Let’s get that out of the way to start with. If you’re following this blog because you’re a huge fan of the singer formerly known as Scary Spice I’m not her; we just happen to both be called Melanie Brown…and have the same middle initial, but that’s where the similarities end. I have started this blog to document my thoughts, feelings and work during my time as a student with The Open College of the Arts. So that’s a bit about me, there may be more to come soon. For now I’m happy that I’ve figured out how to blog and am positive about the start of a new adventure in Drawing 1.
I have chosen the figure and the face as my starting point for this assignment because I feel that the subject has pushed me the most technically and given me the widest scope for experimentation to date. I have also felt much more of an emotional connection to my drawings in this part of the course and I think this has shown in the way I have approached my drawings and the themes I’ve explored. Looking back through all the work I’ve done in Drawing 1, I have made notes about what I feel has worked well, which pieces were positively received by my tutor and which I enjoyed drawing the most. Based on this, I have decided that my assignment piece will be a self-portrait.
An idea that has been at the back of my mind since the monochrome exersise in part 1, is how changing from a positive to a negative image affects how the viewer sees a drawing. This links to my last assignment piece which could be viewed in several different ways depending on which way round it was and what colour background it was viewed against. In this assignment I will build on this idea and use different ways of viewing and representing the self-portrait to support the statement ‘I am greater than the sum of my parts.’ This relates not only to the complexity of the human spirit but also to a question I asked myself several times during part 4 “Is it better to see the individual as a collection of parts rather han a whole?” More importantly perhaps, it also references my own journey on this course; my increasing confidence in my own abilities and a growing feeling of self belief which has developed alongside Drawing 1 as the course has progressed.
I will use a combination of chalk and charcoal to create line and tone on a found support. Using an experimental idea from a previous self-portait, I will create a background using acrylic paint in a limited palette which I will work over to expose areas of colour within the portrait. I will investigate the possibility of adding anatomical elements to the drawing using x ray images.
To acheive an honest self-portrait, I need to do the following things:
- Look at self-portaits by a range of historical and contemporary artists – Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Kahlo, Gomez, Ingres, Garcia and Uglow have been suggested. I’m also interested by the work of Bryan Lewis Saunders, Nikki Rosato, Piet Van Den Booy and Maria Forde. Make notes on how they’ve acheived a likeness of themselves, what media they’ve used and which syles of drawing appeal to me.
- Make careful observations of my face, produce sketches to hone these skills – especially the area around the nose which I found difficult in project 6.
- Keep in mind the feedback from my tutor with regards to working instinctively and remembering to see the image as a whole rather than as seperate parts.
- Experiment with different poses and compositions.
- Explore how the changing positive and negative images will affect the overall look of the portrait.
- Produce a series of preliminary sketches to decide which images will work well together and investigate colour palettes to decide which colours will form my background.
It’s been interesting looking back through all my previous exercises and assignments. It seems ages since I first started this course and I hadn’t realised how much work I’d done or how my drawing has progressed over the last year. The main positive overall seems to be a growing confidence and more open minded approach to my drawing.
Assignment 1 – Takes the Biscuit
This really was me finding my feet. I remember feeling totally lost at the prospect of drawing a large still life piece and found it difficult to choose what objects I should draw; the title sums up how I felt at that point! Looking at it now, I can see I was beginning to organise my ideas into a coherent manner and used the theme of ‘joy’ from a previous exercise as well as my research point on Odilon Redon to support my work. My first attempt in ink had a fluidity to it that I really liked, but I wasn’t confident with the media at that point and gave up on the idea. In the final piece the colours are what appeal mostly to me, contrasting orange and blue works well and there are some nice areas of tone and contrast on the tea caddy.
What wasn’t so good was my observational skills, especially with the coffee pot on the right hand side which has an odd bottom. My tutor feedback was to look more at composition and perspective and to discuss my ideas in greater depth for the next assignment. I think I was unsure at how much to write at this point and in subsequent submissions I have definitely gone into a lot more detail in my blog. My compositional skills have improved naturally during the course of the exercises but perspective took me a little longer to master. However with a lot of extra work on observation I feel a lot more confident now.
Assignment 2 – Reflective Practice
To me, this was the moment when I ‘got it’ as far as what was required of an assignment piece. I produced a lot more preliminary work and came up with a clear idea which had began in my exercises and followed through the research points to a final piece. Conceptually I feel this drawing is much stronger that the previous assignment a point that my tutor also made.
My feedback was quite positive but suggested there were still some problems with perspective. Also my tutor felt the right side of the image was much stronger than the left and picked up on my hesitancy at drawing myself in the picture. These were all valid points- I found drawing myself difficult and went over that part of the drawing far too many times resulting in a less defined image. I also struggled with the distortion of the curved surface on my face. Looking back now I’m amazed that I’ve chosen to draw a self-portrait as my final piece for the personal project. It’s something I wouldn’t have considered at this stage of the course and I feel I’ve grown in confidence hugely with portraiture due to the exercises and research I’ve carried out since.
