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Category Archives: Stage 2
The Renaissance was a period of great development in Europe when it became the centre of learning and great strides forward were made in many fields.
Science and art went hand in hand at this time, as two artists Albrecht Dürer and Leonardo da Vinci demonstrated. Dürer was trained as a goldsmith, who then applied his attention to fine detail to the study of birds and animals. Leonardo was probably the ultimate scientist/artist, or ‘artist-engineer’, studying a multitude of disciplines.
1471 to 1528
I looked at Dürer in Project – Detailed observation, including his work on drawing animals. Dürer was one of the first artists of his time to challenge the view that animals were not worthy of great art. His depiction of them had great detail and captured the vivid colours (when looking at the wing of a blue roller painting), using the medium of watercolour.
Leonardo da Vinci
1452 to 1519
Starting his career apprenticed to a sculptor and painter, he became an independent master in 1478. Then around 1483 he moved to Milan to work as an engineer, sculptor, painter and architect – something I think it would have been great to be able to do, to mix and match disciplines to suit your interests and not have to specialise in a single subject – that and be great at them all also! Not only that, but he also studied geometry, anatomy, flight, gravity and optics, and invented many machines.
Looking at his drawings of horses, I could only find two of these on the Bridgemaneducation site, ‘Rider on Rearing Horse’ and ‘Study of Horses and Riders’ in metalpoint and silverpoint. The bone and muscle structure of the body and legs does appear to be accurately drawn (or as far as a non-horsey person can tell), although the horses necks do seem to have some very odd crease lines, especially in ‘Study of Horses and Riders’.
Bridgeman Education: http://www.bridgemaneducation.com
Exercise – Grabbing the chance
I had an opportunity to draw a dog when I came to this exercise, and a page of these drawings is shown below.
After that, my subject was our cat ‘Buster’, a tricky subject to draw for a number of reasons. Firstly he doesn’t stay still for very long except when in deep sleep, secondly he is black and white, which makes seeing the different tones difficult enough, never mind drawing them, thirdly, his favourite place to sleep is on a lap, which makes it hard to get a good angle to draw him from, especially as too much movement makes him move around!
Various incomplete sketches of him:
Three colour drawing of him from a photograph (I’ve got his eyes slightly different sizes in this one).
Skeletal structure of the cat.
I found the images above on Wikipedia showing the skeletal structure and muscle structure of a cat. I can see that for some animals (the horse particularly, as detailed below), knowledge of the skeletal and muscle structure would be very useful to aid drawings, as the skin is tight over the muscles. However, for the majority of cats, the mass of fur covering the body would seem to make such studies fairly pointless, and close observation would be more useful to an artist.
1724 – 1806
George Stubbs is considered by many to be the greatest painter of horses ever (BBC, Artyfactory). Horse painting not really being my thing and only having viewed his painting on a computer screen, I will have to take their word for it, but his skill in depicting the horse’s body cannot be disputed. The detail in depicting the flesh, muscle and bone can be seen very clearly, and it is no surprise to learn that he studied the structure of the horse.
The fact that he went to such lengths to do so, spending 18 months ‘peeling’ horses, shows that he had great determination and drive to fully understand their bodies, as well as a sterner stomach than many of us! It also demonstrates a similar marrying of science and art as discussed when looking at the Renaissance masters.
The picture “Mares and Foals without a Background” shows the skill Stubbs has in depicting horses, not only in recording their skeletal/muscle structure, but in applying that knowledge to paintings of them ‘alive’. The muscles of the horses can clearly be seen under their skin and there can be no doubt that Stubbs’s intricate knowledge of their makeup was what made this painting so lifelike. Although this painting date is before ‘The Anatomy of the Horse’ was published in 1766, he had been dissecting horses for the previous 18 years to produce the images for the book.
