Part 5 – The Personal project

Main Avenue, Alemada, Rancagua

During this part of the course I have been outside sketching, gathering ideas from various sources and different artists that inspire me in my chosen subject of the Urban Landscape.

One particular artist that inspired me the most was Leon Kossoff. His links and influences from the works of English masters that he copied, Frank Auerbach and David Bomberg was also of great interest to me, as were the works of Dennis Creffield and John Virtue.

Leon Kossoff`s drawings in charcoal and pastel are an inspiration and the more I look at his work the more I find:

  • Both drawings are relatively large – aprox. 50x80cm
  • I believe that Leon is left handed as these particular rapid strokes would be awkward for a right handed person
  • In the LH drawing there is a terrific movement of heavy traffic, many people also a blur.  The atmostphere is stormy with grey overbearing cloud – this may be the reason for the hurry!
  • There appears to be a multitude of layers built up from a tonal, blended and smudged pastel background to the final energetic, rhythmic, repetitive almost overwhelming layer of heavy charcoal linework
  • Marks made with an eraser
  • An almost absent or darkened sky
  • A high viewpoint – looking down from a building, window or bridge
  • Working direct or from many sketches – not photographs, like John Virtue and Frank Auerbach
  • The use of complementary colours to enhance depth, add interest and guide the viewers eye around the drawing
  • Limited palette
  • Angular, rounded, distorted perspective – like when using a fisheye lens
  • His inclusion of cars, people and bicycles are fleeting, blurred gestures that I have also experienced only from drawing in the street – not possible from photographs

This is my development for a view of the main avenue in Rancagua – Alemada. My first sketch was freely drawn (standing) and included details of buildings in the background, people, traffic and tree outlines – I particularly liked making the gestural drawings of fast moving cars, trees and people –  also I was quite accurate in the placing of buildings, people traffic etc and felt really connected to the atmostphere.

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This second view drawn a couple of weeks later included more detail with a lower viewpoint as I was sitting down to draw this. Too much detail this time but of use to develop the work further

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During the same session I made this pastel and graphite drawing on mylar, but felt that I had lost the plot! No foreground, background, middleground, inaccurate perspective, no focal point, not much use of tonal contrast to depict form and I should have used more careful observation of the scene.

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My final attempt at this scene (drawn at home) was more successful, after studying more closely the style of Leon Kossoff`s drawing – View of St. Pancras Way (see above)

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There were some notable differences in my drawing:

  • There was a lack of rhythm in my linework
  • I could have built up more darker detailed tone in the foreground and used less detail in the background
  • I did not effectively use complementary colour in the scene
  • Not many layers of tone under charcoal line work
  • The scale of 43x25cm was perhaps too small to allow for more energetic gestural marks

Positive elements included:

  • Use of 95g/m2 Strathmore Charcoal paper
  • The relationship between line/grain worked well and the paper allowed for a good degree of blending of the pastel colour – I particularly liked the sky and some details in the trees
  • The composition worked well with the RHS/LHS trees framing the scene with the dominant background buildings drawing the eye into the drawing

I made a final drawing of this series building up more tonal layers, incorporating complementary colours, many different layers of charcoal linework, erasure marks and light yellow pastel for highlights. The paper was light grey Fabriano Tiziano paper which I further tinted with an warm light orange base:

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Main Avenue, Alemada, Rancagua – Pastel and charcoal on Fabriano Tiziana paper, 160g/m2 (65x32cm)

I worked from my sketches, but also from memory of the scene.  What is very noticiable is the elevated viewpoint (eye-level) – it is as if I have lifted myself up over the scene and wonder if in some of Kossoff’s work he did the same?  I am very pleased with the result and feel that I have captured my personal feeling of the scene and not just a photographic copy.

In this drawing I improved upon what I believe were errors/faults with the previous version:

  • I incorporated many layers of colour/charcoal before the final gestural marks were made
  • I included erasure marks – something Leon Kossoff is very good at
  • I used complementary colours to add depth and interest to the scene
  • Adding charcoal to some layers may have dulled the wonderful soft pastel colouring
  • I have included sufficient detail and interest for both a distant and close viewer
  • I was able to use looser, gestural marks in the final layer

 

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Part 5 – The personal project

In the cemetery

The local cemetery located in the centre of the town was severely damaged by an earthquake in 2010, and has been restored as much as was possible.  It includes some antique tombs with wonderful architecture and was of interest to me as a part of the urban life of Rancagua. (Not much activity there as everyone is resting!)

I made a slow drawing:

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and then a couple of faster sketches:

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I returned to Leon Kossoff for my final drawing of the cemetery. I used the effect of his Arnold Circus series as my guide:

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Rancagua Cemetery – charcoal and pastel on grey tinted Fabriano Tiziano paper 160g/m2 – 65x50cm

Like most cemetaries – even in London – there is a curious mixture of styles and in this view I have included tombs of many shapes and sizes.

In this drawing the mark making was not varied enough and I did not use tone effectively – even though in Kossoffs Arnold Circus series there is also a lack of tonal rendering! Because of the nature of the forms – tombs – described in this drawing my linework was very rigid.  In Kossoffs series there are buildings but none are drawn with straight lines.

His lines are broken, rapidly drawn, made up of a combination of line work with layers of lines not just one firm line – in some of his drawings it is like he has carefully laid the structure using lines/marks and an autumnal wind has swept them up to reveal a more energetic, more abstract version. In his catalogue of London Landscapes there are 25 drawings of Arnold Circus – all around 65x50cm in size – and I am sure that he made many more.