Assignment 3 – Back to Collage
This is when I finally got to grips with perspective. I enjoyed landscape drawing a lot, it seemed to come easier to me than still life and interiors. I spent too long on some of the exercises in this part of the course but ultimately feel it benefitted me by giving me a better understanding of composition and perspective. Mixed media was a new approach for me and it took a bit of trial and error before I was happy with my end results, but overall I am still happy with the concept behind this piece and the way I handled the oil pastel over collage.
If I could change anything, I would scrap the larger section of the waterfront and concentrate on the two smaller drawings, working them into a final piece as they are much more successful; a comment also made by my tutor. However I was commended on my determination and willingness to learn and I hope that I’ve carried on in this mindset since. My approach to using colour is something that I feel I have improved on too in this assignment, as is my willingness to take risks. What I found most beneficial was the realisation that I didn’t always have to produce a drawing that worked and that it was ok to make mistakes.
Assignment 4 – Ch-ch-ch-changes
I think the title sums up everything about assignment 4 for me. I was mildly terrified about drawing the human form at the beginning of this part of the course; in the past I have not had great success with this subject and so have tried to steer away from it. Despite my initial fear, I found this part the most interesting and enjoyable to date. Not all of the drawings I did in the exercises were great but I learnt a huge amount from my mistakes and from experimenting and gained a huge amount of confidence from them.
Coming up with three assignment pieces was tough and I feel I lacked a little inspiration with the first two. Because I had such a strong idea of the direction I wanted to go in and the media I wanted to use, the first briefs felt very restrictive and meant I couldn’t work in the way I wanted. However, I managed to link all three with the idea of womanhood that I’d carried through this part of the course and was commended in my feedback for having a strong conceptual response to the theme. I also had positive comments about the experimentation I had shown.
The second drawing is my least favourite because in hindsight I feel I should have attempted it again. I did overwork the pastel and got very frustrated at certain parts of the drawing which I just couldn’t get to look the way I wanted to. I’m pleased with the outcome of the first drawing, however compared to some of my other work in this part of the course it feels very safe and is well within my comfort zone. I was afraid of submitting the third image because I wasn’t sure if anyone else would get it. I drew a back-up safer version and spent a long time deciding which to submit but went with my gut and sent the original drawing despite my reservations. This turned out to be a good move!
Overall I’m pleased that I decided to take more risks in this assignment. One comment that I made (and that was followed up on by my tutor) was my idea that I could produce a better drawing if I saw the subject as lots of different parts instead of a whole. He suggested that this approach could make the drawing appear stilted and lack flow. This is important to remember as it’s been mentioned before that my drawings are more successful when I work instinctively and work with a more fluid line. I still have a moment of hesitation when I draw in this way because I like control, but I’m becoming better at trusting myself and allowing the drawing to develop more naturally.
Another roller coaster of emotions waiting for feedback for assignment 4! I spent a long time deliberating which pieces to submit and thankfully it seems I made a decent choice. The feedback received is outlined below along with my reflection on the comments made.
You have done a good amount of work for this submission Mel and have approached it with focus and enthusiasm. It is clear that you have thought a great deal about the work you have produced both in terms of the physical act of drawing as well as their conceptual foundations. Your work is progressing well with the development of your observational skills, and a keen desire to push yourself in this learning experience has helped with this progression. I am happy with the developments you have made to this stage of the module Mel and look forward to seeing what you come with for the last part of Drawing 1.
I’m very pleased with these comments. I was concerned that the ideas I’ve had might not make sense to anyone else. Also I don’t really show my work to many people – my family see it in progress but I havent really explained any of it to them so I’m never particualrly confident when I submit it for formal assessment. It’s quite odd really that the only people who’ve seen all my work for this course are people I’ve never met, I should probably address that.
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skill, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity.
The first piece for this assignment, the drawing of your pregnant colleague, for the Figure study using line part is a well-observed and executed drawing. The gestural, scribbled line in red and black gives it a sharp edginess, and along with the slanted and high viewpoint, and with the physical crumpled treatment of the paper, adds to the feeling of tension and relief representing the end of a teaching day. I am pleased to see that you have followed through with your theme of womanhood throughout this submission Mel and that you are not just concerned with the physical act of drawing but with an underlying conceptual response to your theme.
This was the piece that felt the easiest to produce in terms of knowing where it was going and how I was going to execute it. It built on previous drawings in sketchbook studies and exercises in this module, and becasue of this I was confident with the media. I almost worked over the image with thicker pens to add another dimension and I may explore this in future drawings. I’m glad the concept behind the piece was clear and that I was able to capture this idea in my tired and emotional collegue.
