Project – Still Life

Exercise – Still Life Sketches of Made Objects

Upper left – the grouping/composition was okay. Tall at the back and then descending. The bottle was dark blue.

The sketch was easy enough though once again the ellipses were measured and do not look correct.

Centre – The group doesn’t quite meld but the sketch satisfactorily represents the objects. The ellipses were drawn to please rather than measured and look better.

Upper right – the group was an exercise in foreshortening and odd placement.

The sketch took longer than the other two put together and it’s still not correct. The cast shadows do not look real and maybe should have been lighter and softer at the edges even though they were not like that.

The shadows were shaded, instead of hatched, as shading looks more natural and can be more readily gradated.

What are the difficulties in separating cast shadow from reflected light and shade?
Not too difficult though you have to look for the object that is causing the shadow or reflection. Reflected light tends to give a more definite shape on larger reflections. Small or broken reflections are harder to identify particularly if the objects concerned are of varied shapes.

The reflected shadow and light follows the contours of the objects. How have you shown this in your drawing?

By drawing the reflected shadow and light along the contour of the object you are not just recreating the shadow and light but you are also accentuating the shape of the object on which the shadow and light is cast. Hopefully that shows in the sketches by the way the shading is drawn.

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Project – Reflected Light

Research Point – Patrick Caulfield
Patrick Caulfield was born in London in 1936 though he spent the war years in Bolton. Inspired by “Moulin Rouge”, a film about the life of Toulouse Lautrec, he attended evening classes at Harrow School of Art. He then studied at the Chelsea School of Art followed by the Royal Academy. He later returned to the Chelsea School of Art as a part time teacher.

His first exhibition left him branded as a pop artist possibly because the prime movers of the Pop Art movement, David Hockney, Ron Kitaj, Allen Jones and others were a year behind him at the Royal College of Arts. However Caulfield described himself as “not Pop but anti-Pop”  He labelled himself  “a formal artist”. He shunned contemporary art practise and culture and produced prints and paintings of still life, interior landscapes and figure painting.

He depicted everyday objects in blocks of single, and mostly plain, colour often interspersed with geometric shapes. His brushwork was hardly visible and he did not blend his colours preferring contrast and hard edges. His pictures were absent of detail and portrayed flat images and scenes without perspective.

There is little development in his lifetime’s work. His early prints and paintings are much the same as his later works.

However as he became more recognised and his work became more varied he adopted other media such as theatre sets and costumes, designed a stained glass window, a carpet, a tapestry, mosaics and various large paintings.

His influences  were said to be Fernand Leger, Juan Gris, the Fauves, Picasso and other Cubists. It is difficult to agree as these artists produced complex and mostly colourful paintings.

He was quoted as stating – “I like structured painting. I simply try to make a logical, a seemingly logical, space that could exist.”

He is called by some reviewers “a photo realist” but that gives him an undeserved credit. His paintings lack sufficient detail. Other reviewers indicate melancholia in his paintings but whilst his subjects are simple and plainly portrayed his colours are generally bright and pleasing shades of grey.

He was described as an introverted person resigned to sadness and despair though he enjoyed the company and friendship of others and he enjoyed restaurants and pubs coupled with a drink or two.

He was recognised by his peers as “a painters painter” but with only a limited national following by the public, earned from minor exhibitions, he won little international fame. However he was awarded a CBE in 1996.

He died of cancer in 2005 and as often happens it is only in recent years that he is being hailed as being one of the most inventive artists of the twentieth century.

Looking at the online reviews of his paintings I get the feeling that the reviewer is reading things into his paintings that the artist did not have in mind when he painted the picture, i.e. actions or emotions that simply aren’t there.

Insofar that working artists will paint what they are good at and what earns a crust Patrick Caulfield paints simple  pictures that sell.

In a comprehensive article for the Tate the reviewer amongst other dubious accolades acclaims an aspect of a Patrick Caulfield painting to have “brought new heights of stylish sophistication”. How can you make statement like that of such very simple paintings.

An examination of a chronological display of his paintings revealed paintings and prints from about 1962-1975 that were “simplistic” to the point of banality and few of his paintings during this period are worthy of the praise they attract. Some of the colour combinations are fine but the “simplification” for which he gains much praise strikes me as an inability to paint anything better. Whilst After Lunch might appear to be a transitional painting, strangely he reverts back to simple subjects and particularly grey or dark tones from about 1980 and continues in that style with some exceptions through to the end of his life.
If I were Patrick Caulfield I would be a little disappointed in myself if at the age of fifty one I was painting pictures such as Wall Plate Screen and Wall Plate Stones followed ten years later by Wall Plate HIghlight and Wall Plate Stucco. All virtually the same. In terms of artistic advancement, not much
     
Do these paintings exhibit talent, skill technique or composition. I think not.

Strangely he can do a reasonably good painting – The Hermit, Glazed Earthenware, Pottery, Portrait of a Frenchman and Les Demoiselles exhibit a little appealing skill.
       
