Response to tutor feedback for Assignment 5

I found my tutor feedback for Assignment 5 very encouraging. I was especially interested in the comments about composition and the balance of positive and negative space reflecting the balance of the figure on the edge of the sofa. I had not articulated this to myself but I think in playing around with the composition of this work I was drawn to a composition which reflected this balance.

My tutor also commented that I hadn’t reflected on how other artists had informed my work. This was an omission on my part. I was strongly influenced by Elizabeth Peyton’s composition. I suddenly noticed during this assignment Peyton’s amazing use of composition and colour. Her figures are usually cropped in interesting ways. I intend to look at Peyton’s drawings again, breaking down her work into areas to inform my own approach to composition.

I wasn’t able to follow up on my tutor’s suggestions about further study within the timeframe for assessment but I will do the following as part of my general art practice:

  • Take time to analyse composition of work by artists who appeal to me (and maybe some who don’t!)
  • Use gallery visits more effectively to feed into my own practice. Using sketches, note-taking, reflection.
  • Revisit my reflection and review my artist’s statement. My tutor says: ” I encourage you to focus more upon what you feel you are / want to explore furthervisual language, content / subject, quality of tone (emotional / psychological…) and choose a few very pertinent artists to reflect on.”
  • Look at Degas’ monotypes and combination of mono / pastel / charcoal.
  • Regarding conveying a sense of movement, passage of time:
  • Francis Alys Layered, taped, tracing paper drawings.William Kentridge, Patricia March, Susan Rothenberg cartwheel, spinning drawings / paintings, Sally Mann Interesting in relation to the controversial use of / ‘manipulation’ of portrayal of her children

Tutor feedback for Assignment 5

Overall Comments

Thank you for the care taken in preparing and organising your portfolio.  One A5 sketchbook; five pages, A4 sketchbook; 8 pages (son).  A3 sketchbook; five pages (self-portraits).  The log was available and up to date.  I will comment upon specific aspects under the key headings.

You utilised a broad range of dry and wet media within the preliminary stages and final outcome.

An interesting and inventive approach to composition, informed by experimentation and use of photographic methods (cropping-in). This shows confidence in your understanding and application of compositional devices.

An interesting and personal inquiry into your son and the ‘enigma of childhood’.  You explored this through a process of drawing, reflecting, visual and critical inquiry.  

Good use of research in terms of the figure, and specifically referencing photography as a resource, drawing upon a diversity of sources.

With regard to your emailed selection for assessment.  We can discuss this via Hangout on Wednesday 6th at 5.30pm.  

Do refer back to the assessment criteria and Guidance for Assessment on editing and selecting.  It is important that you consider what you feel is your best work (not necessarily evidence from each assignment).

Well done.

Assignment 5 Assessment potential

“I understand your aim is to go for the B.A (Hons) Fine Art Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to succeed at assessment. In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.”

assessment (see Conditions of Enrolment, Section 2 a). Contact the OCA Course Advisors to discuss this further.

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

In your sketchbook and the preliminary pastels you challenge yourself by experimenting with a variety of possible compositions.  These include some intensive cropping of your son tumbling.  In relation to when you began the course, this reflects well on your learning, understanding and confidence.  

On a pragmatic level; I get a sense that you have struggled at times, to set yourself a plan of progression and timescale, that supports you in fully experimenting with your range of visual language and mark-making.  In future it would be acceptable and beneficial to use similar format / structure to the assignment, which you felt worked best.  

There is something arresting and interesting in the bold composition of the final A1 drawing.  It seems to reflect the notion of your son’s ‘absorption in his world / activity’ and what you described as your exclusion from his.  What is interesting is that the peculiar cropping, intrigues the viewer, I found this worked best when looking at the drawing vertically and from a distance of around 6’.

The balance and weight between the negative and positive space of the drawing holds the attention and reflects that sense of the act of him physically balancing (precariously) on the edge os the sofa.  Perhaps this was intentional (or maybe not on a conscious level), either-way it is worth considering this relationship in future drawings.  (Pointers)

With regard to the composition, you don’t specifically mention any influences, yet I wonder if subconsciously the Saville’s have informed you here?  You refer to creating a sense of ‘intimacy’ in the composition, which I would agree with, whilst also in contradiction excludes, with his back to us.

