Project – Making Marks

Research Point – Van Gogh
I chose the “The Rock of Montmajour with Pine Trees” because of the considerable variety of marks that Van Gogh made in the drawing.

Van Gogh. The Rock of Montmajour with Pine Trees

Whilst the drawing does not have the depth of a distant horizon that feature in many of his landscapes he has, on the left hand side, depicted the furthest distance by making the smallest marks and to a lesser degree he has used the same technique for the right hand side tree.

Apart from these two instances the drawing is mostly on a similar plane and Van Gogh has described the differing textures that he sees with many distinguishing marks.

Interestingly he has used quite straight lines to depict the faces of the layers of rocks and also squared cross hatching in some areas which is not the type of mark you would expect in such a drawing. The result is a flat faced, linear and angled rock effect, which of course it may have been.

The tree marks are very effective and for some of the short curved marks he used a pressure induced flexing of his pen nib to depict a variety of line in order to convey the irregular shape of a tree.

The different types of vegetation have similar length marks but by applying different pressures on his pen Van Gogh has given identity to each variety. He may also have watered down his ink in places or used a brush.

In this drawing there is very little use of stippling which is purely there to depict the ground/pathway. After a little research I noted that there is little stippling in many of his drawings.

However whilst not part of this exercise his drawing below, Harvest in Provence, relies heavily on stippling and in areas that stippling would not normally be the usually chosen mark i.e. the sky. Van Gogh was obviously looking for variety in this pen and ink drawing and not staying with his usual technique.
Van Gogh.  Harvest in Provence, 1888.

Research Point – Eric Ravilious
Eric Ravilious was a printmaker, illustrator, designer and painter and lived from 1903 to 1942.

He was skilled in those disciplines and won acclaim in many places in his lifetime. He was particularly known for his engravings and watercolour paintings. However his fame waned after his death but interest in his work has been rekindled in the last decade.

Eric Ravilious.  Vase of Flowers in a Garden. (a section).

The scratching effect that Ravilious has used in his painting Vase of Flowers in a Garden, probably to denote grass or maybe flowers is known as sgraffito and has been used by many artists to denote texture in a painting. The paint is scratched with a sharp implement until either the base paper is exposed as a white line or the layer of paint beneath, if there is one, is exposed.

Not a favourite technique of mine as the physical scarring of a delicate medium seems to be a technique at odds with watercolour paint.

It is difficult to see online whether he used sgraffito in his watercolours as the thin textural marks might be fine brush lines. However bearing in mind his early days as a printmaker where much of his work would have involved scoring surfaces in order to make images it is not surprising that he furthered or adapted the technique for his watercolours.

Probably the best online references to Ravilious are at Bridgeman which includes many of his paintings and a couple of articles on his life in the Guardian and Independent online newspapers. There has been a biography from which probably most other references are drawn.

His other talents aside Ravilious was a respected watercolourist with a very personal style and he has been classified by the art world as a “romantic modernist” and credited with having an “innocent eye”.

What makes Ravilious’s work distinctive is the use of very harmonious (analogous) colours in his paintings which are mainly of ordinary settings or rural scenes in the south of England. The use of such colours gives a tranquil flavour to his work that, whilst hardly realistic, is nevertheless attractive. The pictures below are fairly typical.

He also simplifies and minimalises the scenes by not including unnecessary detail particularly where it might clash with the flow of the painting or spoil the textural effect he has adopted i.e. no embellishments.

He is obviously a very talented applicator of paint particularly with regard to his fine brushwork and also his stippling and hatching with paint is distinctive.

Wiltshire Landscape                 Chalk Figure Osmington Hill, near Weymouth
                                                    The Wilmington Giant

Van Gogh drawings –

Ravilious pictures –


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