I’ve noticed that they way fabric drapes around the body can be used to create a nice dramatic affect. On the other hand, a clumsy drawing of the folds can make the body appear flat and uninteresting. It’s key to make folds your ally..
First thing first, however, I’m doing my best not to be overwhelmed by so many ways a piece of textile can drape. It’s fascinating.
When I started working on this assignment I was looking for a ‘perfect’ landscape I could capture. I looked mostly for external qualities that wood meet the assignment criteria as well as the requirements I set for myself – it should be interesting perspective-wise, it should be diverse and, ideally, tell a story. I did a few sketches of different sites in and outside my neighbourhood. Nothing particularly delighted me visually, the viewpoints and compositions were just average.
I then started reflecting on what my approach could potentially lack. After some deliberation, I concluded that I usually draw what is in front of me, that is, I capture subject’s purely pictorial qualities. I have not yet attempted to interject my thoughts or emotions about the place or a subject into my drawing, at least consciously.
Having just come from a holiday in Norway, works by Edvard Munch came to mind. The artist was well known for conveying emotions, in particular, anxiety. He was quoted as saying, ‘I do not believe in the art which is not the compulsive result of man’s urge to open his heart’ (The Art Story, http://www.theartstory.org/artist-munch-edvard.htm) Besides his probably most famous work, The Scream (1893), some of his landscapes are as well charged with unsettling emotions.
That is how I started probing into my emotions and memories when working on the assignment. I was now looking for a drawing themes inwards rather than outwards. At that time, I was working on a few casual sketches of fjords, not directly related to the assignment, the fjords that I saw on my trip to Norway. They struck me as rather abstract or, in other words, lending themselves very well to abstract interpretation. The sloping hills and their reflections in water – all could as well be just a combination of lines, irregular shapes and marks. What if I use something that resembles printing, that is fold the sheet of paper in two and see how fresh marks from both sides leave their imprints?
I got quite captivated by this printing element and decided to carry it over to my assignment work. I have been curious about printmaking for a long time already and very much enjoyed looking at the prints of different artists, also those who are mainly famous for their oil paintings. One of them is Nikolai Astrup, also a Norwegian, who alongside his evocative oil paintings of Norwegian landscape, produced a number of prints. They illustrate the varying moods a landscape can appear to have. He makes a landscape that belongs to none quite personal by incorporating memories from his early childhood and highlighting things that delighted him in the surrounding world as an adult.
I wanted to develop an idea of incorporating memories into the landscape a bit further. This somehow conflated with an impulse to print the landscape ‘into itself’. I drew a Norwegian wooden house (or at least that was the way I saw it) as a layer over the ‘printed into itself’ fjord. Hovering above the sea, the house looks a bit surreal. There are no people in view in or around the house, which makes it appear abandoned. The image invokes certain emotions in me, which might have to do with childhood memories, I’m not really sure. Perhaps, it illustrates the feeling of being uprooted and not having a home tied to one place.
Reflecting on my work for the current chapter, it feels like I have been working on it way for too long. It feels like years, but it has been, of course, only a couple of months. One of the reasons why it probably took considerably longer than usual is because I have always been looking for a ‘perfect landscape’ for my drawings. I wanted my subject to resonate with me in some way, otherwise it just felt like thoughtless reproduction of reality. The question is, does the perfect landscape really exist? When you look at captivating landscape drawings of other artists, it seems that it certainly does. On the other hand, I doubt that all of them just thoughtlessly copied what they see into a two-dimensional format. Inexplicable magic happens somewhere in between.
Probably, this magic lies in a distinct visual language successful artists have. It is also a process that makes the landscape yours, relatable, not distant and cold anymore. I wish there was a shortcut for developing your own visual language, but I suspect the path to it is rather long.
Another aspect of my work that I would like to improve, is creating depth in my drawings. The right use of perspective could make a big difference there, but also composition and the meaning of the image. I don’t think I have considered depth well enough yet and would like to take it one level up in my future practice.
All in all, it proved to be a rather difficult chapter for me. I realise now that although the chapter is nearing its end, the exploration of landscape will never finish for me. I think I see landscape and townscape differently now, which brings along a different visual experience and a recurring impulse to draw.
The first statue on my list is from the city I have a love-hate relationship with. The city is very picturesque but people who live there are conservative and somewhat narrow-minded. The air is so clear over there, however, its closely-knit community can be suffocating.
I tried to do a tonal study of this quiet corner. Probably even more shade is needed in deep shadow areas. It was a sunny early afternoon, with evening light creating, surprisingly, a lot of contrast.
Then comes the study of a statue, which is so complex that I probably need to train a bit more to depict it correctly. It’s called ‘No pasaran’, which in Spanish means ‘They shall not pass’. It used to be a famous slogan of the anti-fascist movement . The statue is an act of remembrance of the Dutch-Spanish soldiers fallen in the Spanish civil war. It’s still a bit of a mystery to me why the two kissing women float in the air above Amsterdam Noord as if drowning in water.
My third experience of drawing a statue is a curious example of my failure to choose a correct paper type for my study and then subsequently mixing together the media that probably shouldn’t be mixed. The final result looks interesting.