Patrick Caulfield was appreciated for producing something different. Just because an artist does something different doesn’t make him good. He just does something different. To make him good he has to exhibit skill in that direction. Patrick Caulfield doesn’t.

Moving on – does Caulfield use negative space constructively? Is the space surrounding the subject more important to the picture than the subject itself? Alternatively, does a neutral or even a contrasting negative space draw the eye to the subject?

A close up inspection of his actual paintings might reveal he did leave white space in some of his paintings which is not obvious from the online reproductions. However in most of his paintings Patrick Caulfield uses neither of the usual negative space techniques. In most of his simplistic paintings he uses subjects which are everyday objects readily recognised by the brain and therefore the eye will naturally focus in on them. Consequently the negative space has no use or value other than fill.

It’s a bit of a giveaway that Caulfield does not use negative space technique insofar that many of the components in his paintings are outlined with black lines, a la Roy Lichenstein, indicating his approach was to define the shape of the components of the painting at the beginning.

Some might say he appears to use the process of negative space in paintings such as “Curtains Drawn Back”. But would you know what the purple represents if it were not for the surrounding black. You wouldn’t. You can only make sense of the painting when you have read the title.
By his use of blocks of contrasting and harmonious plain colours he does appear to use negative space technique but I do not consider that Patrick Caulfield uses positive or negative space any more than other artists might. Furthermore in all the reviews of his work I have read, some very comprehensive, the terms positive and negative space are never used.

Pictures reproduced from the Tate Gallery

Project – Reflected Light

Exercise – Shadows and Reflected Light and Shade
I used compressed charcoal which, for me, is easier to work with. I need more practice in the use of stick charcoal in particular to obtain subtlety of marks and use of the flats/sides.
My objects are a bit misshapen but I have captured the shadows and reflections reasonably well though I find charcoal hard to work with any high degree of accuracy and once mistakes have been made it is hard to correct errors.

I think my attempt makes the objects look solid and indicate depth but the shadows tend to dominate the drawing even though they were not drawn as dark as the subject shadow dictated.

This exercise and the previous have enabled me to recognise and portray secondary shadows and reflections and hopefully I will be able to do these better in the future. Furthermore one will look at things differently in the future.

I wasn’t too sure how to cut down on the background/negative space other than drawing large.

Project – Reflected Light

Exercise – Study of Light Reflected from One Object to Another

Initially the setting appeared confusing as to what was reflection or shadow but by tackling the shading in small sections made the drawing come together as a whole.
I used a better, more concentrated, light source to the previous drawings so the shadows and reflections were more defined. Quite a big step for me and probably the best “solid” drawing I have ever done. I learned what to look for and how to identify the various elements that give depth and realism to a drawing.

The rear cast shadow looks “solid” and I noticed this in my other drawings in which shadows appear. If you make the shadows as dark as the tone requires then you have added a dominating element to the drawing. The cast shadows leave a clear cut hard edge which accentuates the problem. Is it best to feather the shadow?

Project – Making Marks

Research Point – Odilon Redon
Bertrand-Jean Redon, nicknamed Odilon by his Creole mother Odile, was born in 1840 into a wealthy family in Bordeaux. He started drawing whilst young and showed promise. Apparently he was neglected by his parents and mostly lived with an elderly uncle on a family estate.

He briefly studied painting in Paris and then drawing and painting in Bordeaux. His influences were Rembrandt, Corot, Moreau, Millet and Delacroix.

His studies were interrupted by the Franco Prussian War in 1870 from which he returned and took up charcoal drawing and lithography in Paris.

He received little recognition until 1878 when he published his first album of lithographs, In Dreams, and also became known as a writer and violinist. Further acclaim came with the publishing of a novel in which was contained his lithographs and he went on to produce lithographs to illustrate the works of authors and poets, in particular Edgar Allen Poe who’s stories influenced his imaginative work.

Redon used the exhibitions of his lithographs to bring his charcoal drawings to a wider audience. When the term “Symbolism” became the description for the new art and literature in 1866 Redon was considered the major Symbolism artist though he was not aligned with the views of such a movement.

His charcoal drawings are generally reflect melancholia and reveal a man of deep and possibly disturbed thoughts. He depicts the strange and often weird images he carries in his mind which might either be derived from others, i.e. Edgar Allen Poe, or his own creations, in particular his prediliction with eyeballs. However not all his drawings of this era were imagined, he also drew landscapes and figures though the overall effect, perhaps communicated by the charcoal, is sombre.

Examination of his early drawings particularly his charcoal drawings reveal a definite gloom. He used different types of charcoal, vine, oil and compressed, and also Conte crayon and had a distinctive style of layering the charcoal so darker detail would appear over lighter backgrounds. He also used powdered charcoal as a base and lifted out areas to form detail with erasers, stumps and fingers and also used coarsely ground charcoal applied with a brush. He predominantly used coloured paper for his charcoal drawings as these rendered a certain hue to the drawing.

