Sketchbook (P1:Pr1.Ex1)

A short post to add some sketchbook work onto my learning log.  The following images show work from my sketchbook when I was working on Part 1 – Project1 Exercise 1 on the expression of emotions visually.  I also tried to take it as an opportunity to try a few different things, so I played with the watercolour pencils a little, used some oil pastels which I am new to.  I also tried working left handed, which is my non-dominant hand.  This was really about giving up my desire for control and accuracy with the drawing tool.  It felt very strange to be doing this, but actually gave me something to think about in the final pieces / formal task.


Image 1 – Joy – Various Medium. (Above).


Image 2 – Anger – Various Medium. (Above).


Image 3 – Calm – Various Medium. (Above).


Image 4 – Chaos- Various Medium. (Above).

Finally, a sketch in public …

Today I am feeling quite proud of myself. I have managed to do something that I have never done before, even when I was at college.  I have been out and done a sketch in a VERY public place, where, shockingly, people could see what I was doing.  Now, granted, the sketch was a A5ish five minute outline of part of a statue, but that was all I could buy myself from my son, who was busy Pokemon hunting close by.  Now, since drawing live models at the age of eighteen, I have always really enjoyed figure studies, but normally take more time and work with detail in what I do, so to limit myself to a five minute sketch was a bit of a challenge and something that in my mind was proving a little barrier.  I knew the proportions wouldn’t be quite right. that bits wouldn’t quite fit, but I have done it, so I am pleased!

So, this was my sketch of one of the Triton’s on Carl Milles’ bronze sculpture called  Europa och tjuren (Europa and the bull) which is located on Stora Torget in Halmstad, Sweden.  The piece depicts the famous ‘Rape of Europa’ from Greek Mythology, where Europa is abducted by Zeus who has disguised himself as a bull.  This is the centrepiece of the work, but it is surrounded by four Tritons, who are commonly depicted as mermen.  My sketch is of one of the mermen.  Overall, I am quite pleased; as I said, its a barrier breaker for me!  I have not focused on tone, getting darks and lights right, rather just getting a rough shape down, in a set time (I set the limit myself) and then seeing what the outcome was.


Image – 5 minutes HB pencil sketch of a Trition.

As a reference, to give an indication of how I like to work sometimes with pencil, I have included a fairly recent pencil study I did where I was looking at the male torso, in particular the muscle structure and with more emphasis on light and dark, highlights and shadows.  Now, these two are by no means a direct comparison, but its interesting to see the two together.  The second was working from a photograph (I’d love to say a mirror, but that would be a pretty damn spectacular mirror), and took around 60 minutes.  I have some fantastic A6 sketch pads from an art shop in Stockholm, and I love to use the paper for studies like this.


Image – Pencil sketch (c60 mins) of a male torso.

At this stage, I don’t really want to get into self analysis or critique, I just wanted to share what I had done and the tiny little bit of pride from actually getting out and sketching outdoors.  If the weather holds, I’ll get back out and sketch around the sculpture a little more, and also take some pictures.  If not, I’ll at least get out and take some more images. I will also include some more images of the art around Halmstad as it has an amazing vibe and great public art which includes an large Picasso sculpture on public display.

Some questions and advice sought …

I thought I would post a shortish post to just empty my mind a little as there is an awful lot buzzing around in there at the moment!  Basically, I am away from home on holiday with the family while my daughter attends an ice hockey camp.  We are in a beautiful part of the world, Halmstad in Southern Sweden.  The scenery is stunning and am in a nice, remote summer house around 20km from the town itself.  What is there to be unhappy about?

Well, I talked briefly in a post about what to take away from an art perspective and if I am honest, I stuffed some things in a bag and didn’t do a thing!  Now I am away again, and away for over a week, I am a little concerned that I am missing opportunities.  I know I should be embracing this place and making the most of sketching, being in the open, seeing new and interesting things, but I am finding that I have a tension – between on the one hand, just getting out and sketching, drawing, taking photographs and being creative and on the other hand, worrying about whether it is beneficial for the course.  Now I know all work will ultimately be beneficial, but I feel so guilty that I am not drawing shapes or working with the texture tasks that I know I have to complete!

So, I guess I have a few questions that anyone who manages to find their way to this post may want to try to answer for me, or at least offer there own thoughts or strategies when faced with similar problems.

1) How do you break that mental barrier of just getting out and sketching?

2) When you do, how do you experiment?  I am just about getting into my head the idea of carrying a sketchbook around with me, but then how do you stop it being boring (and by that I mean just a series of pencil sketches).

