I enjoy going to art fairs as much as I find Tate and other galleries inspirational, it’s interesting to see what is on the market and popular with people who actually buy and sell contemporary art. I love prints – partly because I love paper and printing seems to show paper off to such good effect – so I went up to the Royal Academy for a nose round.
There were some big names such as Dali, David Hockney, Sol Le Witt and Bridget Riley. The other good thing about fairs is that you can get up close and take pictures without getting a hard stare from the attendant. I know very little about the different printing processes so that was a bit confusing but the variety was amazing. A couple of the stand-out pictures for me were these:
This woodblock print, “Looking South” from Pine Feroda is huge and just glorious.
I also thought this one from Susan Goethel Campbell was stunning – the dots are perforations and allow light through which gives a brilliant effect:
It was a fun afternoon and great to see the folk at Jealous and generally soak up the atmosphere. Vija Celmins’ ‘Comet 1992’, Bill Jacklin’s ‘Tempest in the Square’ and Emil Lukas’ monoprints were stunning. Emma Stibbon’s fabulous new print “Vent” was on display too at the Rabley Gallery stand.
I would love to do a printing module as part of my degree as I really enjoyed that section of Foundations Drawing.
For this exercise, the objects I chose were a stainless steel teapot and a little glazed pottery chicken I made last year. I set them on the table with a white canvas behind so I could use it as a viewfinder of sorts – so I could see how to fit the objects on the page. I chose A2 cartridge paper and willow charcoal; I find the inconsistency of natural charcoal both a blessing and a curse but then again compressed charcoal lacks any character! I used the natural light from the window to the left to provide the light source and although the shadows and reflections weren’t particularly dramatic, the shininess of the pot and reflection of the chicken on that surface were appealing.
The instructions were to fill in the areas of shadow first as in the previous exercises but I tried that with little success, so sketched in the main shapes first. I drew the chicken first and found the shine of the glaze on a dark brown irregular surface quite difficult to interpret as the glints were very patchy. Some were bright white and others just lighter but they varied hugely with the slightest adjustment of my viewpoint.
I then moved on to the teapot and after a few attempts at the ellipses on the lid and base, I settled on the shapes. It was so interesting seeing the reflections on the silver surface and I enjoyed filling in all the marks and highlights.
I really like the finished image. I scumbled round the objects with a not terribly sophisticated sweep of the charcoal but there wasn’t much by way of discernible contrast. I had also peaked with my attention span and I recognise that there are times when one should go back and work more on a drawing and I might try that with a different arrangement when I am feeling inclined!
Reflections: (pardon the pun)
There were more highlights that I could have put on to the teapot and the front edge between the spout and the lid went wrong so is more defined than it should be.
I think it works as a drawing despite not being wholly representative and considering my fears about the exercise in general I am very pleased with how it looks. They look like shiny surfaces and I perhaps could have been more brave with the intricacy of the various reflections but I wanted to do an effective if not very adventurous completion of the exercise.
The last two exercises focussed on the differences in tone between the primary and secondary light sources, and I do find effectively translating those differences by using blocks of tone quite difficult in drawing. I found using the crosshatching to depict the form of the book quite illuminating as I managed to get the sense of it sitting on a surface and having solid dimensions without doing an outline – quite a revelation for me! I think a problem I have is working out the variety of tone to use as it all gets rather homogenous. I do aspire to be able to draw in tone rather than lines so I will persevere and much as I enjoy and like line drawings, they do lack atmosphere.
Odilon Redon (1840-1916)
One of the leading artists of the French Symbolist movement, Redon used charcoal to produce what he called “Noirs” from his perception of nature. Rooted in reality but with a fantastical interpretation, these atmospheric drawings are a blend of observation and imagination and the blackness of the charcoal makes for dramatic imagery. Pegasus is my favourite in the selection below, but the variety of marks, the negative space and suggestion of form in all the drawings are powerful. Symbolist artists explored the occult and dreamworlds, and emotions and subjectivity formed the basis for their art.
