Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Final Assessment for Drawing 1

These pieces of work were submitted in February 2013 for the Drawing 1 final assessment.  
I am now starting Painting 1 and have
a new blog at

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Tutor's Comments - Assignment Five

Feedback on assignment

Ex Quick Studies around the house
You have made a thorough investigation of different views found in the interior of your house. Working relatively quickly in this way some outcomes will be better than others, inevitably. The main point here is that you have worked hard and produced an ambitious group of 3 large drawings and some successful smaller ones in colour. The drawings are investigative and full of life. The view of the bedroom is open and airy. You have used the paper well as a positive compositional element. The composition itself is complex but you have managed to bring all the elements together successfully. The sense of light is really effective. Put this drawing in your submission for assessment.
The view of the empty settee is nearly complete; have another look at the tonal breadth; the darker range certainly needs to be much darker to give the view more drama and a greater sense of light.  This is so very nearly a very successful drawing but to make it so you need to work on it more in terms that I have mentioned.
The drawing with the stool is a little over fussy by comparison but a reasonably successful drawing none the less.
Generally your use of effective composition throughout this assignment is intelligently executed adding to the effectiveness of your outcomes overall.

Ex Tonal study
Drawing 3 is a very effective tonal drawing which does employ a very successful light source to add to the atmosphere. There is a good tonal breadth from the lights to the darks and when combined with some effective mark making has resulted in a rich outcome. Consider putting this in your assessment submission. This drawing has a very convincing presence to it, almost nonchalantly confident but successful all the same.  

Ex Line and wash drawing
Drawing 5
Again this drawing is well seen; the internal relationships of the drawing cohere well together. The figure has a quiet presence and she executes her knitting in a believable way. Line and wash can give you more tonal breadth if you choose to use it. If anything your use of wash is somewhat tentative. You can employ wash on this larger scale to allow a very succinct and direct interpretation if needed.

Ex Experiment with mixed media
These are 4 excitingly executed drawings which I have already alluded to earlier in the report. You have taken some risks here in your use of the media and it has paid dividends. The 2 with the figure have a good feel to them as real atmospheric interpretations; you have used inventive mark making and constructed the composition successfully. Both have some very good aspects to them but the more complete one is the one with the picture frame in it mostly because the figure sits much more convincingly in the whole. In the one without the frame the left hand side is particularly well achieved. The relationship of the settee cushion lamp and ground is very well put together. See if you can adjust the figure a little especially the arm and articulation of the head.

The 2 drawings with the lamp as the main focus are both successful drawings. It is worth noting here for the future how you can achieve very different feel in the work even though made from the same subject matter. The subject matter is the same but the content is different. Put these in any submission.

Assignment piece
This is a very thorough group of drawings working up to the assignment piece. The choices of different grounds and the varied use of media and technique that you have used needs to be commended in terms of the brief but also in some of their success.
The one on black paper is well interpreted in terms of light and drama but maybe it should be cropped to give you a more successful squarer composition; there is a little too much ineffective space on the right! Assignment piece A has not got enough tonal breadth to carry the light source that you have set up. The figure doesn’t quite articulate successfully enough to be wholly convincing; there needs to be much more drama exuding from the light source to compliment the bold approach to execution.You have used a more detailed approach for the head and it doesn’t quite integrate into the whole drawing; the way that you did this on the A3 versions works better.
Assignment piece B is a successful finished drawing based in this genre. It is well executed, maybe in a slightly less open way to some of your work in this assignment, but it is successful none the less. It is a little safe. There is a very believable domestic atmosphere to this drawing, however, and the diffused light adds to the relaxed feel that such a subject can have. One thing I would consider a little more work on is the relationship of the lower legs to the whole in terms of tone. I think the whole drawing would benefit if they were in shadow a little more. Look how dark the floor is where they sit as compared to the dress; the tonal range in the legs should be a little darker to help them sit in the round more convincingly.

