Assignment One

To begin this assignment, I decided to work through my previous exercises in coming up with my main piece.  I began by working out what I wanted to draw and why by creating a mind map:

Assignment One Mind Map

Preliminary Work for Final Piece

I had settled on several objects which were of significant importance to me, draw each one with eight different media (pencil, biro pen, drawing pen, ink and wash, soft pastels, oil pastels, watercolour pencils and charcoal).  I decided on the most suitable as follows:

Assignment One Group of Objects
  • Pearl bracelet: This item represents myself.  I was given this as a gift from my best friend for my wedding, so my emotional attachment to this object is very strong.  I also like how this object allows me to attempt to recreate spheres and a pearlized surface.  I decided after the mixed-media experiment that I really liked both the ink and wash and the charcoal to best represent this object.  The charcoal is much more flexible in recreating the pearlized surface and can also be lifted with a putty rubber if needed for the lighter areas.  
  • Metal tool: This item belongs to my husband, who is a mechanic and whose (almost!) whole life revolves around his phenomenal capabilities with objects such as this.  This object also allows me to recreate a reflective surface, but also offers a textured surface in the middle section, where I intend to use or recreate a piece of frottage.  My favourite resulting media for this object was the charcoal and soft pastels due to their ability to blend and be lifted with a putty rubber as and when needed.
  • Cactus plant and pot: This object belongs to my eldest daughter, who has a love of cactuses (possibly because it doesn’t matter so much if she forgets to water them every now and again! Haha!).  For the cactus, I preferred the charcoal and soft pastel as I felt they gave the object the rough and furry appearance it holds in real life.  I also really like the drawing pen as this really recreates the spikiness of the plant’s spines well.  For the plant pot, I really liked the charcoal as it was the best result in creating a smooth, flat (but curved) surface, but also the messy texture of the soil.
  • Toy sheep: This object belongs to my youngest daughter and was her bedtime buddy for a rather long time.  I found this object rather difficult to master with the majority of the media as they all seemed to add texture that would be present in actual wool, but not in a plastic toy.  I decided my favourite media for this was the pencil and watercolour pencils due to their smoothness.  I think, with more time and patience, the charcoal and soft pastel would also work better as they could be lifted with a putty rubber to show a reflection of light.
  • Pot towel: This represents our family home and life together.  Whilst a pot towel holds no actual significance, I liked that it is a good representation of fabric for texture and it was just the right size to put alongside my other items.  I found that my favourite media for this object was charcoal as it was the most accurate result.  My second favourite media was the oil pastel due to the white of the background showing through, similar to the actual object.

As a few quick exercises to familiarise myself with the group of objects before I got to work on my actual final piece, I decided to attempt some basic exercises I remembered from my school days:

  • A continuous line drawing: I wanted to practice my skill of looking without removing my pencil from the page or looking down and relying solely on my hand / eye co-ordination to reach a final piece.  Whilst I think the piece looks like something my three-year-old could do, I can see my skill of looking is actually improving somewhat and it is something I will work on more going forward, especially if I am going to create quick, rough sketches of things which may move position quickly (such as people in a café etc).
Assignment One continuous line drawing
  • A drawing with my left (non-dominant) hand:  I am rather ambidextrous anyway, but I thought by attempting to use my non-dominant hand, I may be able to remove my inhibitions and potentially see something with the other side of my brain which I hadn’t previously seen.  What resulted was actually that I could not really apply any pressure to the piece with the pencil.  I also found that my scaling ability was rather
Assignment One left-hand drawing

I also drew a ‘normal’ quick sketch of the group of objects, using very quick, rough marks to highlight points of note in the objects – the spines on the cactus, the folds in the material and so on.

Assignment One expressive lines and marks quick sketch

I then created another quick sketch of the basic shapes I could see in the group of objects as a point of reference when completing my final piece.

Assignment One basic shapes seen in group of objects

The End Result

I decided to begin my final piece in charcoal as that had had the best results in my experiments.  I created a sketch of the basic shapes and outline of the piece, then moved on to creating a base layer of shadows and tone with willow charcoal.  Once I had finished that, I worked into the tone to deepen certain areas with a charcoal conté stick, lift areas with the lightest tonal value with a putty rubber and also used a white soft pastel conté stick for such areas as the cactus’s spines due to the ease of control provided.

Overall, I think this piece has been quite successful, however, I think I have misjudged the proportions and scale of the plant pot.  I really like how my pot towel worked out and have found a real passion for fabrics.  I found the metal tool rather hard to recreate due to still not having the best grasp on working with reflected light, but I think my pearl bracelet and plastic toy sheep has turned out rather well.  I really enjoyed creating the cactus, but think changing the spines to white instead of using the charcoal, as I did in my experimental sketch, has lost some of its structure and realism, although it does create a ‘fuzziness’ which is apparent in cacti, so maybe it is actually somewhat better than I think? 

Assignment One: Finished Piece

Looking at the piece from afar, I think I may have overworked the darkest tones and, in doing so, have created a cartoon-like response, which I was determined to try to avoid.  Maybe I should accept that that is just my style of working, but I am determined to improve in this area.  I have definitely learned some skills to take with me into the next part of my course.

