Category Archives: Research Part 2

Reflections on Report for Assignment 2

The summary and key points of the report read as follows:

  • Don’t forget your strength of using expressive media and being more gestural as you have shown previously.
  • Be careful not to be too pictorial all the time.
  • Use your sketchbook much more and the main concern is that there is not enough work for each part. As well as doing work in your sketchbook, do larger pieces, which use the whole space of the surface sufficiently. You are starting to understand the technicalities of the fundamental elements of form in this submission. Keep practicing this.
  • Do more attempts of the exercises, techniques and mark making works so you can push a more personal style. Be more expressive and not so pictorial to give a sense of mood and narrative to captivate the viewer. Combine successful techniques to make for more mix media works.
  • Don’t forget the suggestions from your pervious report in terms of being more expressive and fluid. At the moment you have a variety of techniques, which you are not always pursuing. Be more focused on your style and your strengths.
  • Look back at your sketchbook and enlarge the more expressive works so they are more gestural.

There is a lot in the report that really made me think.  I have been torn between my natural tendency to draw accurate pictorial representations of a subject (which can be lazy in terms of using my imagination or investigative skills) and being more experimental.  I had not really understood what the course wanted from us, but think this feedback represents a step forwards for me in this.  I realise now that experimenting and working through ideas in both my sketchbook and as larger pieces helps me to develop and explore my own direction and voice.  In the feedback about loosening up- I realise that my work is so much more fluid in all my prep work and then I tense up for the final drawing.

My tutor has suggested I experiment more with Frottage as this will help me to loosen up and be more expressive.  She also pointed out that abstraction helps you to see the world differently;  I really like that idea and can see it will be fun to explore this further.

I suppose I had thought I should know my personal style by now, but realise that this will only come by experimenting as much as possible and seeing what pattern reveals itself as my way of progressing.

I looked at the Henry Moore Sketches as suggested and realised how much I rely on line/outline in my drawings.    I need to try to avoid this and learn to see negative shapes, tonal variation and texture….

Things I had not been doing that I want to develop from now on:

  • Gestural drawings
  • loosening up-  expressive drawings  (Trying Frottage)
  • Developing work for each exercise further to a larger final piece wherever possible
  • Less pictorial- thinking more expressively to give a sense of mood and narrative to captivate the viewer.
  • Focus on my strengths and successes.


Frottage is a surrealist method of creative production that involves creating a rubbing of a textured surface using a pencil or other drawing material. explains:

The technique was developed by Max Ernst in drawings  from 1925. Frottage is the French word for rubbing. Ernst was inspired by an ancient wooden floor where the grain of the planks had been accentuated by many years of scrubbing. The patterns of the graining suggested strange images to him. From 1925 he captured these by laying sheets of paper on the floor and then rubbing over them with a soft pencil. The results suggest mysterious forests peopled with bird-like creatures and Ernst published a collection of these drawings in 1926 titled Histoire Naturelle (natural history).

Max Ernst L'évadé (The Fugitive) from Histoire Naturelle (Natural History) 1926

He created these images by rubbing various materials—wood, crumpled paper, crusts of bread—with a pencil or crayon through a sheet of paper, then allowing the resulting textures to inspire him to invent strange landscapes, objects, and animals.

He went on to use a wide range of textured surfaces and adapted the technique to oil painting, calling it grattage(scraping). In grattage the canvas is prepared with a layer or more of paint then laid over the textured object which is then scraped over.

Henry Moore- Sheep Drawings

In her report from assignment 2, my tutor has suggested that I look at Henry More’s sheep sketches

I can really see why she suggested this.

I am currently getting too bogged down with heavy laboured outlines and also getting overly tight with detail.  These sheep sketches are wonderful- they are fluid and expressive, whilst capturing the very essence of the sheep.  I notice how there are few actual outlines-Moore – rarely started his sketches by outlining his sheep, but started shading straight away.  He relied on varying the tone to capture light and shadow, form (the round solidity of a sheep) and shape (insinuating the shape of the nail’s body beneath the fleece).  Texture is captured also- the curly fleece, the hard short hair on their heads…. I really like the way that the lines vary in direction and pressure.

henry  Moore sheep 1972 2 henry  Moore sheep 1972_0 henry  Moore sheep 1972

in 1972 Henry Morre’s studio looked out over fields from where he drew these sheep- that would come right up to his window.  As a sculpture he was interested in form and texture and in spite of using just biro and felt tip the sketches are animated, interesting and individual.  He would make a loud noise to capture the sheep’s attention while he caught their captivated gaze..   Zig-zags and rushed ball point pen lines dominate the drawings, thicker and more panicked scratches where there is less light and softer yet vigorous marks on the brighter parts of the scene.

