During my recent business trip to Bogota Colombia, I was able to take time out to sketch a small part of the City and to visit two excellent Art Museums:
Art Museum of the Banco de la Republica and the Botero Museum:
I was fortunate to see an excellent collection of Latin America art and Colonial art as well as European Art.
Among the artworks my highlights were as follows:
In this painting, I sensed a sadness in this portrait of a Mulato native of Colombia. I was also intriqued by the effects of the apparently simple line on a multicoloured background. The uncovering of the breast and phallic simbols on the RH side – to me suggest rape or submission, even persecution.
This is perhaps a lovely portrayal of a volumptuous figure using coloured pencil on paper – that may help me in Part 4. Very light shading – modelling the figure to give a wonderful 3D effect. I also noted that there are no heavy lines in the figure – just enough to assist the shading/modelling.
This drawing in oil could easily be a line drawing in ink – this is an artist that provides a constant source of inspiration for Part 4 of the course.
Whilst studying in Part 4, I was impressed by the wonderful pencil sketches made by Corot – This a good example of foreground, middleground and background.
In this drawing I appreciated the modelling and textures in this drawing after my studies in Part 2. Botero’s skill at still life is also reflected in the modelling of his figures (and other subjects – such as trees). There is a deeper meaning within this drawing with the use of many symbols – such as the cross represented by the stalk of the apple, the peeled orange, the knife and the hammerhead of the bananas.
After reading about Auerbach and his work, it was a treat to see a work up close. Not a large painting. You can see eveidence of his technique of scraping off paint, repainting, struggling to find the a solution to the modelling, movement and atmostphere of the scene – a scene literally outside of his studio – a scene he walked past every day and made many studies of – both in oils and pencil. This is particularly relevant to my current work on Townscapes.
This painting was the most moving for me – I visited Chagall’s immense retrospective at the Royal Academy, London just before he died with my late father. This was a very special memory for me and I have never ceased to be amazed by the imagination, vibrant use of colour and sheer emotion within Chagalls paintings. This painting made a few years before his death when he was a staggering 94 years old includes all the memories and motifs from his life and work – a self portrait? An inspration for me for Part 4 and the next course of POP.
This is a key work by a Spanish artist who settled in Colombia and worked with other artists interested in figuration/abstraction – using the nude, landscape and historical issues as a subject for their works. In this painting Obregon’s work is a visual metaphor linking the nation in conflict with a pregnant woman, whose figure blends into the mountainous landscape. A relevant work to my current studies in Part 3 Expanse.
Unfortunately I do not have details of this installation/sculpture – but it reminded me of the work of Julie Mehrethu in its explosive nature and effective use of pieces strategically placed to exagerrate the feeling of space and depth. An awesome piece of work and I am sure a Curators nightmare to install!
At first I thought that I did not have a suitable subject for this exercise and I made too many excuses and avoided it for quite some time – even though I was confident that I knew sufficient to make a reasonable drawing with parallel perspective.
It was interesting that although the drawing was successful, I did not exagerrate the angles enough – particularly regarding the flooring/skirting boards and the mirror. Whilst drawing the tiled floor I was aware that there were not sufficient tiles and that they appeared too wide. Analysing afterwoods with the red lines my errors were clear to me.
I modified some of the parts of the drawing with red pencil – the step was too large and the tiles need to be modified but overall my hand drawn version was on the whole accurate.
Exercise 2 Angular perspective
For this exercise I used a recent photo that I took whilst out sketching in my local town. It is of an abandoned petrol station which I am attracted to as a subject.
I made the drawing by first making construction lines in pencil without using a ruler or any other guides – just careful measurements by relating elements in the photo. I then used some new art markers that I bought to finish complete the drawing:
The photo was taken mid morning with the sun rising on a very clear hot day – there were therefore many strong shadows and varios rectangular/cubelar forms to draw nearly all angle on to my camera.
After completing the drawing I drew in an eyeline where I guessed it would be (in fact I think it should have been a little higher). Then drew in the parallel lines from each edges of the forms:
Most of the red lines appear to converge on an eyeline a little higher than I have drawn in – indicating that my construction was very good with few mistakes. As in Exercise 1, in the foreground of the image I need to exaggerate the perspective more to achieve the correct result.
An interesting final check of the eyeline and other perspective elements of my drawing was made using the original photo – I drew the converging lines on the drawing mounted on a newspaper sheet. Then drew in the eyeline – in fact the eyeline was lower, not higher! It was evident that the angles I drewof the roof of the washing and lubricating shed of the garage were drawn incorrectly. How can I avoid this in the future? – I need to think first of the eyeline and drawn in some prelimenary contruction lines as a guide for my measurements.
