Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reflection On A Year of Drawing

There is a moment when you think the process is solid, the work sophisticated and then you realise the huge white elephant that has been standing right in front of you. That, in the rush to produce something bigger, something honest, relevant to yourself, you have overlooked an essential element of art. The floor opens out from under you and swallows you whole. What makes it worse is that the only option to solve this issue is to render the work asunder so the white elephant can finally leave and bother the pink elephant. This is where I find myself at this moment, as Marian, like Solomon stands with sword in hand telling me that I have to cut my children in half. I think to myself these drawings are like man to God to me. They are made in my image, they are self portraits open and honest expressions of myself. However, Marian is right and the issue is the one I thought I had a handle on, composition.
"have you heard this one before" with its fault dividing the image in half 

Building the Technique
"Pink face" dead centre as well.
What happened to the law of thirds Phill?
Line? Tone? Shape? I have an understanding of them that has developed over the year. I look back at where I started and can see how I have learned how to use them. Beginning with line I sketched the world around me on A5 paper with charcoal, pen, and fine markers. Tone has also been cultured though I do love distinct contrast and negative space. Within the “pink face” there are varied versions of cross hatch to develop shading. On the library cards the process grew, a continual addition of layer after layer of black, white and colour It enabled something similar to the sculpting effects of a putty eraser on charcoal. The tones led to shape and being able to extract the shapes that the process of layering brought into view. Layer on layer on layer as more was added the image came into focus through the use of line, tone and shape. This was repeated in the two larger pieces which, perhaps because of their size I was not able to grasp the compositional fault that needs to be dealt with so drastically.

Perspective was strongly practiced sitting in church, at the cafes, in shopping centres and just looking out at the world around me. Drawing in so many different places with the A5 pads brought many differing landscapes, textures and shapes to draw early on, which has helped a great deal. The still life and the life drawing have both been effected by the practice developing my “Big Day Out” piece for the first semester. Foreshortening was an instinctive leap in the life drawing classes, where, because of the experience earlier I drew what I see and not what I thought I saw. Ways of seeing the world around me that are problematic in some places are able to be used to aid my focus. I do this by taking off my glasses and putting the model or object out of focus to get the whole shape not confusing the particulars with the whole. In this way proportion is gained by the place of the objects and shapes together within the landscape no matter whether the landscape is a face or a field. For me this is a way of removing the layer of particulars which can distract from what is being drawn. After the basic form is related to the page then the particulars fit within and in reference to the form . Learning to listen to instinct, using the leaps and experimenting has been a great freedom, but, what has made using instinct better has been learning to acknowledge where it has lead and where the improvements can be made.
Foreshortening in the legs

Composition. I really thought I had this down. Perhaps this has to do with the change up from the small cards that I have been doing? In the small scale it is so easy to see the lines creating, tone and bringing shape into focus. You can move the card around and change the angle that you see. In this way I can see how I have not transferred the entirety of the small scale process into the large scale. I now have one piece that is dominated by this the dark line in the centre dividing it two and the other has a the face slapped in the centre. Perspective may have been understood when drawing from surrounds with relational cues from the surrounding area wether inside or outside giving reference points. Though when it comes to a large scale layering process the canvass, board or paper needs to be looked at with a new kind of perspective. Like the small cards the viewed perspective comes from the line, tone and shape that merge to create the image that you see coming into focus. I was too close to each individual mark that was being used, so focused that I lost control of the overall composition. So to aid in working through the compositional issue with the two large pieces all I have to do is decide how I wish to go about cutting them up to make a larger whole.