3) I have not been hugely experimental with the things I use to make my marks. Pencils, watercolour pencils, sometimes charcoal pencils … what do you recommend I have a go with?

Finally, a question for those of you that already did quite a lot of drawing, painting or whatever form of creative activity before … do you still manage to work on things that you are really into, but are not immediately part of your course, and if so, how?


Lines and Marks (P1:Pr1.Ex1) – Chaotic


The first of the chaotic drawings I undertook I used watercolour pencil, but decided to try to get a different kind of effect by using only my non-dominant hand, which is my left hand. I did this for a few reasons; mainly because I didn’t want it to be too much in the mould of what I had done before, but also because when I think about chaos, and chaotic, a sense of less control is important.  I think in chaos, there is some control, which I have with my left hand, but not the absolute control.  The fine motor skills are much less refined and as such, the result is very different.  No flow! I found myself working with quite hard lines, almost liked forked lightning, but then there was so much white space, I had to fill it with much more random and aggressive marks.  These reflect that feeling of confusion between the fixed points that you get when things are chaotic.


Image 2 – Chaotic – Coloured Pencil. (Above)

For the second chaotic drawing I tried to develop what I had looked at previously, but with a different medium, and also reverted back to my right hand, although thats probably not clear as I did try to not have too much control.  The marks are still much more defined than with my left hand though.  Again working with idea of defined points, or some structure in the chaos, with more random movements around them.  I don’t like this as much as the previous drawing, but development and learning isn’t always about progression!  However, as I was finishing this off, something hit me which I will try to show in the last two drawings.


Image 3 – Chaotic – Oil Pastel. (Above).

OK, so drawing three didn’t quite go to plan.  I decided to try something different and mixed some acrylic paint in water and cleaned out an old CIF spray.  The idea was to totally loose control of the medium, and in some respects the results would be chaotic on the paper.  Many lessons learned.  The board and water obviously ran down, which wasn’t what I wanted.  Finally, I added a kind of border around the drawing.  The idea was that sometimes we while on the outside we may appear calm, inside can be chaos.  It hasn’t worked as I intended, but given me an idea for the final drawing.


Image 4 – Chaotic – Watered Down Acrylic Paint, Sprayed. (Above).

The last drawing I did, I took a different route, keeping to the brief, but using some symbolism, based on how my thoughts had developed.  I decided to draw four circles.  These were there to represent different bodies, and within each of these bodies, chaos was shown, in different ways, as chaos for different people manifests in different ways.  One has a smaller inner circle, the idea being that this body has developed an extra layer to prevent the chaos escaping.  Finally, two of the circles are linked by marks that appears only between these two.  This I intended to represent the chaos as it can appear when someone specific is around.  It adds a relationship level in between the two circles.


Image 5 – Chaotic – Sharpie Permanent Marker. (Above).

Overall, when I reflect back, I decided to choose chaos because I feel that it gave me the chance to do something a little different, and I think that by the end of the complete series of sixteen drawings of emotion, I could see that I had started to play with ideas a little more and also think a little more about what I was doing every time I made my mark.  I do feel that many of my images feel a little ‘samey’, too much alike, but thats something to think about when I move forward.  The task was very challenging, as I have indicated before, actually very difficult.  I think by having to make four drawings for each one, you really need to think and come up with some creative ideas.  One of each would be quite easy, but the repetition definitely created challenge.


Lines and Marks (P1:Pr1.Ex1) – Calm


Image 1 – All four Calm Drawings (Above)

Part three of this first task, and when I reflect back on these four drawings, I am actually quite disappointed but I do feel that I had a bit of a mental breakthrough.  I will elaborate at the end, but initially, I will just summarise in that I have tried to represent the feeling/emotion of calm.  For me, calm is quite similar to joy.  Maybe its because I have a very hectic day job, which can be quite chaotic; as such I have learned to embrace  calm as being quite joyous!  Again, I chose to use dark blue here rather than black.  When I think of calm, maybe I would have preferred light blue.  A comic image that comes into my mind with calm is the opening sequence of ‘The Simpsons’, where the cloud part on the light blue sky, but I digress!


Image 2 – Calm – Coloured Pencil. (Above)

I instinctively wanted to do something ‘fluffy’ for calm.  As I said before, I was thinking clouds, but it didn’t really end up like that.  With this task, I have tried not to overthink what I am doing, trying to be instinctive but it ended up looking quite like my joy image with the same medium.  I think this was more rounded, again with flow. This time it was one continuous line moving from the outside into the centre.  I don’t really like the way this worked.


