Category Archives: Research & Reflection

Assignment 5 Tutor report

Overall Comments

You have produced work of a high standard in this final assignment.  . You have completed all that was required of you. Since you are submitting your work for formal assessment I have suggested certain work issues that you need to implement however this is a good folder of work and together with your blog provide good evidence of your ability to take your creativity further.

Assessment potential

I understand your aim is to go for the Painting/Textiles/Creative Arts*) 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, and providing you commit yourself to the course, I suggest that you are likely to be successful in the assessment.

Feedback on assignment

You have gained confidence as you have worked your way through the assignments.

Your visual investigation of the cathedral has been researched in many different ways. You have experimented with different media. You have explored the effects of changing light. You have profited by the accidental and you have sourced this building from diverse information points.

You have understood the building and its grandeur and produced rather monumental sized drawings.  For you the building needed such a scale and it has worked well.

You have explored ways of looking at the architecture and you have explored viewpoints. In some of your drawings you have built up on a rather haphazard mixture of media. You have created interesting textures using these methods. There is a freedom and looseness to your approach – expecting the accidental and capitalizing on it.

Not only have you investigated the building but the power of such a building within its environment. You have simplified the roof tops- drawn the trees and revealed the cathedral in the background rising out of this urban landscape-(a drawing in your sketchbook).

You have experimented with materials which even involved the cooking one of your sketchbooks!-

You have interpreted the building as a whole and you have picked out patterns and repetitive forms that contribute to the more decorative parts. You have isolated certain elements of the architecture to investigate further.

There is a bravery and adventurousness to your drawings. You have attempted to understand the power of this building- not only from the exterior view but from your investigative studies of parts of the interior. 

“The prisoners of conscience window”— I feel that your general abstraction of this pattern is perceptive- it puts me in mind of one of Patrick Caulfield’s minimization of interiors. This drawing could have been taken further I think.

The Chapter house has an overpowering presence.

You mix very delicate media- pen and yet you include massive sweeps of expression which work side by side.

Your use of collage works and your choice of thick water color paper was absolutely right.

Your pastille drawing -2point5.

You have been influenced by Monet. I would have liked to have seen more looking at the effect of light on this drawing. Light would definitely have introduced different color on the brown tones of the cathedral. There would not have just been that monochrome brown color. The outside of the building would have taken on adjacent colors – and the color of the sky – however dreary that was. See how Monet introduces light by seeing how color affects the building. Check out the colors of the impressionists – they did not see black as part of nature – but used only the complementary colors to darken tones.

The large tonal black and white pastille has much potential. You have reinforced the pattern of the ceiling using gesso and newsprint in another sketch of this view. I would have liked to have seen smaller studies experimenting with these patterns – together with other decorative elements and repetitive forms that you discovered as you sketched.

All in all an impressive selection of drawings.


I would like to have seen more evidence of day to day sketches- arbitrary drawings that you have created during the day to express your own personal voice. You do need to include work other than what is prescribed by the OCA exercises.

I cannot stress the importance of evidencing your thought process with working drawings which should be in a sketchbook. I read about your ideas but you must evidence the stages of your work.

Do complete these working drawings- they must be thumbnail sketches in the same proportion as your final drawing and enclosed within a rectangle. It is imperative that you show good working habits so do take this advice.

Preparatory drawings show how you are aware of balance- harmony – composition. They show that you are aware of these pictorial issues.

You can then experiment further- simplifying more of your images and recreating patterns and shapes found within the cathedral without worrying about a “finished image. “ You can experiment further in a small scale using the decoration of the windows- the centre of the interior – just playing around on a small scale. This will lead to all kinds of new images and inventions. It is a less self-conscious way of pushing your boundaries and it gives you the opportunity to take you into rather uncomfortable territory.

Try mixing different perspectives together and see what shapes you invent building up your composition this way.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

These are fine up to a point- you have documented your progress and included thoughts and ideas born from your development. These working logs account for 20% of your marks. You need to show analytical – objective approach – you need to show research into different painters- and not merely express likes and dislikes. For instance – do include more information about Monet- and other artists that you have mentioned and been inspired by.

