Thursday, 21 January 2016

West Dean FDAD - A drawing course

I have decided that I need a different way of learning art and design, so have booked onto the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at West Dean College. This means I need to do 10 short courses over a maximum of 2 years and write a short essay at the end. It starts with an introduction to creative/experimental/expressive drawing, and I have then chosen a number of textile and drawing courses over the next few months.

The introductory course led by the painter Frances Hacth and the print maker Dale Devereux Barker started on Friday evening with a group project. We were asked to react to music using first drawing materials and then large pots of paint, mainly emulsion, splashed all over the paper as we walked around the strips and then had our mark-making implements given and exchanged as we went along.

This is what we made, a lot of paint in layers sometimes mixed, with bits of paper and wool stuck to the surface:

The next day we had a session thinking about our anticipations for the course and then went on to work with different art materials and in various media to introduce us to the possibilities of drawing.

The first exercise was to work on a large piece of paper using ink, applied using natural materials we would find in the garden near the tree we were asked to select and draw. The final drawings were then set up so we could discuss the work, and some had included drawings in sketchbooks which were also compared:

My drawing is the one on the far left in the above picture, and my sketchbook drawing is the one in the middle top in the picture below.

This was a very enjoyable and freeing exercise. I used some twigs I found and a couple of leaves. These left either loose line type of marks and the leaves could apply more ink and could be ground into the paper which gave the marks a more earthy substance.

Other exercises we did on the second day was a discussion of our hopes for the course, including pulling out 5 words that reflected this from newspapers to glue into our sketchbooks, and further drawing exercises.

The theme for the day was 'growth' as felt through contact with trees and natural things. We were each given a small seed pod or nut and were asked to draw it to a large scale using chalk and charcoal on black sugar paper, assuming a light source from the top left hand corner, we used a slice of bread as a rubber having dusted the paper with chalk first. I drew a walnut, which was fairly successful:

We were then asked to break open our seed pod or nut and draw directly on top of our previous drawing the inside of the object:

I didn't like this drawing much, but in hindsight I think that it was probably better than I felt it was at the time. I made the mistake of not stepping back and looking at it from a distance. Large drawings need to have a bit of distance. When I am at home I sometimes just leave the work for a while and return to it, which is not possible on a course. So I in fact I cut my drawing up into smaller pieces:

As the days progressed, our work was attached to the wall to add to the feeling of development and growth:

Then there was a compositional exercise using a grid as below and selecting 8 pieces from the large floor piece we cut these out and glued them into individual compositions in our sketchbooks. The below shows the squares I selected before they were glued in:

A further development included choosing one of the 8 squares and blowing it up into a drawing using charcoal and chalk on white paper:

The last exercise using the painted lining paper was a sculpture type challenge, to somehow build a sculpture using the park as a backdrop. I chose to use the paper in rolled shapes, wanting to keep things simple. In the end the final 'sculpture' looked a bit like something Frank Gehry might have considered - someone talked about Scandinavian simplicity, but actually I was more worried about making a mess of crumpled shapeless paper. Smooth paper and its defined edges can make interesting shapes when rolled and placed in relation to each other, which was what I tried to do. There were two horizontal planes a vertical 'tower' type structure.

I chose to use the holes that were already in the paper, only ripping one section to enable bits to be joined:

And from this three dimensional work we then had to do some small, very short (1 min), drawing exercises on the grid we had been given. I did not enjoy this exercise very much. I got out of synch with the timing of every timed drawing and there was very little time to both select, look and draw a reasonable sketch before the time was up.

There was also a basic colour theory session where Frances Hatch demonstrated colour mixing using water colours, discussing qualities of paint, granulation, and so on. This was a very useful exercise and she suggested we might want to do colour mix studies on cold, wet days when we couldn't go out to draw (she is a plein air artist).

She also shared how she uses her colour mixes by laminating the ones she want to take out with her when drawing or painting - a very handy tip:

On the last day we got a short lecture on themes and topics that artist might choose, including examples by various artists to show some of the wide span of styles and expressions possible.

And a couple of last exercises drew the course to and end. First a lump of clay was to be shaped into something that resonnated with a word, in this case 'energetic':

And an exploratory exercise to respond in drawing what came to mind from feeling an object hidden in a paper bag. I quite enjoyed this exercise. It was free, and I think it would be useful as a warm-up thing to do, or to just get into the swing of things, but one might need someone else to choose an object so that there is no pre-arranged mental image of the thing before you start the drawing.

My object was a bull-clip, with a largeish smooth section and sharper edges, and then wiry metal strips attached with compressed small areas on the smooth section:

And that was the weekend - a good grounding in various techniques, some of which I think will be very handy when I look at my own work looking ahead.

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