Part 2 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 Detail and Tone

Project 1 was on the topic of detailed observations of natural objects.  I initially focused my attention on shells as I had some sitting in the garden that had some interesting weathering effects to them.  I experimented with different media, initially starting in my new preferred media charcoal and concentrated on trying to show the texture of the shell.  I then tried soft pastels, pencils, ink, frottage, pencil and chalk experimenting with loose and tight strokes.
One thing picked up in Assignment 1 was not showing in my sketchbook how I was experimenting with compositions and layouts.  So I took this as an opportunity to experiment, both with physically moving the shells and doing quick sketches of the layouts.
I also experimented with using sandpaper as a background material and so stuck a piece of this in my sketch book.  It really didn’t work as well as I had planned and needs much more experimenting with.
I then re-read the task we were asked to do and realised it was more about tones and colour.  Although my shells had some colour I felt like I needed to use something with more varieties of colour so I went back to something I had experimented with early in my sketchbook.  I picked out a selection of oranges and first played with different media.  I used crayons, pencils, ink pens, oil pastel and soft pastel.  I liked the watercolour nature of both the crayon and the pencils but felt the crayon worked best with water on this paper.  The pens were a disaster as the colours did not blend at all and my mark making was not as effective as it could have been.  I liked both the soft and oil pastels as the colours layered and blended well so show all the orange tones in the fruit.
I used the oil pastel to draw one composition:
However, upon reading the task again I realised we were supposed to use pencils and so I reverted back to my coloured pencils to draw another composition.

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

What is Drawing?

I asked my 8 year old daughter what drawing was.  She looked at me slightly aghast as if I were stupid to begin with but then replied ‘well it’s using a pencil and a paper’.  I think many of us regardless of age if we played word association with ourselves and thought about drawing, the first words to come into our heads would include paper and pencil.  Even the online dictionary defines drawing as:

noun: A picture or diagram made with a pencil, pen, or crayon rather than paint:‘a series of charcoal drawings on white paper’

mass noun: The art or activity of making drawings: ‘she took lessons in drawing’

Is this really all drawing is?

Well, the very first warm up activity in this course blew that definition away as we were encouraged to experiment with making temporary marks with a variety of different materials.  So it is clear from the start that this course views drawing as much more than making marks on paper with a pencil.

I have started collecting books from the required reading list for Drawing 1 and this week the first arrived in the post.  ‘Drawing Now – Between the Lines of Contemporary Art’ Edited by Downs et al.  It was interesting to read in the preface that TRACEY the online peer reviewed journal who share editors with this book was set up with the aim to challenge what drawing can be.  How drawing can be thought of in the familiar way as landscapes, figure drawings etc but how this can also encompass abstract and conceptual themes.  They also state their main concern is with the subjective nature of drawing that might sometime challenge the signs of a ‘good drawing’.

In the introduction on page ix another interesting point is raised about how they selected drawings  that had an emphasis on how the process of making the drawing contributes to its content too.  Again this is something we have been asked to focus on from the very start with the mood drawings.  As someone from a science background I have always found the process interesting, both the process behind mark making but also the process of making the materials used.  I genuinely like to research the materials used and I have a natural urge to experiment with them in different ways to see how they can influence the outcome.  This is something I hope to do more of as the course progresses and as I read more.


Sources of Information: 

‘Drawing Now – Between the Lines of Contemporary Art’ Edited by Downs et al.  IB Tauris 2007.