Suggested reading/viewing

You have reworked some of your previous drawings and they do present as stronger images.

You need to research the submission criteria for the formal assessment. The choice and selection of final drawings is important. 

Have a look at the work of Patrick Caulfield and Trevor Winfield. They reduce the image to flat patterns and intermingle them with inventive shapes.

Try and use traditional perspective of the Cathedral  on the same drawing as parallel perspective- experiment with the different ways of representing the three dimensional form and just see what shapes you can create with this mixture. The cathedral presents you with so many ways of seeing – it is a beautiful building full of complex forms imagery and colour.

Do include sketchbooks which reveal how day to day sketching has become a habit now.

Pointers for the next assignment

Your final drawings are impressive. Do back them up with preliminary drawings as suggested. Try and explore more imaginative ways of understanding the architecture.

One suggestion- Cut up an image of the cathedral (not too small) – turn the pieces over. . Re arrange them (without looking) and then turn them to the front again. Stick them down as they are. Then start analysing these new shapes and the different relationships they now have with each other. Just see how these accidental jigsaw pieces can reveal a whole new way of perceiving the building.  This is just one suggestion for your sketchbook investigations- you do not need to implement it.

You have worked well throughout this module. You are a committed student. You must now make sure all the sections of your work are up to the appropriate standard. Take up my suggestions – back up your final drawings with visual evidence of preparatory work. Make sure your learning logs are more informative and be more critical.

I wish you well – it has been a pleasure to review your work. 

Working out which pieces to send for formal assessment was a bit of a nightmare. Sending what I consider to be the best bits does not potentially show my technical ability. I spoke to a gentleman who runs a local gallery and he looked at the pastel cathedral side and said technically it was really good, but as a piece to frame and put in a gallery it didn’t work, so does that mean as it ticks more boxes for exercises I should send it in?

I’ve been updating the blog to refer to artists work with more background biography, I am still learning the language to pick apart what I like about other peoples work, I’m hoping the next course I’ve enrolled on will help, Visual Studies 1. This next years course is partially self defence in that the house is in a state of uproar while we squeeze a downstairs toilet in, mostly by kicking my art stuff into the long-grass (middle of the lawn actually, we’re installing a log cabin with big north facing windows) so dedicated space to create art isn’t guaranteed to be available till the cabin has leccy, water and is fully insulated/heated and furnished.

My extended learning path continues….

Drawings at Mottisfont Abbey May 29th 2016

A lot of this collection is on loan from Southampton gallery, some is from the collection at Mottisfont and all of it is un photographable due to copyrights and ownership. There is no exhibition catalogue and no postcards, so my only take home reference was memory and info cards I asked to photo. I didn’t have time with an entire entourage of family to sketch anything, so this is my record going back through the image info I liked with the help of google and my memory.

The pictures that stuck in my memory where;-

Dennis Creffield Windmill on the isle of wight, a large loose charcoal with movement and energy, what was rubbed into the sheet of paper was as important as the marks that went over or remained from the scrub off.

2 John Virtue etchings landscape no. 34. These represent a lot of lines that lead to a place, you can’t define what or where it is however from the marks. As an emotive response these provide a dark view of somewhere that makes me think John didn’t want to be there either. However this is my first view of Virtues work up close and it was informative.

Glenn Sujo Architectural drawing was a large piece informing on a building with pastels and charcoal, the use of pastels made the image softly appealing without huge amounts of detail

Anna Ticho Landscape of an area in Isreal. the land was un populated and stretched into a pale coloured set of hills. I liked this because of the use of colour under the black marks, I think I want to learn more about lithographs.

Adrian Stokes Still life of bottles in an oil painting is kind of fascinating to me as I am still avoiding starting to use oil paints. I look at pictures now and try to work out if they are wet on wet or glazed, if they where allowed to dry between coats. the tone used on the pallet and the amount of colours in any given area of picture.

