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Author Archives: MSButler
This is a version of my final critical review with some of the images removed for copyright reasons – for assessment, please see my submitted version with images included.
How do artists bring about environmental change?
Environmental issues are important to me, they have influenced my choice of job, my lifestyle, my way of thinking. My artwork is beginning to address these issues and I suspect they will feature more and more as time goes by.
The Tate defines Environmental art as “art that addresses social and political issues relating to the natural and urban environment” (Tate, n.d.). Environmental art doesn’t necessarily mean artists addressing environmental concerns in the way I am interested in, it also includes artists working with the environment, but not necessarily in harmony with it. Indeed, some artists have been criticized for causing permanent ecological damage with their work (Pereira, 2016).
The art historian Suzi Gablik highlighted three characteristics of what would become known as ecological art (Kagan, 2014):
- cultivating empathy
- practices which aim to build sustainable ways of living by changing people’s views and actions
- ethically responsible to communities
In looking at how artists bring about change around environmental issues, I will take Gablik’s definition as a guide, in particular looking at how they cultivate empathy to change people’s views.
Living as we do with the sixth mass extinction underway (Morton, 2018), there has never been a more important time for these environmental issues to be addressed, and art plays an important role in getting that message across because it can be used to question the way we currently do things. The writer Ghosh argues that currently most forms of art and literature are “drawn into the modes of concealment that prevent people from recognising the realities of their plight” (Ghosh, 2017). In other words, artists are currently burying their heads in the sand in this regard and, once you realise that as an artist, you realise that you have to change what you are doing and address these issues.
I have researched three artists who produce work that resonates with me through the messages they are trying to convey.
Laney Birkhead – Swarm
Laney Birkhead is a printmaker and also a beekeeper. Her concerns over the plight of honey bees made her want to use her artwork to do what she could to raise awareness about this issue. This developed into a huge printmaking project, bringing together hundreds of people to create a ‘Swarm’ of honey bees printed onto fabric which was then sewn together to create a huge installation. The final work consisted of 50,000 hand printed bees printed using relief blocks. This number of bees represents the ideal number of bees in a healthy hive – without this number, a hive may not be strong enough to make it through winter. These prints involved thousands of people making & printing with the impact then amplified through the many visitors to the exhibitions.
‘Swarm, 2016’ Birkhead, Laney
‘Swarm, 2016’ Birkhead, Laney (detail)
Laney’s main aim has been to educate people about the importance of bees and other pollinators and ask them to act on this by making a personal pledge to do something to help (Birkhead, 2015).
‘Swarm pledge quilt, 2018’ Birkhead, Laney
I first saw ‘Swarm’ in its second venue at the Inspired by Gallery, Danby, North York Moors centre. It was a powerful combination of scientific information about bee decline and beautiful art created with this idea at its core. The installation is an immersive experience, walking through it impresses on you the scale of a hive, and the accompanying artwork from many other artists along with information on the decline of pollinators forces the viewer to stop and think about an issue which they may not have contemplated in any depth before. Visiting the exhibition directly impacted my own behaviour: my wife and I have chosen to plant bee-friendly plants in our garden. It also influenced my sculpture, focusing my attention on the fascinating forms of pollen grains. As a result I was fortunate enough to be one of the artists involved in the fourth exhibition.
Swarm display, Butler, Mark
I can attest to the impact ‘Swarm’ had on my behaviour. Witnessing some of the many conversations Laney has had with visitors and participants and the pledges people have made in the exhibitions, I have seen how it has had a similar impact on the behaviour of many people towards their local environment.
I think the installation works, not so much in raising awareness of an issue which is already quite well publicised, but in bringing the onus more directly onto individuals in showing how their input can directly affect their local environment. Research shows that gardens are an important sanctuary for pollinators in urban areas (Carrington, 2019), so the individual’s response to this can help.
I did witness some interesting discussions on the benefit of invasive species for bees. For bees these can provide an important food source when other plants are not flowering, but they do have other negative environmental impacts, showing that even what appears to be a clear cut case of individual action helping the environment could be fraught with issues.
