Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Drawing 1 - End of Course

My course work has now been submitted and I can reflect on the course. It has been really tough at times and I'm so relieved I managed to finish. Doing the course while working full time and having a baby maybe wasn't the greatest idea I've ever had! There were so many times I nearly gave up, getting time to work has caused a lot of stress but now I've finished and I'm proud

I have learnt so much on this course. I feel I have progressed more than the Painting I course and my artistic skills have improved more which is strange because I'm sure I spent more time working on the last course. The previous course had more theory in it though or at least that how I remember it. I have to say this blog has also  been a lifesaver, I much prefer this to writing up a log book and I've been able to write a paragraph or two during my lunch hour which is helpful. 

One of the things I can take away from this course is now I know how to compose a picture. I started out plonking the subject in the middle of the paper surrounded by white. Now I know I can draw in the background and know that it improves the drawing. I've also learnt that I have to be a bit braver and make changes and add things. I have this fear of ruining the drawing but each time I made the changes my tutor suggested the drawings were improved greatly. I suppose I just have to do this without my tutor now!

I would like to do more courses, but I'm going to leave it for a while and enjoy some family time just now. I know I'll get probably get itchy feet soon though!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Tutor feedback - Assignment 5

Assignment 5 - Tutor feedback

I had great feedback for this assignment. Here is some of what she said...

"The final drawings are wonderful and beautifully drawn. Your own comments in your blog explain that the thinking and consideration behind your decisions is all well thought out. I don’t need to add anything.
The sitting crouching pose = Only one change: perhaps to try to get rid of the white highlighting line along the shoulder. The highlight works really well, and is well though out, especially with the darker opposite side. Can you merge the line into the shading so it doesn’t look like a line.
The foreshortened pose = just the same comment for the dark line on the right hand side along his trousers."

I wasn't sure what my tutor was referring too so I emailed for confirmation and she she replied...

Can you see the definite line edging the right hand - his left one. - shoulder? It was really observant and advanced of you to emphasise this darker edge by lightening the back ground, but i just want to ensure you've done this as well as you can.
You need to merge your marks. That's all.

I immediately saw what she was talking about so I tried to blend it in and make the line less obvious.

 For the second drawing I did a bit more and had to stop myself from making more changes when I started! 

A2 Original Pastel
Changed A2 pastel

I got rid of the dark line along his right trouser leg but I felt it still needed some darkening so I introduced a bit of the reddish brown I'd used in other parts. The cover looked a bit odd so I tried to make it look like his weight was pushing it down. I also added some of the red into the shadows on his face and arms as they had become over blended and needed something to freshen them up a bit. Overall not too many changes.

I was really happy that my tutor likes this assignment as I had put a lot of work into it. I also received blog of the week from the OCA. The piece said that my blog was laid out well and easy to navigate through for tutors. I'm so glad because it's something I've spent some thought on. When I set the blog up I was quite frustrated with the limitations set by the application. I felt the time line wasn't very understandable for this course so I'm glad I've managed to make it easier to navigate through.


Tutor Feedback - Assignment 4

Assignment 4 - Tutor feedback

From assignment 4 my tutor gave me some good advice....

"A hint to help you with your next work Try to get into the habit off varying the lines as you sketch. Use those initial lines to show light and dark sides and tones. E.g. draw heavy lines on one side of the house, and the lightest hint of a line on the opposite side, then, in two lines you have made a note of tone, light, surface and shading for later. Try some experiments to note as much as you can in as few lines........you can vary the strength of the line , including density, and width to show tone."

I've actually been told this before in my local art class but I always forget to adhere to it. I had been drawing a plant and she had suggested that I tired varying the heaviness of the line round leaves etc. It struck me then as a good idea but I immediately forgot. I find it difficult to remember to do these things when I get immersed in a drawing, I guess the more you hear them though the more likely you will remember. 

I did a couple of experiments using this method........ 

My tutor also gave me some suggestions for my line drawing of the townscape.

