Drawing a Drawing

Portraits de Cézanne, Musée d’Orsay, June 13 – Sept 24 2017

The exhibition spans portraits from the whole of Cézanne’s career. It shows how his style and method have evolved over time and gives an insight in how he worked by showing several versions of the same portrait side by side. The exhibition also includes a few sketchbook pages and drawings which I found very interesting.

Following my tutor’s advice to study artists’ techniques I decided to draw one of the drawings rather than try to take in the whole of the exhibition.

What I learned:

  • I need to be much much bolder with my darks. Although I saw the tones before me my own ones are very narrow. I deepened the shadows several times but as is obvious now I should have pushed them further still (although I did use a pencil not charcoal and the sketch has since been smudged considerably).
  • Different tones and different kinds of marks (smudges, hatching, strong single marks…) work out the shape of the coat in a lively manner. Here, too, I need to broaden my repertoire considerably. I see a similarity in the marks of this drawing and the colour fields with which Cézanne builds up his paintings.
  • Some shadows/hatching in the background close to the figure place it in a space without defining that space.

Reflections

The lighting in the room was not very good for what I was doing – it was hard to see my own marks and in the beginning I was distracted by the other visitors. Nonetheless I liked this exercise. It brought me much closer to this drawing than just looking would have done. It showed me the difference between knowing to do something (e.g. making dark darks) and actually do it. It allows me to get a direct feedback on what I do and to experience the effect of a mark I would probably not have made on my own.

To get more out of this I would have needed to stay longer and do it again, maybe concentrating on only a part of the drawing. I will have to do this at home where I can visit exhibitions more often and at my leisure.

The difficult thing will be to find drawings…

Hatching

These are sketches I did after having visited the Zorn exhibition trying to use long and prominent lines to achieve volume.

IMG_6814.jpg
Ink pen on cartridge paper

For the first sketch I chose an easy subject and tried to be bold with the lines. Without having studied Zorn’s etchings I would never have chosen to draw hatching lines parallel to the legs. But I think they work well. The hatching conveys the colour of the trousers in contrast to that of the sock. It also shows the fall of the fabric. Indeed, I think the directional lines work best where they follow the direction of the fabric, changing direction where the fabric does. However, sometimes this does not apply as Zorn’s etching of King Oskar shows.

Attempting this drawing has led to a lot of questions: How do creases work? The ones below the knee look real, but inverted to what they actually were. Why? Some of the creases look glued on – how can I bind together the cross hatching in the creases with the long lines so it looks more convincing? And again: When does hatching across different picture planes work and when not? What does it do?

I need to do many more of this kind. Simple shapes will be best to begin with.

I have made two attempts at hands and a face but I think the subjects are too complicated to get to grips with a new technique like this. Too much to control for me at this stage.

The knuckles of the hand work quite well as do the lighted parts of the hand as a whole.  The shadow side is confused. I was searching for the shadows and shapes at the same time as I was unsure what hatching direction/quality to use. This also goes for the face. Too many variables I was not sure of.

This needs more study!

Maybe I should make drawings of Zorn’s drawings first before attempting my own subjects.

Marlene Dumas

This is the second time my tutor suggests I study works by Marlene Dumas, in particular the subtlety of her application of fluid media. The superficial google searches I have managed until now have put me off and I have not yet gotten as far as to actually study her work in terms of technique. Her subject matter to me is very hard to take in. Widewalls’ page about female painters describes her work as “defining the anxieties of human existence” (…) and her subject matter “including newborn babies, young strippers, and models but also murdered people and bodies in morgues.” At first glance I perceived nothing subtle about her work, whether in subject or execution. I decided, however, to put aside this initial reaction and try to understand what my tutor wants me to see.

As a first step I chose pictures I find less violent and shocking so as to make it easier for me to actually look.

Jan Hoet in memoriam

This one I like very much:

Jan Hoet - M Dumas
Marlene Dumas: Jan Hoet in memoriam, 1992 (Source: Invaluable)

The tones in the face are expertly built up to give it volume and expression. As in the etchings by Zorn I have looked at recently there are small but important shifts in tone, small areas with a lighter or darker tone that model the face. This is especially worked through in the eyes and around the lips. Here she used the darkest tones very close to the lightest, both in small but significant areas. It gives the portrait a very intense look. Painting in inks as opposed to the etchings, Dumas has an other feature at her disposal: the border between tones can be sharp or gradual, straight or fringed. The portrait is kept almost monochrome with the exception of the nose where she used a subtle blue.

