Tutor report – Assignment 2

My tutors report for assignment 2, written 08/08/13. Complete report is below.

Overall Comments

Once again this is very well presented and executed work – you have a delicate, meticulous style with close attention to detail.

You are really developing a good understanding of colour and can sensitively use a variety of marks and techniques to create textures. I think you work best with a more sophisticated palette – see my comments on your assignment piece. Experiment with overlaying and combining to create tertiary colours.

Think about backgrounds – these can be a difficult issue, especially in still life compositions, so have a good look at how other artists have resolved this.

Tone: this has improved a great deal although I think you need to work on your shadows.

Above all, have confidence! You have shown that you can produce work of a very good standard and you are discerning in your research.  I recommend reading Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland (you can get it from Amazon), as it addresses a lot of the issues (confidence, feeling ‘blocked’ etc) that face anyone making art at any level.

I understand that you are not sure about whether or not to go for assessment.  As far as I am concerned, you are very capable of succeeding at assessment, however you can keep your options open at this stage. We can review the situation again after Assignment 4, but I would suggest that you continue as you have been doing by keeping up a learning log, which will be essential if you do decide to submit your work for assessment.

Project: Exploring coloured media

You have explored a good variety of mediums in a number of ways. This type of exercise is useful practice and can really help inform your decision making when it comes to choosing which medium might suit a particular subject.

Project: Detailed observation

Line drawing detail: These are very well observed and executed. This is a deceptively difficult exercise but you have done well, and hopefully you can see the benefit of closely observing the shape of an object in this way.

Getting tone and depth in detail: This is a meticulously drawn piece and you have done very well in creating a variety of tones and textures. Some of the cross hatching is a little ‘hairy’ in places, but otherwise this is a very successful drawing.

Stipples and Dots: These are delicately drawn with superb attention to detail, and sensitive use of marks. Unfortunately the long thin shape of both the thistle and the nettle makes it hard to get balance and fill the paper, however I think if they were mounted well, perhaps on a black paper/card surround for assessment purposes that wouldn’t be a problem.

Project: Still Life:

Line: I don’t think all the broken lines and were necessary as I am not sure what they represented – shadows? – and the background lines were also a little distracting.  Apart from that, your collection of vegetables is  very well executed and you have chosen the right sort of marks to accurately represent a variety of textures.  You have also clearly worked hard on the composition and all the elements have a relationship with each other.

Tone: This is an interesting exercise for you: working in pastel forces you to work in a more loose, less meticulous way. You have successfully done this and your mark making is restrained but still spontaneous. You have also utilized the limited palette very well.

The only problem here is the composition – the elements are all a little bit disparate and the marrow is disappearing off the page which makes it seem unbalanced. However, I am pleased that you are thinking about layers of colour like this and can work in a more loose way when required.

Project: Drawing Fruit and Vegetables in Colour

Using hatching to create tone:  you have used two very different mediums here, giving two very different effects. The pencil crayon drawings are soft and very delicately drawn, in an illustrative style with good use of colour.

Fineliners are much more vibrant but quite harsh and unforgiving, although you have done your best with cross hatching.  They can work well mixed with washes of ink applied with a brush, so you are not relying on thin lines for coverage.

Markers or dip pens:  as above – the same thing applies here: you have done your best to achieve coverage but this is difficult using thin pens and can appear heavy handed using thicker markers. Ink can be a great medium but I think works best using a mixture of brushed on washes with fine lines to avoid issues with coverage.

Oil Pastel: You have used this thickly to build up solid looking forms, however I think a little more tonal contrast is needed both on the fruit and in the shadows. Also, using very heavily textured paper can be patchy and means to have to work harder to get coverage – try something a little smoother next time.

Project: Drawing plants and flowers

Negative space:  You have really got the hang of this and the drawing with the purple background is very striking. The lines are clean and unfussy, yet there is a wealth of detail here – very well done.

Coloured Pencil: Another meticulously and delicately drawn piece.  The flowers are very well observed and you are showing excellent control of this medium. The restrained cross hatched back ground and the shadows also  really help this to work very well.

Having said that, it is struggling to fill the page and is in danger of being overwhelmed by too much space around it. I would be tempted to experiment with cropping it a little – use a view finder first and see if it looks better with slightly less space around it.

