Tag Archives: Landscape

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.

Part Three, Project 3, Exercise 1 -Developing your studies

Review your preparatory drawings from Project 2 and select those that have most of the elements that you would like to include in a larger drawing. It may be that you’ve already produced a composition that you now feel is strong enough to take further. You could decide to focus on a single form that dominates the composition, or you may have in mind a group of forms that can be positioned in an interesting manner, using repeated colours, lines, marks, textures and so on across the picture plane. Whatever you decide, try to be adventurous in your subject and in your composition. Test your growing skills and show that you can work beyond the expected.

I looked at my sketches from project 2 but decided to revisit the churchyard to investigate alternative views to draw.  I had already drawn a sketch of the churchyard but I thought it was a bit flat and although it had fore- & mid- ground they were on the same level at the bottom of the page.  I found some interesting headstones that I drew from a low perspective sitting on the ground and looking up past them towards the church.   I chose to work on a sketch of this view of the churchyard for this exercise.
This sketch is quite rough, using charcoal pencil, and was purely an information capturing exercise. I liked the way that the headstones in the foreground dominate the picture and the way they are in deep shadow, with the church and a number of headstones and memorial stones creating interest behind.  I like the textures and colours in the stonework.  The headstones produce repeating shapes acoross the picture that are silhouetted against the church stonework and trees/ vegetation.
I got a bit caught up in this view and when I got home I tried doing a different interpretation using bold felt tips- trying to reduce the colours down to a monochrome image:
I like the way I managed to simplify some of the detail and the slightly quirky nature of all the stonework.  The lines are not quite straight or in perspective- which adds interest to the drawing.
I developed the drawing further to produce a very technical drawing, with shading marked in using hatching and cross hatching:
St Mary’s Church:  pen on Daler Rowney Aquafine smooth 300gsm A3 watercolour paper 
However, in response to this drawing, even though I was pleased with the result, I was getting frustrated with myself for being too tight in my approach, so i started to experiment further.  I wanted to see if I could still produce a “sense of place” using a more abstract interpretation.  My first attempt was using indian ink (dry/wet brush, pen and ink, splashes, drips and droplets…) to capture the main elements in an abstract manner…..
I was quite encouraged by this experiment.  although it was fairly random, it captured the main elements of the picture (light/ shade/ shapes) and created an interesting drawing.
Then I had a go using a variety of colour media (acrylic inks, pastel, pen).
This picture tightened up more than I had intended, but nowhere near as much as the pen and ink drawing.  In some parts of the page it is quite abstract.  The colour creates depth and interest, I like the shapes and some of the accidental effects (colours intermingling, splashes etc).  You can see what it is a drawing of but you also know looking at it that it is an interpretation of the scene rather than a reproduction.
Observational Skills: I think the subject was well observed and well investigated through different approaches and media

Technically, I am using different media with varying effect and success, and am experimenting with different techniques.

Content: In retrospect I think the subject may be a bit busy and not have enough calm areas.  There is also a lot of “dark” as the sun was actually behind the church.  Unfortunately, this side of the church does not get direct sun, but it would have been nice to have some sunlit walls to contrast the dark areas. I did use some artistic licence to achieve this in one or two of these drawings.

Creativity – I dont know how to measure my own creativity, but I try to be creative by experimenting with different materials and techniques.   In this exercise I was much more creative than usual because I was so aware of being very tight in my first effort and wanted to prove to myself that I could loosen up and interpret the drawing in different ways.  I hope/think I achieved this?

what I would do differently:  I might try a different view another time.  As I worked on this picture I grew frustrated by the lack of strong light/dark contrasts.  However, where the church was in the sun there were limited objects of interest to use as foreground.  I would like to develop my style more to be looser and to master some of these media more so the abstract effects I created were more deliberate than accidental.

Research point- contemporary artists who work with landscape and a range of viewpoints

Use your reading list and other sources to find contemporary artists who work with landscape and a range of viewpoints and compare their approaches with those of earlier artists. Discuss your findings in your learning log. For example, compare Tacita Dean’s blackboard drawings http://www.mariangoodman.com (click on artists for Tacita Dean) with Seurat’s Landscape with Houses. The Seurat image is widely available online, for example at http://metmuseum.org

Tacita Dean’s modern landscape artwork series “Fatigues”  consists of six panel blackboard pieces depicting the mountainous landscapes of Afghanistan.

Tacita Dean - Fatigues dOCUMENTA (13) / Photo © Nils Klinger / Kassel 2012
Tacita Dean – Fatigues dOCUMENTA (13) / Photo © Nils Klinger / Kassel 2012

tacita dean fatigue1

The Observer.com/tacita-dean-fatigues writes:

These are drawings of the snow-capped peaks of Afghanistan’s mountains and the powerful Kabul River that flows down through them, made with no more than chalk on blackboard.  The show’s title, “Fatigues,” refers to Ms. Dean’s own exhaustion after completing a major commission for the Tate Modern, but it also hints at a military undercurrent. For more than a decade, Western soldiers have scoured these mountains, which have therefore weighed on America’s collective consciousness. She renders them as haunting forms.

In contrast, Seurat is known for his innovative use of drawing media and for devising the painting techniques known as chromoluminarism and pointillism.

seurat- landscape with houses

Landscape with Houses  Georges Seurat (1859–1891 Paris)  1881–82   Conté crayon

Comparisons of these two painting styles point to the following:  Both pictures are in black and white, but beyond that the similarities seem to be limited.  Tacit Dean works in white chalk on blackboard, while Seurat works in black on white.  Dean’s picture are photorealistic whilst Seurat hints at the image- it is grainy and dreamlike and the light is subtle.  Seurat’s picture is small and drawn in the open-air, while Dean works in a studio, over a long period, and on a huge scale in an almost brutally realistic style.  The finish on her works are quite harsh, the lines defined and the subject dramatic, cold, and harsh, with strong contrasts between light and dark.
Where the two overlap however is in the fact that the viewer is left to fill in the details lower down the pictures- the foreground is predominantly black in both cases and the viewer is tasked with believing and imagining a base to the mountains and a foreground to the houses.
I was looking at the book Contemporary drawing by Margaret Davidson this morning in which she discusses this Seurat picture at length.  I learned how Seurat used bumpy surface paper to create this finish, using the way crayon skims over the bumps leaving white valleys between.  The texture of the paper prevented too much detail being rendered and resulted in drawing that are both vague and subtle.  To create black areas he has to press hard to push the crayon into the valleys- the degree of blackness is directly correlated with the degree of pressure applied.  This tonal effect is a kind of pointillism creating different values of tone.  This technique in turn prevents marks from being too detailed, requires the artist to draw form using degrees of  light, and forces every crayon stroke to break into dots of B&W.  This technique results also in shapes being edgeless, with forms advancing and receding from the shadows.
Another Artist discussed in the book is William Kettridge.  I was encouraged to compare his work with the artists above because he also works in black and white.  He uses charcoal drawings to create animated films (e.g. http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/multimedia/videos/355) in which the addition, relocation and erasure of lines creates movement.  I like the way his lines and marks are very smudged and subtle in places, creating an image as much in the viewer’s mind as on the paper/film.  See this link for some examples of landscape drawings from his film Tide Table (2003): http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/134.2005/