I think Dumas started with a wet in wet layer in a light tone on which to build more layers going gradually darker. These layers are put on in various states of wet/dry to achieve a range of soft and hard edges. The effect is an expressive yet very realistic portrait.

Dumas then added marks in white chalk or pastel, a line framing the face, a single line below the nose and stripes in the background and over the torso. They seem so out of place and superimposed that I think Dumas wanted something very specific with them. She does not do this usually in her portraits. The roughly drawn lines contrast very strongly with the realism of the portrait, enhancing the latter. At the same time they frame it and thus remove it masklike from the torso and the background. Maybe they are about a death mask. The white chalk is reminiscent of the plaster used for them. Death masks are accurate casts of a face yet all in white, removed from life.

I very much like the contrast of the fluid ink and the broken quality of the chalk line. It puts a strong accent on parts of the drawing. They play very well together.

Supermodel

In many of her other portraits Dumas uses less tonal variation. The thing that strikes me in them is the harsh contrast between a smooth light area for the face and strong very dark  tones used in eyes, nose and mouth. These portraits are less realistic. I feel they are more about inner qualities, a raw nakedness of the human being. An example is Supermodel from 1995.

In this Dumas very carefully models the lips and nose. The eyes, too, are built up with several tonal variations, but less realistically. They contain the only white marks in the picture, drawing the gaze of the viewer and making us look into the portrait’s eyes. The rest of the face is all in the same tone. It looks smooth and young, but also featureless and anonymous. The human quality is reduced to the eyes, nose and lips. This picture has nothing of the suave smoothness of the supermodel that usually lures us to not look more closely. She looks sad and vulnerable.

An other striking feature of this portrait is the total lack of background and hair. It is only a face and a neck, the latter not even connected to the face, only a pointer to the possibility of a body. Humans recognize each other mainly by the face, we are programmed to read subtle differences in faces and facial expressions. The most important landmarks we go by, science has shown, are eyes and mouth, to a certain degree, the nose. These are the features Dumas has carved out thoroughly. By doing that and leaving out the rest of the head and the background Dumas has stripped the portrait of all superficial elements. And such it looks, stripped, naked.

Reflections

I think I have managed a careful approach to an artist I would have shied away from. It is interesting to see how my view changed. I am still no fan of the cruder and more shocking of her pictures but I feel I am more open to her work than I was before. It seems I have edged my way to an entrance. I can now understand some of the things she does and I see a purpose behind her work where before I felt like a question mark. This is a beginning on which to build I think.

I also noticed that my unwillingness to look at the pictures made me miss their finer points. I saw crude marks, stark contrasts and subjects I did not want to see. To find fine tonal variations like in the lips of Supermodel, or the blue in the nose of Jan Hoet was a surprise. Something to remember, I think. First impressions may deceive.

Sources

Anders Zorn

Exhibition at Sven-Harris Konstmuseum, Stockholm

About the artist and the exhibition

Anders Zorn (1860-1920) is one of the most famous Swedish painters. He started his career as a portrait painter and watercolourist but is today best known for his nudes in nature, both watercolours and oils. He had long been fascinated with the light on water which he from  1880 onwards combined with a female nude by or in the water. These are very sensual realistic paintings.

He also made sculpures and etchings.

This exhibition shows watercolours, oils, etchings, sculptures and photographs that are rarely shown to the public. The works come from the Zorn Museum in Mora and from private collections.

 

Light on Water – Watercolours

I was instantly fascinated by one of the first watercolours in the exhibition:

IMG_6197
Anders Zorn, watercolour, 1886

I am spell bound by the light in this. It is almost as if the light emanated from the picture. How did he do this?! I know it has to do with contrast, but how?

A closer look reveals the colours he used to build up the water. It looks a blue grey with white highlights, but there is actually surprisingly little real blue and white in it. Most of the marks contain a fair amount of brown.

IMG_6198
Detail from above

The dark marks are a dark grey, the lighter colours in the shadow a grey with hints of brown in some areas, sometimes verging on green. The really surprising thing here however are the whites. In the part that looks brightest Zorn broke the white with cool colours, further out to the sides they get warmer.