Before changes A3 Bockingford paper

I think I've taken the instruction "line" a bit too literally. My first attempt at this section had been too much of a tonal drawing but this attempt maybe needed a bit more than just outline. I need to try and get something in the middle.  My tutor has recommended....

"The blanket shading of the windows could be varied to show light touching the glass. You can show the direction of the light one the recess by heavy lines on one side of the pane and lighter or broken or just suggestions of lines, on the other. The walls can show texture with a few stony lines on what would be shaded areas. Some houses will shade others and this can be shown with only a few well placed lines."
I've tried to follow these suggestions and I think the changes have improved the drawing. Rather than an outline exercise it's more interesting and has more texture. Making the top and side of the windows darker has made a huge difference to the sense of depth in the drawing. I wouldn't have believed it until I compared the before and after photos. I'm so surprised at the difference that such a simple and obvious thing makes I don't think I'll forget to do this now!

Here's a zoom in of part of the drawing showing how I've indicated brickwork on the houses and increased the tone one the top and left of the windows and tried to indicate the glass by making diagonal hatching.

 Looking at the drawing now I should have made the outlines of the mountains much lighter. This would have demonstrated the distance. I wish I could lighten then a bit. I may try to experiment with white pencil or something!

Development of a Sketchbook townscape

My tutor had this to say....
"Your development of a sketchbook townscape is planned well. You have suggested light, solidity and many other factors well.  The building is tonally finished and the remainder could match in quality with just a few strokes.
 Try some rubbed out streaks to lighten the side of the tree tonally, and give perspective and solidity. A well used rubber ( not rubbing out, but lightening the tone,) can give more variations to the branches too. If this is a whole piece for submission a well executed drawing should cover the whole page, so bring the detail to the front rather than scattered around as suggestions. Then it will be fine."

Original A4 pencil on paper
 I had struggled a lot with the tree in the background but this was before I had done the section on trees so I felt a bit more confidence looking at it again. Unfortunately I has sprayed the drawing with fixative so it was difficult to lighten up the tree but I did a bit. I also tried to fix the branches a bit. The original was very dark and I had obviously randomly laid down squiggles hoping it would look like branches. I think I was overwhelmed with the enormity of the job trying to draw every tiny branch and tried to rush it. Having completed the section on drawing trees I realise that you can't rush it and you have to study how the branches intertwine. I think it I had at spent a bit more time at least on the front most branches I could have indicated the furthest away ones more quickly. 

Anyway I tried to lighten the trunk and fix the branches a bit. I also added in the detail at the front. I had a look at some pictures of grassy areas and realised the differences in tones you can get in an area such as a lawn or park, even if it is cut short. As this was a graveyard the ground was naturally quite bumpy so I tried to show this with some shading and picking out the detail in the grass. 

I also added a kerb to the path. I don't think there was one but it added some detail. I pleased with the changed, they've improved the drawing.

Changed A4 pencil on paper
 Drawing Trees

I didn't have much to do for this section. My tutor suggested that I looked at the grass in my individual tree....

"Your individual tree is glorious. Do ensure that the grass matches in quality.
Your collection of trees is lovely. No tweaking at all."

Original A3 pencil on paper
I saw immediately where I had rushed my finish and just made some scribbly marks to show the foreground. Again my impatience to finish a drawing is the problem. I had a go at putting some more detail in the grass and drew in a small tree (not sure if this detracts). The detail makes the drawing seems more finished and complete.

Changed A3 pencil on paper


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Degas at the Burrell Collection

I've visited the Burrell Collection in Glasgow many times but today I went with an interest in Degas' pastels. Following my last assignment done in pastels I have a new found interest in the medium and I wanted to have another look at his drawings. It was very interesting and seeing them in person allowed me to study his technique much better than from the pictures on the Internet. I've seen these drawings before but I was able to take a lot more from them this time.

The main thing I noticed was the way he layered his pastels on top of each other but still allowing the colour of the ground to shine through.

