Assignment 5. Preliminary work. Part 4.

Following on from my previous sketches, I decided to look at other poses from the same video. This is probably something I should have done earlier!

Fig. 1 sketches. Drawing pen

Fig. 1. I liked the upside down drawing at the top and also the close up bottom right.

Fig. 2. Pencil

I like the cropped drawing (Fig. 2.) which has an interesting contrast of dark and light. I think it still conveys a feeling of movement through the pose and the tension in the muscles. It will be very difficult to do on a large scale and might be even harder for a viewer to understand, but I am intrigued to see how this will turn out.


Assignment 5. Preliminary work. Part 3

I drew an A3 drawing based on my previous sketches. I was drawn to using pastels to bring more colour and warmth into the picture (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

There was a lamp in the corner of the room but when I drew this in, it became confused with the figure however I felt the composition would be better if I put a lamp against the wall. The lamp shade would then create a diagonal down to the knee, forming a triangle with the head (Fig.2). However, the table is unrealistically tall to put the lampshade where I want it.

Fig. 2

I decided a standard lamp would be better. I wasn’t able to set this up during this session but I drew imaginary one for now to try out the composition (Fig. 3). I was quite excited about how this helped the composition so I am going to sort out drawing one in situ.

Even though I was feeling quite positive about how the sketch was progressing I was concerned because a couple of people found it hard to work put what was going on in the picture. I posted it to the OCA Drawing 1 Facebook page asking for feedback. The comments were really helpful and 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.

Going forward, I am going to explore the issues raised in this Facebook  conversation through more sketchbook work. I cropped the image (Fig.4) which does make the figure more central, but loses some of the compositional elements.

Fig. 4 a cropped version

Assignment 5- preliminary work. Part 2

I suffered a slump after realising the trampoline drawings weren’t working in the way I wanted. I videoed my son again, this time in the house and found a still from this which I liked because of its dynamic pose.  I did a couple of sketches which I felt were more on the right track.

Fig. 1 3b pencil

It’s slightly annoying when your first sketch does pretty much everything you want it to. I like the composition, the combination of line and tone and the sense of movement- especially in the feet. I wanted to explore using some colour.

Fig. 2. Pastel, acrylic, pencil

I did some background pastel in warm tones which reflected the colours in the room.  Then I painted into this with a thinned acrylic. I was aiming to give some texture and movement to the drawing.  Then I drew over with pencil and used thinned acrylic to block out the figure a bit.

The composition wasn’t quite as satisfying in the second drawing and the figure is too upright. I like the small amount of pattern on the rug and the loose drawing of the figure.

I will explore composition further.

Part 5: Research point. Using photographs as a basis for drawing

I used a photograph as the basis for my drawing of my son. The main reason for this is he won’t keep still. But I thought the photograph also captured an interesting moment where he was just starting to move off the sofa and away.


Fig. 1. Photograph of my son
Fig 2. Drawing of my son based on Fig.1. in charcoal and emulsion

I am interested in the use of photographs as a basis for a drawing. I am aware that there is not much point in copying a photograph so the photograph has to be a starting point for the drawing. Photos also distort what we see and fix it. When we look at something directly and draw it, our eye’s can pick out certain things of interest whereas a photo presents us with everything given equal importance. The interaction is one step removed.

In the course of research into using photographs as a basis for drawing I came across a non-academic blog post by Mitchell Albala who is a landscape painter and art teacher.  Using Photographs Like an Artist is an interesting look at how to use photographs which features work by artist Terry Furchgott. It is very unusual to see the artist’s source material alongside the final art work so I was very interested in comparing the two.

Fig. 3. Terry Furchgott, Woman Reading at Window, 2007, acrylic on paper.

It is clear that while the painting is based on the photograph, virtually everything has been changed. In his blog post, Albala lists some best practices when using photographs which include:

  • Photograph more of the scene than you want to include so you can make compositional decisions later
  • Don’t follow photographic colour
  • Don’t trust photographic values – cameras often create too much contrast between lights and shadows.
  • Photographic detail may not be necessary for your purpose
  • Beware of visual ambiguity which makes sense in a photo but looks odd in a drawing
  • Let go of the photo to develop the final piece
  • Make sure your source material has the information you need.

The use of photographs comes under fire in Are Painters’ ‘Reference Photographs’ a Form of Cheating?  a Huffington Post article from 2015.

