Assignment 5 -(b) Development Work

I decided to tackle the outdoors in the final assignment.  I have reviewed part three of the course looking at the various exercises.  There are a number of charcoal drawings, which I like for their increased freedom.  I am constantly encouraged to be more abstract/ energetic/ spontaneous/ innovative and experimental in my work.  I aimed to develop some of the above in the final assignment of this course.


I started work on this assignment by looking at different media.  I wanted to see if I could be more energetic and spontaneous using bold colours, so I tried using ink and marker pens.  I chose to draw a garden summer house purely as an exercise in using the media rather than because this would be a subject I wanted to develop.


I did not really like the effect of the pens.  They are rather garish and messy- not allowing for much sensitivity, and I did not think they were appropriate what I was hoping to achieve in a drawing of an outdoor subject.

In choosing what to draw, I spent some time considering my options, and explored the possibility of looking at various wrought iron bridges over the Manchester ship canal as my subject.   Whilst visiting these locations I found myself looking in closer detail at parts of one of the locks and its surrounding buildings.

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I was particularly attracted to the heavy industrial engineering of the lock-gates; the rusty iron, oily chains, overgrown weeds and cracked wooden plinths, and how they were reflected in the canal-water. There is a weight and solidity to the structures, which, although engineered, I hope could be portrayed loosely and  energetically. I liked the interesting subtle contrasts in colour, shape and texture.  It invited a response and a reaction from the viewer and I hoped this might be depicted in a drawing.


I did some detailed pencil sketches of locations around the locks.  The huge lock-gates  themselves, when viewed from the other side, lost some of their impact- presenting a solid wall of wooden beams which were tonally similar across the structure.  It was much harder to identify an interesting focal point from this angle and I had no emotional reaction to the view.


I returned to the first lock-gate view I drew and attempted it again in charcoal to try to introduce a looser response to the subject.  I was disappointed though that I felt the outcome was very dark and unsubtle/insensitive, with insufficient mid-tone.  Rather more like an etching than a charcoal drawing with 3D form!


My next experiment was to try using ink.  I was interested in whether I could retain the sensitivity of mid-tonal variation using shading and hatching with a fine pen.  I rather like the end result here, but it was not really what I was wanting to achieve in the long term.  It is rather “busy” with a myriad of marks and lines.  The gates present a fairly complex subject in themselves, which I felt needed to be reduced or simplified by the style of the drawing, not added to with a multitude of lines and squiggles.


In thinking about this I decided to try an alternative view (an adjacent building on the lock) which is interested me because of its graffiti and functional nature.  I wanted to look at using pens in a different way- trying not to outline, but to concentrate on shading to give a sense of form.  This was difficult in areas where there were straight lines of stonework to define, so I did not think this would ultimately be successful for the lock-gates. I also decided to use coloured paper, which allowed the introduction of some white pencil to lift highlights.   I enjoyed the effect of this drawing, but not for this subject.


In returning to the lockages I drew a detailed sketch just focusing on outlining shapes.  I then decided to have a go at introducing colour.  whilst being a “nice picture” I felt this was returning too close to my “usual style” however- more realistic and more restrained- and was not pushing my boundaries.


So my next attempt was to try being more relaxed.  I returned to the location and had a go sketching in both pencil and charcoal.



I was trying to look at the predominant shapes and tones rather than getting bogged down in finer details.



I also experimented with an alternative view: I wondered if the shapes of the bridges retreating into the distance might give me scope for more freedom, but I felt the view was a much more conventional one, which in many ways restricted my creativity.  When tackled in charcoal it became inaccurate rather than loose- the subject was not forgiving of lines that were not in the correct place.  The coloured Ink drawing lacked depth (the bridges actually receded into the distance) and was too busy with lines/shapes etc.


Returning to the lock-gates I did some more stylised sketches in a small sketchbook, looking  at shapes and trying to be a bit more abstract.


This small sketch is in response to looking at the drawings of  Dennis Creffield.  I felt my sketch, unlike his, was too hard and defined.  His drawings are more layered, and more subtle, whilst still having an energy and boldness- leaving greater room for the viewers imagination to fill in the gaps


However, I thought I might try adding colour in a similar style sketch.  Maybe because it was in a small size, the resulting business of the colours seemed to detract from the image I wanted to create.


I finally moved onto a larger piece of paper.  This uses charcoal and chalk on A1 cartridge paper.  I was really pleased with the result, but on reflection, decided it was still rather stilted and exact.  However, I enjoyed the composition and the opportunity to explore reflections, texture and shapes/tone in the subject. I was pleased to have captured the same sense of place in the larger format- I know I often struggle  on larger paper and sometimes lose myself in small areas, failing to keep the overall effect coherent.  I felt I had made the right decision to keep areas of the paper blank so the eye is drawn to the focal point in the centre.


Just to explore this further, I tried an alternative A1 charcoal sketch, of a different perspective of the gates.  From further back I confirmed in my mind that the main “interest” of the subject was lost.  This is  amici less successful drawing- losing both detail, texture, contrast, and accuracy – in manners which detract from the overall effect.




ASSIGNMENT 5- (c)Personal Project- Final Piece

This is my final piece for Assignment 5:

Latchford Lock Gates -Charcoal on A1 cartridge paper.

See  the artists statement and development work for my preparatory work for Assignment Five.

Assessment criteria points:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills (35%). 

My approach to this project allowed me to test my ability to work in a more energetic, relaxed style than is my usual safe approach, using energetic, expressive lines and tonal variation without being afraid of “going outside the lines”.

I worked hard to accurately observe the subject and did a variety of studies to explore composition, media and approach.  I used a variety of media, trying to focus mainly on those that facilitated a looser style.  At the start of the process I did some detailed studies of the lock-gates so I could work from them later on.  The final piece deviated from the strict accuracy of the early sketches; I tried to focus more on creating bold energetic lines, defining shapes and creating depth of tone, than on completely accurate perspective and measurement.