Mandy Barker in her ‘Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals’ (Barker, 2019a) achieves beauty by blurring the ugly plastic waste she finds to bring an ethereal quality to them. Unlike Chris Jordan’s ‘Portraits of American Mass Consumption’ (Jordan, 2005), where he is making more of a record of our out-of-control consumerism, Barker’s work would comfortably hang on a wall in a house, but could then be used to open up discussions with others who view it. She states “I want people to be visually attracted to the images that I create, and then I want them to read the caption and be shocked by what they read, by what the image represents” (Barker, 2016).
‘Ophelia medustica (Pram wheel), 2017’. Barker, Mandy
This is an approach where the message could potentially be lost if the captions are not read or understood, but it provides a means of exhibiting the work more widely in a way which probably would not be possible with documentary images.
I also like the scientific approach she uses, recording the objects like microscopic specimens to be catalogued and categorised, and relating them back to the scientific discovery of plankton which have now been found to be ingesting micro plastic. In her words, she wants “To represent scientific research and, in a way give science a voice” (Barker, 2016). This is recognised by the scientist Professor Richard Thompson, who writes “While academic evidence is crucial to indicate the way forward, it is the arts and humanities that are essential to communicate how the problem is linked with the individual choices we make” (Barker, 2019b).
The impact of viewing her work is to understand that we all need to use plastics in a more responsible manner. Plastics and their effect on our world has been an issue for many years now, with many people working to raise awareness and make people change their habits. The accumulation of manmade materials on the Earth’s surface, plastics being one of them, has resulted in us now living in a new geological era, the Anthropocene (Morton, 2018).
Plastic pollution is obviously a big issue in the world and one which needs to be addressed. However, the knee jerk public reaction against it may be worse and when the focus is single-mindedly applied to one issue, the solutions can often make matters worse:
“If our main concern is climate change, then we’re actually better off using plastic made from petrochemicals — either recycling or burning them once they have outlived their useful lives”. (Clark, 2018)
With less than twelve years left to turn around climate change (Watts, 2018), perhaps that should be our primary focus.
Jason deCaires Taylor
Jason deCaires Taylor produces large scale sculptures in non-toxic, pH neutral marine grade cement which are installed in ‘museums’ beneath the sea to form artificial reefs. They are sited in consultation with marine experts to maximise their impact on boosting diversity and aim to draw some of the tourists away from existing reefs which are under threat. There are additional benefits in providing local employment and using entrance fees to the sites to provide funding for marine conservation and enforcing protective laws (Taylor, 2019).
‘The Raft of Lampedusa’ (detail). Taylor, Jason deCaires
The subject of his sculptures suggest we are blindly walking towards environmental disaster. A subject I have no problem agreeing with, but with no suggestion of a solution or ray of hope, I wonder what the benefit is in pointing this out? Research suggests that the depressing messages reduced the recreational experience of some visitors, or that they are “mixed, muddled, and interpreted differently by the divemasters and instructors they’re delegated to” (Meyers, 2018).
Taylor’s intentions certainly seem to be focussed on helping the marine environments, in an interview for the Sculpture magazine he said “Over the years I have tried to tailor each of the installations further for endemic marine life” and “the ecological aspect has been one of the major forces behind them” (Taylor, 2016). His work acts as a conservation project and could be viewed as a message of hope in showing that humans can directly impact the conservation of our environment. With predictions that more than 90 percent of the world’s coral reefs will die by 2050 (Becatoros, 2017), urgent work is required in this area to find a way of conserving this ecosystem.
Reading his website and the many articles written about his work, these sculptures would appear to be the most ecological art possible, both aiming to change people’s views and attitudes and actively working to restore ecosystems. However, research by Meyers on the effects of Taylor’s Museo Atlántico in Lanzarote suggest that this might not actually be the case (Meyers, 2018). Meyers argues that the attempts to remedy ecological damage caused by climate change through investment in development has resulted in an “explicit project of the Anthropocene”, and concludes that “as a tool for cultural change, there is little concrete for divers to take away”. This is not necessarily the fault of Taylor, his museum once complete has become part of the service economy, with its success now driven by the ability to generate income.