Degas - Dancers in a Box 1884

Degas - Woman in her bath 1884

He applies the pastels in a very directional way, with different areas having different direction of strokes. In "Dancers in a Box" the bright orange and the highlights on the figures are laid down in horizontal hatching and I noticed he would often have a different colour underneath with the opposite stroke direction. He wouldn't use this hatching on all parts of a drawing though. The pinky highlights on the shoulders and left arm of the figure in "Woman in her Bath" are much more natural. They seem to be applied in a rounder motion but still allow the darker colour underneath to shine through. None of his marks appear to be blended very much, they still have a new, unpolluted feel to them.

In "Woman in her Bath" it is possible to see pentimenti where he has made changes to the woman's arms and legs. He hasn't made much effort to hide these changes which is interesting in itself. It's as if he has left them so they become part of the drawing suggesting movement and change.

There was an unfinished drawing there, "Woman at her Toilette" c1897 (I wasn't able to find an image of this) which demonstrated how Degas started a drawing. Unusually, this drawing was done on a canvas rather than paper, possibly this is why he didn't complete it. His method was to draw the outline of the figure in with charcoal first and then to block in the areas of colour with broad strokes.

Degas - The Green Dress c. 1897-1901
45 x 37 cm

The other interesting thing that I found out was that Degas would draw on tracing paper and then stick this to board, as in "The Green Dress". From what I can find out, it seems he would frequently use tracing paper possibly to combine elements of different drawings to make new compositions.

The drawing that impressed me most was his beautiful drawing " The Red Ballet Skirts". The reason for this was the colour of the skirts. Rather than a red though is was more and orangey pink. Nonetheless it was vibrant and striking unfortunately this reproduction cannot convey. The colour had been laid down in vertical strokes. I think it was this top layer of unblended pastel that gave the drawing its brilliance.

Edgar Degas - The Red Ballet Skirts  1895-1901 Pastel on tracing paper 81.3 x 62.2 cm
Looking at this drawing, there's not much too it. He hasn't spent ages describing tiny details. Rather it is the accurately placed quick strokes and his choice of colours that convey the flesh  and the texture of the figures and their dresses.

Degas strikes me as a very sensible person, not afraid to use aid like photography and tracing paper that other artists would possibly see as cheats, in order to use his time and media to its best advantage. He seems to be economical with his technique as if he was eager to try new things out and always thinking about the next drawing or step in his development as an artist.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Assignment 5 Option 2 - Final Piece

Final Piece

Preparatory work has helped my decide that I want to do a full length figure using a darkish paper and do this in pastels. I plan to start by laying in the highlights and then start bringing in the darker tones and working on detail.

Studies for final piece

Years ago I did a painting of my husband crouched almost in a circle. I really liked this pose and I thought at the time I'd like to revisit this so I tried drawing this pose again. 


I think the original painting was at a different angle, I seem to remember it being more front on. Although I still like this pose I think its too difficult for the model to hold for such a long time.

I decided on an easier seated pose and tried a couple of angles.

I toyed with the last pose and I liked the triangular composition. I knew the face would cause problems so I tried a close up to practise. 

I was quite pleased with the profile, I think this is the most life like I've ever drawn my husband. Ultimately I decided that I preferred the first pose though. I like the way he was twisting rather than straight on.

Final Piece

For the final piece I chose a dark brownish/purple paper.

First of all I drew out the figure using pencil in order to get the proportions correct. I then laid out the highlights using a white pastel. I quite like it just like this, without finishing it!

I then added more colours, a creamy yellow and an orange/red. I love the way this orange colour makes the shadows come alive. I knew this couldn't be the final colour for the shadows or it would look like he was sitting next to a fire but hoped this colour would eventually show through the darker colours. There was some reflected highlights from the white furniture on his left arm which I've included. 

I then started on the purple cover he was sitting on. I chose purple because of my experiment with purple paper in the tonal piece. I knew there wouldn't be much paper showing though in the final piece so rather than use a coloured paper I thought including the colour in my drawing might increase the intensity of the yellow tones in the figure.

At this stage I realised I stopped and looked at the drawing from a distance. I realised that I'd made the figure too thin so I had to go back and erase some of the cover.

