Assignment 1 feedback and my response.

Feedback was spot-on with lots of suggestions of artists to look up – the one I didn’t know was Martin Lewis – will research him as looks exciting and also re-visit the others as I am interested in them all – particularly Joan Eardley, Edward Hopper and Caravaggio. I like the research side as it is a way of continuing with the art history studied with the open university – but with more emphasis obviously on how they made their work. Main advice is to look more carefully. I shall try and hesitate just a little bit more  before plunging in – I am aware this should help my observation and hopefully my skills.

Feedback made me go back to look at Joan Eardley and tried a transciption of one of her works. Also revisited the sonnet I wrote in 2009 and revised it.  Will include it here as very much links with my enthusiasm for Eardley’s work.

Joan Eardley

Sonnet to ‘Children and chalked wall’ (1962-3) by Joan Eardley.


Two little girls stare out from the paint,

The oily stuff scraped and scrumbled,

Smeared on the wall.   Nothing sentimental, nothing quaint,

A colourful collage of line and shape.

Clownish, snub noses, they hover and chatter

Barefoot they glare at a shop full of sweeties.

Tight arms, one round the other,

A snapshot: look out for bother.


Memories of Hackney, of the infants I taught,

Cheeky faces, funny and fraught.

Of Alsations, wire fences, rushing down the street,

Kids laughing and shouting: bittersweet.


Children staring as children do,

Staring coolly out of the blue.


Lesley Norman (written originally March, 2009 and revised September 27th, 2015)/

Part 2 Exercise 2 Compositional sketches of natural objects.

This was a found still life discovered on my dresser . What particularly attracted me was that the morning sun was coming through the window and creating various tones and shadows on the fruit.

I tried four different compositions in pencil in my sketchbook and decided the long thin rectangle was the best shape for this composition.

Exercise 2 compositional study of natural objects I then chose a dip pen and a brush with brown and yellow ochre ink to compose a picture using the found still life of fruit and creating again the rough pencil drawing enclosed in a long thin rectangle. This was done in my sketchbook. The inks made it possible to create form through darks and lights. The final piece suggested a semi-abstract rendition of the fruit.

Review of work:

1.Was 3 dimensions easier to suggest with man-made or natural objects? 

I found the fruit – which were the natural objects chosen – easier to suggest 3 dimensions because of the rounded forms.This meant they were slightly more recognizable than the man-made still-life.

2. How was a sense of solidity created? 

The pushing and pulling of lights and darks in both compositions and the interlocking spaces between all helped to create solidity. So both realism and abstraction played a part.

3.   Did changing the arrangements of your composition make a difference to your approach and the way you created a sense of form?  

Trying out different compositions drew my attention to the importance of the shape of the paper which enclosed the compositions. For example the square format created a very different composition to the long thin rectangle and affected their expressive qualities.

Part 2 Exercise 1 Compositional sketches of man-made objects.

Initially I chose six objects that had been given to me and which I liked . The most recent was a moving monkey acquired yesterday with my 20 month old granddaughter at the Bethnal  Green Museum of Childhood.

I tried 4 different compositions – 2 landscape and 2 portrait orientation. Less objects  in a square format seemed to create the best composition -I decided this through intuition. The jug, a small one in relation to other jugs, actually looked large in these sketches – larger than I had realized.   The objects were strongly lit  in a darkened room so creating strong shadows .. thumbnail sketches4 sketches in pencil trying out different compositions and arrangements of objects.

square formatSquare format worked best but still unsure about the large jug – perhaps if I enlarge this I might leave it out.

Research: Examples of how contemporary artists incorporate positive and negative spaces in their work.

Rachel Whitereads House of the 1990s is an interesting example of how she has reversed negative and positive spaces to create a disconcerting, eerie effect. (Bird, 2012)

Peter Doig’s Concrete Cabin 11- in this work trees and architecture seem to move backwards and forwards between negative and positive spaces creating a shimmering effect but also speaks of artificiality. In other words one knows one is not looking at reality. (Finger, 2012)

Gary Humes Six Poles 2011 use negative and positive spaces in a way that makes the viewer think ‘What am I looking at’. Into these he incorporates colour that adds to the effect.

References: Bird, Michael, (2012) 100 ideas that changed Art. 

Finger, Brad, Modern Art, the groundbreaking moments.

Hume, Gary, (httpd:// id=chrome-instant&ion=1&esp v=2&ie=UTF-8#q=bbc%20weather12)

Research – Picasso and Braque and new depictions of space in still lives.

