Visual Studies - Week 5

News / 22 October 2018

(Originally written 18/10/18)

Our day of Visual Studies began with us drawing with words, as opposed to lines, with a fineliner pen. This was a bit nerve-wracking to begin with, as we couldn’t sketch it out first and instead had to use words to plan out what we were doing. However, once I got into the “flow” I found it quite cathartic. The skills I have gained from the previous weeks of visual studies meant I could keep my drawing accurate enough for it to still look good, despite the strange medium and permanent nature of the fineliner. I layered the words, making the darker areas quite dense with text and the areas of lighter tone more sparse. I actually really enjoyed this, it was so different to what we usually do that I feel like it helped me understand drawing from another perspective. The lines that make up text are far more sporadic than the lines we usually use for drawing – it’s helped me to realise that the marks we make don’t necessarily have to be perfect and fluid, but rather that it is the entire picture that matters, and how everything fits together is far more crucial.

We then were instructed to wrap our pointer finger in a bandage, and use this to finger paint with watered-down ink. I made my ink solution extremely weak, which worked really well to get a solid foundation down on the paper. Going back to the last time we used ink, I had problems with the dark areas bleeding if I put tone washes down after them, so this time I was decidedly careful with building tone, and made a point to gradually increase the amount of ink in my solution as I was building up the layers, instead of rushing to fill in dark areas early.

After I was happy with my base, and it had some tone in it, I removed the bandage and worked neat ink into the image with a stick. Much like before, the stick allowed me to get really expressive marks, and actually gave me much more fine control than a brush due to the small amount of ink it held on it in comparison.

The finished picture is easily one of my best so far in my opinion. I think I got very lucky that a new bottle of ink was opened – when I was doing my wash, the ink had a bluish tone to it, whereas all of my work with neat ink had more of a brown lean. This adds extra depth to the areas that are in the darkest shadow, which, whilst purely accidental, really makes the image seem far more complex than it would otherwise. I am particularly happy with the way that the skull and the ribcage turned out, though I think the knot of cloth by the skeleton’s hip (and the hip itself) look a bit lost and undefined. I may have benefited from not putting quite so much neat ink in these areas. However, I feel that the eye is naturally drawn to the top of the piece, and because of that, it does not detract from the overall picture too much. This piece has really bought it home for me just how much I have improved in these 5 short weeks – I am proud to see myself progressing and I am excited to see what the future holds.

3D & Photography

News / 22 October 2018

(Originally written 16/10/18

In 3D I properly prepared my illustrations ready for transferring to plaster. I aimed for a rustic feel and so opted to not use a ruler for my outlines, I feel a bit of wobble to them will look more cosy and also suit the imperfect plaster more than hard edges would. I’m a little unsure of how I will make the plaster blocks the right shape, as they are all rectangles now and I would like for them to have some gentle slopes, but I think I may be able to find a way after transferring the images. Mary also suggested painting them with watercolour after they are transferred, which I think is a fantastic idea. Watercolour will hopefully harken to the idea of cosiness again, and leave me with quite a quaint little set up.

I also got back a bottle filled with small shards of glass I put to be fired last lesson. Unfortunately, it was fired laying down as opposed to standing up, but the result is something that looks as if it could be an ornament in itself. I have put it aside for it to be fired again standing, mainly out of curiosity. I am actually glad that it got fired a different way to what I intended, as it means that I now have the opportunity to see the piece in another state. Glass fusing seems primarily about metamorphosis, and being able to do this multiple times for different results is a very happy accident.

Photography consisted of printing 8”10” photographs to go into our portfolios. It was interesting how the timings and settings we used for the smaller paper stopped being applicable, as the enlarger head was positioned farther away this time.

I used dodging and burning this session to balance out the tones in my photographs, which was a lot more simple than I expected. For some reason, the pictures seemed less impressive on larger paper to me, although that could just be because I am used to the images now and so am criticising them more. I am still happy with the prints I have, and I do think they will make for impressive portfolio pieces.

