Part 5: The Personal Project – Assignment Criteria and Reflection

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills (35%)

  • Materials: I think I have developed an awareness of which materials work best for me now and how best to apply them. I have also discovered ways of using each item to its strengths, for example I use charcoal for quick work with barely any detail and biro for slightly slower work with more detail. Whilst I think it was important to play to my strengths for my final piece, I admit I would have liked to have used those I do not feel as strong in and try to develop them further. I think I need to think outside of the box more with such things and not work in such a ‘traditional’ way, but to attempt to be more contemporary with my methods and creativity.
  • Techniques: Again, I feel I have discovered what works best for me and have played to my strengths for this final part of the course, however, I would have liked to have had more time to experiment and strengthen those I am not as strong in. Perhaps this will be an opportunity in another area of my learning journey and on the side of my formal studies.
  • Observational Skills: I feel my observational skills have improved drastically over the duration of the course and my ability to reflect critically on my own work and to distance myself from it emotionally has also improved. I do agree with my tutor’s previous comments about my lines being too jagged when working quickly and the need to be more flexible with this, however, having monitored myself as I carried out such exercises, I think this is due to the size restrictions of the paper and the length of the lines I am able to create quickly. I think perhaps I need to slow down slightly and concentrate on these lines in quicker work specifically. I think I have been more conscious of this in this part of the course and the quick sketches created.
  • Visual Awareness: I feel I have been much more able to hone-in better in this part of the course and have been quite successful in filling my page with interesting visual information. Again, I think it would be nice to be able to instill some colour within my work, however, I did not feel this final assignment the correct place to experiment further with this and will hopefully revisit it further down the line. I tried to recreate the same piece several times this time around and found that by doing so, I was able to get a hold of the general shape better, such as one would when driving the same route on a daily basis.
  • Design: I think my final designs have been creative and very inclusive of the key strengths noted by myself and my tutor. Again, I feel I stayed within my strengths solely to be able to achieve the strongest possible outcome for my assignment.
  • Compositional Skills: I think my use of grids to assist me in getting the overall initial basic shape onto the paper to then allow me to work expressively and freely but to a set ‘outline’ has really worked for me. I do find that my natural ability to recreate a likeness in shape is progressing with each preliminary sketch, however, when I want to have a more accurate depiction for my actual final piece, for now, I find the grids really do assist me. I think I have worked well with the composition of my pieces this time and have come up with the most interesting options for my final piece sufficiently. I do, however, still feel that I need more practice in this area.

Quality of Outcome (20%)

  • Content: I think my content for my final piece is very interesting and has some rather interesting angles, foreshortening and semi-abstraction. I think it is rather well connected to my artist’s statement, but I do think that perhaps the connection could still be clearer in some way. With more time, I think I could have included more experiments to try to strengthen this.
  • Application of Knowledge:  I think I have applied the lessons learned throughout this course well, having reflected on this via the mind maps. I am concerned as to whether or not my tutor will consider that I have applied too much of the lessons learned thus far, but feel confident that I have stripped it back to those most essential and have eliminated the excess as well as possible.
  • Presentation of Work in a Coherent Manner: My learning log is rather well documented and can be found and followed chronologically via the menu. I think I could have perhaps included more explanation within my sketchbook as to how I have reached a certain decision, but feel it could still be well interpreted alongside the learning log interpretation.
  • Discernment: I think my use of the mind maps to be able to investigate, narrow and then conclude upon the best course of action for my final piece for this part of the course so as to only include the essential and strongest elements learned so far. However, I think I could potentially have carried out more ‘working out’ and created a deeper analysis of my work’s progression to the end result.
  • Conceptualisation of Thoughts: I think my use of mind maps this time has really helped me gather my thoughts in a more concise way and one in which I can understand them more clearly. However, as I am working, I do find that there are often times when I will change my mind rather quickly and not note the reasons for these changes down on my learning log or in my sketchbook. I think I may need to instill some form of ‘diary’ to keep with me at all times and to document everything as I go, so when I come to typing my learning log section, I will be able to include all areas and aspects of ideas and what was actually done and why.
  • Communication of Ideas: Again, I feel this ties very closely with the Conceptualisation of Thoughts area of the course and that instilling a ‘diary’ of sorts will help alleviate any areas of miscommunication or misunderstanding.