Learning log/critical essays
Your blog is thorough, clear and professional and comes across as a genuine commentary and analysis of your practice. It is objective and intelligently articulated. Building this up, as you have progressed, using a very serious approach is good practice and I am sure this has helped in your development.
Thanks for putting in the hard copy just in case but the blog was easily sufficient for my purposes this time.

Precisely because you have made lots of work through the 5 assignments, a good deal of which has been good quality, will allow you to be selective and pick out your very best work without worrying about it for your assessment submission.

Make sure that you select your work looking at my reports to help you. See what you think when you lay all your work out to select. Mount your work on black or white card; include 3 to 6 sketch books and your blog; work to the submission criteria. Ultimately selection decisions have to be yours though but you have made enough good work to formulate a successful submission. Select your work for reasons of quality only. Change what you see as the assignment piece if you need to also.

Selection is a crucial part of an artists practice whether it is for exhibition, framing or assessment. This is an important skill in objective decision making to master at level one which will stand you in good stead for future courses.

I understand that you plan submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment and in the previous 4, I suggest that you are likely to be successful in the assessment.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Evaluation of work for the Drawing 1 course

Part 5 is your chance to consolidate what you have learned, to reflect on exercises that you have especially enjoyed and to evaluate your progress. Use your learning log to help you review your progress. Make a brief entry for each exercise and assignment undertaken so far detailing successes and any problems that you have encountered.

This was a great opportunity to look back over my work since starting this course and evaluate progress and learning, noting the frustrations and the joys.

Assignment One: A1 Still life study of natural forms

This piece was the largest I had worked in charcoal and my confidence with using charcoal has continued to increase as the course has progressed. I love working with it and find it such a sympathetic and expressive medium to use.  Being able to spend time with it and work on one piece at a relaxed pace enabled me to understand this medium better and I was amazed at the end result.

Assignment One: A1 A collection of man made objects

I struggled with elipses and therefore have had to work hard at man made objects such as kettles, and bottles and the latest in the Part Five assignment was the lampshade/base, teapot and mugs. The world is full of these and although I have made some progress they are still a challenge. I recall that my tutor did not take to this composition, but having not seen it for a year and returning to it with fresh eyes, I am glad to say that I still like it and for me it works.

Part One exercises

A rather lifeless pen and ink

A2 pen & ink sketch

The line drawings I have produced in my sketchbook (A4/A5 size) work well, and I seem able to keep the drawings loose, especially when the composition is nature, but I have struggled with line work throughout the course on the larger scale. This A2 pen and ink sketch of the natural forms was one of the successes. Others, like this figure drawing have ended up rather wooden or too graphic.

A2 pen & ink sketch

This line drawing of buildings worked particularly well, retaining a sense of life and not getting too bogged down in details but suggesting them instead by the type of marks made.  I have a natural tendency towards tone and shape rather than line, but this is no excuse and I need to work on using line in a loose way with intricate subject and working on a larger scale; A3 +

One of the biggest surprises for me was the effect of hatching and felt tips. I had to grit my teeth to do this exercise, but was glad that I did. Although felt tip pens is not a medium I have any empathy with at all, I was amazed at the effect that could be achieved.

Another medium I have not used probably since school days, decades ago now, is the humble coloured pencil.  And again I was encouraged to see the effect I could achieve, paying attention to detail by using inventive marks,without becoming fussy.

This one has a slightly different treatment; a looser use of coloured pencil and the introduction of pen and ink work, giving it and much more earthy feeling.

One of the elements of this course I have enjoyed is getting to know different media and how to use each in creative and inventive ways. The frustration is becoming a jack of all trades and master of none. But hopefully the little experience I now have can be built upon in the future. I’ve also learnt a little about different types of paper and the difference it can make to the medium that is used on it. Again, I would hope to build upon this as I embark on the next course.

Assignment Two

As with Assignment One, I see I was beginning to achieve a good variety of mark making both with charcoal and with the soft pastel which is a new medium for me to use. I have gained confidence in using soft pastels – I needed to look at some ‘how to’ books to see the variety of ways a pastel work can be tackled and in Part Five I experimented more with oil pastels than I had done previously and ended up using them for my final piece.