I chose to focus in on the lock-gates and to draw them from close-up, rather than to draw them from a distance with more background and context showing.  This was in part because their structure was what interested me, (this was lost in drawings with a wider perspective), and also because they presented an almost still-life subject from close up- with increased focus on shapes, line, tonal shadows and form.

The final work was on A1 size paper to challenge myself working in large format, and on the image as a whole, rather than as a sum of its parts, without being afraid to leave areas of the paper blank or with minimal detail.  I deliberately did not labour over the railing on the pathway at the top of the drawing, which i think, looking at the final piece, was the right decision.

Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas (20%).

I wanted to capture a visual energy in this final drawing to bring the (essentially static) lock-gates to life.  Since my “go-to” style tends to be fairly restrained, detailed and realistic I hoped to be able to “let go” and allow the subject to speak for itself.  I think I achieved this through an absence of details, overlapping lines, gestural lines, marks and blocks of tone.

My thought process was logical because I had freedom to explore the subject in this personal project.  This led to a logical sequence of experiments and approach.  I hope that my intention shines through without being overly laboured.  I wanted to capture the rusty iron, oily chains, overgrown weeds and cracked wooden plinths, and their reflection in the murky canal-water; not only how they looked but also the atmosphere of the place. There is a solemnity and solidity to the structures, which I think I successfully portrayed.

Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice (25%). 

I tried to use expressive mark-making in this piece, whilst also being sensitive to tonal variation. The lock-gate structure is almost sculptural, so I aimed to create 3-dimensional form through tonal variation, as well as using vigorous marks to depict angles and shapes.  I think there is a part of me for which this is an honest expression- but which is often held back and smothered by a fear of relaxing around the details of what I am trying to draw.

I was pleased that the outcome is definitely much looser than I would normally achieve. I felt this was in part due to the artists’ work I admired, that influenced my approach.  I used a set of large coloured charcoal sticks, which varied in tone, but only within a narrow pallet. I liked the colour variation, which I thought brought the picture to life, compared with other large size drawings I did using just black charcoal.  Charcoal is definitely a good media for me- as it presents me getting bogged down in detail and allows energetic mark-making,  rubbing out and layering of tone.

I think in retrospect that I could have developed deeper tones in this drawing. I struggled to introduce tonal contrast in the middle of the image: in reality the lock wall behind the gates were mid-tone, so I struggled to create tonal contrast.  When I left the spaces between steel plates too light, the picture lost some of its gravity.  Maybe if areas were darker this might have been less of an issue?

I keep asking myself if it matters that there are some inaccuracies and errors in perspective- is a sense of the place lost?  Are the wheel and chain convincing? I didn’t want to get bogged down with the detail of the chain, and hope it still has a weight and solidity.

I heard someone say “if you are not taking risks you are not being creative……and I really tried to apply this sentiment to this assignment by going against my natural grain to explore a new approach.   Basically- to introduce more spontaneity/ fluidity/ energy/ abstraction/ narrative.

Context reflection – research, critical thinking (learning logs and, at second and third level, critical reviews and essays) (20%).

I looked at a number of artist’s work during the development of this project and found a number of artists works who I admired and wanted to influence my final outcome.  I hope that this is evident in the final piece.  I am pleased at how the research informed my approach to the work as it loosened the hold my usual approach would have had over me.

I think my awareness of my style and the direction I would like to develop has also increased during this project and I hope to continue this journey as I move forward.

Assignment 5- (d) Artist’s Statement

Title: To explore the potential for a loose, energetic drawing of Latchford Locks using expressive lines, deep tones and without fear of “going outside the lines”.  

My chosen option is to tackle the outdoors, and to select a subject that enables me to test my ability to work in a more energetic, relaxed style than is my usual safe approach. I have been drawn to a number of artist’s work to inform the direction I might take in this.  I have been repeatedly attracted to energetic, monochromatic drawings; often by artists using charcoal and similarly relaxed-style media.

The drawings of Dennis Creffield and Leon Kossoff have particularly caught my attention in this regard. They both create images imbued with vitality, rawness and a definite sense of place, through the use of energetic, expressive lines, deep tones and without fear of “going outside the lines”! This led me to think of which architectural subjects I could tackle.

In choosing what to draw, I spent some time considering my options, and explored the possibility of looking at various wrought iron bridges over the Manchester ship canal as my subject.   Whilst visiting these locations I found myself looking in closer detail at parts of one of the locks and its surrounding buildings. I was drawn to the heavy industrial engineering of the lock-gates; the rusty iron, oily chains, overgrown weeds and cracked wooden plinths, and how they were reflected in the canal-water. There is a weight and solidity to the structures, which, although engineered, I hope could be portrayed loosely and  energetically.

I am mindful of the need to try to use expressive mark-making in this piece, whilst also being sensitive to tonal variation. The lock-gate structure is almost sculptural, providing the opportunity to try to depict a strong sense of 3-dimensional form through tonal variation as well as using vigorous marks to depict angles and shapes.  I considered taking this further into a more abstract piece, but decided I might lose my way and lose the feel of the subject. I am struck by how both Kossoff and Creffield deviate from literal visual accuracy, yet still recognisably depict their subject.

It is important to me to explore the creation of a visual energy in this final drawing. Although the lock-gates are essentially static, they also convey the inherent significance of the canal’s history, function and solidity that are both poignant and constantly shifting. I am aiming for a drawing that is more representational of the “place” than an accurate depiction of the engineering structure itself . Since my “go-to” style tends to be fairly restrained, detailed and realistic I hope to be able to “let go” and allow a sense of the subject to speak through the final piece.  To concentrate more of the absence of details and exaggerate form without outline- overlapping lines with physical and gestural lines, marks and blocks of tone.