Looking back at Gablik’s three characteristics of ecological art, it appears that this project may in some cases cultivate empathy, but Meyer’s research shows that it is not building a sustainable way of living, or being ethically responsible to the local communities it has displaced during its construction.
Art tackling environmental issues can be fraught with difficulties as demonstrated by considering the work of these three artists. That is not to say that it shouldn’t be attempted though, and living in the age we find ourselves in, I think artists have a duty to address and communicate these issues.
The three artists investigated here each tackle a different environmental issue, using different mediums and approaches and I think there are lessons to be learnt from each of them, both about how these issues can be approached and the potential pitfalls involved.
Mandy Barker’s approach of producing visually attractive images with powerful messages in the captions to them is an approach I am employing in my recent drawings on ash dieback, producing images which are visually interesting and attractive, with the message in the caption getting across the environmental concern by describing how the holes burnt out of these maps mark where the ash trees will be lost from the landscape due to this disease.
‘Barden Bridge, 2019’ Butler, Mark
Artists can provide a way in to complex scientific issues which allow non-scientific viewers to gain understanding and empathy with the subject. There are no shortage of ecological facts available but not ways of dealing with them, art can give us a way to “live ecological knowledge” (Morton, 2018).
Gablik states, “The effectiveness of art needs to be judged by how well it overturns the perception of the world that we have been taught, which has set our whole society on a course of biospheric destruction” (Gablik, 1991). In tackling environmental issues, artists also need to consider the most effective methods of communication to spread their message to a wide enough audience to be able to make a difference.
Barker, M. (2016). Mandy Barker – Biosphere Talks. [online] YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oG609A4pETg [Accessed 13 Apr. 2019].
Barker, M. (2019a). Beyond Drifting by Mandy Barker. [online] Mandy-barker.com. Available at: https://mandy-barker.com/project.php?gallNo=9 [Accessed 12 Apr. 2019].
Barker, M. (2019b). Altered Ocean. Overlapse.
Becatoros, E. (2017). More than 90 percent of coral reefs will die out by 2050. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/environment-90-percent-coral-reefs-die-2050-climate-change-bleaching-pollution-a7626911.html [Accessed 24 Jul. 2019].
Birkhead, L. (2015). Swarm Printmaking Project – Laney Birkhead. [online] Laneybirkhead.com. Available at: http://laneybirkhead.com/Swarm-Printmaking-Project [Accessed 16 Apr. 2019].
Carrington, D. (2019). City bees: allotments and gardens can help arrest decline – study. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/14/city-bees-allotments-gardens-help-arrest-decline-study [Accessed 24 Jul. 2019].
Clark, R. (2018) ‘The great plastic panic’, The Spectator, 20 January 2018, pp. 10-11.
Gablik, S. (1991). The Reenchantment of Art. London: Thames and Hudson.
Ghosh, A. (2017). The Great Derangement. The University of Chicago Press.
Gocova, A. (2013). Artlantis. Alternatives Journal, 39(3), p.36.
Jordan, C. (2005). Chris Jordan – Intolerable Beauty. [online] Chrisjordan.com. Available at: http://www.chrisjordan.com/gallery/intolerable/#cellphones2 [Accessed 12 Apr. 2019].
Kagan, S. (2014). The practice of ecological art. [online] ResearchGate. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/274719395_The_practice_of_ecological_art [Accessed 14 Apr. 2019].
Meyers, R. (2018). Bodies of water: designing resilient dive tourism through underwater sculpture. MA. University Of Rhode Island.
Morton, T. (2018). Being Ecological. Pelican Books.
Pereira, L. (2016). 7 Environmental Artists Fighting for Change. [online] Widewalls. Available at: https://www.widewalls.ch/environmental-artists/ [Accessed 14 Apr. 2019].
Tate. (n.d.). Environmental art – Art Term | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/e/environmental-art [Accessed 14 Apr. 2019].
Taylor, J. (2016). Interview with Robert Preece for Sculpture Magazine, 35(9), pp.19-23.
Taylor, J. (2019). Underwater Sculpture by Jason deCaires Taylor. [online] Underwater Sculpture by Jason deCaires Taylor. Available at: https://www.underwatersculpture.com/ [Accessed 24 Jul. 2019].