One of my aims of taking this course was to ‘get into’ pastels, so I am pleased I have been able to do this even if only to a limited extent.

In Assignment Two I organised my pastels and developed a method of storing, layinging out and using which sits well with my style of working and ensures I am not hunting around for the right hue when all I want to do is get on with the drawing.

So I don’t even have to think about these practicalities now, which leaves the little grey cells to get on with the real work!

I spent around 12 hours on this final piece for Assignment Two and this really helped me to gets to grips with the new pastel medium and in general I am approaching pastel work with more confidence now. 




Part Two Exercises


 Much of my pencil work has not been too successful. The comments from my tutor about this ‘plotting space’ drawing was that although I had ”used the pencil inventively and plotted space intelligently…the overall result is very sugary sweet and illustrative again.” Somehow using the pencil makes me draw in a more conservative, conventional and predictable way. And even though the mark making with the pencil has learnt lessons from using other media, becoming more expressive and varied, the overall result has not changed much.

This pencil drawing, much of which I did sitting in a car as the rain lashed down, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed drawing. It was a long time since I had spent so much time over a pencil drawing. At the time I was pleased with the result although I recognised it was on the ‘conventional’ side. However my tutor’s comment was that it was “weak, illustrative and ..twee, over detailed, overworked and has no presence.”

Bearing in mind that figure drawing does not come naturally to me, I was particularly pleased with this A2 drawing. The pose had really appealed to me but as I worked I was aware that I was giving it a conventional fairly tight approach, but I was pleased that I had caught the likeness of the friend, the proportions were OK and I had shown the folds of the fabric which was the main purpose of the exercise. Again the critique was that this was ‘illustrative’ and the use of the media ‘too conventional’.

So what do I think of these two drawings now, a year and many drawings later? Has my perception of my own work changed and am I developing a wider approach to drawing which is moving towards expression and economy of line. In asking these questions I am also asking whether ‘conventional’ or ‘detailed’ always equals ‘poor’ but these philosophical questions I leave for another day.

I did digress into philosophy in August 2011 when I was following up some of my tutor’s comments from Assignment Three and was wrestling with the idea of what is a finished drawing which inevitably led me to what is a ‘good/strong’ drawing. I am reminded of a comment I heard in the unlikely setting of an episode of CSI, “the only difference between kitch and beauty is time.” I am left with the same quandry now as I had last year; what are the criteria and standards against which we judge. And I have to settle for now, as I determined to settle then, for a more subjective evaluation than I would normally feel happy with and that will need to suffice for the moment.

So I have looked again at these two drawings and have to own up to the fact that they do not fill me with horror and nor do I die of boredom when I study them. Yes I can see that they are both treated in a conventional way and have a very different feel to the loose pen and ink, or some of the charcoal work I have done, but at the moment I am not prepared to totally consign this work to the rubbish bin. Maybe it is too early in the learning process to have expected such a transformation of my rather conservative approach!

Assignment 3

Garden -experiment
Garden - final piece
The Final Piece for the Assignment itself ended up rather twee despite me trying to avoid such a result. It would have needed a much looser treatment to overcome the natural tweeness of watercolour wash and ink.

In terms of evaluation, the tutor put my experimental garden drawing above the final piece. I am too aware of the areas of experimenting and the differences in approach within the same piece in the experiment, to concur with that assessment, but I was also very disatisfied with the twee result.

I have not done a lot of work with pen and wash during this course, but Part Five also included a set exercise for it. I will need to practice much more if I am to get to grips with the potential of these two media together.

The lounge here in line and wash is rather heavy handed but one can imagine it working with a more considered use of watercolour and a more relaxed use of the pen. Both of these things would also have improved the garden drawing above.
This later version in line and wash has a much lighter touch and looser approach and I feel is heading in the right direction.  Both drawings were done in an A5 sketch book.  The line work in this piece is an improvement to some of the other figure sketches.



