Thursday, 29 October 2015

Landscape Research Point continued...

Some landscapes from early 20th Century which explore very different ways of painting landscape.

Paul Klee Landscape with sunset 1923

Flat, shapes and colours

Klee Station L112

What would happen if I tried simplifying all into shapes and colours like this?

Georgia O'Keefe Lake George - Autumn 1922
Vilcek collection

The trees are very strongly rounded - sensual.
Try overdoing it like this

Greyed colours show the low light

Oscar Bluemner No. 6 Valley 
Simplified shapes again, this time curved.
Oscar Bluemner No.3 Port beacon from Vilcek collection

Oscar Bluemner Port Amboy West (Tottenville)

Emphasis on the geometric, with the tones and colours secondary. Try it!

Stanley Spencer Landscape in North Wales

Detail definitely secondary to 3D shapes provided by tone contrasts.

Stanley Spencer Cookham Flowers in a Window

Detail is important but hasn't overcome the shapes of the roofs and hedges.

Landscape in contemporary textile art

Looking at how some textile artists work with landscape. With help from

Heather Collins
Forest floor
Heather Collins
handmade fabric, free machine embroidery

Detail of leaves from Forest Floor
Both images from
This sculpture gave me a wow moment when I saw it. I really enjoy the intricacy of the detail and the realism. From her website it is obvious that she is inspired by the textures and details, like me. I need to work on seeing the bigger picture as well.

Fiona Robertson is good at this. Her embroidered pictures of the Hampshire countryside show the whole view seen by a walker (rather than just a small part of the forest floor!) It's also interesting to see how her sketches translate into final pieces.
Looking at these landscapes with 'range of tone' specs on, I can see that the ones with the widest range from dark to light are the most successful in showing depth (eg the red and orange leaves one she used for the header of the page, and the dark path through the yellow flowers are much more direct and atmospheric than 'first signs' or 'autumn view' - although they both use colour beautifully.

Looking at this I think I should have a try doing a single sketch in different degrees of tonal contrast, to see what happens to it.

Carol Naylor's landscapes are more expressive than realistic, and use colour in interesting ways.
She also deliberately uses the distorting effect of the machine embroidery on duck canvas.

Carol Naylor Diamonds and Rust
from a Spanish landscape

Sea of Lavender
Carol Naylor
That image, of a field full of lavender flowers, is one which you never forget.
I notice that she has not put in the flower stalk detail in the foreground, and in fact that would distract from the movement towards the ridge of pale yellow in the middleground.
I could do that sketch in different combinations of colours too, to find out what that does to the image. 

Heather Dubreuil makes art quilts out of fabric she has dyed and then fused and stitched. They seem to be mainly of urban landscapes. They are of a size to be displayed on the wall like a painting. Here are a few examples:

Rooftop terrasse
abstract in some ways
makes you think

Santa Cruz de Tenerife
reminiscent of Klee
partly because of the flatness I think
and the limited range of colours

Villagio Toscano
The texture and colour intensity
contrast between the foreground and
background are very effective.

These are much more blocky than the other landscapes which reflects what urban landscapes are like. It is more difficult to see a metaphorical or other meaning in these.

Caroline Dunn
Through this link, 'A walk around the block' a piece created from a sketchbook walk much like the one we've been doing in the course. She has left the sky, except in the places where the birds are flying.

Winter Landscape in the Dales
Caroline Dunn
This has a very strong sky threatening the landscape with the darkest and lightest tones, and the freest marks.
I could try using different degrees of freedom /control in drawing style to contrast natural and man-made.

Laura Breitman
Another detail person, but this time with an eye on the whole image.
These have a very accomplished feel to them. Attention to detail, composition, colour and tone. Very impressive and beautiful too. There is no need for meaning when it is so well done.

Laura Breitman Looking up
Collage in fabric

Detail of 'looking up' showing that
it is made of fabric collage
Laura Breitman Sunset

Laura Breitman Under the EI

Note to self - all those composition sketches and emphasis on range of tone etc are worth it!