Watts, J. (2018). We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report [Accessed 23 Apr. 2019].
My parallel project images are a culmination of the work I have done throughout this course and fit together well with my other pieces.
The aim in producing these images was to raise awareness of the ash dieback disease and the impact it will have on the Yorkshire Dales landscape. I think they are striking images which will do just that. Using a similar method to Mandy Barker (Barker, 2016), I have tried to produce visually attractive images with the shocking message being conveyed in the captions which describes how the holes burnt out of these maps mark where the ash trees will be lost from the landscape due to the disease.
Maps are by no means neutral, they are a powerful means of conveying a message (Kitchin and Dodge, 2007). The background Ordnance Survey map I used initially, could be judged to be fairly neutral, but I have certainly removed that in my completed drawings. The goal of maps is “to bring about a change in another, and it is the situation calling for this change that calls for the map.” (Wood, 1993). With ash dieback, there is little we can do to prevent it now, so the change I am calling for here is more for greater environmental awareness and care.
I enjoy the combination of planned precise mark making from the rust print lines and ink drawing and the random marks made through the rust printing process and use of gunpowder. I will continue to make work using these mediums as I think they work well together.
Barker, M. (2016). Mandy Barker – Biosphere Talks. [online] YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oG609A4pETg [Accessed 13 Apr. 2019].
Kitchin, R. and Dodge, M. (2007). Rethinking maps. Progress in Human Geography, [online] 31(3), pp.331-344. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0309132507077082.
Wood, D. (1993). The fine line between mapping and mapmaking. Cartographica, [online] 30(4), pp.50–60. Available at: http://www.deniswood.net/content/papers/Fine%20Line.pdf.
Four drawings were produced in total.
Ideally, these would be displayed mounted on foamboard with holes cut through behind to give the burnt holes depth and shadows, then framed in a black box frame unmounted showing the deckled edges of the paper.
Unfortunately I cannot post them like this for assessment, so for this I have mounted them in card.
The holes burnt out of these maps mark the locations of the ash trees in the landscape and show the devastating impact their loss to ash-dieback will have. There is a glimmer of hope that 5-10% of the trees will survive due to genetic diversity, which is depicted by some tree locations picked out in gold leaf.
The map was produced from various sources, old out of copyright Ordnance Survey maps, with more recent buildings added and aerial photographs. This was then reversed and scratched into the metal and rust printed.
Some features (rivers, roads and footpaths) were added in ink over the rust print.
The grid square was surveyed to find all the ash trees and marked onto the map. These were then marked through onto the completed rust print.
Gunpowder was placed on these locations and burnt.
90-95% of the ash tree locations were then burnt through the paper using a pyrography tool, with the remaining 5-10% (the number which will hopefully survive due to genetic diversity) had gold leaf applied.
My parallel project work is closely linked to the work I have carried out throughout this course and comes about as a result of the following investigations into materials and maps:
This is all about ‘How do artists bring about environmental change?’. In my parallel project I am looking to bring to attention the impact ash dieback is going to have on the Yorkshire Dales. In my critical review, I discover that tackling environmental issues is an area fraught with difficulties and something we are quite frankly not very good at. Ash dieback is a prime example of that. You would have thought that the planting of more trees would be the most ecological action you could undertake, but importing trees from abroad to do this was what brought the disease into this country and now threatens countless trees all over the country.
My tutor felt I have made some marked improvements in my personal enquiry, academic rigour and approach to drawing through this assignment and my ideas are now becoming much more synchronised, which is very encouraging.
She suggested I add in images into my blog for each artist I have referenced in my research. I am very aware that my blog is very sparse on other artist’s images, but with it being open to the public, I cannot add images taken from books/websites without impinging on copyright issues, so I have only included images I have taken myself when visiting exhibitions. I will see if there are some images available with copyright appropriate to display on my blog. She also points out that with the images I do include, I need to reference them academically to avoid copyright issues, so I will look into this and make amendments.
