Thursday, 24 November 2011

No Time To Think...

Sometimes things just get silly at work and it’s hard to get a bit of perspective on the job. The last few weeks have felt like that, so I was glad to get in the studio today and put myself first for a few hours.

I finished this charcoal drawing above, and the oil study at the top. There is a lot going on pictorially in the drawing, and the oil study is my first attempt to try something in paint after these recent pieces I’ve been making. I need to do some serious thinking about how I’m going to make any attempt to develop this work into painting. I’m even wondering whether I should. Are the drawings the statement I’m trying to make?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

No Limits...

Wow! What a day I’ve had today. I write this exhausted, but with my head spinning with excitement, from a visit to the college today from the Royal Academy Outreach Team who ran a Life Drawing Workshop with around 30 of our students. I had organised it, having heard a lot about these workshops over the years, and thinking it would be a great opportunity to extend and develop our students drawing skills, and hopefully boost their portfolios.

It proved to do this, but so much more too. It was taught by artist, Paul Brandford, who was such an inspiring teacher. He continually challenged and pushed the boundaries of the student’s knowledge and forced them out of their comfort zone. I say the student’s, but me too as I also joined in alongside them with Alex, a student teacher on placement with us. We were both addicted to the whole thing throughout. It was great fun but also very hard work.

The day’s workshop was driven by the idea of drawing as an important form of enquiry, which is what I believe in. I did get increasingly despondent about my own efforts though, as I became increasingly tired of my own ‘handwriting’. The more drawings I made, the more I found it difficult to push past my own limits.

Tonight I’m thinking about the charcoal drawings of the motorway I’ve been making with fresh inspiration and drive. The last couple of ones I’ve made I have felt things becoming freer and more involved in ‘drawing’ and disentangled from their photographic sources. Paul has opened up my thinking about what I can do and I can’t wait to get back down the studio in the next few days.

On a final note I looked up Paul Brandford on the internet and discovered his own website, which has some really interesting stuff on it, but I also discovered that I had actually exhibited alongside him. Paul was the First Prize winner in the prestigious Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2003, which I was also selected for that year. Here is his drawing below. It’s a great piece, which is also derived from a photographic reference. I remember enjoying it at the time and enjoying the celebrations as Paul collected his prize from the judges at the Private View in London. What a nice coincidence to meet him today at a time when I’m beginning to develop my own approach to drawing and how I use it to express my ideas. I really got a lot from his workshop today. Below is a link to his website:

Paul Brandford, charcoal on paper, 39 x 53cms, 2002

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Going, Going, Gone...

I took a small group of students drawing and painting at the Lickey Hills yesterday. It was shrouded in damp mist that wrapped itself around everything and created a great mysterious atmosphere. The students really enjoyed it and made some great studies with little intervention from me. I think they had a better teacher this week in David Hockney, whose video of him painting outdoors we had watched earlier in the week. It had really inspired them, and they dealt confidently with depicting the outdoor space in colour and tone, working from the back of the picture plane to the surface. I’m going to make a display of their work back in the college studio and will try and share some of their work.

In the meantime, here is one of my photos above of the foggy trees and another of the view from the hill where you can normally observe great views of the Birmingham, but today could barely only vaguely make the shapes of the trees. I like this ‘barely there’ quality and might explore this in a study. The trees reminded me of this next M5 drawing below which depicts the concrete motorway supports.

'Stolen Car', charcoal and pastel on paper, A2 size

I like this drawing. It seemed to suddenly take the drawings into another, slightly unexpected, formal place that I really like . This only emerged as I made the drawing, despite using a photographic reference.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Endless Highway...

'Stolen Car', charcoal and pastel on paper, A2 size

This drawing above seems to exemplify those abstract elements discussed in the last blog post more clearly. As I do more of these and get used to the charcoal and pastel I’m beginning to think more about the formal qualities I want from them and make decisions around this.

Seeing them all on the studio floor and how they relate to each other is pretty exciting. There seems to be a real dynamism emerging from the big black shapes that dominate the compositions.

I watched with the students a documentary on David Hockney’s recent Yorkshire landscapes today. Seeing all the original paintings he made ‘en plein air’, before he went on to make those multi-panelled bigger pieces, I was really struck by their scale as he arranged them in his LA studio. Size is at the forefront of my thinking at present as I mull over how to take my own drawings into paint. I had thought that they should be really large, but seeing Hockney’s pieces, in combination with Kline re-entering my head, I’m now not so sure. They need to be large, but maybe not that large…

Monday, 7 November 2011

Beyond Here Lies Nothin'...

'Stolen Car', charcoal and pastel on paper, A2 size

This third drawing in charcoal above, reminded me of some of my original creative motivations behind these nocturnal images of the motorways around West Bromwich. The huge swathes of black shapes from the motorway structure itself and the dark large shadows reminded me of the paintings of Abstract Expressionist painters, Franz Kline and Pierres Soulages. I really like Kline’s energetic, yet spare, work and the reduction in them down to just using black and white paint. Soulages paintings are much denser and heavily worked but have a mysteriousness to them I like. I thought that the motorways had a similar quality worth exploring. Yet when I did visit them again with more creative ideas in mind, I was struck by the amount of colour actually in the scenes, so this seed of an idea of them being perhaps a riff on Kline’s paintings never grew any further.

Franz Kline

Pierres Soulages

Now making these black and white drawings Kline and Soulages have entered my thoughts again as I think about how to develop them into paintings.