Tag Archives: Monochrome

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/