Thursday, 2 December 2010

Research - Jenny Saville and Paula Rego

At the end of Assignment 1, my tutor suggested that I looked at the work of Jenny Saville and Paula Rego before the drawing figures section. Luckily, I was familiar with both of these artists as I love their styles.

Jenny Saville

Jenny Saville studied at Glasgow School of Art, which is one of the reasons I was familiar with her before. Interestingly though I've never come across any of her work in the museums and galleries in the area.

Her huge figure paintings are at times grotesque and shocking. Apparently she started her fascination with the larger female body while on a scholarship at Cincinnati. She was ‘interested in the malls, where you saw lots of big women. Big white flesh in shorts and T-shirts. It was good to see because they had the physicality that I was interested in.’ She later worked in New York where she was able to observe the practise of a plastic surgeon and was part of the famous Sensations exhibition Royal Academy of Art in 1997 alongside Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst to name but a few.

Her style is often compared to Lucian Freud, and like him she doesn't depict the human form in a falsely beautiful way, rather she exaggerates every lump and bump. She works from images rather than models giving her larger than life size figures exaggerated pigmentation and distorted mass. She paints not only extremes in size but also deformities and patients undergoing surgery. 

Branded 1992, 7' X 6'

Strategy(south face front face north face) 1993-4 274x640cm

Propped 1992 213.5 x 183cm

The way she describes the flesh with the paint is amazing, I would love to see these paintings in real life to see the texture.

What can I take from these paintings......they way she exaggerates body parts for effect is very interesting. In "Propped" above she has exaggerated the perspective by making the figures knees much bigger. She has a message in her paintings. These are not just beautiful nudes painted for decoration and the pleasure of the viewer. These paintings are done in such a way to make the viewer think about what they are looking at. These women are painted in an unromantic and realist way. This is life and its not glamorous. I think she's challenging the viewer to question what they think as "normal". If a child with a birthmark is seen as shocking then there is surely something wrong with our society and our perceptions of normal.

Red Stare Head IV, 2006-2011 252 x 187.5 cm
She also has a number of drawings. She draws each figure multiple times erasing and superimposing them on each other. She leaves the changes visible making them part of the drawing. This results in very dynamic drawings which in the case of her series inspired by Leonardo's cartoons, play on the static Renaissance nativity images that they are based on.

Reproduction Drawing IV after the Leonardo cartoon 2010
Time II 2010

Paula Rego

Rego was born in Portugal, cared for by her Grandmother for a large part of her childhood until she moved to the UK to be with her parents.  Her grandmother taught her many of the traditional folktales that she based much of her future art work on. She studied at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1952-6.

She is most well known for her pastels, paintings and prints often depicting folk tales.

Snow White Playing with her Father's Trophies 1995 pastel 178x150cm

Dog Woman 1994 Pastel on canvas 120 x 160 cm
Dancing ostriches 1995 162 x 155cm Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium

Dancing ostriches 1995 Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium 150x150cm
These pastels are fantastic. I actually thought that they were oils before I studied them. The highlights on the limbs are lovely and like Degas she has used a directional hatching technique. Her figures are strongly described and quite clearly delineated to the point where there is a black line round some of her dancers. Her style is very different from that of Jenny Saville who sculpts flesh with the paint. Rego's flesh seems quite smooth. Like Saville though, Rego exaggerates the forms. The heads and features in particular seem quite distorted. The women are all very masculine and muscly even the usually dainty ballet dancers.
Unlike Degas, her technique with pastels seems more blended, at least the underneath layers. There is no ground showing through giving a very finished look to the pieces. "Dog woman" looks less refined that the others, much looser, possibly because of the surface as this was done on canvas which must give a bumpy texture for pastels and would make it difficult to give that clean blended look.

She has done many etchings and is known as a printmaker.     

Drawing for 'The Dance' 1988 pen and ink 296x421mm
Flood 1996 etching and aquatint on paper 395x335mm
The Tate website has this to say about her drawings....."Pen and ink drawing on machine-made white cartridge paper......The images have been drawn in pen and brush, with ink washes of mainly one or two shades of brown and a few splashes of diluted black in the sky and shadows. The support is slightly buckled where the ink washes have been applied."

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Tutor feedback - Assignment 1

Assignment 1 was before I started this blog and before my year off to have Lily. My tutor at this time suggested that I looked at my drawing below and how it was placed on the paper, leaving a large area on the right empty. This drawing was done to demonstrate texture.

A3 bamboo pen and ink

Looking through my pictures, this was a constant problem when I started the course. I never seemed to plan where-about on the paper the image would be and the objects would invariable fall off one side. I think this is something I have improved and also I have learned to cover the paper more, rather than leaving a big white border round the objects.

Looking at the drawing above I decided the composition simply needed a darker area on the left to make it  more balanced. Although the shadows were going the other direction, I though I could get away with some shadow-like areas under the objects. I used ink and a sable brush but felt this was too "soft" so I increased the texture and tone using charcoal.

