23 May 2018
Exercise 1 Quick sketches around the house
I decided to start in my bedroom. For the first sketch I sat on the kingsized bed, but the angles of my bedside table came our really bad. I draw what I did not see! I then took a front view and decided to work on black paper – as I could smear out wrong lines and work faster. Making visual notes, without getting into the detail was a great exercise, as I had to keep moving and look at my errors. With the soft pastel on the black paper I tried to get a feel of the different textures of the wood, the duvet, pillows as well as headrest. The pictures against the wall is a story of family.
I love the mirror images of my bed in the dressing table. In the early mornings, when sitting (all toasty, inside the bed drinking morning coffee) – we have a beautiful view onto the garden and veranda .. which feels like an extension of the bedroom. I can’t help but think how I will miss this homely feeling in Dubais. There has been times when I sat working in my bed, or on the chair in the bedroom – a very quiet and cosy place to spend productive and or introspective time. I have a few pieces of art by local South African artists hanging on the walls in my bedroom, which I never tire of. My favourite is an etch by Pieter van der Westhuizen – it was such a pleasure to buy it from him before his death in 2008. (Pieter van der Westhuizen was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1931 and studied art at the University of South Africa. In 1970 he worked under Alfred Krentz and from 1979 to 1980 he attended the Nationale Hoger Institute voor Schone Kunst at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium; in 1982 and 1985 he continued his studies at the Stedelijke Akademie in Ghent and at the Ryks Centrum Voor Grafiek in Kasterlee, Belgium. During 1983 and 1985 he studied woodblock printing in Japan. )His work comprises landscapes, portraits, still lifes, figures and abstract works. He worked in pastel, oil, watercolour, ink, pencil, charcoal and in various graphic media. This is what he said about his work, as many of his art was captured in his immediate area where he lived :“This is the world I live in. The sheep, the chickens, the barbed wire fences, the solitary trees on the horizon, the birds in flight: It is all part of my life.” Many of my favourite of his works, are drawings of the landscape surrounding his beautiful blue painted Barnstyle house.
The idea of quick sketches made me accept my mirror view of the bed, although I would like to re-visit this at a later stage: I could change the format, use a wider view point and add my image into the mirror, as well as more detail of soft texture of the bed, as well as details of the dressing table,,, and the Etch! I did a drawing of my shoes, which I maybe got to involved into, with the aquarell pencils. I love keeping my shoes in boxes, but again, this is the truth and reality.. things does not always work out the way we like. I enjoyed putting colour on the black paper, but judging afterwards that the white is maybe over ‘exposed’ in my sketch of the shoes.
The black paper gives the idea of night time – this room is actually filled with natural sunlight and the floors are light wood panels.
Exercise 2 Composition – an interior
I love how the sun flows into our front door.
I looked at a composition of earthenware containers and a copper milk container in my entrance hall pleases my eye. Lighting comes in from the double (glass) front door, this scene is set on a handmade table, standing against a wall. Negative space is created and I like the contrasts of earthenware, wood and copper. The backdrop of the wall has two framed copies of scenes from Victoria Falls around 1862, in current day Zimbabwe. (I have 4 copies in this set, painted by Thomas Baines and it reminds of times in Africa before Colonialism. These paintings served as the prime visual recordings of Victoria Falls for the next 30 years) It looks like the shapes of the earthen ware containers are enhanced by the copper milk container, the strong vertical lines of the shadow shapes of the containers are strengthened by the portrait on the wall and the shadows of the door inside the portrait.
At this stage I realise the importance of spending time to decide on composition before starting a work. I found the fact that I used my time looking at different angles and views thinking more consciously about the objects as part of real life not just things, a symbolic way of looking at this experience. I made a decision to focus on the light falling onto the objects and the shadows casted by the table onto the wall. It creates an atmosphere of nostalgia and there is also a reminder of the now, with the shadow of the door in the left painting. I decide to start the drawing with pencil and explore. I do not finish these drawings, but think I would revisit soon, as I now understand composition is all about relationships on the paper plane or canvass, that I get to choose to put objects down, and about the story I am going to tell with it: in the process I get to understand my own opinions about the “How” of this possible Still Life.
