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.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Assignment 5 Option 2 - Review of Assignments

Review of Assignment 2 and 5

Looking back over all my work from Assignments 2 and 5, my favourites are the large blue Conte drawing of the figure lying face down which was the final piece from Assignment 2 and the pastel of the figure lying with his arms behind his head which was the Tonal study from Assignment 5.

These are both very similar poses and I think that is the reason I chose them. I love the foreshortening not just from the challenge of drawing but also because I think it make a very interesting piece. Putting them next to each other I can see that the pastel drawing is inaccurate because his upper body should be smaller. The proportions on the drawing on the left are better.

Both are also done in a similar media. The conte pencil is much harder but still has that soft nature that is nice to blend and good for describing form.  

I'm also pleased with the sketches from of the pencil drawing with the figure supported on one elbow and the charcoal of the figure sitting in the "thinker" pose, both from Assignment 2 - Structure. From Assignment 5 I like the drawing of the figure on the sofa from "quick studies" section.

I like these for different reasons. The middle one of the "thinker" I like because of the pose and the way the foot comes towards you. The highlights and shading are also good on this one. The other two are much quicker poses and I like the way I've managed to get the weight and shape of the figure quickly without it being overworked and detailed. They seem spontaneous and looser.

There are some aspects of other drawings that I like but something (usually the face) lets the drawing down.

Looking at my drawings I can see my progress throughout the course. I feeling I'm getting better at proportions although I still make mistakes. When I'm drawing, I find it comes much easier to me. I used to labour over certain poses whereas now I can get the correct anatomy much faster and without the effort I used to put in. I think one of the main things that helped me with this are the line drawing exercises. They made me look properly and spend the time to get the proportions correct.

I really like doing close ups. I find these much easier than doing smaller studies. I find it easier to get a likeness if I do a close up of the face. This is also a feature in the conte and pastel drawings I chose above which both have a large part of the drawing taken up by the feet which I'm pleased with.

Regarding media I enjoy doing detailed close ups like portraits, using pencil. For full figures I prefer a softer medium but I also like doing sketches using pen. I think pen is really useful for doing quick figure studies.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Assignment 5 - Drawing Figures - Tonal Study

Tonal Study

For this exercise I wanted to do a lying pose with the models feet covering a large part of the paper and having the interest and difficulty of foreshortening. I did a few poses using the cylinder approach from the last section.

The last pose I thought was really interesting and would be a challenge but I felt it was a bit too flattened and unnatural. However I liked the straight-on approach so I opted for the second last pose.

I wanted to try out using pastels which I'm not very keen on and haven't had much success with in the past. I felt they would provide a good medium for a tonal study because you can blend so easily. The brief suggests using coloured sugar paper so I chose a purple sheet for my initial drawing. This was dark enough to give a nice mid tone and I was interested how the colour would shine through.

A2 Pastels on sugar paper

For this first attempt I didn't spend enough time getting the measurements correct before firing on with the drawing and this is obvious in the incorrect size of the upper body. I also struggled with the legs because of the foreshortening.  

Unfortunately I didn't have any more purple paper left so I chose an orangey brown for the final drawing.
I spent a bit more time getting the measurements right this time. 

A2 Pastels on sugar paper

Check and Log

1. When you have completed this exercise assess your drawing. Make notes in your learning log on the effectiveness of you technique and choice of media.

The first pastel drawing was the perfect example of how the brain tries to correct what the eye is actually seeing - the head can't really be half the size of the feet etc. It did however give me great practise with the pastels and although the sizes are all out, I'm pleased with the effects, I especially like the feet. The purple was a great colour and it shone through and gave colours (especially the yellows) a bit more intensity.

The sketch allowed me to get the measurements right for final drawing although I still didn't quite get the legs right, I think looking at it they need to be a bit shorter. Again I'm happy with the feet, pastels seem to lend themselves to feet! I'm not so happy with the shading on the arms. They've ended up looking a bit flat and no matter what I tried I couldn't make them come out. Something I've found with pastels is that you can't go over them too often of you lose their vibrancy and they look muddy. Perhaps that's what's happened here.

Pastels are a good choice for a tonal drawing because the blend so easily. They are relatively fixable if you make mistakes too, although up to a point as I've mentioned above. They work very well with a coloured paper and I think it would be interesting to play with different colours depending on the main colours of your drawing. So purple paper would shine through nicely with mainly yellows and orange would be good for mainly blues etc.

Overall I'm happy with the drawing. It's much better than my previous efforts with pastels so I feel I've found a new medium to play with.

2. Have you made a convincing tonal study of the figure?

I think I have, the only part I'm not happy with are the arms which need something to make them appear more round. I think because they are further away and were more shaded it was difficult to pick the right colours to shade them.

The feet have worked well and as usual with bits of drawings that work well, they were the easiest bits and were finished really quickly! I was able to pick out the darkest shades and the highlights on each toe and I think this is why they've worked. The arms are a much larger area and don't have the small highlights which help show that a subject is rounded.

3. Have you conveyed the volume and proportions of the figure?

 The volume is described though shading and making the figure look rounded so yes I think overall I have. The proportions were harder to get right and I think the legs could be a bit shorter, but overall I think the proportions are not bad. I think the fabric made this task more difficult. It the model had been nude it would have been easier to get the highlights and shading right but the folds of the clothes made this a bit complicated.

4. What have you learned?

I've learned that I don't have to be scared of pastels and they are actually a good medium to describe the shading of the figure. I think they (and I) work best close up so I would like to do some studies of feet and hands to experiment.

I've also found that working on coloured paper can give really good effects and I like drawing "in the reverse" - rather than starting with a white sheet of paper and leaving the lighter areas blank, starting with the highlights using  a light colour and laying them down first.
Needless to say this exercise has also been great practise in getting the proportions correct and how initial sketches are a practise area to get this right and to play with the medium.