I’m glad to see further exploration of foreshortening for the Figure study using tone part drawing of your daughter reclining. Proportion is on the whole well-considered. I would however keep in mind that when working from a photo – I am assuming this is the case – camera lenses (or mobile lenses) can distort or exaggerate, as can be seen by your daughter’s enormous foot. Your self-portrait with foreshortening appeared much more believable. Look for instance at Andrea Mantegna’s (1431-1506), Lamentation of Christ which undoubtedly has been made from life using a model. Certain areas are overworked, the raised arm holding the iPod and her face. Pastels are best used to ‘suggest’ rather than to describe detail.
This was the drawing I felt most unhappy with. I agree completely about the overworking and this was a result of my annoyance and panic when I couldn’t get certain areas right. I felt I lacked some inspiration in this piece and could attempt it again with a different pose and media with better results.
The last piece is another example of a strong experimental vision coming through in your work, with new media and the support upon which you work. It is great to see an invigoration of ideas coming from your theme of ‘What is Femininity?’ and that this exploration has introduced you to a whole new range of influence, including your Gran (great photo by the way). This was a striking drawing Mel and yes I agree with your favoured choice, pen on the surface, chalk beneath, on a black background, as the tonal differences are made more apparent with this arrangement and yes, gives it a luminous quality.
Honestly, I thought this piece was going to get thrown back as a ‘re-do.’ It goes to show that I need to have more self-belief and continue to act on instinct. My tutor’s comment from a previous exercise that “When you work more directly and with immediacy your line becomes more confident,” is something I need to keep in mind when approaching drawings and I need to start trusting my instincts. I tend to have a moment of doubt in every experimental piece where I don’t think anyone else will understand what I’m doing and, while it’s good to be critical, I also need to push myself to keep exploring and challenging myself despite these thoughts.
When reflecting on my feedback at the end of Assignment 3, I concluded with the words “I do not like drawing people.” However through experimentation and research I would now say that this statement is now no longer true. Although it still feels a little daunting, I feel that I have learnt more in this part of the course than in previous parts. Some of this has led to me being able to improve my observational and technical skills but just as important has been my ability to be more open-minded and not close myself off to new ideas or to dismiss those that that I think I won’t like.
Pointers for the next assignment
- Reflect on this feedback in your learning log.
- Read through the brief carefully.
- You have already written in a critical and self-reflective manner. Go back to previous learning logs to draw upon for your written self-assessment.
- Take your time to consider your options for your personal project, the next and final part of the module – what would you consider your strongest submission? But also think about which part you found most enjoyable and wish to develop.
I have a broad idea of the direction I would like to go in. Firstly I will look back at my blog and decide which are my strongest pieces. I will also take time to research the work of as many historical and contemporary artists as possible and try to study a variety of approaches and styles to get inspiration for my final piece as this has helped in previous assignments.
I’ve watched and re-watched John Berger’s Ways of Seeing and since attempted to write up my feelings several times but have found it hard to condense them into one research point. The video feels dated at times but most of the points are still relevant today – the idea of competitive beauty, of women’s worth being measured by her appearance and of how looks can dictate how successful a woman will become. I find the section at the end where they discuss photography interesting because most women there seem to suggest it’s a more honest representation than a painting. In the 70’s, before photoshop and filters I expect this was true but today not very many photographs are left without being edited in some way, even quick snaps on mobile phones.
As it explains in the video, traditionally the female nude in European art was created by men for men. It exists for the pleasure of the male viewer, which is consistent with the thinking of a time when women had little status in society. From the 16th Century to its peak in the 19th Century women were painted with passive expressions, motionless, usually looking out at the viewer all giving the impression that she is constantly available. Titian’s Venus of Umbrio is a classic example of this pose.
Edouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur L’herbe goes one step further, introducing fully clothed men alongside a scantily clad and naked woman. Some people are of the opinion that the woman is in control in this painting because of her direct expression, but to me, her being naked makes no sense. The only reason I can see to paint her nude is for the pleasure of the viewer.
The idea of how the female nude should appear in art was so set in stone, that works such as ‘The Nude Maja‘ by Goya and Courbet’s ‘Sleeping Nude‘ caused quite a stir. Goya’s model was seen to have a defiant expression (although to us today it seems far from it), and both painted their subjects with bodily hair which was definitely not how a woman at that time should appear in a work of art.
Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’ further challenged the way the female nude could be represented. His use of cubism to show motion suggested the subject physically moving but also acts as metaphor for the changes she encounters during her life. At the time it was a very controversial piece, many people were angered by this multi-dimensional approach and did not like the alternative direction that artists like Duchamp were applying to the genre.
I wanted to see how women painting female nudes would differ in their approach and found an exhibition of 20 female artists called ‘In The Raw’ that focused on the subject. I looked up some of the featured artists work and found that on the whole there was a different feel to most of the pieces. There are still some that appear posed in a traditional manner though and I wonder if it’s so ingrained in us that we can’t always get away from the idea of the traditional lounging nude.
What strikes me is that there is more movement or idea of intent in all of these images. Leah Schrader’s First Metaselfie (a term which I had to look up) however is a reminder that however far we’ve come since the paintings of the 16th Century, women are still being judged and more importantly judging themselves and each other based on their appearance.
