Instructions for the assignment: To select a view from a window or from an open door. It needed to include, if possible, some natural objects, trees, shrubs, pot plants, fields, or garden plants. We were also to try and find a view that would allow us to show an understanding of aerial or linear perspective. We were also to look for a view that had straightlined objects as well eg buildings, walls, fences, gates etc. We were to set ourselves plenty of time for the assignment, to make preliminary drawings to experiment with composition, practice perspective, broad brush sketches to decide on the colours and trial a couple of different media. We could use more than one media if we wished and the drawing was to be on A3, drawn from life with preliminary sketches nearby for reference. We were to spend anything up to two hours on the drawing, not including all the preliminary work.
I had some personal aims prior to starting 1) to try and not get too stressed over the assignment, and even if I did find myself becoming stressed then to ensure that I just kept working steadily towards completing it 2) to ensure that I did sufficient preparatory work and research so that when I reached the final drawing I felt well prepared to tackle it 3) to work steadily towards completion, completing the assignment within a two week time period 4) to use a media that I had little experience with as this would stretch my capabilities 5) to be prepared to take risks 6) to work to produce the best drawing that I could at this time, but with the attitude that if it all went totally pear shaped, then that was okay, as long as I had managed to learn and experiment along the way and done my best 7) to try and work within the time limit for the final drawing 8) to try and relax and enjoy the journey 9) to record the stages that I took throughout the assignment.
Completed 17/09/13. As I had seen other students do, when looking at student blogs, I found it easier and more helpful, for this assignment, to record the stages that I took and the research etc that I did in my sketchbook as I went along, this not only meant that I wrote things down immediately as I did them but also that I had everything to hand whenever I was working. It also meant that I recorded much more of my thinking, reasoning and development than I have done before. Research and discussion with development of thoughts and how that influenced outcome is already recorded on paper, as is the research into whether to include window/doorway or not, compositional thoughts and decisions, other artist’s approaches, etc. This post, therefore, will be mainly just a visual summary of some of the preparatory work, rather than the reasonings, decisions and actions behind that, and the visual stages of work on the final drawing, although I have included some of the sketchbook pages. In time I may be able to work out how to summarize the writing on paper that I have done, but at present I am not sure how to do that, or if it is necessary as it is already recorded in my sketchbook. I have not included any pages that may have copyright material on them, which includes all research pages.
When I had been working on the drawing trees section of the course I had seen a view that I had felt may well be a good one for this assignment and I returned to the park gardens to see how it may work, drawing some thumbnails to check out possible compositions. I then drew a detailed drawing to become acquainted with the various elements. On the adjacent sketchbook page I used Inktense pencils to experiment with mixing the greens that I could see. On completing the drawing I had felt quite chuffed about having tackled the most complicated landscape I had ever attempted until I looked at my watch and realised I had taken over 2 hours to draw it and that was to do what was basically only a line drawing.
I couldn’t manage to return for a couple of days so in the meantime I continued with research. I also made a colour chart for the inktense pencils, so that I could see the range of mixes of greens and other colours that I could obtain, concentrating on the range of colours that I might use. I also considered possible other media.
On my next visit I drew a tonal study using charcoal and then redrew the scene to do a colour study in inktense pencils. The colour study took me well over the time the final drawing was to take (and this was only A4!), it was also very stiff and I struggled with using colour. Adding some Neocolour II over the top livened it up a bit but clearly more preparatory work was going to be needed and I recorded the steps that I could take towards improving the drawing and composition. I had also looked at another view, in another part of the park gardens, and as the park gardens was due to close I had taken a photo and draw some thumbnails of this at home. Once again, I found tonal balance a struggle.
The next day I looked at the views from the windows of the house as another alternative composition. I had already sketched the view from the front window, with a thought towards this assignment earlier in this section of the course (colour drawing), so I did a tonal sketch of the view from the back window and recorded my thoughts on the drawing and possible ways of improving composition. Once again, I struggled with showing tone successfully.
To help me with tone and other aspects that I was finding difficult I read Painting with Your Artist’s Brain, learn to paint what you see – not what you think you see by Carl Purcell, 2004, North Light Books. I found this book very helpful towards me working on seeing tones better, and to understand much better about seeing shapes, not just actual shapes, but also “shapes of light value, shapes of dark value, shapes of colour and shapes of space.” In the meantime I was continuing with research and for each image that I found helpful, I recorded my thoughts on the elements of the painting/drawing, how my eye travelled within it, what the focal point was, how was foreground, middle ground and background treated and the divisions, any aspect of aerial or linear perspective, how colour was treated, colour schemes, shapes, emotion, etc so that I could get a better idea on how and why the painting/drawing may have been constructed the way it was, how the artist had dealt with various aspects etc. It is the closest that I have looked at multiple images, all on a similar subject, and I found it very helpful in understanding the paintings/drawings better, and found myself noticing and realising about, many things that I otherwise would not have noticed or even thought about. A real eye opener and showed how shallowly I tend to normally look at images.
