Experimental sketches 

I have an ongoing drawing project looking at the daily clutter which builds up on our hall/dining table. I was finding it hard to sketch the whole table every day. My daughter was looking through some old interiors magazines for a school project and I thought it would be interesting to insert my sketches into the idealised pictures.

I’ve translated my scribble in the captions.

I like the idea of using idealised images from magazines and drawing what’s on my table onto them.
ballpoint pen. I quite like leaving the text from the magazine in. Does the drawing work as a line drawing – like a ghost – or would it be better to make it more substantial?
top: oil pastel. Doesn’t stay on paper – quite ghostly bottom: sharpies. I like the overwhelming mess. Sharpies are difficult to draw over so there is no definition
top: works quite well because of the plain background         bottom: drawn on paper then cut out and pasted onto the picture. I quite like the messy monochrome intrusion into perfect picture





Project 3. Exercise 3 Material differences

I haven’t felt as inspired by drawing interiors as the other sections I have completed.  I think it’s partly laziness as interiors seem to demand a lot more focus and making more choices than still life.

I took ideas from the sketches I’ve done around the house to inform  the final piece. I worked in pastel because I have liked the slightly odd, fuzzy and dreamlike quality it gave to previous sketches.

The paper was a sheet I already had and had a texture which affected how the pastel went on. I took advantage of this by leaving the texture exposed on the chair which had a slightly rough fabric while rubbing in the pastel on the smoother areas such as the walls and curtains.

I wanted the picture to look like someone had just left. The person from the chair who left behind a squashed cushion and the newspaper, and the child who had been playing with a toy on the window sill.
Generally I am pleased with how this picture has turned out. I did debate whether to collage an actual newspaper then draw over it but couldn’t get it to look effective – I decided it was something I needed to explore in my sketchbook.

I am slightly concerned that I am not being experimental enough with my media so this is something I’m going to look at in my sketchbook.

Additional note: I have just come across a discussion on the Drawing 1 email list (an email to this list goes to everyone on the course). A discussion sprang up about what is a drawing and what is a painting. A pastel can be a painting if it doesn’t contain the mark-making inherent in a drawing. Work with paint can be a drawing if it does contain mark-making So, is my work above a drawing or a painting?

Albrecht Durer. Six pillows. 1493. pen and brown ink

What fabulous drawings! The drawing is so lively. Each pillow has a personality. I like the two together at top. I also like the fact that Durer uses a line to show the edge of the pillow. I always feel a bit guilty about doing that as the line visually isn’t really there.

Robert Rauschenberg study visit

Robert Rauchenberg at the Tate Modern is an overwhelming blast of artistic ideas. It is astonishing that one person could produce so much work in so many different areas. Did he ever have a crisis of confidence? The exhibition doesn’t tell us.

One thing that struck me about the exhibition as a whole was that all the art seemed to be manifestations of Rauchenberg’s personality. “his quest for innovation was fired by a boundless curiosity, the joy of working with what was readily available, an enthusiasm for collaboration and a passion for travel” (exhibition notes). The personality of the artist was an important aspect of the work.

I have discovered that virtually all art is much more meaningful experienced in person rather that viewed online or in a book. Rauschenberg is very much an artist of ideas. Was it important to see his work close up? I think it was. There was a physicality about Rauchenberg’s work which I didn’t expect. Looking at his “Combines” – work combining canvas with objects found around his New York neighbourhood – brought home the physicality not only of painting but also of searching for objects and making them into his art.

There was a strong emphasis on collaboration in Rauchenberg’s art especially in the area of performance art, dance and engineering. Open Score involved two tennis players  with customised rackets. These contained sensors that triggered bonging sounds and turned lights off when the ball hit them. When the venue was completely dark, 500 people performed a series of actions following instructions prepared by Rauschenberg. They were filmed by infra-red cameras and projected on large screens for the audience, who could not see them otherwise.

Holiday Ruse 1991 Robert Rauchenberg

It was good to meet fellow OCA students and discuss their reaction to Rauchenberg’s work.

What I take from this exhibition.

  1. don’t be afraid to experiment
  2. art materials are all around you
  3. collaboration is fun
  4. idea for painting. Take a walk. Every minute pick up an object and store it in order. Paint your impressions of the walk. Incorporate the objects on a grid?



Exhibitions at the Bowes Museum: Shelf Life. The ornaments are talking to me. by Mark Clarke and still life pictures from the permanent collection.

In Shelf Life, contemporary artist Mark Clarke assembles ornaments and pictures bought from flea markets and charity shops into meditations on the life of his mother who died of Alzheimer’s. Inspired by her groups of ornaments and pictures, the shelves are arranged in various themes Dinnertime, Once upon a Time, Time To Kill, Showtime and Prime Time. I enjoyed looking at the objects and the way Mark Clarke assembled them. I like the selection and juxtaposition of images. It was also interesting to talk to the gallery attendant who said: “I don’t know if it’s art.” I find myself at a bit of a loss when faced with someone who is asking: “but is it art?”

