Monday, 18 July 2011

Assignment 3 - Still Life

Still Life Group using Line

I struggled with this exercise to choose a subject and I think I've chosen the wrong combination. The flowers and the glass and too tall while the rest of the objects are small in comparison. If I'd had something else, mid-size it would have helped. Becasue of this, the composition is all to one side. I should have moved it over to the left and shown the right hand side of the cloth more. More planning is needed at the preparatory sketch stage.
With regards to the medium, I think the drawing is ok. At the time I struggled with to show the folds in the cloth but actually I think that bit came out quite well. Now I look at the brief again, I think I have concentrated far too much on tone again. I start out with that in my mind but then I get carried away with all of the other aspects of the drawing.
Preparatory sketches

A3 Rotring Artist Pen

Ultimately my main problem is that I am rushing things too much. I am fully aware of this but time is just not on my side. I am constantly aware I only have an hour or so to work at a time so things always get rushed. I find this so frustrating. If I had more time I would just start again and repeat this excersise. On the other hand I always think that if I was studying this in a class setting there would be time constraints and not every assignment would work and this is part of the learning curve and something my tutor should see. Studying at home it's very tempting to repeat and repeat until it's right but you wouldn't be able to do that in a class. Anyway I'm just making excuses now for not starting again so I'll shut up!

Still Life Group in Tone

For this excercise I chose pastels. I'm not really a fan of pastels so this was going to be a challenge for me. I always find I smudge too much and I can't get the detail with them. In the end it wasn't a horrible as a thought it would be. My problems with the drawing are the odd angle I chose to draw from and that I have too much empty space outside (so the composition could be improved). In hindsight I would have included some background to stop it floating - this is something I have recently realised I do through my tutors comments of the last section. I have always left the background out so that it doesn't detract from the subject but I now realise it doesn't - hopefully my future drawing will include background!). Now I look at it the top of the bowl is the wrong angle too. Aaargh!
With regards to drawing with tone I tried to keep the ends of the spring onions and the parsnips and other highlights nice and light and contrast this with the dark areas in the bowl and underneath. I struggled a bit with the shadows inside the bowl, inbetween the vegetables. I just couldn't find the right colour and in the end I think I added the dreaded black which makes it jump out instead of sink back. The squash was particularly hard to get right with the pastels, I think because of the smooth surface.

Check and Log

1. What aspects of each drawing have been successful, and what did you have problems with?

For both drawings I am not happy with the composition. I didn't realise there was a problem till it was too late for both. I also didn't stick to the brief properly and do a line drawing  in the first section as there is too much tone. The second drawing has faults in the basic shape of the bowl which should have been picked up at the beginning. So my biggest problem is rushing!
In the first section I found it was difficult to create the same depth and form with line only that pencil would achieve. Pencil and other soft media can do this via gradual changes in layering but every pen mark is final and each mark is similar in strength to the next.

2. Did you manage to get a sense of depth in your drawings? What elements of the drawings and still life groupings helped to creat that sense?

The table cloth in the first drawing was difficult to do. I've had this problem before with flat surfaces. I tried to make my marks fainter at the back of the table to show depth and distance.
In the pastel drawing I think I'm lacking some depth possibly because of my lack of experience with the medium. I felt I didn't have the correct colour to give the dark tones so the vegetables seem to be separate entities and not touching.

Depth can be conveyed when objects are placed in front of each other. Shading conveys form and shows an objects curves. Also colours can be used to show things are behind each other. For instance reflected colour. 

3. What were the difficulties created by being restricted to line and tone?

Well since I got carried away in the first drawing and didn't stick to line only, I would say one of the difficulties in being restricted to line is just that! I needed someone sitting beside me shouting "stop!" everytime I started to scribble. When you are restricted to line only it's very difficult to show the form of the objects. You have to look at the subject and see the basic shapes not the shadows and patterns. It's a different way of drawing entirely.
Being restricted to tone has it's own difficulties. The pastels complicated this for me because I struggled with the correct colours to get the shadows. In a black and white drawing this would be easier and could be done just be increasing or decreasing the darkness of the areas. I think I possibly thought too much about the tones here and so added too much dark brown/black.  

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Assignment 3 - Detailed Observation of Nature

Line Drawing Detail

For my first attempt at this I drew a sliced open cabbage and I used a scribbly technique to depict the bumpy texture of the leaves. I think this worked out quite well but then I re-read the brief and felt I had but in too much detail and tone.
So I started again with a piece of brocolli and I tried to focus on the lines without focusing on the tone. I found it quite hard and had to keep stopping myself doing this. Also drawing in one continuous line was a new and difficult test. The instict is to lift the pen constantly so this was a good excercise.

A4 sketch book - Rotring Artist Pen and Fabel-Castell Pitt Artist Pen
Getting Tone and Depth in Detail

For this excercise I chose a shell. I brought lots of lovely broken shells back from a holiday in Ardnamurchan a couple of years ago and they have been sitting in the garden looking messy so this was the perfect use for them. The shell I chose was almost all broken away and I loved the s-shape of the central spine.