Tone invariably adds atmosphere, and charcoal seems to exemplify this as the variation in tone can be from black to white, whereas graphite is less extreme. Shadows and dark areas make us feel vulnerable and this aspect of tone can be effective in bringing a sense of emotion and edge to a drawing. The Two Trees in the course text shows the light reflecting off two large tree trunks with an area of blackness between and behind them; this gives a feeling of uncertainty and wariness and the natural response at the prospect of standing in an area of light and openness leading into a dark enclosed space is one of trepidation. This makes an essentially simple drawing a more complex proposition through the use of tone.
This event was held a few weeks ago in the stunning setting of the music room in the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. A selection of costumed models were arranged in different areas of the room, and we were given a ‘menu’ of pose lengths so we could move around depending on what sort of drawing we wanted to do. It was a magical atmosphere with the Drawchestra playing in the background and about 80 artists gathered together. Materials were provided so I went for 6B graphite stick and A2 paper, and as I prefer short poses I chose the 3, 5 and 15 minute models. Here are some of my drawings from the evening:
The top two are each 15 minutes, the ones on the bottom two sheets are 3 minutes each. I had a great time although I did find clothes a bit distracting as when I was doing the 100 people challenge! And I still breathe a sigh of relief when the time is up and I’ve not got round to doing any facial features. I much prefer feet.
The simple object I chose for the first part of this exercise was a book, the aim being to create four distinct grades of tone using cross-hatching and stippling. I used a purple biro, brush pen, pencil and fineliner. The light was natural daylight from the window and I tried to do blocks of tone rather than outlines, which I found really difficult! The text said to not worry about neatness or accuracy so I focussed on trying to get a convincing graduation of tone:
I then tried a box and used a brushpen and fineliner to explore some different ways of demonstrating tone:
I like the more abstract one in the bottom left corner and the stippled one is also effective. I still find I instinctively draw in an outline and fill it in but I just need to keep practising that one…
For the second part I added a book and two small boxes to the still life and had a go at drawing the group. The interlocking shadows were interesting and there was more variation in tone so I tried some different marks to represent this. It looks very messy and rushed but the text said to work quickly and loosely. I do think they look like objects and they have a three dimensional quality; they lack solidity but I’m not sure how to do straight lines with crosshatching without resorting to drawing an outline so the edges are fuzzy:
The examples for this exercise in the course text have definite outlines so sometimes I find the instructions rather contradictory! I feel I am getting better at seeing areas of tone so I’m trying to resist always going for the outline and then filling in.
This exercise required two simple, pale objects to be placed so that the light fell on one side. I used a hardback book and a small woven basket and placed them so that the daylight from the window lit them from the left.
To start with I sketched in the main shapes with charcoal as the contrast wasn’t that dramatic, and with only two objects, the shadows not that complex. I wasn’t sure how much detail to put in as the woven texture of the basket created lots of tiny shadows – too fiddly for charcoal and I decided intricacy wasn’t the aim of the exercise. Here is my drawing:
The pale areas are whiter than they should be but I am pleased with this as I have been stumped by tonal values thus far and I think this gives a definite sense of three-dimensional form. The ellipse is inaccurate and I think the book bells out a bit at the base but I like it as a drawing, and as with the previous exercise, I can see that I’ve improved and feel more confident since I did something similar for Foundation Drawing. It’s also good working big and I would like to try a drawing with more contrasting shadows.
For this exercise, I gathered a group of objects varying in shape, size and regularity of form. On a sheet of A2, I sketched out the basic shapes in charcoal and then started to fill in some of the shadows. I’m not terribly good at ellipses and the instructions said to imagine the contents of the containers but this stumped me a bit. The charcoal is quite unwieldy for detail and I wasn’t sure how to execute porridge oats or paprika. I was possibly being too literal or perhaps hadn’t chosen my packets with this part of the brief in mind! The text also said to think about the relationship between the edges of the forms and the picture plane; I sort of understood this conceptually but it was a bit of a leap for me to work out how I could do it. I was worried about drawing in the surface of the table as it would then just look a bit messy and contrived? Here it is:
I wasn’t sure how much detail to put in, or how loose the drawing should be. Suffice to say I didn’t really get to grips with what I was meant to be doing and I tried again in conté but that went completely wrong so I decided to quite while I was ahead…
What I am pleased about is that I remember doing a similar exercise for Foundations Drawing and well, I have definitely improved in my ability to get objects relating to each other and in the space.