I felt the composition needed something else as it was still lop-sided so I cropped the top and bottom and right side. It's still not perfect and the glove is too close to the left edge but it's certainly better than it was.

Approx A4 bamboo pen, ink and charcoal

I found this exercise really quite stressful as I was sure I was going to ruin the drawing but my first attempt worked out OK and this gave me some confidence.

My tutor also commented on some other drawings...

"...The two items in this simple still life form an independent whole, which along with the huge double shadow and sharply observed reflected shapes, suggest a single cohesive form. The slightly eccentric composition works fairly well here; but I can't help wondering what difference, some reference to the negative area in the extreme top right of this composition, would have made to the atmosphere, balance and dynamic of the image? (This may also apply to the second reflections image of the cans)"

I can completely see what he is saying looking at the drawing.

Original A2 charcoal and white conte

Again, my heart was in my mouth when I had to change it though. I didn't really know what to do. After much deliberation I decided to place the objects on a mat or something and give the drawing a bit of distance in the top right by putting a doorway or something.

Changed A2 charcoal + conte

I then did the same with the other drawing he mentioned.

Original A2 charcoal and conte
Changed A2 charcoal and conte

It took all of 10 minutes to do both drawings and I think its improved them a lot.  

Funnily enough looking at them on the screen, I think the second drawing of the can has come out better but at the time I was sure I had ruined it. For both drawings the strong shadow complicated things a bit and I was scared the long shadow of the can would look odd because I've given the objects an upright background at the back which would change the angle of the shadow. I think it's OK though and isn't too obvious.

Natural Forms

For this section I had done a pencil drawing of some vegetables.

A2 pencil

My tutor complimented me on this drawing but commented if I had thought to experiment with the conventional tonal and textural marks with those I'd discovered in the earlier mark making exercises. This is an interesting point that I had trouble answering initially. I think I find these more expressive marks more unnatural to use in an actual drawing. It just doesn't occur to me to use them. Looking at the changes I made to the charcoal drawings above, these marks seem more expressive and less laboured so I hope I have learned to incorporate them into my repertoire. 

He also commented on the huge amount of empty space in my drawing - again. It seems so obvious to me now but at the time I felt this was the way to draw without detracting from the objects. I see now that although my page is A2 the drawing is only taking up an A3 size. This is a shame because I actually enjoy the larger scale. He suggested that a cropped version of the drawing would be better, even to the point of zooming into the centre of the vegetables like this...

This is really interesting and daring but I just feel something is wrong with this compositionally. I can't quite put my finger on it. I love these large scale close up paintings of flowers and fruit etc that seemed to be very popular a few years ago but in this instance I think there's not enough white. The tones seem too dark and complicated or something. I'm also too much of a coward to cut so much away from the drawing!

The other alternative was more traditional (and easier) and just involved cutting off the extra white area that I didn't fill.

Looking back at the original, it's clearly better compositionally. After chopping bits off the first drawing of the glove, I realised that doing this means there's not enough paper left to attach to a mount for framing so this leaves me in a quandary. Do I crop it tightly for the purposes of assessment or do I leave a bit of edging so that I can mount it at a later date? Indeed should I attach a mount for assessment? I'm not sure you can even do this. Something I have to think about. At this stage I'm not sure it's even going in for assessment!

Man-made Objects

My tutor was a bit happier with my placement of this drawing on the paper! It takes up nearly all the paper but as with my others it's still lacking background.

Original A2 Pen and ink

I was so reluctant to change it as I liked it, even though I could see it needed something. This was the most difficult yet! Anyway, I gritted my teeth and gave it a go...

Changed A2 pen and ink

I placed the objects on a table with a mat to add interest. Then I was left with the pure white background which looked too artificial. Rather than put anything too complicated, I put a light wash. I used vertical brush strokes to do this to create a difference from the horizontal strokes of the table. This also gives the impression of curtains (I hope).

This was difficult, but the end result is a finished drawing that can be hung on the wall rather than a study of objects floating on paper. I'm happy with it and glad I had enough courage to make these additions.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Getting back into it

Lily is now nearly 8 months and I'm slowly starting to become interested again in art and my OCA course. I felt terrible when I was pregnant and basically everything drew to a halt. I deferred my course when she was born for a year but I hadn't actually lifted a pencil for months anyway.
It's funny how the brain works. While I was pregnant I just wasn't interested in anything to do with art, even documentaries on TV did nothing for me. I thought at the time that motherhood must have changed me and that would be it forever. Thankfully it wasn't and the love has gradually come back. I guess there just isn't enough space when other things are going on.
Now the problem is time of course! With the best will in the world I can't do much when there's a small person shouting for my attention. Even now, the only reason that I've started the blog again is because she's having a mega nap. She's been sleeping for over 2 hours now, something she never does so I'm worried that she's ill rather than using the time properly!
Anyway, maybe I'll start using this again to motivate myself for some drawing. We'll see.......