Reflections on Tutor’s Report for Part 3

My tutor provided a very helpful report on Part 3, suggesting that the work presented demonstrated ‘good development in your drawing’ and that I should be pleased with progress so far, which made me pleased indeed.

Feedback on assignment

With respect to the criteria for the course – Demonstration of technical and visual skills, quality of outcome and demonstration of creativity – the comments were as follows (“in italics”) followed by my response:

“Overall, you have shown good understanding of composition and perspective throughout this part of the course. You have framed and positioning your subjects well within the page, an indication of good visual awareness, and the inclusion of borders shows good planning, organisation, and care for your work.”

I was very pleased with this comment, particularly as one of the comments from last time were that the objects I drew were ‘floating in air’ and appeared unattached to the surroundings or context, so I had tried hard not to do that this time.

“There is an interesting relationship between your precise sketching, particularly of architecture, and the contrast with more fluid media and gestural mark making, within your drawing of trees and nature. As you move forward, consider how you can synthesise to greater effect the relationship between these different approaches, mixing and contrasting the different methods to build marks and layers of texture into your drawing.”

I found this an interesting observation, and one I had not thought about. Although in the drawing of New York and also my final assignment I had deliberate used different media and/or colours for the natural and man-made objects, I had not thought about the fact that the way I drew these two categories was different – and I can see it would be a good idea to develop this in further work.

“Your ‘Expanse’ work captures the perspective of the scene well, drawing my attention through the landscape downstream. The reflection of the trees in the water creates a very calm and still atmosphere. This is slightly jarred by the contrasting materials and colours of the tree, which appear proportionally accurate but out of balances in terms of texture and colour. The combination of pencil, pastel and elements of watercolour is working well, but I encourage you to use these materials with more conviction and confidence to generate a wider range of tonal qualities. You have created an effective sense of perspective in your final assignment work and balanced your materials in very slight and careful ways. Your preparatory work has supported the development of your ideas with composition, with the final outcome being well considered and thought out.”

These comments point to a couple of things that I had observed, but had been unsure how to remedy. I realised that I was somewhat nervous and cautious doing the assignment (in comparison to the preparatory work, particularly after having thought about it so much, and was too timid with the ideas I had about materials and colours. I seem to have used pencil and soluble graphite for the tree so as not to create a discordant element – but I see now that I have done just that by using a neutral medium. I hope I can correct it before sending for final assessment, as well as perhaps emphasizing further some of the colours and tones that I have used in the rest of the drawing.

“Much of your preparatory work has strong tonal contrast and a wider spectrum of colours. The final outcome appears more reserved in contrast. Consider spending a little more time on this work, adding definition around the architectural elements, and creating a greater sense of depth through the tonal contrast of fore, mid and back-ground.”

Again, the difference between the final piece and the preparatory work – hastily done to test out one aspect – has come from an excess of timidity and caution in approaching the final assignment. I will try to spend some more time on it and emphasize the contrasts for the final assessment.

“Both your larger works for this assignment have created some interesting relationships between elements of nature and the man-made environment. Both elements appear to be competing for space in your Image, creating a powerful juxtaposition between natural form and architectural shapes. Such subject matter could be a fruitful area for you to explore further in future parts, developing on from the successes you have shown here.”

I agree that this is something I could emphasize, perhaps by looking for more images like Central Park, where the contrast between nature and the built environment is so stark (Park Lane/Hyde Park is an obvious example, but I wonder if I might find something in Oxford, although the colleges of the University are all so manicured the natural parts in many seem almost manmade.

“Your drawing for exercise 3.2 captures the scale of the scene really well. The sense of depth and the height of the buildings in the background creates a dramatic perspective. The soft tone of the buildings in the background contrast really well with the sharp jagged black form of the trees in the foreground. The addition of the collaged figure is playful, and scales the image, but I wonder why this was not drawn. Experiment with more collage in future work, but try to unite with your other methods, blending it in with your drawing and mark making in more integrated ways.”

I used the photograph for the figure, rather than drawing it because I knew that being in the foreground it should be detailed and that this would take me a long time and would frustrate me, and distract from the main work. But if I had integrated it more into the drawing, for example through colouring or shading it in the same medium as that part of the drawing, that might have worked as suggested. I will try in the future, although obviously not with the human figure for Part 4 as this is the topic of study.

“You have shown an excellent command and understanding of perspective throughout your assignment work and within your sketchbook studies.”

I am so happy to read these comments about perspective, because this is something I used to struggle with hugely – and have tried really hard to overcome in this Part, reading about it and watching videos. I do feel that at last I understand some if not all of the principles, but I still need to study more, for example, I am still unsure how to get railings right in terms of the distance between the vertical elements.

