Part five Personal Project – Option 2. Observation in Nature
Tutor’s Overall Comments
This assignment shows a serious commitment to your project. I want to commend you on your intensive investigations and your ability to learn from everything, the successes and the ‘failures’. Your learning log demonstrates your critical reflection, analysis and planning, the drawings themselves clearly show how this feed into the progress of your work.
You have made each exercise your own both in terms of the techniques and your personal challenges. Your work in this assignment is largely consistent, with confident handling of shape, proportion, line, negative space, composition, colour relationships and to a lesser extent tone, although you are aware of this and there is clear progress throughout the assignment.
Your somewhat scientific approach has many strengths as mentioned above, however at times I think it may hamper your creativity. For example, I think you are at risk of overlooking an intuitive response to your drawings as they develop and your methods may limit the potential for chance discoveries, for play and serendipity.
NB The drawings for the exercises were viewed on a laptop screen
Draw and Select
Well done, in these drawings you have combined close observation whilst maintaining an exploration of the materials, producing a group of drawings that show the distinctive features of individual objects and work as drawings in their own right.
Having chosen the orchid as your subject for the final drawing this is a studious and thoughtful investigation into what drawing opportunities and challenges different angles would offer. The coloured charcoal drawing shows that you’re continuing to experiment and challenge yourself.
The most interesting results of this exercise are shown in images 4 and 5, where you’re using line to indicate structure and volume. Because of its smoothness of the orchid’s surface the opportunities to explore texture are limited. I think your focus on the internal region is more about pattern and structure than texture. You could have looked at the soil and roots if they were visible.
Research point – your research took you beyond the artists in the course materials, you made a pertinent choice of images, thoughtful comparisons and reflections relevant to your own work.
This exercise has produced an accomplished drawing; you’ve been bold enough to increase the range of tones in white flowers, though I think you could probably make some of the darks darker. Using the hazel twigs has dealt with the particular compositional problems of the orchid, which you analysed well. Looking at the final drawing on the screen it seems as if you have developed a facility to depict tone using fine line; this works well with the subject, it helps give structure to the flowers, which although fragile have some rigidity, they’re not floppy.
There is some very thorough reflection and analysis in these experiments, which although they may have felt frustrating they highlighted the fact that at the end of the previous exercise you were getting to ‘know’ the orchid. I hope this helps you decide when to continue pursue a direction and when to break out in the future.
I think the Pitt pen drawings are a leap forward in this assignment, with their extended range of marks and areas of dark tone they more visually interesting than the later drawings. The intense description of the surfaces brings the viewer in close; I think this intimate experience is one of the reasons people keep orchids. I feel your depiction of structure is more successful than the experiments in colour later on, which are not so three-dimensional.
Torn Paper Collage
This is a tricky project and you’ve made a good attempt at creating a range of tones through collage to depict a three dimensional flower form.
The complexity of the central parts is beginning to come together but as you say, in the end there isn’t enough tonal range, You identified the problem about scale, on a significantly larger scale the telephone book pages would read as tone but you still need to not to lay the pages down as a background. In collage the torn edges of paper are often white and this can disrupt darker tonal areas and produce unwanted outlines.
With the way you have used the telephone directory pages the tabular nature of the entries have a vertical or horizontal dynamic in one plane, you haven’t changed this to make them work three in dimensions. This means they cannot integrate with coloured pieces of collage that you are using three dimensionally to create the form of the flower. I hope this makes sense.
Feedback on assignment
A well-executed drawing, that shows the culmination of your preparatory drawings and experiments with the tonal qualities of colours. Although the forms are created through subtle use of coloured pencils and colour mixing, they are immediately recognisable as organic and plant like, yet there is also a slight animal quality. This and the cropped composition give the drawing an element of ambiguity, which adds to visual interest. Again I think you have captured something about the subject, without making it obvious.
There are some areas of white where edges of objects meet, this may be intentional but it does tend to flatten the drawing, reminding us of the paper support. The same effect happens with the soil, although the marks add variety they don’t describe the soil in the way that the other marks describe the forms of the plant, they look like marks on a two dimensional surface (which is of course what they all are). I know you’re paying attention to particular tonal values in your choice of colours, the colours themselves work in relation to each other, but as a whole the drawing lacks contrast, the perspective is accurately observed darker darks would give more depth.
I think my comment above regarding creativity relates to this drawing, which although technically accomplished is lacking something small but vital. At some point in most drawings your intuitive visual response needs to take on the drawing as separate from the subject and free from your investigations. I realise that may seem contradictory but I think making art is a full of contradictions. We have to remain flexible all the time; making decisions about when to move in close and when to look from a distance, when to tighten up with close scrutiny and when to relax into expansive gesture and expression.
I advise you to do a little more work on this drawing before submission.
Reflection on the feedback: I am very pleased with my tutor’s comments. Even though I put a large amount of work into the exercises and the assignment piece itself, I did not expect that it would meet with the favour that it has because the coloured pencil drawing seemed to me to be too “tame”. My tutor comments (I paraphrase) that my drawing tends to be technically quite accurate but lacks creativity. I view creativity as at least the equal of technical skill but I also recognise that this is emerging by degrees and will take much more experimentation and practice to appear to any extent in my work. I have to let go of the need to represent the subject in an overly-realistic fashion (although I am not a fan of hyperrealism, which – in my view – is best left to a camera).
The main areas on which I now have to work:
– improve tonal contrasts and thus create a more modelled image with greater three-dimensionality. It seemed counterintuitive to add too many darks to white flowers but I will have to get over this…
– develop textural contrasts. This is limited in the orchid flowers themselves but there are opportunities for this in the soil.
– try to let go of the formality of the subject and draw more intuitively and so more creatively. I find this much easier to do when out and about with my sketchbook, drawing on location (which is done for fun and is not part of a course). It is much harder to let go when drawing to fulfil some assessment requirement, especially when you cannot know exactly what an assessor expects.
I will now slightly re-work the drawing, in order to improve tonal contrasts and create a less “flattened” image. I will begin this by working on an A4 copy of the drawing, focusing on the soil texture, the contrasts in the leaves and some flower parts, and on the flower edges.