I’m still not sure I have the patience to work in oils and thats probably what is putting me off…

There is a Henry Moore sketch there as well as a Barbara Hepworth and they both display beautifully the sculpting credentials of the artists. The medium creates lines that wrap around the form in a way to make that elusive 3rd dimension on a flat plane.

As part of the permanent collection in the house there is also a small degas sketch of a head that I liked (whats not to like about something that looks as if it was created effortlessly) and a small John Piper that tells you all about a piece of landscape involving rocks plants and a brook, I can look at his work for hours.

Of course Mottisfont also has an entire room of trompe l’oei from the central sun in the ceiling, down the curtain sconses and decorative walls. All painted by Whistler presumable the year before he went to war. Having painted murals on walls I have a lot of respect for this space although I wonder at the fact it took a year, a lot of the patterning is on top of a plain colour and only produces shadows?!?


Part 4 reflection

My doubts about my abilities are kind of heading in 2 direction at the end of this part of the course. I believe my ability to render a recognisable image is getting stronger and it is becoming quicker to see an image form.

My work benefits from the background sketches that make the final image, I can make surer marks. I can inform a piece of work from more angles.

Am I taking on board the techniques of other artists? my fountain pen sketches are slowed down more complete sections that interest me, which implies Andrew Wyeth has had an effect, the colour I have played with (and it comes across as play I hope) have been complementary reactions to the exercises.

I am steering away from painting as that is going to be dealt with in the next course so I’d rather get bored of drawing now and be completely fresh for what comes up in a couple of months time.

The content in the exercises has at times seemed to be a bind pushing me forward away from achieving any kind of link between pieces which is annoying. The fact that I’ve bounced around this part because the opportunities to do life studies are not being achievable linea to the course hasn’t exactly helped.

Life sort of came at me and pushed the content of the work, which odd as it is has helped me understand how future projects are potentially going to unfold for me.

I have only attended local exhibitions in the last couple of months. I have reviewed the work of a fair number of artists online and these elements are going into a book I am adding to that I’ll send in at the end of assignment 5 for my tutor to see.

On top of Andrew Wyeth, I have finished reading The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes (Thames & Hudson 1991) which ended quite handily around Lucien Freud et al and modern figurative paintings. Unfortunately I can’t help bringing some of that content back to the John Berger book about why they were painted nude to start with…

So the 2 concerns on my ability?

Can I integrate other styles into my own? I’m 41, I like to think I am reasonably open minded, I’ve started a course of education at this point which in itself shows I think I should be able to.

Can I write about art in depth enough to pass muster for higher education? The more I read, the more I think I can do it. I can string a coherent sentence together about cubism, how it works, why it was done (what it was produced on the back of, what was produced after the movement had finished)  what I get out of it. Am I far enough away from the ‘I know what I like’ mentality? I hope so. I still don’t know all the terms to describe how something I have drawn works, I’m hoping I won’t have to wade through 5 years of courses and books to reach that point, I’m also hoping I can sustain my impatience to learn for the duration of my time with OCA, because that is what is pushing me on.



Research point Self portraits

The problem with doing a self portrait is that you really know your own flaws and as the face in the mirror is the one you tend to see every day of your life, you can really see when you have got it right, or when you’ve perhaps been kinder than real life. Also, the nature of concentration required while in the zone, means that you tend to be giving an almost unemotional frown.

However, we are our most constantly available models and self portraits are good ways to practise poses and techniques.

Rossetti’s (1828-1882) self portrait at the national portrait gallery is a good example, you can’t get away from the eyes looking straight at you, his use of pencil and chalk to describe line and tone, his description of his hair uses the mid-tone in the paper to ease the inclusion of yet more detail.