I'd placed the model so that the light wall behind would form a background for the shaded side and the door way through into the dark cupboard would be behind his side that was highlighted. This would make the shaded side seem darker and the lighter side seem lighter and thereby create drama. 

I spent the rest of the time finishing off the drawing and trying to get the face right. I knew it would cause problems! I finished by adding some light hatching over some of the areas like I'd seen in Degas and Rego's pastels. I put small amount of blue and purple in the shadows which really helped to make them recede. I used a yellow pastel to bring out the highlights on the purple fabric. Then I put a "glaze" over the lighter areas with yellow which didn't work so well so I stopped at that point before I ruined it!

Final Piece -

I wanted the mood of the drawing to be quite contemplative to match his thoughtful pose. To this end I wanted to keep the colours quite muted which I think I've done. I faintly drew in the chest of drawers in the cupboard and I think it's worked really well. It gives a sense of depth to the drawing and makes the viewer wonder what is in that room that the model is turned away from. In actual fact the left side of the door frame should be there but I've left this out so as not to confuse the composition and detract from the figure.

I'm quite pleased with this drawing. It's certainly the best I've done with pastel and I've enjoyed working with this medium. In future I would like to develop my technique and become more brave with the colours, learning which ones work on top of others to give broken colour. I would also like to learn how to use fixative. I've just used a spray fixative but I've read it's possible to use liquid ones and to use turpentine while you are drawing to give different effects.

Assignment 5: Option 2 Preparatory Work

Preparatory Work for Final Piece

Before I decided on my final piece there was a lot of ideas floating round my head. I had surprisingly enjoyed using pastels in the tonal piece, more than I had before and I thought I would, and I found them particularly good at describing the roundness of the figure because of they way they blend together. I wondered about doing a close up study of head and shoulders but I wasn't sure which media to choose for this. A close up would require a degree of detail which would be difficult to do with pastels (in my hands anyway). Because I wanted to stick with the pastels I decided a pose with the full figure would work best.

I've previously studied Expressionism and had a go at trying to paint more expressively. Although this style of painting is one of my favourites I didn't have much success in my own attempts. I can't seem to make that break from painting what I see to painting what I feel. I'm still not entirely sure what that would entail even though I can understand the concept. So my aims for the drawing lean more towards the analytical side. I would however like to create a drawing that evokes a feeling, hopefully calm and tranquillity.

I'm not keen on using props in the drawing, I just want the figure to be the main focus. My previous work in this course however has shown the importance of including a background so I think that's important. The figure has to sit in place and mustn't seem like its floating. I didn't want the background to say much though, just to be there and support the figure. I want to use natural light if possible and for the light to come from one side to cast interesting shadows.

Quick Studies of Figures

I started out with some drawings of figures, just playing around before I decided on a pose.

I loved the way the pen could be used quickly to show the folds in fabric and show the roundness of the figure. I tried to work as fast as possible and didn't worry about mistakes and extra lines.

Studies of Faces

One of the things that still frustrates me is getting a likeness. I find it so hard to make someone look like they do in real life so I wanted to practise this.

A4 pencil

I'm very pleased with the pencil drawing above although it still looks different from the person! I did this from a photo which gave allowed me to take my time and concentrate on the detail which helps.

I've always liked Peter Howson's paintings and I spent some time looking at these. His figures are always quite distorted and exaggerated so I thought I'd have a go and exaggerating a portrait.

My first attempt looked far to normal although I'd really tried to distort the features.

The second attempt just looked daft so I gave up at this point! I guess you have to learn to do it correctly first before you start breaking the rules!

Studies with Different Media

I thought I wanted to do my final piece using pastels but I decided to have a play using ink washes. I've seen some lovely figure studies done in this way.

I think the key to using ink washes effectively is being able to look at the figure and pick out the darkest shadows and shapes. The resultant drawings are so simple and delicate. I realised that this technique would require quite a lot of practise so I decided not to choose this technique for the final piece.