I heard someone say

if you are not taking risks you are not being creative……

During the development of this piece I will experiment using various media to explore how much freedom I can achieve through their use. The final work will be on A1 size paper to challenge myself working in large format, and on the image as a whole, rather than as a sum of its parts, without being afraid to leave areas of the paper blank or with minimal detail.  I hope to create an expressive final drawing.




Assignment 5 -(a) Written Self-Assessment

Review of previous assignments, noting problems/successes.

Assignment One:


  • I felt I exhibited technical and visual skills.  I was careful to focus on accurate observation and to draw only what I could see.  I liked the looseness and expressive nature of charcoal and how it lead me to focus on shapes, contours and contrasts rather than getting too stuck on finer details.  I think I depicted the contrasting surfaces and 3D shapes of the objects, to create a picture that captured solidity and depth, with sufficient shadow  to ground the objects and give them mass/weight.
  • I worked logically and developed my idea from concept to finished drawing.  This was a good start to the course.
  • I tried out a few different compositions and media but could have developed my ideas more.I also should have used my sketchbook more to try out different ideas/media and made more comments for reference.  I came away from this assignment wishing I had tried other methods to bring out the shiny reflective surfaces on the subject (such as pen and ink). I was afraid of making mistakes in my sketchbook and need to loosen up.
  • My tutor’s comments focused on a need for greater fluidity and more gesture work.  She thought I was too held back, especially in the more detailed work.

Assignment Two:  


  • I think that appropriate materials were used for the effect I wanted and that the drawing ,of the pheasant at least, was well observed (form, colour, perspective & composition).  I did not quite master an accurate perspective of the wooden board!  I am not sure if this was due to failure to observe or just the fact it was at an awkward angle and hard to see.
  • I felt confident about what worked and what did not! I was pleased by my use of colour the techniques used.   I approached the assignment logically, with some experimentation in my sketchbook of both media and composition, but in hindsight I should have done more experimentation and planning in my sketchbook. The set-up of the still-life was rather contrived- I was trying to suggest a narrative about game being ready for the pot.
  • This picture feels like an honest reflection of my natural “go-to” style.  I did not refer to other artists for this work -as I probably should have- but responded to the subject in front of me.  I am constantly drawn to the notion however, that I want to try to develop  a freer, more abstract style.
  • My tutor’s comments:  were to use expressive media more and to develop a more gestural approach.  I should try not to be so pictorial in my approach.  I was still not using my sketchbook enough (experimentation or notes) and I needed to attempt some larger pieces.  Basically- more spontaneity/ fluidity/ energy/ abstraction/ narrative.

Assignment Three:


  • I think compositionally this assignment demonstrates an understanding of perspective, and has an interesting composition. There is a definitely sense of the cottages receding.  I also managed to capture the atmosphere of a bright winters day.This was a subject that I could relate to and I think this was expressed in the visual communication of my thoughts and emotional response.
  • I was also pleased by my choice of media which I think was used successfully to create textures of the stonework and the plants/trees. I was amazed by some of the effects I managed to create using just coloured pencils, by blending and creating layers, and using mineral spirits to merge colours together.
  • I was very pleased with the outcome of this drawing.  I managed, in places at least, to introduce a looser style into the work (e.g.the pavement) to contrast my more detailed default style.  I find it very hard not to have a fairly detailed approach in my finished work.
  • My tutor’s comments  were still encouraging me to be more fluid, free and abstract.  There is something in me that will not quite let go, but I need to find out what happens when I break some of the “rules’.  I need to be more ambitious and courageous by being more innovative and experimental.  More atmosphere might have been created by letting more mistakes happen (bleeding/ diluted area etc).

Assignment Four:

  •  Assignment four was a much greater challenge in terms of both interpretation and execution.  I loved doing the figure drawing part of the course, but found it much harder to capture the subject on paper than more permanent subjects.  I tried very hard  to be more expressive and experimental than I had been in previous work.  I found this was hard, and was possibly not achieved.
  • I have really struggled working in a large format as this has  often required scaling up from “sight-size” and numerous errors have tended to be introduced.   Smaller drawings, by contrast, whilst being more accurate, tended to be more restrained in their style.  There was a tendency for my figure work to look as if I had tried that bit too hard!
  • For some reason I particularly struggled with the head in my full figure assignment drawings.  I felt the charcoal drawing turned out quite well, but my tutor commented that it was too stylistic and miss out too much detail.  I liked the finish though and thought it had a greater sense of 3D form than a lot of my figure work as well as greater fluidity.  I also enjoyed the contrasts of light-dark.
  • In the Self portrait I struggled to get the light right- mainly because, looking at my reflection, the light and shadow was subtle.  I seem to have introduced strong contrasts.  The image is rather too full on- it has a real intense stare- probably because I was looking so hard at myself!
  • One thing I really struggled with in this section of the course is the temporary nature of poses and expressions.  I was not good at capturing fleeting movements- which led to inaccuracies or stilted drawings.  It was very frustrating and definitely my weakest area.

My tutor’s comments acknowledge an improvement in my experimentation and observation skills and that I am developing the use of more expressive media (pen/ charcoal /pastels) for a more energetic outcome.  She also commented that where areas of the pictures are left out, or just hinted at, the work becomes more engaging, and that I have a tendency to outline too heavily.  She encourages me to use more dynamic and aggressive marks so the work becomes more frantic.  I used my sketchbooks much more during this section of the course and had lost some of my fear about making mistakes.

A couple of comments in particular stood out for me:

To concentrate more of the absence of details and exaggerate form without outline- overlapping lines with physical and gestural lines, marks and blocks of tone.  Also to use more coloured backgrounds as when I do tend to move away from more formally styled drawings.  More spontaneity/ fluidity/ energy/ abstraction/ narrative.

