Assignment One feedback

I recently submitted Assignment one and have received my feedback (assignment-one-feedback).

On the whole I am very pleased as there are a lot of positives in there.  I guess starting something new and submitting my first piece of work had some anxiety in there as I was actually quite nervous to open the document.  Anyway, the nerves were for nothing as there is some detailed comments that are very helpful for moving forwards.  For my own benefit I have split the comments into sections so I can use them moving forwards:


  • I am gaining confidence with my own voice both visually and contextually.
  • I am engaged with the course.
  • I am working well in terms of evaluation and reflections.
  • The submission was solid and personally challenged throughout.
  • Some elements of risk
  • Interesting outcomes in emotive marks
  • Evaluated and critically analysed well
  • Good range of studies on texture
  • Captured 3D qualities well
  • First page of sketchbook was an excellent start
  • Texture encapsulated very well
  • Reflections in learning log support studies well
  • Able to zoom in and look at what I have in front of me
  • Good annotations in sketchbook
  • Basic shape drawing is good
  • Experimented with a few different media
  • Critique own work well in learning log
  • Show an understanding of positive and negative space
  • Connect to objects on a personal level
  • Final piece shows interest in textural qualities
  • Colour pallette works well when referencing calm
  • Good attempt at first large drawing
  • Good understanding of dark and light tones
  • 60 second drawing captures the mood of still life well
  • good sound reflection around the work of Odilon Redon from a general and personal perspective
  • very confident larger scale drawing that fills the page
  • used the putty rubber well
  • managed to make an interesting and complex composition for final piece
  • written very carefully around choice of objects as well as the placement of hidden items. This is very interesting and something that perhaps you could hold on to when moving further into more personal work.
  • final drawing does manage to lead the eye around the final drawing with ease
  • some lovely moments in there such as the light hitting the glass jar containing your paint brushes
  • crab is an unexpected yet charming addition as it is not easy to read whether it is real or man made
  • written a good solid reflective account of Part 1
  • research is explorative and informed
  • Your log is being used well and you are clearly recording and documenting your learning through this tool
  • learning log is organised and easy to follow.

Action points:

  • Take more risks
  • Make more use of my sketchbook for development
  • More sustained preliminary work before assignment piece
  • Develop ideas at length before doing large pieces
  • Look at exhibitions that challenge me
  • Really look closely at techniques and media in exhibitions.
  • Check video upload
  • Look closely at artwork in the flesh
  • Further evaluation of frottage exercise
  • Consider looking at abstract nature of frottage page as a whole
  • Do small studies on objects before incorporating them into big piece
  • Show development from initial idea
  • Further practice in drawing ellipses
  • Keep up writing lengthy reflections
  • Work on more emphasis of midtones
  • Take care on details – only draw what is interesting
  • Consider varying compositions by drawing small thumbnail sketches
  • Varying the weight of line, working with broken lines to widen experimentation.
  • take the time to measure the depth of ellipses
  • Work on dark backgrounds to show objects that are black an white
  • make decisions visually through drawing taking the time to draw several small scale versions in your sketchbook before deciding on the final and most interesting composition for you
  • further study of mid tones would allow you the opportunity to really decide where the light hits and where it recedes as aspects of light areas held within this still life are a little confused at times
  • Squint and decipher or take a photograph to help you understand where the light falls. Don’t work from the photograph
  • label the pages of your sketchbook against the exercises
  • written a good solid reflective account of Part 1
  • collect things of interest, postcards or images from exhibitions and so on in sketchbook too
  • Extend your learning links beyond Wikipedia –  use required reading books
  • See at least one exhibition that takes you out of your comfort zone within your next assignment
  • evidence in a little more detail the wider reading
  •  cite as many exhibition visits to your work in detail.
  • Purchase a copy of Vitamin D2 to help you with your understanding of more contemporary artists.

Artists to Look at:

  • Richard Long
  • Robert Smithson
  • Andy Goldsworthy
  • Jeanne Claude
  • Christo
  • Ai Weiwei
  • Van Gogh – landscape drawings and marks
  • Rembrandt, Matisse, Renoir, Charles Avery and Reny Lalique for variations in mark making


Negative Spaces – SAA ‘Paint’ magazine

I recently joined ‘The Society for all Artists’ (SAA) and as part of the membership I receive a copy of Paint magazine.  In the recent magazine is a tutorial by Trevor Waugh on using negative space in still life.  This interested me as I have been looking at still life in my research and for the assignment work I have been doing.