A3 various soft pencils
 I enjoyed this excercise and I'm please with the result. I thought I would get frustrated with the detail but it was enjoyable. The most difficult bit was gettting the darkest shadows dark enough. I found I had to keep reevaluating the tones and going back to make them darker. I tried to use hatching as much as possible rather than the softer build up of graphite on the paper. I think the hatching actually helped show the curved shape of the shell, particularly the inside.

Stipples and Dots

I struggled at first trying to find a suitable subject but then I found this old branch when I was out for a walk with the dog. The bark was peeling off and moss was starting to grow on it so I though it would be great for this excercise. The bark, the wood underneath and the moss gave 3 different textures to work with.
The bark was smooth with lots of little bumpy marks. I had to be fairly random and "uncontrolled" when doing these marks in order to make it look natural. The wood underneath needed a more linear style to show its texture.

A4 smooth paper Rotring Artist Pen
I am pleased with this drawing and I like the fact I let it run of the page. I enjoyed using the scribbly style with the pen.

Detailed Observation of Nature - Check and Log

1. Which drawing media did you find most effective to use, for which effects?

I found the Rotring Artist pen was best for the scribbly style of drawing what is good for showing a textured surface. It also flowed enough to draw in dark shadows which some fine pens struggle with.
Soft pencil is good for drawing tones and gradual changes in shadows across smooth surfaces.

2. What sort of marks work well to create tone, pattern and texture? Make notes beside some sample marks.

Tone is best shown with layering of the media. If you are using pencil, hatching maybe isn't the best method becasue the gradual changes in tone are best shown by soft build up of the graphite. With pen, tone has to be shown by going over the area again and again until it is dark enough.
Pattern is best shown with a light touch. You can lightly sketch the pattern without putting down too much detail and it gives the impression of pattern.
I found fine pen really lent itself to drawing texture by doing a stippling, scribbly effect. I think its important to keep this as random as possible as styles such as regular hatching give the appearance of a smooth surface.

3. Did you enjoy capturing details or are you more at home creating big broad brush sketches? Find drawings by two experienced artists who work in contrasting ways: from tight, rigorous work to a more sketchy, expressive style.

I did enjoy capturing the details although I thought initially I would get impatient and frustrated. I find it quite hard to use big broad strokes even though it appeals to me more when I look at art. I don't have the confidence to be more expressive yet because I always think I'll ruin the drawing.

One expressionist artist I really like is Munch. He is of course famous for his paintings like "The Scream" but I was able to visit an exhibition a while ago of his prints. Most of these were woodcuts and lithographs including many of his famous paintings. He used limited colours and few lines. He was so expressive with his brushstrokes and able to convey so much. His common themes were love, anxiety and death.
Vampire, 1895  Lithograph  38.2 x 54.5 cm
Woman in Three Stages, 1899  Lithograph  46.2 x 59.2cm
The Scream Lithograph 1895
The lithograph of "the scream" above is particularly expressive. The lines create a distorted chaotic feeling. The persons mouth open in an "o" draws the viewer in. His now famous quote from his diary explains his inspiration (and opens a window into his tortured mind).....

"I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature"

For an artist who draws in tight, rigorous way I didn't want to go for the obvious choice of someone who was typically a realistic, photgraphic style of artist. Instead, a very different style of artist is fellow Glaswegian, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Mackintosh (1868-1928) was primarily an architect, and interior/furniture/textile designer who had a professional influence on the development of the Modern movement. He is also known for his beautiful drawings and watercolours of plants and flowers and his watercolours of French landscapes. His style was heavily design led and he tried to unite natural forms with an architectural and design vocabulary.

The Little Bay, Port Vendres (watercolour, 1927)

"Larkspur" August 1914 (pen and watercolour)

"Willow Herb, Buxstead" 1919
(pencil and watercolour)

Each line seems to be carefully thought out and while the drawings maintain their lifelike qualities the subjects are paired down to their essential elements with no extraneous "confusing" features. The lines remain loose however and the beautiful curves are characteristic of his manner.
These two artists have very different styles. You can imagine (rightly or wrongly) Munch standing at arms lengths using sweeping gentures to paint, while Mackintosh would be sitting rigidly over a book correcting every mistake. Both styles I find very appealing in their own ways.

4. Look at the composition of the drawings you have done in this excersise. Make some sketches and notes about how you could improve your composition.

I'm quite pleased with the composition of these drawings especially the one of the branch because it
runs off the page. The only problem is the drawing of the cabbage which is a bit of a strange composition. If I had to do it again I would change this composition so it is landscape rather than portrait. It would also be better to rearrange the 2 halves so they don't look like they are on a slope or to just concentrate on one half. I like the idea of zooming in to the middle and making an abstract drawing but that wouldn't have been suitable for this excercise.

5. Did doing a line drawing get you to look at space more effectively?

I think it did help in hind-sight although I wasn't aware of it at the time. With a line drawing your references change because you are focusing on the outside line rather than the shading and looking at the whole object not just one small part of it.