Once Upon A Time. Mark Clarke

I also took the opportunity to look at some classic still life painting in the museum’s permanent collection.


Fruit and Flowers 1866. Henri Fantin Latour.

Henri Fantin Latour’s painting Fruit and Flowers is a perfect still life. The colours balance between the flowers and fruit, the tipped basket and spilled fruit add a dynamism. The table slopes slightly. The textures of the glossy vase, woven basket, fruit and flowers add interest while the actual painting is beautiful with a light touch capturing the fragility of the flowers and the weight of the fruit.

Plums, melons, peaches. Jaques Linard 1642

I was also very taken by this much earlier still life by Jaques Linard. Plums, melons, peaches is a beautiful picture with glowing colours. It is interesting how the colour moves from cooler tones on the left to warmer ones on the right. it is a satisfying balance.

I think I’m attracted to the simplicity of these paintings in contrast to more elaborate still life and flower paintings I have seen.

As a side note, I must use capital letters when writing down artist’s names – I spend a lot of time searching for images using mis-spelled names which is quite annoying.


Abstract Expressionism. Exhibition at the Royal Academy 

This was a fascinating and far-reaching exhibition covering the ideas behind the development of Abstract Expressionism with rooms dedicated to individual artists including Jackson Pollock,  Mark Rothco,  Willem de Kooning, and Clyfford Still.

I was very interested in how the Abstract Expressionists were a supportive group. While their artistic directions were often very different,  they supported each other’s ideas. Their art was inspired by Picasso and the surrealists but they took it in new directions.

Arshile Gorky was one artist whose knowledge of art history fed into the ideas of Abstract Expressionism.

The Limit 1947. Arshile Gorky.

This is a large canvas and I love the colours and space in the image.

Water of the Flowery Mill. 1944. Arshile Gorky

Gorky took the ideas of the cubists and surrealists and took them in a new direction which influenced the Abstract Expressionists.

Jackson Pollock put himself in the picture with his physical interaction with the canvas. “Pollock’s aim to work directly from his unconscious led to a radical process of dripping and pouring paint over large canvases placed flat on the ground. The rhythms in Summertime reflect his belief that ‘The modern artist … is working and expressing an inner world – in other words expressing the energy, the motion, and other inner forces’.” Tate Modern website

Summertime. 1948. Jackson Pollock

Clyfford Still and Barnett Newman followed a similar path to each other with large colour-saturated canvases which drew the observer in to an abstract inner world.

PH 247. 1951. Clyfford Still.
Midnight blue. 1970. Barnett Newman.

I love Mark Rothko’s pulsing canvases which seem to be gateways to a different place. However, Untitled  (black on grey) 1969/70 was incredibly bleak.

Mark Rothko. Untitled. (Black on Grey) 1969/70

Were the Abstract Expressionists given to depression? Their art came from a desire to take the inner world and give it an expression. While Rothko and Gorky committed suicide other Abstract Expressionists like Joan Mitchell (whose monumental work Salut Tom was a striking end to the exhibition) and Clyfford Still worked to the end of their long and seemingly enjoyable lives painting ravishing explorations of colour and emotion.

Salut Tom, 1979
Salut Tom. 1979. Joan Mitchell




Project 3 Exercise 1 Quick sketches around the house

This exercise tackled quick sketches around the house. I enjoyed experimenting with and without a viewfinder which I found made a big difference in how I drew and how I composed an image. While the sketches with a viewfinder were tighter, without it, the sketches became more exploratory. With the viewfinder I was drawn to abstraction but I think the final images are less interesting when this happens.

I enjoyed using colour in some of the sketches.

I’m not completely sure which view I’ll use in my next composition. Either the ball point pen sketch of the chair and curtain or the colourful bedroom corner. I think the former is a simpler image which will make it easier to explore the different angles and viewpoints in the next exercise.


A quick pencil sketch with a viewfinder. I extended the space for the image upwards when my proportions went wrong!
Ballpoint pen. I like the curved shapes of the curtain and chair making curved negative space on the wall. I also like the way the window, chair and stool go off the edge of the page.
Pencil and pastel. I like the blurry edges and the source of light in the picture. The colour is a bit bottom heavy


A found abstract image showing the top of the TV and the corner where two walls join.
This sketch was done without a viewfinder and carried outwards from the chair in the top left hand corner. As I drew, my eye moved around the area focusing on different areas. I find with a viewfinder I tend to close one eye and “hold” the fixed image, without it, the picture grows more organically.
This sketch used pencil to outline general areas of shade, then I drew over with colourful sharpie pens. I left some areas without colour because they were white so showed in shades of grey. This is my son’s bedroom and I enjoyed drawing the brighter colours in this room. I used a viewfinder.
Another quite abstract image. It was very hard to get the very simple proportions right. It might be more abstract and a stronger image if I cropped the top of the picture off.
A cropped version of the previous sketch. I don’t think it’s an interesting image