Drawing 1

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Source: Drawing 1

Research on Marlene Dumas

“Art is not a mirror.  Art is a translation of that which you do not know”.  Dumas, M. (2014) The Image as Burden, p.6, Tate Publishing).



Marlene dumas image as burden

Marlene  Dumas available from:  http://artobserved.com/2014/08/marlene-dumas-interviewed-in-new-york-times/ accessed  30th June 2016)

self portrait of Dumas ‘ Self-portrait at noon’ , 2008. Available at:  https://mnaves.wordpress.com/marlene-dumas-measuring-your-own-grave-at-the-museum-of-modern-art/ (accessed 30th June, 2016).


The head fills the space and contrasts with the dark garment.  The loose handling of paint with focus on the eyes is disturbing. To me there is a  questioning and  sadness in the expression. The greenish/white colour suggests sickness and hints of death.

Helena’s dream (2008) available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/marlene-dumas-image-burden/introduction (accessed 30th June 2016)


There is  something disturbing about the children- one is forced to look again because this is no stock image, although, ambivalently, one is aware that the image resembles a magazine or advertising picture. Andy Warhol comes to mind as a possible source.

Biography  (this brief summary of mine is based on reading Dumas, M. (2014) The Image as Burden, p.6, Tate Publishing).

Marlene Dumas was born in South Africa in  1953.  Moved to Amsterdam in 1976 and still lives there.Marlene was in South Africa at the height of apartheid . Some significant dates:1964 , Nelson Mandela sentenced to life imprisonment, 1976 Apartheid laws intensified , 1970’s Steve Biko killed in police custody. The violent society into which Dumas was born is addressed in her work but not in any obvious way. Vulnerability and violence together with the personal and political are recurrent themes in her work.

The children she paints communicate through body language but this is not straightforward . For example in ‘The Painter’ the painted hands suggest violence and the blue on the tummy is strange- it’s the opposite of a jolly family picture of a child with paint on her hands and front.  The skeletal like head is macabre as are the unfinished feet .



the painter marlene dumas
Available at: The painter -Marlene Dumas

http://www.stedelijk.nl/en/exhibitions/marlene-dumas-the-image-as-burden, accessed 30th June, 2016).

copy of the painter by Dumas

My transcription in oil pastels of ‘The Painter’ by Marlene Dumas.



In an interview in 2003 Dumas talked about her interest in t.v., in film and photographs and particularly the way images zoom in and out – something she has used a lot shown by the unusual angles she often employs.  Dumas revealed that she is interested in the representation of space. Also that she  has drawn on African statues and sculptures when drawing figures and often sees faces like masks.

The Turkish Schoolgirls –  (1987) oil on canvas. Available at:http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo/the-turkish-schoolgirls.html, (accessed 30th June, 2016)


turkish schoolgirls

The Turkish schoolgirls 1987 is a powerful painting- the children’s faces create discomfort because they don’t have any individuality..

‘The teacher ‘1987 available at: http://www.kunsthalle-kiel.de/en/ausstellungen/ (accessed 30th June, 2016)

.the teacher This is one of a series of children in uniform and their teacher. Dumas shows us how uniforms create the look of conformity (my words and interpretation) . To me the work has a personal resonance because I have similar photos of me as a young teacher with my class, photographs put away and which may be lost.  Dumas has inspired me to develop these along similar lines.

Also the work above by Dumas reminded me of the photos of Joan Eardley drawing the children of Glasgow.However Dumas’s work seems much more overtly political.

Joan Eardley, available at: http://www.howtopastel.com/2014/10/joan-eardley-pastels-of-slum-kids/ (accessed June 30th, 2016).joan eadley drawing a child

Looking at the children that Marlene Dumas painted  in relation to my final assignment I can see that I have drawn much more on  Joan Eardley’s work. There is a personal connection for me as my first teaching job in the 1970’s was in a deprived area in Hackney, London.  It was a school which received funding as a result of the Plowden Report and I was fortunate in being guided by a Froebel trained teacher who taught me that every child, however deprived, had great potential and should be celebrated for themselves.

Comparing Dumas and Eardley there is a political dimension to both artists’ work.  Eardley  because she draws attention to the poverty some Glasgow children experienced.  Dumas’ because violence is frequently ‘simmering in the background’ as it were , such as in the painting of the child: ‘The Painter’. However Eardley’s drawings and paintings of the children suggest that they are drawn from reality and that there is a genuine concern that they should be valued for who they were.

My charcoal drawing of two children that starts this WordPress blog is based on children I taught in Hackney in the 1970’s and was influenced by Eardley’s work.


Dumas, Marlene (2014) The Image as Burden, Tate Publishing, London.

Pearson, Fiona, (2007) Joan Eardley, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Feedback on assignment 5 and aims that will complete the course.


To do – research Marlene Dumas – particularly her drawings of children in relation to my last assignment.

Darken left hand background of Assignment 1 and blend in figure for penultimate study.

Create a tonal background for the large amount of space surrounding Lois.

Re-do the charcoal figure drawing with better proportions.

Mount work on A1 thin black card with spray mount – label on the back.

Submit  sketchbooks but mark relevant pages.

Submit whole of last sketchbook for Assignment 5 as it contains most of my preliminary work..

