Reflection on Formative Feedback for Textiles 1: A Textiles Vocabulary: Assignment 1

My Tutor, Cari, sent my feedback through quickly, which was appreciated, as I had sort of been dreading it. Overall, I was relieved and delighted with my Tutor’s encouraging and useful comments and suggestions, which will help to direct my future study.

Good

I was pleased to find that I have been on the right track for some aspects, such as:- exploration of drawing techniques; the variety of media tried; and experimentation with different approaches to composing and arranging my still life. This came directly from my research into contemporary drawing practice, so, as Cari suggested, I will continue to look at a range of other artists’ work in this area. My learning log was not overly descriptive, but contained a good balance of process, analysis and evaluation.

Needs Work

[I have edited this section, to include examples of my implementations of tutor recommendations in square brackets after the suggestions.]

Cari suggested that:-

  • I increase the variety of marks made within each picture, by varying the pressure of the tool, how it touches the surface, the type of contact, speed and type of movement used, especially in my use of traditional media. [I have now started to experiment with this in drawings such as these: Rag Rug Drawing and Quilt Drawing].
  • To experiment with different media that could be associated with an object (examples such as using varnish to represent the knife blade, or wax for the melon) [I have taken this comment on board with drawings such as these: Mown Grass Drawing and Mud Rag Rug Drawing].
  • I should not write on the front of my drawings, but record any necessary information on the reverse. [Noted and implemented with writing only on reverse of drawings].

To Do

  • Continue to investigate and respond to the question “What is drawing?” through artist research. [Drawing Research; Further Drawing Research].
  • Read “The Drawing Book” by Tania Kovats and “Vitamin D” by Emma Dexter. [Both books now purchased and explored! Observations on Drawing including artists from the recommended books].
  • Explore the OCA Pinterest Site and Cari’s board on drawing. [Ongoing].
  • Continue to think laterally to develop interesting themes to work from.
  • Be as varied and experimental as possible in my approach to the course, in gathering visual research and challenging the use of traditional media. [See Slug Drawing, and Seed Drawing, for examples].
  • Explore more line and mark making. [See Digital Flower Drawing, Rag Rug Detail Drawing, Pullover Detail Drawing, Pullover Line Drawing].
  • Continue to reflect critically and analytically. [Ongoing].

Assignment 1: Self Evaluation: Performance Against Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I selected objects which showed variety in their surface textures and forms (the smooth, sharp knife;  ‘furry’ scarf; tiny, hard beads etc). I arranged my chosen objects in an interesting way, which embodied my theme. I achieved this by experimenting with several layouts and different backgrounds first.

I observed the objects closely, and used a variety of media and techniques to capture the textures and feelings evoked by the arrangement and theme, trying mark making with pens, ink, charcoal, threads, paints, pencil, fabric collage, masking fluid, and also an audio drawing. I think that my drawing skills could certainly be improved through more practise.

I am not sure how successful my resulting experiments have been. I will await my tutor’s comments on that, but I do feel that they have been useful to me in providing a new ‘tool box’ of techniques to work with.

Quality of outcome

I believe that the range of media I tried out was good, but I could perhaps have tried more variety in the sizes of drawings and views of the objects. I used the research on drawing to inform my choices of drawing materials and techniques, for example, trying out an ‘audio drawing‘. I put a lot of thought into my mind-map and the selection of objects for the arrangement, and I feel that these choices represented my ideas around the theme of ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ well. I will include the majority of the drawings, however, but have made comments on whether I felt they worked or not elsewhere on my learning log.

Demonstration of creativity

I think that my choice of theme was interesting and unusual (to me, at least!). I certainly experimented with a variety of new (to me) media and ideas about what a drawing could be. I think I have a long way to go on developing a ‘personal voice’, but am starting to evaluate whether a technique or style feels right for me. For example, I particularly disliked the collage that I made, whereas the more abstract pieces intrigued me, and I feel encouraged to research and experiment more in this area.

