Assignment 1 submission critique

drawing of ceramic cat, scrap metal alien, hatchling dragon, lamp
A1 still life using 9B pencil, black, grey, and white charcoal.

It’s hard to know what influences I brought to bear on this work; partly because whatever they are, they go back a long way and have probably become barely conscious and fleeting, likely unnamed, and definitely inconsistent in style. I hit adolescence/young adulthood in the 1960s, a tumultuous time for politics, social behaviour, art and music. I was gripped by Quant[1] – those clean efficient lines, and Aubrey Beardsley[2] – full of tiny detail, dots and curls, and Dali who made the ordinary fascinatingly unsettling. Then there was Millais’ Ophelia[3] – again the detail but also the light, the colour, the sense of something that could be fabric but also a window. Later, I came across Giger[4] and his architectural drawings for the Alien film series that provided the wholly believable dimensionality of the backdrop to that ground-breaking film. In more recent times I’ve discovered all manner of artistic expressions in all kinds of unexpected places; from the art that makes working models in virtual reality[5] – much of it uncredited – to my latest find (via BBC Radio 6 presenter Maryanne Hobbs[6]), Maggi Hambling[7]. That ferocity and defiance, that refusal to be cowed by opinion, that doughty glare at the camera. TV credits are sometimes better than the programme they precede although I’d say those for The Bridge[8] were precisely right for the atmosphere of the content. Those wide sweep sea/river/landscapes that would make a box TV look like a widescreen. And today I found, via Bored Panda, an artist (Eric Geusz[9]) who turns everyday objects into space vehicles with the attention to detail of a technical draftsman and imagination of a comic artist.

Luckily, professional uncertainty is a psychologist’s whole life so in some ways this is no different, other than I’m not too sure of the rules in this new arena. Maybe there are none but the not-knowing has caused me to prevaricate over which version of this assignment to submit. Do I go with the first – in my view a more expressive and imaginative piece that, for me, has atmosphere but may lack technical detail, or the more prosaic monochrome drawing that probably exposes my incapacity to keep elements of a still life lined up properly and where perspective issues can’t be fudged? I like elements of both but it was certainly a challenge, much of it of my own making – I mean who chooses a sculpture made of scrap metal, a ceramic cat, a dragon hatchling, and a small moon for their first submission when they could have used fruit? Maybe fruit would have really shown me up, perhaps that’s at the root.

As a project, and in the context of this whole module, I’ve been both alarmed and then delighted at the move from the quite small surfaces (8×10 or 12×16) I’ve been using to these massive areas of A1 and A2 sheets. A1 is actually quite difficult to manage unless I use it in landscape but we’re getting there. More tricky is control of whatever medium I have at the end of my arm to make marks with. I experienced some loss of precision there and it’s clearly a motor skill that needs developing, and now I’ve discovered mahl sticks things may improve. I’m drawn to sweeping movements but I still have my inner Beardsley niggling away in there and, in this particular context, Giger glowering over my shoulder.

The most difficult parts of the exercise were, for me, some real technical basics:

  • Perspective. Every time I’ve drawn that metal sculpture, its form and shape seems to have wriggled and changed direction to the extent it’s felt like trying to straighten out an Escher impossibility. Somehow also, lining elements up along one constructed dimension seemed not to follow through to any of the others so that ears and feet that should have been juxtaposed are often not.
  • Surface representation. There is shine and glint and rust in this collection of items and I found them very tricky to indicate. The metal has tiny reflections that can be quite sharp, but only if the detail is there to support them, and the cat has the very different sort of shine that goes with a smooth glazed ceramic surface, again tricky to deliver. I found charcoal quite resistant to erasure and also to application on top of pencil, and so pulling light out of deep shade was almost impossible, meaning much more planning is required to ensure those negative spaces stay unmarked.
  • Light. The small moon has a soft glow to it and this was a real challenge in that it was diffuse. I’d made a black backdrop to the setting but daylight still made more impact than the moon. This created difficulties in representing shadows and directionality of light as neither really lit up the whole. Also the base of the lamp which I’d had to assemble and nearly gave up on, is another Escher. I’m not good at mental manipulation of shapes in space and only managed to put this together by some freak accident. I’d thought drawing it would be easier but it wasn’t, it still foxes my brain and, hands up, I’ve fudged it.
  • Detail. Switching from that kind of grand whole to the intricacy of the joints, bolts, soldering, and so forth – not to mention the tiny dragon’s eyes and teeth – required two pairs of glasses and a magnifying glass! It’s possible, but I haven’t confronted myself with the necessity before which means I don’t really have too much prior experience of vertical drawing of that sort. Only one thing to do when you’re evicted from your comfort zone is to get a grip till it becomes comfortable again, then kick a wall down.

In summary, I have a lot of doubts about this submission and whether or not I’ve met the basic requirements, but I’ve also enjoyed and learned from the doing of it. I need to get on with the next part of this module now and stop prevaricating. I think, like writing, art is never finished, it’s just halted at some point that feels momentarily acceptable. So I’ve halted. This is the one, the other – and all the sketches and personal monologues that went into them – are elsewhere on the blog.


Note: I’m reserving the right to edit this before sending for assessment, but once sent, it will be set in stone. 

Link sent 3rd December 2018. No further editing from this point.

[1] Mary Quant, UK artist and designer 1960s. Exhibition opening at the Victoria and Albert Museum in April 2019

[2] Aubrey Beardsley – it was probably The Peacock Skirt that first pulled me into his work and I went on to make a number of pieces of art work that mimicked that style. This is from the V&A shop

[3] Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia. I can’t think of any student bedroom or kitchen that didn’t have this print on its wall during the late 1960s. This link is to the Tate gallery where I sat in front of the painting for a good hour although somehow I still search for Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shallot when I mean this! I guess there are some very 1960s floaty vibes about them both

[4] H.R. Giger produced some of the most dramatic and gothic drawings known to science fiction for the Alien franchise although arguably the work done for 2001: a Space Odyssey set a very high bar much earlier.

[5] Robin Winter, an independent software designer working with Imperial College, London, designed and built a large section of Brighton seafront, the pier, and the local hospital for our research project in Second Life, parts of which are shown in Second Life, People with Learning Disabilities, and the Mental Capacity Act (Conboy-Hill, S., Hall, V., and Taylor, D. 2014)

[6] Maryanne Hobbs is a BBC Radio 6 music presenter but quite an all-rounder when it comes to the arts. Next weekend (December 1st 2018) she’s presenting the station’s Art is Everywhere from the Tate Britain and encouraging people to get involved in being a maker not just a consumer of art.

[7] Maggi Hambling

[8] The Bridge. Scandi noir series, subtitled. It set the standard, now there are many of a similar calibre.

[9] Eric Geusz on Artstation  He is also Spacegooose on Instagram

2 thoughts on “Assignment 1 submission critique

  1. A fascinating read, I was with you in your struggle for each different surface, perspective challenge and teeny tiny detail. Love the whole eclectic mix of the picture and so much more so from reading your navigation through it. I agree with so much of your sentiment and way of thinking about this artistic journey we have embarked on.
    Thank you for sharing
    Kaye Wilson

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Kaye; dear me, I think one aspect of adult learning is the realisation that you’re never too old to sulk. I have grumped and grimaced at times through this first part of the module, but luckily I recognise it as a coping mechanism and that I will (<– italics!) get out of my own way eventually. Of course it's a challenge, it's supposed to be or what am I here for? Bet I'll be spitting feathers more than once in Part 2 though 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.