There are elements of the drawing which I find distracting (particularly) ; the wrists, back of hands and the shoulder blades .  These are better perceived and drawn in the A4 sketchbook; pencil / pastel drawing.  It also looks as though you have truncated the wrist and hand (left hand of drawing) to squeeze them into the picture plane.  Review the drawing by looking at it through a mirror.  Try and re-draw these elements in the drawing.  (Pointers)

In your reflection you comment upon how you could have been more experimental in your final piece, yet don’t suggest how.  I agree with your comment; as there are elements in the sketchbook  (see under Sketchbook), where you get a sense of your son’s vitality and explorations of his physicality through play.  I would have liked to have seen more of these experiments.  These you explored in relation to some smudging and overlaid pencil lines.  it might have been interesting to also consider other ways of conveying movement sequentially or in layers.  Have a look at how Francis Alys explores this in his taped, torn and layered tracings. (Pointers)


Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

Exploration of qualities of movement using charcoal, masking fluid, hard and soft pencils.  

Experimentation with composition regarding tumbling son.  Noticing the potential dynamic of the diagonal figure cutting across the picture plane.  There’s a strong sense of weight, gravity and energy to these compositions; pencil with warm pastel and 138 opposite.  Here you portray a spontaneous, energetic play and shifting limbs and feet.

Testing-out of cropping devices to explore more abstract elements in the frame, brings an ambiguity to the scene.  An interesting experiment, especially in relation to your thoughts on the enigma of childhood and your son being ‘in his world’.  There is something you have intuited here, that is very interesting, about the ability of children to be completely absorbed in their own body, mind and space.

It could have been beneficial for you to have extended your prep stage to more fully explore some of these qualities of composition and a range of mark-making and line to convey that sense of shifting, fidgeting and movement.  Perhaps utilising the smudging and erasing with the differing qualities of pencil / charcoal line overlaid.  (Pointers)



Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis


A broad and diverse range of artists referred to on your log.


You researched across a range of secondary source material; books, blogs and articles (well Harvard referenced).  


((!)) You also visited exhibitions at the Tate and the Basquiat exhibition.  You made some concise comments on a number of 20th and 21st Century artists practicing across representation and abstraction.  It could have been useful for you to visually analyse (or even draw from) to compare and contrast a few examples.  Asking what you may learn from them in terms of visual language. construction of composition, picture plane, colour / monochrome, mark-making etc.  Some genuine reflections and comments upon your alienation regarding Basquiat’s visual language, symbols and references.  I wonder if you could have found some elements or aspects from your visits that may feed into your own work.  This is an element that you could consider as you progress; how can you regularly visually and materially, draw upon your research to feed into, apply and inform your work?  (Pointers)


Your research on Mullins triggered some interesting thoughts regarding the utilisation (and validity) of photography in art practice.  You make a distinctive point regarding your intention to explore not only your son, yet specific aspects of childhood, within the context of the assignment.  This is an interesting perspective and given more time would be worth you exploring further.


You researched into artists who convey a sense of movement or shifting in physicality.  You mention Degas in passing and I wonder if you have looked specifically at his monotypes, in and of themselves and also in combination with pastel and charcoal.  This is a simple technique which could help you to portray those qualities of blurring and expand on your mark-making potential.  (Pointers)


Good, consistent practice of Harvard referencing throughout.


Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis


Good use of your log to archive, critically reflect on your research and developing processes.


It is clear that your aims, intentions and focus shifted; as you worked on the assignment. This in turn has affected the outcome which has an ambiguity that is very interesting and less literal than your previous drawing at assn. 4.  You started off by focussing solely on drawing a sense of movement in your son’s limbs, this led to broader concerns regarding; the enigma of childhood and your evolving relationship with your son.  These are rich avenues of inquiry which I hope you will develop further in the future.


I invite you to revisit your reflection and review your artist’s statement.  I encourage you to focus more upon what you feel you are / want to explore further: visual language, content / subject, quality of tone (emotional / psychological…) and choose a few very pertinent artists to reflect on.  (Pointers)


Your research references both primary and secondary sources with good breadth and diversity.  


Good use of Harvard referencing..


Were there any specific artists (apart from Degas) who directly informed this assignment, as I couldn’t see any commentary if so.  It would be interesting and useful for you to elaborate on which particular research (and why / how) fed into the content and visual development of the assignment.  Consider this and add your response to your log.  (Pointers)


Your sense of questioning; of what you are doing, thinking and researching has been a useful, purposeful and sound practice throughout the unit.  Do continue to draw on and practice this as you progress.


Suggested reading/viewing



Degas’ monotypes and combination of mono / pastel / charcoal.


Regarding conveying a sense of movement, passage of time:

Francis Alys Layered, taped, tracing paper drawings.