Bridgeman Education: http://www.bridgemaneducation.com
Exercise – Fish on a plate Aubergine on a plate
Being a vegetarian and owning a cat (the relevance of the latter being that I would have been drawing a cat eating a fish or would have lost blood stopping it from doing so!), I agreed an alternative option with my tutor of drawing an Aubergine on a plate instead. A single Aubergine on a plate isn’t the most inspiring of compositions though, so I added a courgette and in keeping with the original title, placed them both on a platter decorated with fish.
I used Derwent ‘Inktense’ pencils to do this drawing, first sketching in the main colours and brushing them with water, then adding dry pencil lines on top. I found it hard to get any deep areas of tone in this drawing and it is mostly the same tone throughout.
What were the main challenges of drawing animals?
- For animals in general, the main challenge is that they are not very inclined to stay still unless they are sleeping (and even then not for long enough).
- For my cat, additional challenges arise from the fact he is black and white which makes it difficult to draw in tone, and from the fact his preferred resting place is my lap, from where it is a challenge to draw him!
Which media did you enjoy using most and which did you feel were best for the subject matter and why?
- I enjoyed using coloured pencils, but I did struggle getting a good tonal range with them. For moving animals particularly, I think just pencil is the best option though, as you need to work quickly and don’t have time to change colours when you are drawing.
Where can you go to draw more animals? Think about the sorts of places that will give you opportunities for animal drawing. Have you tried drawing a moving animal yet?
- For me this would have to be out in the countryside drawing sheep, cows, etc. due to my location. Not necessarily ideal as drawing confined animals might be easier. I guess a field of animals would give the same opportunities though, as you could change the animal you focussed on depending on how they were standing. I’ve not tried drawing a moving animal yet, but will do so soon.
Exercise – Negative space in a plant
A3 drawing in graphite of the negative space around a pot plant.
I thought of this as an exercise and, although interesting, didn’t really see the point. However, after completing the following exercise it showed that getting the background drawn in first, helped in drawing the subject.
Exercise – Plants and flowers in coloured pencil
I tried a few methods of blending colours, but maybe due to the coloured pencils I have, I couldn’t manage to blend them using rubbing or smudging, which left me only hatching and layering as options.
For the drawing I bought some cut flowers and arranged in a vase. However, I didn’t choose the easiest flowers to draw and the whole drawing took me about a day to complete (over a number of sessions)!
I think I have done much better with the background in this drawing, and despite the bendy shadow on the vase, am pleased with most of the drawing. I am not sure I have really captured the three-dimensional aspect of the flowers though, due to lack of much shading or colour differences.
Exercise – Drawing with other colour media
I tried a few experiments in mixed colour media in drawing three of the flowers drawn previously.
For the image on the left, the negative space was drawn in watercolour pencil and then gone over with a wet brush – I missed the negative space between the stems though. After that, the flowers and glass were drawn in fibre tip pens.
For the image on the right, watercolour pencils then wetted were used for the whole image. I did start trying to add acrylic ink over the top, but whilst this showed up on the flower stems, it didn’t show up on the yellow flowers. I also tried adding oil pastels, but again nothing really showed up on the light coloured flowers – maybe I should have picked some bolder coloured flowers to try this on.
For the image on the left, I drew this in ink, then used acrylic inks (painted) to add the colour. I think this was the most successful image of the four.
For the image on the right, I drew this in pencil, then used acrylic inks (painted) to add the colour, although I went way over the top on the glass colouring. I tried adding colour using a dip pen and inks also, but this didn’t work too well on this paper, maybe because it was rough, or because it already had ink on it?
Check and Log
How will your experiments with negative space help your observational drawing in the future?
- It can be a good way to get the background in before starting on the subject and giving it context. I tried using this in one of the experiments in mixed colour media, although not that successfully.
What techniques did you use to ensure you drew your plants in proportion?
- For all the drawings I started out measuring the height of the subject, working out what was halfway in the image, getting in some basic shapes and then working from there, relating new objects to the ones already drawn.
How did you achieve an effect of three-dimensional space in your drawings?
