My understanding of this project is that it is about correcting an over reliance on outlines (which have a tendency to flatten an object). The aim is to depict space, depth and volume (the three dimensional nature of objects) by drawing the light, shadow and middle tones we observe and avoiding the use of hard outlines.
I had a faltering start drawing a dark resin ornament ornament of a reclining hare (see above). I felt quite lost, as though learning a whole new language of drawing. But there were good lessons to be gained:
- I needed a subject with much more light / reflected light
- The smooth paper of my A3 sketchbook wasn’t suitable for charcoal; I needed some texture
- I would do better to start with a background of charcoal that was mid tone (not very dark)
- I needed to remind myself about charcoal techniques. It’s never been a medium I’ve felt comfortable with, probably because I’ve not used it enough. I headed to You Tube and watched a couple of short tutorials. This left me better prepared and I realised I could start with a background that picked up the texture of the paper or I could take a tissue and smooth it over.
- I had a light bulb moment when I realised that I could lightly draw in some outlines in order to create my composition because these lines could later be blended in.
Before starting again I took a look at the work of a charcoal artist whose work I had seen exhibited in Norfolk last summer, Frances Martin. Memories of her largescale works stayed with me and studying some of her work has helped me realise that I should take time and invest effort into learning to use charcoal because so much can be achieved with this medium. Her work maximises the potential of light and shade to create a sense of form… and drama.
While the use different mediums, I also looked at the work of painter John Virtue and printmaker Norman Ackroyd. They both tend to use a monochrome palette and the way they exploit light and shade is striking. I put together a Pinterest page for John Virtue’s work here. I got hooked on Ackroyd’s prints after seeing an exhibition of his work in Manningtree last summer.
Taking a cue from our workbook, I also looked at the work (cathedral buildings mostly) of Dennis Creffield and created a Pinterest board. I found myself reacting to the energy in these drawings – his structures seem almost to vibrate with life, as when an electric current runs through something.
So I started again, armed with willow charcoal, putty rubber, some blending sticks, tissues and cartridge paper with a bit of a surface. I’ve ordered some compressed charcoal to try out… hope it arrives soon.
Stairwell in the derelict church
I looked through some of my photos and picked out a view through a doorway of a derelict stairwell at the Knights’ Templar Church on the Hook Peninsula in Ireland. In many ways it was a good choice because there was plenty of light and shade and an interesting viewpoint that makes me want to draw. But it was also a difficult choice because the view is enigmatic o(that’s what caught my attention). It is possibly not immediately obvious what it is which makes judging shape and form more difficult…
I started with a midtone background which I wiped to smooth with a tissue and worked and reworked, wiped out parts of my work accidentally with my sleeves, and learnt that you can easily overwork charcoal on paper which makes getting back to the white increasingly difficult.
I did two A3 drawings. The first portrait drawing was of the whole view with the surrounding entrance way. This looks a bit pale to me… when my compressed charcoal arrives I may add some more dark tones.
The second landscape view was zoomed in on the tumbledown steps. In this drawing I was experimenting with space and scale. I was aiming for simpler areas of wall to contrast with the complexity of the stone steps. This is the better drawing. I was beginning to get the hang of using the charcoal and the drawing technique at this point. There is something strangely visceral about this image. I would have liked to do a third further zoomed in drawing of the same subject but my photo was not sufficiently high resolution enough for me to pick out detail. Reminder to self to take close-ups.This is definitely verging on the abstract now and not easy to identify as a stairwell. This in turn makes the forms quite difficult to judge although I do think there is a sense of space, depth and volume.
This has been an interesting exercise. I can see that the impact of the light would have been destroyed by the use of outlines. When we see an object in bright light, the edges are indistinct, sometimes there is no edge.
I would like to try introducing some sweeping energy into a charcoal drawing, so I will come back to this after doing the next research task. To be continued…