4.3 Experiments with writing

As I looked through my work from early in this course I came across letters as a means of mark making and decided to try it out with the feet. 

I had also been thinking about the relationship I have to my feet, what they mean to me and how to bring that across in a drawing. It is much more undefined and harder to express as with the hands. Especially as I can’t draw my feet running or walking. 

I decided to put some of my ideas in a text an draw with that. However, I did not want the words to destract from the drawing so I wrote in German cursive. The text is memories from my barefoot days as a child. Where I grew up the rural kids (and farmers) walked barefoot from spring to autumn, in all weathers.

I started by making blue footprints, then sketched the outlines of my feet and legs. 

“Bodenhaftung”*, ink pen and watercolour

I like the effect of the writing and how the feet seem to stand on it. I also like the footprints in blue. The picture has a subdued quality in colour and line that I think goes well with the idea of memories. 

But The squiggly writing makes the drawing chaotic, too much going on.

In version 2 I tried to make it calmer. But I think I overdid it making the drawing too stiff. 

Also the left foot does not seem to be mine.

Version 3 is the opposite of v 2, leaving the background blank and using the writing to model the feet only.

I like how the direction of the writing gives volume to the feet, adding a dimension more to the painted shadows. 

All in all I think I like my drawn drawings better than these although I like the idea here. I have also strayed from the exercise and negative spaces so I’ll leave it at that and send in my assignment.

*Bodenhaftung, (German) means traction and figuratively grip on reality


Against the Storm

An intuitively painted picture borne from a very bad mood. I had wetted the paper and smacked on some black ink to see what would happen. I had not the patience to wait for the paint to stop moving but began to make random marks with an upturned metal beaker. The only conscious additions to it are one of the hind legs, the snow and of course the eye.

I like this picture very much. I like its randomness and the way the ram is there although it is not quite right. It leaves a lot for the brain to fill in. It has a force to it that my more conscious drawings lack.

Dem Sturm entgegen
Watercolour, ink and acrylic marker on A4 rough grain watercolour paper

I have made this some weeks back but was not sure if I should put it on my blog. I put it on now because it demonstrates a technique (if such it can be called) that I like very much. Seeing things in random patterns is something I often do, not only in paint but on walls or in the street or in the clouds. Much of my inspiration comes from that.

4.3 Feet – Exercise 2

  • Draw your feet from the outside in
  • Blocking in the negative spaces between feet and edge of the picture first
  • Work around and then inside the feet
  • Make your drawing interesting

This was a much harder task than part 1 of this exercise where I began with negative spaces inside and between the feet. I feel I lose my way when concentrating primarily on the spaces round my subject leaving it wonky. Usually when I draw I concentrate on the subject using the negative spaces to check on the shapes and get to grips with difficult ones. My perception flicks between the two.

This said, I found that looking at the shapes and spaces surrounding the subject makes me more conscious of the composition. There is a balance between positive and negative spaces, both in their size and in the way they are distributed. I kept that in mind when following the exercises in my first two sketches, but lost it, once I again concentrated on the subject and the medium more. I only noticed afterwards.

For this exercise I sat in front of a mirror and used the edges of that as the outer demarcation of the negative spaces. I began by jotting in the shapes of the negative spaces with graphite first:

neg spaces

Here the shapes of the feet are still ok, I think. Then I blocked in the background before adding shadows and lines to the feet and trousers in compressed charcoal (for the second drawing I used lighting from the left, the first one is in natural light).

The feet are all wrong. But somehow I still like both these drawings.  I like the shape of the x that balances the picture nicely. The feet have volume which brings out their shape (even if it is a wrong one). I don’t like the background. I chose a horizontal movement following the direction of the floor boards but I think it has too much movement. On the other hand this makes for a nice contrast to the smudged shading of the feet and legs. The background also lacks depth. I am still not comfortable with charcoal, maybe that is what is wrong with the background. It certainly is with the shadow line in one of the legs in the second drawing.

I think I like the initial graphite sketch best!