Typical works of that era were – Smiling Cyclops, Eye Like a Balloon, the Accused, Guardian of the Waters and Calibran on a Branch.

     

Redon said of his charcoal drawings, his “noirs”, that they were “executed in hours of sadness and pain”. Also he claimed he was constantly being surprised by his own art. The art author, Arthur Symons wrote of Redon in 1890 as “a kind of French Blake”.

Redon also describes his work as ambiguous and indefinable – ”My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined.”
Maurice Denis a contemporary painter declared that “the lesson of Redon is his powerlessness to paint anything which is not representative of a state of soul, which does not express some depth of emotion, which does not translate an interior vision”
His use of pastels at first was limited to pastel detail over a charcoal underdrawing but he developed to use solely pastels which he manipulated in order to achieve different effects. He used soft and hard pastels and often Conte crayons to illustrate detail. He used brushwork in order to merge shades and to reveal an underlying colour. He forsook his haunted themes with charcoal and his subjects were mostly still life and often flowers.

Redon experimented with spray fixatives in order to fix the loose particles of charcoal and pastels and had to experiment significantly with pastels as the fixative was likely to discolour the hue of the pastel and alter its particle texture/quality. He gave up using fixative in his later pastel work, probably in frustration

His pastels are colourful, he uses, primary and secondary colours and also there is an element of modernism or even abstraction in some – Flight into Egypt, Pantheon, Temptation and Woman in Red.

 

     

His emerging skills as a colourist developed into his colourful oil paintings. This transition from melancholy to cheerful is maybe explained by an unhappy early life which was affected by epilepsy and which was transformed by a religious crisis and serious illness in 1894 from which he emerged a happier, but still private, man.

His paintings, predominantly oil based, are again colourful and range from simple flowers in vases, heads and single figures, Icarus and Oedipus. It is noted that the humans he depicts are mostly doleful and that he often returns to his darker themes. However he stretches these images in paintings such as the Masked Anemone (w/c), The Green Death (oil), Christ and the Disciples (oil),  Birth of Venus (oil), into semi-abstraction in A Boat (oil), and Apollo’s Chariot (oil).

 

 

Building on his experiences with monochrome, where tone defines the picture, he was able to produce good blends and arrays in his colour paintings. His paintings become more decorative and after 1900 he undertook decorative commissions.

During this painting era his paintings became widely exhibited in France, Belgium, Holland and America though generally he was not popular with the paying public and his income was mostly derived from patrons and collectors. His work was admired by Matisse and he was acknowledged as a forerunner of the Surrealist movement.

In 1893 he was awarded the Legion d’honneure and in 1894 the French State bought one of his paintings and paid him tribute which was just reward for a long and varied career.

On a visit to London in 1895 Redon said he was impressed by the work of Turner. Is there an influence there in his latter paintings – Red Boat with Blue Sail?

Looking at the series of his pictures over his artistic life it is easy to see a progression of styles and themes. In his last few years his paintings become almost “traditional” but in his final finished painting, The Cyclops, he reverts to his old ways.

He died a distinguished person in 1916.

A good research point. I learned a lot about an artist whom I had never heard of. The range and extremes of paintings delivered over his life was very interesting.

Project – Making Marks

Exercise – Tonal Studies
In the squares I didn’t at first see ways of grading the cross hatching but managed it with the fibre tip pen which was the thinnest implement.
However I am not sure that this is an effective method of graded shading as it would be difficult to predict where the gradations of tone will occur. However overall it does produce an interesting effect and whilst hard to draw freehand on a measured or mechanical basis some unusual effects could be reproduced.

In the drawings I did not find the hatched shading as realistic as shading with a soft lead. To be a realistic shadow you have to get the dominant lines of the hatching to align with the flow of the light otherwise you will get the “tilting shadow” shown in the ball sketch.
It was difficult to tell the difference between the reflected light and the direct light. The reflections were indistinct, if any. I think there would have to be appropriate colours and a good light source before this could be drawn with certainty.

The application of light and shade to the subject strengthens the effects of depth and perspective in a drawing and the gradation tonal values enhances the finished product.

Project – Making Marks

Exercise – Observing Shadow and Light Formations on a Surface.
I had a problem with this exercise.

In the example drawing in the Course book p26 I appreciated the shadows and reflected light as described but was not able to recognise these aspects in real life. Consequently the first  drawing only shows shadows though I have drawn a theoretical drawing on the reverse page which indicates reflections as well..

The two objects threw different shape shadows but because of the way that they were positioned the shadows were at different angles. The cast shadow has a soft edge as the light source, whilst a small bulb, is not a true spotlight.

I managed the gradation and merging of tonal values reasonably well which were done with a 5mm clutch pencil lead.

The theoretical drawing shows the gradation of shadow and also the reflected area.