Part two was a surprisingly interesting section in ways that I didn’t realise or appreciate until I had almost reached the end. In fact it proved quite a frustrating section that I got a little disheartened by, only to realise at the end just how my I had learned and how important it was. The three main things I took from this were symbolism, detail and technique.
Symbolism – Like a lot of people, still life was not a genre I was hugely familiar with, and although I was aware of it, I didn’t have much of an in depth knowledge. Only when researching it did I start to understand the subtle symbolism used, and the diverse ways to portray the objects, from the classical styles of 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, through the modern cubism and Dada movements, right up to the modern hyper realistic styles we see being made today.
The symbols of the different eras hugely reflected the social and economic times that they were set in, from a dominance of religious artefacts and death as in the Dutch and Flemish masters to a response of colourful new techniques and more mundane subject matters such as the impressionists. The political agender of the war era, cubism, the ration of supplies, 3D collages and the sudden use of lost and found materials within the Dada movement in an attempt to question art and turn it on its head. All the way to modern techniques due to the now available synthetic paints and materials widely available to us today.
I was taken back, but also influenced by the diversity of the techniques.
Detail – This interest also led to the second revolution I had while working through the projects. While scrutinising the objects I started to find patterns in the various textures, even being aware of the subtle textures and surfaces of different object. Becoming conscious of how the light was affected, reflected, absorbed by the surface, I confronted the challenge as a problem to be solved, asking myself how I would represent the light and texture with the medium I was using. How I could convey the weight and feel of the object, the fine detail, folds, patterns, light, shade and tone as well as the variance of the light source giving hard light, soft, intense or subtle, and how I would portray this.
This process was laborious and didn’t really seem to bear and fruits until after I had come back to it and realised that my perception of objects, even the things around me as I walked down the street seemed like they had just been shifted into ultra sharp focus. I found myself subconsciously weighing up how I would render that car paint work, drop of rain on a leaf or that concrete wall at sun set! Back to drawing and I found a massive increase in my ability to recreate what I was looking at, so yes, it was only until after the frustration that I realised the benefit!
Technique – Using different mediums was the most frustrating task as I lacked a lot of confidence, abandoning a lot of work convinced it wasn’t working of that it looked amateurish. The biggest turning point was when I started with the coloured pencils very lightly and started to build up layers of colour until resolution that started to give good results.
It was when I transferred this technique to pastels, charcoal and other mediums that I realised that there was an underlining technique that only differed regarding what the material was made from, ie oil pastel was thick and vibrant whereas water based pencils were fluid and opaque.
I started to use the underlining technique of a light build up of layers, applying different methods of handling depending on the medium. Both this and the play and relationship between layering colours was a massive learning curve that has boosted my confidence, and although it has been a slow process, I believe these are the foundations for every other project and piece I create, so taking my time to understand and push the boundaries with these have been a priceless experience.
Key learning progression – Learning the techniques with different coloured materials has given me a immense confidence boost with regards to my ability. Instead of looking at a task and worrying, almost feeling defeated before I have started, I can now jump at a project, not only with ideas ready in my head of how to render and go about it, but also how I’m going to mix up the media and feeling much more confident and able to try new and different techniques. This has actually proved to be the one major hurdle that I have been struggling with, and through scrutinising this seemingly painful part of the course, it has turned out to be the most important part of my development so far.
I also developed a sense of how to render and accentuate objects and emotions through the use of position and arrangement, ie movement of line, contrast or harmony of texture and colour, and the use of perspective, foreshortening and various viewpoints.
Using different media and techniques gave me a confidence in trying new ideas, as well as thinking how to suitably describe the objects I am drawing. Most notably in the dot work of P2, EX4, my development of the multi media work in P2, EX3 which resulted in the technique used for the final assessment, as well as making significant leaps and bounds with my handling if coloured pencil, oil pastel and charcoal.
Although a large chunk of my work was simply experimentation with colour and different mediums which felt I wasn’t progressing much through countless dead ends and unsuccessful trials, in hindsight it was these trials that taught me to see the task ahead almost as a mathematical problem that requires a solution that has to be discovered through trial and error. Looking at it this way gave it an almost exciting discovery feel to the task ahead and I always say to myself now that the solution is there, it just needs to be exposed.