Category Archives: Feedback & Reflection

reflection on feedback: part five

 

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My tutor’s feedback on part five begins with “…I believe you have finally made a breakthrough with your drawing”. And while it fills me with relief to read this, I think I  knew it myself. I almost didn’t need to be told. And surely that in itself is a sign that something has changed.

The feedback is positive, with pointers only towards artists to research and art theory to read.

There are reminders not to overthink future assignments and not to concentrate on one final outcome as this approach doesn’t work (for me).  And observation that my focus on drawing itself rather than the final piece has “enabled your drawing to become looser and evolve in a more ambitious way than we have previously seen in your other assignments”

Time is tight, and my plan was to ‘revisit’ Assignment Four, but it already feels like it was done by someone else. I’ve taken a look at it but it feels closed to me now so I’ve started afresh. I’ve started drawing and we’ll see what turns up! It’s about the journey after all, and not the destination.

 

reflection on part five

Exploring the space we occupy either side of the ubiquitous ‘screen’ within a narrative whose ambiguity may have us question our own outlook on life.  My approach is led by an investigationinto an idea in my sketchbook generated during part four.

To put this more explicitly:

  • the space we occupy today – this side of the screen or the other – where do we exist (for example for our friends and family) if our contact is all conducted on the other side?
  • the idea of touch and its interpretation as threat or comfort (danger of safety)
  • one of my weaknesses is to form the final image in my head which nearly always leads to disappointment when I try to put it, fully formed, on to paper. My Part Five challenge is to change the way I’ve worked on past assignments.

I worked in an A3 sketchbook for the entire project, wanting to avoid the trap of ‘the drawing’ while pushing the idea of an investigation all the way. Despite this I was still expecting the investigation to lead me naturally towards a final drawing, and yet that never happened. I’m not overly frustrated at the lack of a grand finale. There are some happy discoveries and the last three drawings I did are the ones that interest me most and I cannot ask for more – proof that I have learned something along the way:

fullsizeoutput_1221My rather scrappy addition to Felix Gonzales-Torres’s image throws up so many thoughts for me. The roots of this project are in the sense of my mother’s touch in the days after her death. Here is the hand of Gonzales-Torres’s friend (who had recently died) in a work that explores the space we occupy and the traces we leave. I leave my own trace, reaching out to touch. My own marks invade that space, cross the screen and enter the narrative.

IMG_4228Pen turned out to be the only thing that could hold its own against the photocopy. I think the contrast gives it strength.

Here more than one hand gives the sensation of a bit of a scrap to connect with the ‘other side’. There is a certain movement which chimes with how our fingers scrabble across a screen. When I drew this my own hand was wrapped up in bandage (burnt in a burger-flipping incident) but I am OK with the awkwardness of the ink sketch set against the ethereal copy.

fullsizeoutput_1219Heavy-handed but I am happy that it has a sense of hands coming through from another dimension. I am relatively new to watercolour but enjoy its unpredictability which I think works here.

On a practical note – Ironically one of the main frustrations of this project was the irregularity of the photocopier. It is unhappy with anything other than A4 photocopier paper and undetectable changes in the position of my hand/the light are magnified – it is very hard to control the results. It would be interesting having a high quality large format copier to hand.

reflection on feedback: part four

 

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As I got to the end of part four there came a slow lifting of fog as I saw how vital it was that I change my way of working and more helpfully how I should do that. Feedback from my tutor confirmed this. This is what I wrote in my own reflection on part four:

Note to self: In part three I noted my stubbornness to not change composition (I often get fixated on an idea before I pick up the pencil) – and I didn’t really address this in part four. I realise I need to begin working and let it lead me, rather than trying to lead the work. I think this is quite critical for me – on the odd occasion I have let the work lead me I’ve gone to quite interesting places (in this part for instance the exercises on movement)

My tutor underlined this in her feedback: “…the preliminary drawing appears to have more drama and experimentation to it. The final work is a little bit too precise and considered….be more bold with your ideas!” and meanwhile work that stood out for my tutor were things that had happened while I had been messing about – the moving figure with pink lines, the photocopied hands.