In the article are some useful pieces of advice that I will try in my own work:

  • Take you time setting up your still life and consider the negative spaces as well as the objects.  In assignment one I did take my time setting up the objects and I tried various arrangements but I can’t say I took that much notice of the negative spaces at the early stage.  In my next arrangement I will focus more on these.
  • The shapes you leave out are usually the ones that speak.  Waugh is writing about watercolour in particular but I think this also applies to many media.  When I look back with fresh eyes at my assignment piece I do see the negative spaces and they do help connect the objects but many of them in mine are in deep shadow.
  • The shadows connect all the objects.
  • Negative spaces help throw objects forwards
  • Your work is personal to you – make every mark with care and remember sometimes less is more.


Waugh T, Shadow Play.  Paint Nov 2016 page 12-13

Required Reading – Experimental Drawing by Robert Kaupelis

This book starts with a very interesting question about Willem deKooning.  It shows a charcoal drawing by him, done early in his life, and is very different from the abstract style he is more well-known for and asks the question ‘Was it necessary for deKooning to be able to produce this type of drawing before working in the expressive, violent mode of his later style?’.  I find this interesting because it is something I have asked myself, not necessarily about deKooning but about a lot of modern artists and to some extent myself.

The introductory passage ‘a few words’ also makes points of interest to me.  Kaupelis makes the point that really there is no beginning / intermediate / advanced expressive activity.  What all artists want to do is improve and get better and often the only thing that does differentiate a beginner to an advanced student is experience and trying f new techniques.  When I was at school I was guided away from art as a subject and told to concentrate on science and maths subjects so I feel like I have missed out on a lot of experience and I really come into this course with probably a lot less formal experience that others.  However, I also dont’ believe in this inherent property of talent and I do think anyone can learn to express their creativity with a lot of practice and dedication.

It is with this dedication to practice that I love Kaupelis’ sketchbook oath:

I solemnly swear that from this day forward I shall never again be caught without a sketchbook during my waking hours, and also that I shall use it faithfully everyday.

Daily sketching is something I am now in the habit of.  I don’t think many of them are very good and if you flicked through the book you would see how random my thoughts are as I tend to skip around from idea to idea, using places like pinterest for inspiration.  I am currently working in two books, a larger A3 book that is specifically for Drawing 1 exercises and a smaller A5 book that is my random every day thoughts.

The concluding paragraph of the introductory chapter I think is the most important.  It says to work hard, experiment, try anything and everything and that we often learn less from our successes than we do our failures (and that there aren’t really any true failures).

Chapter two covers some basics of drawing.  It has a number of techniques to try as you read the book.  The first of which is ‘blind contouring’, this really made me observe what I was drawing and made me concentrate on drawing what was actually there instead of what I thought was there.  There is a long list of ideas to try on page 21, which I will try to work through in my personal sketch book.  A similarly long list of ideas for gesture drawing is on page 30 which again I will try.


Kaupelis, R.  Experimental Drawing (1980).  Watson Guptill, New York

Assignment One – reflections and self assessment

For assignment one we were asked to find and draw a selection of objects in a still life arrangement.  The objects were to be ones that aroused some kind of feeling inside us and we were asked to pin up some of our previous work on making expressive marks around us whilst we worked.  I chose a selection of objects around the theme of ‘happiness’ as can be described here in my previous post.  Before drawing the objects, I played around with some angles and arrangements to try and get a composition with some interesting tones, shadows, shapes and reflections.  I used my smartphone camera to take some photos of the different arrangements and in the end worked from a combination of viewing the real objects in front of me and using the camera image too.  I worked with a selection of charcoal sticks, charcoal pencil and a small amount of white classroom chalk.

Overall I am pleased with the final drawing.  I feel like it has captured the right degree of happiness but with quite a dark gloomy atmosphere.  I wanted to try and get this dichotomy of feelings to highlight that my happiness always comes with a hint of anxiety due to my bipolar disorder, this is something I picked up on in the exercise looking at emotion.  I also like the story the picture tells, the fact that all these objects that say happiness to me are propped up and surrounded by psychiatric medication, medication that is usually hidden from view.