He captures the sheep’s energy and sudden vigorous movement as well as their repose and calm thoughtfulness. (Do sheep think?)

In making each sketch so individual and tender he captures his audience.  It is more than just a picture of a sheep- it communicates mood , atmosphere and the character of the animals.

I want to be inspired by these lovely drawings to let go of my fear of getting it wrong and allow spontaneity, energy and fluidity into my drawings.  Concentrating on tone and texture rather than line!

Research Point- POP ART

Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the 1950s and flourished in the 1960s in America and Britain.  It draws inspiration from sources in popular and commercial culture such as advertising, Hollywood movies and pop music. Key pop artists include Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake and David Hockney, who took images -that might otherwise be considered disposable (e.g. Campbell’s soup can label)- that represent popular culture and presenting them as works of art.

In 1957 pop artist Richard Hamilton listed the ‘characteristics of pop art’ in a letter to his friends the architects Peter and Alison Smithson:

Pop Art is: Popular (designed for a mass audience), Transient (short-term solution), Expendable (easily forgotten), Low cost, Mass produced, Young (aimed at youth), Witty, Sexy, Gimmicky, Glamorous, Big business

Andy Warhol used Marilyn Monroe as a theme to study the cult of celebrity.  He used the same image from a film promotion photo multiple times and in a variety of colour ways.  The slight distortion of overlaid images creates striking resonance and cartoon-like quality to the pictures.

[no title] 1967 Andy Warhol 1928-1987 Purchased 1971
[no title] 1967 Andy Warhol 1928-1987 Purchased 1971
[no title] 1967 Andy Warhol 1928-1987 Purchased 1971
[no title] 1967 Andy Warhol 1928-1987 Purchased 1971

Peter Blake had a fascination with American popular culture.  This is reflected in his accoutrements in this self portrait;  he is wearing his baseball boots and badges, and holding a magazine dedicated to Elvis Presley, who had just become well known in Britain. Blake uses these objects like a traditional portrait painter, to suggest his interests or achievements.
Self-Portrait with Badges 1961 Peter Blake born 1932 Presented by the Moores Family Charitable Foundation to celebrate the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition 1979
Self-Portrait with Badges 1961 Peter Blake born 1932 Presented by the Moores Family Charitable Foundation to celebrate the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition 1979
Throughout the 1960s, Lichtenstein frequently drew on commercial art sources such as comic images or advertisements, attracted by the way highly emotional subject matter could be depicted using detached techniques.
Whaam! 1963 Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997 Purchased 1966

Whaam! 1963 Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997 Purchased 1966

Richard Hamilton takes a more abstract approach.. Here he depicts fragments of a car bonnet and a woman- referenced only by patches of black and white paint that outline her curved form,  the pair of red lips, which identify the position of her head, and by a pattern of concentric circles, which appears to represent her breast. The bonnet’s shape is more clearly indicated in pink and grey.

Hommage à Chrysler Corp. 1957 Richard Hamilton 1922-2011 Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund and the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1995
Hommage à Chrysler Corp. 1957 Richard Hamilton 1922-2011 Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund and the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1995

Research Point- Domestic Scenes

Find contemporary artists who focus on domestic interiors and analyse their choice of content, medium, format, etc. Consider how their work reflects its context in terms of era, fashion, mood, current issues, and so on.

I love this tapestry, The annunciation of the virgin deal by Grayson Perry (2012) in which there is distortion and a significant event occurring within the everyday normality of life. gp361_the-annunciation-of-the-virgin-deal_2012-full.jpg.  There is something comedic about this scene-  amidst the everyday clutter of life (mugs on the table, texting in the kitchen, dandling the baby…  I like the repeating geometric patterns and use of bold colours which clash and vibrate.  Grayson Perry describes the scene as follows:

Tim is relaxing with his family in the kitchen of his large, rural (second) home. His business partner has just told him he is now an extremely wealthy man as they have sold their software business to Richard Branson.  On the table is a still life demonstrating the cultural bounty of his affluent lifestyle. His parents-in-law read and his elder child plays on the rug. Tim dandles his baby while his wife tweets.

This image includes references to three different paintings of the Annunciation, by Carlo Crivelli (the vegetables), Matthias Grunewald (his colleague’s expression) and Robert Campin (the jug of lilies). The convex mirror and discarded shoes are reminders of that great pictorial display of wealth and status, The Arnolfini Portrait, by Jan Van Eyck.