Thinking about the ideas in Contemporary Drawing, what does the use of textiles as medium bring to these pieces? 

Heather Collins' forest floor - it focusses my mind on the impressive feat of producing something like that out of textiles. IE it stops being about the wonderful colours and textures of nature and becomes about the skill of the artist in duplicating it. More so than a painter? Perhaps. Because we are less used to seeing this kind of technical skill in this medium, maybe?

Laura Breitman's pieces, though, I had that awed feeling, but it was much less important than the experience of looking at something beautiful and evocative. I suppose that the use of the printed fabrics (some printed herself for the purpose) in collage add to the depth and resonance of the image.

Fiona Robertsons farm landscapes - I think that using textiles makes one aware of the stillness of them - the contemplative pace of both the sewing and the walking through the landscape. The colours are very intense in places - is that easier to do with dyed fabric and yarns than with paints?

Carol Naylors machine embroideries - definitely brings a distortion to the ground that drawing would not necessarily bring (or bring in a different way with the water effect on paper). The stitches distort the canvas in a way that makes you aware that the plants change the shape of the ground they grow in. Also machine stitching is intrinsically linear, reflecting the lines made by linear ploughing and planting of the lavender.

Heather Dubreil's art quilts - Not sure what it brings - would the same images made of coloured paper or painted in oil have less impact or interest? I don't think so necessarily, which suggests that the use of textiles is not adding any particularity to this piece of work. (But I could well be missing something).

Caroline Dunn's landscapes feel more personal, the walk round her home, and are made in traditional quotidian manner by sewing. To me this adds warmth and homeliness to her images.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Landscape - drawings

A walk in the park

Charcoal and pale grey conte crayon in sketchbook.
Looking at it now I can see that there needs to be more of a middle tone behind the trees and sign.
Also that there should be at least one person or dog!
A little house hidden behind huge bushes. I am drawn to these kind of scenes,
where you are pulled in to something half hidden.
The difficulty with this one was differentiating the highly textured bushes from the house,
which was quite well hidden behind and between them. Also that the tone of the bushes was had to get right.
Someone I know was jogging and spotted me and I didn't manage to keep going for much longer with an audience.

I enjoy looking at this view because of the feeling of space. It's difficult to believe it's in the middle of London.
The paths across the grass cut it almost geometrically, taking into account the undulating shape of the ground.
In the distance, the detail isn't obvious, and I made a note that I don't have to know what's actually there, just what the tone changes are.Aware that there is more detail in the foreground because of the grass and dead leaves at the edge of the path I'm sitting on, but I didn't think of drawing them in at the time.

This one was done as it got dark, in a little courtyard between two buildings.
There was a lot of contrast between the darkness of the tree and the light coming
from the windows. I used a charcoal pencil and a B pencil, and a rubber.
I'm pleased with the way the leaves on the ground came out,
and that the perspective is not too far off.

Sketchbook variations exploring tone and colour
Lake with ducks - tone only, using black and silver pencils on white paper

Lake with ducks using temperature of colour only
The green was a little darker than the blue which complicated matters.
Putting in the yellow showed the highlights which were not in my 'tone' sketch above.
Lake with ducks using tone and mark as suggested by tutor.
Lost a bit of tone with the detail again, especially at the edge of the water.
Enjoyed doing the water this way. Could try doing clouds like this too.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Landscape 360 degree sketches

The idea was to sit in one place, and do 4 sketches, turning a quarter of the way round a circle each 15 minutes so as to have a completely different view. This also has the advantage of showing you, as it did me, that you don't have to deliberately pick a view in order to be able to get a reasonable composition - because you get to chose where the edges of the picture are.

I was in Cheltenham and found a bench on the footpath between the station and the town centre which had reasonably open views on all sides.

This one of tree and railings took me a bit more than 15 minutes
because I got caught up with the detail of the tree.
I used charcoal, graphite, and grey conte crayon, and the white of the paper.
The way natural things appear between railings is appealing, and
I wonder if I could use that as a pattern for something.