I learned a lot from the exercises leading up to this and the final drawing.  Prior to this course I had never worked with charcoal before and it is quickly becoming one of my favourite drawing mediums.  I like the fluidity and looseness it gives me, I always feel a little tight and unsteady using pencil.  I have actually extended my range of charcoals now so that I have a mixture of pencils and loose sticks.  I also learned a lot from my research into still life and how to set up compositions using the rule of thirds, creating interesting shapes and how to select objects, this was from reading books about Picasso  that made me think about how we select what we draw and paint to more technical books about drawing itself.  On a more technical note I have learned how to observe more carefully and from practising some of the techniques in the required reading book ‘Drawing…’ I have improved my drawing skills.

If I were to rework this assignment piece I would change the lighting setting slightly to give the crab more emphasis, when in light he creates some wonderful reflections which aren’t picked up in this drawing as he was too shaded.  I would also experiment more with different media and try doing the same composition in paint or ink.  Also, I would like to try this same set up in colour as I feel different colour hues would add to this drawing.

I feel like I have achieved so much already in this course.  I started off quite a novice at drawing, with my experience limited to quick sketches for my paintings.  I now appreciate drawing as an art form itself and have done some reading around this.  I have experienced new media: charcoal, graphite sticks, pastels and have worked on a new large scale of A1.  I have also done reading around historical artists and their drawings, subscribed to Art Monthly and watched TV documentaries on Artists and their art.  I feel also with the help of the online guide that my reflective practice has improved.

In order to draw this still life I put into practice some of the drawing techniques from the books I read and considered the advice from the TV documentary.  I have also used the course book and tried to show expression and create atmosphere in my drawings.  I think I achieved this darker atmosphere that I was looking for in my drawing.

I plan on revisiting this theme of dark happiness but in a different medium, I want to recreate it but add some acrylic colour in there as as an experiment.  It has also given me a list of things I want to work on as the course progresses: I still need to experiment with media more, I want to continue working on my 3D shapes and textures.  I can do this by looking at more examples, perhaps by fellow students and by doing more research into drawing techniques.

Overall though this assignment has left me feeling excited for how my future studies will go.  I already feel like I have improved but I know there is a long way to go.  I know a lot more art theory than I did a few weeks ago and I am daily drawing now which is going to lead to even more technical improvements.

Self Assessment against learning outcomes:

On successful completion of the course, you’ll be able to:

• demonstrate drawing skills using a wide range of drawing media

I feel like I am improving in this area.  I have used pencil, pen, paint, charcoal pencils, watercolour pencils, ink, charcoal sticks, chalk and soft pastels.  I feel like I am now more comfortable in charcoal and this is currently my favoured drawing media but I feel like my pencil and pen shading needs a lot more work.

use drawing, tone and colour to represent three dimensions

Again I feel like I am improving in this area, my 3D shapes have improved as seen in my final assignment piece and I am comfortable with charcoal tone but feel like my hatching needs a lot more work.  Colour not yet covered in this course but I use colour a lot in my painting.

explain the rudiments of linear perspective and other drawing systems

Not really covered yet in this course but I have experimented with perspective in my paintings and sketches.

reflect perceptively upon your own learning experience.

I feel like this is a strength of mine due my experience in teaching others.  I am getting good at looking at my work with critical eyes and making notes on what I need to improve on.  Using the template in the higher education guide has been a huge help in this area.



Research and ideas – Still Life and Happiness

As my theme for my still life is happiness, I decided to do some research to see how other artists have used this theme.

The majority of the paintings and drawings around this theme are bright and colourful and contain items like flowers.  This, on sale aat is a prime example.  Another example is a slightly different example where the artist Helen Bradley uses a vegetable to portray the transient feeling of happiness.

Although I can admire the qualities of these paintings, as I have explained in previous logs my idea of happiness is a little extraordinary.  I want to incorporate objects that make me happy or remind me of happy times but I also want a darker element to my composition.

Required Reading – Drawing Now: Eight Propositions by Laura Hoptman

Firstly, this is a stunning book to visually look through.  It is  full of inspiring photos of drawings and it is one I will be coming back to time and time again and it links nicely with another book in the required reading list: Drawing Now: between the lines of contemporary Art.

