The following is a summary of the main points arising from the tutor’s report on my work submitted for Part 1: Exploring Composition. The points indicate the level of thought which is required for every successful composition and in analysing these in regard to my own work, I realise how much is missing. At first, tackling this new concept was completely daunting and it was only through applying the points to an actual piece of work that their impact on the finished piece became clear.
I decided to take a piece of work that I was working on and work through the tutor’s questions where they applied. The piece of work is called ‘Narcissus’ and is exploring the combination of flatness and space in a composition. This is in response to a question asked in the course notes on “how you might make work about the space between the surface and the implied three dimensions.” (page 31)
I would like more emphasis given to the message in your drawings to your viewer concentrating not only on subject matter but also on context, construction, pictorial design, interpretation and impact. Your questioning should center on some of the following concepts:
How have you designed your drawing and are you leading your spectator’s eye where you want it to go?
The drawing has been designed within a horizontal frame with the eye level of the viewer looking almost straight on to the horizontal centre of the image. This is to have the viewer find a relationship to the grouping so that this becomes the important focus of the image.
The eye pathway is designed to direct the viewer first to the figure standing outside the picture frame looking upwards at the statue. The contrasting flat ink grouping attracts the eye because of its contrast in method and shaping. The eye then is drawn back to the three-dimensional group and within this movement back and forth, there exists the element of decision-making or questioning.
I have balanced the three-dimensional two figure image on the right with the number of figures in the group on the left.
How have you framed your drawing and what framing or directional devices are you using?
Most of the image is framed within the picture space emphasising a feeling of boundaries. The focal figure breaks this picture space and stands outside the support looking inward to the picture space, leading the viewer’s eye into the picture. Once there, the play of light on the figure takes the eye further to the statue. But this doesn’t go anywhere. Instead the eye looks for balance in the left grouping.
Is the subject of your drawing important enough?
Yes I think it is. The subject focuses on the inward-looking proclivity of society to live their lives through mobile devises and the virtual world rather than participating in the communication of ideas and expanding horizons.
How do you include rhythm, dynamic direction, phrasing and focus in your drawing?
I think the eye moves freely over the composition but is directed by the two groupings. Rhythm comes through the play of light and its contrasting absence. There is strong contrast in the composition – the figure looking up is leaning outwards with the head gazing up…you can feel the energy in the stance of the figure through the concentrated gaze. The tension comes because the statue of the figure that is being studied is, like the lefthand grouping, looking down and inwardly reflecting his own image. I think this sets up dynamic direction in the strain implied by the focal figure pulling our gaze up against the continual downward pull of the opposing figures.
The drawing is dark with the only light falling on the main figure and this provides the focus for the picture. He has his back to the viewer which raises questions about this figure and what it is doing.
Phrasing in terms of drawing is a new concept for me (varying the application of mark, tone etc.) There is variety in the marks through the use of different media and strong heavy marks contrasted with soft tonal marks. I have used charcoal, eraser, ink, bamboo pen, pan pastel. I’ve also tried to balance the type of marks and tones.
What are you doing with the edges of your drawing?
I have considered the whole picture space throughout the process of drawing this image. There is no background. The empty spaces are actively creating either energy or blankness and confinement and thus providing the environment for the figure groupings. The groupings take up the whole of the picture surface and into the picture space and even beyond it.
Is your drawing a contained image or part of something much larger?
It is a contained image.
Are you flattening space and making your viewer aware of the support, playing with it or even questioning the whole concept of why you have to apply rules?
I have deliberately flattened the left-hand image to emphasise enclosure in other worlds, their participation and awareness of the three-dimensional environment is non-existent so they cease to exist in the three-dimensional space. They simply drift through it. The three dimensions of the space is created to provide the environment for the figure looking out and up, the figure who is actually occupying the space. Depth is also implied by the angle of the plinth on which the statue of Narcissus is placed. The angle takes the gaze back into the picture but doesn’t find anything there and asks the question ,Why? Because the sculpture of Narcissus is like the left-hand group occupying another world of self creating. So I am playing with the two and three dimensions of the space on order to depict different worlds.
Why are you using blank areas in your drawing?
The blank areas are important to the image because they suggest remoteness, lost opportunities, blindness to the world around. I deliberately emphasised the flatness of the support here too because there is nothing happening in the environment that they are in because of their involvement in their own worlds.
Have you created an environment for your subject and how does it relate to the space around it?
Yes I feel that I have. The environment could be a museum or even an outside space where a statue would exist. I spent many hours drawing at the V&A , both the Narcissus statue and the moving figures of visitors to the museum. I thought a lot about creating a more realistic space for the subject by further describing the room but decided against it because the piece is more about attitudes of thought and behaviour and other worlds.
This is the first attempt at producing a drawing with my thought centred on the message I am trying to convey and looking beyond the subject matter to try to understand the techniques available to the artist to deliver that message. This has opened up a whole new way of working. It has been enormously challenging and taken an extraordinary amount of time as I take each art term and try to understand its meaning and then apply it. I can see how important it is at this stage to keep working with these term so that they finally become natural in the drawing process. I’m sure I haven’t fully understood all of it but oh my, what a learning curve it’s been!