In contrast there is something morality in this painting:  Mr and Mrs Stanley Joscelyne: The Second Marriage by Anthony Green (1972) where the domestic scene is presented as a veneration of the marriage containing symbols of marriage and fidelity.  ni_nmni_belum_u1842_large.jpg  I like the way the room is wrapped around the couple who take centre stage- almost as if their life and marriage are wrapped around them

Conversely, David Hockney’s My Parents (1977) presents the couple in a very conservative staid pose  It is almost emphatic in its lack of emotion and feeling, with the sideboard being more centre stage than the people.  Rather like an old victorian photograph.

In this picture by Vanessa Bell (1879 – 1961) was an English painter and interior designer, she explores the light on the objects in the room, which becomes more the focus of the picture than the actual objects. Vanessa Bell-Interior with a table.

I visited The Queens Gallery at Buckingham Palace in the summer and was excited to see The Music Lesson by Vermeer (1632-75) a-lady-at-the-virginal-with-a-gentleman-the-music-lesson which I had studied for this research point.  I am fascinated by the fact that the action is occurring at the back of the room and the lady is viewed only from the back also. In fact the action is partially obscured by the table at the front of the picture.  Perplexing!!   The accompanying description of this picture says that

The inscription on the lid of the virginal, MUSICA LETITIAE CO[ME]S / MEDICINA DOLOR[IS], means ‘Music is a companion in pleasure and a balm in sorrow.’ It suggests that it is the relationship between the man and the young woman that is being explored by the artist.

Artists who include animals in their work

The Portugese/British artist Paula Rego often positions animals and humans together in her drawings, prints and paintings, creating mythical narratives firmly based in her own culture and personal history. Look for other contemporary artists who include animals in their drawings; these can be imaginary as well as real creatures. Make notes on their materials, methods and ideas and test some of these in your sketchbook, then reflect on what you’ve discovered in your learning log.

I looked around for contemporary artists who use animals in their work.  I was looking for artists who use animals in unusual ways- alongside people or other less obvious contexts.  however, I struggled to find that many,

Paula Rego is referred to in the course book.  In the Young Predators it is interesting to decide whether the children or the dogs in the background are being referred to (or all of them).  It definitely hints at a story or a message.


Paula Rego Young Predators (1987) Etching and aquatint 24,6 x 25 cm

Paul Reid is a contemporary scottish artist who is greatly influenced by the old masters such as Rubens, Velazquez and Titian.  His subjects include creatures from Greek mythology and are painted in a very photorealistic style.  You are aware, as the viewer, that these are illustrations of part of a story.


Paul Reid  “Actaeon”-2009, oil on canvas, 70cm x 85cm. Actaeon was a young hunter who tragically stumbled across the Virgin Goddess Artemis whilst she was bathing with her nymphs. In her fury, she transformed him into a stag and he was hunted and killed by his own dogs.

I also enjoyed looking at the work of Franz Marc (1880-1916).  In a lot of his work the animals are abstractly included into the picture-  In the case of the deer in the forest the elements of the picture are broken down into colour shapes that lead your eye around the picture.  There is a depth of colour and shade that reflects the mood of a dark thick forest.



Franz Marc wrote: “Every color must say clearly ‘who and what it is, and must, moreover, be related to a clear form.”

In the Red Horses bold colours are used to depict the animals.  The vibrancy is added to by the use of complementary red/green colours, which agitate the eye slightly.

Positive and Negative Space

Positive space refers to the main focus of a picture, while negative space refers to the background.  Negative space is more complex than simply the background of a picture. Without negative space, the positive would have no meaning.

I started to research Patrick Caulfield as an example of the use of negative space in art, and was immediately drawn to look at  Matisse, by the notes in the course book that he had been one of Caulfield’s major influences.


Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) Icarus 1946

When ill health prevented Matisse from painting in later life, he began to cut into painted paper with scissors to create outlines that take on sculptural form. Using vivid colours evoking the luminosity of stained glass, these cut-outs are a clear example of the use of negative space to suggest form.  In this picture there is no actual detail of either the figure or the background, but somehow your eye fills in the gaps and almost creates detail that is not there.

Patrick Caulfield (1936-2005) is a 20th century artist who extensively explores the use of negative space in his art.  His work tends to use flat blocks of colour and clear edges and lines; often flattening 3D forms into 2D shapes.  In the following three images from vases of flowers are reduced into just flat shapes and silhouettes.

