expressing themselves. Their vision and personality… that we exist in a time and in a culture dictates that this is always more than just the artist as it records unconscious personal and super personal forces. But here I’m taking it to mean they are painting their personality and that moment onto the canvas.

(2) EXTRAPERSONAL: The artist is expressing something other than their personality. This could be any content from an academic challenge of the notion of art… to the moment of serenity between a mother and child… to the visual impression od sunlight on water.

So, the Dutch School had a low content subject (still life) to which it added a large dollop of expressive gestures such as colour and composition… it wasn’t a straight naturalistic commonplace copy of reality. They produced art on which to contemplate. They painted beautiful paintings.

Rembrandt added line, brush strokes, colour composition, chiaroscuro and contrast (all subjective elements to his paintings). Which were, if you like, expressive (of his personality… his voice) elements that ‘sugar coated the pill of meaning’ – that phrase is from the book.

Even Classicism had elements of expressionism with its dramatic lighting, rich colours and personal impassioned brushstrokes.

Other expressive elements might be compositional and figurative distortion as in Mannerism.

So, throughout time, artists have never (???) sort to reproduce the naturalistic and commonplace as it truly (objectively would be on camera). I photograph the king… it is a camera… it doesn’t lie… it is truthful and naturalistic… but would not be used.  A portrait of the king would be changed by the artist; he would be properly lit and composed, he would make them look better, thinner, less spotty… more regal! (A lot like photoshopping today). And some artists were better at it than others, their personal style/voice shone through and communicated and connected with the viewer.

Art was never just about the content… it was always partly about the personality of the artist.

(On a side issue… that’s why copies… ‘in the style of’  never work. Because it’s not expressing the artist – it doesn’t come from within their soul… but is mimicking somebody elses personality and therefore always lacks truth. And we’re very good at reading art – almost as good as we are at reading faces!)

The Romantics like Delacroix came nearest to expressionism – their unrestrained individualism bursts from the canvas even as they express universal truths… like the glory of France!

So, it seems to me, that it’s all about balance.

Expressionism has always been a part of art ever since individual artists put their names to paintings in the Renaissance and moved from craftsmen to creators. From visual bricklayers to visual film stars!!!

It is no surprise then that at some stage… moving through Van Gough that the connection with a recogniseable subject (painted ‘realistically’) should weaken… that artists would take an element (in this case individuality) to an extreme and raise it above all other concerns.

So, a fully abstarct painting has zero extrapersonal elements and zero-content (it has neither a visual (subject) or content (extrapersonal) subject and becomes solely about the individuality of the creator.

Which leads us to Abstract expressionism.

In the same way that music directly affects emotions, released from ‘words’ and meaning the colours, shapes, brushstrokes, texture, size and scale can all work on the viewer subconsciously. They ‘move’ us… in much the same way as music does.

This can truly be all about the personality (and the moment of creation) of the artists.

This raises an important distinction between artists who consciously use abstract compositions but are ‘composing’ as opposed to those that are ‘living in the moment’. As in Kadinsky (composing) and Jackson Pollock (in the moment). An artist who is composing is abstract but not expressionistic, they are trying to speak directly to our subconscious and emotions… like Bach or Handel.

In conclusion:

I think expressionism is an element of all art (it is the voice of the artist)… expressionistic tools like colour composition are the language artists use to serve their purpose. Whether that be expressionistic or non-expressionistic.

(I guess the opposite to expressionism is concept art where the idea is 100% and the artist is zero!). A blue canvas with a slash to reveal the artificiality of ‘art’ and raise a debate or the toilet labelled ‘this is art’.

In a very big sense expressionism is the humanity in art… it is the Shakespeare in the play… forms may vary (TV has taken over from theatre and ‘naturalistic’ dialogue from blank verse). But the human dilemmas in Shakespeare are universal and timeless. So too the artist in the painting shares our humanity.

We are all alone and a great artist is able to make us not alone. In great art we ‘see’ a human soul.

In the same way that technology has changed since Shakespeare’s day… and entertainment adapted from theatre to film, so art has adapted to technological change… most recently to photography. The ‘history of art’ and the ‘artistic movements’ is more about the history of mankind than is is about the history of ‘art’. It is the history of the buyers, of the power brokers in society… of contemporary mores and interests.

Finally categorising art in discrete movements like Impressionism or Classicism seems very crude. Al art is attached to society – and it always has a human, or expressive, element. It is built on an alliance between history, society and individuality.