Braques ‘The Mandala \91909-10) and Picasso’s ‘Glass and a bottle of Suze’ both depict space in ambiguous ways.

In the Mandola Braque breaks up the objects into different planes  so sometimes the viewer sees in front of the object and somehow behind- perspective is abandoned in what was regarded as a much more ‘real’ experience of seeing.Georges-Braque-Mandola

Picasso, ‘Glass and bottle of Suze’ -Collage c1909.


Young contemporary artists and how they are working with still life.

Contemporary subject matter is often political or links up with entertainment – as for example Holler’s slides at Tate Modern in 2007. Materials can be almost anything and composition doesn’t have to be on paper.

Examples are Dion Mark, Concerning the Dig, 2013, p.69, which is an installation using many familiar objects – a sort of found still life . (ref. The twenty-first century art book, Phaidon) and

Parker, Cornelia, ‘Subconscious of a Monument, 2003’- lumps of clay seem to hover in the air – Cornelia reference the leaning tower of Pisa which similarly seems to hover. It creates fascination and is related to the subconscious.  (see p.198 of the twenty-first century art book., Phaidon)/

Reference:  Acton, Mary (2004) Learning to look at Modern Art, Routledge.

(2014) The Twenty first century art book, Phaidon.

How still life was interpreted by Manet and Cezanne,

In Manet’s Still life with fish there is a reminder of Velasquez in the immediacy and vibrancy of the objects. However it is more ‘modern’ because the painting draws attention to its surface and the way it is painted,  this being as important as the objects. Strong contrasts of black and white create a vibrancy and the way the paint is applied a sense of movement.Edouard_Manet_068

Cezanne’s still life is even more modern and although like the Dutch still lives it is concerned with animate and inanimate objects the importance of form, shape and size that is just as important as what is represented is apparent. Distortions seem right in order to create an effective composition



Research – Gerrit Dou; A poulterer’s shop, c1670, National Gallery London.

As Neil MacGregor says (1997 Making Masterpieces, BBC Education Production) ‘ If the masterful illusion of reality is what you want in a painting then Gerrit Dou is your man. Dou is said to have worked with a magnifying glass, tiny brushes and kept his studio dust free – the virtuoso painting makes this story believable. The dead rabbit and  plucked Gerrit Dou - Poulterer's shop cfowls are highlighted showing their textures and ‘deadness’. They contrast with the dark background. One’s eye is led to the pecking hen in the basket and one can imagine its fate.

Part two- Your own environment. Project 1. Composition.

Research point.

Diego Velazquez – Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, c1618, National Gallery, London.

This composition has a marked foreground and background. Ones eyes alight on the still life at the side of Mary and Martha in which  the shiny fish skin , the eggs and the garlic convey a sense of immediacy. This contrasts with the sober mood of the painting.Diego Velasquez- Christ in the House of Mary and Martha c 1618

Beuckelaer – A fruit and vegetable market and the flight into Egypt in the background. 1569. National Gallery, London.

The composition is again divided into an ‘earthly’ foreground and a religious background but the mood is one of abundance and joy in contrast to the solemnity of the Velasquez. This is another precursor to the Still Life with the its array of fruit and vegetables . Painted at a time of economic recession the abundance of food is not painted directly from life.

Reference:  Langmuir, Erika,(1994) The National Gallery Companion Guide, National Gallery Publications, London.

Joachim Beuckelaer- A fruit and vegetable market with the flight into Egypt in the background

Assignment 1: A personal still life.

All the objects in the Still Life carry nostalgia for me.  They are all old, acquired on a trip with my husband to Romania, Czechoslovakia and Hungary in the late 1960’s.  They have particularly strong associations as we were in Bratislava when the Russians invaded.

The hand-painted plate and cup and saucer were seconds given to us by some Romanian peasants. The jug was also a gift and the pot was purchased. These objects have been in my kitchen (which seems to be the centre of the household) for  nearly 40 years now so they are a reminder of the past.

I used black ink with a brush and reed pen and charcoal as I thought this combination could create a variety of tones and textures.  The most difficult thing for me was the accurate rendering of the objects – I find circles and ellipses particularly challenging.  However I was pleased that the mixed media  produced an expressive drawing. I could see there was more to be done but have been told in the past by tutors that I tend to overwork pieces. As I was told it’s easy to ‘finish the drawing off’ .

I think my main areas to improve are more accurate observations , better drawing of shapes and the rendering of more subtle tones at times. assignment 1