Thursday, 19 December 2013

Assignment 3: Revisited

After returning from working away for a week I reviewed my assignment piece.

I felt a bit better about it than when I had left it 10 days earlier but there were still some major problems with the piece that meant I wasn't happy to send it to my tutor as seen. The main problem really was the original choice of the composition which was not something which I could easily rectify. Also the colour choices are very bright and the treatment of the focal points like the tree is quite flat giving an overall impression of being childish and unsophisticated. I could work into it to try to overcome the problem with the aerial perspective and the flatness but that would not change the overall composition. I was also conscious that the prescribed size for the piece was A3. This piece is considerably bigger which might be a negative point as regards assessment. The other thing that bothered me was that there was insufficient demonstration of angular perspective with just the house in the distance and the three fence posts on the left side. I therefore decided to go in a different direction.

I had posted my work on OCA Sketchbooks Facebook page and had received some useful feedback. The most useful I felt was about perhaps trying to link the interior and exterior spaces by having echoing shapes to create a sort of rhythm to the picture, and breaking the monotony of the rectangular window shape. This was almost the direct opposite of what I  had done with my piece which aimed to emphasise the difference between indoors and outdoors. From my original thumbnail sketches I decided to choose a scene looking out from the kitchen to the patio. This is the area where we spend most of our time especially in the summer months. I decided in this case to emphasise the Mediterranean feel of interchangeability between indoor and outdoor while still emphasising the appealing nature of the outdoors. 

It was one of those very bright but crisp winter days and I had been drinking tea on the patio while considering what to do. I decided that leaving the teapot and cup on the table would give a sort of narrative to the piece. (Although a Mediterranean scene it is owned by and English person). This also reminded me of Eric Ravillious as some of the charm of his interiors arises from from the mystery of the lack of people but the evidence of the previous activity of people. Such as this patio view and this view of an attic room. However, my plans were thwarted when my husband Luigi sat down at the table to read a magazine. I made a swift change of plan and decided to make him a focal point as the eye is naturally drawn to a human subject within a composition. He agreed not to move about too much so I made some very rapid sketches. 

 The first, rapid pencil sketch helped me to see the fact that the vertical bars of the kitchen chair back echoed the beams under the roof of the veranda. Also the open door created some diagonal lines on the left side of the page leading my eye out towards the patio scene. I had made some quite large errors in the drawing though as I could actually see both of the patio chairs on my side of the outdoor table. Also, in reality I could see much less of the tabletop than I have drawn here.
 My second rapid sketch was in colour (watercolour which I worked into with graphite) and helped me to identify that there was a certain harmony to the colour within the scene. The colours in the patio and tiles on the kitchen floor as well as the patio roof were all orangey in colour and the green of the kitchen interior reflects the green of the foliage outside. The shiny white plastic chairs reflected colours from all over the place and did not in fact look white at all. There was a very bright light shining from behind the items on the patio casting long shadows towards me. Looking at the finished sketch I realised I'd got a bit confused with the tonal values and made the roof  darker than it really was. I decided to do a rapid sketch in charcoal to establish the tonal values (below)
The darkest areas were in the foreground inside the kitchen and there were some very bright areas of light on the tablet and the patio as well as the small area of sky that I could see. 

All the above sketches were in my A4 sketchbook. So far so good - but I was coming to realise that this exploratory phase of work was the part which I enjoyed the most and then it starts to go astray when I start to think about producing a finished assignment piece. This might be to do with performance anxiety i.e. fear of failure making me become more stiff and deliberate and losing the exploratory, spontaneous, joyous nature of the previous sketchbook work. A number of the videos by tutors and assessors  on the OCA website talk about avoiding 'making pictures'. I started a discussion about this on the OCA sketchbooks Facebook page as I really don't have a clear idea what this means. I think probably it has to do with being exploratory in every piece so that you see it as working towards a body of work rather than trying to produce a single picture. 

I also looked at a video which showed the work of Peter Appleton. He is a level three student who has done exceptionally well in his studies. His approach is to work  in a large scale sketchbook and not to designate work as either preliminary work or final piece but to treat each page as an exploration and to select the pieces which work best as his final 'finished' pieces. He does, however, make many, many paintings before selecting from amongst them. I think that this approach might work better for me for the next assignment. As my fellow student Mags put it 'sneaking up on the assignment' or 'assignment by stealth'. I decided, therefore to start working on A3 paper but still in the same  sketchy, exploratory manner. Unfortunately, because I had already spent so much time on this assignment I had limited time to complete this before my son went into hospital so I decided just to continue to work on A3 paper until my time ran out and then select whether to designate this view or the other as my assignment piece. 

I started by doing a very quick sketch in pen and wash. By this time the light had changed somewhat so I had to refer back to my other sketches and a reference photo for the light effects. However, a cat and kitten had also arrived. The kitten was another focal point on a diagonal from the interior to Luigi reading so I decided to include the cats too. For the line work on this piece I decided to lift the pen from the paper as little as possible to try to maintain the sort of fluidity of line I was  enjoying with blind drawings.

I liked the outcome of this and felt that the composition, quality of line and tonal variation worked quite well. Unfortunately the paper wasn't thick snout to take the wash so it buckled quite badly. The drawing in the foreground is quite rough and the chairs are a bit wonky but overall I like this one. 

Having noticed the wobbliness and wonkiness of this freehand drawing I started trying to construct the scene using a ruler and rules of perspective. This was because I found the patio chairs very challenging and thought they this and my depiction of the open door might be helped by measurement. I soon realised that this wasn't actually helping. Working with a ruler and measurements makes me take my attention away from the subject too much and starts to make everything more static. I decided that this wasn't the way in which I wanted to work. I prefer to draw freehand and just tolerate the fact that my likes won't be perfectly straight. 

I went back to freehand drawing. I wanted the drawing to be about how inviting the sunny outdoors was so I wanted to use colour as well as to harmonise indoors and outdoors but to really get a strong impression of the bright sun on the patio. I started drawing in coloured pencil on a textured and coloured paper. I used a white chalk pencil for the highlighted areas. 

I started by gradually layering the coloured pencil but found (as on previous attempts with this medium) that I really lacked the patience to use this throughout. To get better depth of colour more quickly in the foreground area I worked into the soluble coloured pencil with water soluble marker pens with stipples and hatching to give a suggestion of the patterning on the kitchen tablecloth and to give an impression of the dark reflections in the window of the patio door.  

I do think that this does achieve what I wanted which is that the light and the arm tones of the shadows on the patio look inviting. It makes me want to get up and join Luigi out here. Other positives are the colour harmony and the echoing of the shapes of the kitchen chair and the roof of the veranda. I also think that the attempt to demonstrate aerial perspective has worked better in this drawing than the previous attempt at assignment three. There are some problems with the perspective though - in particular the patio table top appears to twist slightly towards me. The version of the table and also of Luigi reading was better in the rapid pen and wash sketch. In this version Luigi is in a slightly different position and I have tried to draw him more literally. Unfortunately he has ended up bearing a striking resemblance to Dr Bunsen Honeydew of the Muppet show. I hope to significantly improve my representation of human beings in part 4 of the course.

In my next entry I will review the two 'finished' assignment pieces side by side to try to choose between them.

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