It’s not a series of boxes!










Reflection: On new preface in updated and enlarged 1994 edition of: Concepts of Modern Art by Nikos Stangos.

Concepts of Modern Art  From Fauvism to Postmodernism        Edited by Nikos Stangos     1994 edition with new preface in updated and enlarged 1994 edition: Reprinted 2015.

My tutor recommended I get an overview of ‘Modern Art’ as, ‘An introduction to 20th Century art would also be helpful… useful introduction to the language of art and why and how it changed so radically in the late 19th early 20th century, right up to now.’ and suggested this book and The Shock of the New – but that was much more expensive so I opted for this one.

I’ll try and read a few pages a day and then write a reflection when I’ve finished but was so taken/shocked/food for thought by the introduction that I had to put down a few words.


The biggest concept for me was not thinking about ‘Modern Art’ in terms of Movements… distinct artistic flowerings that can be chronologically charted with one leading to another, but that it was more like an ecosystem.

Or even a virus constantly adapting to its changing host (society being the host) and the virus – without its negative connotations – being art. More like an ever evolving coral reef with every artistic life form inhabiting its own artistic niche but always relating the underlying coral and warm waters… or society.

So not always getting better and evolving chronologically but more like a dialogue between artist and society (with each affecting the other and issues coming and going), either consciously linked to stated manifestos or subconsciously linked by dint of being a member of society bathed in the same social and cultural milieu.

This raises an important question for me… does art have to have a meaning? A conscious concept in its developement (as a film might explore age in society, or the loneliness of the modern worker or abuse of power) or can it – by dint of it being successful and connecting with an audience – have that meaning inside it. That is, because it deals with and connects to an audience, it has meaning even if that meaning wasn’t consciously built into the work of art during its production.

Which brings me to another point…

To make a living a fine artist has to sell paintings for, say £2000 each or more. Who can afford that? The rich, state (eg museums) and non state (eg church) institutions. So, she is – unless she has an independent income – dependant on critical (art critics) and/or commercial (high prices) success.

Which presupposes that that audience dictate the dialogue of art?!

Secondly to be ‘art’ – I would say a painting has to have a universal truth… in that a human can look at it and be drawn to/effected by it. Such as Hopper or Picasso. And as such it would probably have to be of a high technical standard and/or be versed in artistic language and discourse such as it was appealing to academic individuals or institutions like concept art.

There again labels, in terms of artistic movements, seem to be like trying to box sunshine. A false premise in lumping art with surface similarity – such as the Fauves – when in fact they were all disparate and on separate journeys that just touched with some similar (exposure to Gauguin’s and oriental art) but also different (very different personalities and personal goals) causes.

It could be said you need to understand the ecosystem of art and that labelling the ‘movements’ like labelling a particular species of crab on the coral reef tells you very little.


Finally, Nikos refers to six areas of concern in delineating ‘Modern Art’ as written about by Simon Watney, ‘Modernist Studies: The Class of ’83’, Art History, Vol. 7, N0. 1, March 1984. p. 109.

I paraphrase my understanding rather than quote.

[1] A break with the idea of chronological movements – I agree with this.

[2] Understand how artists give ‘truth of our nature’… this has always been so and in rooted in all great artists across different genres… like Shakespeare. I think every painting should give something of the truth of humanity… even if only a tiny grain!

That for me is the difference between art as entertainment – decoration – advertising –  and fine art like Leonardo Da Vinci or Picasso.

[3] Art constantly explores the boundary of licit and illicit expression of sexuality in a patriarchal society.

This is massive but western society (and most world societies governed by religion) have been and are patriarchal… imagine what the art world would have been like if the real world had been governed by women.

The exploitation and titillation of a male audience and sexual normatives in society are always being explored.

[4] History is the history of the winner – as much in art as in life.

Who decides what art is produced and is influential: it is art that can be sold and has status. Who makes those choices:  rich individuals, with a vested interest in society how it is now, and institutions, similarly concerned with maintaining the status quo. Therefore, art tends to reinforce the values of those in power and constructs normative images of society.

It will articulate some social differences and ignore others.

Where today is mainstream – accepted – Muslim art? I’m sure there must be highly skilled Muslim artists living in the UK.

[5] Question the hierarchy of signifying practices. I take this to mean why do we still give higher status (financially and in terms of ‘respect’) in society to one medium over another?

Why is oil painting a higher status than pencil drawing, pastel or watercolour?