Courbet‘s (1819-1877)entitled ‘The Desperate Man’ shows a fresh loose quick technique that matches the subject pose and the emotion therein, harsh lighting from above adds to the melodrama and is a world away from the softness of Rembrandt‘s (1606-1669)(although this etching has a cross hatching technique I can use with pen, oils as yet are uncharted territory)

I particularly like the page on Self Portraits at the Tate  ‘A self-portrait does not necessarily have to be representational – an abstract or symbolic depiction by an artist of themselves can also be classed as a self-portrait. A self-portrait can also be in any medium.’ The page has some photos as well, but also has a curators view on Turners only known self portrait, which sounds like it was painted under duress because it was expected of him and by all the accounts of the day gave him an appearance of an upwardly mobile gent of clean habits that may not have been the norm.

Lucien Freuds (1922-2011)is an honest depiction of the man he slept with the most, offering harsh lighting and I think mostly the concentrated look he had as he worked. his shadows age him. This one is harsh, which is in keeping with his overall style,

Maggie Hambling (1945-)(apologees, my only reference to this picture is small and halfway down the page) has a use of line through which her pictures appear as if by magic, the repetitious overlaps creating the shadows and creases of her face.

Has the pose changed over the years? Courbets would be much less surprising today, we can take photos and reproduce instances that are much more likely to have the energy of the moment, painting off a photo is certainly not unusual, look up self portrait on art finder, a reasonable chunk of the pictures are achieved in a pose you couldn’t paint from.

For the rest, we are more likely to be unflattering towards ourselves, a self portrait in days gone past could just have easily been a business card hanging on the wall, and styles have changed. Overall though, the person looking in the mirror is probably looking at the same head and shoulder shot rembrandt had, just with a better mirror.

This is my response to the exercise  on self portraits, after looking at the work of Maggie Hambling. my love of the line, or edge is making this more rigid than I think it needs to be, I like the quality of the marks in the shading and I like the effect of 5 shades of grey and one black (highlights in the eyes where done with white acrylic I had to hand) Having just watched Making their Mark with Maggie Hambling on the BBC Iplayer, I’m going to go and try this again in graphite stick. If I can find them.



The figure in history.

I read John Bergers book ‘Ways of seeing ‘ (Penguin books Ltd 2012 reissue) last year while I was trying to work out how much I wanted to do a degree. I managed to find a reading list online for a fine arts course and it was one of the cheaper books to get hold of. Its an eye opener.

I go to life studies as a choreographed way for me to speed up my sketching, I’m not in charge of the model and I’m not in control of the length of time I can have the pose, I have continued to learn about the human form, the muscles in the neck, the tension you can hold in an arm or down the torso in a twist at the waist/hips etc etc…

It is certainly not erotic. I and my fellow sketchers wrestle with the paper and our chosen mediums to create elements we are happy with before we quite literally lose the point and then search around for a pencil sharpener.

Bergers book shows that throughout history the nude was done for either the benefit of the patron commissioning the picture or because the artist had an affiliation (or wanted to)to the model. This carried on to Eduard Manets time where his painting of  Olympia was the first to boldly look back at the perceived viewer and engage them first with her eyes. At the time the fact that this was openly a painting of a prostitute was shocking and a contrast to say the clothed picture of Camille that Monet painted called le Japonais, here the look out of the canvas is almost shy and coquettish, it shows the affection she had for him (the husband/artist), as much as he had for her (as wife and model) The 20th century went through many styles of depicting the form from Picasso’s bathers who to me look like normal sized people going about a chore, through a ream of sexist advertising (the wonderbra billboards are a good case in point) to the work of Phillip Pearlstein (Pearlstein’s models are painted true to form with a definite harshness to the lighting, he does I note pick a thinner form to start with, although in his paintings to me the nude is sometimes an unnecessary distraction from the beautifully depicted play of light from the furniture against the floor or wall, or the view out of his New York apartment),  and Lucian Freud who must have left his models raw after they’d seen his view of them. these really are pictures of anyone and everyone, I think thats the point, they seem more intimate, the skin painted with more care to show its softness. however, the poses are more vulnerable, slightly contorted, the models don’t seem comfortable.