(I’ve written (extensively!) in my Part Five about this change in approach, needless to say my tutor’s encouragement in her feedback on the photocopied hands – “huge potential” motivated me to use this as the starting point for Part Five).

Other points to note:

  • practice drawing more hands ( – aha! see part five!)
  • try to eliminate black outlines (life drawings), by either a lighter touch or shadows rather than outline (it was only when I spread out all the life drawings I’ve done that I noticed this tendency. I think in the moment of concentration I am so fixated on that line!)
  • build on academic reading, explore the theme of narrative through academia (alongside my existing reflection), contextualise your work (this will be tough, I already find Art in Theory tough going, however I’m part way through UVC which is helping enormously).
  • be more bold with your ideas…be experimental…go wild

Past feedback and focus points

Throughout my feedback I’ve cut and pasted things to focus on from previous feedback – ruled out when I’ve covered it – just to keep me on track. As I get closer to the end of Drawing 1 looking at this list helps me see how I have matured. What remains on the list now is less about technique, and more about approach.

from my tutor:

  • practice elipses but keep at it!
  • do my preparatory work on bigger sheets before moving on to A1, rather than going straight from A4 to A1 – this makes so much sense and I can’t believe I needed someone to tell me…
  • make a clearer divide in my sketchbooks from one assignment to the next I’m using my sketchbooks more so they are filling up for each part now anyway.
  • consider your own style and strong points such as perspective, architecture, mood narrative, atmosphere
  • consider cinematic opportunities and developing them further when possible.  
  • be more bold with your ideas…be experimental…go wild

and from my own reflection:

  • push myself to experiment more don’t lose sight of this
  • really try to get to grips with the different media (especially coloured pencils, pastels) and try out different papers – use contact SAA from tutor for trial papers
  • yet more messing about before committing to the drawing – don’t be frightened to make mistakes 

and specifically:

  • fix the perspective  problems on my assignment two floor tiles and the area around the shadow
  • make time to have a go at a real fish, after my trying time with the fake ones – would love to have a go at Turner’s gurney. go back and have another go

and as a reminder I’m adding some of the part one key points in here too:

  • plan the drawings better with light pencil so they fit the space
  • avoid drawing outline of an object – investigate how the object meets the space
  • develop more experimental drawings before committing to the final – to get a better idea of how something may work (for example with my idea to block in random objects, which didn’t really work)
  • try out sketching white on black! have been doing quite a bit of this

reflection at end of part four

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My main reflection at the end of part four is that I am freaked out to be at part five.

Like many I have plenty of reasons for not having the time I had hoped to spend on the course, but what bothers me more is the guilt I feel when I do skulk off to ‘do my art’. Once I get going of course I’m lost, but the getting going is too often held back by the guilt.

Aside from the guilt trips and the freaking out, there have been moments of joy in part four. Mostly from feet and finally understanding the surprising mass of them, the height of the arch and the width of the ankle.  Also the sense of a growing connection between hand, body and eye. The hand I am drawing with feels as if it is on the body as I draw, as if the body itself is imprinting the graphite on the paper.  That all sounds rather fluid and instinctive. I hope one day it is, but for now it is less smooth of a ride and more a continuous state of manically checking and re-checking angles, measurements, proportions.

I’ve begun to get a sense of the freedom that can come from being able to quickly capture a form with accuracy – I’m nowhere near this of course, but I can see how important it is to have the basics in place. Artists may abstract the body, distort it or simply suggest it, but it is seems to be always underpinned with a sureness of anatomical line.

Looking specifically at the criteria:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I’ve gone from drawing bodies with uncertain calves, dislocated shoulders and no feet to bodies that actually look as if they could carry out most of the basic physical functions so yes, I’m happy with my observational skills in this part.

Still I question my use of materials and technical skills. In this part I used conte crayons, inks, water-soluble pencils, chalk, graphite, charcoal and different colour paper. But there is more than this – I see other students investigating collage and bleach and using found paper – and I know I am lacking in this. It just never seems to fit with what I am doing, or aiming for, at the time. Note to self: maybe don’t be so earnest? try to play more…

Still battling with composition. In this part I had less control – having to take what space is available in the life classes. Where I did have control (Assignment: Line Drawing) I did struggle with composition. I messed around a lot with it but in the end found that it was to a large part dictated by my original sketches.

