Sunday, 29 May 2016

Drawing course and drawing day

Part of the FDAD (Foundation Diploma in Art and Design) course is the understanding that we will do at least three drawing courses. The College also offer drawing days for FDAD students and they can be very good. This post will cover the drawing course I did recently and a drawing day that followed on very soon after that.

The drawing day I did was run by a tutor whose work has a surrealist and humouristic bent. It was aimed at intermediate to advanced drawing levels, so I guess I probably was not quite there in terms of the expected level of drawing, however I did get something out of it and so it was still useful.

The first day and a half there were a number of exercises to look at different ways of working with drawing. This included different levels of looking at a still life, self portraits and mark making based on sensory memory.

Here are some of the drawings I did based on some of these exercises:

These practices were OK - there was much to absorb and consider, but the key thing that was useful for me, was the fact that you can make your own drawing books/sketchbooks, and an exercise where a detail was drawn and then greater levels of context were added from that foundation study in second and third drawings.

On the last day we were then asked to create our own project based on the ideas of 'collections'. This concept can mean many things, but I kept it simple and chose 'winged creatures' from objects or paintings that can be found around the house, using the three step increasing context studies. Henece this was meant to be a series of images of winged beasts - there are plenty of puttis, eagles, a buttlerfly and stuffed birds to choose from.

I chose to first draw a putti from a tapestry (the lower set of drawings):

Here I was trying to capture the weave of the tapestry, then the putti's wing, and further then the wing attached to the putti. I used watersoluble pencil. The tutor suggested I should vary the marks more, ensure there was more space for the eye to rest and to create more block coloured areas. 

I agree that my drawings often only use a particular level of line, and that is probably due to the untrained nature of my skill level, but I did not feel comfortable with the idea of using ink or some other strong colour to create a block of colour in the background. I need to think about how this would work in practice, with different types of motif, for example in a still life where there may be a more natural way to place the central concern in a flat background. To me the tapestry was already quite flat and uniform - it is a faded thing with little colour variation as the contrasts have reduced over the centuries, and the woven texture of the weaving also plays its part in creating a generalised sameness across the surface. I guess what the tutor was getting at was to create a stronger focus by blocking out blandness in some areas and leaving the central motif as a stronger concern, and I think that I need to train this if I need to in the future. It depends on the topic and purpose of the image.

The next drawing was of a putti in gold on a rococo clock:

This is a stronger drawing, the putti is reasonably complete - in fact I think I have captured the twist in its body fairly reasonably, so maybe the life drawing classes I am doing are teaching me something(!) Anyway, I spent so much time on the putti I was running out of time in the morning before coffee, and this led to speedier drawings of the clock itself and the clock shown on the wall. You can just about see some legs and a skirt of a pastoral scene of a woman and a man on the top of the clock, but in any case I tried to capture the rocaille swirls that were going on around the clock overall.

I think together as a series the three drawings work well - they use the same colours and the twists and swirls of the clock's ornament are present in all three drawings making the story of three a fairly cohesive thing.

Finally, after morning coffee I was tired and was a bit bored with drawing whole figures, as it is a large effort and time was limited. I had borrowed a book on Anselm Kiefer's work which reminded me of his winged sculptures and drawings, and as I had already been working on wings the evening before it felt natural to also continue with studies of wings from a painting of a swan. 

These are the wing drawings I did in the evening - I tend towards making things painterly, but the bolder wings on the top line are more open and loose and were just about playing with the idea of wings:

 And these are the wings based on a painting of a swan's wing:

The ink blots at the top were quickly developed the evening before as there was a fair bit of ink left from the day's work which would otherwise have gone down the drain. I tried to control it a bit and then drew over them to make them into 'wings'.

Here's a detail of the wing, the first drawing of the four of the swan's wing: 

I was quite satisfied with the outcomes of the course, I liked some of the exercises and will take them with me to things I will do in the future. I still think I need to practice a lot and will need to build more drawing work into my everyday work.

The drawing days

The idea behind the drawing day is to provide FDAD students with an opportunit to use the College, its grounds and the exercises or themes provided by the tutor at the start of the day, with finishing show and tells at the end of the day. The first drawing day I attended was OK, but nothing great to report on, and I have already written about the tutorial I had on the day which was very good.

Recently though, I attended a second drawing day and that was very good. We started with a mindfulness exercise, a nature study and then set out to do our work work. I first wandered outside to do some drawing at the back of the house looking at flowers and trees - which really is an obvious thing to do at West Dean when you walk about the garden:

Top: the nature study using glue to paste bits from nature onto the page before drawing onto it looking at details  - here grasses and weedy flowers.

Bottom: some of the studies of buttercups and other weeds, on the left a tree trunk drawn using the coloured jouices from plants:

Then during the day I made a series of small books mainly using 'mark making' - stamping, painting, scribbling using watercolour, graphite, ink pen - this felt good, I didn't think much about it, but it had a similar feel to the book I made on Cas Homes' course, and some of them came out quite successfully as whole, complete singular things in themselves, not bad for books made by other people's waste paper pulled out of the bin:

The top one was really a collection of small natural stuff glued in a painted over, using the weed/plant itself as a paintbrush and a frottage of a couple of grass types, the middle one is a practice in placements of different types of material in a collagey type set-up and the bottom one was a quick and dirty practice, trying to work more simply by limiting the colour used to two - blue and red.

Here a detail of these books:
I made another small study in containing colour use: I tend to always use a lot of colour, and am not good at simplifying things, so with the paper already slightly marked with charcoal smudges and marks, I used only red, a tiny little bit of blue, and an organge strip of tissue paper. I stuck on fallen petals from flowers in the dining room:

The book at the bottom is another study of texture, which is a bit of ripped piece of a woven materials bag and glued-on petals from potted plants in the quadrangle. This was to contrast the organic and the man made, the soft whites on coffee-stained paper, with the hard black of the plastic weave, that had been softened in its ripped state. I am pretty satisfied with this piece and may try to use it for a textile piece in some way.

Here's a detail of the 'pink' book showing how brush marks are themselves enough to fill space - at least I feel I can do simplicity, but I always do wonder what the purpose is - should this be to create beauty or to indicate something else?

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