Categoría: Research & Reflection

Part 2 Intimacy

Project 3 – At home (Research Point)

Find contemporary artists who focus on domestic interiors and analyse their choice of content, medium, format, etc. Consider how their work reflects its context in terms of era, fashion, mood, current issues, and so on.

Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940)

This is an artist I wish to study more – I love his complex, tranquil, intimate interiors.

Edouard Vuillard drew and painted many interiors during the course of his career. Many of his drawings include a window – almost certainly for the effect created by strong sunlight entering the room as in the pastel drawing (above) – As well as a single or indeed multiple light source for the interior. I deeply admire his interior painting of people reading, taking breakfast (not a mobile phone or even a TV in sight!) – as in the oil painting below:

Artists mother taking breakfast

In each of the rooms we are allowed to share in all of the intimate details of his home and his mother looking out of the window, eating breakfast etc.

In the painting of his mother taking breakfast, the busy table is balanced by the very decorative wallpaper, the open door/dresser and the wallpaper are counterbalanced spaces. The artist has used a limited palette to mantain harmony which has resulted in a very tranquil, quiet space. The subject is looking down at the table aparrently unaware of the viewer. A wonderful painting.

John Bratby (1905-1992)

Bratby 1
An image of interior with fireplace and window at Greenwich
bratby 2
Interior with Monopoly board

These contemporary paintings by the British painter, John Bratby are busy and full of life – crowded spaces with recognisable items such as a woodburner, open fireplace, childs highchair and floral curtains. These rooms are on display with the viewer given a ‘circle’ seat from which to view the scene. The viewer is invited to see very nearly the whole room with all its clutter – the upper image displays living room, dining table, bed and what looks like a cooker in the background, whilst the lower painting shows us just the kitchen/diner with a person playing monopoly in the nude (was it a very hot day?)

Both paintings have used many triangles in the composition, along with strategically placed chairs.

Alberto Giacometti (1909-1966)

During the course of my studies so far, I have joined many other students wondering what defines a painting and what defines a drawing – Giacometti has very much blurred the answers to that question.

I will explore and investigate further Giacometti`s work in the next part of the course and in Part 4.

Studying the two images above it is interesting to note that in the LH drawing Giacometti uses darker lines in the foreground and lighter lines in the background to create depth, also the diagonal emphrasis of the table and other object to the front RHS draws the viewer into the picture, whilst in the RH painting darker tones are used to represent background areas with lighter areas in the foreground. Again there are diagonals in the placing of the stools and door frame/table legs.

Part 2 Intimacy

Research point – Positive and negative space

For this research I checked out the work of Gary Hume, Patrick Caulfield and also encountered the work of Elsworth Kelly (an American minimalist artist) who also created some interesting positive and negative artworks.

After looking at the work of these artists I decided to make some thumbnail sketches and ideas – copying and imitating their work.  See below:

After starting my thumbnail sketches – trying to imitate paintings by Patrick Caulfield – I realised just how difficult it is to make a satisfactory image – for me the RH middle sketch was my most successful.

I then made some more sketches from works by Ellsworth Kelly and Gary Hume:


Again it was very clear to me that these artists used their substantial experience and skill in the composition of their paintings and in their minimal use of colour. I will return to their work again when experimenting in my sketchbook and in the following still life exercises within Part 2.


Part 2 Intimacy

Research – Still life genre

In my research into the still life genre – I wanted to focus mostly on flower/fruit still life painting and use this as the basis for my work during Part 2 Intimacy – Still life.

Early in the 16th Century Joris Hoefnagel (1542-1601) played an important role in the still life genre and in particular flowers – which he painted with insects eg. Flower still life with insects (1594) – mostly as illustrations. Jacob de Ghyen II (1565-1629), a Dutch painter and engraver, painted some of the earliest flower still lifes eg. Vase of flowers with a curtain (1615).

