Sunday, 31 October 2010

Fifth and final drawing session with Tony Hull

We were asked to bring in a favourite object. After much thought, I opted for my original Leatherman in its leather case. Bought in 1993 in Portland Oregon, the home of Leathermen and very remarkably not lost in the interim, so a favourite of some standing. Also something that I quite liked the idea of drawing. There was a pleasing variety of other objects, but Phillip stole the show with a bottle of Teachers whiskey!

Tony asked us to scatter the objects across the floor. Then started with a blank sheet of paper and asked us each to place one of the three core shapes: triangle, circle square on the sheet where it felt right. After about ten of us had done it, the sheet looked like this:
The point was to think about how natural composition worked. Certain shapes in one area seemed to require a shape of certain size in another. Then we started to look at how vertical and horizontal lines were defined. We talked about the power of the thirds and the golden mean. Composition is about so much more: not just shape, scale and position: it is about how your eye gets drawn across and through the picture. I feel that I may intuit natural composition and my photography has taught me a lot especially about light and shade in composition, but I still do not feel confident graphically as the rest of the session proved.

Then we set about building up our own drawing by choosing some of the objects and placing them on the page. Initially thinking only about the composition, not the representation. My first efforts were predictably bland.
The Leatherman and its case featured, as well as the whiskey bottle, a corkscrew and a human dummy shape. It was peculiarly unpleasing as a composition at this stage. However, in true Tony style he encouraged us to push everything round. We consulted with each other. (the group is getting more and more supportive and engaged with each other). Eventually I managed to get things looking a little more 'composed' and with a little more tension. But as ever I was discouraged by my failure to take risks: these were still a bunch of drawings (not so small we were working on A1) laid out across the page. Others had achieved more contrast and more flow.

Once we had achieved a composition we were happy with, then we started trying to draw more accurately using the careful observation that Tony has been instilling in us. In the end I was happier with my rendering of many of my objects, but still felt dissatisfied with the overall composition. There is a little tension in the negative space between the dummy and the bottle and corkscrew is doing something. The odd abstract shape in the top right could have been more powerful and it is there that I would have liked to have done something that challenged the whole cosy set up. These objects need to interact far more dynamically and even the shadows of previous efforts fail to give it that interaction.
Despite my almost relentless sense of disappointment, I do feel that I have learnt a lot from these sessions with Tony. Drawing is hard! But it is about so much more than just making things look 'right'. The layers of a drawing, the pushing and pulling each line and each shape until it means something, that's what I will take away from this. I very much hope that I can take some these drawings into the next stage, because it was indeed the revelation that drawing can be just like painting in this regard that was the key moment for me.

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