William Kentridge

Patricia March

Susan Rothenberg cartwheel, spinning drawings / paintings

Sally Mann Interesting in relation to the controversial use of / ‘manipulation’ of portrayal of her children.


Pointers for the next assignment


  • Reflect critically on this feedback in your learning log.



  • More exploration in your sketchbook or on loose sheets at the prep stage would help you to expand on your visual language by drawing upon a wider range of mark-making and qualities of line- in relation to your aims.


  • Explore a sense of weight, balance, harmony / disharmony in the shifting of negative and positive space, as well as the cropping-in devices of composition.


  • Try and re-draw the wrist, hand and shoulders, first review the drawing in a mirror.  Do some small studies on loose paper.  Then redraw in the final pastel drawing.


  • ((!)) Each time you research: primary and secondary sources; ask yourself what you understand from the text / image / experience and what you might draw upon and utilise to feed back into your own work.

Research Point: Painting People by Charlotte Mullins

I was attracted to Painting People by Charlotte Mullins as I have been working on the figure in Assignment 5. The book covers a number of contemporary painters including some I have studied as part of the Drawing 1 course such as Elizabeth Peyton, Jenny Saville and Peter Doig. In the book, Mullins clarifies the difference between a portrait and a figure painting saying ‘this book focuses on artists who use the figure – whether specific examples or anonymous bodies – to engage with wider themes……the portrait, by its very nature, reflects the emotions and actions of its specific subject, and its subject alone. It does not engage with universality, and the focus remains squarely on the named individuals who are represented.’  (Mullins, 2006:8)

I hadn’t considered this distinction before and was very struck by it in the context with which I was working. I was drawing my son but I don’t think I was trying to produce a portrait of him. Instead I was trying to capture something more general about childhood.

The book also tackles the issue of using photographs as a basis for painting. ‘Photographs are a vital tool for twenty-first-century artists. Photography is no longer seen as the assassin of painting, as Delaroche and others initially feared it would be, but as an accomplice to painting’s continued existence.’ (Mullins, 2006:16) For many of the artists featured, photographs are an essential part of the process of making their art including Chuck Close, Elizabeth Peyton, Peter Doig, Gerhart Richter, Rui Matsunaga and others. Many select generic images from magazines, newspapers and other mass media as a basis for creating a whole new world or of commenting on our world as it is now.

Covering established contemporary artists, the book introduced me to many artists I hadn’t seen before and whose work I was drawn to including Henning Kles whose rich and mysterious paintings Mullins describes as ‘Whistleresque’ and I find have echoes of Peter Doig. Also, Hernan Bas whose paintings resonate with Elizabeth Peyton and according to Mullins are largely autobiographical while again being richly coloured and beautiful to look at. Anna Bjerger produces expressionistic paintings based on her own and found photographs while Mika Kato produces meticulous paintings of doll-like figures, each with a tiny flaw. Beautiful and deeply creepy.

Once again, I find the artists I am drawn to produce work that is beautiful, richly-coloured and sometimes very detailed, but also unsettling and strange.

I’d definitely recommend this book which looks at a wide range of contemporary artists who use the figure. Mullin’s introduction is an excellent overview of artistic approaches to the figure.

Mullins, C. (2006) Painting People. London: Thames and Hudson



Assignment 5. Reflection

Assignment 5. Reflection.

In Assignment 5 I wanted to continue the work on the figure I did for Assignment 4 looking at my son in relation to the moving figure.

I enjoyed the challenge of looking at how to draw a moving figure although I feel I could have been more experimental in producing my final assignment piece.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills. I enjoyed using various media to explore the idea of movement including pen and ink, watercolour, pencil, charcoal and pastel. As I progressed to the final piece I was drawn towards pastel as a medium in which I could explore colour and skin tone. I looked at various compositions and while the final “close” composition may have lost some of the movement of my original drawings it created an intimacy which I felt was also important.

Quality of outcome. I like the bold composition and colour of the final drawing. I would have preferred more abstract feeling of movement in the image – I feel I didn’t go far enough with the final drawing and could have incorporated a more vigorous use of line.

Demonstration of creativity. I did a lot of preliminary drawing exploring ways to represent movement and also as a personal response to my son. It was interesting that the subject of the drawing is one I love and I think that influenced the direction my work took. As such it encouraged the development of a personal voice.

Context reflection. I looked at a number of artists including Richard Hambleton, David Haines, Elizabeth Peyton, Frank Auerbach and Jenny Saville. I found the book Painting People by Charlotte Mullins an extremely engaging overview of the figure in modern art. It addresses the use of photography in contemporary art practice in a way which reassured me about its use in my own art practice.