- The negative space drawing was intentionally flat, the flowers in coloured pencil has some effects of three-dimensional space, but more in the background around the flowers than on the flowers themselves. I found this difficult as the coloured pencils didn’t layer very well and the limited palette of colours didn’t allow for enough variations in colour to represent this. The pencils didn’t keep their points for very long at all and when drawing on A2 paper this was quite a drawback! For the experiments in coloured media I didn’t add much shading so they are pretty flat images, mainly because I drew them without a direct light source and there weren’t many shadows to draw.
- So overall in this section the answer is that I didn’t really!
Exercise – Using hatching to create tone
Individual drawings of fruit and vegetables, paying attention to the shapes or planes that make up the outline.
I chose coloured pencils to complete this exercise, another medium I hadn’t used before. This was partly because of the student work example in the notes which I presume was done in coloured pencils, and I liked the composition of the fruit against the background of the paper bag. It may be a bit of a cop out to pick the same type of composition for myself, but as it meant that I was actually quite inspired to draw fruit, not something which I thought I ever would happen, I decided it was a good option!
I don’t eat fruit (don’t worry about my health with that statement as I eat a lot of vegetables!), so I went fruit shopping with art in mind rather than eating! Not that I found any exciting fruit in the local shop, although I dithered over a pineapple for a while, but I picked out some apples based on their nice colouring, a ripe banana with blotches on it’s skin and an orange.
Doing individual sketches on the items of fruit, I tried the apples on a few different types of paper. The initial sketch on white paper made the apple look a bit squat. The colours were quite vibrant on black paper, but I decided it would be too difficult to show shadows and it would have required adding a lot of white/colours to most of the background. I thought the grey paper would be a good intermediate option, but it seemed to make the colours a bit bland, so I decided to stick with good old white paper for the drawing.
It was difficult to capture the texture of the orange skin in this drawing. The ‘Textura’ rough cartridge paper helped, but not enough.
This seemed to be going well, but I didn’t carry on to complete the whole drawing here as I knew I would get sick of drawing the blotches on the skin and wouldn’t want to repeat this on the main drawing!
I tried the fruit on it’s own in a number of compositions (only one sketched), but they were a bit boring without a background, so I returned to the paper bag layout which inspired me from the course notes. The next sketch (bottom right) was a bit cluttered, but the third sketch (bottom left) was better. However the initial bag used was very creased and I thought would be hard to draw properly, so I kept the composition, but found a new paper bag which was less creased and gave a ‘cleaner’ composition.
I was quite pleased with the final image. I think the composition works well and the fruit is captured in reasonable detail.
I did have some issues working in coloured pencils. Maybe it was the quality of the pencils I used (unknown make which have been hanging around the house probably since school days), or that they had been bashed around for years, but I struggled to get a sharp point on some of them without it breaking off, and any point I did achieved went within seconds of starting to draw. Because of this some of the lines became more shading than defined lines. I also didn’t find it very easy to layer the colours or get any very dark tones.
I enjoyed this exercise though, much more than when I first read about having to draw fruit which didn’t inspire me at the time.
Exercise – Using markers or dip pens
For my first attempt at this, I sketched the fruit in pencil first, which then shows through the ink. The colour was added using dip pens The image is very flat because I have not applied any shading or shadow detail.
At this point I paused on the course for around 3 months before coming back to it.
Deciding to abandon fruit as there is never any in the house (and several bowls of fruit bought for the purposes of drawing had rotted before I got back to it), I changed to vegetables.
I opted to use dip pens again. Despite the course notes saying that dip pens were unpredictable and prone to mistakes, the only smudges I seem to get is from putting my hand in the wet ink whilst drawing.
I think this image works much better than the last attempt. Where I went wrong was when I started to add in the corrugated cardboard the vegetables were arranged on. I started this under the spring onions before deciding that it wouldn’t work and leaving the rest of the background white.
I wanted to try to get some of the rough / random effects I was failing to achieve with the dip pens so I went out and got some fibre pens in the hope I would have more success with these.
The pens I got gave me a limited palette to play with, so I have had to compromise with some of the colours. They didn’t work too well in trying to cover the background and I probably should have gone for an ink wash to do this. My composition also left a big space in the top left of the page which is not ideal.