The preface is by Gary Garrels, the chief curator of drawings at The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and in ti he explains how drawing is thriving with the onset of new technologies and means of image making but it still remains unrecognised by some, with drawings often staying in the backrooms of galleries or even the studios.  However with exhibitions like Drawing Now it is being shown the limelight and is gathering new importance in the world of contemporary art.

The book then goes on to look at drawings around different themes: science and art, ornament and crime, architecture, happiness, mental maps, popular culture, comics and fashion.  As my theme for my still life is going to be ‘happiness’ (decided before I actually opened this book!) then that section grabbed my immediate attention.

The ‘drawing happiness’ section begins with a quote from Bruno Taut ‘Can one draw happiness?’.  I realised early on in the course when asked to express joy in marks that my picture of happiness is perhaps different to everyone else.  My happiness can cause anxiety as too much joy and happiness can be a sign my bipolar is causing me to be ‘too high’.  But then everyone must have a different perception of happiness, just like we all grieve differently, we all cope with anxiety differently etc.  So I don’t think we can draw universal happiness.  The three artists featured in the book: Paul Noble, Neo Rauch and David Thorpe all try to envision a utopic fantasy world and demonstrate how problematic it can be to try and show perfect communities.  We all have a different idea of what happiness and perfection look like, so drawing this ideal is near on impossible.


Hoptman, L (2003). Drawing Now: Eight Propositions The Museum of Modern Art New York.

Assignment one


In this assignment we were asked to find a few objects that trigger a response and place them together to form a still life.  We then had to set them up in a space that created interesting shapes and angles and to light them in a way that they make tones obvious.  At the same time we were to place the experimental mark making sheets we made for exploring texture and gesture near by.   We had to work on A2 or A3 and use a range of drawing tools to create our still life.

Before I started out on this assignment I conducted a lot of research into still life and drawing techniques.  I watched an excellent TV documentary on the history of still life and it’s place today.  From this I picked up a lot of tips and it made me think a lot about the choice of my objects.  One of the most useful tips I got was about composition and so I played around with a lot of objects to create shadows and interesting negative spaces.  I also tried to keep in mind the ‘rule of thirds’ and using the grid on my camera I placed objects at the thirds intersections to try and create some interest.

My choice of objects look perhaps a little odd to begin with but they are all linked with the theme of happiness.  There is:

  • A small sculpture of a mother holding a baby that I was given as a gift when my daughter was born.  This reminds me of the happiest day of my life when my daughter was born and aesthetically I have always enjoyed looking at the soft smooth curves on the piece.
  • A blue crab ornament.  This was given to me by my partner’s Mom the first time I visited them in Virginia so it reminds me of him and his family and also a great vacation in the USA.
  • 3 books (although one is deep in the shadows so not clearly seen).  There is a New York City guidebook as it reminds me of where I first met my partner.  The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien as it is my favourite book and one of the few I can reread time over and an old book called ‘The Company’ which was one of the first gifts my partner gave me.
  • A metal incense holder as one of my coping mechanisms for my bipolar disorder is meditation.  I also like the shape of this particular holder and it gives some interesting reflections.
  • A glass jar of paintbrushes as discovering painting and art has been a major source of therapy for me.
  • As a background is a suede photo album of pictures from University that bring back happy memories, I also thought a dark textured background could be interesting.
  • Scattered throughout the piece are boxes, packets and pills.  These are because I have to take a lot of psychiatric medication each day in order to have some happiness.

Going back to the composition for a moment.  I tried to view from lots of different angles to get the set up I wanted.  The composition I chose in the end was to have the light shining very brightly, with additional lighting from above, at the sculpture and having it sitting on a very white box of medication.  This makes it look as if the box almost isn’t there to symbolise that I don’t like people knowing I am a parent who needs psychiatric drugs and I tend to keep the medication hidden from others but I know I need it to ‘hold up’ my parenting role.  Similarly the other packets and containers of drugs are hidden in shadows and behind other objects, like they are always there lurking in my life but I try to keep them hidden from view.  The very front packet is creeping out into the light just like sometimes I can’t always keep my symptoms hidden from others.  I wanted the main focal point to be around the more ‘normal’ happier objects like the ornament and the sculpture but I feel perhaps like I have highlighted the box of medication too much.