Context

I can truly state that I have never done so much reflection in my life! Being encouraged to write down my thoughts and put into words what I have learned is quite a revelation, and I have found myself reasoning more clearly in daily life. Critical thinking has been important for focusing on what is useful to me when researching, for example, for this assignment, I limited myself to researching only the drawings of the suggested artists (and those of a few other artists that interest me). This helped to avoid being side tracked by going into too much detail about other aspects of the artists’ work. Reflecting upon what works and what doesn’t from my experiments, has clarified in my mind, the techniques to carry forward for future projects.

Assignment 1: Self-Analysis

First ideas in response to the brief

I thought that this would be an interesting assignment, as it would encourage me out of my comfort zone.

First impression of the project

I chose the ‘Nature’s Larder’ theme because I love nature and food. I decided to go down the route of survival for wildlife. Tennyson’s quote “nature red in tooth and claw” offered dramatic associations.

Techniques explored through selection, drawing, mark-making

I woke up in the morning and went to bed at night thinking about the assignment. I tried to avoid the obvious, and to choose a mixture of surfaces and shapes to draw.

I tried different configurations and backgrounds. The black background and upright knife gave the scene a menacing feel.

I decided to try some media that I own, but vary rarely use: paints, inks, charcoal, chalk. I purchased some masking fluid to try and used ideas generated by research: thread on paper, digital, audio, tiny snapshots, etc. Contour drawing was suggested by other students: after using pen, I decided to try it with the sewing machine.

The scarf, white feather and broken bottle were enjoyable to draw, with interesting textures, and light reflections for the latter. The twig, the tiny beads and buttons, the dark feathers and knife were more challenging.

Strong points of my work

I tried my hardest to experiment with different sizes of paper, media and techniques, and I feel that I met the assignment brief in that respect. I was pleased with some of the results and they will change my way of approaching work in the future.

Weaker aspects of my work

Drawing accurately is something I need to practise, and I am trying to draw daily to improve it.

Although I tried to ‘loosen up’, some of my drawings still feel like ‘safe’ options. I will try to be more experimental, by using my ‘Sketchbook Checklist‘, which has prompts for media, techniques and subjects to try.

I only made one very large (A1) size of drawing (the collage), so I will need to buy some larger paper to work on.

New skills

I have never tried freehand drawing with paint, ink, a sewing machine, etc and have never done so much drawing in such a short time. It will form the habit of regular drawing and experimentation. I have had the mind set in the past of making things that were ‘saleable’, ‘ neat’ and ‘finished’: this assignment has encouraged me instead to observe, experiment and learn.

Potential work in future based on this project

I liked the theme “red in tooth and claw”, and will revisit that. I will use the mind-map technique for generating ideas for future projects. The research helped me to understand what was expected/possible for this assignment, so I now see the benefit of that. I will continue to try different media and techniques, and will consider how I might use them in my work. For example, using masking fluid made me want to explore batik again.

Assignment 1 – Final Drawings

For my final drawing for this assignment, I decided to do over-sized close-ups concentrating on one area at a time. I thought I would try to use masking fluid for the mark making, as it was something I had not tried before. I used a pointed, fine wooden stick (such as those used for vegetable kebabs) to apply the liquid.

On my first attempt, I started to put the watercolour wash over the masking fluid before it had properly dried, so it blended with the paint and pulled off more of the background than I would have liked in some places. I left some areas intact to give a bit more blackness to the background. I actually like this attempt best of the five I tried. I was working on red coloured paper to see what effect a different background would give to the marks. It fitted with the theme of ‘red in tooth and claw’ and the marks (although based on the fur knit scarf) actually looked like angry claw scratches in places.

I tried the scarf again, waiting for the masking fluid to dry more this time. I liked the areas that retained more paint and became darker, but it doesn’t have quite the impact and variety of the first attempt.

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The feather on watercolour paper. I liked this one, too, but it probably would have had more impact with a darker background.