Written work and log fine.


Gallery Visit

Russia and the Arts- The age of Tolstoy and Tchailovsky- National Portrait Gallery.

This was a small and very engaging exhibition of portraits.  As Julia Donaldson said in her introductory essay to the B.P. Portrait Award 2014,(National Portrait Gallery) ” A face is of course much more than a set of features;  it is, or can be, a fascinating character map”.  This could be said of many of the portraits in this exhibition.  For example the portrait of Tolstoy captures his ‘anxst’ and his emotional intelligence.

The portraits each seemed to insist that the viewer spent time looking – and being such a small exhibition this was very possible – even so I just concentrated on a few.  As the label by the Rubenstein portrait pointed out the painting captures his drive and dedication to his art.

copy on spot of Rubenstein (NPG)


Overall evaluation

Overall Evaluation of Drawing 1. (paper copy also included in my  assessment submission ).

The daily habit of drawing that has been fostered by this course has meant increased fluency and a growing confidence in being able to make a work based on observation.   I need to continue to work at technical skills that are my main weakness.  This means closer looking and slowing down. Accurate proportions, angles and perspective are all things to work on to make my drawings more life-like.

Drawing 1 has made me aware, with the help of my tutor, that a reasonable level of technical ability is necessary to move forward and produce dynamic drawings based on observation. These can then develop creatively in various directions.  Previous to this course I had at times fallen into a way of working that was repetitive and produced monotony. The projects have helped me become more objective in my judgements whilst confirming that imagination and intuition are important.  I love playing with materials and have done quite well with using diverse media. Ironically, a spontaneous looking drawing is often only rendered through careful control.

For some time I have been a keen visitor of art exhibitions but I had not looked carefully at drawings before this module.  Frank Auerbach,   Giocometti,  Nikolai Astrup, and the British museum exhibition of silverpoint drawings made over the last 400 years have been highlights and shown me how versatile drawing can be.

A self-assessment of each part of the course was made in my log for Part 5.  Suffice it to add here that although I have an interest in the figure and the environment I would like to develop drawings on all aspects that the course has covered and do not yet wish to follow any one line of enquiry.

So overall my awareness of composition, line, shape and texture has improved and my observational skills are developing. I have produced some expressive monochromatic work and had some success with collage and mixed media.    Drawing 1 has set me off on a challenging path



My Final Piece: Assignment 5

Child in a Garden.

My penultimate mixed-media drawing was more sombre than I wanted which may have been because there was not enough tonal variation. So, because of this,  I chose a  warm background to lighten up my final drawing . White  tissue stuck onto thick paper was stained with an ochrish pink. I decided not to use gouache paint this time as there was a danger of this media making the surface too dull.  Instead I used watercolour pencils ,green and pink painted newspaper, sepia, ochre and black ink plus pens and  brushes, oil pastels and soft pastels, charcoal and chalk.  It was a challenge working with all these materials, rather like a juggling act.  I became absorbed and after the initial drawing let my intuition take over. Fom time to time I made objective assessments – was the drawing developing? Was there enough contrast of tone , line and shape? Were shapes and textures working? Were proportions right?  Was there a mood? Was there a feeling of recession and , most importantly, did the whole thing continue to be kept together by a strong design?   I eventually arrived at a  point at which I felt line, shape, texture and tone were working dynamically  to produce an atmospheric drawing. I had needed careful control to reach this point.


Assignment 5 Child in a garden.jpg

I was reminded when working of what Philip Pullman said about drawing:

“The best sort of activity is one that combines mental effort with sensuous delight.  That’s why I love drawing”.   (Oct. 3rd, 2015, Guardian Review )

Feedback from my tutor was that both my penultimate and final assignment ‘showed great possibilities for further development’. As I wanted these works to be the best that I could manage I decided to work on both pictures again.  I started with the penultimate study and , as was suggested, made the figure blend in more with the background and enriched the tones.I followed the advice to darken the left hand top of Assignment 5 so that there would be greater tonal contrast. This led to other alterations and a more dramatic final piece.  The two re-worked coloured drawings are below.

Penultimate study that has been re-worked.  

Penultimate assignment 5 -re-worked


Final re-worked Assignment 5.

Final re-done assignment 5

I felt enthusiastic about this project so decided to make a concertina book of prints of Child in a Garden. This required another lot of drawing. I particularly wanted to capture the child so did several more studies then traced the one I thought might work onto a drypoint card and pulled some prints. I did six different drawings hoping to link each one in the concertina format with the path and have the child at the beginning and the shed at the end of the book.   I was pleased I did it as it has set me off on other ways of developing this subject.

Artist's book for assignment 5.jpg

Drawings of child for artist's bookCompleted artist's book for project 5


Drypoints for ideas for Ass. 5.

Using my drawings I made some drypoints which gave me ideas for my final project. I tried colouring one and immediately realised this would be a good way to proceed with my drawing – but using mixed media. I now became excited about the possibility of creating something fresh but aware I must keep in mind the observational work, the sense of a garden and a moving figure. Composition would always be a major concern. The complementaries of pinkish/red and different greens worked well but the drypoint also showed me that tonal contrast created atmosphere.

Now I felt ready to try a preliminary work on glued tissue .Drypoint of child in garden - gave me ideas.jpg