I particularly liked the top left image from Sophia Wallace’s ‘Girls will by Bois‘ series which I found while researching this exhibition. In it she looks at woman who present ‘non-normative femininity.’ This got me thinking about how the perception of women has changed since the 1970’s when Ways of Seeing was broadcast. It became my main inspiration for the three figure drawing exercise and ultimately the rest of this part of Drawing One.
Art, P. (2017). Philadelphia Museum of Art – Collections Object : Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2). [online] Philamuseum.org. Available at: http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/51449.html [Accessed 15 Sep. 2017].
Artsy.net. (2017). Leah Schrager | The First Metaselfie (2015) | Available for Sale | Artsy. [online] Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/leah-schrager-the-first-metaselfie [Accessed 15 Sep. 2017].
Collection.nmwa.go.jp. (2017). Gustave Courbet | Sleeping Nude | Collection | The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. [online] Available at: http://collection.nmwa.go.jp/en/P.1996-0001.html [Accessed 15 Sep. 2017].
Manet.org. (2017). The Luncheon on the Grass, 1862 by Edouard Manet. [online] Available at: http://www.manet.org/luncheon-on-the-grass.jsp [Accessed 15 Sep. 2017].
Museodelprado.es. (2017). The Naked Maja – The Collection – Museo Nacional del Prado. [online] Available at: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-naked-maja/65953b93-323e-48fe-98cb-9d4b15852b18 [Accessed 15 Sep. 2017].
SOPHIA WALLACE conceptual artist based in New York City. (2017). SOPHIA WALLACE conceptual artist based in New York City. – Girls Will Be Bois. [online] Available at: http://www.sophiawallace.com/girls-will-be-bois [Accessed 15 Sep. 2017].
The Untitled Space. (2017). In The Raw: The Female Gaze on The Nude // Group Show // May 3 – June 4 | The Untitled Space. [online] Available at: http://untitled-space.com/in-the-raw-the-female-gaze-on-the-nude/ [Accessed 15 Sep. 2017].
YouTube. (2017). John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 2 (1972). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1GI8mNU5Sg [Accessed 15 Sep. 2017].
I wanted to continue exploring the theme of womanhood in this assignment, so I knew from the start my models would all be female. The main inspiration for a lot of my work has been from the research point on the changing perception of the female nude which I wanted to link throughout as many pieces as I could. I did find the first two briefs difficult however – they felt a little restrictive in that the subjects had to be posed in a particular way. In contrast to previous assignments when I had a very clear idea of how my final piece was going to progress, I found this time I had too many ideas and not all of them fitted with what was required. I started by making notes: exercises that I thought had been successful, artists that I admired, support and media that I thought might
work well and ways to make the image more interesting than just ‘a model in an upright chair’ or ‘a model lounging.’
Drawing Using Line
My initial thoughts were to make a statement by either using the expression of the woman’s face or by using the chair as a prop to suggest something to the viewer. I drew a couple of pencil sketches using a model with a bored look which I quite liked but it wasn’t really interesting enough. I began thinking of linking the chair to the person in it and then got onto the idea of someone tied to the chair as a metaphor for being tied to work, family, commitments in general. However, convincing people to let me tie them up didn’t go down too well – especially at work where I wanted to stage the portrait, (I have since asked a friend to delete my internet history if anything happens to me, because researching this led me to some very shady websites).
In the end I found my model accidentally while she was looking forlorn at her desk. My colleague is heavily pregnant but is working almost up to her due date as in her words, she needs the money. I abandoned the idea of tying people up and decided to draw her.
We’ve had many discussions about whether feminism has had a negative effect on women’s role in society of late. She’s of the opinion that 30 years ago she wouldn’t be expected to work full time as well as look after a young child with another on the way. I can see her point, though I’m not sure I’m in agreement with all of her ideas on the subject. It occurred to me that she didn’t need to be physically bound to the chair as she was already tied to it by the fact that she felt like she was expected to carry on working.
I liked Tracey Emin’s use of pen in the self-portrait research point from earlier in this part of the course and decided to try and get some erratic lines similar to hers drawn in my sketchbook. The jagged marks I made were intended to suggest the stress and tiredness that my colleague was feeling, I also borrowed the red biro that she uses to mark student’s books to add further lines. I thought this was a nice link back to her and the cause of all her distress that particular afternoon.
When I came to the final piece I used a piece of found paper that looked a bit battered and worn out. Instead of cutting it to size I tore the edges to further emphasise this feeling.
I then decided that it still looked a bit too pristine and crumpled the paper up in a similar way to a previous exercise that I’d drawn in class during the still life part of the course. The finished piece shows my colleague surrounded by the clutter on her desk after the children have left the classroom on Friday afternoon. I wanted to use this imagery as well as the state of the support to further suggest the idea of worn out, broken and overwhelmed to the viewer.