The next day I returned to the park gardens and drew thumbnails of other possible compositions around the gardens. While drawing them I tried to use what I had read in Painting with Your Artist’s Brain and I used tone to help me explore some of the things I had been reading about. It was a new way of drawing thumbnails for me and I found it very helpful. I also tried to think about many of the compositional aspects that I had seen in the drawings/paintings researched so far. I recorded my thoughts on each of them and several had potential.
At this point, due to unexpected extra work commitments cropping up, it meant that I was not going to be able to return to the park gardens for at least a week, if that. In view of this, I decided to change track and explore further the view from the house, as at least with that I could work as and when I could. So it was back to drawing some more thumbnails and recording my thoughts with each.
I settled on the view that I preferred, although I felt somewhat overwhelmed with all the greens. I had to stand to draw some of the thumbnails and the previous tonal study and there was no way I was going to be able to do that for the final drawing. I was too low on a chair, even at its highest setting so the next day I improvised with some pillows on the seat to make me higher, not very comfortable but it did get me high enough to be able to see out of the window and sit and draw. As a first step I drew a tonal study using charcoal and white pastel on a darkish grey pastel paper and then recorded my thoughts on this.
The next day I used this to draw a perspective plan and also to look at various aspects of composition. I also established what the pattern of lights, darks and middle tones looked like, first reducing the tones to 3 (felt tip) and then increasing the tones to 5 (pencil) and recording my thoughts on them.
I started testing out various colour media and also various toned papers. I also made multiple colour charts to see how the various colours in different media looked on various toned papers. This all helped me to narrow my choice of both media and papers. Gradually I settled on using soft pastels. I have only ever done one landscape in this media before, the drawing for the exercise a study of several trees, and had struggled to show the foliage and capture the tone and colour of the greens, so I felt that it would be a challenge to try and use them for the final drawing, and certainly by the end I would have a much better understanding of using them. I had wanted to try a media that I did not have much experience with and this definitely fitted the bill. I also settled on the colour of paper I was going to use, recording my thoughts and decisions on this.
As a first step I did a colour study. I transferred the outline of the drawing I had done in charcoal to a green pastel paper using white transfer paper. I very quickly learnt that this was not a good idea as soft pastel does not cover the line as it is oily/waxy, not sure which, but whichever, soft pastel does not cover it. I then sat at the window to do the colour study and upon completion I took a black and white photo of the colour study so that I could see what the tonal balance was like in black and white and recorded my thoughts on both.
Doing the colour study highlighted several problems, one of which was my difficulty in using colour well, another was that I had struggled with the colour mixes for the buildings. I therefore refreshed my knowledge on colour, referring again to the website that my tutor had recommended following my second assignment http://www.color-wheel-artist.com. I also drew out a colour wheel using soft pastels and worked on trying out various mixes of colour combinations for buildings and did a practice sheet of the various marks that I could make with soft pastels.
By this time I felt that I had done as much preparation as I could and I went back through everything that I had done to date, noting all changes that I wanted to make with the final composition, going back through the research to make sure that I had not missed anything relevant to the next step. I then sat at the window and drew the view again, trying to keep all these things in mind. I had made mistakes with the height of the buildings and perspective with the first drawings and I worked to correct those. I initially worked in pencil and then changed to pen as I found my way more with the drawing, looking for main shapes rather than details. When I was happy that the drawing was as accurate as I could manage I checked and adjusted where necessary my perspective lines, extending them where necessary off the paper, so that I could check them. This was the only point that I used a ruler. I then transferred the drawing to a green pastel paper, using a white pastel pencil, having initially make the mistake of using pencil and discovering that soft pastel doesn’t sit over pencil well.
I started the drawing the next day aiming to complete the drawing within the two hour time stated. Despite feeling that I had prepared well, I struggled badly with the final drawing. I took 3 hours to get just a third of the drawing done and despite my best intentions not to get too stressed over this assignment, by the time I got to that stage it is safe to say that I was pretty stressed. I also felt both slow and stupid. Half that time had been taken just trying to sort the building colour mixes out, despite having done colour charts of the mixes for them. I just could not seem to get them right when it came to the final drawing. I found myself getting very tight with the foliage marks as well.
I had no idea what to do for the best by this time and having reached the point where it was too painful to continue I stopped for the day and assessed what I had done so far, having also taken a black and white photo to check how I was doing tonally.
