Preparation for the assignment

Before starting assignment 1, I want to go over what I’ve learnt from this module. It has been a fascinating study and certainly opened my thought to a range of possibilities for composition. To sum these ideas up…

  1. Look for the wider potential in observational drawing and don’t make assumptions. Don’t just draw the obvious.
  2. Take into account the space in your composition. What’s happening there?
  3. Look for the compositional potential in everything. Changing scale can reveal endless possibilities.
  4. Elements of rhythm, weight, volume and structure in a composition. This will obviously apply to all subjects, not just the human figure.
  5. Consider the important aspect of guiding the viewer’s eye into and around the composition.
  6. Researching Prunella Clough has thrown further light on these areas. Her work centred on the less obvious, even the discarded, and I was particularly interested in the fact that the notes she took in her visits to the industrial areas of England and elsewhere formed the starting points for her work and not sketches. This way of working probably opened up a more creative and individual approach to composition.
  7. I think the most significant thing I’ve learnt however is that composition is about innovation. It is so easy to always begin a composition in the same way, a bit like always choosing the same palette. These exercises have shown that other approaches lead to new and unexpected compositions.

Now to apply these ideas to my own practice…..

The area that I’ve struggled with the most in this project is the use of space in a composition so I feel I want to explore this further. I also want to explore the concept, picked up from my research on Clough, of writing descriptions of places and experiences, rather than sketching or using photographs.

After completing the assignment…

I completed three pieces for the final assignment in Part 1 and feel that I’ve been able to put into practice several of the ideas on composition in this part of the course. This has been a very rewarding first part to Drawing 2 and has broadened my concept of composition. I now see that there are so many ways into a piece of work and that it is important to be open to explore these. The challenge of using ‘space’ constructively in a piece, I have tried to achieve with the use of watercolour washes and this was the first step into the composition so that the background didn’t become as add-on but really determined the composition from the start. I also enjoyed using the written word as the preparatory ‘sketch’ for the first two pieces. The words printed the scene of the cold winter’s walk on my memory just as strongly as a sketch would have, in fact even more strongly, and I was able to respond to my thought images in creating the atmosphere of the paintings.

Interestingly, of the three pieces of work I did for the assignment, I think the third image of the tulip bulbs is the most successful and rewarding for me. I think it is ‘intriguing and engaging’ and yet contains the original image. I followed much of the first project ideas in taking an item which was not beautiful and developing this into a creative piece.

Contrasting this approach with the first assignment piece, I can see how the different approach in which there was too much intrusion into the creative process did not leave room for the image to reveal its possibilities. I’m pleased to have done a piece which hasn’t worked for me because it emphasises the points raised in this first section.

So this has left me with an exciting thought as I end this section. There has to be in all successful (?) compositions an element of the unknown to the artist, an element which is revealed by the painting itself. If , as Roland Barthe suggests in his essay, “The Death of the Author” , that the artist is the first ‘reader’ of a piece of art, then this element of the unknown is essential. This happened in the second and third assignment pieces and is something to remember in my own work.

But overall, there seems still too much control in these pieces. I feel I want to take the elements I’ve studied in this module and work in a less cerebral way. Exploring materials in the next section may allow for this.




About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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