IMG_6200
Detail from above

These coloured whites in contrast to the dark marks give the impression of light playing and glittering on the water.

 

Etchings – the use of lines

In the etchings displayed at the exhibition the most striking thing was Zorn’s use of lines. He uses very prominent roughly parallel lines to build up tone which then forms the image.

IMG_6206
Anders Zorn: King Oscar II, 1898

In the coat of King Oscar Zorn drew the marks straight from the shoulders down, across lapel and all. Only in the forearm the direction is altered. I am surprised to see that this works! Combined with the coarse shadows it gives the impression of a dark coat in strong sunlight. In the face and the hat the marks are finer and their direction follows the planes of the face/hat. They are still very rough but also precise in that they leave patches of light that model the face. There are more tones here, from very dark around the eyes, lips and below the hat over a variety of dark and light tones to white. E.g. there is a light shift to a lighter tone just over the brow or a slight difference in tone between the mustaches on the lit and the shadow side. The contrast in detail between face and coat is striking and I think important in order to make the face the focal point. This is stressed further by the background which mostly is a simple line drawing.  The roughness of the drawing surely says something about the subject. Not knowing anything about King Oscar II I had him down as an old salt.

There is an other etching I studied more closely as it is very different from this one. It is of Queen Sophia:

IMG_6208
Anders Zorn: Queen Sophia, etching 1909

This portrait has an altogether different character. Sophias dress is of a light colour and Zorn drew lines only in shadowed areas. Cross hatching is used very sparingly and then in a much calmer way than in the coat of King Oscar. Here the lines are mostly parallel or fanning out following the drapes of the dress. In the face, too, the lines are calmer, and are kept roughly vertical. This makes her features fine and smooth.

IMG_6208 (2)
Detail from above

As the figure here is light, the background is kept dark, but the contrasts in dress and face tell about a strong light falling on her, maybe through a window.

 

Reflections

It was very interesting to study these etchings. I am surprised at the level of detail Zorn is able to express using mainly parallel lines. Especially in the portrait of King Oscar. They look hastily drawn and sketchy but it is obvious that he knew exactly where shadows and lights are and what tones he could produce. I often don’t and so find it easier to search for the shape by filling areas with graphite. This hatching technique, I imagine, is only effective if I know from the start where I want darks or lights.

I am not entirely sure whether I like the striped effect of the lines. I am impressed with the craftsmanship of the drawings, but the strong parallel and directional lines disturb me. I am more comfortable with a looser approach, crisscrossing maybe or a less overpowering application of hatching. Still, I plan to try it out for myself.

 

Sources

  • Homepage, Anders Zorn museum, Mora, Sweden: http://www.zorn.se/en/us/anders-zorn/
  • Homepage Sven-Harrys Konstmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden. Exhibition description: http://www.sven-harrys.se/en/utforska/konsthallen/anders-zorn/en-annan-zorn/

 

Printing technique – UCA video

(Videos can be found in the Resources section on the OCA student website)

Monoprint >< Monotype disambiguation

According to Jonathan Jarvis, technician tutor printmaking at Farnham, a Monoprint is a one-off as opposed to a monotype which is a series of prints. Permanently marking the plate does not at all come into it. According to Drawing Magazine it is the Monoprint that produces the series (see blog post Research into Monotype)

Preparing the plate:

  • work the ink with a pallet knife. Cold ink is stiff, working it makes it softer.
  • Draw the ink out with the roller – the rolling movement has a flip (ensures even spreading)
  • fast rolling picks up ink – slow rolling puts ink down -> control amount of ink on the plate
  • Amount of ink on the plate:
    • thick layer of ink: saturated marks but hard to control (esp. for traced monoprints)
    • thin layer of ink: less saturated but results in clear and controlled marks
    • -> use not more ink than necessary. Listen! it should sound velvety
    • Traced monotypes need a thin film of ink for controlled marks
    • Reductive monotypes need more ink

Paper:

Direct printing (not put through a press) is very sensitive to the paper used. The surface of the paper remains much more visible and influences the outcome very much. There are special printing papers that are not sized and soft.