Demonstration of Creativity (25%)

  • Imagination: I feel this assignment has been my most creative by far and has come about as a combination of both my tutor’s feedback and my own self-reflection, as well as from the information garnered from my use of the mind maps. I do think I am finding that I seem to prefer to be rather traditional in my methods and perhaps I do need to be more open to contemporary creativity and imagination which push the boundaries and are that little bit more riskier in approach.
  • Experimentation:  Whilst I have not been too experimental in this part of the course due to time restraints, I did experiment with previous strengths as to how I could incorporate such strengths within this final piece to assist in creating the strongest possible result.
  • Invention: I think my method of using mind maps to discern what my final piece for this part should be was rather successful and has helped me reach the strongest results. Again, I created another questionnaire to assist me with my decisions on the final choices and to note any amendments made and the reasons for these. I do not think I should always limit myself to my strengths, but I felt this the best course of action for my final piece for this part of the course.
  • Research: Whilst there was no requirement to carry out research in this part of the course, I felt I needed to do so to be able to assist me with the best ways to move forward.
  • Critical Thinking (Learning Logs): I think my learning log has remained well documented and constructed. I do think, however, that I should ensure to include any quick changes and different choices in future courses by instilling the diary, as noted above.

Part 5.4: Final Piece

I began my final piece by choosing two subjects which I could not decide between and started with two pieces of A1 paper (knowing larger scales work best for my method of working). It was my hope that as I moved through the creative process with both pieces, it would become more apparent to me as to which piece should become my final piece and which was more successful than the other before finally settling on the one final option.


I decided from my experimentation that the strongest result was from that of a surface of newspaper and also the ink as I found these the most appealing, however, I later changed my mind and decided from looking at earlier experiments that I actually preferred found papers due to their cleaner black and white appearance as opposed to the grey of the newspaper. I also then decided that using tea staining would create even more texture than the ink due to the way in which ink appeared to dry smoothly, whereas tea staining would dry where it lay, creating a marbled effect on the found papers.

Once this surface was ready to work on, I decided to draw a grid on both pieces to assist me with laying my chosen subjects down roughly but accurately. I then removed the grids and outlined the subjects in charcoal to assist in being able to see it easier whilst working into the pieces.

It was at this stage that I realised that the second of my pieces was not really working. I found that the human subject only reached halfway up the page with the tree subject covering the remaining half of the page. I felt that if I were to continue, the tree would become more excess space than interesting detail, as well as creating a bit of a battle with the human subject to claim the foreground of the piece, when I would actually prefer the human subject to be the main focal point and the tree important but secondary in the background.

Initial Detail of the Human Subject in Biro

Face, Hair and Hands

Detail of face, hair and hands

I decided to begin filling in the detail of the human subject by using black biro, as I knew there were a few very fine details which needed to be considered very delicately (the face, hair and hands) and my earlier experiments have led me to understand that biro is my strongest tool in this area.

When working on these areas, I decided not to draw the actual shapes I could see, but the shadows, patches of tone and the contrasts within them all as I wanted them to be as deep and as strong as possible to create depth and the sense that the human was quite three-dimensional. With regard to the hair, I decided that the biro was the strongest tool for the base shape and flow of the strands as I could manipulate the direction and shape of my lines to create a realistic representation, but also to help assist the viewer in distinguishing the hair from the deep shadows and the rolls which make up the bun at the back.

Arms, Torso, Buttocks and Leg

Once I had completed the finer detailed areas, I moved on to the remaining areas of the human subject’s body and created subtle marks and cross-hatching to show the movement of the skin over the underlying bones and muscles to create depth and shape within the flat surface and to subliminally inform the viewer the direction the lines are moving in and the roundness this adds.

Detail of arms, torso, buttocks and legs

Initial Detail of the Tree Subject in Biro

I then began using the same method with the biro for the tree as I had the human form, to stay light and delicate, but to simply give the tree its rounded form by subliminally showing the direction the lines are moving in.

Detail of Tree Subject

From here, I added a layer of charcoal to the tree and sealed it with pastel fixative.

I was quite surprised by the changes which developed in the marks created with the pen from the application of the fixative as it seemed to make the lines bleed somewhat and bring out the different under-layers of colour used to build the ink to its black hue. I actually rather enjoyed the surprise result and decided to try and work with it.

I later returned to my piece, having worked in stages throughout the development, deciding that the single layer of charcoal on the tree was effective, but needed more work to show a differentiation between the ground, the roots and the trunk of the tree, but also to stop the human subject from appearing to float in the air.

Additional Media Usage

I then moved on to adding several additions to the piece.