Exercise – Drawing using oil pastel
The brief for this exercise contradicted itself in starting out saying to use a textured coloured paper and then later saying to leave some of the white of the paper to show through! I decided to go for textured white paper.
I had a limited palette of oil pastels as well, having just bought a set of 12 different colours. With the vegetables I chose the draw this did not cause a major problem though except in depicting the shadows, the biggest problem I found was trying to draw any detail or achieve any hatching on the textured paper.
I’m not sure I have got the hang of oil pastels in this drawing. The composition is ok, except for the different colour paper I placed the plate on going straight down the middle of the image. Where the image really suffers is in showing the tome and shadows, partly due to the limited palette of colours I had at my disposal, partly because I was struggling with the textured paper and in overlaying colours.
Find out about Ben Nicholson. Why does he simplify still life forms and negative space and superimpose them on the Cornish landscape?
Ben Nicholson was born in Denham, Buckinghamshire and both of his parents, William Nicholson and Mabel Pryde, were artists. He studied at the Slade School of Art and started off painting still lifes before moving on to abstract works. After travelling abroad, he settled in London for seven years where his abstract works were considered to be the centre of the London-based British avant-garde. In 1939 he moved to Cornwall where his return to landscape painting was necessitated by his need to earn a living and his dealers recommended this approach as they considered them as being easier to sell.
This is when he painted still life forms with the Cornish landscape. These started off as still life objects on a windowsill in front of the view:
and then moved on to be superimposed on top of the landscape:
Coming from an abstract background would explain the simplification of the still lifes, and the addition of these to the landscapes may have been from a reluctance to completely abandon the abstract work in favour of landscapes.
The British Council website references Chris Stephens, who termed it Nicholson’s ‘domestication’ of the English landscape, ‘to show that the making of art was ordinary and domestic, as essential as housework’. I have not been able to view this source directly, but it suggests a direct quote from Nicholson, so that was presumably his aim.
Why does any artist produce the work they do? It must be because it has meaning for them, and they enjoy the results. I guess he also found a niche in this work as (in my limited knowledge of the art world) I’m not aware of anyone else who produced work like this.
Check and Log
Your composition should occupy most of the paper’s surface. How much negative space do you have left?
- Too much in my fibre pen drawing, but I think the others cover the page well. I need to work on my backgrounds though to make them more interesting and fit with the subjects better.
What have you learned from drawing the details of fruit and vegetables?
- That anything you are drawing merits closer examination, as well as learning more about working with colour in different media.
What did you find most challenging about this part of the course?
- I did get a bit fed up of drawing fruit and stall part way through this project. There were other reasons why I didn’t have the time for a while, but I could have fitted in little bits. I need to keep pushing myself to continue as, once I got back down to it, I enjoyed it, so I need to make sure I keep moving on even if the subject matter doesn’t immediately inspire me.
- Apart from that, using the range of coloured media required was a challenge as they all required different methods of working.
Exercise – Still life group using line
A still life showing understanding of forms and connection between them, referring to patterns, textures and shapes.
I delayed a long time before starting this drawing as I could only think of piles of fruit or vegetables as a subject, neither of which gave me any inspiration! However, I then thought to draw the onions hanging up to dry in the shed on our allotment and I was away.
I think I’ve got most of the proportions right in this image and have made sure I paid attention to the vanishing points in drawing the corner of the shed. Some of the areas work quite well in drawing pen, such as the roots of the onions, but other areas don’t work so well. Without the detail on the wooden planks the image looked a bit bare, however, when I started to add some detail, it then started to become cluttered, and so I didn’t complete this process.
Again I enjoyed using fine black drawing pens, but it is hard to get some effects without being able to change the colour / intensity of the ink. The fork which has hard defined edges works well in this medium, but you don’t get a good sense of form or texture on the onions.
Exercise – Still life group in tone
Using coloured pencils or pastels, concentrate on the tones in the image and build up layer and layer of depth. Think very deliberately about using a variety of effects in this drawing, and work quite fast to keep the drawing spontaneous and full of energy.