“As mentioned, much of your preparatory work appears more confident and creative than your larger outcomes. There is a conviction and energy with your mark making here which I encourage you to try to hold onto when working on larger pieces.”

I need to do more large pieces, to overcome the fear of them. I have already started to do this in Part 4, using large paper for the life drawing classes.

Sketchbooks

 For ‘demonstration of technical and visual skills’ and demonstration of creativity’:

“Your sketchbook work demonstrates a good range of technical and visual skills. You have explored drawing and mark making with various materials and subject matter. I encourage you to seize on the successes of your sketchbook work and focus on developing ideas through more repetition and experimentation.”

I will try to do this – I have bought the book Experimental Drawing, by Robert Kaupels,  and intend to try to do some of the exercises, although time is always a challenge for me.

“As you move forward, use your sketchbook for more exploratory methods to drawing, testing your abilities and confidence with materials through experimentation and to develop more complex layered and textured surfaces. Using collage and mixed media for example, may open up some interesting directions for you.”

I will try to use mixed media more, although I am not in general a fan of collage, have always been resistant to the use of 3 dimensional objects on the surface in pictures (to look at I mean, I have never tried to do it), but I will look for opportunities.

“Throughout your sketchbook I encourage you to reflect a little more on your progress, adding additional annotation that narrates your journey through the exercises, including notes and titles relating to the course material. Comment on your successes and areas you want to develop further in note form, with more detailed analysis and evaluation in your learning log.”

Up until now I have put nearly all the comment and areas for development in the learning log, rather than the sketch book. I will try to make more notes there, particularly with regard to any techniques that I use.

 

Research

For criteria ‘Reflective thinking, critical thinking and analysis’

“You continue to write well about the research points and offer good insight into a variety of practices. Your analysis balances factual information alongside your own observations. You demonstrate good visual awareness and reflective thinking and it’s great to see the contextual element of your studies influencing your practical work.”

I am glad that this is more or less the right balance between factual information and my own observations, because I wasn’t’ sure how to approach this. As an academic, I research and write all the time, so I am very practiced at expressing myself in this way, but I am not at all familiar with writing in the context of fine art or even the humanities more broadly, so I am on a learning curve.

“It would be good to hear more of your thoughts on this relationship between context and practice in your learning. For example, you mention ‘ I†added†some†reeds†in†the foreground¨†drawing†on†Peter†Doig†’, but could you explain further how you are influenced by Doig more directly?, is it a formal similarity or something more conceptual?”

I spent a lot of time thinking about this assignment piece, and clearly became so immersed that I did not realise I had not explained what I mean here. In the blog post on Doig, I referenced the painting where he covers the whole painting with a stylised version of the undergrowth, as if you were seeing the painting through the undergrowth.

Peter Doig, The Architects Home in the Ravine, 1991

I was not brave enough to do this with my assignment, but I thought one way of doing this drawing would be to draw the reeds all over the front of the page. In fact in one of the canoe pictures he has reeds like this, although here they are at the back – so I was taking ideas from two Doig paintings here. In general though, Doig quite often seems to take a natural element of the painting and let it run wild, and this is what I was thinking about  doing – but clearly did not implement. In the end, as I discussed in the Learning Log – the final image was more Ravilious than Doig.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Context, reflective†thinking, critical thinking, analysis

For ‘Reflective thinking, critical thinking and analysis

“You have included citation within your written reflection, using the Harvard referencing system, although I couldn’t find some links to websites and image references. This isn’t a big issue, as in the most part you’re referencing is fine, but please refer to the link below for exact guidance on how UCA/OCA expect referencing to be formatted. You don’t need to go back over your work but I do recommend adhering to this format as you progress on your next course unit.”

(example from the UCA on harvard referencing a website)

petrifiedprozac [reply] (2009) Jonathan Jones on Art [online blog] In: guardian.co.uk

At:http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2009/jun/15/tracey-em

in-drawings-white-cube?commentpage=3 (Accessed on 16.05.09).

https://www.uca.ac.uk/library/academic-support/harvard-referencing/

Thank you, I will do this – in the social sciences we reference newspaper articles rather differently, but I will try to do it this way.