The article quotes Steven Assael, a painter and lecturer at New York’s School of Visual Arts saying: “There are dramatic differences between how the camera looks at and experiences the world and how we see it. A camera records a scene in a split second, whereas we see movement over time. We synthesize (sic) our observations, and the resulting painting is the culmination of many moments. We selectively choose details and, in that selection process, meaning and surprises happen, giving the artwork a life of its own.”

However, Steve Rogers, a Florida watercolour artist disagrees: “I’ve been in Venice, trying to capture the fleeting light, and the light may change in five minutes,” he said. “There is no way I can set up that quickly and record that light, and I can’t repeatedly come back to the same location. The camera is the obvious choice.”

Finally a blog post on Redbubble by a poster called Blythart who is based in Blyth, United Kingdom. This features some lovely comparisons of photographs and final artworks by artists such as Picasso and Van Gogh which show how using photographs as source material can leave the door open for artistic expression and interpretation.

I really enjoyed looking into how artists use photographs in their work. I recently watched a BBC4 documentary about Augustus John which said he made his children sit for hours while he painted them. If only he had had a camera, they might have looked happier. The Tate features a picture of his son Robin where the gallery label says: “Robin’s consciousness of being scrutinised by his father could be interpreted as betraying resentment or unease. The two had a difficult relationship. Robin’s silences often infuriated John, who declared his son ‘hardly utters a word and radiates hostility’.” Maybe by not having a camera, John revealed his feelings for his child in a way a painting from a photograph would not.


Assignment 5 preliminary work. Part 1

In Part Five I have chosen to look at the moving figure. I enjoyed drawing my son in Part 4 (Fig. 1) and wanted to look at how to depict his restlessness and energy in a drawing.

Fig. 1. Drawing of my son

My tutor has suggested structuring my work as if it is the series of exercises and research points that we have carried out in previous modules. This seems like an interesting and organised way to approach an investigation of a subject.

There were a lot of things I identified in my drawing for part 4 which I liked. I enjoyed working from photographs, I liked the pose which was poised between stillness and movement and I liked the direct gaze. I was also pleased with the composition which is an area where I have struggled.

For my first investigation I decided to look at working from a video still and to investigate the representation of movement.

My video was of my son trampolining and I did some drawings based on stills from this.

Fig. 2. pastel and graphite
Fig. 3 watercolour and charcoal
Fig. 4. watercolour and charcoal
Fig. 5. Watercolour and graphite
Fig. 6 masking fluid, watercolour, charcoal

By figure 6 I was trying to make the background more abstract and give the figure a sense of movement through blurring of the edges of the figure. I also like the way the masking fluid brought the swirls in the background into the figure. However, I don’t like the monochrome figure which doesn’t convey the sense of joy which I get from my son when he trampolines.

Fig. 7a. Watercolour and masking fluid. Figure blocked out with translucent layer of acrylic
Fig. 7b. adding gel pen


 I added gel pen and drawing pen to make the figure more solid while trying to keep the sense of energy. While I have found this exercise interesting. I don’t feel the drawing is as interesting as my initial starting point (Fig. 1). I might try to bring some of the energy of these drawings into my final piece, but I think I will look at more static poses, with the suggestion of movement, which I feel worked well in the initial drawing.

Research: “Do we smile much when undertaking a self-portrait?”

Tutor comment from assignment 4 feedback: “Do we smile much when undertaking a self-portrait…?  Look at the evidence throughout history; Rembrandt, Alice Neel’s nude self-portrait, Lucy Jones, Frida Kahlo, John Coplans, Jenny Saville… Cindy Sherman.  Self-portraiture is self-reflective / reflexive and contemplative there may be moments of joy and insight, yet it is an internal-external dialogue or conversation with ourselves; as we draw or paint.  I wonder what your thoughts are on this and how it might inform your next self-portrait?”

I am very interested in this question because I think the way we view the face and the smile is changing with massive growth of the “selfie”. We are used to the artificial nature of a pose, the expectation to smile for a picture, the mask that we put on and present to the world – not necessarily a false mask, but to communicate “I am having a great time” we smile. It is a message in a picture. When we meet people we smile to welcome them. A smile is a social construct. It conveys the message that we are not a threat.