The bronze statue of a girl is ‘seated’ on the rooftop of a brick building. It’s probably ten times the size of a real girl and is towering over you when you stand on the ground next to the building. The building, as far as I know, houses a college for orthopedic studies. Not sure if the statue was meant to depict in any way the orthopedic profession. The bronze girl looks incomplete – she misses the torso and, therefore, you can see blue sky and clouds flickering through her. This makes her appear very light, which contrasts the weight and seriousness of the bronze.
The last drawing is of a statue I saw in the Eastern part of Amsterdam. It’s placed on the edge of a park’s meadow, so the two figures appear running across the grass. The statue depicts movement and spontaneity beautifully. The girl’s face expression is a mixture of fear, joy and exaltation, which is not easy to portray… I like how balanced the sculpture is – the boy is running full force with his entire body leaning forward. The girl is counter-weighting him by tilting backwards.
For this study, I chose the backyard of a supermarket where I regularly shop for groceries. It’s an interesting A-shaped space facing a canal. I was drawing with my back or side turned towards the canal, depending on an angle I was exploring at the time. Therefore, the only sign of water in my sketches are the seagulls perched on the rooftop of one of the buildings. Birds were constantly circling above my head as if searching for food. Probably they feed on food scraps that supermarket staff throw away into the containers lining up one of the walls.
I like the urban and unpretentious feel of this place. The building opposite of the supermarket is occupied by a dance company, so I saw people dropping in for a class as I was drawing. The entire complex is a repurposed factory or a warehouse, it seems, as they are a lot of pipes and metal beams everywhere which are now defunct.
First, I did a very quick sketch with a ball pen. I like the rough quality of it – sketching in this way makes you take decisions quickly. You make a lot of mistakes, but then you also develop spontaneity and fluidity.
Then, I experimented with drawing on black paper. For this sketch, I even tried out a different view (also industrial), but eventually returned to the supermarket’s backyard.
Finally, I did a study of the same place but at different angle, which allows to show more depth and perspective. I did it with a pencil and finished off in watercolour. I realise I should have done it in a limited colour palette, but bringing out diverse colours in this place appeared more attractive.
I’m fascinated with this house – it looks like a hybrid between a gothic cathedral and a townhouse. It reminds me of a coral reef or similar organism that lives deep underwater and grows a few centimetres every year.
Even though the house has irregular forms, it contains a few repetitive elements. It can be a bit tedious to draw repetition in architecture. To be completely fair, it can be a meditative process for me, but only on rare occasions, when I’m in the right state of mind. What helps me to get through the repetitive patterns in drawing is thinking about repetition in nature and in the animal world. It makes it less man-made and mechanical.
When I was doing 10 x 10cm sketches of the house, I heard the beats of techno music coming from the house. The following week when I came to draw the house again, it was eerily quiet.
An open door leading to outdoor space is probably an extremely trivial topic in perspective studies. I had to draw it anyway – the composition just seemed ready for me to draw it.
To make the study a bit more intimate, I added a pair of flip flops and a glimpse of the undone bed. Also, I used pen on cartridge paper, which is probably not the best choice of medium for the study as pen cannot be erased. Drawing with pen just makes me feel so good, I couldn’t resist. It also adds a quirky feel to the drawing.
The door is rendered incorrectly, which is quite obvious to me now. It should appear less wide when open. I didn’t see it when I was in the middle of the drawing. And yes, pen cannot be erased.
One side of the house looks almost fine, the other doesn’t. My first attempt at two-point perspective. Drawing this house was a memorable experience as I got asked at least by three elderly ladies about what I was doing there.
In the first study of aerial perspective, which I drew from a photograph, I depicted a mountain range in the west of Germany. At some point, it dawned on me that ink wash works quite nicely with charcoal. Thanks to this personal discovery, the horizon line looks like one, hopefully.
One of the things I would do differently next time I draw a landscape, is not ignore preliminary sketches. Otherwise, trial and error process happens directly on the drawing. I did a few sketches of rocks after the main drawing, just because I got interested in rocky texture while working on the exercise.
What I like about this study is how the horizon and all the horizontal lines around it interact with vertical lines of rocks and trees.
In the second study, I chose (not consciously at first) to draw attention to the foreground by using colour. The house in the front is made up of solid fat lines and juicy colour. The houses and other structures in the back are just colourless shapes.
I was quite selective in what I included in the drawing. In reality, the area is dense with houses and I drew just a few of them. Didn’t have patience for the rest.
I didn’t succeed in rendering the blurriness of the horizon line. It felt like the more I worked on the horizon the less like the background it appeared. In its unfinished state, it resembled a blurry horizon to some degree. So I let it be.
For this exercise, I decided to return to the spot in the Dutch dunes that I really like. I climbed on top of a dune overlooking a calm lake below. The weather was unstable with some sunny spells and just half an hour after I came, it started drizzling. I had to wrap up quickly and continue at home. The drawing still looks a bit unfinished in my view. However, there is nothing more I can add to it that I remember or that would make sense.
P.S. I found those four neat garbage bins in the middle ground quirky and a bit out of place. They add invisible human presence to otherwise pure landscape.