I believe the information I need to add to the Frank Auerbach images is:
Auberbach, F. (1960) Maples Demolitions, Euston Road [oil on board] 148.6 x 153.7 cm At: Leeds: Leeds Art Gallery.
I have amended my blog post with these details.
One other area I picked up on the report that I need to look at is that with my parallel project, there is a lot of crossover happening with my project work, so I need to be sure to reference this across the assessment submission.
I think the buried paper and canvas provides an interesting background to the drawings. The maps on paper with the black lines and watered down ink painted in some areas provide good contrast and the image stands out quite well. On the canvas, the effect of the ink lines is much more subtle and the work has to be examined close up – I think this process of having to make out the image and decipher it fits in well with this section in making the viewer spend time viewing a drawing. The process of burying and re-discovering the pieces covered in random interesting marks is something I may take forwards. Drawing the image on the paper/canvas first may be a more interesting way to work, although drawing on it afterwards as I did this time worked surprisingly well. I think the combination of planned and random mark making is the area of drawing I am most interested in and this has given me another option in doing this.
The buried paper and cloth had great random marks on them and offered a lot of potential and I decided to present these as triptychs.
Decay for me is linked to discovery, of interesting objects/textures/etc. And wondering about the origins and previous uses/lives of objects. This ties in with my fascination with maps as a way of discovering new places or hidden evidence of old settlements/etc. So the first 3 images I decided to draw on the paper pieces were maps of the area in which they were buried.
The cloth pieces were reminiscent of a shroud, so I decided to do something different for this. At a recent life drawing session we drew a pregnant model who was going to have to give birth to a still-born baby. This was quite an emotional session and resulted in two drawing, a quick sketch and a longer drawing.
I gave the longer drawing to the model, so I only have the short sketch.
I decided to re-draw this onto the cloth pieces from three different angles (the 2 angles I didn’t draw imagined views).
These were very delicate pieces so I mounted them in a foamboard frame to protect them. I had assumed that I’d made the cloth and paper pieces the same size when I cut the frames, but the cloth pieces were actually bigger and then didn’t fit. As I didn’t have any more foamboard to re-do and time constraints meant I couldn’t wait to order any more, I had to cut down the cloth pieces to fit the frames I had made.
The pieces left in the environment were not as successful as I had hoped, with very little effect from having spent time underwater or underground.
I decided to abandon these at this stage as I didn’t have time to re-do in another way.
Fortunately, the paper and canvas buried in tubs proved to be much more successful.
Frank Auerbach paints by building up layer and layer of paint. He paints the same people over and over again, and each painting is an accumulation of hundreds of sittings, with the paint scraped back to the canvas at the end of each day until the resulting image is ‘right’. A huge amount of paint is applied to the canvas and close up they appear as a mass of colour and texture, it is only in stepping back from the image that it comes into focus.
I have only seen one of his paintings in the flesh, ‘Maples Demolitions, Euston Road, 1960’ in Leeds art gallery. I found the close up views of the textures and colours of the paint interesting, but was less moved by the overall impression of the image.
Viewing his portraits on screen will not give the same experience and his portrait paintings seen this way do not inspire me. I am sure they would offer more if viewed in person though. The image which did grab my attention whilst searching was ‘Self-portrait, 1958’ (Artsy.net, n.d.), this image in charcoal and chalk on paper which has been patched or collaged I find very powerful. The collaged background produced interesting random marks which appeals to me and the charcoal drawing has a sense of energy and urgency. In contrast to his paintings this appears like a much quicker drawing.
Sooke, A. (2015). Frank Auerbach, Tate Britain, review: ‘astonishing’. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/art/what-to-see/frank-auerbach-tate-britain-review/ [Accessed 19 Jul. 2019].
Artsy.net. (n.d.). Frank Auerbach | Self-portrait (1958) | Artsy. [online] Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/frank-auerbach-self-portrait [Accessed 19 Jul. 2019].
Auberbach, F. (1960) Maples Demolitions, Euston Road [oil on board] 148.6 x 153.7 cm At: Leeds: Leeds Art Gallery.