Part Five: Artist’s statement

Being a child.

How to draw a constantly moving child? In these drawings I aimed to explore how to draw a child who doesn’t stay still. This followed on from a drawing from assignment 4 of my son lying on a sofa but clearly just about to move off (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

I used a still photograph as a basis for this drawing and I wanted to understand how artists have worked with photographs and film stills to make work. Peter Doig is one artist I have looked at who uses photographs and film stills as a basis for his work and as I drew my son I was also drawn towards the work of Elizabeth Peyton especially her composition and cropping of the figure and her use of colour.  Her work developed from drawing from still photographs of celebrities.  Now she focuses on friends. While she draws people in repose, I wanted to capture movement.

One of the previous areas I looked at was why don’t artists usually smile in a self-portrait? I think there is a relevance to representations of people moving. There is a suspension of disbelief when looking at a representational image. If the image is of something that is naturally still then it is easier to imagine you are looking at a real object or person. If the image is of something fleeting – a smile or a movement- then it is harder to suspend disbelief. Having said that, clearly whole swathes of art tackle moving people. Painting historical events and Greek myths was traditionally one of the highest forms of art. As a research point I also looked at the work of Richard Hambleton and David Haines who depict movement in very different ways.

I started exploring movement with drawings of my son bouncing on a trampoline (Fig 2)



I liked the energy of these drawings but wanted to get back to the idea of the moment between stillness and movement. From a different video I chose another still. I spent a lot of time on this drawing (Fig.3) I found myself wanting to give a feeling of warmth to the drawing as well as movement so I was drawn to using pastels.

Fig. 3

While I liked this drawing I was aware I hadn’t really explored alternatives.  There were also some issues because other people couldn’t recognise what the picture was of. The upside down figure and the fact that one arm is tucked behind the body seemed to cause a problem seeing the figure.  I put this problem on an OCA Facebook group and got some interesting feedback. Suggestions included: look at the proportions of the feet, make the feet clearer, crop the image to focus more on the figure, choose a pose which shows both arms.

I decided I had settled on the initial pose and composition without exploring any alternatives so I went back to the sketchbook to look at other options (Fig.4).



I explored a closer view showing both arms (Fig.5).

Fig 5.

As I worked through my drawings I came to realise what I enjoyed  capturing was a sense of intimacy combined with a slight exclusion. I am in my son’s world but not completely.  He has his own thing going on.

Fig. 6

I found my final drawing very challenging (Fig.6). The pose was difficult to draw. At A1 size there’s no hiding a misplaced line except by over painting and over drawing. While I had explored techniques of overpainting, looking at Frank Auerbach and Jenny Saville, I feel I lost some of the energy of my previous sketches in my attempts to get the figure “right”. Having said that, I do like the composition of the drawing and the push/pull of intimacy/exclusion. I think the process of drawing has led me to an honest place about my relationship with my son.

Assignment 5 Final work

Fig. 1 A1 pastel, charcoal, acrylic

My final drawing of assignment 5. I’ll probably carry on messing with it though. My aim was to focus on “poised for movement”. While I think the composition and pose work in this respect I’m not sure the drawing is fluid enough to really capture a feeling of movement.  This drawing was a huge challenge and while I’m happy with some aspects of it, the repeated over-drawing perhaps means some of the lightness of touch I value is lost. I had a lot of trouble with the position of the arm so I drew it over and over again.

I feel like I need to call it a day on this drawing now.

Decisions decisions

I have continued to think about the way forward with my final assignment piece.

I had reached a point where I liked where I was (Fig. 1)

Fig. 1

However, I realised some people who saw this weren’t sure about what they were looking at. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I wanted to know why and posted on the Drawing 1 Facebook forum. Feedback was very positive and suggestions involved making the feet clearer, drawing his left arm in a more obvious position and focusing in on the figure.

I did a few sketches (Fig.  2 & 3)

Fig. 2
Fig. 3

I liked the composition in Fig. 3. and decided to explore this further.

Fig. 4

In Fig. 4 I used pastel  on a coloured paper. I like the closer perspective on the figure. I wondered about the effect of cropping for an even closer view. (Fig. 5)

Fig. 5

This has made everything much more intimate but maybe has lost the sense of movement in Fig. 1. I would also have to get the drawing of the figure very accurate and I am working off a blurry video still.

I did a new drawing using the closer viewpoint. (Fig. 5)

Fig. 5

I like the tension of the pose and I think the closer view works well. I also like the non-blended pastels on the figure. I think this is the composition I will try to take forward to my final drawing.