exercise two: composition – an interior
I had already done the research on interiors before I began these exercises and though I didn’t use the following works in my research piece, they had stuck in my mind.
Giacometti’s Interior, 1949 is oil on canvas though it looks like pastels or chalks with maybe diluted white paint over the top – everything smudging his original charcoal lines. I love the ghostliness of this. I’ve seen some of Giacometti’s sketches and saw how he erased lines out – and in doing so brought in light. He seems to have done the same with white here – bringing light to the foreground and highlights.
There’s a sense of mystery – what people occupy this space? Has it been abandoned, suddenly, will they be back tomorrow. Does someone live here, years of clutter building up around them slowly, the windows blocked in? Actually I think it is Giacometti’s interior, looking at the Tate website it seems to have been called Interno dello Studio at some point. This doesn’t detract from its mystery, maybe it adds to it. I can’t help but think of the energy he unleashed here, yet for now it is calm, at rest.
Still one of my favourite albums! Before I digress…this album cover came to mind as I was thinking about interiors, and happily when I looked into it I found that the original image sits in some glory at SFMOMA. It is a photograph (transparency over magazine illustration) by Joanne Leonard from 1971.
I find it so beautiful, sad, haunting, dreamlike. The curtain of trees has encroached over the entire image – mirror, walls, bed – everywhere except the body. I’m intrigued by the way the image uses layers to play with space and dimension.
I discovered artist Mamma Anderson for the first time researching interiors. I wonder why she chose the title Room under the influence – it’s definitely a statement, unlike Giacometti’s ‘Interior’. I like to think the room is in some kind of ‘altered state’, though it may be that she is referring more directly to something with that title – music? play?
The room looks like a theatre set, waiting for its actors to appear and occupy its space. Or maybe a room in a doll’s house – with front walls and ceiling removed. Sandwiched between two strips of unreadable darkness, the room sits under the glare of an undeclared light. Whoever occupies this room will most definitely be on display, watched, whether they like it or not.
I’m also interested in the colours she uses. A minty green and pastel pink sing out sugary sweet from the drab. It’s unexpected and yet it doesn’t shout out.
(Added note: Ok so maybe I should have checked this first, but it seems Anderson did take a theatre set as her inspiration – Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theatre)
The final image that has caught my eye is more exterior, though bombs have blasted walls away to expose the interior. I like this for the lighting, for the menacing sky, for the colours and the simplicity of it. Piper had been sent to record the bomb damage in Bath and while this feels quite ‘architectural’ he has still got across the savagery of war in the light of fire and the dark of the cloud.
Only once I had printed these images out did I see what a limited palette I had found myself. I’m not sure why this is, why these appealed. The colours are faded, tired, melancholic even. Perhaps they suggest that they were once brighter and that in itself speaks of time passing, of past inhabitants.
exercise 2: composition – an interior
These colours were clearly speaking to me, so I mixed them up myself and painted the pages of my sketchbook – quite randomly – before carrying on with my sketches as part of this exercise. I’m using a separate sketchbook for the interior exercises – a thin book of blank pages I found lying about. Some of the pages, but not all, are very rough – a bit like the reverse of wallpaper – and I really like the effect this gives. If I can find something like this in A1/2 I will use it for the final piece.
I used acrylic (for now I’ve just got the 3 primary colours, black and white), applied them with quite a dry brush, and following Giacometti’s lead I pushed some dry white acrylic over the top in areas. I wasn’t thinking about my interiors, I just wanted to cover the pages. I’ve drawn in with a mix of charcoal pencil, rollerball pen and a conte crayon.
I used a simple black pen to go over the chandelier and I like the inky density it’s given.
This is my final sketch in which I really worked out how to fit everything in. It involved a lot of holding pencils up to measure. And learning about foreshortening. Areas that I thought were large taking up very little space.
Now I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew if this is to be A1/A2 size. I’ve got that sense of dread I get when I decide to clear out the shed, empty everything on the grass and then realise I have to get it all back in again. I’ve come this far, there’s no turning back.
