Research point – Odilon Redon, Two Trees, c1875

“Look carefully at the image below. Note the artist’s expressive use of tone – blocks of dark charcoal in sharp contrast to expanses of light, and then the smaller details, lines and spots that pull the image together as an ambient scene. Try to find further work by the artist and discuss the atmospheric potential of tone in your blog.”

Two trees, 1875 - Odilon Redon
Odilon Redon, Two Trees, c. 1875. Charcoal on paper. (public domain)

Odilon Redon, Caliban, c. 1881 . charcoal. (public domain)

File:Redon spirit-waters.jpg
Odilon Redon, Guardian Spirit of the Waters, 1878, “Various charcoals, with touches of black chalk, stumping, erasing, incising, and subtractive sponge work, heightened with traces of white chalk, on cream wove paper altered to a golden tone.” (Art Institute, Chicago.)

Redon’s early career was characterised by works in shades of black he called his “noirs”. He uses very dark tones and vigorous techniques, scratching into the charcoal and rubbing it away to create images which have a feeling of drama. He was a symbolist and his uncanny images are complemented by his dramatic use of tone. You can find more on Redon here.

In Two Trees. 1875. the artist creates a relationship between the two tree trunks. The negative space between them creates a tension as they lean towards each other and nearly touch. I am interested in how Redon worked into his images to create a wide range of tones and effects. This gives his work great energy. I will try to incorporate more of this into my work with charcoal and also look at the negative spaces between objects to see what effect I am creating.


Visit to MIMA – Winifred Nicholson

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art is such a fantastic gallery. It is very inclusive and runs lots of activities and projects in the local community. We dropped in for lunch in the cafe which is designed to be an artwork in itself. I didn’t realise Winifred Nicholson: Liberation of Colour was on – it was an engaging exhibition about an artist I didn’t really know. In her long artistic career she focused on arrangements of flowers and landscapes with some abstract work. Her touch was light and contemplative. There was no photography allowed in the exhibition but there are many images of her work online.


I was drawn to this still life of cyclamen on a windowsill which is an early work by the artist. I like the use of light shining through paper which is wrapped around the pots and the use of subtle background colours to suggest a monumental landscape with minimal detail. The composition and location of the still life on a windowsill are very interesting and I like the way the shadows on the windowsill echo the mountain in the landscape behind the flowers. There is more information on this picture here

Nicholson wrote an article “Liberation of Colour” in the 1940s – I haven’t been able to find this online.


Image result for winifred nicholson palm
Palm, oil on canvas, 1980

At the other end of her artistic life in 1980, Nicholson painted Palm. Again it was an arrangement on a windowsill with a hill in the background. Nicholson has used a prism to look at the arrangement so the picture features the scattered light made by the prism. The image is loose and elegaic.

A lot of the works in the exhibition are privately owned and there are no online images. I was interested in her use of composition and made some rough drawings in my notebook.

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Comments on my work so far from Joanne Mulvihill-Allen, OCA Course Support

I emailed Joanne Mulvihill-Allen from OCA course support with a link to my blog asking if she had any comments on my work so far. Her reply:
Hello Emma,
I think you have made a good start here and you are starting to reflect on what you are doing and why.
EW: this is good to know!
This is something that will develop over time so don’t feel too pressured to have it completely sussed just yet, in time you will allow your research to feed into your reflections also, looking at artwork and responding to it and comparing and contrasting it with your own. There is a looking at artwork guide on the student site here.
 EW. my notes on this are here
Pick out the successful elements in your work and try to take these forward to the assignment piece. When something doesn’t work say why it doesn’t work and how you would do it differently next time, if you have time try and make another drawing inputting these evaluations. Exercise pieces do not need to be finished works, rather a place to learn, experiment and make mistakes. So you could just re-do a section of the drawing.
EW. I’m currently finding it quite hard to identify why things work or don’t work. I’ll practice this.
It’s great that you have started making thumbnail sketches, many of the compositions in each look the same however for example your jam jar is always on the left, try to move things around a bit more, perhaps try your page portrait rather than landscape. Use a viewfinder or a camera to hone in on areas and manipulate the composition further.
EW. That’s an interesting comment. I’ll bear it in mind!


Be careful when making expressive pieces not to lose your angles, you can create lovely gestural work that still looks ‘right’. Within tonal drawings lines are created through subtleties in light – a line isn’t a physical object, pretend it doesn’t exist. The line is an illusion created by the differences in the dark areas and the light areas. If you struggle to see different tonal values try manipulating your light source by using lamps and squint your eyes.

EW. I think I get the concept of there being no line quite well but I find it hard to keep the form of the object while being loose in my style – I will be looking to develop this.