This one of a streetlight looks now as if there is snow on the ground, but it was grass. I didn't quite know how to show the grass and the leaves fallen onto it other than with small shadows like I did over to the left under the bushes there. I can see now that I got the perspective wrong in the right half, and that I forgot about some of the tree trunks. And the man walking is far too large! 

The third 15 minute sketch was of an interesting curve in the path,
but was brought to a sudden end by a downpour.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Landscape - research point

Landscape is such a huge subject for artists. It's natural to want to depict the parts of the world that we live and move in. The exercise is to research artists from different eras who use landscape as their main subject, and some suggestions ahve been made - Albrecht Durer, Claude Lorrain, LS Lowry, George Shaw, and Sarah Woodfine. I'm going to have a look at those, and follow my preferences to see what else I can find.

Albrecht Durer 15th century
Albrecht Durer, Landscape with Cannon
I know and admire his drawing and woodcut work for its detail. Feeling awed at the time and focus it must have taken him to just sit and get it all down.

This one, of landscape with canon, gives me this feeling. There's a quality of messiness in the landscape which reflects what it is like to try to take in all the detail, and makes the viewer feel all business. Theres a feeling of space in the valley, probably due to the contrast of it being much less detailed, and then the detailed village cutting across in the middle background. The size and detail of the tree and the stones on the foreground ground give something of a frame to it, and emphasise the perspective. The presence of a cannon and soldiers in this rural scene must have some meaning, but not sure what 600 years later.

However, what I found on further exploration of his landscapes, was that many of them are obviously sketches, and that he was probably the first artist to use watercolour for landscapes.

Landscape near Segonzano in the Cembra Valley
Albrecht Durer

This one is an example - I was in doubt as to whether it was by Durer until I spotted the detail on the furthest hill, which is very much like the other works I am familiar with. (And the signature!) What I see here is:
Composition - that furthest, most detailed and dark hill at a sweet spot in the composition;
Colour - subtle variations in the watercolour across it, with the most colour contrast at the horizon
Tone - sketched in to suggest shapes in the foreground, detailed and more intense on the hill to focus attention
Unfinished - some filling in of intermediate levels of tone and detail on the hill to the right, suggesting that this was a sketch he never finished. This and the use of watercolour makes it feel remarkably contemporary.

Albrecht Durer Landscape with a Woodland Pool
From British Museum online collection

This is another of his watercolour landscapes - BM says 'This is one of his most sensitive and atmospheric portrayals of nature'  - thought to be outside Nuremberg.

Again, it has the look of a sketch done on site, with no particular meaning other than to show what he sees. There is an apparently unfinished part in the bottom right. I find this one a little unsettling, presumably this being what 'atmospheric' means.

Tone: There seems to be more light in the background than the foreground, with the areas of lightest tone being just underneath the strong clouds, and in the untouched white paper on the 'beach' on the right, and the strongest tone being in the nearest parts of the pool and the detail of the clouds and pine tree tops across the painting 2/5 or a third down.

Composition: The most intense parts are the foreground of the pool, and the clouds above at the golden mean reflecting this and intensifying the heaviness of it close to us. There are green pines in top right and green grass bottom and bottom left giving a sort of diagonal band of detail. Opposite this are two areas of bleakness in the truncated trees middle left and empty ground bottom right.

Detail of poolside grasses from Landscape with a Woodland Pool (britishmuseum)
Colour: The colours are apparently natural colours, with not much in the way of blueing or greying due to distance. One of the things that make it look like a sketch is that it looks like he was using a limited palate of colours and not mixing much. The grasses in the foreground are suggested by the brushstrokes and addition of a bit of blue.

Albrecht Durer Quarry
copied from

 This one is more comfortable to look at, with the familiar awed feeling regarding the detail and accuracy of his drawing. Obviously a sketch as it stops completely outside the areas of interest to him.
Composition is therefore less of an issue, but there is lots of interest here which keeps your eyes moving round. This is provided by the areas of deeper tone (middle, top left and bottom left), and one of greater  tonal contrast at the 2/5 line vertically; by the areas of detail which correspond broadly to the tone areas; and by the colour contrasts at bottom left, and the higher horizontal lines of bluegrey in the orange.