I chose to use pastels to do this drawing, a medium I hadn’t used before.
The exercise said to start by drawing the darkest tones and work towards the lightest. I did this in this drawing, but I did do a very rough outline sketch first in light grey pastel to make sure the proportions were roughly right.
I found pastels nice to work with, but did have some issues with them. Because of the textured surface of the paper I was drawing on, I found that it was difficult to define edges in the drawing and so I have ended up with ‘halo’s’ around some of the edges, where the shadows / background doesn’t meet the object. I also found it hard to layer the colours and to be able to draw light areas of colour. As a result of this, the ginger merges into the scored chopping board it sits on.
Overall I am quite pleased with my first attempt at drawing with pastels, but not sure it works well as a demonstration of drawing with tone.
Check and Log
What aspects of each drawing have been successful, and what did you have problems with?
- In the line drawing, the perspective and shapes worked well, but not texture or tone. In the tone drawing, the objects worked quite well, but not the background or the depiction of the shadows.
Did you manage to get a sense of depth in your drawings? What elements of the drawings and still life groups helped to create that sense?
- Limited depth in the line drawing, all from the perspective of the corner of the shed. Better depth was achieved in the tone drawing as shadows and form were drawn, but it is still a bit flat.
What difficulties were created by being restricted to line or tone?
- Being restricted to line as requested in the exercise means not depicting the shadows, which limits the depth which can be achieved. And not representing the colour of the objects. These could both be added in line, but the inclusion of washes would be needed to get a more complete image.
- Being restricted to tone means you can’t define the edges of the objects early on in the image. Otherwise I am not sure there are any other difficulties with this method.
Exercise – Line drawing detail
Using a black fibre-tipped pen, I drew a leek.
I found it hard to resist the temptation to add tone and shadows to the image. The image is OK, but without tone and shadow it is not going to get much better!
Exercise – Getting tone and depth in detail
Conscious of my tutor feedback from assignment 1, I was particularly focusing on trying to vary the weight and intensity of my lines, use longer and more controlled lines, and ensure that I didn’t mix my tonal drawing with an outline drawing.
As with my still life of man-made objects in assignment 1, I did this drawing over a period of time and it shows. The style of the branch to the left and right of the section of bark is different as it was done on different days. I need to watch out for this in future drawings and either do all of the same type of textured areas at the same time, or observe what I have done previously more closely before starting again.
I think the right hand side of the branch works well, but the shadow on the left hand side is too abrupt and the lines too regular. I think the dark shadow mostly works, although I was too hard with my hatching initially on the right hand side of the shadow and changed to a lighter hatching after that, which shows. The boundary between the shadow areas is also too abrupt. Unfortunately I sprayed the image with fixative before I noticed some of these faults!
I think the key lessons are to keep looking more and more in depth at the object you are drawing, and also to step back from the drawing occasionally to see how it fits together.
Exercise – Stipples and Dots
I chose a fossil to draw, sketched it roughly in pencil, and then set about getting the detail using a drawing pen.
As you can see, I only got part way through this image. It was very time consuming and I realised that I had got the initial rough sketch wrong, and the next ring in was going to be bigger than the one before, it which obviously wasn’t right, so I quit whilst I was ahead (ish)!
I think the use of stippling gives an interesting effect, but it is difficult to get the tone and shadows to look right. I think the transition between the shadow on the fossil is too abrupt in my image. I also need to ensure any initial sketch is accurate before starting out with the pen as it is too late then to correct significant mistakes.
Find drawings by two artists who work in contrasting ways: from tight, rigorous work to a more sketchy, expressive style.
1471 to 1528
Albrecht Dürer came from a German family of artists. His father was a goldsmith in Nuremberg and he initially trained under him before deciding that he wanted to be a painter. He was then indentured to the painter Michael Wolgemut. After this apprenticeship, he travelled throughout Germany and to the Netherlands to learn about the art of these areas, eventually establishing himself in Basle. He returned to Nuremburg in 1494 to marry Agnes Frey and settled back there permanently the following year after spending some time travelling in Italy.