Visual Studies - Week 4

News / 17 October 2018

(Originally written 11/10/18)

Today, we worked with ink. My only real experience with ink in the past has been in the form of ink pens, but today we were first faced with using neat ink applied with a brush. This added an extra challenge to the already obvious ones – not only were we using something that could not be erased, but the brush also had a variable line weight we needed to take into consideration. I was surprised by how transparent it was when dry, I constantly felt like I was trying to rebalance the darkness of my lines as the newsprint paper sapped the ink away, which lead to some of the marks being far too dark and blotchy. I do like the way this looked in the end, but I think parts of it were too bold as I was trying to correct myself.

We then did a left-handed study, again with neat ink and a brush. I actually really enjoyed this, and found that it felt a lot more free to move with my left hand. I think it made me move my arm around more, as opposed to just my hand, which translated well with the medium. It was very bold again, but I think it suited this piece more.

Our last task in the morning was to draw using a stick. This actually made for a more pleasant picture than either of the earlier ones, in my opinion. The stick offered different styles of marks to be made, and the smaller, scratchier ones remind me of loose threads. The stick didn’t hold much ink on it, which made it difficult to get long, sweeping lines, but that did help at keeping the amount of ink I was laying on the paper low. As a result, I didn’t get the problem of large blooms of ink like I did with the earlier pieces.

In the afternoon we did one large piece, and introduced more tone by having watered-down ink as well as neat ink. It really helped to be able to sketch out the sculpture we were drawing first, instead of just having to put the lines on the paper and then facing them possibly being incorrect down the line. I felt like it was going very well, and I was enjoying drawing the folds of fabric I could see, but it definitely hit a “sweet spot” and then started to look worse after that.

I am pretty sure the decline happened when I started adding tone over my bolder lines. I didn’t realise that the neat ink would re-activate when it got wet, so as I tried to layer on tones, my lines became blurry and it just looked, on the whole, too wet. I do genuinely believe that this ruined the aesthetics of my drawing, but I am glad this happened, as now I realise I should build up tone underneath slowly, and add my darker areas later. It’s probably the first drawing in class that I’ve spent over an hour on that I don’t like, but I am happy with what I have learned from it, and hope I can keep it in mind going forward.


News / 17 October 2018

(Originally written 08/10/18)

I’ve been hesitant to write anything about my experience in textiles as I haven’t really felt like I know what I have been working towards there. I’ve felt a bit uninspired and unsure where to go with it.

I spent some time on the sewing machines last lesson, and played around with layering strips of different fabrics to create interesting textures. This was a nice learning experience for me, but I feel like the end result is far too amateurish. I didn’t spend enough time properly measuring the pieces of fabric I was using, and I didn’t put in the effort to make sure my stitching was straight. I went a bit too gung-ho, and it shows. I also did some “angry stitching” and sketched out a stick with berries using the sewing machine. This was far more successful, and I do actually like it lot. It’s not easy to tell exactly what it is, but it looks more purposeful and deliberate.

In today’s lesson I decided to instead experiment with paper. I really like the geometric shapes present in Gayla Rosenfeld’s work, and thought it would be interesting to use the idea of connected points to create shapes out of outlines. I layered some strips of magazines on a page of my sketchbook to begin with, to give myself a more rough background, and then poked holes through at regular intervals. I threaded wool through to make some shapes, with no real plan in mind, and had some fun with it. It was quite a cathartic activity, and although I don’t usually appreciate art that is more interpretive, I do like the way it looks. I think I could use more wool to improve it, but as a concept it works, and I am happy to leave it where it is.

I also started looking at the idea of smocking. By leading thread though fabric in different patterns, and then tightening it, you can create some interesting forms as it gathers. I tried to extend this activity at home, but I found that my thread was far too thin, and it kept breaking as I gathered up the fabric. My first attempt was definitely most successful, and now I feel a bit more confident about what to do in textiles from here.