  • Thick, soft papers result in soft marks >< thin, hard papers allow sharp, crisp marks
  • Absorbent papers draw the ink in >< non-absorbent papers keep the ink on the surface (can become glossy). Jonathan Jarvis also mentions that the ink can be put behind the paper. I wonder what he means??

Wetting the paper:

Different types of paper need different wetting techniques.

  • Wet thin papers with a sponge on both sides
  • Thick papers can be soaked. Soaking time varies greatly between papers!
    • Soak
    • Let excess water run off
    • Sponge off excess water on both sides with a natural sponge to not harm the paper.
    • Roll between two sheets of blotting paper
  • Sync the wetting with the plate, both should be ready at the same time!

Modification of the ink:

By adding printing bases the ink can be modified. Translucent base makes the ink more translucent so it will combine with the paper or colour(s) underneath it. An opaque white will make the colour of the ink chalkier and less translucent. -> Check out what there is and what it does!

Overprinting colours:

  • Where colours are overprinted they become darker and lose some of their hue. Can be compensated for by adding an opaque base or white
  • Colour A on top of colour B does give a different result than B on A
  • Remember: The colour that is on top on the printingplate will be at the bottom on the paper, everything is reversed!
  • By overprinting colours a sense of pictorial space and depth can be achieved
  • Explore this! 

 

Source

Reeves, T. (Project Leader): Printmaking – Monoprinting, UCA Open Educational Resources. (parts 1-5) http://www.oca-student.com/resource-type/video/printmaking-pt1-introduction-uca-video

Karl Mårtens

Lithographic Prints 2007 – 2017 and Newer Paintings. Exhibition at Edsvik Konsthall, Sollentuna, Sweden, June 2017

Karl Mårtens paints birds in watercolour and for lithographic prints, although never the same image. His prints are originals made in editions, he says. For his watercolours he uses large papers, Chinese and Japanese brushes and lots of water. This gives the work a life of its own with surprising effects and “mistakes”. He paints large and quickly, beginning with sweeping moves and concluding with the fine detail around the face of the bird. He says, the bird tells him when it’s finished.

Intuition and an “empty state of mind” are central to his working process which includes zen meditation prior to painting. Being separated from the intellect, and thus from doubt, fear or expectations, brings him in contact with intuition, he explains. There is always the element of chance and the need to incorporate mistakes, adapting the image as it was imagined to how it turns out. Life long experience from drawing and painting birds and mastery of his medium makes this possible, I imagine. A short documentary about Karl Mårtens and his way of painting can be found here.

I am impressed by the movement in his paintings and his unerring sense for balance – in the shape of the bird, the composition as a whole and in the use of colour. Placing a bird on the paper he turns its shape into a work of art. Colour, texture and empty space are working together to form a whole.

This magpie – reduced to black and white in order to make the lithographic plate – shows how much of the images expression lies in the composition:

skata
Karl Mårtens, lithographic film

He uses different levels of detail in his paintings. This gives them an overall looseness and freedom while still giving the impression of minute detail. It also enhances the tension and interest in the pictures.

The birds’ faces are always very detailed while the brushstrokes in the body, wings and tails are loser. The roughness of the paper, interactions between colours and additions of salt give interesting textures and effects that cannot be wholly controlled.

eagle hela
Karl Mårtens, Eagle. Watercolour

In the following painting he uses a bright orange in one of the wings. The same colour occurs in the bird’s eyes and in a very faint tone also in the lower wing. This very beautifully reflects the overall composition and balance.

Owl
Karl Mårtens, lithographic print

My favorite in the exhibition was a gull. Among all these fantastic birds this one got under my skin more than the others. It was as if I felt the wind under my wings which I don’t have, I almost felt what it means to fly. She is the queen of the storm.

Trut
Karl Mårtens, watercolour

I suspect it is the size of the painting, approx. A 1, and the volume in the bird’s left wing that initiated these feelings. There also is the detail of a few drops of paint behind the bird. To me they convey the speed with which the bird is sailing on the wind. A fantastic painting!