He was a drawer, painter, printmaker and writer. His work is incredibly detailed and precise and stands the test of time, which is no doubt why he is often considered the greatest of all German artists.
I have picked out 4 images which fit with the theme of this section which are shown below:
A drawing of an apostle’s hands in prayer, carried out as preparatory work for an altarpiece commission.
A woodcut of a Rhinoceros, based on a sketch and description.
Schmidt-Rottluff was also a German painter and printmaker, however he was supporter of Expressionism and has a very different style to Dürer. Following his friend Erich Heckel into architecture school in Dresden, they used this as a front to study painting. With Enrich they founded Die Brücke, a group of artists painting vital art which renounced the traditions of the time. The group eventually broke up in 1914 as the members moved away from each other in both location and style.
His work uses freely drawn lines to represent the images in a very simplified form.
I have selected 4 images which are shown below:
Oxford Art Online: http://www.oxfordartonline.com
Bridgeman Education: http://www.bridgemaneducation.com
Check and Log
Which drawing media did you find most effective to use, for what effects?
- I find the drawing pen effective for detailed work, but find it difficult to show light texture as it is a solid black. The pencil is much more effective for gradations of tone and the different hardness’s allow for a wide range of different marks and tonal values to be captured.
What sort of marks work well to create tone, pattern and texture? Make notes beside some sample marks.
- Hatching works well to create tone, whereas this is hard to achieve with stippling. Pattern and texture can be achieved with stippling or hatching, depending on the effects required.
Did you enjoy capturing details or are you more at home creating big broad brush sketches?
- I am far more at home with detailed drawing, although I do want to explore the broad brush approach more in my work.
Look at the composition of the drawings you have done in this project. Make some sketches and notes about how you could improve your composition.
- This is tricky as all the drawings in this project are of single objects, so they don’t offer much in the way of alternative composition. I did move them all around at the time to try to capture their best angle. The only one I feel could benefit from being rearranged is the leek which is a bit boring being just side on. Not having a leek to hand now, I have not done any sketches on how it could be improved, but an angled view from the base up may be more effective, although without adding tone and shadows to this, it might look a bit odd?
Exercise – Exploring coloured media
Image of my sketchbook with experiments in coloured media.
It is interesting to do some experimentation, but I think I work better when I have an idea in mind and then experiment to achieve the effect I want to get, so I am sure I will experiment more with these mediums as I go forwards.
Barlow, Fancis (c.1626 – 1704)
Francis Barlow was an English painter, etcher and draughtsman, possibly apprenticed to William Sheppard before 1650. Given the theme on this section, I have selected some of his drawings of birds and animals to examine, which he frequently drew from life.
All four of these images show great observation skills in depicting the animals shape and form and they all look very lifelike (the horse with all legs extended in the background aside, as this was the “accepted” way which horses where thought to run at the time, before Eadweard Muybridge carried out his studies on animal locomotion in the 1870’s).
However, all of the images are very cluttered, either full of animals or birds, or in the case of the single fish, by the surrounding vegetation.
Bridgeman Education: http://www.bridgemaneducation.com
Glexis Novoa (1964- )
Glexis Novoa was born in Cuba, moved to Mexico for a few years, before settling in Miami. He has worked in many forms of media but is known for his graphite site specific wall drawings. These drawings usually feature the built environment, with a mixture of the imagined and real, and often show a dystopian world, devoid of people.
The images all show the precise attention to detail Glexis Novoa achieves in his drawings and his perspective skills are superb.
Vitamin D – New Perspectives in Drawing. Joanna Burton, Emma Dexter et al. Phaidon, 2005
Check and log
Which of the media you experimented with did you find the most expressive?
- Chalk and pastels as they give bold marks, dip pen is also expressive as its smooth flow encourages expressive mark making.
Which medium do you think lends itself to very detailed work?
- Dip pen and coloured pencils