Drawing Using Form
The second piece felt a little easier to come up with ideas for. I had enjoyed looking at foreshortening and wanted to use this effect on the drawing. I’d experimented with a quick sketch that I had considered for the first assignment piece but I needed my model to be lounging instead of seated.
Having found Juana Gomez’s work in the anatomical drawing research point and enjoyed sketching parts of the human body, I considered creating a two layered drawing with a red film on top of a sheet of paper. The idea was that the structure of the body would show through to the image on top. However I found that I couldn’t come up with a way to make it look effective enough. It was almost that I liked her work so much that my own ideas seemed a bit rubbish and I didn’t want to copy what she had done. I tried out a few different types of media, but wasn’t really satisfied with how any of them looked on the film so went back and looked my previous attempt at foreshortening.
It was a good exercise as it reminded me that I have got better at drawing portraits. It’s still a bit hit and miss, but looking back at this now I can see where I’ve gone wrong and what could be improved.
The other image that I’d used a bit of foreshortening was way back at the beginning of this part when I drew my daughter asleep on the sofa. Of all the people I’ve drawn she is the one that I’ve managed to capture the best likeness of, much more so than other family members. I like the oil pastels in this drawing too and have started using them regularly after spending most of my life avoiding them!
My final drawing for this brief is of my daughter laying on her bed in her usual position attached to an iPod. In the course of this year she has changed from a unicorn loving, ballerina- princess, into what was known as a ‘tomboy’ in my day. She now refuses to wear skirts and mostly dresses in black, her room is painted blue now (no more pink) and I am deeply embarrassing.
My husband is horrified by this transition but I like that she’s finding her own voice and becoming an individual with opinions of her own.
The contrast of her blue bed sheets and walls with the bursts of red first caught my attention and I
decided to change the colour of her socks from black to red as I thought it made for a better image. The red braces in David Hockney’s “Self Portrait with Charlie” in my earlier research point had a similar effect. I tried to create an idea of form with the oil pastels to show the softness of the duvet and bed which I think is fairly successful. The oil pastels were a little tricky to create detail with, and I’ve never used them on such a large drawing, but overall I’m fairly pleased with the result. Her face is a bit off and I overworked the grey jumper. Knowing when to stop is still an ongoing battle.
Portrait Combining Line and Tone
In this instance I had so many ideas that trying to decide on just one was painful. My first inspiration was an old photo of my gran who, at 14, decided to dress only in a men’s suits to shock people. Living in a tiny village in Suffolk, this had the desired effect (note the cigarette too, she told me she used to get them from the American Soldiers, I daren’t ask any more). She also wanted to join the army when she left school, but was forbidden by her father so got pregnant instead! I wonder how differently her life would’ve been if she’d been born 40 years later; being an intelligent and incredibly strong willed woman was not a good thing in the 1930’s. She is still a rebel and totally infuriating but I love that she still refuses to conform. I also have a horrible feeling that some of this has rubbed off on me.
With the idea of non-conformity and the question ‘What is feminity?’ in my head I then decided to expand on the three figure drawings that I’d done of my shaven headed model and investigate further, a technique I’d tried in my sketchbook. I enjoyed working with ink and the unexpected results that it can give. At first I was concerned at the lack of control but when I looked back at this drawing I like the fact that it seems spontaneous. The splattered paint is great fun too and my first idea was to try and emulate this on a much bigger scale.
I wanted to choose yet another fairly provocative image, one that appealed to my quite dark sense of humour. The idea of a woman, completely naked but carrying a gun, tickled me. The naked female, exposed for all to see usually makes me feel that she’s defenceless and vulnerable with her whole body on show to any one who wants to look. However when you add a rifle and a subject that’s staring directly at the viewer, the image takes on a new, fairly menacing quality.
What I have created in this piece has not translated from my sketch. Probably because I wanted to add too much detail. The paint, on a larger scale needed to be more dramatic, I’ve been too tentative in my approach and I’ve lost a lot of the qualities that I liked in my original drawing. It has been a good learning opportunity though and I still want to work at this technique as I think it’s worth pursuing and I can improve with persistence.
My second idea was to go back to the red film I had played around with earlier. The colour red has had associations with prostitution since biblical times, it was not a colour that respectable women would wear and the shiny, PVC like quality of the material adds to that connotation. I wanted to create something bold and had enjoyed testing black marker pen and chalk marker on the film previously.
I went back to the model I had drawn in the previous piece and found an image of her reclining. I liked the shape her body was making and that once more she was presented on some kind of revolving table. This to me suggests that at any time the viewer could spin her round to get another view, further enhancing how ‘available’ her body is to us. However in contrast her pose is quite defensive – her fist is clenched, her arm is stopping you from looking any further than her inside thigh and her eyes seem assertive and in control.
Theres no going back with marker so the image had to be fairly spontaneous and any mistakes had to stay. I quite liked the tension and slight fear that this brought about. I looked at some more of Tracey Emin’s work from her Stone Love exhibition last year for a bit of inspiration.