Visual Studies - Week 3

News / 13 October 2018

(Originally written 04/10/18)

We started off the day with a continuous line drawing of a structure in the middle of the room that was draped with cloth and tarpaulin. It was quite fun, but I do feel like I need to practice continuous line drawing at home more to try and hone my skills. After we were all warmed up, we were asked to draw the structure, and given 45 minutes. I quite liked having more organic shapes to play with, as the past weeks have been with an emphasis on more rigid shapes, and as my background is primarily in portraiture which makes use of more fluid lines. After 15 minutes, we were told to stop and move 5 easels clockwise – this was now our drawing. We were encouraged to rub away any incorrect lines and make sure all of the angles were accurate, instead of filling in the unfinished parts. I found this a lot of fun, and it almost gave me a sense of relief, moving away from my drawing and on to another one. I had no qualms with rubbing out parts of the picture, and enjoyed trying to reconstruct what I had erased. It was almost like a puzzle, trying to slot in correct angles and deal with the domino effect of corrections from each adjustment. I felt free to absorb myself into the work without getting “clean page anxiety” or expecting it to be perfect. After another 15 minutes had passed, we were told to rotate to another easel, and do the same again. This was a little trickier, as by that point two people had already worked on the piece, so there was a distinct difference in stylistic choices already present.

We shared our work with the group and then were asked for 3 words to demonstrate what we learned from the experience, to carry over and focus on during our next drawing. Mine were freedom, flexibility, and being constructive.


The exercise allowed me to feel a real sense of freedom to work loosely, I found I didn’t worry so much about making mistakes when I was working on something that already had parts present. I wanted to keep this in mind for the future so that I can push myself to not be tied down to perfectionism, and instead enjoy the process of creating.


I think it is important to be willing to change parts of things we have already done to make way for new, revised input. Flexibility is important in many facets of life, and is very relevant to art as well; we must stay agile, and willing to be honest with ourselves to create the best version of our creations.

Being constructive

It is all too easy to feel like we are making progress, when we are simply going over our same lines over and over. This is true in life as much as it is in drawing; We can isolate ourselves in our echo chambers and only do what we know, believing we are growing, when we aren’t. This is something that is becoming more and more apparent to me as the weeks go by – I have spent so many years of my life stagnating, and only making very slow progress because I have been afraid to fail. In the context of this drawing, I found that the time pressure pushed me to make bolder decisions and really forge the lines I was making. It was a great feeling, and I would love to be able to keep this concept in mind more.

We then took a piece of A0 brown paper and were told we would have the rest of the day to draw the structure using charcoal and white chalk. It was very difficult to try and get the proportions and angles correct with the fabric being flowing. Despite that, I enjoyed the exercise and found it an enjoyable experience. I am appreciating drawing from life more and more, it is a different beast from using a 2D reference but it very rewarding, and I really feel like my drawings from life have a weight to them.

After lunch we came back to find that the covering fabric and tarpaulin had been removed to reveal the objects underneath. This included a skeleton, a bottle, a tyre, and other bric-a-brac. Our task was to take a coloured pastel and show these in the drawing we had already done, in the hope that all of the items fit in under the blanket we had drawn. My main conundrum upon being faced with this was how to use the coloured pastel, as the drawing already had tone, and the paper was brown which covered the mid-tones. I opted to use it as an accent to show any areas that were covered by cloth previously.

I was very surprised to find that most of the items fit proportionally in my drawing. It was far from 100% perfect - upon measuring using the skeleton’s skull as a size reference, my picture was one skull too short. You can see this in the legs of the skeleton, as they do look a little bit short. There are some issues with angles too on the boxes and suchlike. I am pleased with how it came out however, and I really think that if I had tried the same exercise a few weeks ago it would’ve not worked out well at all.

College Art Jounal

News / 29 September 2018

Visual studies – Week 2

Today we had our second week of drawing from life. This week, the entire day was focused on still life, instead of half being anatomy-based. To begin with, we had about 15 minutes to draw a stacked up collection of boxes on large newsprint paper using charcoal. The main lights of the room were switched off, so the lamp that was part of the structure provided some really nice strong shadows to play with. It looked a little daunting at first, but I really think that the previous week has given me more confidence when drawing from life. The resulting drawing was stronger, I believe, than what I completed last week.

We then had the challenge of drawing making only 20 marks. This was then reduced to 10, and then to 3. I felt a bit unsure about how to approach these restricted drawings, as it’s not something I have considered before. I have spent a lot of my life aiming for high detail realism in my pieces, so this process meant completely subverting my ideals and creating something far more representative. I don’t think my interpretations were very effective, and I would like to continue to practice this kind of thinking at home to try and help me understand how to properly convey what I am seeing without relying on detail to make it apparent. The other class members had far more recognisable interpretations, and I think it was because they recognised the essence of what they were seeing, instead of the objects themselves. What I mean by that is, the most effective drawings I saw were ones that gave a sense of entropy and “stackedness” instead of just looking like boxes. I think I need to look further into the impression that the objects give, and not just try to copy them to do this well.