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The twig on an old magazine page, with watercolour and felt pen in the background. The part on the white section with writing on it was quite interesting – it reminded me of Chinese brush paintings, but the paper was too thin and brittle and tore in one place and the image was indistinct over the sections of the magazine that had pictures on it.

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The final drawing was of the buttons and beads, but I didn’t like this at all. The paint spatter that I had added, barely showed. The image reminds me of bits and pieces floating on water – might come in handy one day.

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While I was doing this exercise, I thought it seemed a familiar technique, and it suddenly struck me that it was like the piece of batik work that I had done as part of my Art O’ Level (many years ago!). I will keep my eyes open for a wax heater and tools, and try this technique out on fabric because I like the effects that it produces.

Assignment 1: Drawings #11 – #14

#11 Charcoal, Eraser, White Chalk

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I had planned that this drawing would just be made with a putty rubber on a charcoal background, but I couldn’t get the lightest areas light enough, and found that I couldn’t make any fine marks with the rubber, so I resorted to a white chalk and then added in some more detail with charcoal.

I liked the fur effect and white feather, and thought that I managed to capture a bit of shine on the knife and bottle this time. I think that the least successful areas were the stick, beads, and dark feather, which all look a bit featureless and flat. It ended up looking like a darker version of #2.

#12 No Detail/Silhouettes – White Gel Pen/Acrylic Ink

A bit of detail did creep in on the twig and feathers. I think the style captured the harder objects like the knife and glass quite well, also the beads. This was my favourite rendition of the twig so far: it has been one of the hardest things to capture. The scarf, on the other hand, could be a large white slug. I think it would have been more discernible with a furry outline.

#13 Tiny, One Inch Snapshots – 6B Pencil, White Gel Pen, Red Felt Tip

I was not looking forward to this exercise for some reason, but I enjoyed it once I got going. I was surprised how much detail you could get into a tiny box, and it made me concentrate on one small area of the collection, in detail. The results look like part of a comic strip or graphic novel.

#14 Spoken Word Drawing

Inspired by reading about Alison Carlier’s ‘audio drawings’ in my research for this assignment.

In the audio recording, I have not named the objects, apart from giving them each a number. I would be interested to know if people can deduce what they are from the words alone. I came up with the words to use by looking at the objects one by one and making a small mind map of word associations, including descriptive (“hard”, “red”), personal associations (“clothing”, “jewellery”) and more abstract connections (“falling”, “losing”).

I can see the association between a drawing and a description made from looking at an object closely, both rely on conveying observed information about that object, the audio version depending on the ‘viewer’s’ experience and powers of imagination to a greater extent than the drawn version, in my opinion.

Words are important to me, and I have used them as annotations to my ‘pen and paper’ drawings, and in my collages. I think that they can direct the viewer’s interpretation of an image towards a particular (the artist’s) meaning, and they add another dimension to the artwork.

Assignment 1: Drawings #7 – #10

#7 Black & White Acrylic Paint on Canvas – Large Brush, and Fingers

This attempt was half successful and half not. I liked the way the roughness of the canvas used with a fairly dry brush meant that the background showed through, for example in the ‘fur’ section of the sketch. I also enjoyed the splatter effect of flicking or pinging wet paint off the brush leaving a mixture of thick heavy splodges and fine, misty specks. The melon was smoothed over with my fingers to give it a more flesh-like appearance.

I think that the shiny, hard objects (knife and bottle did not work – the knife looks too dark and monotone and the bottle is again too dark, although I quite like the white edges where the breaks are). I liked some of the texture around the twig representing the lichen, but was less impressed by my attempt to show the gleam on the black and grey feathers. The white one was a slight improvement, with more texture and a lighter feel to it.

#8 Mark Making For Texture – Large Black Marker

I tried to make this drawing quickly. After pencilling in rough forms, I used a thick black pen to draw in marks that made me think of the objects: woolly and soft for the scarf; sharp and stabbing/cutting for the knife; soft, yielding and juicy for the melon; jagged and dangerous (I speak from bitter experience! I managed to cut myself while washing this ‘found’ item) for the broken bottle; gnarled and rough for the twig; a mixture of smooth and hairy for the feathers; hard, small objects for the beads and buttons.