Art is what we all bring to the symbols and forms that are displayed.
What does this mean?
“Art is interpretation” was the understanding of the first semester. Before the second semester had begun this understanding was already being superseded. In drawing life around me I could see how I had interpreted reality. However, how did the viewer interpret my interpretation? This has altered how I see art and what is brought not just by the artist but the viewer. One of the highlights of this has been watching how the others in the class see their own work. Often they have succeeded in creating a piece that is honest and at times amazing. Yet some have turned their noses up at what they have made and have refused to show what seems to them an error or failure. In the progress of the year we all have in our own ways realised, developed and worked around and through our personal understandings of what art is supposed to be. Our experience has grown and how we conceive what we are drawing has changed which has in turn changed how we see not just our art but other pieces.
We all go through that stage where what is produced is not to the level that we believe “ART” is supposed to be. Because of this people can look at Duchamp and see a trickster who is passing off plumbing supplies as art. Or how a pastel painting of Jesus with blonde hair and blue eyes can speak to someone of who Christ truly is, to them. The artist creating and the viewer seeing comes together creating the experience of the art work. This can be seen most evenings outside a movie theatre when couples and groups discuss how the movie was either good or not. Yes this is a post-modernist view of art, however, this also describes art as an open collaboration between the shared or separate symbology between artist and viewer. Does this exclude a definite interpretation of all art? Maybe it does for some. But for those who desire a correct interpretation can ask the artist, if he or she knows one.

Here is where the process on the small cards developed as I allowed the lines to build with lines, curves, words, cross hatching, white, black, colour, collage to have what comes into focus for me the artist to draw out of it. This process was taken to the large scale where it still has not finished because I can see that the form is not there yet and I have to draw more out of it by cutting it up and reconstructing it. This too is part of the learning that involves searching for the interpretation of not the world around me or the model/object in front of me, but myself.

Imaging the Self when you are not sure what self to image.
Chest X-Ray
I had already begun exploring parts of myself through my x-rays. I have a fair few from when I was in and out of hospital due to scoliosis. These x-rays were an initial exploration into the physical condition and the support that my spine requires to keep me vertical. The structure motif of the metal that gives support has been noticed by Marian and along that line the small library cards have been presented on a steel rod like vertebrae. I found the cards in the library and I saw something to be used. In talking about the structure motif and the x-rays the idea came to write down how I have seen myself on the cards. First came the negative words and emotions which was too easy, as were the memories of those emotions and words. Because of this I limited this only doing them in the company of others. To use the cards the idea of structure was revisited which gave rise to the use of a steel rod to mimic the structure that holds me as much as the experiences hold me and support the image I have of myself.

Painting from Art and Soul
The image I have of myself is not the same as the one I had at the start of this semester. Personal exploration of myself has lead to something much brighter than I have had before. What helped was that I attended a ten week class which focused on dealing with depression through painting called Art and Soul. Focusing on the pain and negative emotions of my time in hospital, the uniqueness of the body I have along with the structure that enables me to stand straight was an inner exploration of  myself. I began doing contour drawings of the x-rays to then create a larger work out of them. I photocopied the x-rays and smaller pictures I had made of to transfer with thinners later. I also had an idea about picturing the morning I discovered david Bowie at the age of 12, but this was not used.

Being bent, twisted is merely a new/different
place to see the world
As the painting course developed I changed from negative aspects on the library cards to positive. The self portrait ideas changed focus from internal and physical abnormalities to just getting a representation of myself on something. MDF boards were sourced and prepared glueing paper to it or by using the photocopies and thinners to transfer multiple images on the board. Coffee, crayon, ink, markers, pens, sanding back, cutting into the board. Slapped, glued, splattered, brushed, written, melted all to build up the layers again and again. The image of myself in these two large pieces are full of the questions, hesitations, statements and ideas that I have. There is me in there just like there is the image of God in me. As I am less than God the works are less than I am. Yet they are not quite to convention, quite like me, a little too loud in the wrong places. Perhaps in that way it is an honest self representation? The flaw of composition (if it can be called flaw in such a way without negative connotations) should be seen as a further step to engage in the development of self beyond where I am right now to where I want to be. Now that is a progress that is totally new a hope and desire beyond tomorrow.

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