I’d like to think that the point to naked figure drawing has changed over the years, I’m currently reading a book about Andrew Wyeth (a secret life Richard Meryman, HarperCollins; First Edition edition 1997), I haven’t reached the Helga years, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the fact is that art is created for the same reasons as it ever was, but doesn’t need to hide behind the metaphor of the historical reference, myth or religious allegory it has throughout history. I can’t say I am comfortable with this view but it is formed on the body of work produced mostly by men who have either shagged all their models, or been paid to paint mistresses left right and centre.

Not a lot I can add to that without finding a load of female artists and their histories, which, lets face facts is like hunting for rocking horse shit. Tracey Emin in the last couple of years took herself off to America to learn how to draw, and has created some large scale works with more than a hint of Egon Schiele about them, they are not overworked and they aren’t overly personal, in that her connection to the model seems to me to be fleeting, disassociated.

I hope over the coming years I can come up with a better answer than this, it will have to suffice for now.



In the style of Andrew Wyeth.

I can see me getting bogged down in this if I’m not careful. My tutor recommended I look at the work of Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) as he dealt in both landscape (Part 3) and figurative portrait (part 4).

I have acquired books on his sketching, paintings and those of his, his father (an acclaimed illustrator in his own time) and his son (also an artist) in the same book. I also got a biography about him. This may seem a bit extreme, but I’ve reached a point where I feel I should be able to come up with the story behind a piece, I should be able to fuse different things together to create this story. Andrew Wyeth drew and subsequently painted simple acts of life, but his reasoning behind the pieces where quite convoluted links to other things, random memories brought to the fore because of the placement. His sketch of his boots ended up as a tempera painting with the boots crushing a weed, referencing the point in his life he was at, recovering from necessary life-saving surgery.

Andrew Wyeth was accomplished as a draftsman, his sketching full of minute detail denoting texture and light, he didn’t fiddle about with the whole picture though, just the elements that interested him. The result is sketches that peter off in detail around the edges giving the images an eery feel of their own.

As I am now in part 4, I have chosen to adapt his study sketch for downtrodden weeds, my limitations are that the background story for the boots is lacking and they are smooth leather, the grain in the paper more than covers the texture. I also wouldn’t want to paint them in the same situation as Andrew, I’m much more inclined to produce a winding path, over grown, uneven, in the hopes that it shows my own uncertainty in where the image is going.

Andrews success as an artist is I think in producing paintings with such depth and detail that you are drawn into them as a viewer, they are darker and intense, his perspective in his wide open native American views are a steep contrast to me living in the city surrounded by a succession of hills as I am. I look at his landscapes and see a loneliness and in his portraits an HD quality searing account of someones soul.

His watercolours are a mix of dry brush and wet work but are loose and not overworked, the tempera? I think its a medium I’m going to have to save up for.

A3 graphite, I went with a 3B for the depth, the boots are black, I have a mirror set up in our north facing lounge in an English winter, I needed to be quite dark. the coat I managed with a 6B aquarelle. It seemed dark enough to me not to have to go conte or pencil crayon. Unlike Andrews sketch, I added a slight shadow to the floor behind the boots to ground everything or the boots are floating in space. I used a pencil rubber to adjust the placement of the centre seam in the right boot, that is the only eraser mark I made.


Research point Cityscape

We are asked to look at the work of John virtue (1947-)in more detail. Or source other contemporary artists who deal in depicting the city.

Johns association with the National Gallery produced some immense works that are awesome in their emotional content, brought more to the fore because of his self imposed limited palette. The interesting point is the history of the final works, going back through charcoal sketches to the initial line drawings that are minimalist in comparison to the paintings, but hold much more content and unemotional detail about the view than the raw energy I feel he works into the canvases.

To an extent , I can see this is were my work is separating. my sketchbook work isn’t as unemotional or as accurate, I can see the pages filling with final images instead of stuff I want to work on further. I’m enjoying working fairly fast in brush pen which gives my images more fluidity.

I’ve worked off the ‘in the style of’ charcoals I did for the earlier research piece, coming up with views around the Poultry cross which I feel give it much more of the energy I feel about my city