I think this was an interesting exercise: to try and forget the forms and to concentrate on the feelings each item evoked in me. I would use this technique again to suggest textures or three-dimensional forms of objects.

#9 White Thread on Black Wool Fabric (Re-purposed Coat)

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Inspired by my first attempt at this Assignment, at a blind contour drawing with a pen on paper, I wondered if I could do the same (but without the ‘blind’ bit) using a sewing machine’s sewn line. I tried a small sample first (lower two pictures show the reverse of this first attempt). As you can see, I had ‘fun’ trying to get the thread tension correct. Then on to the bigger piece of fabric (this had a couple of seams in it, but I thought I would just work over them). It was amusing to try, and I liked some of the textures achieved (the scarf, white feather, twig and scattered objects). The finished drawing reminded me of a scratchboard picture, albeit somewhat puckered and distorted. I was going to work in a round quilting frame, but couldn’t get it under the needle. The resulting work would probably have been flatter if I’d attached a stabiliser to the reverse of the wool, first. (However, the fabric was slightly shaped anyway because of its past life as a coat). I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed making these sketches, although I did like some of the effects achieved.

#10 Abstract Patterns Suggesting Textures – Black Fine Pen

A follow-on from drawing #8, looking at the items in a more abstract way with stylised patterns suggesting the textures. I liked some aspects of this drawing: the lines on the knife that were supposed to be fairly straight, but weren’t, interwove to form different densities towards the pointed end. On the scarf area, I tried spaced dots on the more distant area, closer together on the middle part, and faster, overlapping dots on the nearest part. The close dots actually look more like tadpoles, and there are some paler ones where the ink wasn’t reaching the ballpoint quickly enough. I tried to make the ‘feather’ area light and floaty, but it looks squirmy and moving instead. This was similar to the melon area – I was aiming for ‘yielding’ but got ‘wriggly’. I liked the claw-like twig with dark fine circles on it. The spiky form representing the broken glass, I felt would have been better if the whole shape was spiky.

I find that I like the abstract versions best and will explore this in future.

Assignment 1: The First Six Drawings

#1 Blind Contour Drawing, Single Line with Black Fine Rollerball Pen

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I picked this drawing to do first as a fairly fast, loosening-up exercise. I can just about make out the individual objects. I seem to have made the twig very over-sized and stylised-looking. I like the effect of the pen with its ‘clean’, hard appearance. I found the exercise useful, in getting me to really start observing the outlines and textures of the objects. I tried to make it a continuous line, but did lift the pen once or twice. Might be a useful technique for a free embroidery, machine sewn piece.

#2 Mixed Media ‘Realistic’ Drawing: Pencil, Charcoal, White Pencil, Eraser, Rubbing

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I used a cardboard frame to get into my mind the aspects of the composition I would focus on, and found it helpful. This drawing started out as a pencil sketch, but I wanted more contrast, so I added some charcoal and white pencil highlights. I also used an eraser to remove some over-darkened areas, or to provide highlights on the melon, for example. I tried to use different marks to represent the textures of each object: harsh, jagged lines for the broken bottle; softer, fine, directional marks to indicate the faux fur threads of the scarf.

I decided to fill in the negative space around the twig and give it a fine, swirling pattern to represent the lichen and gnarled nature of the wood.

I was quite pleased with some of the textures I managed to indicate, but found the flat, gleam on the black feathers hard to show, and wasn’t quite sure how to show the soft, juicy flesh of the melon. Although the bottle neck is not correct (amongst other things!) I did use a tip from Olivia Irvine that she shared with me about finding angles (comparing the angle of a line you want to draw, to the horizontal or vertical by holding a pencil up) at the recent study visit in Edinburgh. That came in very useful.