In drawing my self portrait for Assignment 4. I decided to make myself look less cross by smiling slightly. I felt this conveyed my inner self more than an intense gaze. I was aware at the time that this was slightly unconventional for a self-portrait although I did look at Rembrandt who has a higher smile rate in his portraits than most.

Rembrandt, stark beschattet
Fig. 1. Rembrandt self portrait. Etching.

I love this etching (Fig.1) which is full of vigorous lines but also delicately drawn to bring out the facial features showing a little smile. It is mysterious but good humoured, full of energy but still.

Rembrandt Laughing / Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Fig. 2. Rembrant Laughing. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. Oil paint on copper.

In Rembrandt Laughing (Fig 2) the young artist portrays himself as laughing out loud in costume. This gives a hint of why portraits of fleeting emotions, like a belly laugh, are so rare. They make it harder for a viewer to suspend disbelief. Unlike a photograph, a painting is made over a period of time. A person sitting for a portrait would naturally sit still and maintain a steady expression, a person viewing the portrait can fool themselves that they are looking at a person sitting still and looking back at them. Looking at a person laughing out loud, you know immediately that they are a painting because they are not moving. This makes a laughing portrait more artificial. This is actually one of only a few self portraits by Rembrandt showing himself smiling or laughing although he did do a number of portraits of other people including his wife Saskia smiling.

Saskia van Uylenburgh als Mädchen
Fig. 3. Saskia van Uylenburgh als Mädchen. 1633. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn Oil on Oak

Cindy Sherman’s work is very much about artifice. Since the late 1970s she has produced self portraits using props and makeup to reflect various “styles” of depicting women from film noir and horror to Renaissance style portraits (which also included some pictures of men). These pictures reveal the narratives about women which are embedded in our culture. But Sherman herself says they are not “self” portraits at all.  ‘People assume that a self-portrait is narcissistic and you’re trying to reveal something about yourself; fantasies or autobiographical information. In fact none of my work is about me or my private life.’ My vile bodies: Cindy Sherman interview by Judy Rumbold – Guardian archive, 1991. Although in the same article she admits that the work may come out of her own neuroses. ‘Maybe I am well-adjusted because I live out my neuroses on film instead.’ Which means maybe they are self portraits after all.

Sherman’s subjects are often grotesque and their smiles are too. In a series from 2008 she depicts groomed older American women whose masks sometime slip, showing the vulnerability underneath the clothes and warpaint. It is interesting how the backgrounds to the characters are an important part of the image conveying wealth or poverty, power or vulnerability.

Fig. 1. Rembrandt. Harmensz Van Rijn, “dark shading” (translated from German). Etching. from archives at Gemaeldegalerie, Dresden

Fig. 2. Fig. 2. Rembrant Laughing. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. Oil paint on copper. The J. Paul Getty Museum

Fig. 3. Saskia van Uylenburgh als Mädchen. 1633. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn Oil on Oak. from Gemaeldegalerie, Dresden.

Article on Rembrandt Laughing:

My vile bodies: Cindy Sherman interview by Judy Rumbold – Guardian archive, 1991

Eva Respini MOMA Assistant Curator discussing Cindy Sherman’s work in relation to a retrospective of her work at MOMA in 2012.

Tutor Feedback on Assignment 4

Overall Comments

Thank you for the care taken in preparing, selecting and organising your portfolio.  This contained the three assignment outcomes: two A1 and one A3 drawings,  two A4 / three A3 part-filled sketchbooks; (with post-its to examples,) three drawings from Pj 4, Ex 2.  The log was available and up to date.  I will comment upon specific aspects under the key headings.

You have worked hard and developed a momentum throughout the assignment.  Actively reflecting on and working through the feedback and pointers from assignment 3.  This has fed into and informed your approach to the life-drawing, research and exploration of media and process.

You are recognising some key strengths and that the process of working, erasing and redrawing offers interesting and dynamic visual qualities. This also conveys the act of engaging visually with your subject; reflecting time-spent, paying attention to the drawing (in action and outcome) and the ‘sitter’.  Developing sound observational skills to take forward.  This erasing and redrawing process may be a purposeful strategy to begin your assignment 5 preparatory studies.

Your approach and application of research is becoming more purposeful, as well as being relevant.  The reflections and insights you make, are feeding into developing your drawing strategies, process and visual language.  There is a sense that this is beginning to inform more personal intentions.  