The view is through a mirror on the mantelpiece. I’m hoping the dark shadow right under the edge of the frame will explain this, if it doesn’t, I’ll have to see if it actually matters. I don’t know whether to keep the peculiar white leather 1970s sofa in or not. It’ll be unrecognisable, though I think it will give more feeling of a room continuing than if I shunt it out of the way.
This makes me wonder about how much sense things need to make. I’m not bothered if the mirror doesn’t make sense – it was my view into another room – the door is opening on to another room – there is another room through the door behind me. The frame can become whatever the viewer needs it to be – wall, divider, another picture entirely – as long as it creates a question. Who is looking in? Who has been here, who is leaving? But perhaps the odd shape of the retro sofa if unrecognisable won’t be anything for anyone,
I’ve made a stupid beginner’s mistake, despite the warning in the course handbook about set up – I stood right up close to the mirror, balancing my sketchbook on the narrow mantelpiece. Now I have to manage A1/A2 in the same space.
I’m pretty sure I want to do this with charcoal and ink rollerball on paint washes, but do I start on coloured paper? As the walls are painted dark grey, I’m wondering if I should be working out of the dark? New things to try, running out of time again…
In the end the only paper my nearest art shop stocked bigger than A2 was white, so white it is, but I will colour it first.
Well I’ve got to the point where I feel I am out of love with the drawing and going through the process. I am already thinking about the next project – Assignment Two. Obviously I’ll keep going, I need to see if I can salvage anything. Once more it feels like lack of time has meant I am learning by my mistakes on the drawings themselves, rather than in the preparation. I tell myself I am a student and have been doing this just over a year, it’s OK, it is all the learning process. But faced with a huge sheet of A1 and half of it yet to cover…!
Problems encountered: I wanted to work with pencil, to keep the idea of simple back to basics drawing, however a combination of working on A1 and wanting huge areas of deepest shadow means charcoal gets involved. Next to the charcoal pencil looks silvery grey and has a shine I wasn’t expecting. I can’t dull the pencil with charcoal – the charcoal just slides off.
*I’ve come back to this after a two week break. Not ideal but I was in a different place, where I completed Assignment 2. And now I need to finish this. Looking at it after the break I’ve rekindled a little love for it. There are parts that work for me – essentially the sense of a corner lit up.
Problems I see at this stage:
- This looks like two drawings – split down the middle – but with no connection between the two. Is that a problem? I’m not sure I’ll know until I’ve completed the foreground to the right.
- The lack of nuance in the blackness of the middle window and wall behind the cupboard. I don’t know now why I went so uniformly black. I think I was after that denseness of shadow that feels solid.
- I worked so hard to get the perspective right but there are some big problems, especially with the middle window – it looks like it is popping forward, rather than running flush to the wall. I set myself up for problems with this drawing – it is essentially too wide to see at once – it includes everything in my periphery vision. I know that artists have managed this successfully, I’m not sure I have here.
I need to get on. I’m looking forward to the chandelier, I love its bold shapes, and I think it will bring some drama to the image. Not, however looking forward to capturing the 1970s white leather sofa!
final drawing (A1)
What I think works:
- the left of the drawing – the open door, the sconce. I like the creepiness of that open door and the glare around the light.
- to the right of the drawing, the lamp and its reflection in the glass door of the wardrobe
What doesn’t work:
- the middle section of the drawing. I’m tempted to cut this piece out and join the remaining sections together
- the perspective was so tough as I was drawing while panning around me. I thought I could capture the very slightly open doors of the wardrobe but it hasn’t really worked.
- media: I found the charcoal really troublesome, sliding around on the paper and becoming hard to control, even with repeated sprays of fixative. I also found the pencil disappointing – quickly going a shiny grey.
What I’ve learnt:
Overall I think I was a little ambitious with this drawing given the time I allowed myself. I should spend more time in preparatory stages – really investigating how the media will work, and ensuring the drawing is as I want it before getting started.
Final thought: does it work better as two separate drawings?