Note to self: In part three I noted my stubbornness to not change composition (I often get fixated on an idea before I pick up the pencil) – and I didn’t really address this in part four. I realise I need to begin working and let it lead me, rather than trying to lead the work.

I think this is quite critical for me – on the odd occasion I have let the work lead me I’ve gone to quite interesting places (in this part for instance the exercises on movement)

Quality of outcome

As with part three I found it trickier to work my way steadily through the challenges set by each exercise – primarily because I used a model in life class rather than finding my own – but I think the resulting sketches do get across what I need them to.

Aside from the Assignment- Line Drawing however, I haven’t worked on any of the sketches beyond the life class, and I wonder now if this is something that would have been worthwhile. Well I know it would have been worthwhile, but in the race to submission deadlines, I didn’t make time to do this – to mess around, investigate, find out where I could take the drawings. (I have had one particular idea swirling around my head, and maybe in the last couple of months left to me I should look in to it)

Demonstration of Creativity

This is a weird one. My tutor pointed out a developing voice : “embrace the atmospheric / dystopian graphic novel style imagery as this appears to be your voice or style coming through” which I have to agree does seem to be my thing, but I have no idea where it comes from. I have not so much as opened a graphic novel and I’m not keen on a dystopian/apocolyptic narrative in films or fiction.

I thought this tendency may be restricted to architecture (as in past assignments). I admit to a long-held fascination with abandoned structures, heavy industrial equipment (tugs, fishing boats, cargo ships) and pretty much anything rusty, but this ‘dystopian graphic novel style’  has even gone stomping across the self-portrait of Assignment 4 and if I’m honest was also trying to get a look in on the line drawing of Assignment 4 too.  My tutor has encouraged me to ’embrace it’. I would like to say that I’ve heeded her advice but honestly, I sense that I push away from it rather than embrace it. My hope is always to create something light and beautiful but each time some inner goth takes over and I seem to go back to the darkness.

PS. an after thought – ‘atmospheric’ certainly does not have to be dark – in either sense of the word.

Context

At the start of this course I found my sketchbook a bit of an awkward friend. I wasn’t really sure how to engage with it and my attempts felt a bit forced. That has begun to change in part four – it became a more natural thing to turn to and I found myself referring back to it more frequently. It has more ideas in it now, ideas with loose ends ready to be picked up.

My online learning log too has become a place where I come to think. I’ll write notes in here as I work through something and I find that if I get stuck, that process of writing down what’s going well and what isn’t, will often help unstick me.

Lastly in terms of research – I was so delighted that the Alice Neel exhibition came to my neck of the woods and I felt reinvigorated by it though I do still become a green-eyed monster when I read of the exhibitions (and workshops) available in the UK.

I am getting more confident at the research that comes as part of the course, and get a peculiar satisfaction when I instinctively see connections across artworks or artists.

 

 

 

Just thinking

Portrait-of-Richard-Diebenkorn

Photo via widewalls.ch

Recently I’ve been obsessing over Richard Diebenkorn, though only just now come across his ‘Notes to myself on beginning a painting’ which he could have written for me – for these are exactly the things I struggle with (excepting number 9 – chaos is a very natural state of affairs for me).

“Notes to myself on beginning a painting” by Richard Diebenkorn

1. Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.

2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued – except as a stimulus for further moves.

3. DO search.

4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.

5. Don’t “discover” a subject – of any kind.

6. Somehow don’t be bored but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.

7. Mistakes can’t be erased but they move you from your present position.

8. Keep thinking about Pollyanna.

9. Tolerate chaos.

10. Be careful only in a perverse way.

Taken from: Royal Academy

reflection on feedback : end of part three

Version 3

photo: incredibly just a few weeks after I finished drawing an abandoned factory for Assignment Three it was demolished. These huge tanks were also on my wish list to draw but now they’ve been taken away. No doubt they will be replaced by a shopping centre.

