Etiqueta: Frank Auerbach

Part 4 The figure and the head

Part 4 The figure and the head

Assignment 4

1. Figure study using line – Seated model in an upright chair

Upon starting this course I was worried about working big, however now I find it liberating and comfortable working bigger – this drawing was a little bigger than A1.  The paper (in spanish) was called Pergamina – a textured vinyl type paper which creates a misty effect when used with charcoal. In this drawing I used coloured pencil and charcoal.


Self-Portrait Charcoal and coloured pencil on textured pergamina paper

This drawing was based on an earlier sketch I made of myself – also made in front of a very large mirror hung in my study/studio.  I had huge difficulties with my left leg and had to redraw it many times. I drew my right arm in two positions as I had to keep it moving to draw!

Of course the whole image is reversed by the mirror.

I was not entirely pleased with this drawing because of the amount of reworking and also because I re-read the assignment brief which asked to rediscover new ways to work with line – so I used experimental work that I made previously in the figure exercises in oil pastel and also an effect I encountered in Part 3 with pastel on newsprint previously painted over with acrylic gesso – the effect was almost like a fresco.



On this occasion I used a limited palette of soft pastels on newsprint pre-prepared – painted over with white acrylic gesso:


Self portrait – Soft pastel, collage and gesso on cartridge paper
Detail of self portrait

Whilst there are some inaccuracies in the scale and measurements of this study, my line work was fresher and I used a wide variety of colour, weight and style. I have managed to achieve an accurate rendering of my limbs and hands – including some skeletal landmarks.  I was much happier in this study than the first.

2. Figure study using tone – Reclining model

During this course and Part 4, I have been referring to an interesting book on drawing by Paul Thomas and Anita Taylor:

The charcoal drawing on the right was actually made by addition (not subtraction) but I also referred to a part of Experimental Drawing in which a drawing was made by the subtraction of charcoal. In the following drawing I wanted to achieve a similar effect to the RH drawing above but by subtraction. I therefore prepared the pergamina support the night before with a direct coating of compressed charcoal.

This then gave me a basis upon which I could achieve a figure study using tone. Highlights were taken out using a rubber and darker shadows by adding charcoal.

The pergamina support was not ideal for this medium but did allow for better subtraction of the charcoal.

Lighting was artificial and from a single source – in the evening without daylight.

There was also influence from studies made by Frank Auerbach – see self-portrait notes below for final drawing.

Reclining figure, Charcoal on pergamina paper

This is perhaps a style I could develop further and it did work well.  There are inaccuracies in the proportions, however I felt that the modelling using tone was good and model well placed within the sofa.

3. A portrait or self portrait combining line and tone

This final drawing is in fact an atmostpheric self-portrait using a single light source as called for in the brief. The influence was from the portraits and self-portraits made by Frank Auerbach:

Combining this with his looser line drawing portraits:

NPG 6611; Frank Auerbach by Frank Auerbach
Frank Auerbach – Self portrait, pencil and graphite

Before making my final drawing, I made some other Frank Auerbach style studies in my sketchbook:


Also some other sketches – the RH one blind:


Finally, I returned to a study by Frank Auerbach called ‘Head of Bruce Bernard’ – I made the following copy before embarking on my final drawing for Part 4:


For this drawing I chose the wonderful Strathmore charcoal drawing paper that I had used before with compressed charcoal to ensure that I could achieve a wide tonal contrast combined with expressive line.  The drawing was made up of several layers  built up, erased and then built up again until finally I had a sufficient level of texture, interesting background and basis upon which to finalise highlights and expressive line.

Final drawing: 

Self-portrait, Charcoal on Strathmore laid finish charcoal paper 95g, 45 x 30cm




Part 4 The figure and the head

Research point – Research artists self-portraits historic and contemporary

Rembrandt (1606-1669)

One of the most prolific self portrait artists ever – he made over 100 self portraits (although some are disputed and may have been copies by his students) 10% of his total work.  The portraits painted throughout his life up until his final year can be viewed as autobiographical and include fashions, and changes in his features as he aged.

Van Gogh (1853-1890)

Van Gogh made over 30 self portraits in his lifetime. He could not afford models and used peasants as models and of course a mirror to make self portraits – one of the most famous being the one with his bandaged ear:

Self portrait with bandage 1889 Oil on canvas

In addition to these portraits he also made other styles of portraits using autobiographical objects of his life:

Tracy Emin (1963 – )

Tracy Emin’s controversial work which includes working blind is of interest to me as I do enjoy the freedom and surprising accuracy of working in this manner. Monoprints are new to me and perhaps something for me to explore as soon as possible.

Like Van Gogh, Tracy Emin also used autobiographical objects from her life:


Tracy Emin My Bed 1998 (Turner Prize nomination)


Frank Auerbach (1931 – )

Among the most inspirational artists for me is Frank Auerbach whose methods were very unorthodox and creative. I recently saw one of his building site paintings in Colombia. His self portraits and portraits in general interest me:

Highly creative and very different in approach. I will use his charcoal method in my submission for Assignment 4.

Part 3 Expanse

Project 1 Trees – Research and ideas

Trees don’t follow the laws of perspective, or don’t seem to, because they are so complicated, with lines going in so many directions

David Hockney. A bigger message Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford. Thames & Hudson 2011.

When I think about drawing trees, I immediately think of Hockney’s paintings and studies for his Woldgate Wood series, Constable’s sketches and studies of trees, the trees of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot and after recently reading about the work of Frank Auerbach, I am also inspired by his rapid/expressive drawings of trees:

Auerbach tree on Primrose hill
Frank Auerbach, Tree on Primrose Hill

Other ideas on the extreme side – I would include the wonderfully expressive paintings and drawings of trees by  Joan Mitchell:

Tree II, 1992. Color lithograph © Estate of Joan Mitchell.

In reading Martin Gayford’s book on conversations with Hockney, I was interested on a section about his methods used for the painting of Woldgate Woods – painting with memory and photographs. I have also painted from memory in the past and it is an excellent way to include emotions/feelings into a painting without getting too distracted by technique and details. In the book, they discuss how Hockney uses his memory to paint. Constant drawing practice plays a large part and helps to train oneself to edit out parts of what you see – simplifying and experimenting with media. This practice makes it easier to use the memory to recall images and draw them in a more personal, emotional way.

David Hockney. Woldgate Woods 2006. Oil on canvas

Hockney recalls a story about the French philosopher Henri Bergson. He was sitting in a cafe opposite Rouen Cathedral, and he said that the only way you can see the cathedral properly from here is to get up, walk right round it, and then come back here….The point is (says Hockney) that you would then have a memory that you were looking at…..Of course if the subject is in front of you, it’s up to you, it’s the memory of a second ago, five seconds ago, a minute ago. Each memory will be different in quality, but if you train yourself, if you make notes in your head, you can use them very well.  

For drawing inspiration, I looked at the drawings of Constable and Corot:

Corot willows-and-white-poplars-1872
Corot, Willows and white poplars, 1872

Constable’s elm trees drawing is a mamouth work of a stature in keeping with these giant elms, whilst Corot’s minimal and accurate use of both line and shading are something that I want to master in my sketches/drawings.

Ref. Martin Gayford/David Hockney. A bigger message Conversations with David Hockney. Thames and Hudson 2011