Part Three Exercises

I love being surrounded by nature and enjoyed sketching out in the open air. The pen and ink drawings of trees and fields etc in the sketch book were quite successful, managing to capture details economically with a quick use of the pen. I found the whole experience really inspiring and would like to develop that further. 

earlier work - scary lady!

Recent work - less is more

I find it easier to use the pen for drawing nature than I do other subjects, especially figures which still tend to scare me and cause me to tighten up. Some of my sketchbook work on figures shows this hesitancy whilst at other times there are signs of improvement, of a more relaxed approach and the ability to home in on the key aspects rather than trying to draw every wrinkle and freckle!

 These quick small sketches show various postures and manage to capture something of the movement.

This one, a little more considered with less energy in the lines over all but it does portray the leisurely walk of this group as they arrive on the beach.

These recent sketches of geese show some improvement - keeping the marks loose and fluid, indicating the important lines but not too fussy.  Drawing animals from life makes you sketch fast and I was focussed on recording the important lines before the goose moved. 

Previously I had not spent much time looking at and drawing buildings so it was with a little trepidation that I found myself out with my sketchbook in Warsaw after travelling there for work.  The result was much better than anticipated and it gave me courage to tackle this more difficult composition in pen and ink on A3.  Working on this size with a small pen was a challenge. I was really inspired by the skyline and composition and was pleasantly surprised with the result. The tutor’s comments included “well executed, inventively rendered, creative interpretation..”  I was particularly encouraged that I had managed a loose approach on what I consider a more formal subject matter.  If only I could approach figures in the same way!
cabbage - pen and ink

The cabbage pen and ink piece was also successful for me at A2 size. The hatching and mark making worked out well.  By comparison I look at the next two drawings. Both were superb in real life and brimming with energy, by my rendering of them is restrained and tight. 

Cloud formation

Elgar statue

Here they are rather stilted, pretty lifeless and boring. What is the reason for such huge disparity? With the cabbage I had spent much time studying and had produced several drawings which had warmed up my brain and my hand to drawing the subject. As a consequence when drawing the cabbage I was more relaxed and confident and have gone straight in with ink with exploritary lines and these were not so way out. The statue was a challenge anyway as both man and bike were leaning and the subject matter - ie figures and elipses would be more of a challenge anyway; but I have become bogged down in the detail and drawn all the life out of this wonderful statue. Being a figure, it demands more accuracy than a cabbage but the old adage of practice makes perfect comes into play, and there is no doubt that when I have drawn the same subject matter several times, I have improved.

The most recent example of this is in Assignment Five. The initial tonal charcoal drawing of the figure’s face was pretty rough. I did further experimental studies.  By the time I had reached the final piece I had an idea of the most important areas that I needed to put in and had a better idea of creating the correct angles and marks to give the model’s face.

Deciding to include a figure in my final piece was definitely opting for the difficult route, as figures are my weakest area. And yet I had decided that my home was not a home without a figure. I’m glad I decided to take this challenging route for although the way I have tackled the figure could be greatly improved, I do feel I have progressed in this piece and it has given me confidence to continue to work on my figures

Assignment Four

A2 tonal drawing
The two assignment pieces show both my strengths and weaknesses. This tonal charcoal drawing was a sheer delight to draw, I loved the composition as well as working in charcoal, and the result was a strong, dramatic drawing which I was pleased with.

A2 line drawing
Now compare this to the sorry-for-itself line drawing. It is stilted and lacks life. I found it a difficult pose and maybe I should have attempted an easier one. I did not enjoy planning or executing this drawing and although I did manage to redeem it in a second attempt at a simpler pose, it does illustrate the wide variance in the quality of my work.

Trying another approach, but tending to go towards a stylistic approach.

And on the left, even further down that route.  On the right is a second attempt with a simpler pose.  Lines are kept simple, and a conscious effort was made to only include the lines necessary. Reflecting on all this figure work allows me to see that I am all at sea, trying different approaches, struggling enormously to find a way that fits comfortably with me, to depict figures.  Or should I feel encouraged that I am still striving and searching and trying out new approaches? 

