Monthly Archives: November 2017

Project 2: Using space

Research Point – Elizabeth Blackadder

The course notes point to a video about her work, but I thought I’d have a look at her work on various internet sites before watching this.

Born in 1931, Elizabeth Blackadder is recognised as one of Scotland’s most important artists (The Scottish Gallery, 2017).

Her paintings don’t appeal to me on first viewing as I find they lack any depth or life. Her sketches of lobsters and leaves are technically proficient, but are more like studies than finished paintings.

This image seems to be close to the image this project is looking at producing. It is an unusual composition which doesn’t seem to follow normal placement ‘rules’. The objects seem to be randomly chosen and again, very flatly painted. It is interesting that this project is focussing on the background – in this image, the background works well for me, it is the random image painted as the main subject which don’t work for me. There is no focus, my eye wanders aimlessly around the image, not finding any area it likes to settle upon. However, zooming out to the overall shape and colour of the background it has an appeal to me.

I struggled to find other work by her that I liked, so I moved on to the video.

I’m not sure I learnt much more from viewing this, other than she paints what she likes and it was refreshing to see an artist talk about it in this way without losing the audience in art speak!

Turning back to the internet, this image was another which uses colour and the placement of objects. Whilst the first image link could have been produced in the way the course notes suggest by pinning work to a coloured cloth, this was obviously painted from a 3D scene, it has just been painted to look squashed into 2D – there are no shadows at all. Maybe this is my objection to her work – I am very much a 3D artist, so I like to see depth in an image.

It looks like (from the video and also from looking at her paintings) she paints the coloured backgrounds in after the individual objects have been painted. I will try this in the exercise.

References:

National Galleries of Scotland (2011). Elizabeth Blackadder: In the Studio. [image] Available at: http://vimeo.com/25711526 [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Nationalgalleries.org. (2017). Artworks | National Galleries of Scotland. [online] Available at: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/search/artist/elizabeth-blackadder [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

The Scottish Gallery. (2017). Elizabeth Blackadder. [online] Available at: https://scottish-gallery.co.uk/artist/elizabeth_blackadder [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Project

The aim of this project is to experiment with colour composition and detail to use the whole frame of the drawing. The notes say to pin up coloured fabric or card and suspend or pin light, brightly coloured objects onto the fabric. Then make several drawings in colour exploring composition and enjoying the juxtaposition of bright colours and detail.

I decided to modify the brief by electronically pinning items to a coloured background. This meant I could adjust the scale and also not be restricted to light objects. It also meant that I didn’t procrastinate because of not having any coloured fabric / suitable objects to pin to it. The course is encouraging me to see ideas in unexpected places, so I chose my items quickly from the items which are sitting around me in my studio. I photographed them individually on a white background, ‘cut them out’ in GIMP and ‘placed’ them on a coloured background.

Coloured piece 1

I tried various arrangements and made small sketches of these, working in a similar way to Elizabeth Blackadder in leaving plenty of space around each object.

Sketch8 Sketch9

I decided that the final version worked the best. I haven’t given up on ink drawings yet, so I decided to keep going with these for this exercise and use watercolour over the top.

This time I worked with a mapping pen and water to do my drawings and I think I may have found my favoured medium in this combination. The mapping pen allows precise lines, but varied with pressure and the chance of blotches or sprays when the pen catches on the paper. The addition of water introduces partially controlled randomness and gives a great effect. I am glad I have persisted with ink as a medium! I used watercolour to add colour to the ink drawings and also to the background.

Project2

Reflection

Have I managed to instil energy or life into the whole drawing, or does it run out of steam at the edges?

I like to think that I have in this drawing. In following the advice of the course notes in allowing the objects to go off the edge of the page, I think this adds more energy to the drawing. The bold colours and the interesting black ink shapes work well for me.

From an uninspiring premise, I’m quite surprised and pleased with the results. I have also really enjoyed working with ink and watercolour which is a promising start to the course.

Research Point – Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse made use of bold colours in his paintings, both in depicting the objects and the background.

In a similar way to Elizabeth Blackadder, some of his still life images are very flat, e.g. ‘Still Life with a Magnolia , 1941’, although others do have shadows and depth, e.g. ‘Vase with Fruit , 1901’.

It is interesting to view the ‘Selected Highlights’ page on the The Metropolitan Museum of Art website, which shows that he painted several versions of many of his images, working in very different styles on each version.

References:

Henri-matisse.net. (n.d.). Matisse: Life and Painting. [online] Available at: http://www.henri-matisse.net [Accessed 23 Nov. 2017].

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum. (n.d.). Selected Highlights. [online] Available at: https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/matisse/images [Accessed 23 Nov. 2017].

Elizabeth Blackadder vs Henri Matisse

Both use bold colours and both often render their objects in two dimensions by removing shadows.

Matisse still life images keep their arrangement, the object drawn have a relationship to each other in their placement. Blackadder often paints each item of a still life in it’s own space, with object rarely overlapping.

Backgrounds are important for both. Matisse paints backgrounds which are realistic – i.e. the corner of a room, whilst Blackadder uses shape and colour to provide a background to her objects.

I’m not sure which artist I have more affinity with. I can appreciate elements of both artist’s paintings, but overall neither really does it for me.

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Project 1: Observational drawing

The aim of this project is to learn to use what seems to be an unpromising subject, build up a composition and create an interesting drawing.

I have learnt that projects like this in Drawing 1 could lead me to procrastinate as they didn’t inspire me, so I grabbed my sketchbook, went outside and drew the first area I found!

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Sketch1

It was an uninspiring area and still life on the whole is an uninspiring subject matter to me. I played around with a few areas of the scene:

Sketch2 Sketch3

I wasn’t getting anywhere with these and was getting close to giving up, when several elements of the scene came together for me into the design of a sculpture – I was interested now!

Sketch4 Sketch5

This sketch is of a sculpture I am now quite keen to have a go at making, so it was a useful exercise in keeping going with an uninteresting subject until something is sparked.

I tried again in the quite periods whilst doing an art show with the corner of a room:

Sketch6

This morphed into a surrealist view of the wall! Good fun to play with, but I didn’t develop this one as far.

Sketch7

Reflection

These sketches formed a successful outcome for me in producing ideas for my sculpture work, but they don’t necessarily create an ‘interesting drawing’, which was one of the project aims. One issue is the use of drawing pens gives too uniform a line and the resulting sketches are too flat and boring because of it. I also haven’t taken heed of some of the course suggestions to be playful with the work and media.

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Course Expectations and Aims

  • Learn to use sketchbooks effectively
  • Learn to use drawing as a development tool for my sculpture work
  • Produce drawings which will compliment my sculptures
  • Incorporate research into my work
  • Complete in 1 year
  • Pass!

My sketchbooks and drawings are currently the weakest area of my work and I hope that my journey through this course will address and resolve that issue.

I also have an aim to work with ink more, so will be trying to complete many of the exercises in this medium (or at least to start with).

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