My starting point for assignment five will be the outdoors.  Although I hope I can include consideration of line, space and form in tackling this.

Assignment 5- Background Research

During this assignment I have looked at and researched a number of artist’s work.

I have particularly sought out artists who have a loose approach and who produce landscapes of various  styles.  I have been especially interested in mark making and how different styles can bring a subject to life as well as how abstraction can be simultaneously introduced.

I looked at Jeanette Barnes as part of the reflection on feedback from assignment 3.


I have also looked at Henry Moore.  Also at how he manages to combine abstraction, whilst retaining both a sense of the subject and interesting marks.

Three Reclining Figures 1971 by Henry Moore OM, CH 1898-1986
Three Reclining Figures 1971 Henry Moore -


I have been particularly struck by the style of Dennis Creffield, who went to Bomberg’s classes at the Borough as a teenager and was profoundly effected by the master’s approach. He recalled that ‘structure’ was a key term for Bomberg. Another was ‘the spirit in the mass’, that is, the animating, inner being of any thing as opposed to simply its physical mass. 
In 1987 Creffield was commissioned to draw all the medieval cathedrals of England. This work shows that the methods of the Borough Group survived for many decades. The emphasis on structure as defined by bold charcoal drawing was well-suited to the vertical forms of Gothic architecture.
Peterborough: Approaching the West Front 1987 by Dennis Creffield born 1931
Three Reclining Figures 1971 Henry Moore -
Canterbury Cathedral 1987 by Dennis Creffield born 1931
Three Reclining Figures 1971 Henry Moore -
David Bomberg (1890-1957) was the most audacious painter of his generation at the Slade. His treatment of the human figure, in terms of angular, clear-cut forms charged with enormous energy, reveals his determination to bring about a drastic renewal in British painting.

With the advent of World War I, Bomberg enlisted in the Royal Engineers, and his harrowing experiences at the Front brought about a profound transformation in his outlook.  Bomberg explored a radically different path during the 1920s. His disillusion with the destructive power of the machine at war led to a few years spent experimenting with ways of making his stark pre-war style more rounded and organic.

The Mud Bath 1914 by David Bomberg 1890-1957
The Mud Bath- David Bomberg 1914

The way in which Bomberg reduces the human figure to a series of geometric shapes may reflect his fascination with the machine age, which he shared with the Futurists and Vorticists. This painting could also represent the human form, stripped to its essential core.The scene is based on steam baths near Bomberg’s home in east London, which were used by the local Jewish population and which also had religious associations. They were, perhaps, a place for both physical and spiritual cleansing.

Throughout the 1930s Bomberg’s art became broader and more impassioned as he sought to convey the essence of his response to landscapes in Scotland and Spain and during World War II his outstanding series of Bomb Store paintings did not lead to further commissions from the War Artists Committee, despite his repeated requests. His last years were darkened by the realization that his art remained overlooked and even belittled in Britain. His final landscapes and figure paintings include some of his most powerful works.

St Paul's and River 1945 by David Bomberg 1890-1957
St Paul’s and River 1945 David Bomberg 1890-1957 Purchased 1975
This shows the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, seen from the west with the River Thames on the right. Bomberg made many drawings of St Paul’s during the Second World War, when it survived the Blitz and became a symbol of Britain’s resilience. He made further drawings shortly after the war for a ‘panorama of London’ that was never realised. 
The definition of form by the use of strong structural  charcoal lines is typical. Equally characteristic is the contrast between these vigorous lines and the soft smoky shading, for example in the sky.  This is an image I wanted to take forward into my approach to assignment 5.


In terms of examples of depictions of  industrial architecture I was especially taken by this water colour by Gordon Mitchell Forsyth, (1879-1952) The Hoist Shelton Bar.  Although this is less abstracted is much more precise in its depiction of its subject, the “accidental” marks created by the watercolour create a vivid sense of atmosphere.

Leon Kossoff (born 1926) has established himself among the most significant contemporary chroniclers of London’s people and architecture. The intimacy of drawing as an art form dovetails with Kossoff’s intense and sustained interest in the London landscape. Kossoff renders the city’s plazas, buildings, demolition zones, and construction sites with a sense of immediacy and energy.

Leon Kossoff, “Arnold Circus, Saturday Afternoon,” 2012, charcoal and pastel on paper, 

The charcoal drawings are expressive evocations of place. Vigorous black line defines the forms and suggests a dark and brooding atmosphere, while subtle marks of color invigorate the scenes. Roughly drawn and hectically composed, these works convey a certain spirit in London’s streets, neighborhoods, and gathering places.

Leon Kossoff, “King’s Cross Stormy Day no. 2,” 2004, charcoal and pastel on paper


Leon Kossoff, “School Building Willesden,” 1979, charcoal on paper

There is an energy in Leon Kossoff’s drawings which bring movement to the cityscapes. The pattern of Kossoff’s work has been to pursue, sometimes obsessively, a single subject over a period of years. On the mornings he did not have a sitter arriving in the studio, he would set off early to a chosen spot with his drawing board to work out of doors; then he would return to the studio to paint – a laborious process through which the final image would emerge only after many months of applying and then scraping away paint.

Willesden Junction Landscape
 Extending lines … a detail from Willesden Junction Landscape (1962). 

It seems that Kossoff has frequently been drawn to landscapes that suggest a state of transition: either because they are undergoing literal change, such as the St Paul’s building site; or because they are, like tube stations or railway lines, the zone of humans on the move.

Kossoff’s territory is, more frequently, the overlooked: the railway siding; the demolition site; the Victorian school building seen from across a busy road; the underground station. These views present themselves to him with a kind of inevitability.

“It is a question of the eye and the mind,” he says. They are the kind of landscapes that many people would hesitate to regard as “scenic”, but that carry their own rough loveliness. “Perhaps everything’s beautiful,” he says. “It’s a question of how you experience things visually.” He adds: “Something happens when you see Willesden Junction stretching out in front of you. What else can you do but draw it?”