Vase of flowers with a curtain 1615. Jacob de Ghyen II. Oil on Panel. Kimbell Art Museum

Flower painting became was very popular in Holland at this time and another artist that specialized in Flower painting was Ambrosius Bosschaert (1573-1621) – he also incorporated religious and symbolic meanings into the paintings and included detailed bouquets typically with roses and tulips. In Christian symbolism the rose represented the Virgin Mary, the wounds of Christ and true love, whilst the tulip -wealth, prosperity and commercial trade (important to the dutch at the time). 

Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1621) – nicknamed Flower Brueghel, created a genre of Garland Paintings which were  a collaboration between still life painter and portrait painter in which a portrait (or adoration) would be surrounded with a garland of flowers eg. Madonna in floral wreath which was painted with Rubens as the portrait painter.

Madonna in floral wreath 1620. Jan Brueghel the Elder/Peter Paul Rubens. Alte Pinakothek

The flowers were painted with scientific precision and very often he painted them in the wild – commanding a higher price for this method.

Carravagio (1571-1610) was notable for his early still lifes painted for Guiseppe Cesari in his workshop/factory eg. Basket of fruit (1595/6).

In the 18th century, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779) painted exquisite still lifes of fruit and general household items.  Another still life artist at this time was Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744-1818)  who due to social limitations as a woman painted still lifes of fruit and flowers eg. Vase of flowers with a bust of Flora (1774).

Vase of flowers with a bust of Flora 1774. Anne Vallayer-Coster.

Goya, Courbet and Delacroix incorporated still life paintings into their body of work in the 19th Century.  Monet and Renoir broke with the dark backgounds of the past eg. Still life with bouquet and fan (1871)

Still life with bouquet and fan 1871. Pierre-August Renoir. Houston Fine Art Museum

At the end of the 19th Century Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) painted a series of Sunflowers eg. Vase with fifteen sunflowers (1888).

Vase with fifteen sunflowers 1888. Vincent Van Gogh. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery.

He also painted a memorable self portrait in the form of a still life:

Still life with drawing board 1889. Vincent Van Gogh, Oil on canvas.

Entering the 20th Century Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), one of my all time favourite artists, unsatisfied with the impressionist movement experimented with still life colour, form and line. Eg. Still life with curtain (1895) and Still life with green melon (1895).

His work led the way for cubist still lifes with Picasso, Braque and Juan Gris (1887-1927) Eg. Nature morte (1913) Drawing on paper and Still life with flowers 1912 Oil on canvas.

Up until the 1920s Piet Mondrian painted hundreds of flower paintings – some were flower studies, particularly chrysanthemums, but others were still lifes. “I enjoyed painting flowers, not bouquets, but a single flower at a time, in order that I might better express its plastic structure.” Eg. Chrysanthemum (1908) Charcoal on paper and Amaryllis (1910) Watercolour on paper

In 1972 Roy Lichenstein (1923-1997) created his own style of still life with examples such as Still life with goldfish (1972) and Still life (1974)– a combination of styles between Matisse and Andy Warhol.

In the 21st Century, David Hockney (1937-) has produced his own modern digital flower still lifes using an ipad:

Finally looking at other artists of today, the Guardian in 2013 listed their selection of the best 10 contemporary still lifes and included the following:

Cindy Wright, Nature Morte 2 (2010) – a bloody, gutted fish coiled in a goldfish bowl with its eye staring out at the viewer.

Rebecca Scott, The Perfect Hostess (2006) – part of her The Perfect Life series in which she questions the notion of a perfect life publicised in the pages of women’s magazines and catalogues.

Peter Jones. Oliie Monkey (2007) – a worn out, neglected vintage stuffed monkey on the verge of falling apart.

To view the images use the following link:

References:, The art,, The

Part 1 Form and gesture

Tutor Feedback

Feedback from my tutor was fast, constructive and very helpful:

Tutor comment:

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!

Tutor comment:

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
around objects.
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!

Tutor comment:

Final piece

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.

Tutor comments

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.