 

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

Below is a list of artists based on my observations of your work so far and the context of the forthcoming part. If you discover points of interest write reflection accordingly in your learning log,

Paul Noble

https://gagosian.com/artists/paul-noble/

https://www.alancristea.com/artists/32-paul-noble/

Pablo Bronstein1

https://www.alancristea.com/artists/27-pablo-bronstein/

http://www.heraldst.com/pablo-bronstein

Julie Mehretu

https://art21.org/artist/julie-mehretu/

https://whitecube.com/artists/artist/julie_mehretu

Los Carpinteros

https://www.skny.com/artists/los-carpinteros

https://www.artsy.net/artist/los-carpinteros

Sigrid Holmwood

http://www.annelyjudafineart.co.uk/artists/sigrid-holmwood

http://www.sigridholmwood.co.uk/projects

Thank you, I will look at these.

Pointers for the next assignment

  • Continue as you are and experiment more with the boundaries of drawing, testing new combinations of materials and trying new techniques.
  • Consider the relationship between representation and abstraction within your work, and explore the potential these contrasts have to generate inventive compositions.
  • Collate a list of artists/artworks/contextual influence, which you find most exciting, summarising your reasons and drawing connections to your own practice.
  • Start to think about key subject matter that you are interested in and begin developing your ideas with sketchbook work during part 4, towards the independent part 5.
  • Write a reflection on this report in your learning log with a short piece of writing summarising the main points.
  • Please inform me of how you would like your next report, written or video/audio.
  • As a side note, your work was extremely well boxed for delivery, but arguably over packaged and the OCA size recommendations. If sending work in the future let me know beforehand, so we can discuss this.

Sorry about that, I will use a smaller box next time – it was the recommendation of MailBoxes, but I can see that brown paper – rather than a box – would probably have been better.

 

 

Assignment 3. Expanse.

For this assignment I chose an image that I see often and have sketched during this Part; the view from the end of the meadow where I walk every day that I am at home, and have seen in all lights and weathers (although never, I suppose, darkness). I wanted to recreate this image using what I have learnt here in this part, also with reference to the work of Peter Doig and Arkhip Kiundzhi (see learning log and research reflection). It is an image that is, even in winter, consistently full of green and brown, with an architectural construction to the foreground (half hidden in the trees and bushes), with the bend in the river visible at the centre and acting as a vanishing point. Ironically, the largest man-made item – the boathouse – blends into the landscape with the weathered brown wood perhaps more than the vivid green lawn, although that colour is probably in fact also man made, in the sense that they will have used chemical products.

Here it is in spring, ironically with a sky far bluer than this largely burning summer of 2019, although this day was overcast, which comes next, and winter (I can’t find an autunn image):

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Here, picked out in more detail, is a part that I really like – the bend in the river, the willow tree (at the end of a dog-walking companion’s garden, as a present from his daugher for her wedding many years ago), and just a glimpse of the brilliant green of a Kuindzhi-like lawn beyond. It is raining in this image, and the whiteness of the impact of the rain hitting the river reminded me a little of Doig’s white canoe painting.

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The other key thing is that to the right of the viewing point, there is a wooden structure which comes straight out of a Doig painting. It has a stage jutting out, where one morning when I had to be there very early (around 6.30am) I saw an elderly man come out on to the veranda to sit with his coffee. But most of the time it is deserted and mysterious. It has something of the look of some of the buildings I saw in paintings in an exhibition (‘Experience America’, an exhibtion of artists  funded through Roosevelt’s New Deal rogram to look to the Nation’s land and people for subjects ) from the 1930s at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington DC, such as these farm buildings  by the Japanese-American artist Kenjiro Nomura:

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Kenjiro Nomura The Farm, 1934, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from Department of Labor.

As the plate said

‘His paintings of red barns set among reen fields conjures an image of home that was comfortable to most American audiences of the 1930s, but the dark windows and gathering storm are disquieting. The absence of people and farm animals also conveys a bleak mood’.

Likewise, this isolated house by Edward Hopper (1882-1967) conveys a blank, bleak, people-less image:

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Edward Hopper (1933) Ryder’s House Oil on Canvas Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

Of course Hopper’s paintings are generally bleak and often free of people, but they are usually urban landscapes so I was interested to see this piece. It has the same intense loneliness as the red barns and the boathouse by the river in the view that I have chosen for the assignment.