He worked for years drawing and painting Kilburn tube station. Eventually the faces in the crowd turned unbidden into the faces of people he knew as he painted. He points out to me the face of his father, and that of his wife.  They are pictures, as he says simply, of “life going on”.

Sheep's Head on Newspaper 1955 by Peter Coker 1926-2004
Sheep’s Head on Newspaper 1955 Peter Coker 1926-2004 Presented by the artist 1981
Peter Coker takes a similar abstract/ energetic approach to still life. Using loose, often single, strokes to suggest contours and shadow.
Drawing for 'Butcher's Shop I' 1955 by Peter Coker 1926-2004
Drawing for ‘Butcher’s Shop I’ 1955 Peter Coker 1926-2004 Presented by the artist 1987
This drawing depicts the interior of a butcher’s shop. A large slab of meat hangs in the foreground towards the right-hand side, with two others just discernible behind it. In the background towards the left, the figure of the butcher is seen from behind as he leans over his shop bench. The chequered design of the tiles on the walls of the shop and the rail from which the meat hooks hang define the enclosed space of the shop. The drawing was begun lightly in pencil and then the main lines were gone over again with stronger, darker strokes to summarise the forms. At this stage the artist enlarged the side of meat at the top and bottom. The butcher’s feet were drawn in sketchily and then rubbed out.  The amendments seem to introduce motion to an image which is largely of a static subject.  The lines are confident and fluid without being drawn into developing detail.
Study for 'The Gorse Bush' circa 1957 by Peter Coker 1926-2004
Study for ‘The Gorse Bush’ circa 1957 Peter Coker 1926-2004 Presented by the artist 2002

Similarly in this landscape (black and white chalk and gouache on white paper), Peter Coker depicts a study of dense and dark foliage.  Whilst being just a study rather than a final work I am struck by the looseness of his marks, their confidence and fluidity; creating depth, texture and shadow predominantly through single strokes.  In the foreground, loose, often single, strokes suggest uneven terrain or tall grass. For the foliage beyond, Coker used closely drawn lines, which create a jagged silhouette and suggest the thorniness of gorse.


Mercedes Matter, Tabletop Still Life, ca. 1936. Oil on canvas

Mercedes Matter (1913-2001) was part of the abstract expressionist movement.   Close friends included Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Philip Guston, Alexander Calder and Willem de Kooning.  Her first mentor, Hans Hofmann, cultivated tensions between sensuality and self-discipline, between drawing and colour.  In early works she abstracts flower arrangements into rectangular planes of colour,  but these soon give way to more propulsive, looping forms, shaped by competing relations of figure and ground.

Her works maintain an assertive vigour and there is a severity to her art; its fierce angularity suggests an appetite for abandon constrained by geometry. Although close friends with Pollock, and an admirer of his work, Matter resisted his method, remarking in an interview, “What I like least … is the liberation.”

After 1960 Matter’s work tends more towards density.  Still life is no longer a step on the way to abstraction; painting doesn’t point beyond the objects, but hovers around their simple physical mass. Her high-keyed colors become more earthy and muted, and then disappear entirely in the large, powerful drawings, which appear through the 1980s and 90s and often include cows’ skulls collected near her home in Connecticut. Matter excavates the projections and voids of the skulls, as though to impart their airy hollowness to the entire arrangement; united in an overall mesh of marks, the objects seem to levitate from the table.


Mercedes Matter, Still Life with Skulls, ca. 1978-98, Charcoal on canvas

I am struck by the “architectural effect” of this still life,  it’s energy, fluidity and abstract style, and I am drawn to comparisons with Jeanette Barnes, Dennis Cressfield, Leon Kossoff and David Bomberg, all of whom I have mentioned above.


This almost takes me back to Paul Cezanne’s Green Apples (1873) where the work is much more figurative, but also energetic, bold and almost abstract in its marks.

Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th-century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne can be said to form the bridge between late 19th-century Impressionism and the early 20th century’s new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism. Both Matisse and Picasso are said to have remarked that Cézanne “is the father of us all.”  Cézanne’s often repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. He used planes of colour and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields. The paintings convey Cézanne’s intense study of his subjects

Reflections on Assignment 4

In tutor feedback from part 4 of the course my tutor suggested that I look at a number of artists.  She suggested that I should try to develop more confidence in handling media, especially with more dynamic/ aggressive mark-making.  To highlight what she meant by this she pointed me towards Tracy Emin and Richard Hamilton’s work.  I had already looked at Richard Hamilton’s work whilst carrying out research for part four Research Point- Energy in drawings.  I can see her point, as both of these artists produce works that contain a huge amount of energy.

Tracey Emin works in a wide range of media including painting, drawing, film, photography, sewn appliqué, sculpture and neon text. Her art is primarily expressionistic, a cypher for memories and emotions that can be frank and poetic, intimate and universal.  Using her own experience – and frequently her own body – as source material for the work, she explores ideas of self-portraiture and narrative disclosure, both intimately bound up with her own biography. She grew up in the seaside resort of Margate and her work often refers to traumatic episodes from her childhood  in a unique form of confessional art that often deeply resonates with her audience.


Tracy Emin- I Think of you All the time, 2015, Acrylic on canvas

This picture is radiates a sense of frenetic freedom in the application of paint on the canvas, whilst still managing to capture a sense of its subject and  accurate physical proportions.

German artist Kathe Kollwitz began her career as a painter until, inspired by the prints of Max Klinger, she began creating etchings, lithographs and woodcuts, eventually abandoning painting for graphics. She is an inspiring example of an artist whose content and technique merge to create deeply affecting works of art. Her weighty subject matter is made only more potent by the way in which she chooses to render her images.