I hadn’t felt that confident about my work in part three. I’m not sure if this is something to do with getting half way. At the beginning of the course I surprised myself with some of the drawings (in a good way). But this last part I found difficult and I was unsure of all the work I produced. Come half way am I expecting more? Have I become more critical? Or was the work simply not as good.

After postal problems last time around I agreed with my tutor not to post – which made it harder for her to assess – and I’m worried that my work looks better online than in the flesh. So we’ll battle it out with the post again next time.

things to revisit:

(assignment two I still need to tweak)

‘composition’ of gates – will really try to make time to have another crack at this, using the six square grid as suggested. Not sure what this is, so need to investigate. This drawing had frustrated me as I liked the subject but it was evading capture.

‘townscapes’ of statue – aspects of this I was pleased with though I could see that the whole hadn’t worked. Thankfully my tutor has given quite direct (constructive) criticism – “needs more work. It is a little bland overall and could have benefitted from some more colour”. So I know that I need to really push at it. I think I had wanted to make something really beautiful and mysterious – and in wanting that I lost my nerve – this is no place to be timid.

other feedback:

My tutor picked up, as I have done, on a ‘narrative’ throughout my work, and my pointer for the next assignment is “embrace the atmospheric/dystopian graphic novel style imagery as this appears to be your voice or style coming through.” I do seem to see things this way – though I’m hoping this is a romantic rather than a dark side coming though. I’ve always been drawn to old factories, cargo ships, wasteland and shadows more interesting than the object that has cast them. Also the question arises whether I have considered illustration, which I haven’t, though I can see it’s a direction I shouldn’t dismiss.

Overall my tutor had lots of positive encouragement which has left me absolutely fired up for part four and to produce some work that I feel more confident about.

Past feedback and focus points

Below I’ve cut and pasted things to focus on from part one and two – ruled out when I’ve covered it – just to keep me on track.

  • practice elipses but keep at it!
  • do my preparatory work on bigger sheets before moving on to A1, rather than going straight from A4 to A1 – this makes so much sense and I can’t believe I needed someone to tell me…
  • make a clearer divide in my sketchbooks from one assignment to the next I’m using my sketchbooks more so they are filling up for each part now anyway.
  • consider your own style and strong points such as perspective, architecture, mood narrative, atmosphere
  • consider cinematic opportunities and developing them further when possible.  

and from my own reflection:

  • push myself to experiment more don’t lose sight of this
  • really try to get to grips with the different media (especially coloured pencils, pastels) and try out different papers – use contact SAA from tutor for trial papers
  • yet more messing about before committing to the drawing – don’t be frightened to make mistakes make mistakes!

and specifically:

  • fix the perspective  problems on my assignment two floor tiles and the area around the shadow
  • make time to have a go at a real fish, after my trying time with the fake ones – would love to have a go at Turner’s gurney. go back and have another go

and as a reminder I’m adding some of the part one key points in here too:

  • plan the drawings better with light pencil so they fit the space
  • avoid drawing outline of an object – investigate how the object meets the space
  • develop more experimental drawings before committing to the final – to get a better idea of how something may work (for example with my idea to block in random objects, which didn’t really work)
  • try out sketching white on black! have been doing quite a bit of this

reflection at end of part three

Version 2

Part three has been done in fits and starts. ‘Done’ rather than ‘completed’ because it doesn’t feel completed. I don’t feel I’ve got my teeth in to any one exercise, time has been chomping at my heels, pushing me on. Though as I’m now more than half way through, I wonder optimistically if this feeling comes from me seeing more potential in each subject. Rather than a little path to explore for each exercise, now I see an entire motorway network, spreading out in to A roads, B roads, gravel tracks – all waiting to be investigated.

I wouldn’t be English without a little moan about the weather and no, it hasn’t helped. I tend to do coursework in the evening, and of course it gets dark around 5pm. We’ve had the coldest weather for many years, some days struggling to get above 3c. And then there’s the Mistral – don’t get me started. Consequently I’ve done very little sketching outside, some from the car, some from a window but mostly from photographs and I don’t see as well like that.