For our last work, we were given 2h45 to draw a section of the boxes on slightly toned A0 paper. We were encouraged to use the time carefully, and concentrate on replicating the angles and measurements accurately before working on value. It was nice to have a decent amount of time to work without feeling rushed – it gave me the freedom to get really absorbed in what I was doing and make sure the piece was well planned. I nevertheless did hit a point where I felt like I didn’t know what to do next, and had to remove myself from my work for a few minutes to recharge and look again with critical eyes. I felt like the piece had plateaued, and there was nothing more I could do to it, but it still didn’t look 100% accurate. It is times like these where it is important to be able to self-diagnose the problems that are there, which is something I do struggle with as I usually ask my partner for his input. Having fresh eyes from a third party and honest, sharp criticism is invaluable, but I know I do rely on this too much and it is important that I can learn to improve my work myself, and climb above the plateaus I encounter unaided. I did realise that some parts were in the wrong places, and after fixing these issues (despite them being big changes) the piece looked a lot better. I’m actually very proud of myself for pushing through and not just leaving it as “good enough.” I honestly believe that you should spend all the time you can on an exploratory piece – the purpose of these is to learn from them. If you back off and worry about ruining it, you are holding yourself back from learning as much as you can from your time with it. Never settle.

One recurring theme I seem to be coming across, is that my placement on the paper is often not centred. This is probably due to working digitally so often, as it doesn’t really matter when you can extend your canvas! I’m hoping this is something I will pick up as I have more experience working with large paper.

College Art Jounal

News / 28 September 2018

Photography – Processing Negatives

I had no idea that processing film into negatives was such an involved process! Despite constantly taking reels of film to be developed as a child, I never gave much thought to how it worked behind the scenes, so the length of time it took simply to process negatives seemed astounding to me.

To begin, we had to load the film from the canisters onto spirals, which went inside a large pod, with space for 3 rolls of film inside. This had to be done in a pitch black room, as (obviously) the film was light sensitive. We took the pods into the darkroom, where we learned what chemicals to use to properly process the film.

First, we used developer. This was mixed at a 1:1 ratio with water, and the solution had to be kept at 20C to keep our timings accurate. We poured this solution into the pods at 300ml per reel, and left it for 13 minutes. Every 30 seconds we agitated the solution to ensure an even coverage. Next, after pouring out the developer, a stop bath was used to neutralise any left over developer on the film. This was reusable, so we poured the excess back into the jug. Lastly, we used fixer to make sure there was nothing left on the film that would tarnish the image. This also makes the image on the film lightfast and permanent.

After this, we washed the film and hung it to dry. I was very excited to see my negatives out. I have enjoyed my photography lessons more than my lessons involving drawing, and for me, that is making me feel a bit conflicted about the direction I want to take. I have always liked to draw, but I feel myself excited by the ideas I have for interesting photography, which is very unexpected as I have never really been interested in the topic previously. It is a little bittersweet, as I feel more unsure of my future and my creative aspirations.

Needless to say, I am very eager to see my photographs developed next week.

College Art Jounal

News / 27 September 2018

(Originally written 23/09/18 8.30pm)

A trip to the New Art Gallery Walsall

On Friday we spent a few hours having a curator tour of our local art gallery. I have been before, but that was many years ago and I had no memories of it at all. I was very impressed by the size of the gallery; I assumed it would have a small collection of works by local artists, but in reality there were lots of pieces from many different well-known artists.

We began in the Family Gallery, an area focused on interactivity and connection between artists and visitors. The current exhibition there was by Mahtab Hussain and was entitled “Going back home to where I came from.” There were many snippets of his visit to Kashmir in 2016, and with the help of the local community, the art gallery were constructing a traditional Kashmiri mud house within the exhibition for museum-goers to explore. It reminded me of visiting science and history museums as a child, and it made an interesting cross-over of art and education in my mind. I would’ve liked the exhibition to be a little larger as I thought it was quite a compelling collection of works.