Her subjects were “rough” as well, often drawn from the poor and downtrodden in Berlin, who her husband attended as a doctor. She remained committed to pacifist and socialist ideals throughout her career. Much of her early work in particular was shaped by the death of one of her sons in the First World War.

Mother with dead child- 1903

In the drawing above, the way in which it is rendered underscores a moment of terrible anguish. The features of the child’s face are just barely visible, almost as though they become less solid and more ghostly by the minute. The softly rendered, quiet areas of the drawing are juxtaposed with areas of urgent, scratch-like hatch marks, creating tension and a sense of desperation.

Käthe explored the human condition not only by connecting with and depicting those around her, but through a life-long practice of self-portraiture as well. Her intimate self-study resulted in over 100 self-portraits between her early formative years and her death in 1945. She often depicted herself in isolation, the surrounding white of the paper becoming a kind of abyss. Kollwitz had the rare ability to communicate visceral aspects of her inner life through her outward appearance, leaving the viewer with a vivid impression of her state of mind. Looking at her self-portraits, we catch intimate glances of her awareness of mortality, her commitment to depicting the social injustices around her, her strength and her compassion.

Her use of harsh lines and intense marks somehow lift the images from mere depictions of an image to pictures radiating a deep sense of emotion and intensity.  This is all the greater for her use of a monochromatic palette and the lack of a background in which to contextualise the image.

Further artists to look at regarding line making is Henry Moore.  I already did some research on his sheep drawings Henry Moore- Sheep Drawings, but I wanted to look further at his work following my tutor’s recommendation.  He

During World War II Moore was asked by the War Artists Advisory Committee to document life on the home front. He drew people sheltering in bomb shelters in London underground stations. These drawings, along with those he made later in the coalmines, are considered among his greatest achievements.  The picture lacks detail of individual faces and limbs, but radiates a strong sense of the crowded gloomy conditions in a tube station during an air raid.

Shelterers in the Tube 1941 by Henry Moore OM, CH 1898-1986
Shelterers in the Tube 1941 Henry Moore OM, CH 1898-1986 Presented by the War Artists Advisory Committee 1946


Henry Moore- Heads, Fish and Standing Figure, 1950—1951 ( Pencil, wax crayon, coloured crayon, chalk and watercolour wash )

I love the loose marks in this page from Henry Moore’s sketchbook.

Henry Moore- the artist’s hands 1974

The looseness and delicacy of the marks in Henry Moore’s hand pictures are beautiful  You can almost reach out and expect the picture to have 3D form.  At the same time, he doesn’t about over detail- giving the viewer just enough to fill in any blanks .

Throughout his career, Moore utilised a wide range of techniques and media, such as line drawing and cross-hatching, gouache, chalk and crayon, to bring two-dimensional forms to life, creating impressions of movement and radiance and carving human forms from a sheet of paper in a similar fashion to the way in which he carved expressive forms from slabs of stone. With these works on paper, Moore was not drawing simply as an exercise. Instead, the artist was drawing for ‘the pleasure of looking more intently and intensely’, emphasising that these works on paper are not simply sketches, but instead illustrate important stages in Moore’s development as a draughtsman and sculptor.

Peter Doig- reflection on assignment 3 feedback

My tutor is keen fr me to loosen up in my approach and she suggested I look at the work of Peter Doig.  I found a good Telegraph article about him- The telegraph -Peter Doig.  in more than one article I found about him, it was commented that his works often fall somewhere between the figurative and the abstract.

Swamped by Peter Doig 1990

I looked at the painting “Swamped”, which he painted in 1990, see and the canvas exhibits all the hallmarks of his style over the next decade. It features a canoe,  afloat on a sluggish bog, thick with reflected sulphurous yellows, russets and reds. A maelstrom of brushstrokes creates a bewildering sense of visual confusion, so that the painting teeters between the figurative and the abstract.  The surface is extraordinarily complex and dense, in places mottled and stippled like a piece of corroded metal with sensuous, textured, questing application of paint. Doig was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1994.

One of the most successful examples of this earlier work is the Concrete Cabin series, (see link to research point here) several large paintings of a modernist building by Le Corbusier at Briey-en-Forêt in north-eastern France, glimpsed through a tangle of trunks and foliage in a nearby wood. The paintings enact the tension between representation and abstraction that is at the heart of Doig’s work. The building’s clean geometric lines, often fleshed out with panels of primary colours so that the structure resembles a painting by Mondrian seen from a distance, are obscured by looser, darker, more furiously energetic marks representing the forest. Flashes of thick, white pigment signifying bursts of sunlight cling to the dark trunks like luminous lichen. Bolts and blobs of bright paint stud the canvases. Drifts of speckled, deliquescent colour float across our view, like surrealistic clouds. The more you look at these scenes, the stranger they become.

Peter Doig- oil on canvas 1994 Coburg 3 + 1 more

In  Cobourg 3 + 1 More, in which an alpine forest and four figures in the foreground are almost hidden by a hazy blizzard, Doig captures the texture of plump snowflakes cascading from the skies, at the same time as alluding to and reworking Abstract Expressionism.

“Painting is about working your way across the surface, getting lost in it,” Doig once said. It’s worth following his advice.

Jeanette Barnes- reflection on assignment 3 feedback

My Tutor suggested I look at the work of Jeanette Barnes after reviewing my Assignment for part three of the course.  I can see why- her work is very fluid and captures a sense of motion and business within a city.  This is something I would love to be able to develop as I tend to have a much more stilted approach.

Jeanette Barnes’ work is urban landscape. She has a method of capturing a sense of people  moving within the architecture and of making buildings come to life.  She often focuses on changes within the city – buildings being demolished and new architecture.

Her method of working is to do lots of sketches on location at a chosen subject -generally using a soft pencil, graphite stick or charcoal. Back at the studio she generally uses willow charcoal or conté crayon on large finished pieces.