Reflections

Without aspiring to paint like this there are a few things I would like to take with me into my own work:

  • Emptiness – I do not meditate to empty my mind but I know that when I reach a state of immersed concentration when drawing/painting the images become much better. My thinking often gets in the way, wanting to control too much, not daring to rely on my creativity, expecting too defined an outcome. Maybe I should learn to meditate.
  • Balance – The composition of an image plays a huge role in its expression and interest. Pay more attention to this and try out different ones before committing. Unusual angles or distributions can underline aspects of the subject.
  • Detail – Work out a focal point in detail but keep areas of looseness and empty space. This gives the image freedom and space to breath.
  • Size – Dare to paint large! I know it feels wonderful.

 

Sources

Mårtens, Karl: Letting Intuition Rule – Lithographic Prints 2007-2017, Edition Vulfovitch, Stockholms Lito Grafiska AB, Stockholm 2017

Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rO-LOjGsUZ4

Research into Monotype

For monotype printing the design is made with  ink on the printing plate leaving the printing plate unmarked. This can be achieved by inking a plate and making marks by removing paint to achieve lights (unless when printing with a light colour on dark paper of course). Depending on tool and pressure variations the marks become more or less light and more or less sharp (subtractive or “dark field” process). The opposite of this is the “light field” process where ink is added to a clean plate with a brush, cloth etc. Other techniques involve drawing on the back of a paper (verso) lying on an inked plate, where the pressure produces marks on the front (recto) side of the paper as the print (traced monotype), or by blocking out parts of the inked plate with objects or stencils. These techniques can of course be combined with each other or with other drawing techniques, either prior to or after printing. Common to all is the fact that there are no permanent marks on the plate and each print therefore is unique. Ghosts can be drawn – second or even third prints from the same plate – but they tend to have a very different character compared to the first draw. Hence the mono in the name.

This kind of print making can seem like an unnecessary detour. Why not make a drawing if there only will be one print anyway? Sherry Camhy from Drawing puts it like this:

Because prints have an aesthetic quality all their own and because there is something quite special that results from the process of printmaking itself. There is a balance between control and accident that inspires new techniques, new visual ideas and the courage to pursue them. Printmaking is freeing. (Camhy, S. 2017)

Monoprint, sometimes used for monotype, refers to a print making technique where parts of the design are permanent marks in the printing plate. The design is then varied by also marking the ink on the plate. This results in a series of related but distinct works. Rembrandt (1606-1669) for instance has used this to add areas of tone to his etchings.

I suspect monotyping to be deceptively simple, one of those techniques that only become more and more intricate the closer one studies them. Image googling produced a wide range of printing styles from coarse, expressive pictures with a sombre quality to finely detailed, drawing like prints with playing light, some monochrome, some multicoloured.

 

Artists

Historical

Giovanni Benedetto Castilglione (1609-1664) was the first to use monotype. He invented the dark field process where he inked a copper plate in a dark tone and then removed paint to achieve lights.

Compared to his etchings, the monoprints have a softer quality, they seem like paintings. David with the Head of Goliath (ca. 1655, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC) is very detailed with a wide range of tones. The darkest darks in Goliath’s head seem to be painted with a brush. I wonder if he did this onto the printing plate or afterwards onto the the print.

Noah’s animals has a more expressive quality with only a few tones that make the lights more marked.  The hard contrast between the sharp lights and the soft shadows very much stresses the thunderstorm in this scene. I like this very much! Castiglione has captured the animals with only a few lines. I especially like the horse shaking his head in the rain.

Noah and the Animals Entering the Ark, 1650-55. The Met, public domain

 

Paul Gaugin (1848-1903)  made traced monotypes which he referred to as “printed drawings”, producing a drawing on the verso and a print on the recto side of the paper. The lines of the print seem to be quite uniform showing only little variation in thickness and tone. On the other hand the paper touching the printing plate picks up pigment in unexpected places, more where the drawing hand has touched the paper, less where only the weight of the paper transferred the ink. This gives these prints an accidental quality the drawing is lacking.

Gaugin - Causeries
Causeries sans paroles, 1903, Europeana, public domain

 

Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was introduced to monotype in the 1870ies and was captivated by its possibilities. It was a new medium/technique very well suited to expressing a new time. Degas could develop a much more gestural and experimental style to render movement (landscapes seen from a train, faces passing in the street) and new phenomenons like factory smoke or electrical light. He worked in dark field, light field and a combination of the two, often drawing ghosts and enhancing them with pastel. In his later prints he used oil paint rather than printing ink which allowed for colour. These works, especially the landscapes are very experimental, abstract and radical for his time. The freedom of monotyping had a strong influence on his other works, especially concerning the mark making.