In the same way that the hierarchy of genres was challenged and defeated in the past so now we should challenge the hierarchy of medium.

I agree partially – but think there’s more too it as some mediums are more temporal, some lend themselves to capturing emotion… others to ideas. So I don’t think it’s as simple as saying the medium should have no impact on the status.

Like any financial, emotional and intellectual transaction there are a multitude of factors determining price and status. But I agree we need to articulate and examine artistic ‘value’ (as determined by medium) much more.

[6] Problematise the separation of verbal from the visual. Together with ‘picture’ consciousness such a separation presupposes.

This is massive!!!!

I would say that written word (a physical capturing of speech… as we translate it in our heads to access the meaning) is merely one way of communicating with other people. We are, after all, all alone. And communication and forming groups is a basic human drive.

That music communicates, art communicates, film communicates… and many more.

And you can’t put them in separate boxes.

Like everything there are a million shades of grey from almost white to nearly pure black. Some art is an expression of a verbal movement – some communicates directly with the subconscious – some speaks to the ‘soul’… some is premised and boxed by an overt ideology like the Futurists.

But in reality they are all interconnected.

So, yes, I would say it is impossible to separate the visual from the verbal… and the verbal from the visual!









Tutor feedback on Richard Diebenkorn

In her excellent feedback on Assignment 2 my tutor, Doris Rohr, commented that some of my quick house sketches reminded her Richard Diebenkorn and that I should do more – and generally work more quickly.

So I thought I’d better have a look!








They are wonderful!!!!

And certainly speak to me… I love the empty spaces and the patterns… the looseness of the work and yet the beautiful way it captures the mood of the room as well as the individual objects.

Every object is individual and loved with its own quirky personality.

But each view has a harmony of composition and ‘friendliness’ that makes it feel like my house. I could look at these for hours.

And are they anything like mine (apart from I would aspire to this way of expression…)

Well, strangely, yes… they give me the same feeling.

And lead me to value them more.

Except that his are more finished and painterly.

I’m still escaping from the yoke that the time put in determines the value of the output, so hadn’t valued these quick sketches. I can now see they capture something special (in a different ways to the carefully finished and worked pieces).

That’s a new and really hard concept for me to grapple with.

But I like it…

… and I’ll definitely do some more!!!!!

Thanks Doris! 🙂

Reflection: The Art Book by Phaiden; VITAMIN D2 – NEW PERSPECTIVES IN DRAWING and Anatomy for Artists by Barrington Barber.

I have read a couple of pages of these every day for the last couple of months and a few things are starting to happen in my brain… weird wiggly things which are unbidden but slowly beginning to take shape!

VITAMIN D2: The drawings in here range from so skillfull it’s truly mind boggling to almost concept art with little traditional skill.

However all of them are ‘justified’ by a page of esoteric text.

It’s as if they are each a different ‘visual’ language invented by the creator, be it discussing identity, or the nature of art, or time, or inner yearnings… and that without the translation ‘manual’ at the side they would be meaningless.

Within their own visual ‘linguistic’ world they are poetry of the highest order but outside of it they are impenitrable.

They are more works of discourse or polemic than drawings. In the sense that drawings are accessible to everybody… be they realistic, surrealist, futurist, impressionistic or aesthetic – to use a few boxes. While for discourse you have to be trained and understand the language.

I believe all art involves ideas and what it is to be human (rather than craft , design or pattern making which is pleasing but doesn’t connect, either to our subconscious or conscious mind, in the same deep way) – artists can paint emotions in expressionism or the visual reality of light flickering through leaves, in impressionism. But what all art has in commen is it’s universality – the lonliness of Hopper’s characters speak to anybody who’s ever lived and worked in a modern city… Dega’s pastels are both aesthetic abstract (geometric and colour) paintings that reach inside us as well as capturing the emotion and frisson of a voyeuristic moment and a glimpse of hidden narratives.

The other end of art is when it is so personal that it holds meaning only for the creator. It is impenetrable.

For me the drawings in D2 are not art because they are not universal (however interesting they are in the context of the descriptions, which decode their language, and therefore illuminate their meaning).  They are closed worlds – like lost languages – accessible only to the initiated.

That said I’m enjoying the book and will carry on to the end.

The Art BookThis is fantastic!!! I love the way it zips about in time so an artist from 2012 might be next to somebody from 1385. Because it’s alphabetic (surnames of the painters) and not in time order or by movement.