This riverscape is a complex image for drawing. There is the river itself, with possible ripples and movement, reflections and light; the sky usually with clouds and variations in colour; the lawns and trees; the left bank of the river, which is much wilder and unkempt; the point from which the viewer stands, with reeds and willow herb and general proliferation of undergrowth.  I spent a while thinking about this image,  and what I might do to simplify it. Usually I do this by leaving things out at the end, or accepting mistakes which do not represent things correctly, but this time I wanted to take a more Doig or Kuindzhi approach and think about the essence of the picture. I wondered if one way to do this was to think first about what I definitely wanted to have, how they would be (what time of day, and what weather and season) and what sort of picture it was going to be. So I made a list of things I wanted to keep, and thought that I should design the picture around those:

  • the bend in the river, as the vanishing point
  • the green lawns (or at least one) with a bright finger of light, Kuindzhi-style
  • a still morning, with morning light and calm water (before the dog swam)
  • the wooden boathouse, although possibly using a slightly different image (this one is difficult to see from the viewing point as there is the river in between, and I am not sure how the veranda is constructed).
  • the abundant foliage of the hedges to the left and foreground, although I need a way of simplifying them
  • the grasses and reeds at the base of the picture
  • the weeping willow, with its almost supernatural light colour, reflection and distinctive shape

and then if possible/necessary also:

  • the tree on the lawn with a solid trunk and tree – structure (the other foliage is mostly unstructured)
  • the pine tree to the right, an interesting black green colour

All that suggests that some parts can be left out – some of the messy foliage at the front and to the right, although I need to cover the front of the boathouse (you can’t see how it is structured underneath from the bank). In fact, the whole of the right bank has a mystery for me because I have never been there – neither to the gardens nor the boathouse – and I would like to try to convey that.

My original plan was to do this in water colour or other water based paints, and I made various sketches to see how this would work. For example, this is with inktense pencils:

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I like these pencils, there is something rather magical about the way they change when you put the water on, a little like those colouring books that you (well, I) used to have as a very young child, where you put water on a crudely drawn picture and colours appear. But the problem is – as with all magic – that you do not really feel in control, so while it sometimes comes out well – as with the hedge on the left bank – it sometimes emerges hideous – as with the blue on the water in the river, or the green at the front and this is very difficult to repair.

Another sketch I tried in acryllic paint, with the boathouse and wooden bank edged in pencil:

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It was a real pleasure to use paints again, after so much drawing on this course, but I felt that this was probably not permitted for the assignment itself, so I did not spend much time trying to improve the painting. I know that the sketch of the boat house is wrong – illustrating the importance of getting the vertical lines straight.  I liked the way the willow tree came out, and the green-black colour of the fir tree and the water under the boath house. But  I see a problem with trying to achieve the bright green of the lawn – if the willow tree is also its own bright green colour, there will be no highlighting of the lawn. And the boathouse should be detailed, which will be very difficult in acryllic – I think this needs to be in pencil or ink.

I next did a sketch to work out the vanishing point and perspective in more detail, as follows:

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The boat house is too big here, in relation to the distance to the vanishing point, but it was useful to get some practice at thinking about the underneath of the boat house and for drawing the parts that you can’t see from the river bank. The best way to do it is to think of the veranda as a box, which is how I have tried to do it here. At the right I chose another vanishing point way beyond the page, on the edge of the table but horizontal with the other vanishing point, and made the balcony of the veranda on the right disappear towards that distant point.

For the final sketch I tried watercolour, but using it quite thickly to see what kind of colours and tone it was possible to achieve:

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This was just a quick sketch – to test the possibilities of the effects on the water, and the brightness of the colours, both of which work reasonably well, But this illustrates the importance of measuring, because the trees and boathouse are out of proportion with each other. And in the end, I decided to use pencil in the first instance, and a variety of other drawing media – this is a drawing course, and although I can imagine achieving something reasonably good with paint (preferably acryllic) in terms of some of the assessment criteria – observational and compositional skills, visual awareness and so on – I am not sure that I could demonstrate sufficiently the technical skills of drawing that I have learnt on the course, nor the application of knowledge. I decided to draw with pencil and tinted charcoal in the first instance, with soluble graphite and use watercolour paint where more intense colour was needed.

So I took a sheet of cold-pressed A1 paper (recommended as good for water-based paint) and taped it to an A1 board. I drew a border to obtain an internal space which was more or less equivalent in proportions to the photograph when in landscape. I took a vanishing point that was a third of the distance from the left and then adjusted the portion of the photograph that I took so that it fitted. This was about half way down the page, but during the course of the during I cut off the bottom of the space, so in fact the vanishing point was a third of a way up the paper as well. In this way, although I did not use a viewing frame, I did more or less achieve the proportions of the image.

These two images illustrate some progress, having outlined the basic structure. I was still using pencil alone up until this stage, and had not yet cut off the bottom section.

 

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Here I have started to use some (Derwent tinted) charcoal  for the trees and the boathouse – ‘driftwood’ for the fir tree, ‘green moss’ for the willow, ‘peat’ for the hedge on the left, and ‘glowing embers’ for the boathouse. I started to build up some different colours for the fir tree, using a dark green/black colour as well. The reflections are clear in the photograph, so I drew them in using charcoal as well. But something else was required for the larger expanses of water; I wanted to preserve the muted monochrome feel, so I used soluble graphite in grey with a touch of black in the foreground of the water – also for the windows of the boathouse. Actually, looking back, I think this was the point at which I liked the drawing best.

