Choosing you own source material and media and taking account of the following factors work on either a still life or interior scene or a combination of these. Your subject matter can be quite different from your source material.
For some time my favourite period of art history has been from about 1870s to the 1930s and the creation of Modernist art, broadly the period from Cezanne to Expressionism. I see these great as a great period of freedom for experimentation, new ideas and transitions At the end of April I attended the study visit to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford for the Degas to Picasso Exhibition. An important aspect of the exhibition was the development of Cubism with many pictures not seen before which showed the work of these revolutionary artists working towards the kind of paintings we know best under the names of Picasso and Braque.
This inspired me to think about the possibility of my assignment piece being in a Cubist style and I decided to use the scene I had drawn in Exercise 3 (on the left in picture below) and develop it along Cubist lines. The scene is commonplace which is very much theme of the Cubists. I made an A4 sketch of the scene and then drew over it with tracing paper breaking up and re-arranging the scene with directional lines, a variety of new shapes and patterns and disrupting the previous fixed point perspective (image on right hand side). I liked the result but felt that it portrayed an untidy and cluttered room rather than a Cubist breakthrough!
Among my favourite pictures at the Degas to Picasso exhibition was Nature mort c. 1911/2 by Albert Gleizes (1881-1953) in which, as the catalogue describes,
“Cezanne’s fragmentation and flattening of form are combined with a relic of Fauve colour”. Gleizes’ painting is an example of a later development referred to as Synthetic Cubism. This is different from the earlier Analytic Cubism, with its complex interweaving of lines and planes, in that it utilises simpler lines and shapes, uses brighter colour and different textures (Tate Gallery Online Student Resource Analytical v. Synthetic Cubism)
In the picture above from my A4 sketchbook Gleizes’ image is at the top and my sketch exploring his colours in pastel is below. My colours, using pastels, are not as vibrant as Gleizes’ oils.
Thinking further about later Cubism making use of collage and I did the following drawing on the left. Here I have used fairly simple lines and shapes to indicate the main forms in the room and collage with brown paper for the bowl of lemons, glass, larger lamp and neighbour’s house together with a piece of paper from the radio times in the shape of the settee back to give colour and texture. I have also used some simple line work in the settee arm and curtains as well as some black ink shapes to suggest shadow areas of the room and on the left the light cast by the standard lamp.
I liked this image and now wish I had developed in further for my final picture for the Assignment. In the event I continued with another colour sketch this time with a figure and including a sliding door from the dining room into the lounge. I continued to develop my idea, again with the addition of colour inspired by, though not copying, Gleizes’ colours. I felt the result did not sufficiently convey a Cubist feel and that the planes needed to be further broken up.
Assignment 2 Drawing “The Lounge”
I worked on A2 paper for the final image, shown below. Again I drew fault lines at random which serve to disrupt the composition especially the tighter perspective, for example, in my original drawing for Exercise 3, the coffee table. The front part of the drawing has a chair which could be on the table or on the floor next to a smaller table; are we looking out of the main window from the side or from face on? There is a further reference to Cubism in the picture on the left which contains part of an image from Fernande Léger ‘s painting The City 1919.
I used pastels for the colours and these are more muted than Gleizes’ more Fauvist oil colours. I laid them flat without suggesting texture or form. This complements the breaking down of the objects into simple shapes. I think the drawing would have been improved had I used a darker colour for the side and back of the two sofas ie I should have paid more attention to the dark/light contrasts and positive/negative shapes of my earlier sketches for this room.
Picking up the questions set out in the course notes I have attempted to demonstrate a growing understanding in drawing of:
- Use of colour. I have used a limited range of 5 colours reminiscent of Gleizes’ work that inspired me. I have used them in a simplified and bright way to suggest a light and sunny atmosphere. We enjoy our grandchildren’s visits and this is a room that is often filled with children’s activity and laughter. The simplification of colours I have used might well be those used in a child’s drawing and I think this contributes to a light and pleasing atmosphere. I have developed this by drawing and colouring the house in the view outside the window quite naively, much as a child would draw it. This use of colour is much different from the warm earthy tones of the burnt sienna in my still life for Exercise 4, for example, and is different from the bright zingy glassware in Exercise 2. I think I have learned a lot about ways of using colour, not simply to copy my source object but also to create atmosphere and emotion.