As I noted before, when I am inspired the work reflects that, and when I am bored, the work also tends to be boring. So maybe I ought to be more aware of this sub-agenda and switch subject matter or change medium if I am tiring of the subject.


Part Four exercises

Like the finished assignment, the exercises in this module reflect my strengths and weaknesses and the wide variance in quality of work;

Some paintbrush drawings with at least some life and movement in them even if not particularly accurate in places.

But in comparison with the lively brush studies, there is the restrained and stilted pencil work

There is the overly detailed compared to the less is more.

I have recently been captivated by by the work of Carole Katchen in her book Express Yourself with Pastel. A book I will be adding to my bookcase. Her main focus is drawing figures, something that had previously never really inspired me. But she has produced loose sketches of people in her sketch book and developed them to pastels which somehow manages to portray the personalities through body language and very little detail. They are communicated in such a way that you feel you know their voice, their laugh and their relationship with others. And the impact is enhanced by the strong compostions.

One of the issues I have found reflected in my figure drawings, but it was also apparent in some of my previous work on elipses and other areas where accuracy is necessary, is that I keep repeating the same mistakes. In this respect I think I should learn from the approach of some of the great masters who initially spent much time copying good examples. It is all well and good to learn from your mistakes but I feel some mistakes are repeated so often that the brain is reluctant to yield those well trodden synapse pathways.

One valuable lesson I noted in my log book was the importance of analysing where a drawing or painting has gone wrong before tying to redraw or starting again. With the figures in particular I went back to measuring and comparing to see exactly where my problems were. No doubt a distance learning course makes this doubly important without the hands on comments of the tutor to highlight the weak/incorrect areas and to direct corrections.

There is no doubt that Part Four was the most challenging and least enjoyable of all the modules for me. My initial lack of experience and lack of confidence made this an uphill struggle. However, there were parts that I did enjoy; the quick loose brushwork A4/3 sketches, the sketchbook work of men at work, the nude figure and experimenting with the approach and final tonal work in charcoal. This in itself is encouraging and makes me believe that figures and me are not incompatible and maybe I should concentrate on those approaches to figure work that do inspire me.

Assignment 5

Bearing in mind my tutor’s comments for Assignment Two I think this work would have been better if I had not worked up to the edge of the paper. I knew I was going to crop it through the lampshade on the left and the teapot on the right and it would have been better to have kept to this plan from the start, planned accordingly and not taken all the marks to the edge of the paper. I suppose I felt I was keeping my options open just in case I didn’t crop there, but really there was no doubt in my mind given all the thinking I had done in the prep work.
It would also have helped if I had put some masking tape around those known edges, and worked well within them keeping the surrounding masked area clean to act as a frame.

Drawing 8 Final
 This would have allowed the picture to breathe a bit and would have got over the need for the large area of dark foreground. The other large area, the wall has been broken up not only by the hanging picture but by the variety of mark making, and in fact I think this open space adds greatly to the finished drawing but reducing it by not taking the marks to the edge of paper would have improved it.  I had been disatisfied with the final piece and went on to produce another 4 drawings which was beneficial and allowed me to push myself a bit further I think.  A lesson to take into the future and even having done Drawing 8 I was still wanting to go further, but by then had run out of time!

One of my fears going in to Part Five was having to spend a lot of time on the same thing and wondering whether I would be able to retain the freshness and continue to be as inspired at the end as I was at the beginning. As a part answer to this I did allow myself to a certain extent, to go with my interest and therefore did not progress through the folder for Part Five in a linear fashion but rang the changes so that I would not go stale. This approach worked well for me, as I was still motivated by the subject at the end and even now have more ideas as to how I could develop pieces.

Part Five exercises

Although the drawings of all the rooms in the house took some discipline to do, I found it useful to be able to compare the different approaches I had adopted and the different media used; then assessing to see if any could be developed or at least, to see if I was sufficiently motivated by the sketch to want to develop it further.