The aim of this project is to make a drawing which forces the viewer to use time differently. The rust drawings I have been doing create a sense of time passing in that they look old as soon as they have been produced. They also represent time passing in that they require time to produce as it takes a few days for the rust to print onto the surface of the paper. I decided to extend this time passing by producing a drawing which took a longer time to complete. This would be done by producing a life drawing, initially drawn at a life drawing class, then traced and reversed onto metal, scratched into and rust printed, then drawn back into at a second life drawing session with the same pose.
In looking at these images I think the viewer will take time to explore the work, the random and planned marks make interesting viewing, the thoughtful look on the model makes the viewer imagine what she is thinking about. The random scratches which were already on the metal sheet also add a sense of movement to the image including another unexpected sense of time. I’m not sure the time spent as an artist is immediately visible if the viewer is unaware of the processes involved, but I do feel a sense of time passing is evident.
I decided to explore the potential of doodling and continuing my work with combining random and planned mark making and the use of burning and ink.
I started off by laying 3 firework fuses across a piece of paper and lighting them to provide 3 linear burn marks across the page. I decided to contour around the burn marks with ink, but decided that they would all become quite uniform after the initial lines around the edges started to approach the centre, so I added 3 sprays of ink to also contour around and provide more interest.
I forgot to photograph this as I went along, so only have the image of the final piece:
The sprays of ink did help to provide more interesting shapes in this image, but I wonder if some different marks might have fitted better with the whole piece. I also wasn’t consistent with the gaps between the lines, as I got less patient with the drawing. Some variation in different areas works well, but I perhaps got too far apart on the edge sections.
Looking for artists who work in a meticulous way I used Vitamin D (Dexter, 2005) for my research. I have selected a few highlights from this below.
‘Fraying the ropes’ [ink on paper] (Ernesto Caivano, 2003) p.53
This is a mixture of illustrative imagery and detailed doodling, it uses a wide variety of mark making which maintains interest when exploring the image. It is very detailed and made up of precise ink lines, depicting a scene of a fantasy story written by the artist. It is the depiction of the tree branches and the scientific molecule drawings which appeal to me.
‘The World’ [mixed media on paper] (Simon Evans, 2003) p.100
This is a huge drawing (1.6mx2.2m), so is difficult to appreciate from a much smaller image in a book. The drawing is laid out as a map of an island, with the areas depicted mostly filled with text (unreadable at this scale) or doodle like drawings. The use of imaginary maps provides a structure on which to base a drawing which could be an interesting option to explore.
‘Safe and Quiet’ [graphite on wall and canvas] (Glexis Novoa, 2002) p.229
Novoa produces beautiful detailed images of dystopian city-scapes. They depict generic cities with large and impressive buildings, but devoid of any human life. The use of a bold horizon line where the city meets the sea works well with these images.
‘C 1 030502’ [pencil on paper] (Frances Richardson, 2002) p.266
Richardson only uses negative (-) and positive (+) signs to draw her images, using gradation of intensity to provide interest in the mass of repetitive marks.
‘Studio dal vero (Life Study)” [graphite on paper] (Serse, 1999) p.281
Serse draws in a photo-realistic style using reductive drawing by erasing into a graphite base. This image shows off his incredible skill in not only depicting the water splash in such detail, but also giving it added depth and contrast which I suspect wasn’t there in his photographic reference image.
(James Siena, 2004) ‘Slice’ [graphite and coloured pencil on paper] p.293
I have picked this piece because this is the kind of drawing I am planning to do for this project. Siena’s drawing here doesn’t appeal to me due to its uniformity of mark making and colour choice. However, the use of shapes similar to contour lines offers and interesting avenue to explore.
Dexter, E. (2005). Vitamin D. London: Phaidon.
The idea I decided to explore from my research was a book of burning. In an effort to be more environmentally conscious with my work, I used the paper offcuts from my parallel project drawing for the pages of this book and furthered my experiments with burning and adding to these with ink to provide the subject for the book. These were joined together with a simple pamphlet stitch hidden in the centre.