Project 2: Exercise 2: Observing Shadow using Blocks of Tone

I decided to begin this exercise with a quick rough sketch using charcoal to depict light and shadow on the basic shapes and forms, magnifying my favourites to enable broader strokes. I really like the sphere (bottom right) with only a touch of the lightest tone and think I have created depth rather well in this object considering it was only a very quick, barely controlled sketch! I was rather disappointed with my cubes as

Quick sketches of basic shapes and forms in charcoal

Since starting this course, I have been obsessed with the simplicity and tonal range of the lamp in my dining room so, seeing this as the perfect exercise to experiment with this object, I wanted to begin by playing with four different media; HB pencil, drawing pens, oil pastels and soft pastels.  I decided to do this experiment in my A4 sketchbook.  I had some A1 black paper so decided I would choose my favourite of the four experiments and invert the colours for my larger piece to use the page’s natural darkness for the areas of the piece which held the deepest shade and to add in the rest with the lighter colours.  I thought my favourite pieces would be the oil pastels or soft pastels due to their easy blending capabilities.

Dining Room Lamp

When creating my pieces, I soon realised my previous belief that the lamp and its surroundings were simple due to there being only three or four parts to the composition was very much misled!  It soon became apparent to me just how difficult the most basic of shapes, tone and composition can actually be to recreate!  I was actually really surprised by this revelation but decided to persevere regardless.  I found the pencil and the drawing pen the easiest to manipulate into going where I wanted them to go when drawing a rough guideline of the shapes and shadow placements, and also when finalising the solid outline of the stem of the lamp.  However, the pencil did not allow for any very deep and dark shading which was rather frustrating – it felt that no matter how hard or vigorously I pressed, the page just would not darken beyond a certain point.  The drawing pens, I found, were fantastic for the deep darkness I was yearning to achieve; however, I did not think the shading worked to best represent the smoothness of the walls and the lampshade.  I suppose I could have used just lines, but I still do not think this would have been good enough.

Looking at the two media I had originally thought would be my most successful, I was frustrated with the inability to create solid, sharp edges.  The shading of both was brilliant as I could blend them really well (the soft pastels much better than the oil pastels), but I loved the warmth the soft pastels gave off.  The whole picture just looked cosy and inviting (if slightly distorted in the piece) – precisely how I feel when I think of my home.  I decided this was the winner by far.

I carried out my inverted piece and was rather pleased with the end result.  I don’t think it was immediately obvious that it was a lamp – in fact, I even posted the picture in a group on social media and received a comment from someone believing the piece to be a glass!  I found this rather comical – I could have been upset or offended etc, but I actually thought it quite amusing and intriguing that someone had seen something in my piece that I had not intended to be there or even seen myself.  It gave me a brief insight into just how differently people interpret artwork.  I was, however, slightly disappointed in the final outcome due to having, ironically, an inverted issue with not being able to get the intensity I desired, this time in white.  I loved the blending of the colours and did this using my fingers to really get into the piece.  I think perhaps I could have used fixative and then built the deepest white areas up layer by layer to intensify their vibrancy.

I looked at the exercise again and saw there was a requirement to use two or more objects, so decided to create another piece.  I wanted to work quickly on this piece and without too much restriction on myself – I have seen this whole process so far as just quick, rough experiments as opposed to official, structured drawings.  I have been more concerned with the process than the end result.  I chose three light coloured items: a food dish, a tissue and a candle and placed them on my kitchen worktop.  The lighting was poor in the surrounding vicinity due to it being night-time and the only lighting was high above.  My kitchen worktop, however, had spotlights just underneath the overhead cupboards, so I thought this would work much better in casting shadows, if only from an angle I was not so accustomed to. 

I had a play on an A2 sheet with willow charcoal and, due to the warmth and ambience of the night-time around me, decided to smudge the edging of the piece.  I chose to do this after seeing the result of my earlier piece of the lamp’s glow and the warmth that held. 

Besides a few issues with the structure of the objects, I was actually rather pleased with the final result as I think I caught the shading rather well.  I had a comment as to the kitchen tiles and that they were rather obvious in their description.  I noticed when looking back at the end that the shape of the square bowl could have been much better laid out and made to look much more realistic with some more lighter and darker areas due to the reflective surface which, again, I think is a result of not measuring or taking time and care in the planning of the piece. I also think there is a large element of ‘practice makes perfect’!

Overall, I really enjoyed the process of not so much drawing the piece, but drawing it through the block colours and shading and just adding the finer details of the outline in the end.  I will definitely use this again further on in my journey as I have always generally drawn first, added detail and then added shade and light, but actually found it rather refreshing to reverse my methods.  Even though my initial piece was misconstrued by a member of the public, I won’t see this as too much of a mistake but more a learning curve of perhaps asking myself how I can try and portray the piece more realistically and tell the viewer what its actual purpose is clearer, or to even work on enhancing the lack of instant recognisability dependent upon the piece I am creating and the purpose it is to fulfil.

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)