There is a feeling of hugeness which can only be because of the tiny spindly trees.
And of the warmth of the orange/ sepia colour, again presumably because of the contrasting grey-blue colour. This one has a lot more evidence of mixing colours to get them right.

Durer The Trefileria on Peignitz
again copied from

Looking it up online, trefileria appears to mean wire factory. Can this be right? Is this the 15th century equivalent of that? With a millstone in the middle! Not sure. The composition, with the buildings so close they crowd into the space, makes this landscape more of a study of the angles of the buildings and their relationships to each other. Durer has used tone to make them three dimensional, and this and colour to show that the landscape behind is receding into the distance. The detail is in the bottom left building, and the more intensely dark doorway in the front mid-right, and there is again a contrasting diagonal from left back to front right. There is an obvious area of vagueness in the middle ground. I'm not sure I understand the message or meaning of this painting. And there is something a bit blocky about it that I don't 'get'.

Durer Antwerp Harbour
This ink line drawing is refreshingly 'simple' after the watercolour paintings. No tone, other than that given by greater concentration of detail. There are large blank areas and a dramatic diagonal line in the composition which is satisfying as well as illuminating the perspective. Again the detail is in the further parts of the harbour rather than, as one might expect, the nearer boats, drawing the eye into it.

Claude Lorrain 17th Century

'Designed landscapes based on classical proportions'.

Claude: Landscape with Country Dance 1640-1
from Liber Veritas at British Museum
This detailed sketch in ink and wash in 2 colours is part of his liber veritas (book of truth) which he used as a sketchbook and also to record his paintings so people couldn't copy them. It is of an actual country dance at Malvern Castle, but the composition is carefully contructed according to classical rules. The zigzag of the cows, dancers and castle is pleasing, and the looming trees frame it off centre in a typical way. The two colours of wash (brown and grey) are used to provide a range of tone, with the deepest tone being at bottom left and in the trees to provide the classical framing. The lightest tone in the sky next to the darkest tree, and in reflection at a classical section point in the middle of the dance. It is very romanticised rather than realistic, suggesting that it is intended to be taken as a rural ideal to entertain and delight rather than a document of record.

A Spectator article by Michael Proger (22 October 2011) says:

'despite turning his attentions from pies and patisserie to painting he never lost his love for confection'

Claude: View of Tivoli
Taken from, at the 

This is a more natural looking landscape - a sketch done during Claude Lorrain's visit to Rome. Again composition is very important, and indicated by tone, but in this one it is simpler and less mannered, giving the drawing a more spontaneous look to it. Done in ink, wash and chalk.

Here are some of his more familiar 'ideal' landscapes, which he did for aristocratic patrons - apparently he was shrewd and died wealthy. He was friends with Poussin, also known for ideal landscapes.

Claude - View of La Crescenza - oil on canvas

Claude: The Ford
oil on canvas
from metmuseum. org

Claude: Queen Esther approaching the palace of Ahasuerus
pen and brown ink, brown wash over black chalk, heightened with white 

Meaning: These landscapes are deliberately constructed for entertainment and to allow his patrons to show off. Claude landscape paintings were important to my mother and therefore part of my fine art education and development. To me they represent elitism and the appropriation of art by the aristocracy (and the plutocracy) deliberately separating themselves from the other people of the world. We are so rich/ educated/ refined, that you couldn't possibly appreciate fully/ deserve what we have. Perhaps this is envy speaking, but I like to think it's because I enjoy my more visceral response to nature, and to landscapes which capture the combination of unpredictability and complex repetitiveness in nature. Even his trees look as though they were made by skilled craftsmen rather than by the tree tapping the sunlight. I obviously feel strongly about this but don't quite know where to go with it. Perhaps I will work this out a bit more while I'm doing this module!