What I then looked at was what happened if the black marker was drawn on one side and chalk pen on the other, and I found that this brought up a lot of new possibilities. When I came to draw the larger piece, I used this technique and afterwards photographed it in four different positions: with black pen on the surface and chalk on the reverse, then with chalk on the surface and black pen on reverse, on both white and black backgrounds. I loved the changes each variation brought to the image and it further enhanced my idea of the many different ways that we, as woman can be seen and the changes we go though during our lives.
I personally prefer the last image viewed against a black background with marker pen on the surface of the film as it creates a luminous quality to the white chalk beneath. This creates (I hope) a feeling of tone behind the stark black lines of the marker on top. On a smaller scale the changes in detail aren’t as apparent but at full size the effect looks more obvious. I like the way the light reflects off the film too which changes the way the drawing appears depending on the time of day, yet another reference to the changing female in today’s society!
I’ve taken a bit of a risk with this final drawing, I’m mildly terrified that only I will see or understand what it is I’m trying to show and that it will not meet the brief. However, I have learnt to be brave in Drawing 1 and therefore I am choosing to submit this over the previous piece. Finger’s crossed.
Assessment 4 – Reflection
Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.
This part of the course has really stretched me, portraits are the one thing that I would avoid drawing given the chance. In saying that I have really enjoyed aspects of this section and even though the final outcome can be a little hit and miss, still think that I’ve learnt a lot during the process. I don’t think that I’m anywhere near where I would like to be but I’m better than I was at the beginning of the course and much more willing to take risks and try out new media. I have had to look harder at the subject matter than in previous parts to get a good understanding of the human form and have grappled at times with proportion. Drawing parts of the body and face in exercises has helped me to improve my observational skills and given me a better grasp of where everything fits.
Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment.
The final pieces for this assignment are very different. I know that I’m stronger with certain media but have tried others as I want to be more experimental and am still finding my own style. Some parts of these drawings are not as good as I wanted them to be but on the whole I have improved since the beginning of this module. I like to have a story behind my drawings and I have found that working with the human form has brought about a stronger connection between myself and the drawings than I’ve previously made in other parts of the course.
Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention, personal voice
This assignment threw me for some time. Probably because I had a clear image of the direction I wanted to go in but had to adapt it to fit the brief. I’m a John Berger convert and although the first time I watched ‘Ways of Seeing’ back in Part 2 it helped me with some of the exercises it wasn’t until I watched and re-watched it in this part that I became a bit fanatical about it! The changing view of the female in society has inspired me and has been the driving force behind my work to the point where my family and work colleagues are now probably sick of me going on about it. I’ve taken more risks with this assignment – as yet I’ve no idea whether they’ll pay off, but I’m not as scared as I would’ve been to submit this work in Part 1. I have experimented with support more, which is something I wanted to do and tried out new media with varying success.
Content – Reflection, research (learning logs).
The research in this part of the course has been invaluable to creating my final assessment pieces. I have looked at images that I previously didn’t like in a different way because I now have a better understanding of what the artist was trying to show the viewer and now have a much more open mind about the genre. Even more so than in previous assignments I have relied on the research points for direction and to allow me to create a final body of work for this assignment.
This is my drawing from memory of a boy that was sitting opposite me on a train journey I recently took. What I can remember was that he was a teenager and spent the entire trip focused on his mobile with headphones in. I’m not sure about the other details, it’s hard to think back to his face. I seem to have put some features that I recognise as my own son into this sketch, maybe to fill in the blanks that I can’t recall or maybe I saw the same expression on this boy that I do when my son is shut off from the world on his iPod or computer.
It feels strange to try and draw someone without any reference, I definitely prefer having something to look at than ‘making it up’. I guess the answer to the question ‘What is a portrait?’ is different for everyone, but for me it’s about capturing something that the viewer can understand and relate to; whether that be through creating a recognisable likeness of someone or by creating an emotional connection to the viewer in another way.
I’ve saved blogging about this exercise until last as it was the one that I found most engaging. When I re-watched John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing” at the begining of part 4, it brought up lots of questions in my mind about the way the female nude is depicted and how that view is being challenged today. I wanted to produce a series of images that represented
this change and chose a model that questioned the idea of femininity and the what the female form looks like. The fact that the model’s head is shaved and that her physical appearance is quite androgynous appealed to me and I was reminded of Frida Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair” which shows the artist dressed as a man with remnants of her hair around her. Our society appears to link long, flowing hair with femininity and by taking this away a change occurs in the way we see a woman that doesn’t conform to this stereotype.
The first sketches I made were of a standing pose, first in pencil as I wanted to create a softness to the drawing and then as an experiment in marker pen. I currently seem to be going through an ‘green’ phase so that was the palette I chose. I feel the pencil drawing is more successful however in this exercise. I then had the idea to add white pencil over the top of marker as I’d seen another student do this and really liked the effect. In this instance it didn’t really add anything to the drawing, however if I worked at it a little more I think I might have better results in the future.