Artist books are tricky for me to get my head around. I think they offer a great way of exploring a theme and can result in some fascinating work. They allow the artist to tell a story, or explore an idea in much greater depth than a single image could ever do. “It becomes an experiential medium for creative expression” (Chen, 2013). I have been to an artist book fair and admired the skill and artistry of this form of work, and could even see myself exploring using this medium for certain projects. But I do think they fall down in their means of displaying the art work to the viewer. If I bought an artist’s book, it would get enjoyed initially, but then it would get confined to a bookshelf and never seen again, whereas a framed drawing would bring me much more enjoyment as I pass by it. Similarly, the display of an artist’s book in a gallery would have to be in a display case and would then only show a few pages to the viewer, so not allow them the full intended experience.
My research for this section was carried out using the book ‘500 handmade books. Volume 2’ (Chen, 2013). This book contains images of many artist books, but without explanations of what they are about or why they were produced, so my impressions of them are solely based on the look of them and any interpretation drawn from the book title.
‘For Bees Who Travel by Truck’ (Kaylynn Sullivan Twotrees, 2011) uses burnt edges for some of the pages and combines random and placed mark making on the book cover.
‘Walks with Rosie’ (Andrew Huot, 2009) looks like he has drawn maps of his walks over time, without the context of the background to place them in space. This offers interest by leaving the detail of the route up to the viewers imagination.
‘Untitled’ (Kaitland A. Marek, 2011) looks like contour lines from a map. It is hard to say from a small picture in a book, but whilst these would be interesting for me due to my love of maps, on their own I don’t think they would hold my attention for long as the mark making is very uniform.
‘The Fire Extinguisher Family Reunion’ (Sarah Smith, 2009). From the 2 pages on display, I can tell that she is quite clearly bonkers, but I like bonkers! As a humourous book, I really like this one, but as a drawing book, the drawings are straight illustrations which don’t provide interest to me as drawings.
‘Chasing the Sun’ (Frank Hamrick, 2010) uses a line through a book apparently made using tea. The slightly controlled but random nature of this line hold interest for me and producing a book following a line though it is a possibility for my response to this project.
‘Fibonacci’s Tower’ (Jamie Ash, 2009) is an interesting sculptural piece based on/around a book. The wood or aluminium pieces are painted in the same way as the bronze pieces I make and he also uses burning on the edges of his pieces of text.
All these books are inspired by whatever the artist is interested in and offer a way to explore that subject on a greater depth than other mediums would have offered.
This research led me to two different ideas of artist books I could try:
- A book of burning – using burning experiments and descriptions of what was tried
- A continuous line using different mediums through a concertina book (continuing ideas from the mark making experiments in part 2 of this course)
Chen, J. (2013). 500 handmade books. Volume 2. New York: Lark Books.
I have been going to life drawing classes for six years now, but last night’s class was something of a revelation. The classes have recently changed to be run by different members of the group each week and explore different ways of working to try to get us outside of our comfort zone, my comfort zone being working on a rubbed in charcoal base and focussing in on tone. Last night the class tutor (Helen Peyton) lead it exploring mark making. We started off with continuous line, then opposite hand drawing, hatching/stippling, drawing in ink with various implements and finally charcoal on the end of a long stick. These are all exercises I have done on this course and the previous drawing course, and at times in the life drawing class, but this time I finally got the point! In combining these different methods, interesting mark making happened and exciting results started to emerge. What Helen said during the class really resonated “you can view a drawing which is like a photograph and appreciate it, but then walk away and never want to see it again. But a drawing made up of interesting marks will excite you and you will keep coming back to it” (not word for word). The drawings I produced are not fantastic pieces of work when viewed as a whole, but when you look closely, some of the mark making is.
This is an exciting area to explore now, rather than a seemingly pointless exercise to have to get through. The revelation has come too late for most of this course, but I think it could lead in interesting directions in the future. It also fits perfectly with the interest I have already identified on this course with matching detail and random mark making from processes like rusting and burning.
The course notes suggest to try to harness the primary force of time in a creative way.
Thinking of how this fits in with my interests, there are a few different approaches I could take:
- Rust printing – continue work on this
- Burning – action of heat and time
- Decay – bury paper/canvas in the environment for a period of time
The last of these requires time for the paper/canvas to be affected by the environment, so I started work on this straight away (whilst still mulling over the other options in case they didn’t work).