On the day that I was drawing in the cemetery there was an absence of wind and people and the sun was blazing with a temperature of around 27degC. The light was strong – nearly overhead and so not much change in tone/shadows on the grey stone buildings and monuments.

I need to lay a better foundation of pastel before applying the final marks if this style is to work for me.

Part 5 – The personal project

Part 5 – The personal project

Early research and experimentation

I started this part by brainstorming ideas for the Urban Landscape:

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From this very busy and too overwhelming chart, I made another more specific one:

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I heaviliy studied the catalogue of Leon Kossoff’s London Landscapes and was intrigued by his frantically scribbled drawings and Gouache paintings – I stuck some in my sketchbook:

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and then made a larger copy of one of his drawings of Arnold Circus…

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I used smooth paper to allow me to blend the pastel and to make marks with the charcoal with as least amount of grain as possible. Using a slightly bigger scale showed me just how skilled Kossoff is – the amount of mark making and range of mark making needs to increase considerably.  I did not achieve this in this piece of work but gained a sense of what is required.

Studying further I came across Dennis Creffield who went to the same evening classes as Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach – their teacher was David Bomberg, whose famous charcoal drawing of St Pauls rising from the ashes of bombed out London – his use of charcoal (burnt wood) significant – was obviously a strong influence on both Dennis Creffield, and much later John Virtue, in their drawings/paintings.

The following pages from my sketchbook show copies of Creffields drawings/paintings:

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I particularly liked these drawings as they allowed me much more freedom in mark making and representing forms in a more abstract way.

Going back to Kossoff, I experimented a little with gouache and used the following as a basis for this investigation

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I used gouache, soft pastel and charcoal.  Kossoff made many versions of this scene all around 70 x 90cm, my version is just A5. I did however make the following observations:

  • He has typically used a high viewpoint
  • All his versions were made in gouache with one in oil
  • He makes use of contrasting/complementary colours
  • He uses several layers of colour to build up his base for the image and then uses heavy dark gestural linework or dabs of paint to complete the painting.

I did not continue with this line of investigation as I saw it as more painting than drawing. I hope to get the chance to explore this again in POP1.

At this stage I also explored the use of collage on its own and building it up more with graphite and pastel:

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Local marketplace, Rancagua

I sketched in my local marketplace and then worked from photographs in pencil and gouache:

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and pastel:

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I liked the colours which reminded me of one of Frank Auerbach’s paintings which I then copied in oil pastel on mylar:

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The effect of oil pastel on mylar was interesting but difficult to control and maintain clean. It is something that I will try and take further in the future.

Finally with David Bomberg and John Virtue in mind, I made a black and white sketch of the scene using charcoal on gessoed newspaper:

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References:

  • Leon Kossoff, London Landscapes – Catalogue
  • Frank Auerbach, Speaking and Painting by Catherine Lampert

You tube videos:

  • BBC Four, British art at war – David Bomberg
  • Leon Kossoff, London Landscapes trailer
  • John Virtue, London paintings and sea paintings

 

Part 5 – The personal project

Artist´s Statement

Combine line, space and form to create depth, movement and atmosphere in the urban landscape exploring a wide range of media to include graphite, charcoal, pastel, ink, markers, crayons, water-based paints, and collage.

The final work will be a series of up to 5 urban landscapes in a chosen media or use of mixed media.

My interest during the course has been with the use of line in an expressive way and in a wide range of media. My work for Part 3 outdoors – the urban landscape – was an element of the course which I enjoyed, and this is the area of my work that I wish to develop further in Part 5.

During the course I have been criticised for overusing line – compensating for a lack of tone to create form, and for lacking tonal contrast in my work. Another weakness has been in my poor use of sketchbooks and coherent pathway to my final drawings.
I start Part 5 full of ideas and will build upon my strengths, practice and work on my weaknesses, and harness the power of influences from a wide range of inspirational artists such as: Gerhart Richter, Julie Mehretu, Leon Kossoff, David Bomberg, Frank Auerbach, Dennis Creffield and John Virtue among others.

My priority for Part 5 will therefore be to explore and practice the various approaches, styles and techniques of these artists working in the urban environment. Then utilise this research and practice to make sketches/drawings outdoors:

In the marketplace, bus station, cemetery, and main square (‘Plaza de los Heroes’) of my current home city – Rancagua, Chile.

These places are busy bustling places, but also include places with a link to the past and local history – the ‘Plaza de los Heroes’ an important battle site, and the more quiet, tranquil cemetery.

The work of Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, Dennis Creffield and John Virtue all involved close observation of their subjects by sketchbook drawings in the street – sometimes hundreds of drawings as in the case of John Virtue’s series of London Paintings.

As in Part 3, I have an interest in the movement of people and traffic, change in the city and a sense of history/culture – I have already found by sketching in the street that photos cannot be used to achieve the mark-making that I want to represent movement of people and vehicles. I will therefore need to brave the street in the making of my final drawings. The area where I live is nearly always blessed with clear blue sky and bright sunlight – not the bustling fast moving, stormy clouds as in John Virtues or Constables landscapes – so I intend to eliminate the sky wherever possible or use the pale blue as a base colour to my work.

Intentionality was an area that I researched in my study of Margaret Davison’s book, Contemporary Drawing. I want to ensure that my final works for this Part also fully take into account intentional use of surface, mark, space, materials, scale and composition.