I thought about doing a pencil drawing as I've had some success with this before. The trouble with this is that it would end up being a very detailed drawing and I wanted something on a larger scale so not only would it take a long time and be very laborious, it would also be very tight and I wanted to do something looser and more expressive.

So I went back to pastels and opted for them.

Studies on Dark Paper

Following the tonal piece in the last section I wanted to experiment with different papers and colours. I also used this opportunity to do some close-ups of hands and feet as I'd been itching to do this.

I'd seen a couple of charcoal drawing in the past on white paper and the artist has laid down the charcoal over the majority of the sheet and left the white to shine though for the lighter areas. I tried this method out with a close up of hand that were quite heavily shaded and wrapped up in fabric.

This experiment was OK but was more difficult that I though. It's really hard to leave the light areas light and still see what you are doing. Hands are difficult at the best of times but even more so like this!

I then bought a pad with black paper so that I could skip all the messy bit with charcoal and just use a light pastel to pick out the highlights.

A4 pastels

A4 Oil pastels

A4 pastels

A4 pastels

A4 pastels
 I enjoyed these studies and thought the light on dark method was quite effective.


After these studies I've decided.....

To do a full length figure, to use pastels, and to use a dark paper

Assignment 5 Option 2 - Research Hockney + Degas

David Hockney - Coloured pencil

For the previous section on line drawing I had a look at Hockney's drawings and since then I've come across him constantly. Because of the current exhibition there's been a couple of programmes and items in magazines. This has mainly focused on his recent landscapes so it's interesting to have a look at his drawings.

He strikes me as an artist that not afraid to experiment and try out different media. He appears to draw constantly, always sketching everywhere he goes and now he takes his iPad with him for that. His coloured pencil drawings are beautiful. I love the way he focuses on one area and leaves the rest apparently unfinished. He often uses the medium to hint at the colour of the clothes, only colouring the shaded area of the fabric rather than the whole area, which is an interesting technique and gives the effect of bleaching the drawing out.

The drawings remind me of photos and film where everything is black and white except one figure which has colour (I think Schindlers List has the little girl in the red coat). It seems to focus the eye on the subject and ignores the rest which the artist thought unimportant.

I've always found coloured pencil a bit difficult to work with so its interesting to see how he has used this medium in such an effective way. The brief mentions how he demonstrated the wonderfully expressive potential of this medium and I would certainly agree. The drawings seem to communicate the attitude of the sitters. They all seem thoughtful and distant, he's managed to show that they are all in another world.

Hockney - Man-Ray 1973 coloured pencil 17x14in
Hockney - Joe McDonald 1975 coloured pencil 17x13in
Hockney - Jacques De Bascher De Beaumarchais

Hockney - John St Clair coloured pencil 17x14in
Hockney - My Father, Paris Jan 74 crayon 25x19in


Degas was a reluctant Impressionism, preferring to call himself a Realist or independent.  He was famous for his paintings and pastels of horses and dancers.

Degas - The Bath - Woman Supporting her Back pastel on paper 1887
Degas - After the Bath, Woman Drying her Nape 1898 62 × 65 cm

Degas - Woman in the Bath, pastel 1886 70x70cm
One of the things I notice about Degas pastels is the texture of his marks. He lays down the pastels with directional hatching strokes appearing to lay these layers on top of each other which allows the underneath layer to shine through. The vibrancy of the colours is also noticeable. He doesn't seem to blend too much (at least the top layer) and this keeps the colours bright and fresh.

Degas was apparently very experimental with his media. He would sometimes use more than one medium in the same piece e.g. oils and pastels or pastels over charcoal. Analysis has found that he would mix the pastels with a liquid fixative sometimes to the point that they formed a paste.

Often his choice of colours is interesting. In "After the Bath, Woman Drying her Nape" he has used contrasting colours as highlights, for instance, the shadows on her back and hair have green areas on top of reddish orange. Interestingly I've subsequently found out that his eyes were beginning to deteriorate when he worked on this drawing so possibly at this stage he was using brighter colours because of his sight.