Monday, 19 September 2011

Overview of Year One CLFA: Final research and drawing

The last four sessions of the course were led by Tony Hull and gave me the best consistent experience of the whole course culminating in the first piece of completed work that I was genuinely pleased with and pointed the way forward for this second year.
Tony wanted us to understand the process of an evolving piece of work based on research. We began, slightly oddly, with some detailed charcoal drawing of the sort that Tony had challenged us with at the beginning of the course. Draw that cube! Should be easy, but of course so much more difficult than you would think to capture the subtleties of perspective which naturally disrupt ones belief in the parallel line! 
Then in the afternoon we were to build up our drawing with a series of related cubes exploring the effect of cutting holes in blocks. The end result looked like this:
No particularly inspiring, but another step on the way to careful observed drawing, the demands of perspective and reminding me of the fluidity of charcoal and its residual reminders of the line not taken!
The next session took us off to the Natural History Museum for some close observation of crystals.
Very much enjoyed the day and learn a lot from Tony’s insistence that what we are trying to do with the sketches is an expression of what we are seeing rather than a complete drawing. He urged us not to 'overstrive for the artful'. My initial sketches were quite pleasing, but really didn’t tell me much about what was interesting or striking about a shape, a texture and line. My drawings after lunch were freer and more expressive and as a result eventually gave me more to work with.
The next session (rather bizarrely) was a one off printmaking class with Brian. This seemed to break with the research objectives. Somewhat to his surprise, we were to use our sketches from the NHM as a basis of some prints. I don’t think I was alone in finding the session rather dispiriting: after the enthusiasm and the precision of what we had done in the museum, this all seemed too vague. I felt I went back to square one with my print making: no control and no real inspiration. I produced a couple of of pretty scruffy prints that seemed to lead nowhere.
Then the final session and something of a breakthrough. Back with Tony and a stronger sense of the original purpose. He told us to take the drawing of the cubes and rub it down. (Tony is a great one for rubbing down the charcola drawings and starting again on the patina of the old).  This was to be the basis of our final piece of work. Then we were to tear up one of our prints from last session and locate one or two fragments on the drawing. This fragment was to be the starting point for a piece of exploratory drawing: extending and pushing the visual ideas we had collected in the museum.  It seemed like a long shot. All of us were bemused and there were a lot of false starts, but for some reason, it suddenly made sense to me and I took off on what I think was the most successful piece of art of the whole course. I was engaged in mark making and shape finding: one thing lead to another and piece took off across the page. The fragment added counter point. I had begun with several pieces, but in the end it was a couple of small fragments that worked best. Less, as is so often the case, is more.
 I had the drawing done in under two hours. It seemed to flow in a way that nothing else on the course had. It had traces of my original crystal study and of my skull work. It was very satisfying. I am not at all sure that the cubes add anything much to the picture except there is a certain contrast between the random organic shape and the ordered structure of the cubes, but I am not sure.

With some time to spare and a heavy coating of charcoal, someone suggested that I should try making a print off it. The result was almost more interesting than the original and again suggested another perhaps more organic approach to printmaking.
It was a very satisfying end to the first year and left me with some hope for the second year and the challenge of 'developing my personal practice'.

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