To begin the large drawings, she ties a piece of conté or charcoal on to a cane so she can work on the whole of the drawing and not get drawn into working on small areas too soon. This allows her to stand back and think of the whole composition deciding early on where light/dark areas will be.  As the composition changes this may change and areas may be erased.


Assignment four

For this assignment, you should complete two large figure studies (A1 size) and a portrait or self-portrait (any size) – three drawings in total, together with supporting studies, experiments, etc.

For each drawing, consult your preliminary studies and make notes on what you plan to do. Think about composition, medium and approach. Write a few notes on the artist(s) that have inspired you to work in a particular way. Be inventive in your approach and in the materials you use. You’re not restricted to working with black on white. Try reversing this to white on black, or consider monochrome, perhaps dark blue on pale blue paper, or ink and charcoal on newspaper – the list is endless, so be inventive. Allow around two hours for each drawing.

1 Figure study using line (A1) – Seated model in an upright chair


Final drawing (charcoal on A1 cartridge paper)- more stylised than previous attempts. I am not 100% certain that it is completely in proportion but as a picture I find it quite appealing. I was trying to play with angles and minimise the number of lines. Proportions are still wrong- shoulders are too wide.
Aquarelle crayons on A1 cartridge paper. Second attempt at Assignment 4- proportions are wrong and breast too dominant.
Few quick sketches trying to develop pose
charcoal sketch developing pose with the models wings! Shoulders are too wide.
Multiple drawings done on top of each other in colour pencil. Trying to give a sense of movement in the static pose. Experimenting with mark making.
Quick charcoal sketch- hard to keep foreshortening in her left leg looking natural. Shoulders are too wide again!
Pencil sketch playing with angles
Preparatory sketch for drawing of myself
Pastels on A1 cartridge paper- first attempt at assignment 4.

I started this assignment by trying to do a line drawing of myself  but failed comically badly. My top half is much too bulky compared with the rest of me and there is a lack of reality about the finished drawing.  Surprisingly I rather liked the face as time went by and the result was definitely better than the rest of the body.  I found it difficult to drawer myself and to sit at the same time.  I don’t think my eye was particularly objective either!

So I attended a life drawing class and decided to develop the model’s seated pose.  She was  wearing fairy wings and holding flowers but I decided to drop these props from my pictures after a few sketches as they were distracting and not adding anything to the finished pictures.  I found it really hard to keep the proportions accurate because of the slightly awkward position the model was sitting in.  As a result I repeatedly ended up with shoulders that were too wide and the foreshortening in the other leg was not always convincing.  In some of the preparatory sketches the hands and face were quite nicely depicted but by the time I got to the final pictures the details seemed to be naturally reduced.

I tried very hard  to be as expressive and experimental with the large drawing as I was with the preparatory studies, trying not to tighten up or lose fluidity.  This was hard, and possibly not achieved, as I was constantly grappling with the challenge of transferring the images onto the larger scale paper.  I found this really difficult.

There is an artist called Fred Hatt that I frequently go back to as I am fascinated by his approach to figure drawing:


I wish I could reproduce the effect he creates.  His influence informed my  attempt using aquarelle crayons.  Fred is very sensitive in his use of line- many of which define contours at the same time as light and shade.  I would need a LOT more practice to achieve this fantasyic effect.

2 Figure study using tone (A1) – Reclining model


Pastels on A1 cartridge paper:  For this part of the assignment I had to default to life drawing models posing on-line because there were no willing models available at home!  Firstly, after a few loosening up sketches, I tried using pastels. However, in my mind this would have ideally been on a mid-tone paper, and as the only A1 paper I have is white, I did not feel the finish was very effective.  I also made my usual error of making the head too small- either that or the legs and body are too big!!  I struggled with the head and overworked it making the effect heavy and lumberous!  In places the picture is loose and in others it looks like I tried just a bit too hard!


Charcoal on A1 cartridge paper.  I had another go at the assignment using charcoal.  I always enjoy charcoals; I like the fact that they stop me being too finicky about detail!  They also encourage me to focus on tone rather than line.  I was really pleased with this charcoal drawing.  I found it easier to do on the A1 format paper, which encouraged a more gestural approach.  This drawing mainly used tone, rather than line, to create a sense of form and atmosphere. I found I naturally looked at shapes.  I realise that I have unwittingly used a model who is not showing her hands. Also, by not over-working the hair, it’s lightness brings the head forward in the picture.  The light areas against strong shadows gives 3D form to the figure.

I have really struggled doing these drawings in a large format as they have often required scaling up from what I can see by eye so numerous errors tend to get introduced.

In all of these attempts my models are unclothed -I hope this still falls within the objectives of the assignment?

3 A portrait or self-portrait combining line and tone (any size)

Create a portrait a self-portrait where the features are believable and in proportion to the rest of the face, head, shoulders and chest. Try to find an interesting position rather than looking straight ahead. Use mirrors to view from different angles. In your sketchbook, experiment with some of the ideas you’ve uncovered during your research into other contemporary artists’ work.

Work with variations of tone and expressive line to create an interesting and atmospheric image. For your main light source, you might try using a candle, small lamp or torch in a semi-darkened room to exaggerate the contrasting lights and darks, for example. You might also work very close up with the features filling the sheet. Be experimental and ambitious in this drawing.


Self portrait- Pastel on A3 pastel paper.  For this part of the assignment I did a drawing of myself in front of my dressing table mirror.  There’s something symbolic about that location since it is somewhere I often study myself.  I found this so interesting- the end result definitely has my features but I can’t decide if it has a likeness?  How much of that is due to the disconnect between what I think I look like and how others see me?