We then progressed up to floor 3 of the gallery, where there was the work of 21 artists as part of their final MA Fine Art exhibitions. The students were from Wolverhampton University, and I found the range of work shown very diverse. Some of it was a bit strange and not really the kind of thing I enjoy. For example, the work of Todd Jones was shown, which was a rectangle of paint dust on the floor of the site. I originally thought that this was just a taped off area waiting upon a sculpture piece or suchlike, and did not realise it was paint. The accompanying photographs explained the premise, and were very pleasing to look at. My favourite piece was by Bethany Dugmore, a look into the concept of surveillance entitled “After the fact.” The exhibition was really useful to see, as it was far easier to relate to the work of students and see that it is something potentially on the horizon for us, instead of that of established artists where their journey is less visible. I shall cover this exhibition in more detail in an essay piece, and really explore how the pieces made me feel.

The rest of the Gallery is a bit of a blur to me as I felt like we were quite rushed. We visited the 4th floor, where there was “Intermission” by Grace A Williams on show. The curator explained to us that Williams found two slides featuring 19th century men and hand-tinted them to draw attention to the role of women in photography, who would often be employed to add colour to photographs during the time the slide photographs were taken. The concept behind the work was impressive, but again, I felt like it was something I didn’t really “get” unfortunately. As time goes by, I really feel like my ideas of art are constantly being challenged, which is absolutely a good thing, and I would like to think that after some of my prejudices are broken down I could revisit the gallery and properly appreciate what it has to offer.

We then went down to floor 2 and viewed the Garman Ryan collection. I felt personally affected by the tale of Epstein’s life and his childrens’ feeling towards him. One of the quotes from them that was displayed said something along the lines of “nobody cares about your art, they will care about how much of a bad father you are.” I struggle with moderation and finding my own way to leave a mark on the world, and worry that my obsessing over my personal goals with affect my relationships with my children, so this really hit me in an unexpected way. We continued to view the work on show on this floor, but in all honesty I only remember snippets as I felt we didn’t have the time to look effectively.

One thing I did find surprising about the gallery was the idea of artists in residence. It is a term I had heard in the past but never really thought to look into. There is a studio space within the gallery for artists to work in, and it has a large window so museum-goers can watch them if they so desire. I really like the idea of this, and would be very interested to see an artist at work there. There is also an extensive art library on-site, which I believe will be very useful for the future of my college course.

College Art Jounal

News / 20 September 2018

Visual Studies – Exploring how we approach drawing

Today I was timetabled a day of “Visual Studies.” I was a bit unsure what to expect from this, as it does sound quite ambiguous. I knew we would be drawing, but I did not know exactly how we would be approaching it. It was a given that we would be drawing from life, which I didn’t feel particularly confident about.

The Morning - Still life

In the morning, we were faced with a large, sprawling group of objects in the centre of the room (which included our bottle sculpture from our induction week), and tasked with drawing it on large newsprint paper using charcoal. We were asked to set up an easel at a spot where what we could see was visually interesting, and given 40 minutes. The only stipulations were that we needed to include the entire mass of objects in the composition, as opposed to just focusing on one area, and that we should not include shading, but instead concentrate on getting the lines accurate.

I do not tend to work with purely with charcoal, and in the past have normally just used it for dark shadows. I also avoid making lines, and instead draw in a subtractive way. My usual approach is to make a fine, even coating of graphite and then erase in highlighted areas before adding in deeper shadows, so I really found working with lines a challenge. However, I relaxed and embraced the activity, and found the results very pleasing.

I really like the loose, unrefined feel of the piece. It isn’t loaded with realism, but it is expressive.

Next, we had 7 minutes to do a continuous line drawing of the same viewpoint. Again, this isn’t something I usually indulge in, but the freedom it offered had a lot of value.

Lastly, we moved to another viewpoint and had an hour to draw what we could see on A0 paper, focusing on getting angles correct. I had never worked this large before, so it was a little daunting to look at the space I needed to fill.

I really think the continuous line activity helped me to make more confident marks with the charcoal. I am really happy with this piece, and I think that I learned a lot from just the one morning of activities. I feel that it will take consistent practice in the techniques used today to stop me falling back into old methods and to keep the confidence I gained today. Although parts aren’t fabulously accurate, the wider picture looks expressive, and you can tell that the marks were made with conviction.

