Feedback from my tutor was fast, constructive and very helpful:
Observing shadow using blocks of tone
You have completed this exercise well, demonstrating an ability to understand and
suggest tonal variation. The quality of the line and the mark making you use has
energy – particularly evident in your second attempt. Here you manipulate the charcoal
with great sensitivity, combining the linear with uneven blocks of tone. It is good to see
you are not overemphasising the darker tones or being too heavy with the mark
making – resulting in a subtle sense of texture.
Charcoal is essentially an expressive medium that is bold and direct. That’s not to say
it can’t be used with sensitivity – in fact the fragile, almost elusive quality can be
exploited and used to contrast dense and dark areas of a drawing. It doesn’t work well
for small detailed studies but can be used on a reasonably small scale if there is a
limited amount of mark making or descriptive detail.
You might also like to try compressed charcoal which is much denser and harder but
can be used to add darker tones to a willow charcoal drawing. The problem with it is it’s
difficult to erase so needs to be used with care.
Have a look at Jenny Saville’s use of charcoal in her large studies for her mother and
Child series of paintings. Here you can see a powerful and expressive use of line. The
evidence of smudged underdrawing adds to the layered and slightly animated quality
to these pieces. It is a good example of combining the soft, powdery fragility of the
medium with decisive mark making to add structure. It is very easy to overwork
charcoal and difficult to bring it back to life once the surface has become quite dull.
Since these comments were made I have looked at the work of Jenny Saville and her use of charcoal in the Mother and Child series. I liked the idea of combining the soft powdery smudged underdrawing with the more powerful expressive marks on top. I will find a way during Part 2 to practice this technique.
I did in fact use mostly compressed charcoal in the studies I made in Part 1 and only during the last part of this exercise did I switch to willow charcoal. I found the willow charcoal more expressive and easier to use, and did have difficulties removing parts of the drawing!
Group of objects
It is interesting to see the development of your ideas for this exercise. Your first attempt
in charcoal is quite well executed though it doesn’t quite have the same energy as the
previous studies. Again, you demonstrate a good ability to describe a range of tones.
You are just starting to be a little heavy handed with the outlines.
Your coloured markers and acrylic piece does have potential. The objects are quite
well observed with regard to angles and ellipses. I prefer it before you added the white
chalk as this does look rather superficial, instead of adding a sense of light across
forms it really just sits on the surface. But you should consider the strengths of the
earlier stage of the drawing when you had added a wash of acrylic. I can see why you
were unsatisfied and wanted to add more definition but there are some interesting
qualities starting to emerge. For future pieces, apply a transparent wash of ink/
watercolour/acrylic before you start working with other media such as ink or graphite.
The sense of movement that can be created adds an interesting contrast with the
linear detail and you have more control of the edges and add more or less definition.
For your two pieces on newsprint, you are being inventive with your techniques. I
particular like the strong shadows to the left on the green piece and the expressive
lines you use to describe the cloth. Again, be careful not to over emphasise outlines
For your monochrome piece you use a more animated mark which certainly has
potential as a way of working. I don’t think the results here are entirely successful as
the arrangement is quite difficult to read and a little flat. As an abstract drawing it is just
starting to work because of the energy you are giving the line. For you, it would be
worth exploring ways of keeping this energy while continuing to look at the objects/
interior or whatever it is you are drawing. This comes with practice and increased
confidence but it is important because I know how easy it is to get absorbed in a
drawing that becomes all about mark making. Finding a balance between the quality of
the mark and rendering the form with at least some accuracy is an area to focus on.
During parts of this exercise I felt that I was forcing the marks and that they did not flow like my previous pieces and this has been emphrasized in the comments above. In my own feedback I agreed with the idea of laying down a wash first before starting – this I will use in Part 2.
I understand that I must try and maintain the energy in my mark-making without losing control and losing accuracy in what I am drawing. Its a balance that I need to practice over and over again!
This is an ambitious, and on the whole, well executed drawing. The composition itself is well balanced with a good combination of intricate detail and empty space. The
carving of the chair, the book and the floor are sensitively rendered and I like your
decision to include some deep dark shadows to the right. The angle of the floor is
interesting too and there is a slight distortion to the room that actually encourages the
viewer to enter, despite possible inaccuracies.
I think you are struggling with the oil pastel a little in places – I’m not sure what you are
describing in green to the right of the chair but it doesn’t really add anything to an
already quite interesting composition. And the top section of floor with the green
shadow – might this have worked better if you had used graphite? It looks a little abrupt
and contrived. Oil pastel is difficult to manipulate and can quite easily be overworked. It
lends itself to large, expressive drawings where there is a limited amount of detail. It
also works well if turpentine is added in areas to add softness and transparency. Here
you are adding it to certain areas which can be problematic because the already
slightly crude qualities of the medium are sitting next to a more delicate pencil mark –
this of course can highlight the inadequacies of the medium in certain contexts. That’s
not to say you shouldn’t combine media, I think you should explore all sorts of
possibilities – how a wet and a dry mark work together, transparency and opacity, hard
and soft edges.
Your preliminary sketchbook studies are energetic and it is good to see you
considering different approaches.
This is a personal and thoughtful approach to your first assignment piece and you are
demonstrating good observational drawing skills which will provide you with a solid
foundation upon which to explore new ways of working.
I was pleased with the comments made about my final piece and have noted the comment that I should explore wet and dry media, transparency and opacity, and hard and soft edges. There will plenty of opportunities to explore this in forthcoming exercises and of course in my sketchbooks.
Suggested reading/viewing (Context)
I have already mentioned Jenny Saville, also have a look at the drawings of Henry
Moore for their intense exploration of tone. Graham Sutherland is also interesting as
his work conveys depth and intrigue through a range of media such as ink, gouache
and pastel. John Piper employs similar techniques including frottage which you have
already enjoyed experimenting with. Also look at the charcoal drawings of William
Kentridge for a more immediate and expressive type of mark making.
Also have a look at the Jerwood Drawing Prize online catalogues of past exhibitions – it
gives a very good overview of current concerns in drawing.
These comments I found extremely interesting as my tutor has obviously thought about my approach to some of the exercises and identified a few artists that could stimulate and stretch my creative abilities. I have already looked at the work of these artists and in my next few drawings I intend to use some of these influences.