You began the course with an inquiring approach to drawing and research, asking questions which have continued to feed your curiosity and deepen your understanding.  This is an important aspect of studying at degree level, I encourage you to continue this whilst trying to formulate and develop a visual vocabulary and emerging personal voice.

Good to see and read your appreciation and critical analysis of what you are doing, making and thinking around your work.  Take this balanced reflection and analysis forward into assignment 5.  Remember to acknowledge the qualities and approaches that work for you, and think about how you might apply and develop these at assignment 5.  

Well done.

Assignment 4 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

There was an acknowledgement on your difficulty at scaling-up from A4 to A1 and how this translates to a less-fluid quality of line.  When you draw how much do you take notice of how you position yourself in relation to paper, support etc, are you seated, croached or standing.  This affects how you draw and how you observe your subject, whether ‘real’ or photograph.   For example if you draw flat on a table-top, seated in close proximity then this limits your gesture and movement (probably) to finger – wrist fluidity.  Try standing and have your paper / support propped up, stand far enough away to be able to draw from the shoulder, elbow… and expand on the way you ‘feel in your body’.  Mark your feet (with masking tape), so you can return to your observational position.  Try this out and record your thoughts, learningnotice how the different position inform the quality, fluidity, control, freedom of the line and marks.  (see Pointers)

You made some very astute and interesting comments in your log, which I encourage you to further explore and expand on.  One being your response to your friend who asked “Is that how you see yourself?” and you chose to add a slight smile or softening of the mouth and jaw-line.  

Do we smile much when undertaking a self-portrait…?  Look at the evidence throughout history; Rembrandt, Alice Neel’s nude self-portrait, Lucy Jones, Frida Kahlo, John Coplans, Jenny Saville… Cindy Sherman.  Self-portraiture is self-reflective / reflexive and contemplative there may be moments of joy and insight, yet it is an internal-external dialogue or conversation with ourselves; as we draw or paint.  I wonder what your thoughts are on this and how it might inform your next self-portrait?  (see Pointers)

Three quite different approaches to your; self-portrait , seated figure and your son.  What I notice having them spread out before me; yours is the smaller, contained and perhaps reflects the approximate literal size of the mirror, though it may be / proffer a more psychological, spatial connection / reading.  I wonder if you spent less time considering the scale / format / composition of the self-portrait.  How would it be if you drew the self-portrait again on A1, how might that open-up, invite a challenge to explore and expand on your visual language?  Do you have a full-length mirror to draw yourself; ‘Self-portrait as artist’?(see Pointers).

The seated figure has certain fluidity of line, the figure is hanging-in space rather than situated within the ‘room’.  There are various diagonal and sweeping lines around the figure on the page, but I’m unsure what these are meant to convey, they don’t relate to any edge, structure of elements in figure or chair, table.  Interesting that the figure appears calm / self-contained whilst the lines convey a frenetic quality.

The drawing of your son (undertaken from photograph) offers an arresting figure.  You say you noticed how you draw differently from photograph, yet don’t elaborate…. can you do so as this will be helpful to you (record on your log).  Your son’s gaze fixes the viewer, it is steady and direct, yet soft. You have captured the point at which he is about to shift; hand out toward the viewer and foot slipping off the edge of the sofa and the edge of the drawing.  Thinking ahead to assn. 5 plan to do lots of different studies of your son, especially his fidgeting hands, feet, head…

Analyse the range of quality of the surface, marks and tonal values of this drawing.  Looking closely there are some aspects; the far arm of the sofa where you use the eraser to draw and though minimal means use a variety of tone, erased mark and conte.  How might you use these marks to indicate movement in his foreshortened arm and fidgeting foot, lower body.  I think the black and white image in your log has an element of movement / out of focus hand.  These may be useful thoughts and consideration to inform the assignment 5 prep work.  Writ up your thoughts on your log). (see Pointers)


Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

A good use of your sketchbooks and exploratory drawing processes.

You have used your time well, to explore a range of wet and dry techniques and processes.  You have also chosen to explore fewer media in an experimental and purposeful way.  By exploring the combination of emulsion paint as a ground for pencil, charcoal and tinted paint.  Continue this process as you experiment and make studies for assignment 5.

Your range of approaches across the life-classes has enabled you to focus upon your observational skills.  This has clearly improved your looking and drawing skills.  There is a lovely sense of energy and fluidity in some of the drawings reminiscent of Egon Schiele’s female nudes.