The Afternoon - Anatomy

The afternoon was comprised of drawing a skeleton from different angles. For the first drawing, we were given 20 minutes and were allowed to draw with any materials we liked, and we also did not have to fit the entire skeleton on the paper. I fell back on my usual subtractive style of drawing, and used graphite powder applied with a brush to create shadows that I then erased into. Afterwards I reinforced the edges with charcoal. I was originally quite pleased with this, but in retrospect I feel it looks a little bland.

We then moved perspective and were given one minute to draw. Then another with 20 seconds. This was a fun exercise, and whilst the results were obviously not anything to write home about, the activity focused on the importance of how to convey information, and what to prioritise to get the forms on the paper.

For our next exercise, we were given different objects and instructed to tape our charcoal to the ends of them. We were to draw on a piece of A4 paper using these objects with our arms outstretched, so we were quite far away from the easel. Some people got very long sticks, some people had bin lids, someone had a hose. I was given a floppy draught excluder. I thought this was a bit ridiculous, and my arm started to ache pretty quickly, but it was definitely fun.

I was also really pleased with how my drawing turned out. I felt like it would turn out as a mess of lines, but instead the lack of control has made the drawing full of unpredictable strokes. I actually prefer this to my initial drawing where I was allowed all of my usual artist creature comforts, go figure. The only really frustrating thing that I experienced here was that the draught excluder kept rubbing out parts of the charcoal.

Our last task was to tape together two A1 pieces of paper longways and draw the skeleton life-sized, but only using our left hand. The first 15 minutes were rough, and my hand was cramping up a lot. I felt my lines were ham-fisted, and it was a definite ordeal for me. However, as time went on, this dissipated. I became engrossed in my drawing, and as I did, my left hand seemed to become far more compliant. My lines were still hard to control, but it felt like they at least seemed to flow out onto the paper more fluidly. I really like the end result, and would like to do this more often

However, I did not complete the main objective we were given. I drew the skeleton too big, so it was not life-size. Balancing scale when drawing from life seems extremely difficult, and I have no idea how to approach drawing something life-sized. Despite this, I find my left-handed piece to be the best of all the drawings I completed today, and it stands testament to the fact that bold, confident strokes that are imperfect can be far more effective than tentative sketches aiming for realism.

College Art Jounal

News / 19 September 2018

(Originally written 20/09/18 6.40pm)

3D & Photography

We started the day with 3D studies, which I was really not looking forward to. I greatly appreciate 3D work and would love to be able to be proficient at it, but I have always felt the materials cumbersome and have never been able to create what I have pictured in my mind. That extends to computer 3D modelling, I just feel like I can’t get a good grasp of 3D space whilst making things.

Despite that, I found the lesson very accessible. I used terracotta clay, and did not get frustrated with it as a material at all. I think that perhaps my previous experiences have been with cheaper clay as it was mainly in school, and that may be why I found it stiff to work with in the past.

We were asked to bring in an object to take imprints of textures. I took in an old graphics card, which worked really well as there were many varying textures across it. I rolled a piece of clay over the heatsink, and it looked a little bit like a finger, so I went with that theme and created a robot hand. At every stage I let the imprints made dictate where the piece of clay would go, and didn’t really fashion anything specifically to go anywhere on the piece. It was very enjoyable, and I am looking forward to seeing how it looks next week after it has been fired.

My other experiments were less successful as I didn’t really feel any inspiration from the shapes I was making, but I did still learn about the qualities of the clay and what can be achieved with it as a material.

Later, in the afternoon, we had a photography lesson. Again, I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about this, but found making photographs very engaging. It really made me think about the importance of composition and the value of more “flat” shots. We focused on not getting a whole wide image, with a background and a subject etc, but more of an abstract, close shot of objects that may look interesting. The underlying theme of the lesson was “lost and found,” and of course, the dilapidated shopfronts in the backsteets of Walsall town centre were perfect for this topic.

It could be a little frustrating trying to make the composition I had in mind without a zoom lens, as many interesting areas were out of reach. This worked in our favour though, I believe, because it meant I began to look more attentively at places I would never usually consider. How often do we analyse the flooring we are walking on? Inspiration strikes where we seek it, and oftentimes it can be where we don’t necessarily expect to find it.