L.S.Lowry and the others will have to wait for another day.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Landscape - cloud drawings

Exercise 1: Cloud formations and tone

Ok, so I took a long time to get round to this one, because I was daunted at the very thought of trying to draw clouds. And some days there didn't seem to be any. Or the whole sky was grey and flat! But that was of course just an excuse and in the end I went out to Brockwell Park and found some good ones.

 This was looking down a hill at some looming grey clouds in a pile on top of each other.

I tried using a combination of charcoal, graphite and eraser. I didn't make the shapes distinct enough.

For this one, I noticed that the colours were not just grey and white, but that there was a more creamy colour in the mix, and I used chalk to put those parts in.

Again, it's a bit vague-looking, but more like the real thing.

 I noticed this cloud that looked as if it had lacy edges. I think my shaping of the cloud was a bit more successful on this one. I tried putting the lacy edging on but it came out very much larger than it was in real life. The lines of pale grey cloud around it were there, but there was more graduation of tone.

This sketch is of the clouds as well, but shows a bit of the horizon too as it had some interesting shapes. It was a little hazy, as it is in the sketch, but yet again I have not managed to employ a wide enough range of tone.

This one was done on a different day, from the window of a train on a very wet grey day. You can see the blue right at the bottom in the only place where the sky was visible.

I was quite pleased with the way this one feels heavy and grey, and the diagonal shapes in the cloud.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Drawing 1: Assignment 2 feedback

Tutor report

Student name
Christina Rogers
Student number
Drawing 1
Assignment number

Overall Comments

Assessment potential

I understand your aim is to go for the Textiles 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.    

You have submitted a good quantity of work for the second assignment. You have attempted to use some colour throughout the projects and experimented with a variety of surfaces.

I can see that you have attempted to work with thumbnail sketches for your composition, you should continue to develop this further and aim to really experiment with the arrangement of objects. Keep your pencil sharpened to assist you in clearer lines to contrast with softer marks and tones. For example, when drawing the snail shells it would have helped you to describe the three-dimensional form if you had used a range of grades of pencil to give you a range of tones to work with from the lightest to darkest grey. Using directional marks, which follow the form of the object, will also help you to have more success at creating the illusion of a three-dimensional form as the examples below:

You mention in your Learning Log that the texture/surface detail of the object makes it more difficult to suggest the form with shading. Alongside the use of a range of tones you often have to simplify the detail in order to emphasise the form. As you have discovered using shadow and highlights can help to define the form so create a strong directional light source when setting up your still life compositions to help promote this.

When experimenting with texture as well as varying the mark, think about varying the pressure and angle of the media, this will help to extend your vocabulary of marks.

You have experimented with the use of colour for your Project 3 work and you have considered the texture of the objects to some degree. The issue you need to work on is keeping the form whilst you do this. Unfortunately this has become a little lost and the objects are beginning to merge together, creating more pattern than form. It may well be that this starts to inform your textile work, certainly that is what is hoped for. However, at this stage it is also important to develop the skills to capture the form. Remember that there is a difference in how we perceive colour so that it is possible to use this to create the illusion of form:

As you have indicated throughout your Learning Log, some work needs to be done to ensure that the backgrounds within your drawings are as considered as the foregrounds. Much of this can be resolved at the thumbnail stage, by trying out different placement of the objects in relation also to what appears in the background. Whilst you have tried different arrangements and viewpoints you could develop this further by zooming in close to the objects and focusing purely on their relationship to each other or zooming out and including something of the environment they are sited in. It is possible to use a textured and toned background rather than drawing the environment. However, this needs to be really distinct from the objects otherwise, as you have discovered, they begin to merge.

Although you haven’t sent them through, the mixed media drawings have real interest to them. It would be worth bringing some of the elements you have used into your other work: newsprint, strong tones etc. The contrast that you are achieving in the photographic images of your work needs to be brought into the actual drawings: ‘monochrome musical instruments’ for example. The strong contrasting tones of yellow and red work well to describe the form and add interest to the drawing, which is not apparent in the original. Use this to select the colour and tones you are going to work with.