I did some searching, but struggled to find other artists who did this apart from Kyla Dante. Her piece “Journey- book 3, 2011/2012” is a canvas book buried along a journey around the Lake District (Dante, n.d.) which chimes with the work I am interested in making. How she produces her work, how long it is left, etc. is unknown, so I tried a few different things.
Using a batch of paper and canvas cut to a similar size. I buried these in layers in a tub between earth, ash, metal, etc:
- Rusty metal
- Rusty metal
- Dandelion heads
- Dandelion heads
- Mint roots
These were made up differently, but similar in some ways, as I would need to test unearth one tub first to see the impact to know how long to leave the second tub.
I also left some pieces in the environment:
Two canvas pieces, with maps of their location drawn on in ink. One left under a stone in a pond, the other left under a stone on a track which was usually wet.
A folded paper piece, produced on a search for a specific ash tree from a photography book with a fellow artist. This was buried in a damp place under a large boulder near where we found the elusive tree – still looking very similar to the photograph taken 20-30 years ago.
Dante, K. (n.d.). Books – Kyla Dante Artist. [online] Kyla Dante. Available at: http://kyladante.co.uk/portfolio_page/books/ [Accessed 8 May 2019].
The overall comments on my assignment submission was that my tutor is concerned about meeting the assessment criteria and that I should produce more rigorous personally driven and critically focused work. I am confident that my parallel project work will fulfil this and I will strive harder to make this come out of my stage 5 work also.
She is pushing me to try to expand my drawing to include more sculptural investigations. I find difficulty with this, seeing my drawing and sculpture work as being quite separate. Although links between them are getting stronger as time goes on, I find the way I think about sculpture work to be quite different and not informed by drawing beyond sketches and designs required to work out the practicalities of construction.
I need to direct research more towards the development of my own practice and focus in on work which will make an impact on that.
The course notes specify to “Find a fairly busy scene, with plenty of movement.” – in a rural village, that isn’t a scene which features people, so I chose to draw my bird feeders. I get a lot of sparrows feeding on these and whilst they are hard to capture due to their speed, they return often enough to capture them again in the same positions (or near enough).
My first attempt was a bit messy as I’d drawn the feeders and birds in black ink and they didn’t fit together that well.
I tried again, this time using watercolour for the feeders and black ink for the birds. I drew the birds first in pencil, then used a bold black ink pen to go over them. This didn’t work very well as it lost any sense of movement in the birds from the sketchy lines of my first drawing.
I went back to my sketchy ink lines with a pencil background this time which worked a bit better, although I prefer the watercolour background to the pencil.
Drawing fast moving scenes is not easy and I think it would take a lot of practice and skill to make these look good. In my case I think I would need to draw a lot of still images of sparrows in order to know how they look well enough to draw them quickly, either in detail or as simple sketchy lines.
I made some smaller test map pieces so I could try out various different ideas on them without being too worried about the wasted time and expense with the ones which didn’t work.
Rust print and burning only:
This works well, but I don’t feel it is enough on its own. The burn marks are also too precise and controlled. I may have to try this using gunpowder on a full size version.
Adding ink to represent the non-ash trees in the landscape:
The green ink I have is a bit too sickly. I might be better doing this in watercolour if I want to add colour in this way.
Adding black ink detail:
I like this combination of randomness and precision. My concern is whether this will translate well to the larger images. Maybe some small sections like this would work?
Here I tried using masking fluid to mask out a leaf pattern over the whole map, wetted the paper and drew around the masked area in black ink:
I don’t think this was very successful, the masked areas are too roughly done when on top of the (relatively) crisp rust marks. Also it ended up with two different images your eyes try to picture alternately, more likely to make you cross eyed than interested.
Adding an ink drawing of the cup-fungus (in white ink) on a midrib (in black ink):
This is similar to the previous test in fitting two different images on top of each other and again I don’t think this one works either.
Adding gold leaf in some of the burn holes:
Representing rays of hope in some ash trees hopefully surviving the disease. On its own it is not hugely successful, but it may work with the detailed ink drawings? It is too hard to tell on a small scale though and may have to be tried on a full size version.