#3 White Acrylic Ink Drawn With The Dropper on Black Paper

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I had hoped to do a dripped painting, but my dropper was bunged up so I ended up using the dropper like a dip pen. I liked the white for showing the bright highlights on the bottle’s jagged edges, and for the fur effect with little scratches in the ink and dried brush-like strokes giving a soft look to that area. I felt that the least successful area was the beads/buttons ‘splatter’. I think that might have worked better by spraying the ink off a brush. The ink dried into cracks and crazing like dried mud or ceramic glaze, which I thought was an interesting effect, and an added texture.

#4 Thread Sampler Drawing

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I marked out the main elements of the composition using a photograph as a guide and poking a pin through the photo into a sheet of watercolour paper, to show corners, and outlines of the objects. (Inspired by Debbie Smyth’s “Drawing With Thread” exhibition, which I had read about in my research for this assignment).

I used a rough, polyester thread and needle to sew through the holes. I tried to suggest the textures of the objects with the stitches/marks made. For the scarf, I tried loops cut or uncut, flat stitches overlapping or distinct and finally some scraps of thread couched freehand to the paper. I liked the uncut loop threads for the interesting texture produced and the flat stitches gave some direction to the texture they were evoking. The cut threads reminded me of hairy legs and the couched threads were interesting, but didn’t look much like the scarf’s texture.

For the twig, I used only french knots, some tight, some loose, with loose threads in places, in several sizes, some densely packed and some more widely spaced. Although it didn’t look much like the original, I felt that it had captured something of the texture of the lichen and bark. I liked the effect and may use it again.

For the knife and broken bottle, I used a simple outline stitch, with large, straight stitches, which I thought described the shapes and textures quite well. (I should have stitched the knife first, though, so that it appeared behind the glass).

For the melon, I used a running stitch, that I felt was the least successful experiment. I wanted it to appear ‘softer’ than the knife and glass, but it just looks flat and cartoon-like. I did like the improvised ‘seeds’ though.

From a practical point of view, the techniques took a long time to complete and the looping stitches in particular were hard to produce: I kept pulling them flat by mistake, or catching threads on the reverse. They might work better on fabric and I will certainly try some of these again.

#5 Collage

This is a large piece (almost A1 size), made from paper, fabrics and plastic from a bottle attached to part of a corrugated cardboard box.

The background is scrunched and folded tissue paper; the ‘scarf’ is taken from a wool, machine knitted jumper (cut and stretched to encourage fraying); the melon is a shiny synthetic fabric (coat lining); the knife blade is a stretchy fabric with reflective embellishments; the handle is a dull, un-reflective cotton; the glass is made from a crushed and cut plastic bottle; the feathers are three different fabrics (shower curtain fabric; light cotton; and the reverse of some antique velvet ribbon); the twig is represented by corduroy.

I freehand cut the shapes with large fabric scissors and arranged the pieces before trying to attach them to the background with spray glue. This made a horrible sticky mess of the two pieces I tried it on (the melon and knife blade). I will not be using that glue for this purpose again! I used multi-purpose white glue for the other pieces, but afterwards thought that ‘sticky fixers’ might have been better for the plastic element.

Well, this was an interesting exercise in trying to represent the textures of the objects. I enjoyed it the least of the attempts I have made so far because of the mess and finished result, but it did get me thinking about how to represent certain textures in fabric and other materials. I felt that the paper background was the most successful part of the collage, along with the reverse of the velvet ribbon for the feather, which gave it a nice gleam, and also worked finely cut and fluffed up to represent the tufty area near the quill end. The least successful part was the bead spatter which I didn’t attempt – I could only think of adding beads and buttons, which was a bit too literal. Although maybe using a splatter patterned fabric or paint splatter might have worked, too.

#6 ArtRage App Digital Drawing – Imagined

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Having seen David Hockney and Katie Sollohub use digital art techniques, I thought I would give it a try. This is a speedily done first attempt, imagining the objects I have been drawing recently. This particular version of the app only has one brush head, but the size and resulting texture can be varied, as can the colour. I will certainly try to use this again in the future. May be useful for sketching ‘on the go’.