Feedback on assignment
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

The thoughts behind your selection for the assignment are interesting and evidence an ability to think things through conceptually and be creative in your response to the tasks. The combining of reality, impression, death, life etc. are concepts which you could easily develop throughout your projects.

There are some issues with the final piece, which are related to some of the things I have addressed in the overall feedback. The composition needed much more experimentation before you embarked on the final work. You don’t have to stay true to the original photograph you used. As it is there is a large amount of background without much going on in it. This could have worked if the ducks and skeleton had sufficient detail to provide focal interest and contrast. If you were trying to make reference to the endless cycle of life through the vastness of the water, it would have been better to work on a portrait format with the ducks occupying a small section at the bottom of the composition. The positioning of the objects, as much as the objects themselves, can give rise to a range of narratives so it is important to consider this if you are going to work in this way, i.e. more conceptually.

You also need to be careful of the order in which you apply the media. The background appears to be drawn over the top of the ducks, distorting their shape and making them merge into the background. As with comments previously, you needed to use a range of tones in order to describe the form of the ducks. The course is designed to develop your observational skills alongside your creativity so it is important to demonstrate this within your work. I don’t want you to lose your lively, free approach to drawing. However, there needs to be a balance between, lively mark-making and accurately observed more controlled line and form. Concentrate on trying to develop this in the next part of the course.

I would suggest that you attempt to develop this assignment piece. Create several compositional drawings and see how this changes the narrative the work is creating. If you decide to work with vast expanses of water, observe how water appears and try to capture this. Reflect on how you would approach the texture of the water and ducks if you were creating a textile and try this approach to your drawings.

I know you have stepped out of your ‘comfort zone’ whilst undertaking the course and that necessitates pushing yourself to experiment and holding your nerve until the work starts to come together – it will if you continue to work and reflect on what you have produced.

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity
It is good to hear that you are beginning to use your sketchbook in a manner that is more appropriate to you specifically. As you have suggested the course should help you to develop skills that will allow you to work in your own particular way. It is not enough to be skillful; your work needs to be distinctive if you are to develop as a practitioner. It is important that your drawing and textile practice begins to come together so that each is feeding the other. However, it is early days in the course so it is something to be aware of and work towards.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays
There is some evidence of reflection on the work you are producing in regards to the process and techniques you are developing. Think about the context of the images you are researching and referencing. The mallard duck illustrations for example: how might the context in which this was intended for viewing affect the choice of media and composition compared to the context you are working in? Good selection of artists referred to in your still life section. Remember to include critical reflection on the work as well as biographical details. Reflect on how the work of others is helping you to develop your thinking as well as comparing and contrasting the work of the artists you are researching. This will help you to develop your critical thinking.

Suggested reading/viewing

Look at Vija Celman’s drawings of water:

David Hockney’s landscapes:

John Virtue’s cityscapes:

Pointers for the next assignment
Action points from feedback:
  • Experiment further with the composition before embarking on the final piece
  • Keep your pencils sharp and use a range of grades of pencil, which you can use to vary the mark, pressure and direction in order to successfully describe the form
  • Use a strong directional light source and colour perception in order to emphasise the tones and assist your development of the form
  • Rework your assignment after you have experimented further with composition
  • Reflect on the context in which artists make work and how this affects the reading of their work
  • Compare and contrast the work of others and reflect on how this influences your own work

Tutor name
Deborah Harty
Next assignment due

So, to get it straight in my head, what I need to do during this part of the course is:
For finished pieces: More composition sketches to prepare for piece - do this for assignment piece and draw it again.
For each sketch: Use more than one or two pencils, and sharpen them frequently  
and try out different pressures and directions with my marks to make the form.
For each sketch, and practice in sketchbook: Form needs to be more obvious than detail - directional light and colour changes (including cool and warm).
For research and reflecting on what I am doing: Reflect on how seeing artists work affects how I do mine.