Factory Smoke, 1877-79, the Met, public domain
Landscape, 1892, the Met, public domain

 

Contemporary

For a selection of contemporary artists I used the not very scientific method of image googling and picking works that struck a chord. So this selection is neither representative nor exhaustive. Rather it tries to narrow down an open field of possibilities to what I like and to give an idea about where I would like to go with my own work.

Janet Mary Robinson is a British artist and natural history illustrator. Although I am especially taken by her mixed media pieces and watercolour landscapes I also like this carp.

It is a simple monotype but shows a range of different marks, crisp ones and soft ones, that give volume and interest to the fish. Also it shows clearly that this technique is sensitive to precedence of line. I think the artist used this to great effect. I also like the velvety quality of the background.

Kathrine Hagstrum is an American artist specialising in monotype. She makes coloured prints in atmospheric tones by using inks of different viscosity. Runnier ones will stick to dryer ones, she says. I would like to learn more about this technique. Does it involve several printings on top of each other or are the pictures achieved by one pull, like from a “Gelli-Plate”?

David Maddrell, a British artist, makes fantastic prints of forests and water with intricate detail in black and white. Although many of his prints contain a lot of black, it is the bright light that catches my eye. They make me think of cool shadow on a hot summer’s day rather than sombre darkness like in many of the other prints I saw on google. In some of the prints he made splashes of some sort. It looks as if he splashed on something that repels the ink on the plate. I would like to know how this is done!

In P.C. Lawson‘s prints I like the way she uses colour in the background, both the colour as such and as an abstract contrast to the more realistic depiction of the animals. It mimics the colour of the surroundings, but is in itself not representative. I can also relate to what she says about monotyping – it sounds exciting!

I use this printmaking technique because everything about it is dynamic and breathes life into an image. The painting tools are unlimited: rollers, fingers, rags, brushes, Q-tips etc., each with a unique gestural quality. They can add paint, or lift it, create subtle light or brilliant whites. The process is fluid, moving back and forth between application and removal of color, adding to the liveliness of the image. (P.C Lawson)

 

Sources

(where not linked to in the text)

Content:

  1. Camhy, S. (2017, Winter) Painterly Prints: Monotype and Monoprint. Drawing 14(52), 20-25
  2. https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1613

Images:

  1. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search#!?offset=0&perPage=20&sortBy=Relevance&sortOrder=asc&pageSize=0
  2. http://www.europeana.eu/portal/sv/collections/art?f%5BREUSABILITY%5D%5B%5D=open&q=&view=grid

 

 

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.

Source

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

Thinking of Morandi

Morandi’s sketches and paintings seen at an exhibition struck a chord with me and I tried to do something with the idea of aligning objects in a still life. It turned out this is much harder than I had expected if I wanted to avoid boring pictures.

I chose simple objects: 2 white vases with square base, a tin cup and a blue glass vase. When sketching I noticed that I did not really have any horizon line and I also wanted to see the objects straight on, not from above. So I moved them up onto a box.

sketch Morandi
Graphite, A4 cartridge paper

I do not really see any merit in these. The glass bottle broke the light in interesting ways which I found much more interesting than what I had set out to do. What had caught my interest in Morandi’s sketches – the sharing of lines and play with positive and negative spaces – I had not produced.

So I moved my objects onto the window sill and arranged them in a way so that lines from the window would continue as the vases’ edges. It did not get any more interesting.

sketch morandi 2

Maybe if the vases were round? Or if I added the blue bottle? Although it is the blue glass that fascinates me in that, which is not the point here, I made an attempt in ink.

blue bottle
Calligraphy ink, A3 watercolour paper

This, too, turned out boring and timid. Maybe it could be turned into something, but I feel I am moving backwards from what I have achieved in unit 3 and also from the exercise with the candles. I think, at this point, working with rigid rules and concentrating on reduction and simplicity in order to achieve graphic impact is not good for me. So I decided to leave this.

I also feel that I want still lifes to have other qualities than graphic ones. I want to have an emotional connection to them maybe, at least feel fascinated by what the light does or something like that. I want them to have a twist.