Assignment 1: Check and log/Reflection

Did you do enough preliminary work before starting on your final pieces?

In general, I would say I did.  In the case of both my finished pieces, I found that I changed my initial ideas based on work I did at the preliminary stage, which emphasised its usefulness to me.  I found that initial thumbnails in pencil were a helpful way in to ideas on composition and formatting, and using large sheets to explore colour, materials and mark-making were worthwhile as they allowed side-by-side comparisons.  The one thing I might have done, had I had more time, would have been to do a sketch of the second drawing where I would have looked at ways of including the carpet tone and texture.  That said, I feel satisfied that maintaining the focus on the two main areas in the picture was a better move, and one I would have chosen eventually in any case.

Do your large drawings give an accurate interpretation of the still life groups? If not, what went wrong?

I would say that both the drawings gave fairly accurate interpretations, despite my decision to focus on the essence of the objects as opposed to reproducing slavish copies of the things I had chosen to draw.  The one area I felt didn’t work as well as I’d hoped was on the umbrella handle in the made objects drawing – the reflected light on the right hand side makes it look slightly lop-sided from a distance, although I think it becomes clear once you view it more closely.  I could have altered this by inserting a slim area of dark tone to delineate the right side of the handle, but I drew it as I saw it instead.

Did you make a good selection of objects or did you try to include too much?

In the case of both drawings, I initially thought of including more objects – a much larger and more complicated branch in the natural forms piece (plus additional grasses and pine cones), and a carpet bag in the made objects piece.  In both cases, however, I could see even before I made the initial thumbnail sketches that it was too much.  Both times, the extra objects cluttered the arrangements, detracting from the overall compositions.  Would I change the arrangement of objects if I were to start again?  No, I was pleased with the arrangements in both cases.

Do your drawings fit well on the paper, or could they be improved by working on a larger sheet of paper?

I think both pieces suited being on A2 paper.  The natural forms drawing was deliberately quite sparse in its arrangement, and whereas I hope it worked on A2, I think it might have been lost on A1.  Likewise, the negative space of the made objects drawing sits well on A2, but I think it might have felt too ’empty’ on a larger sheet.

Did you have problems with drawing, or find hatching too difficult?

Both drawings had very intricate areas.  These weren’t problematic, as such, but they were very time-consuming.  With the natural forms piece,  I found it necessary to observe the arrangement closely for quite some time before even starting to draw, as the interweave of branches and shadows was fairly complex.  For both pieces, I bore in mind the difficulties I’d had earlier in the course by giving in to temptation to lay down dark tones first.  Instead, I started with the mid-tones, whilst keeping an eye on the lightest areas, making sure not to work too heavily on those so they would be easier to erase when necessary.  I then built dark tones gradually.  I didn’t use hatching in the first drawing, relying instead on the watercolour for tone and successive pencil marks to create texture.  In the made objects drawing, I used some hatching in the cast shadows.  As I wrote in my last post, I felt that was the weakest area of the drawing, and that hatching remains something I need to get to grips with.  Perhaps if I could find some artists who particularly appeal to me who made strong use of hatching, that might be a way in to working more successfully with it.


  • Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

It’s hard to know how to judge myself on this criteria, as I have nothing to compare it with, this being the first part of the course.  However, I think my assignment pieces used materials thoughtfully, and hopefully in ways that suited the subjects I chose.  Technique is still something I’m learning – well, it always will be, most likely, but it’s still early days, so technical aptitude is a work in progress.  I would say my observational skills are shaping up reasonably well, and I’m very conscious of looking closely before putting down marks.  Taking life drawing classes has helped in this regard.  Not entirely sure what is meant by visual awareness in this context, but I do try to be aware of the ‘bigger picture’ and of how individual elements relate to one another.  I find myself looking at things generally in a different way these days – looking for rhythms, colour, tone, edges, and so on… drawing by eye.  Design and compositional skills seem to involve a certain number of widely accepted ‘rules’, which I am only beginning to learn, but I am considering a number of them already – for example, avoiding symmetrical arrangements, thinking about where to crop an image, using thumbnails, preparatory studies, focusing on contrasts, converging lines, palette, and format.

  • Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas

As I say above, I give a lot of thought to the content of my drawings, and try to create interesting relationships.  That has felt more possible in the latter half of part 1, where there seems to be more scope to make our own choices.  In both the assignment pieces, I was conscious of applying elements studied in the course so far, particularly negative space.  I’ve tried to present my work clearly, writing about the process of a drawing from beginning to end, noting unexpected twists and turns along the way.  Hopefully I’ve been discerning in terms of what I put in and left out, especially in the assignment drawings.  Conceptualisation of thoughts – still not entirely sure what that means.  If it’s how I arrived at ideas, then I’d answer by saying that I have started to keep a notebook for writing down odd thoughts that come to mind, or for noting artists whose work strikes me particularly.  In this way, I hope to spot patterns and recurrences which may inform my own work.  If it’s how I put my ideas into practise, then I attempted to work through ideas methodically, testing the various possibilities in preliminary studies and sketches before going ahead with my chosen medium/composition, etc.  Similarly, I have endeavoured to communicate my ideas with clarity.  Interestingly, I have noticed recently that I am drawn to work mysterious in nature, but presented in deceptively simple ways.  It may be a little early for that to have translated into my own work, but I hope that by maintaining awareness and working in a thorough manner, it may filter through in time.

  • Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice

This a is particularly tricky section on which to comment.   I think I’ve worked imaginatively on creating compositions for the assignment pieces, both in terms of choosing subjects and in how I arranged them.  I was keen to avoid clichéd choices as much as possible.  I feel it would be good to be more experimental, though.  So much of the early part of this course has been about finding my way around, and trying to work out what needs to be done, and I haven’t found that conducive to experimentation.  My hope is I will develop that aspect as the course progresses.  Likewise with invention.  I think that developing a personal voice takes time, but I hope I’ve made a start there.  I’m aware of when I have strong responses to subjects and certain work by other artists, and as I said above, I am trying to investigate those responses further when they arise, in order to understand how to apply the intelligence that can be gained from them in my own work.

  • Context – reflection, research, and critical thinking (i.e. learning blog)

I have mixed feelings on this topic.  I have greatly enjoyed the research aspect of the course so far, with regard to studying other artists.  However, I do feel that I need to work on my critical abilities.  I feel unconfident just now about criticising work seen at exhibitions and so on.  (Due to health issues, there are practical difficulties for me in getting to many exhibitions, but I will be doing so whenever possible.)  One way that I might start to overcome this could be to look more closely at individual artists whose work strikes me particularly.  That way, I’m hoping I will begin to develop a critical voice, which could then be applied in broader contexts.  In the mean time, I’ve worked hard to create a clear, reflective and inviting learning log/blog.  I think of it as my online brain!