- Most appropriate medium for the subject. In the first part of the course I used an artpen for two large A2 drawings, including the one for Assignment 1. These took a long time with rather tedious hatching and cross hatching. My tutor questioned why I had used this and not charcoal which would have covered much better. At that time I was a bit scared of charcoal, the mess and its lack of precision. During this part of the course I have really enjoyed getting stuck in and my repertoire of drawing tools has expanded considerably. This can be seen for example in the mixed media drawing in Exercise 3 where I have limited pen and dip pen work to small objects and used pastel for wider expanses and also for showing texture. I like the possibilities pastel offers for building up layers, colours and textures as I did in the mantelpiece in the drawing in Exercise 3. I have also enjoyed forays into using collage though I need to experiment more and move beyond my more cautious approach to explore its potential further.
- Composition and context. I feel I have an intuitive sense of what makes for a good or not-so good composition and in my sketchbooks and reflections in my blogs I have been trying to address why this is so; why something works. There are common shapes that work well, for example triangular groupings or ‘L’ shaped compositions but I have tried to work out a balance between the drawn objects and the space around and between them. I think this works well for example in the Still Life in monotone but also in the more abstract assignment in the balance of shapes and colours.
- Mark making and contrasts of light and tone. I believe I have been able to show a range of mark making with a range of drawing tools, from thin line with nib pen to broader strokes with charcoal and pastel. I have also shown in my still life exercises ability to show a variety of tones, for example in the still lifes in three colours and in the still life in monotone. In the latter and in earlier sketches of natural objects I have also shown ability to describe different textures and to depict contrasts for example between rough and smooth, transparent and opaque, warm and cool.
- Accurate and expressive depiction of form. I have been able to develop my understanding of and ability to express form through thinking about positive and negative space and also how objects are shaped by others around them or the spaces between them and especially when they overlap. In the assignment I have also explored distorted perspective to describe form. It is possible to see both the front of the settee and the cushions face on as well as the sides, or the full back as well as the seat of the chair in the foreground.
- Experimentation with idea, material and method. I have used experimentation much more in this part, particularly in making more creative and exploratory use of my A4 and A3 sketchbooks . But there is still more to do. I have returned very enthused and confident following a recent weekend workshop, supported by OCA, on Sketchbooking by Brian Raymond of Creative Art Courses . I feel really confident to build on and develop my experience so far and to really make use of my sketchbook for four stages of a) primary research, drawing images from direct observation b) research into other artists’ relevant ideas and methods c) taking the material in a. and b. off on my own tangent to develop my ideas d) working up into my final composition. Annotating in the books and of course in my learning log.
Reflection on Progress Using Criteria from the Introduction to the Course guide – to be completed!
- Demonstration of technical and visual skills
As mentioned above I believe my technical skills have greatly improved with the effective use of a wider range of drawing materials and I feel my observational skills have continued to improve with accurate depiction of objects in the still lifes, tone and shadow and perspective. I need to work more at composition. I tend to work intuitively and usually this is successful but I need to work at why this is so and also to plan my work using and developing sketches and experiments to include different possible compositions. I need to then be ready to change the composition and to know why. The sketch with collage was a good example of this in the Assignment. It marked a departure due to some background reading, I liked the result, but still continued with my original plan.
- Quality of outcome
I believe the quality of my sketches and drawings has improved considerably. I felt particularly that the mixed media drawing in Part 2 Ex 3 and the monochrome work in Part 2 Ex 4 were a considerable advance on work I had submitted in Part 1. I feel they show increased competence in the appropriate use of materials, including in Ex 3 the use of collage, and in producing an arresting image.
- Demonstration of creativity
I think I have been able to demonstrate creativity through my more effective and organised use of sketchbooks. I plan to develop this further and more creatively following the recent course on Creative Sketchbooks which I attended recently in Manchester. My Cubist style sketches for the assignment, for example, show increased creativity through the ability to explore ideas and approaches and also the mixed drawing for Part 2 Ex 3 mentioned above I believe demonstrates an informed and creative concept, composition and use of materials.
- Context reflection
I have participated in two student study visits during this part of the course – Degas to Picasso at the Ashmolean |Museum in Oxford and Joan Eardley, Sense of Place at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. I have also visited two exhibitions, Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 at the Royal Academy, London and Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. While at the Ashmolean I went to see the Daisy Linda Ward Collection of Still Life paintings and while in London visited the Rubens and Rembrandt display in the National Gallery. As well as extending my knowledge of drawing and the still life genre I have also taken ideas into my drawing from most of these visits. For example, my use of Gleizes and Cubism in Assignment 2 and ideas for composition from the Linda Ward Collection, especially in my Still Life in Monochrome. I love visiting galleries and exhibitions. In September I shall be taking a three week art-full tour in Spain followed at the end of the month with a weekend workshop on art in Yorkshire – Moore, Hockney and Hepworth.
I have enjoyed Part 2 very much and feel I have learned so much and my levels of knowledge and skill have certainly increased.