Vases of Flowers 1962 Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005 Purchased with assistance from the Tate Gallery Publications Department and the Trustees of the Tate Gallery Trust Fund 1976
Vases of Flowers 1962 Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005 Purchased with assistance from the Tate Gallery Publications Department and the Trustees of the Tate Gallery Trust Fund 1976
Black and White Flower Piece 1963 Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005 Purchased with funds provided by the Knapping Fund 1991
Black and White Flower Piece 1963 Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005 Purchased with funds provided by the Knapping Fund 1991

In the Black and White Flower Piece (above) the black parts of the vase blend completely into the black background- although your eye tends to fill in the invisible shape based on the assumption that it will be symmetrical with the other white side of the vase.  The flowers are suggested just by white shapes and by outlining and filling in areas of black shadow.

[no title] 1976 Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005 Presented by Bernard Jacobson Gallery 1976
[no title] 1976 Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005 Presented by Bernard Jacobson Gallery 1976
In this final picture, the vase and flowers seem to be simplified again, into flat, broad, black outlines and black shapes indicating shadow.  I suspect that if there were no shadow under the vase, the picture would just look like a flat floral pattern.  However, the shadow under the vase and the triangular grey area on the left of the picture, (indicating the edge of a table(?)), give this otherwise 2D image a sense of 3D form.

M. C. Escher was a master at creating drawings where there was no distinction between positive and negative space. Here is an example of Escher’s work which show the interplay between positive and negative space:

M.C. Escher

Research Point- Still Life Genre

I looked at Oxford art online and Bridgeman Education Library and various other links specific to particular artists to explore the development of the Still Life Genre.

Still Life (or Nature Morte) emerged as an independent art form towards the end of the 16th century in Spain, Italy, Flanders.  It allowed the status of the work to reflect the vision and skill of its creator rather than its subject matter. It was an opportunity to display skill, realistic light effects, colours and textures.  A Still Life was  traditionally meant to be read for its allegorical message- especially in the vanities theme of the frailty of human life.



‘Still Life: An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life’ by Harmen Steenwyck 1640 is a classic example of a Dutch ‘Vanitas’ painting. It is essentially a religious works in the guise of a still life. ‘Vanitas’ paintings caution the viewer to be careful about placing too much importance in the wealth and pleasures of this life, as they could become an obstacle on the path to salvation. The title ‘Vanitas’ comes from a quotation from the Book of Ecclesiastes 1:2, ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’  from

By the 18th century a lot of the religious/ allegorical meanings of the still life were dropped.  Typical of this era were kitchen table paintings featuring everyday foods and paintings to reflect the extravagance of life.

In the 19th century, the academic approach to still life was dropped and artists discovered a freedom to experiment.  The Impressionists explored colour and Cezanne gave still life a structure from which cubism is partially derived.  Cezanne is thought to be the most significant 19th century still life painter.  He was fascinated by optics and tried to reduce naturally occurring forms to their geometric essentials—the cone, the cube, the sphere. He used layers of color on these shapes to build up surfaces, outlining the forms for emphasis..  Other artists from this period include Van Gogh who expressed a weight of meaning in his still life paintings. Also Goya, Renoir, and Monet were key still life artists of this period.


Paul Cezanne- Still life with apples

In the 20th century art became essentially about the creation of new orderings of shape and appearance and still life was reinvented in a myriad of ways.  Henri Matisse for example pushed the boundaries of colour.  A lot of pop art is based on still life and the iconography of images. e.g. Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup cans (1962)

Henri Matisse - Still life with Geraniums (1910)
Henri Matisse – Still life with Geraniums (1910)

In Patrick Caulfield’s work, including vases of flowers,  (1962) the elements of the still life are honed back to the bare minimum- flat outlines of objects against angular geometric shapes and unmodulated areas of colour.

Vases of Flowers 1962 Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005 Purchased with assistance from the Tate Gallery Publications Department and the Trustees of the Tate Gallery Trust Fund 1976
Vases of Flowers 1962 Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005 Purchased with assistance from the Tate Gallery Publications Department and the Trustees of the Tate Gallery Trust Fund 1976

Cubists such as Braque and Picasso used colour, line, and outline to shatter the boundaries around objects- representing objects from several view points at the same time.

In Pablo Picasso’s Still Life with Skull, Leeks and Pitcher  1945, the symbolism of the vanities is re-invoked, reminding the viewer of the transience of human existence

Contemporary artists, for example Peter Jones and Cindy Wright,  are presenting a fresh new outlook on elements of the still life.  Many artists are exploring new media- such as photography and the digital age.  There is a freedom to explore the morbid, macabre and horrific, as well as the mundane and beautiful, and to focus on elements of the image rather than the whole.

Conversely, painters such as Tim Gustard almost swing back to the original Dutch 17th Century tradition with paintings of utmost photo-realism and more traditional compositions .   tim-gustard-the-kitchen-table