This assignment has expanded my vision considerably in regard to the part that music can play in the creative process. But it has also raised questions as to the legitimacy of this process which I’ve had to work through.

Olivier Messiaen has become a favourite of mine and it has been a pure delight to spend hours listening to his “Fete des belles eaux”. In my learning blog post I described the work which I did illustrating the music, and this was a very productive time creatively. This music was so reflective and haunting that it was not difficult to access a host of ideas. But after a while this became unsatisfactory as I began to realize that I was using Mesiaen’s inspiration to produce the response. This was pure ‘illustration’.

I was therefore very ready to move on to the second part of the brief which was to use the music “to explore the interplay between gesture and representation”. I wasn’t ready however for the difficulties that this produced. I eased myself into this next step by starting with the self-portrait as suggested. This wasn’t difficult and the gestural quality of the mark-making from the music seemed to work well with the face, perhaps because I was not searching for a direct likeness and so the representational aspect was not strong. The music was still the dominating force.

It was only when I set up the still life, using jug, bowl and roses, that the challenging work began. And it certainly proved challenging! I was not prepared for the conflict which arises when you start to use other senses. As soon as I began to draw the still life, the sense of ‘looking’ took over, even though the music was playing. I realized half way through the studies that the music had become background. As soon as I realized this I began to work more from memory of the still life image – this was not difficult as I had by now drawn it several times. Not looking too much at the still life, I was able to shut off the sense of ‘looking’ and concentrate once more of the sense of ‘listening’ and the gestural marks took over. It proved to be a continual battle through the day and I have to say at the end of it I was exhausted. But it was fascinating to begin to come to grips with the different senses and how to use them.

I finished up with two images for assignment 3 and I think they both illustrate different responses. The charcoal drawing contains mark-making with the charcoal but also marks from my fingers as I moved with the rhythm of the music pulling the soft charcoal across the paper. The soft pastels allowed the same gestures but introduced another element of colour. I found I was able to do this quite easily and it didn’t interfere with my ‘listening’ senses which showed that I’d made progress in separating these senses so that they worked together.

A fascinating assignment!


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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