Using a ruler whilst drawing would help – in particular drawing in an eyeline to measure more accurately the converging lines.
The drawing made by Sir Muirhead Bone in the course text was incredibly accurate in that all the lines converge and even measuring the height of the people in the street – they all have a height that corresponds with their position in the drawing. I feel sure that he constructed the drawing using a ruler in his early construction.
Exercise 3 Aerial or atmostpheric perspective
Whilst making the three following drawings, I was also looking at Turner’s Lake of Lucerne; The Bay of Uri from above Brunnen, 1841-2 which he made in watercolour and gouache. He clearly used the foregound, middleground, background technique with a gradation of tones to increase the sense of perspective:
My copy from a book was actually much darker in tones however you can still see the use of atmospheric perspective.
The most succesful of my studies was the one in indian ink where my range of tones was greatest. Turner made many studies of the Lake of Lucerne/Uri from many different angles and times of day. They can be found in the Tate online gallery.
I need to make more use of these type of small studies in my work – in my sketchbook!
In this research point, we were asked to compare contemporary artists working with landscape with earlier artists.
The example given in the course text was interesting and linked up with my recent reading of Margaret Davison´s book on contemporary drawing.
I liked the idea of comparing the works of Tacita Dean with Seurat because it made clearer to me the idea of INTENTIONALITY. Seurat was the first artist to intentionally make a drawing based on the surface/mark relationship (see his drawing above).
Tacita Dean´s blackboard drawings are large and her choice of medium dictates this as chalk would be difficult to manipulate on a in the same way on a smaller scale. Her subject matter works well in black and white – with the smooth matt support in black. She is able to use a full range of tones – the feel of her work is cold and stark – equal to the subject of the glaciers depicted. Other works in the series include waves and heavy seas – also cold and bleak – life threatening even. As in life one has to step back to appreciate their awe.
In comparison the work of Seurat is more intimate, warm even and made on a smaller scale – one would have to inspect the drawing up close to appreciate it fully. Less detail, impressionistic but with full range of tones present. Surface of the paper used is rough and is used to assist in his impressionistic approach.
In moving forward with this part of the course, I will need to think more carefully about my approach to intentionality, use of surface, scale and selection of medium to support and enhance the subject matter.
This was an interesting part of the course for me and I am not quite sure that I have achieved what is expected at this stage. After reading Contemporary Drawing by Margaret Davidson, and researching Julie Mehretu I thought that I had increased my range of tools and techniques – maybe I have…but not consistently. I am though more aware of my goals.
Firstly, I picked the ‘Abandoned field’ sketch from my sketchbook walk to develop further. I liked the repetition of the shape of the pylons in the wooden tree frames in the field. I also felt a connection with this space – I used to walk in open fields when I was about 9-12 years old – often with a sketchbook. The pylons are a connection to my engineering training and an imposing manmade structure in a rural landscape – something that is not often seen in for instance an English landscape. Their were other connections like my interest in aliens and HG Wells’ War of the Worlds – the pylons as the alien invaders, and my weekend bike rides which pass this field.
When in the field sketching, I sat on a stool with a very low eye level – see sketch in Project 2. I later made a watercolour sketch but took up a standing position with easel. Additionally I took many photos to review compositional possibilities – all whilst standing!
It was interesting to note that the initial sketch shows the pylons touching the top of the page – towering over me, but in the watercolour, the pylons were not so imposing and my eyelevel was higher and looked over the field from the outside.
I made a pencil drawing in my sketchbook using as a guide the above watercolour and made notes of my feelings about the drawing:
There were several interesting notes: the use of a limited palette, the smaller pylons reminded me of angels, there was also a feeling of being in a graveyard, the noise of the cables – a crack-crackle/constant humming, and lastly something I may take forward the theme of the letter A upside down forced into the ground.
I decided to experiment with some new Duralar sketchpads bought in the USA. One was for dry media and the other wet media – this trial drawing was by memory – note that I painted the big pylon upside down!:
There were some interesting marks and I liked the indian ink washes that I made in both versions. I need to explore this combination of ink and gouache on Duralar again.
Then I decided to make a finished drawing using a 2B Pencil and coloured pencil on Duralar for dry media combining traced elements, erasing, drawing over erasures, working on the composition, including foreground, middleground and background, and finally including geometric shapes drawn with coloured pencil on the back of the support – using its transparent quality.
Relating this final piece to my recent research on Margaret Davisons book on Contemporary Drawing:
Have I shown the relationship between negative spaces and the forms? The negative spaces in the sky and mountains balance the busy foreground/middlegound, and also there is a connection with this negative space and the forms by means of the connecting cables.