It may also be useful for you to work on black and use white, you could do this with black paper and white media or you could cover your page in charcoal and work back into it with an eraser.
EW: I have tried this here.
If you are struggling to draw large use the gridding up technique, it may help you get your proportions right until you get used to scaling things up. The opening exercises in the course show you how drawing is an activity that uses your whole body, don’t be afraid to input this same energy into compositional work.

Until you can trick your brain into seeing what is really there and translating it to the page there are different measuring techniques you can use for example with a pencil, have a look on youtube for some quick tutorials.

For gridding up take a look at the following blog posts and an example of a youtube video – there are many more like this online.

EW I have looked at these videos.
It may be worth your while going back to one of these exercises and try it out.
EW I think I’ll try and incorporate as much of this advice as I can in the next exercise I do.
I think you are on the right track Emma, keep at it! Do let me know if you have further questions and concerns.

Kind regards

Joanne Mulvihill-Allen

Reflective writing

This is from “An Introduction to Studying in HE” a course from the OCA.

Reflection means thinking about :

  • how the learning took place
  • what you learned
  • why you learned it
  • how you might be able to use that lesson in the future
  • what it means to you

Reflection can help you:

  • understand your strengths and weaknesses
  • identify and question your underlying values and beliefs
  • acknowledge and challenge your assumptions
  • recognise areas of potential bias
  • acknowledge your fears

Reflective Writing checklist

  • what did I do?
  • how well did it go?
  • what did I learn?
  • What will I do differently next time?
  • How will I do it differently next time?
  • What have I achieved?
  • How have I put theory into practice?
  • How does what I’ve been doing lead me to become better at a skill?
  • How can I use this to plan for the future?
  • How can I use this to plan new learning experiences?
  • What do I think/feel about this?

Research – Giorgio Morandi 11/10/16


‘Natura Morta’, oil on canvas painting by Giorgio Morandi, 1956, private collection

I enjoy the quietness of Morandi’s compositions and the relationships between the vases. This composition is very central which confuses me. Is it a good composition? The objects are very close together. The image is plain and uncompromising but clearly arranged.

Giorgio Morandi ‘Still Life’, 1946© DACS, 2016
Still Life 1946. Tate

This also has a very central composition which is quite triangular. I do think it is beautiful. The green background and the pink, yellow and red on the objects make it feel considered. There is interesting space between the objects. The shadows also create shapes which are not object shapes. The Tate’s website says the oil paint was applied: “with lively brushstrokes” so although the image is calm, it is also energetic. The Tate’s description of this picture is here.

Tutorial with Cheryl Huntbach 3/10/16

In this tutorial which was a videoconference via Google Hangouts we discussed the assessment process for the first assignment and the aims of this assessment to give formative feedback.

I should use my blog to record exercises, record research and reflections with one or two paragraphs on looking and thinking on my own work and the work of others. I can also use it to describe how I apply research to my own work. Use the Harvard Referencing System.

We discussed how thumbnail sketches and photographs could help with composition which I find difficult.

Cheryl suggested I look at Matisse and Morandi.

We agreed that I would send Cheryl a link to my blog when it was set up.

We would review how I was getting on on 14th November with a view to submitting Assignment 1 for feedback by 1st December.

Study visit – South Square Centre, Bradford. 1/10/16

OCA tutor Cheryl Huntbach and curator Yvonne Carmichael took us round the exhibition: “STEAM Ahead” featuring the work of Cheryl as well as artists Fiona Grady and Rachel Barron. Yvonne outlined the work of South Square describing it as a good space for artists to try things out. The centre is used by a mixture of groups including an antiquarian society and it is also a community centre so the audience for exhibitions is very varied.

Rachel Barron

Rachel designed stampers based on patterns in the building – arches, circles, rectangles. Visitors can use these to make their own artworks. There is a strong design element to her work. Her work can be seen at

Fiona Grady

In Fiona Grady’s work, she repeats a sequence of circles drawn with a compass on the wall.

Cheryl Huntbach

It was great to be able to talk to Cheryl about her work. She made a series of drawings – done by spending 7 minutes a day drawing – from her window of the same branch. This then led to a series of images created with a 3-D pen which were hung in the gallery. It was interesting to learn about the importance of process in her work and setting up a system with boundaries.

We followed the tour with a drawing workshop which consisted of a series of 7 minute drawings of a still life. We used sticks and ink which pushed us to be more expressive and less precise in our work. As we looked at the same part of the still life each time it let us get to know the forms and I found myself concentrating more on the negative space and simplifying in the later drawings. I found it useful to draw the same thing repeatedly which helped me get to know the subject better.






During the workshop we discussed useful research areas including:

Michel Petry ‘Nature Morte: Contemporary artists reinvigorate the still life tradition Thames & Hudson 2013
William Kentridge