Image 3 – Calm – Sharpie Permanent Marker. (Above)

Again, I have used a Sharpie Permanent Marker for image two of calm, and while I like the overall look at the end, the process seemed very similar to what I have done before.  I was very calm when doing this and I like the loops and curves, but it didn’t really inspire me when I stepped back from it.  However, I did start to think about how I could tackle this differently, and although it didn’t necessarily manifest in the next drawing, something in my mind had clicked.


Image 4 – Calm – Oil Pastel. (Above)

While my third calm drawing has a similar appearance, using the medium of Oil Pastel, I did feel a bit of a difference as I consciously started to loose the idea of flow and decided to work back on my curves and start to retrace and and some volume to them.  I like this drawing a little more because of this!


Image 5 – Calm – Finger Paint applied with sponge. (Above)

This is where I broke out of a bit of a rut in some respects, I decided to try to apply the paint with a sponge.  While the shapes are the same what I feel I have given up here is control.  With the sponge, I was out of control exactly how things would look, how things would go and how thick paint would apply and transfer to the paper.  Im not quite sure if the drawing really looks calm, but I like the overall finish and the freedom that I developed.  I solemnly promise to try to break away more on the last emotion I work with.

Overall, as I said, in some respects I am the least pleased with these drawings of all that I have completed so far. But, I also feel that I have made a bit of a mental breakthrough now with respect to what I can actually do in the task. If that was the purpose of the task, to try to develop the sense of freedom, then it is very well designed.  For the last emotion or feeling, I have decided to go with chaos or chaotic!  That could be fun and also I have tried to think of something that gives me a little scope to experiment a little.


Lines and Marks (P1:Pr1.Ex1) – Anger


Image 1 – All four Anger Drawings (Above)

Ok, part two here of this task, this time representing the emotion of ‘Anger’.  Angry is quite hard as I am quite a placid person, and generally quite relaxed.  I tend not to get angry because I feel it doesn’t really get me anywhere.  But I did my best to work up a bit of anger, even getting up early to do it so I could be on my own, and also because I rather enjoy being in bed when I am not at work!  Like for joy, I worked with the same set up as before, with the paper taped to the board which was on my easel.

After trying the oil pastel for the first time with joy, I decided to start with this, but in black.  Having used it before I had now got a feeling of what it would be like, and when I tried to express the emotion of anger, I felt compelled to strike quite hard, fast, aggressive straight lines.  I felt a bit silly at first, trying to be angry, but actually was able to channel the feeling much better than I thought I would.  Working with anger, I found it quite difficult to be subtle with the lines, it was hard and fast and always seemingly from, or returning through a central point.


Image 2 – Anger – Oil Pastel. (Above)

After working with the oil pastel, I moved to the Sharpie Permanent Marker, and found myself making similar movements.  These lines felt cleaner, and also a bit tighter.  I found myself with a second focal point, or place where the lines crossed or emanated from this time.  The movements felt much quicker, I suspect largely because of the ease with which the marker flowed across the page.


Image 3 – Anger – Sharpie Permanent Marker. (Above)

For the third angry drawing I used a charcoal pencil.  By this stage I was feeling quite emotive, and avoided using a more raw form of charcoal as I suspected I would simply break it with my aggressive movements and hard grip. While the effect might have been nice, I can’t afford to destroy materials this early in the course!  As I said, I think I was much angrier by now and I think this shows in the way the image has developed; it is much less controlled, and ordered.  The lines are much more ‘random’ (I’m not sure if I am looking for a different word here; perhaps I am). The top right marks are darker and thicker, largely because I had worn the pencil flat and was actually gripping it in quite an aggressive way.


Image 4 – Anger – Charcoal Pencil. (Above)

Finally, I used watercolour pencil, but avoided the water as I felt any softening of the lines would not adequately effect my anger.  By this time, I really let go and had to just aggressively create the marks as a I felt.  I don’t feel there is any significant development except when I had finished my first section, I was actually angry that there was a big space down at the bottom and I needed to fill it with something; hence the detached element of the drawing.


Image 5 – Anger – Watercolour Pencil. (Above)

Overall, after completing this task, I did have to take some deep breaths and calm down.  I had actually been able to get into this far more than I thought I would.  Anger is not something I like; so trying to represent the feeling visually was very challenging, but really valuable.  I would have liked to be able to use some more colours.  Also, maybe this would have been good as a video, so that you could actually see the anger in the physical actions.  What really amazed me was the physiological reactions that I was having as I progressed through this task.  I physically felt my pulse raising and had that feeling of my blood boiling.