When tackling the sitting pose I had a bit of a block and couldn’t get the look I was going for. I drew some ‘wistful’ poses which I thought I liked but in hindsight weren’t right. I found that in pencil, I wasn’t achieving the results I wanted. I tried out the same technique that had worked well in part 3 for a 360 landscape drawing, but it didn’t translate to portraits at all so went back to a more erratic movement which I preferred but wasn’t what really I had in my mind.
Lounging was a little easier, I tried a biro and watercolour pencil technique, which again worked well for landscape but failed for this portrait, then decided to attempt watercolour paint. This gave a delicate look to the drawing. I was trying to show the softness of the model’s body which was in a kind of foetal position and seemed at odds with her appearance. I’m not that confident with paint but this seemed to work as a trial piece. The final drawing was one of those ‘moments’ when I just thought I’d chuck a load of paint on the paper and see what happened.
There was some thought in the process, I knew roughly where the body was going to be and tried to aim for those areas of he paper. I ended up drawing the model with ink and stick once the paint was dry, then as my note says I had second thoughts about whether I needed to control the ink more to create a believable portrait. I doubted myself so much that I posted this online to see what my fellow students thought but they told me that I was worrying unnecessarily so this is a technique that I’m going to come back to.
The final three drawings were much harder than I’d anticipated. I would’ve liked these to have been the assignment pieces and think, had I have had time, I could have created three drawings which brought about all my research and experimentation into a successful series of images. As it is, I opted for a different pose for the sitting figure – using charcoal because I wanted something similar to the effect the watercolour had in softening the image. I chose a pose that was interesting to me, I like the crossed arms and legs and the fact that she’s looking directly at the viewer. Its not a passive expression and yet her body language seems cautious or afraid.
I wanted to see how the pen would work on a much bigger scale so chose the same pose as the last lounging sketch but went for it with the green! I didn’t like the black outline of the earlier drawing and am glad I didn’t use it here. I messed up on the top of the model’s thigh but with marker there’s no going back so have had to leave it. I like the colours and the foreshortening effect, Im not sure it works as well as I’d hoped it would though.
My final drawing was a standing pose and I wanted to use the watercolour paints that I tried previously, with a pose that was overtly confrontational to see what the effect was. I like the idea but I went wrong around the head and shoulders which are too dark. Ive almost captured the intensity in the models eyes but it’s a bit messy in places.
There’s always one exercise that totally consumes me and this has been it in part 4. In the same way that I spent far too long on ‘Foreground, middle ground, background’ last time, I have procrastinated with these drawings for far too long – I’ve become far too involved and I’m not happy that I have to move on. I feel I could have done a lot more and I want to spend more time on these drawings, but I know that if I do I won’t meet my deadline for the next assignment so I have to leave it here. I hope that in the same way as in the previous exercise mentioned, I’ve addressed some of the difficulties I was having in this part of the course, and although I’m not finding portraiture quite as daunting as perspective, it will stand me in good stead for the assignment pieces.
I went back to one of my local art galleries to look at the portraits on display. There’s a lot of Thomas Gainsborough’s work; paintings of the rich and famous of the day which I can appreciate but don’t really appeal to me. They’re very formal and I suppose tastes have changed since they were painted, I don’t feel a connection to any of the subjects in these portraits.
I’m draw to pencil drawings and these four interested me more than a lot of the grander paintings on display. Picasso, Matisse, Renoir and a lesser known artist Bernard Reynolds all caught my attention. I particularly like the line drawing entitled, “The Artist’s Wife” there’s a simplicity to it that works really well. The tones of the Matisse and Renoir are lovely too.
I found that Anna Airy’s paintings were some of those that I felt the most connection to. I like the subtle colour palette and the lightness of the paintings. The way she’s captured her subject, although still very formal in the style and pose, has more of a human feeling to me compared with Gainsborough’s. The expressions are that bit more engaging, especially in “Greta.” I wish I’d found “Interior with Mrs. Charles Burnand” in Part 2 as the idea of windows, and doorways were a big part of my assignment for that section of the course. Airy has handled the complexity of reflection in this painting really well and I appreciate it from a technical point of view.
Russell Sidney Reeve’s “Portrait of an Unknown Woman” is similar in style to Airy’s portraits but I find more appealing. I think it’s because the subject’s expression is a little stronger, she has a ‘no nonsense’ look about her. I don’t know that I see myself in any of these images, it’s more a feeling of empathy or an understanding which means I can identify with these paintings.
Among the landscapes I found these sketches by Constable, I was pleasantly surprised by them. His pencil work is lovely, very delicate and not what I expected. The best of the collection in my opinion is the male nude, it’s a more interesting pose and I’ve not seen any like this by him before. The caption below mentions that the drawing is of his servant, I suppose making your staff strip off is cheaper than paying models, but I wonder what he thought of being used as a nude subject? Perhaps he was used to it.