I practiced more colour mixing while I made a decision on what to do. Either I started again, or I carried on and I recorded my thoughts on both options, finally deciding to carry on and use this drawing as a learning experience and once completed I would email my tutor to check regarding the 2 hour limit, asking for guidance on whether this drawing would be acceptable or whether I needed to start again and try and complete a new drawing, this time in the 2 hours.
A couple of days later was my first chance to carry on, and I started at the same time of day. The weather unfortunately was very different, driving rain to begin with which luckily became much lighter during the session. I managed to get a lot further but still did not manage to finish. Once again, I recorded each stage (this assignment is the first time that I have managed to remember to keep a thorough visual and written record, and this is something I will try and keep up) and my thoughts on them, assessing overall progress at the end of the session and writing my aims for the next day, and on the difficulties experienced with the changing light and how I had dealt with them. Though I had not managed to finish the drawing I tried to concentrate on the positive, which was that I was learning a lot from working my way through it.
I returned to the drawing the next day and finally managed to complete it, once again recording the stages and decisions made and a brief assessment of the drawing.
I left the drawing for a day and then feeling it was time to call it finished I made the big mistake of lightly spraying it with fixative so that hopefully it would travel better for posting. Despite doing it as lightly as I could it had the effect of completely deadening it. Feeling somewhat a little desperate by now I sat myself back at the window and tried to rescue the worse affected parts by reapplying pastel, while looking at the scene. I also made an adjustment to the height of the tree on the left and deepened the sky on the right. I do not think that I did very well with reapplying the pastel and lost many of the more subtle tones and marks. On finishing it is was safe to say that I was definitely not going to spray it again. I took a black and white photo so that I could see how I had managed with tonal balance.
Having finally got to the stage of completing it I emailed my tutor to ask for advice on the situation regarding the two hour limit and whether I needed to start again with the drawing. Her reply was reassuring and for the first time since starting the assignment I was able to get a little perspective on the time aspect. It certainly would have given me a lot more peace of mind if I had checked on this aspect sooner. With every stage during the assignment, both in preparatory drawings and in the final drawing, I always seemed so slow that I found myself increasingly worrying over the time I was taking with the individual piece, despite trying to work as quickly as I could, and becoming frustrated with myself, because as hard as I tried I still seemed to be so slow. It is only following her reply that I realise that I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself regarding this aspect. It is something that I can continue to work on, but ensure that I work on it in a positive way, rather than allowing myself to be become thoroughly disheartened. Perhaps I need to write myself a bumper sticker. I am slow, but I used to be slower!
What I feel has gone well during the assignment:
1) I feel that I prepared thoroughly and tried to incorporate what I have learnt during part three of the course and what I have learnt from my research in preparation for the assignment. 2) I have worked steadily towards completion 3) I have become stressed at times but I did not let that paralyse me, as I did when I first attempted assignment two 4) I feel that I have learnt a lot while working with a media with which I had very limited experience, and on a landscape that, for me, was really challenging 5) I feel that I have recorded my thought processes, research, and journey through the assignment thoroughly 6) I feel that recording the journey in the way that I did has helped to give me a lot of insight into a) not being so precious towards a sketchbook and b) how a sketchbook can be used as a working tool in developing ideas 7) the final drawing is much tighter than I would have liked and lacking in an imaginative approach but I feel that I have successfully completed it, and hopefully the other aspects will continue to develop in time 8) my problem solving skills while completing a drawing are improving 9) When I wasn’t worrying over the time aspect, I thoroughly enjoyed doing the drawing 10) I feel that on the whole I was successful at meeting most of the personal aims that I had at the start of the assignment.
What I feel has not gone well during the assignment:
1) I have overworked the final drawing 2) I have not shown aerial perspective well enough and I think that the perspective on the shed is decidedly dodgy 3) I thought I had done sufficient colour mixing prior to starting the final drawing but working on the final drawing highlighted that it would have been very helpful to have done more 4) I have made a too literal translation of the scene and I have not demonstrated enough creativity or imagination 5) I still found myself becoming stressed over various aspects and at times still found myself losing sight of what I was learning and worrying more about outcome. I am pleased though that I managed better with this 6) I have worked every spare minute on this assignment and another time I need to pace myself better 7) With only two available views from the house, I chose the one that would provide the most challenge, but another time I need to pick somewhere where I can sit comfortably when drawing it, as otherwise it can make concentrating difficult 8) The assignment took me a few days over the two weeks that I had hoped to complete in, and as already discussed, I did not complete in the 2 hour guide time.
I will write my reflections on the assessment criteria as a separate post.