Have I shown a relationship between the surface and the mark? It was my aim with this drawing to work on the smooth Duralar surface and also an intention to use its transparency to trace elements and to use the interesting effects of pencil/coloured pencil on this dry media support. Prior to starting the drawing I made various trial marks on a sheet of the same surface.
Is it clear why I chose certain materials and a particular surface? To me it was clear why I used the surface/materials – there is no relation between the subject and my choice.
Does the scale tell me or the viewer anything? In this case no as it is a normal size.
Have I been clear in how space is depicted? I believe that I have been clear in my use of and depiction of space. The pylons/wooden frames helped in depicting perspective increasing the sense of space, and the large open sky framed the large imposing pylon. The lightly coloured mountains also contributed to depicting distance and scale.
What is the eye level? The eye level is approximately level with the horizon or even a little higher – looking into the field. My initial sketch was low down seated within the wild plants with the pylons as giants towering above. This has not been depicted in the final version.
What is the message and is the message clear? I have never been in agreement with the placing of pylons in the countryside, and I feel strongly that they are an impostion although I marvel at the engineering and the power transmitted by the grid. The repetion of the forms – the pylons with the wooden tree supports are clearly the subject – this has worked and is clear in the composition – I also included repetition in the blue lines.
What helps, or hurts, the clarity of the message? The blue lines and the large detailed drawing of the pylons helped the message, the added colours may have distracted the viewer from the message and produced less clarity.
Intentionality: Now this is an interesting issue – yes I did intent to use the materials/ support for this drawing and I believe it was a successful choice. If I am honest the eye level was not chosen it just happened – I need to be more careful with this point. The scale was chosen solely because it was the size of my new sketchpad, although I did have a larger sheet available. The message was intentional but may not have been as clear to the viewer as it was for me.
In conclusion this was an interesting exercise for me and one that I enjoyed.
Exercise 2 Foreground, middleground, background
For this exercise I chose one of my mountain scenes. I chose to draw the scene using 9B graphite in both pencil and block type with chalk on a Strathmore toned grey paper with a medium surface (118g/m2) – size aprox. 22x30cm.
The combination worked well and I drew two copies of the scene – both in terms of the exercise set were not successful:
This photo of the drawing does not show the image well and there is greater contrast in the original however I did not structure the drawing the same as Poussin/Lorrain and Turner as asked for. There is more detail in the foreground and the middleground is shown by the houses although they have nearly the same tone/level of detail as the foreground. The background mountains should be less clearly defined and shaded lighter to make them almost fade into the sky.
The second drawing in portrait format again had the same faults although this time I tried to incorporate more tonal contrast:
I then searched among my books to find a suitable example to use as a guide.
I liked some of the examples from JWM Turners watercolour sketches – delicate masterpieces with depth:
These two examples do not have much detail in the foreground but just enough to show greater definition in a darker tone, then examples of middleground touching the edge of the image and much lighter tones in the background.
I needed to create something similar:
In this version, I introduced a little green pastel. This was more successful in creating depth – removing the excessive detail in the houses, leaving in the line of trees to the left and keeping the mountains middle grey. I also lightened the sky to outline the mountains.
I need to improve and practice on this technique much more.
Reflecting on the last two exercises
On reflection, I was happy with my work in the first exercise but deeply lacked practice in the second.
I was able to select simple shapes in the second exercise but it was obvious that I relied again on line more than tone! In Turners watercolours there is almost a total absence of line and he creates depth entirely by using tone – adding a small amount of detail in the foreground.
In the first exercise I did create depth and was happy with my experimentation and final image. Again I was able to simplify the large landscape.
In the first image There was a sense of depth/distance but not form. In the second I did manage to represent form but relied too much on line to help me.
In the first exercise I did not use the light at all! This was probably due to drawing and photography the scene on dull cloudy days and at a time when the sun was highest – no shadows.
In the second exercise I was more aware of the effect of the bright light on the scene and used it to create form – successfully? – no. Why? – because I relied on line.
Additionally I should make more smaller detailed sketches of the scene to record detail, shapes, tonal contrasts, and choose the correct time of day when the light shows off the form best. Many of Turners watercolours are of sunrise and sunset – beautiful colours and long contrasting shadows. Make more tonal studies of buildings, landscapes and natural features such as rocks and mountains.
As I was not happy with the second exercise I decided to redraw it again but this time in watercolour avoiding the use of line until the end:
This final drawing was much more in line with the brief and I achieved a much greater sense of depth using tone! Must practice and push myself more.