Other media:  Some good experiments here – the wax resist / ink in particular  is simple yet striking and quite a departure for you. I hope you enjoyed experimenting in this way: remember that everything you do is valuable experience and a learning curve.

Project: drawing animals

Grabbing the chance: This is not an easy project but you have tackled this very well. Your drawings from the wildlife park are charming and convincing – you have really tried hard to capture the shape and movement.

I am also really pleased that you swapped your fineliner for charcoal when producing the cat drawings – as I mentioned in previous comments, working on a larger scale and in a less meticulous medium can be good to loosen up.

Fish on a plate: the fish themselves are very carefully drawn with plenty of detail. The addition of some brighter colours here and there  (yellows, greens, turquoise) can suggest iridescence a little more effectively – something to bear in mind if you are ever tempted to draw fish again!

Once again the background lets the picture down somewhat.  Backgrounds can be very difficult to get right in a still life: too busy and they overpower the subject, too plain and it makes for a boring picture.  As a general rule, try and go for a background colour that is darker in tone that the subject, to enable it to stand out (think of the Dutch Old Masters).  Also, think about lighting – most still life has strong side lighting creating more obvious tonal differences and thus a sense of solidity.

Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

You have obviously given a lot of thought to your approach to this assignment and attempted the subject in a variety of mediums. Of these, I think the velour and the colour fix paper have worked best, as their base colours have worked to tone down the colour and make a more sophisticated palette: the final piece suffers from the background being too bright and too much one colour. It might have been helpful to experiment with overlaying different colours to tone it down a bit.

There is still a bit of an issue with tonal variety and I think all the drawings (apart from the pen and ink) could benefit from a darker shade here and there, especially in the shadows.

Sketchbooks Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

You continue to use your sketchbooks to work through ideas and experiment, as well as having a go at other subjects. Keep up the good work.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays Context

Both your blogs are interesting and candid and you have been self reflexive and honest about your journey. Your research is relevant and you are responding well to what you have looked at: you have followed advice but also made your own investigations into artists and works. Again, keep up the good work!

Suggested reading/viewing Context

Examine how other artists have treated the landscape, especially trees. How is it possible to suggest trees and other landscape features without drawing every detail?

Think about colour – how can you avoid using the same greens all the time? What colour are shadows? Take a look at some of the impressionists to see how they used colour for landscapes.

Have a look at how some contemporary artists have tackled landscape. 

Pointers for the next assignment

Think about perspective and keep practicing with this. A good general book on drawing skills will almost certainly have a chapter devoted to this subject, or there are internet sites that might help, if you do a search. It can be tricky to get the hang of, but keep practicing. Use a viewfinder to choose a composition, and then holding up a transparent grid can help get the angles and distances right.

Keep practicing with greens – try mixing as many as you can, and remember artistic license is fine, there is no need to be literal about any element in the landscape – you can leave things out and move them if necessary. Also, think about the landscape in terms of fore- middle and background – how can you suggest depth and distance? Where will the focal point of the picture be? 

What I would like to work on following receiving this.

I found the report very helpful and it has given me good pointers to help me to improve elements such as tonal contrast, composition, the treatment of backgrounds and the treatment of shadows and I am following my tutors advice as regards these areas.

My tutor had suggested reading Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland and I am very grateful for the suggestion as I have found it extremely helpful and over the next section I will work on tackling issues related to a chronic lack of confidence.

I checked with my tutor as to what she meant by a sophisticated palette, and also how to know how dark to make shadows and I received a very helpful reply with some suggestions of websites to look at, am investigating them.

I am also investigating, as suggested, how other artists have treated backgrounds for still life’s and studying how they have composed them. This is an area I have consistently found difficult. At the same time I am also studying how they have used tonal contrast and shadows and the effect this has.

I will try using oil pastels on a less textured paper and see the differences that this makes. I certainly found the texture of the pastel paper very difficult to ‘fill’.

I must admit that I will probably avoid drawing another fish like the plague, but if I can manage, at some point to give it another go, I will try my tutors suggestions for showing irridescence better.

I fully agree with my tutors comments that more work is needed on my portrayal of tonal variety and, again, am trying to understand how other artists have tackled this so that I can then try ideas out.

My tutor has given good pointers for things to work on prior to the 3rd assignment and I have been working on those.

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