I can see that I battle with perspective and foreshortening – the front of the table is wrong
I like this composition – the print on the wall is almost a mirror – the door reflects into the picture, a moment of the day is caught in this process.
Exercise 3 Material Differences
I went back to my quick sketches on black paper of my bedroom and tried again – with coloured pencils – I focussed on bringing light into the room, as it was early morning and the sun rays were coming in through the North east facing window. In hindsight I saw serious perspective problems — but I feel I learnt about using a different medium and getting confident in trying out lines on different surfaces. The black paper has no ‘tooth’ for the pencil to etch in, and one needs to do more layering and planning, like about light colours first.
I decided to read and learn more about coloured pencils and the techniques of drawing with it, as I realise this is important to successfully follow through with this course. I have no learnt that it is not possible to completely erase the marks or lines and that more care should with regards to the colour palette – even test it before hand. I should also practice mark making and hatching, cross hatching and stiplling. It is also important to layer colours form dark to light and leave bare paper (in case of white paper) for the highlights. Sharp pencils will penetrate the paper better. Obviously the paper and quality is important, white velvety paper sounds the best choice. (Stonehenge brand sounds good). I decide to use normal white paper, A2, for a charcoal sketch for this exercise, and do the same sketch again. I like working on the bigger scale and the composition is soft and tranquil. It is early morning and I hope to bring light and brightness into this drawing. Soft shadows form around the curtain and behind the dressing table. I enjoy the reflections of the objects on the dressing table. I need to give more attention to the curtain folds and how light falls onto it. I am satisfied that the viewer is looking onto this corner from out of the comfy bed – as it is getting colder here in Irene, South Africa. Our daily morning temperature is around 7 Celsius, but still we have bright sun light and mild days.
Research Point Unusual or multiple viewpoints and find contemporary artists who focus on domestic interiors.
My focus was to find contemporary artists who’s artwork, of domestic interiors, could allow me to see how they, in terms of emotional connection to an interior space, use choice of content, medium, and format. I decided to start off with what is a normal viewpoint , and it seems that this is how an adult sees the world when standing up. When painting in a realistic style, this is the viewpoint you’ll probably use because it is what we are accustomed to seeing. It is also considered as what looks most real. It is on the eye level line where we will find the horizon line across a composition. However the image used in the study material, the art work of Anthony Grenn, Study for Mrs madeleine Jocelyne with her Son, 1987, challenges these ideas about perspective, as everything about the room, in fact, the whole room is viewed at once. It reminded me of my photographer friend’s glass ball.
With regards to the research point, the work of Edward Hopper, David Hockney as well as Chiharu Shiota comes to mind. Chiharu Shiota is mainly known for installations, but I see the connection with interior spaces in her installations as well as videos. In her work, Infinity Lines, Shiota incorporated antique wooden chairs that showed evidence of their previous use. Red yarn connected one chair to another and also to the surfaces of the gallery itself, filling the space and tying individual stories and memories together, like neurons mapping memories in the brain. Just as memories and life experiences stay with each individual throughout their lives, the objects in the exhibition retained the personal histories of their owners and symbolically linked present and past.
The piano, Shiota claims, symbolises “the things which lie hidden in the innermost recesses of my heart, which, no matter how hard I try to express, I cannot put into shapes or words. Yet they clearly exist as mysterious spirits. The more I think about them, the quieter the sound emanating from my heart becomes, and the greater their presence” ( taken from Memory, Dreaming and Death by Kelly Long a PhD student at the Visual and Cultural Studies program of the University of Rochester. Contributed to the catalog “The Hand Lines” published by Casa Asia and read as a PDF on the www)
Whilst I was battling with perspective doing the sketches in my own interior space, Edward Hopper came to mind – I imagined him getting this right from the start to end up with the great works of art he did. I realise it is something of painting with purpose and utilising intimacy. He was one of the early American artists to paint the experience of human isolation in the modern city. In Morning Sun, the woman – after Hopper’s wife, Jo – faces the sun impassively and seemingly lost in thought. Her visible right eye appears sightless, emphasising her isolation. The bare wall and the elevation of the room above the street also suggest the bleakness and solitude of impersonal urban life.
In this painting Hopper is the observer of three ladies in a restaurant – for that time in history of American society this was very modern for women to work, be single and to meet in restaurants. This is also a painting of a particular moment in history/time, many people could be looking back and relate to this in history.