I’ve also keenly felt my lack of exposure to art this winter – most galleries near me are closed until mid March when the tourists start to trickle in again. I’ve read about exhibitions taking place in the UK and feel I am missing a great deal. I’ve seen a couple of photographic exhibitions and Tony Cragg’s sculpture, but would love to get access to the artists that I’ve been researching. However I continue to listen to Tate and Royal Academy podcasts among others, read books and catalogues and catch relevant documentaries when I can. The more I consume, the more my appetite increases. Just like eating jelly babies.

Specifically thinking about the criteria for this course:

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills Materials: techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

Since I started with OCA’s Foundations course 18 months ago, some of my technical skills have improved no end, but some are still lacking. I do feel more confident of my observational skills and visual awareness now – I’m not daunted – I feel I can get something down OK. I’ve also developed a keener eye for tone and contrast, for shadow, for the ‘edges’ that aren’t actually edges at all.

I think I need to keep an eye on my compositional skills. I tend to leap straight to a composition and not let go. I don’t think I try enough things out. I see a composition almost immediately and am usually reluctant to let it go, when maybe I should.

My biggest failing here I think is technique – I am still grappling with this. I’m confident now with charcoal, and of course pencil. I have by no means mastered pastel or crayon, though I am getting more comfortable with pen and ink washes. I’ve begun using tinted and black paper but haven’t really go to grips with what paper works best for what.

Quality of Outcome: Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment

If I’ve understood what this means, then ‘content and application of knowledge’ has perhaps been a little shaky here – because of my piece meal approach to part three – I haven’t truly answered some of the exercises, and working from photographs has not been ideal.

I’m confident however that I’m presenting my work coherently, and I hope explaining my reasons for any deviation from the exercise.

Demonstration of Creativity: Imagination, experimentation, invention, personal voice

In the Gallery section of my blog I put the drawings from each part up together – it’s useful to see my progress like that – on one page. And I can see here that things are happening. I’ve gone from straight forward representation of something to drawings that are showing something else – something about my own response to the subject.

I can see that it’s still tentative, but as I get the technical skills under my belt, I feel more freedom to respond more intuitively. I suppose from this will come personal voice.

The weak area here is experimentation. Still. This has been my weakness since part one. I keep putting this down to shortness of time, the need to move on. I’m not sure how long I can use that as an excuse. There is a period of warming to a new subject, and my frustration is that just as I get warmed up and I start to let things wander towards experimentation the alarm goes off, stirs me out of that zone and reminds me to ‘crack on!’

I’m also aware of tightening up considerably, once I start to work on a drawing that I want to ‘finish’. I can see two routes to getting past this tendency:

  • having the time to say each piece is an experiment, so it doesn’t matter if I make ‘mistakes’
  • stop worrying about not having the time to say each piece is an experiment, and just living with the mistake. Mistakes are how we learn, if I don’t make them I won’t learn.

Context: Reflection, research (learning logs)

I enjoy the research enormously. I love the links I find, the connections I make between artists, works of art, art movements and my own discoveries. The links I find often give me confidence, inspiration, the push to carry on and do better.

There are themes that keep popping up, or that I am unconsciously steering towards. That is interesting in itself. I wonder if they might influence future images. The what’s here and what’s not,  what’s real and what’s not, our connection to place. In the drawings themselves there’s no denying the frequency of doorways, or a ‘looking through’ from one place to another. This hasn’t been conscious, and it’s taken me to this stage to see that pattern.

My big frustration here (mentioned above) is my lack of access to exhibited work. I see whatever is available locally (when it is open!), and catch what I can online but I miss seeing the real thing, because I know that time spent with art is when I perhaps learn the most.

I find reflecting on my own progress quite straight forward though as I progress through the course I feel more keenly the lack of fellow students in the same room, that lack of connection to other busy minds. The OCA forums and Facebook help a great deal to fill the vacuum but only to an extent.

Green?

I’ve just noticed from looking at the Gallery entries for the past three parts of this course that I have never used the colour green. What’s that about!?

Things I want to focus on:

  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
  • Experiment and explore around my subject much much more
  • Composition – don’t get stuck on my first choice
  • Pastels – really have a go at conquering soft and oil pastels
  • Inks – experiment more with coloured inks
  • Marks – think about mark-making
  • Use green!