Possibly because I knew there were so many initial sketches to do, my approach was much more relaxed, getting going on the drawings immediately and this enabled many of the drawings to be loose, even if a little inaccurate in places. But to a large extent, this inaccuracy did not worry me and I did find that it was good to work on a large format right from the beginning, knowing that I wanted the final piece to be A1/A2 size and wanting to keep the feel of the piece loose and relaxed.

Comparing some more of my work

kitchen 2
What of the quick sketches I have completed recently for Part Five? How do they compare with some of my other quick sketches earlier in the course? I look at the 360 degree landscape sketches in pen and ink and other drawings (13 June 11) . I am looking with new eyes at the pen drawings of rooms in my house and see a more relaxed approach. Maybe because I have used the pen more now for drawing and I have used it on A3 with greater success. I know there will be mistakes, but overall the drawing can still be useful or even successful.

Sue's room
The pen drawing of Sue’s room has several glaring errors – the size of the door handle, the angle of the TV, the placing of the door hooks, but despite those, it still has something going for it. And kitchen 2 drawing (above) has uncorrected perspective errors, but it looks like my confidence is improving to draw manmade objects with the same looseness that I used for the landscape sketches in Part 3.

Assignment 5
How does the pastel piece I have just completed for Assignment Five (right) compare with my previous pastel work (left)? In one sense it is difficult to compare because Assignment Five used oil pastels and Assignment Two used soft pastels. But there is some comparision and strange to me I actually see a similarity of style. I think for me the later one has pushed the boundaries further and there is a greater freedom of marks. It conveys an atmosphere which is not apparent in the still life and it has a certain drama I think. Both have details without being overly detailed in approach.

The later final piece which uses soft pastels I feel has also progressed in looseness and has aimed more at expressing a 'sense of the lounge'.

And how do these 3 pastels compare with other media? Comparing the lounge picture with the pen and wash garden drawing I would say there is no comparison and the two drawings look as though they have different creators. Whereas to compare it with the prone female in charcoal and I begin to see the same hand. With Assignment Five I accepted the challenge of including a figure, the weakest of all my modules. Could I produce something that was less wooden and tense than the line drawing of the same model? Well there are certainly weak areas in the lounge drawing, but it is much stronger than the line drawing. Maybe the last pastel should have had even less detail and gone towards a feel like Vuillard’s painting depicted on page 130 of the Start Drawing folder. I had certainly found Vuillard’s work inspiring. I am still feeling my way on this area. The idea of ‘a finished drawing’ and the ultimate balance between giving enough information to the viewer and allowing the viewer to interact and 'fill in the gaps'. Certainly the lounge drawing gains from not having all the details; looking at Assignment Two still life I wonder if a similar approach to that one would have rendered a more interesting still life. There are lost and found edges and a variety of mark making but over all the information has been supplied, without mystery.

What would have been the result if I had created not only the tonal drama for the lounge, but even more mystery in terms of what is happening? Less detail, more suggestive marks, increasing the strange and wonderful light and atmosphere that visit that room, diffusing the colours so that they permeate the room and the whole drawing becomes much more an expression of what it is like to sit in the lounge and not just to observe someone else doing that.

There were many ideas that I did not develop for this final assignment; the more flat Van Gough approach which could also have developed the frottage element and textures. I think that has great potential; also the Degas influenced piece where I would need to decide whether to make it more to do with bold simple shapes or whether to reduce the ‘shape focus’ and opt for more impressionistic pastel.

The way I work

One thing the course has helped me with is to make me more aware of my preferred way of working. I have always enjoyed planning a piece and by nature am an organiser. So I enjoy working out the composition, looking at the details of that composition and experimenting/practicing. Deciding upon the materials to use and use the whole planning process to work out how to gain the effect I want. (I remember reading of Klimt who did a similar thing.) The challenge for me has been to put that aside on occasions and just to begin a drawing and see how things develop as I go. It is not a way of working that sits easily with my nature, but it has been an interesting discipline to try it sometimes and going straight in with an ink pen on A3 size sketches was useful.

Past blogs