Are these drawings interesting? These are initial sketches, trying out the exercise. I would like to do something with them as I did with the hands. I did not have a very creative day so went for something similar as with the hands. A line and wash. The difference lies in the red trousers I was wearing, they blocked out the yellow/blue idea from the hands:

red trousers A3
Oil pastels and watercolour, A3

I think the shape of the feet is much better in this, but something is lacking. It’s a bit pale and uneventful. And I’m not sure if I like the red “roof” the trousers make in this composition. I liked the more balanced x better.

Here a version with stronger colour and more interaction between oil pastel and watercolour. It is only A4 and the feet fill out more of the paper. I like that.

red trousers A4
Oil pastels and watercolour, A4

Art Made of Nature

Thoughts on Forest, Field and Sky, a BBC art documentary

This documentary  touches on the very essence of what art is to me. The artists presented all work directly with nature. Some use only materials they find on the spot, creating an artwork by rearranging what there is.

To me this feels like something deeply human. It is about making a mark, about creating something that would otherwise not exist, and something that does not serve any practical purpose. It is about seeing what there is and what could be. It is intuitive and immediate.

I am especially taken by the works of Andy Goldsworthy. I like the fact that they are ephemeral and very beautiful. And it seems he makes them just somewhere in the country, where he happens to be. No gallery, no money, no advertising involved. Although it is a bit of a shame that as a viewer I cannot visit his works, this is part of what makes them attractive to me. They are there for their own sake, for the sake of creating and for the sake of beauty.

Some of the works, like Julie Brook’s firestacks (cairns built at low tide with a fire on top which would eventually be quenched by the tide) or Andy Goldsworthy’s dry stone wall art, involve hard labour and dedication. They tell about the struggle against the forces of nature, and still they have something playful about them. I like that.

I think for me the point here lies not with the fact that these works are made from what nature offers. More importantly, they are made from materials that are already there and they are made for a specific spot and, sometimes, born from the moment. It is this that is important to me. The idea connects to working with used materials or found objects. Rearranging, changing an object’s purpose, putting things where they don’t “belong” naturally and so change the way we see our surroundings.

The documentary inspired me to try some of my own. It was the day after Walpurgis Night. I had planned to get some pieces of coal and burned twigs from a fire site and make something from them. It turned out the remains of the fire had already been thoroughly removed. I had to abandon the idea of a black piece.

I had come here with a very vague idea of what I wanted to do and that did not even work. But it was fascinating to experience how it developed by what I found, the few black sticks, the hole in the tree, the sticks of different colours. I rearranged them several times following ideas, first with what I had collected before I knew what I wanted to do, then with specific colours I went looking for. It was absorbing work even though it is so simple. Very rewarding to see it develop. I also enjoyed the freedom, no demands at all, only my ideas. It doesn’t even have to last very long, it is for here and for now. But I like the idea of people coming by, saying: Oh, look! Maybe wondering who made it and why. And maybe they then notice the colours in the winter-brown landscape.


Fox, James: Forest, Field and Sky – Art out of Nature. BBC Documentary 2016

4.3 Feet – Exercise 1

  • Draw your feet beginning with the negative spaces between them and between the toes
  • Work out from that

To begin with I did the same sort of sketches of my feet as I had done of my hands. I did concentrate on the negative spaces as the exercise states, but worked quite freely otherwise. This was about getting to know my feet, find their shapes and lines. I found this more difficult than the hands. One reason for that is that I don’t think I ever studied feet before. But they are also different from the hands in that they have less separate and small shapes to build them up, less definite features to guide me. There are the toes at one end, but then there is the whole of the foot as one block, so to speak. It is difficult to find this shape.

It was also less easy to find interesting positions and still be able to see them when I had my sketchbook on my knees. Seeing the underside to draw needs a mirror.

All drawings on A3 cartridge paper:

I then asked myself how I could portray feet in the “act” of being feet – something like the tools for the hands. It must be their relationship to the ground. Here is one idea, digging my toes into the soil:

striking root
Conté, oil pastels and watercolour splashes

I am not very happy with any of these. It shows that I am less comfortable drawing feet than hands. This needs more work.