I struggled to get the light right- mainly because, looking at my reflection, the light and shadow was subtle because I could not work out how to create strong contrasts.  However, the resulting picture definitely has a sense of light coming from one side with deeper shadow on the opposite side.  I was surprised by how the image seemed to emerge by its own accord, as the layers of pastel were applied.  The hair is a bit fluffy and should probably hang straighter down the sides of the face.  Another place I struggled was to get the profile around my face correct- in the picture my cheek bones are a bit more rounded than in reality.
However, overall I definitely think this is a believable face in which the features are in proportion to the rest of the face, head, shoulders.  I ended up with a straight on pose by default- even though that was not my initial intention, but I rather like its intensity!
I did not do a lot of preparatory sketching before doing this picture.  I started it with the intention that it should be a sketch, but it took on a life of its own and emerged as a full complete drawing of its own volition!



Research point- self portraits

Research artists’ self-portraits. Begin by looking at historic examples, such as Rembrandt and van Gogh, and then use the reading list and other resources at your disposal to look at some self-portrait styles that have emerged in contemporary art. How do contemporary artists approach tone, medium, pose, story, etc., in self-portraiture. Make notes in your learning log.

Albrecht Dürer, was the first great career self-portraitist and painted himself (c 1500) with flowing crinkly locks in an unforgettable image that is generally considered ‘Christ like’.ürer,_Munich) 

I found this very interesting link to an article about self portraits on the Tate website;  William Hogarth’s self portrait is featured in the article, which is a statement of the artist’s professional ambition. The picture contains a number of coded messages-

The oval canvas containing Hogarth’s portrait appears propped up on volumes of Shakespeare, Swift and Milton, authors who inspired Hogarth’s commitment to drama, satire and epic poetry. On his palette is the ‘Line of Beauty and Grace’, which underpinned Hogarth’s theories on art. Hogarth’s pug dog, Trump, serves as an emblem of the artist’s own pugnacious character

The Painter and his Pug 1745 William Hogarth 1697-1764 Purchased 1824
The Painter and his Pug 1745 William Hogarth 1697-1764 Purchased 1824

In the nineteenth century one of the most famous and most prolific of self portraitists was Vincent van Gogh, who between 1886 and 1889 drew and painted himself over 40 times.  His technique that grew more and more impassioned in brushstroke, in symbolic and intense color, in surface tension, and in the movement and vibration of form and line. 

Unlike van Gogh’s paintings of his sitters, in his self-portraits he seldom directs his gaze at the viewer, and when he does its glaring and fixed. His self-portraits vary in intensity and colour, perhaps a reflection of his state of mind.  Van Gogh’s inimitable fusion of form and content is powerful; dramatic, lyrically rhythmic, imaginative, and emotional, for the artist was completely absorbed in the effort to explain either his struggle against madness or his comprehension of the spiritual essence of man and nature.

I was interested to look at three self portraits by the artist Stanley Spencer.   The first in ink and chalk on paper (1913) has distinctive Old Master qualities in its network of cross hatching, a characteristic reminiscent in particular of the drawings of Michelangelo (1475–1564), in whose technique Spencer was interested. He was a student at the Slade school of art where students were encouraged to study techniques by the old masters.

Self-Portrait 1913 Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959 Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2005
Self-Portrait 1913 Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959 Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2005

Spencer’s first self-portrait in oils, was painted in 1914. In its dark and rich colour harmonies and its strongly modelled form, the painting attempts to emulate the style of an Old Master painting.

Self-Portrait 1914 Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959 Bequeathed by Sir Edward Marsh through the Contemporary Art Society 1953
Self-Portrait 1914 Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959 Bequeathed by Sir Edward Marsh through the Contemporary Art Society 1953

The last was painted in 1958 just before his death.  It struck me how much the style and feel of the portrait had changed since his early life.  The work is remarkable for the unflinching scrutiny of the artist’s gaze, and its use of extreme close-up to convey a sense of physical and psychological intensity.

Self-Portrait 1959 Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959 Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1982
Self-Portrait 1959 Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959 Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1982

I adore works by Lucien Freud.  I visited an exhibition of his in my twenties and was blown away by both the emotional content, and the stark honesty of his work.  His brush-work is full of energy and imagination while his use of colour conveys the slightest change in tonal values to create tension with rhythmic relationships.

Reflection (Self-Portrait) Lucian Freud (1985)
self-portrait-1985.l freud
Freud did not begin to employ thick sculptural brushstrokes until later in his career when he adopted a radical change in approach and technique, a decision which lost him some important supporters in the art world at the time.  His works are noted for their psychological penetration and their often discomforting examination of the relationship between artist and model.
Freud’s early paintings, which are mostly very small, are often associated with German Expressionism.  From the 1950s, he began to work in portraiture, often nudes (though his first full length nude was not painted until 1966), to the almost complete exclusion of everything else, and by the middle of the decade developed a much more free style using large hogs-hair brushes, with an intense concentration of the texture and colour of flesh, and much thicker paint, including impasto.

As suggested I looked at Tracey Emin’s self-portraits. She often uses monoprints and draws fast and ‘blind’ to produce expressive, frantic marks.   Her previous conceptual style freed her from the constraints of conventional drawing and believes that accuracy and representation are crutches in drawing This is why Tracey states, “Some of my favourite drawings I have done with my eyes closed – or so drunk I do not remember making them.”  Her drawings are eruptions of emotion swathed in memory. The need to express the feeling is released spontaneously through the pen or pencil without premeditation.


“Self Portrait in Mirror” by Tracey Emin. The artist said of this piece, “When I looked at it, it was like when you see yourself in a mirror you didn’t know was there.”

I get the impression from looking at different self portraits that contemporary artists have a much greater licence to approach the use of tone, medium, pose, and narrative much more flexibly than the traditional old masters had.  There seems to be as much importance placed on emotional narrative, context and sense of place as in capturing resemblance.

"Drawing is putting a line round an idea." Henri Matisse (1869-1954)