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Finally I added some reeds in the foreground, drawing on Peter Doig – and the bright green (in watercolour) on the lawn, for a touch of Kuindzhi. I used very pale grey and white soluble graphite for a cloud. I used a slightly red graphite pencil to obtain the pillars holding up the boathouse – which are red brick in real life (well the one I can see anyway) in contrast to the dark and light wood of the veranda and the boathouse itself.

The final result has achieved some of the things that I wanted from this drawing. I believe that I have learnt something about using linear perspective – for the river banks, the lawn, the hedge, the veranda and other lines of the front of the boathouse (I could never have done this before doing the course). I found the drawing of the boathouse really difficult – not least because I have never been able to see underneath the structure – but also because the angle is difficult. I believe that the muted colours – contrasting with the dark of the foreground and the bright rather artificial green of the lawn work well, and the drawing as a whole has something of the mirrored stillness that I had hoped to achieve.

Less successful were my attempts to follow either Peter Doig or Arkhip Kuindzhi. In the end I was too scared of spoiling an assignment drawing to get the dramatic contrasts and simplicity of Kuindzhi or the ‘oneness’ ideas of the ideas of Doig, where he pursues one idea and theme across the whole picture, as with the White Canoe (with the red, green, black, white), or  the twigs across the whole of The Architect’s home in the ravine. I have taken only a few tentative steps in that direction. But I might take these ideas further at some point, when I am painting (these are after all artists most well known for painting) and I am pleased to have tried and experimented with some ideas.

Actually the only artist that anyone has suggested that this study evokes is the English painter Eric Ravilious (1903-1942), famous for his watercolours of English landscapes. And it is true that having done this, made me think that I would like to try drawing a landscape – hills and fields – in these muted colours and drawing techniques and that it would indeed look more like Ravillious, a painter whose work is better suited to the media that I have used than Doig, for example. I have never thought before about this but his work always look as if it was in some sense drawn (and indeed pencil was used for the image below). The watercolours of Ravilious have muted colours and a linear, angular feel that seems to lack the colour and emotion of oil painters like Doig: as this review of a 2011 exhibition put it:

“His paintings are often emotionally cool; the palette is restrained, the paint application light and dry, with plenty of white showing, and lots of hatching and stippling. There is a sense of detachment in them, as well as a hint of the mysterious or surreal: they are a strange combination of bleak, odd and enchanting.” (Laity, 2011)

The Ravilious Gallery and Collection Library is a new dedicated space at Towner Art Gallery, presenting changing exhibitions of works by Eric Ravilious selected from Towner’s extensive collection of his work.

Eric Ravillious, 1932 Newt Pond, Pencil and Watercolour

 

If I were to start this drawing again, I think I would go for something of this mystery that Ravilious demonstrates and emphasise some of the features that were there in the early stages of the drawing – the emptiness, the white spaces, and the clarity of the images. This is after all a mysterious place, you view it from the other bank, the other side of the river and you can see obvious signs of human habitation (the greenness and smoothness of the lawn, the boathouse and occasionally but not portrayed here – perhaps I would show it in another incarnation of the drawing – a chair at the end of one of the lawns), but only once (in many years) have I actually seen a human, so there is the emptiness that Doig and Ravillious emphasise. The alternative would be to use vivid oil or acryllic paint and go full-on Doig, with red for the boathouse (which I might reinvent in American settler style with the red walls and dark interior of the Nomura painting of farm buildings above), a green jungle in the foreground, black water and perhaps some white lashings of rain. I think that is more for the painting course to come, but I will reserve the idea.

Meeting the assessment criteria?

So, have I met the criteria for this assignement? I believe that I have illustrated some technical and visual skills, and  demonstrated some  observational skills. I think I have started to develop some design and compositional skills, in terms of simplifying and structuring the image, although there is a long way to go. The quality of outcome is flawed in many ways, but it has something of what I wanted to convey and is certainly much better than my assignment for the second Part of the course, so there is evidence of progression. Likewise, in this part of the course more generally, I believe I have moved a little in the direction of creativity, in terms of imagination and expertimentation (in thought, if not in practice). And I believe that I am beginning to learn how to constructivley critique my own work, although I need to start reading more essays and critical reviews and referencing them in this blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laity, P, (2011) ‘Eric Ravilious: Ups and Downs’, The Guardian, 30th April 2011.