During his lifetime Rembrandt produced close to a hundred self-portraits. One of his earliest, painted in 1629, shows him as a young man. In it, his expression seems unsure or apprehensive as if he’s been caught off guard. His later portraits, such as the one below (painted not long before his death in 1669), show how his technique has developed and refined. There’s a more self-assured look about Rembrandt in the later painting, his eyes seem to convey resignation or acceptance; perhaps because of his advancing years. The brush work is more controlled too. He has a way of connecting with the viewer in his self-portraits, in a way that makes you feel you’re able to understand his mood and thoughts.
Vincent Van Gogh was another artist who chronicled his life through self-portraits. In a period of 10 years, he produced over 30, which show his changing moods and the evolution of his painting technique. They seem quite honest paintings to me – there’s no romantisism there, and I wonder whether he painted himself as a form of therapy or self-reflection as much as a necessity due to not being able to afford models. Certainly the bottom right image painted after a stay at the asylum at St.-Remy in 1889, shows him looking even more gaunt and troubled than in other paintings. I’ve always loved the colours in Van Gogh’s work and I particularly like the contrast of blues and greens with his bright orange hair and beard in his later self-portraits. Compared to his earlier work, which is much more conventional in style, the later paintings have more energy and the style of brushwork that Van Gogh is now renowned for.
Another self portrait that has always interested me is Gustave Courbet’s “Self -Portrait as the Desperate Man.” Like Van Gogh, Courbet was succesptable to bouts of depression and this candid image sums up his feelings of despair and entrapment. I like the way it’s tightly cropped to emphasize the feeling of claustrophobia and the intensity in his expression. It’s a no holds barred self-portrait, he’s putting all the angst and torment he’s feeling out there for everyone to see.
In David Hockney’s “Self Portrait with Charlie,” he adds another dimension to the painting by adding a figure in the background. There is then the idea of the artist being watched while he in turn looks out at the viewer. It’s an interesting play on a self-portrait and I like the thinking behind it. The colours Hockney has used are lovely too, the bright red braces are especially effective against all the different blue tones he’s used.
Yayoi Kunama’s self-portraits are a whirls of dots that remind me of one of those Magic Eye books that were popular in the 90’s. The repeating patterns are quite hypnotic and it feels like if I were to stare at it for a long time another image would leap out from the page. It creates an interesting effect and definitely makes me want to study her painting further.
Tracey Emin’s work is emotionally charged, raw and frantic. I really enjoy looking at it; the intensity of the feelings she’s describing to the viewer in the images below are shown by lines that are simple yet chaotic at the same time. Either subconsciously or by complete coincidence I’ve been drawing portraits with similar poses in my sketchbook to the ones here. It’s thought-provoking to see how she has approached them and has given me ideas on how I can develop the way I’ve chosen to draw them. In a lot of her work, there’s a dark humour which also appeals to me; “I’ve got it all” is a great example. In this photographic self-portrait, Emin is sticking it to the critics and unashamedly revealing in her success. It’s also a commentary on what ‘having it all’ means for a woman in today’s society and how the idea of success is changing.
I feel a connection to all of the works in this research point. Again I’m not sure that I see ‘myself’ but I see emotions that I understand and have felt. In a heightened state of anxiety about going back to work and having time to fit all this blogging in, I’m probably identifying with Gustave Courbet and Tracey Emin the most! This is possibly why I picked these works to talk about in the first place, but I imagine most people have at sometime felt overwhelmed and would see some of their emotions in these images.
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Lehmannmaupin.com. (2017). Tracey Emin – Exhibitions – Lehmann Maupin. [online] Available at: http://www.lehmannmaupin.com/exhibitions/2013-05-02_tracey-emin_1/press/1571/exhibition_work [Accessed 18 Sep. 2017].
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Nationalgallery.org.uk. (2017). Rembrandt | artist | 1606 – 1669 | National Gallery, London. [online] Available at: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/rembrandt [Accessed 18 Sep. 2017].
Nga.gov. (2017). Artist Info. [online] Available at: https://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/artist-info.1349.html [Accessed 18 Sep. 2017].
Npg.org.uk. (2017). Portrait – National Portrait Gallery. [online] Available at: http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw129528/David-Hockney-Self-Portrait-with-Charlie?LinkID=mp02210&search=sas&sText=david+hockney&role=sit&rNo=8 [Accessed 18 Sep. 2017].
Rijksmuseum. (2017). Self-portrait, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, c. 1628 – Rijksmuseum. [online] Available at: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/SK-A-4691 [Accessed 18 Sep. 2017].
Tate. (2017). Yayoi Kusama – Exhibition at Tate Modern | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/yayoi-kusama [Accessed 18 Sep. 2017].
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum. (2017). Vincent van Gogh | Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat (obverse: The Potato Peeler) | The Met. [online] Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436532 [Accessed 18 Sep. 2017].