There is a sense of weight and gravity in others: the two large males online: Croquis cafe drawings.  A decisive use of tonal values and strong directional marks, conveying the bulk of form.  Interesting how the figure ‘embodies’ the space on of the page.  The diagonal composition and placement in one, and the relationship of the figure to the ‘ground / surface / negative space’ in the other.  There is an interesting notion in the latter regarding being of the same matter; an interconnectedness.  (We can discuss this at Hangout on Tuesday 29th at 3pm).  


Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Your research into Auerbach and Saville has proved inspiring and purposeful.  Through your reflections and visual analysis you applied and developed some useful strategies.  Incorporating creating a tooth for the charcoal (emulsion paint) and experimenting with erasure and reiteration of marks.  An interesting approach to expanding upon your visual vocabulary.  Continue to explore this approach at assignment 5.  (see Pointers).

Regarding following up on previous feedback; you undertook good critical analysis of the compositional structures in Doig and Berg’s works.  This also included colour and how these elements convey certain visual and psychological responses.  It would be useful to take this further and see how you might apply, what you learned from this analysis, that you could utilise in your own composition or use of colour.  Don’t force this if it doesn’t seem appropriate at assn. 5. (see Pointers)

Good concise reflection and analysis of a range of research across historical and contemporary figuration.  Try and visit one or two exhibitions during the progress of assignment 5 for e.g: Giacometti at Tate Modern:

Read the (mixed) reviews of the forthcoming film on Giacometti;

Good, consistent practice of Harvard referencing throughout.

See Research / Viewing / Pointers

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.

The log is a site where you are concisely and analytically reflecting on your creative strategies and how you are using these to explore qualities of charcoal, ink, pencil, pastel and paint.  

It was a smart choice at this stage (about to launch into the final assignment 5), to focus upon a smaller range of media, whilst exploring what you can do with this range.  You made good use of your exploratory process to explore making ‘interesting drawings’.  Try and develop these aspects at assignment 5, rather than further expanding on your range of media.  

Focus on what you are doing well and what you feel excited and inspired by, and apply this to your assignment 5 proposal.  Think about creating a structure to help you set an: Exploratory & Research stage, Review and Preparatory stage, Research and work on final outcome, Reflection on assignment with reference to the assessment criteria.  We can discuss this further at Hangout early next week (email me some dates & times).

Suggested reading/viewing


In relation to the notion of movement, linear dynamic, sense of energy in drawing;

Giacometti’s drawings and paintings of; Caroline, Diego and Annetta

New bio-film:

Claude Heath use of touch / blind fold drawings / introduction of colour through layering of line….etc

Kathe Kollwitz German Expressionist;  useful in relation to her dramatic use of full range of tonal values and drawing of children.

Charlotte Spencer is an interdisciplinary dancer, choreographer….. the link is to a specific collaborative project.  It is a bit tangential (so do ignore if it doesn’t resonate with you), however it seems to connect with the notion of being in a continuous state of flux / movement ( your thoughts on your son… youthful energy and vitality..) also the quality of the residual marks are interesting in how they are both a record of an activity and interesting as ‘drawings’

for the next assignment


  • Reflect critically on this feedback in your learning log.


  • Explore your media and processes to convey qualities and ideas for assn. 5: movement, energy and the ‘enigma’ of children.  
  • #In relation to your critical visual analysis of Doig and Berg; ask what you may specifically take / apply -to explore and develop in your own work?  Is there anything you might learn from these to inform your composition, use of colour and marks, then set some aims?
  • Try shifting and exploring your positions when drawing. Notice / record how your position in relation to the drawing support and your ‘subject’ affects the qualities of line and mark.
  • Try and undertake a larger  self-portrait (A1?) and if possible use a full-length mirror ( do this after the above exercise).
  • Continue to use your sketchbook (and loose sheets) regularly to explore composition, mark-making and palette: monochrome & colour.  In relation to your ass. 5 aims make  notations, test of marks to convey movement & childhood energy; rubbing, erasing, smudging through the range of tonal values.  Record what you learn from this experimental process; set aims to explore these at the prep stage.
  •  Continue to record the erasing, smudging and rubbing stages as you draw.  Do this through series of digital images, notations and short video clips.  Note your thoughts on the technique and visual elements; how might you incorporate some elements of these as part of your planning / prep process?