Firstly, I used a putty rubber to redact some of the charcoal to increase the definition around the edges of the collaged paper with the intention of this to subtly stand out as though real bark would itself. This did not really appear to work so well as the layer of charcoal was actually rather thin in the first place, so not much was lifted. There was also the matter that I had used the pastel fixative a little too prematurely, in hindsight, so I decided to rethink my methods and come back to the piece at another time with fresh eyes.

When I returned to the piece, I used the black biro to work back through the piece to create differentiated lines to break up the single directional lines previously created and to deepen some areas I had already created, but felt I had overlooked slightly.

Next, I added some black marker marks to the piece and finally a layer of black acrylic paint pens as I liked how the layers of black lines seemed to deepen and created that layered effect my tutor had tried to get me to develop earlier in the course. I also worked on creating a definition in my grounds by bringing a sense of grass to the area beneath the model and at the base of the tree’s roots.

I used the acrylic marker to also make apparent the different edges of the paper I had used to create a collage, within the tree to emphasise the bark. I felt doing this would be a much more natural way of creating the bark as opposed to trying to create my own example of the same. I felt it rather fitting to emphasise the use of paper in a piece expressing a love and appreciation of trees and the extent to which we humans rely upon the same.


Once I had finished my piece, I took a while away from it to be able to see it with fresh eyes before returning to be able to reflect without continuing and potentially overworking the piece.

I think I could potentially added a little more shadow to the human subject’s flank on her right-hand side to assist in grounding her further and showing the form of the root on that side also. I think I could have worked further with the bark markings to create shadow to one side and add more texture as the result shown above appears a little cartoon-like.

Finally, I think there could perhaps be some excess space within the piece which could be removed and the piece cropped to have more of an impact (as shown below), however, I do think the space in the result above does add to the grandness of the tree.

Reflection Cropping Idea

Part 5: Artist's Statement and Questions

Artist’s Statement: Combining the Human Form with that of Trees, using Mixed Media, Line and Tone

For this Part of the course, I began by working back and reflecting on my earlier exercises, projects, assignments, parts, research, tutor recommendations and feedback, as well as my own self-reflection, to be able to pinpoint key areas of strengths and to help me with developing an idea for my final piece.

From this reflection, I feel I have a very strong passion and greatest strength for, and in, the figure, but also with other more natural and organic forms, most notably trees.  Whilst I feel other exercises such as still life and architecture have been good for me to experiment with and develop my understanding of deeper aspects of the ‘rules’ within art, they do not hold much in the way of interest and intrigue for me, but also they do not appear to be as strong as the aforementioned topics, so I feel it now necessary to discard the ‘themes’, whilst still retaining the lessons learned (i.e. perspective and other technical skills) and producing a final, much stronger and more focussed piece.

After considering the reflective process and determining that my strengths lie in the human form and the organic form of trees, I began to question whether I could potentially combine the two and how strong I could potentially make the end result.  Perhaps I could create a piece of a person next to a tree in some form of pose?  Or maybe create a person in the form of a tree, or vice versa? 

I decided to carry out some research into artists who have worked in a similar sort of way to what I was considering doing. I came across several artists, whose work and my findings can be found by clicking here.

From this research and reflection, I decided that I would like my final piece to incorporate a human and a tree.  I decided I would create several sketches of different several compositions and then, from there, I would move on to reflecting on the medium experiments recently finished to find which options would work best for the strongest sketches.  I will then create a few drafts of the chosen sketch with the chosen media before moving on to creating my final piece.

The result I want to achieve is a combination of human and tree forms to really invite the viewer to appreciate the complexity of our closeness as humans to our organic foliage counterparts.  Neither humans nor plants could live without the other, thanks to the wonders of the universe and the science of photosynthesis; the trees provide us with shelter and food, but also – and most importantly – the clean air we breathe.  In turn, we are able to return the favour, so to speak, by assisting the trees in their growth by assisting with feeding and pruning etc. 

It saddens me that we abuse our silent counterparts so drastically, but then, without this, there would be no paper for me, as an artist, to convey my message.  It is a very complex circle of life, however, I think we need the trees and other plants much more than they need us and this ‘leaning on’ by humans is something I would hope to convey to my viewers.

Questions from Course Textbook

After finalising my Artist Statement, I decided to create a questionnaire holding the questions in the course textbook so that, as I am working through the different experiments, I am able to write down my chosen option and the reason why this was chosen, so I could quickly reflect and pinpoint when beginning my final piece, as well as any amendments and the reasons for these. I felt this would assist me when self-assessing at the end of this Part. The document used when creating my final piece can be seen below: