Part 3: Project 1: Trees

Exercise 1: Sketching Individual Trees

For this exercise, I decided to use a piece of A2 paper and divided it roughly into four (I didn’t measure this, I just drew a line roughly where I thought the centre was both vertically and horizontally). I walked around my local park and settled upon this tree for this exercise. I followed the instructions for the exercise but found them rather frustrating as the first and third instructions seemed almost identical, as did the second and fourth. I carried on regardless and am actually rather pleased with the outcome. I tried to stay very basic in my first and third sketches, focusing mostly on the outline, as instructed in my course manual, and then included more detail of the shadow in blocks of charcoal for the second, but with no real regard for the textures etc, trying to take note of my tutor’s comments in my feedback for Part 2 to try to use patches of tone as opposed to blending too much. For the fourth piece, I tried to show the shadows, as well as the textures of the mossy areas of the tree and also drew in more of the finer branches. I tried to stay rather fluid and quick within my sketches and was actually rather pleased with the fourth and final piece. I found I did not really look at my page for the first and third sketches as much as I did the second and fourth, but I think this was because I wanted to place the areas of shadow and texture as accurately as possible, whereas when it was just the outline, I was not as focussed on getting things in precisely the correct place.

I really enjoyed the fluidity of the charcoal, but think I would like to try using a biro for the next exercise, due to it asking for more detail to the tree and to take a longer time in doing so. The charcoal would be too quick for this I feel.

Exercise 1: Sketching individual trees

Questions from Course Textbook

What techniques did you use to distinguish one species of tree from another?

I tried to pay attention to how the bark differed; whether by colour, texture or pattern. I also tried to note the difference in the shapes and colours of the leaves, as well as how the branches and trunk grew or twisted. I also used an app to help me identify the species.

How did you convey the mass of foliage and the spaces between?

For this exercise, having tried to indicate the main shapes of the tree, I chose to zoom in and ignore the foliage, concentrating solely on the movement and shapes of the trunk and branches.

How did you handle light on the different parts of the tree?

I tried to use the method of scrunching up my face to see the fall of light on the tree. I used blocks of tone as well as rubbings in places to represent the texture / light fall on the trunk as I found that the light would find the contours of the bark, creating smaller patches of light and dark areas all over.

Did you manage to select and simplify? Look at your drawings and make notes on how you did this, and what you could have done better.

I think I was rather successful at simplifying, owing to my tutor’s comments regarding my assignment piece for Part 2. I do think the sketches could have been better if I had included the foliage and the difference in the light and dark patches of tone within them.

Exercise 2: Larger Observational Study of an Individual Tree

I began this exercise by drawing the outline of a tree I had come across in my local park. I tried to look closely at the outline of the tree, blocking out all of the background information to see the tree clearer.

Outline of tree in biro on A2 page

Next, I decided to work my way up the tree, adding in the tone of the tree and the blocks of tone in the shadows in the different parts of the tree’s flank and limbs. I specifically chose this tree due to the contrast in the patches of tone, which seemed to play a big part of my feedback, as well as the need to work on my form. The patches of tone in this tree almost abstracted the form of the tree, which helped me to see it better and not just to draw what I thought it should look like.

I didn’t want to apply too much in the way of background information to this piece, but wanted to ground the tree somewhat, so included a little area of grass around the bottom.

Creating the detail and patches of tone

I really tried to consider what my tutor had said in my feedback about depth and how I should create the outline first and then let my expressive mark-marking loose inside the outline. I think this exercise was perfect for that as the skin of the tree had so much movement with lines going this way and that way, so I really did have fun with this exercise.

Further work on patches of tone

Going off my tutor’s feedback and her comment regarding excess space within my piece, I decided to step back from the work I had done so far and rethink the piece. I decided if I were to continue with the top of the tree, it would become too top-heavy and the excess space was rather a lot. My tutor advised me to crop when I felt it necessary, so I listened to my instinct and decided to cut it down somewhat. There is still a fair bit of excess space in the piece to either side of the tree, but I think it adds a little illusion to the piece and, together with the patches of tone and cropping, creates a sense of abstraction.

Finished piece

Exercise 3: Study of Several Trees

For this exercise, I tried to remember my tutor’s comments regarding building my image in layers. I started with a layer of brown oil pastel, followed by a layer of green and then worked on adding the other colours I could see in my chosen viewpoint. I took a step back after this and realised the tree held no texture and there did not appear to be much definition between the foreground, middle-ground and background, so I decided to continue to lighten the background with a ‘wash’ of white oil pastel, as this was where the source of light from the daytime sitting had come from and then darkened and deepened the colours of the foreground somewhat with darker shades of the colours and also black oil pastel, and applied some texture throughout with expressive mark-making, but trying to maintain the three separate sections at the same time.

Reflection

I really enjoyed studying the trees and thought it may be somewhat similar to drawing the human figure and all of the ways of movement both can achieve.

I think these exercises were brilliant in helping me practise my tonal work and to experiment on my tutor’s comments regarding this. Whilst I drew the outline of the tree, I did not bother much with trying to ‘draw’ a tree as opposed to drawing the different patches of black, white and varied strengths of grey, leading to what I think is a much better representation of the tree than if I were to have tried to draw the tree itself.

Part Two: Intimacy – Preliminary Work

Before I began this part of the course (and before I received my tutor’s feedback), I decided to play with all of the media discussed in the course textbook by creating the same pieces in each media; one half of the page using a vibrant palette, the other using a muted palette, to see how the differing media worked and which ones suited which palette best.

Materials and Tools

Coloured Pencil

Vibrant and Muted Palettes in Pencil Crayon

Watercolour Pencils

Vibrant and Muted Palettes in Watercolour Pencils

Wax Crayons

Vibrant and Muted Palettes in Wax Crayons

Soft Pastels

Oil Pastels

Vibrant and Muted Palettes in Oil Pastel

Coloured Inks

Markers

Paper

Reflection

I think several media have worked better than others for both palettes. For the vibrant palette, I think the wax crayons, soft pastels, oil pastels and markers were all the best successful. The coloured inks were also successful, but were slightly less intense in their colours, which I was rather surprised at. For the muted palette, the coloured pencils, watercolour pencils and wax crayons worked best by far. Their colours were calm and gentle as opposed to bright and intense. Some other media worked rather well for this palette too, but were still rather bold in colour; the soft pastels and oil pastels. I believe this is due to their ability for blending and softening of the lines they were formed with. The markers and coloured inks were far too intense and bold to be viewed as muted. I will consider this as I move forward through this part of my course and try and use the best colours and media to suit the mood of the palette before me.

NB: Citation for the images used in my sketchbook can be found by clicking here.

Project 2: Exercise 1: Groups of Objects

Group of Objects

For this piece, I thought I would gather a few different objects from around the local art class I attend and sketch them whilst there.  I arranged some objects and, thinking the glass milk bottle would be the hardest piece to replicate due to its symmetry and difference in shade, tone and reflection, I made a sketch of it in my sketchbook to familiarise myself with the shape before continuing to the main piece.  I decided that, due to working on such a large scale, I would forgo the pencil and attempt the piece in willow charcoal instead.  I thought this would have a much bolder result on such a large-scale piece of paper than a pencil would and, since I was only concentrating on the outline, the pencil would be very fine and almost invisible if viewed from any amount of distance.  I was rather disappointed with the end result as I thought it had an almost cartoon-like appearance.  I was also disappointed that I had not managed to scale the objects properly in the beginning due to not measuring the objects out on the sheet first, but I thought it was quite good considering it was only a quick attempt and did not have much effort put into it really.

I then thought I would try a different group of objects due to the first not including anything loose and also wanting to try and draw the objects inside, as requested, which I had only then realised I had not done in the first piece.  I settled on my daughter’s bath toys and net bag.  I was rather dubious about the bag as I thought it much too delicate and intricate for my liking – I am not a fan of creating very fine, detailed work personally (and more so with my tremor sometimes deciding on the line’s direction and structure for me!) – and so expected to become frustrated by its delicateness.  I thought the pink jug would by far be the easiest object to recreate.  I began the piece by drawing two sketches in my sketchbook of the net bag and its enclosures to familiarise myself with the bag and the weight of the items inside it before continuing onto a larger scale. 

I created my larger piece in black biro on a sheet of A3 sketchpad paper.  I was actually pleasantly surprised by the end result of this piece; I had somehow managed to integrate delicate lines for such things as the net bag and the outline of the objects which could not be seen by the naked eye, but also deep, dramatic lines for the shaded areas.  I did not want to concentrate too heavily on the shaded areas due to the piece being mostly focussed on just an outline, but couldn’t help myself in adding just a little (and rather loosely) in certain parts of the picture to help clarify the depth and weight of the objects and their locations within the piece.

Final sketch of second group of objects

Reflection

I really enjoyed this exercise and have learned a lot from it.  Mostly I have learned that just because something looks as though it will be difficult to replicate, it is worth giving it a go as there may be different ways to recreate it without going very deeply into fine detail and precision. I think it is also important to try to visualise the items which are inside other items and understand their composure to appreciate how and why the final resting place comes to be. I think this will come in useful when drawing the figure; trying to imagine the placement of muscles and other tissue underneath the skin, why they are there, what purpose they serve and what impact they have on the image you see before you and also in architecture when considering the framework and foundation, and also who might inhabit each building, considering their individual stories. Finally, I think the structure of the objects and the spacing between items in the final piece is quite good compared to my earlier pieces. Perhaps this is because I am now beginning to see the importance of ‘reading between the lines’ so to speak. I will definitely be referring back to this piece in the future.

Project 1: Exercise 2: Experimenting with Texture

Texture

For this exercise, I began by looking around my home, workplace and pretty much every place I visited. I began the exercise by wiping some water across a page in my sketchbook in a swirling motion and dropped ink on top of it. I was surprised to see that the ink seemed to find the water and almost infect it – taking control of the water and merging together with it. Parts of this reminded me of the dense, heavy weight of petrol, whilst others (where the ink and water were quite light in their tone) reminded me of a soft and delicate velvet.

Below this experiment, I inverted the exercise, dropping ink onto the page and then using the drawing pen to create swirls with the ink. I then dropped some water onto the ink and was surprised to see the water was not so eager to merge with the ink. It appeared to have a will of its own. The ink slowly took hold of the water again, but there remained a large portion of the ink areas which stayed solely ink. These areas reminded me of a spider’s cobweb, whilst the mixed areas again reminded me of velvet.

When I had finished, I found the ink had run onto the table in several places, so I got a couple of wet-wipes and wiped the ink up. Bizarrely, I was much more impressed with the results on the wet-wipes than I was the ink in my sketchbook! This got me thinking as to just how differently media can result when on different surfaces. The end result reminded me of my chenille curtains or a marbled pillar somewhat and I just love how the ink has dispersed.

I then decided to focus on four different items which I felt represented very different textures and the potential to use very different media to represent them. I finally decided on the following textures and media:

  • Plastered artexed ceiling using oil pastel: I chose this item due to its apparently random design. I chose to use oil pastels because I thought that due to the ceiling’s texture appearing quite soft, somewhat powdery but also slightly oily. There was no very fine detail, which I also thought corresponded well with the oil pastels.
  • Chenille curtains: The texture of this, whilst appearing quite fluffy and glossy at first glance, was actually rather fine and sharp in the lines it held in its stitching. I really liked the shininess of the fabric and the way it reflected the light. I decided to use a calligraphy pen and ink to represent this texture as I thought I would be able to recreate the sharp, fine lines of the stitching, but also the glossiness of the fabric due to the glossiness of the ink.
  • Polyester school bag: I found this texture quite intriguing.  It was very fine in its detail and appeared almost bubble-like in its formation.  I decided I would use a HB pencil for this piece due to it being so delicate and feeling it would best represent the fine stitching.
  • Polypropylene door mat: I was drawn to this texture purely for its pattern of three lines horizontal, three lines vertical and so on.  I decided that this was very similar to the chenille curtains, but that I would use a black biro pen due to not requiring the glossy effect of the curtains.  This material was also rather rough and I enjoy working rather quickly and roughly with pen, so thought this a great media to work in.

When I actually began carrying out creating the pieces, I realised rather quickly that I had made the correct choices in some areas, but not in others.  I was really pleased with the outcome of the chenille; however, I was rather angry with the calligraphy pen.  When I started creating the lines, I found the ink didn’t really flow very well and that it appeared almost brown instead of the desired black.  In my frustration, I took the pen apart, squeezed the ink onto the page directly from the cartridge and moved in a crosshatch motion across the space.  I actually really liked the outcome and continued until I thought it was done.  I really enjoyed the horizontal and vertical line drawing in rapid succession for the mat too.  This is definitely something I would like to explore further down the line.  I expected to find the fine detail of the polyester bag rather infuriating to draw, but it was actually rather relaxing so, going back to my previous
exercise and the likeness to the ‘calm’ mood, the pencil suited the piece perfectly.

Finished Texture Piece
Finished Texture Pieces

Reflection

My immediate thoughts when reflecting on this exercise is that I think I could have chosen better media to work with.  The chenille, I think, would have looked much better in printing ink or even black oil pastel due to their density and shine, however, I do really like the outcome of this piece. I think it is because of the contrast between the light and the dark, the positive and the negative.  I think the artexed ceiling should have been replicated in chalk or soft pastels as I think they would have suited the texture better and could have created a more realistic feel.  Looking back, I almost feel as though I have repeated the expressive lines and marks task again as each piece seemed to invoke a different emotion in me; the chenille invoked frustration, anger, disappointment and then surprise when it actually seemed to work out somehow; the polyester bag filled me with a sense of calm, but also relief when I had finally finished the piece; the polypropylene door mat filled me with a sense of giddiness of working in such short, sharp bursts in a media I seemed to just connect with instantly; the artexed ceiling caused disappointment and sadness due to it just not turning out how I had imagined and hoped, but then also acceptance when I admitted to myself that it was an experiment and I would learn from it. 

Frottage

I soon realised frottage is something I did quite a lot as a child and have done with my own children without realising there was even a name for it!  I quickly learned it was an artist called Max Ernst who actually developed the technique in 1925 (though, personally, I think the concept itself must have been around for a very long time without actually being classed as a method of art or documented etc) and, having done some brief research into who Max Ernst was and what he did, I instantly wanted to have a play at creating a piece of my own quickly in Ernst’s style (I waited, however, until I had an idea as to which surfaces would provide the best results).  I was surprised how someone could create work so fantastic and so detailed from a concept so simple and how relatively recently in the history of the world it was that someone discovered and claimed it! 

To begin the actual exercise, I wanted to try some experiments with several different textured surfaces in charcoal pencil.  I wanted to work in the same media to see just how differently one media could transfer and create different markings, depth and tone.

Frottage experiments page 1

I decided to work with a paving stone, the outer casing of my cat’s litter box, a wooden door, a tyre, a piece of scrap wood my husband uses for cutting and drilling on, the concrete flooring of our garage, a metal sheet base of our trailer and a leaf I found whilst walking along.  I expected some items to have more of an impact than others (notably the concrete floor, the paving stone, the wooden door, the scrap wood, the litter box casing and the metal sheet). 

Frottage experiments page 2

Whilst working on the individual pieces, it became rather apparent that my initial predictions were rather hit and miss.  Some were accurate (the scrap wood, litter tray and metal sheet were what I would call a success), whilst others were rather disappointing (the paving, concrete flooring and wooden door opened my eyes – or rather fingers – to the fact that sometimes, just because a surface looks as though it has a lot of texture, does not mean it will transfer well in this method).  I was also pleasantly surprised by the leaf, as I did not expect the result of this one to be anywhere near as good or as detailed as it was.  It is my favourite by far and definitely something I would like to redo again.

Since I no longer had the leaf and the weather outside meant I wouldn’t be able to find any I could use soon enough, I chose to draw a leaf as though lying on the floor and then added a sky in the background.  I decided to use the metal sheet for the leaf, the litter box for the ground and the concrete floor for the sky due to it having an appearance of clouds when used in pencil.  I chose to use oil pastels as I thought it quite a contrast to the pencil and would provide a very different result.  I decided to use a different colour for each section just to make clear the different parts and separate types of surfaces.  The end result was quite juvenile in appearance and something I would actually be ashamed to say I did, so I was rather disappointed, but the process itself was rather fun and definitely a good experiment to try. 

Oil pastel frottage
Oil pastel frottage in style of Max Ernst

Finally, I decided to make a rubbing of my ceiling again, but this time in white oil pastel.  I actually draw into the negative space (the parts which had remained brown) with a black oil pastel.  I quite like this result too and think it looks a bit more ‘mature’.  It reminds me of a maze with no exits and plenty of dead-ends, so this piece intrigues me more than the actual picture.  Also, I think if I am struggling to work out how best to draw a surface’s textures, I will use this method and either incorporate it into my work or use the result as a guide when actually drawing the texture myself.

I would definitely like to revisit this method further down the line, especially with leaves and other natural surfaces, however, I would like to attempt it with something like charcoal or conté sticks, as I think these are still close enough to a pencil’s firmness, but have a much darker and bolder end result. 

Sources

MoMA (unknown) ‘Max Ernst’ [online] At: https://www.moma.org/artists/1752 (Accessed on 15 February 2019)

Moderna Museet (unknown) ‘Collage, Frottage, Grattage…’ [online] At: https://www.modernamuseet.se/stockholm/en/exhibitions/max-ernst/collage-frottage-grattage/ (Accessed on 15 February 2019)

Encyclopaedia Britannica (unknown) ‘Max Ernst’ [online] At: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Max-Ernst (Accessed on 15 February 2019)