I viewed two works of David Hockney on the website of the TATE and Metropolitan of Art , but could not find bigger images.
According to the MET The Large Interior was done of his home he purchased in LA in 1980.” In this work he fragments the perspectival space of his open living room partly in reference to Cubism. The bust of Pablo Picasso above the fireplace and the cubistic drawing in Hockney’s own hand above the mantel are further references.” Here Hockney gives one a birds’ eye perspective of the interior of his brightly coloured living room and gives the viewer multiple viewpoints. Irregular geometrical shapes in stead of vertical and horizontal lines are created – the ceiling becomes part of the objects in the room!
I found a very interesting article in an online magazine: Kvadrat Interwoven, by Laura Housely :David Hockney’s furniture Furniture features heavily in the British artist’s work. But what are they saying? Laura Housely is the writer of a design book: The Independent Design Guide:Innovative Products from the New Generation, Publisher: Thames and Hudson; London, UK, 2009
In this article Housely points to the furniture in David Hockney’s artwork and the fact that these piece are all familiar to the artist, and that he has used many of them in more than one painting. “So, as much as the pieces of furniture in Hockney’s paintings are useful tools, excuses for investigating perspective, pattern and perception, there is another element to them: they are familiar to the artist, representative of Hockney himself.”
I also looked at the work of Pierre Bonnard on the TATE website :Coffee 1915 (Tate N05414) is a large oil painting on canvas by the French artist Pierre Bonnard. In the painting, a table is shown from a front view and at a slightly elevated angle. It is covered in a bright red and white checked tablecloth on which a coffee pot, two white cups and a serving platter for food have been placed. The table is only partially shown and extends into the foreground to meet the canvas’s lower edge.
Philip Pearlstein is an American abstract expressionist. In his younger days he shared a flat with Andy Warhol. In recent years he become famous for his large scale nudes in settings of theatrical scale, such as large patterned rugs, toys, a wide range of chairs, and curious bits of sculpture. The work shown in the study material reminds me of Lucien Freud – his realistic flesh colours and positions he place the figures in. The view that he choose is challenging and it is interesting the head of the male model is almost chopped of – It is as though he wants to show an interaction of two people and not so much the people themselves. In an article of Purple Diary, January 2018 a conversation with the artists lets us in about his choice of composition for his nude figures.
JETHRO TURNER – How do you go about finding the most challenging composition to paint?
PHILIP PEARLSTEIN – I’m a flea market addict! Usually I start with the latest object I collect and build the composition around it. Then the models find their positions and they are comfortable. Then I walk around, looking at the setup we’ve decided on and making adjustments – this is a few hours, most of the morning.
JETHRO TURNER – You’ve said that there is no symbolism in the objects that these nude figures. How and why do you select them?
PHILIP PEARLSTEIN – I look for objects that have a unique character I also have a collection of fabrics from many different cultures – Native American, Middle Eastern, etc. I try to avoid anything that has strong religious implications.
He works with the same models for years on end, on a succession of different paintings. Each painting takes many months, and the models are present throughout the process (unlike a lot of artists, he never works from photographs). ‘They’re there all the time – the whole visual experience changes if one of them isn’t there.’ He positions his easel at right angles to his models, so it doesn’t create a barrier between the artist and the sitter. He plays classical LPs while he paints. Yet it’s a mark of his skill and sensitivity that all the people in his paintings are appealing. He sees the beauty in every subject, even while painting all their blemishes. ‘They’re ordinary people.’ But they’re ordinary people you could fall in love with. What’s so attractive and impressive about Pearlstein’s work is its equanimity, its neutrality. Like a great piece of music, it allows you to invest it with your own emotions. It’s not preachy or didactic – it’s not telling you what to think. ‘I decided I wasn’t interested in psychology – I’d never been analysed,’ he says. ‘Anybody who looks at a painting interprets it in their own way. There is no universal language in art. The meaning is up for grabs.’ (Spectator Life Magazine : The artists who lived with War and Warhol)
Chelsea Raflo (born 1986, Atlanta, Georgia) is an interdisciplinary artist exploring how symbols and personal narratives are created and experienced through different mediums. Above is a 2D work of home objects.