This is the third book like this that I’ve read cover to cover over the last 10 years and suddenly all the fragments are starting to come together like a net of lights… rather than being linear (footprints in time slowly plodding from pre-history to the present day – each generation progressing in skill till it all exploded with the industrial revolution and the invention of photography) they are all starting to connecting up into one whole.

Sorry, I can’t explain it any better than that!!!!

Also, I’m beginning to notice structure in paintings… artistic language??? Shapes, colour, gesture etc. It must all be soaking in and now some of it is now it’s becoming visible, which is really exciting.

And when I go for a walk I’m starting to ‘see’ things differently.

Light falls, waves ripple – the nearest I can explain it is instead of ‘hearing’ noise I can suddenly hear birds sing and twigs crackle.

It’s like the visual world is suddenly coming alive!

Anatomy for Artists: (by Barrington Barber) This is not as useful as I thought… it’s intersting but I’m never going to learn all the bones and muscles and the covering of flesh is so different and varied in real people that it makes what’s underneath useful but not essential.

And the drawings are poor – they are (no doubt) anatomically correct – but I find them hard to look at as they have no ‘life’.

What I’ve found myself doing (and this may be much more useful when I come to people in section 4) is getting a blunt pencil and drawing over the sketches. Imagining I’m doing them and trying to see the limbs.

I’ve also traced over a few.

Again, as with a tree… or a mountain… every person, every foot, or ear or hand is different and this book needs to find a way to connect an understanding of underlying principles (how a foot is made up) with specific feet.

At the moment it feels like… oh… I know how to draw a foot… it’s like this, and I draw that rather than the foot in front of me.

Maybe I need an anatomy book that is more artistically linked than illustrational.

Reflection on Books: ‘Experimental Drawing’ by Robert Kaupelis; ‘The Art Book’ by Phiadon new edition first published 1994; Vitamin D2 New Perspectives in Drawing; ‘Anatomy for Artists’ by Barrington Barber.

Have just finished ‘Experimental Drawing’ by Robert Kaupelis at two pages a day… I know we’re not supposed to read a book cover to cover but I find doing a little a day I can afford the time… it lives in my mind… and informs my practice.

On the day’s I can’t draw it keeps my mind in the ‘Art Box’ and allows me to change the way I look at art and the world around me. I’ve also been doing two pages a day from ‘The Art Book’ by Phiadon new edition first published 19894 reprinted 2011. Small prints but interesting as you can see the overall design and colour and it covers a wide variety of practices.

As drawing is as much about looking and understanding as it is about mark making (I say that as if it’s fact but it’s just my opinion.) I’ve found maintaining this connection invaluable when my time has been otherwise very limited.

Having finished ‘Experimental Drawing’ I looked around for another book and picked up the book I’d been putting off as intellectual and academic… rather like one fears a cold shower!!!

Vitamin D2 New Perspectives in Drawing: IT’S BRILLIANT. So, the course must be doing something.

So far I’ve only read the introduction ‘DRAWING TODAY’ by Christian Rattemeyer which puts ‘Drawing’ into a historical perspective. It’s like suddenly having the shutters lifted from your eyes. Suddenly ‘drawing’ is a living thing, which changes and evolves with history and people… has it’s own momentum. Artists, in one sense, are merely the vessels that contain it in any given generation. It is not fixed. My worries about the last few chapters in ‘Experimental Drawing’ suddenly heave into focus.

I can probably only take in 10% of what’s on the page but that’s fine I’m in my first year. It’s enough to excite me, I can take what I need and understand, and as I go through the book more will become accessible. It’s like learning a new language. At first you just have a few words but already it gives you access to untold wonders… more will follow.

Finally, I’ve started, ‘Anatomy for Artists’ by Barrington Barber. So far, just on the introductiuon but it’s looking like it will be a good introduction to figure drawing. I went to life drawing classes for a couple of years when I was younger knowing nothing about the human body – now I’m older and have less time!! And less money!!!!! this will have to do… at least I can try and throw my mind back to real bodies as I work through it and try copying some sketches.

My only caveat so far is that he states he deals mainly (exclusively?!) with well toned muscled bodies. That’s not the real world in which most aren’t toned and are often draped in fat. Maybe I need to study how material folds as fat is just semi liqid in a skin sack???

However, it will give me a basic understanding of structure, muscles and faces and hands.

Oh to have the luxury of being a full time student!