I was reminded of the above quotation last Thursday night (and as I write this on Burns Night it seems entirely appropriate) when, during the half-time break I was chatting to Kus our new model. He confessed that when he models he never looks at the drawings that have been done of him. When I asked why, he said that he did not want to risk offending the artist(s) if he did not like their interpretation of himself. I expressed some surprise at this as he had already told me he was also an ACTOR and I suggested that he could surely use his thespian talents to feign some emotion other than dislike. But I kinda got the impression that this would not be "the done thing"! I admire his resolve and control as I know that I would not and indeed have not been able to resist a peek when others have drawn me (I am a very curious cat!) and thus have come as close as possible to receiving the "power" that Rabbie wished for us all.
But if one TRULY saw oneself as others see us I am inclined to wonder how that might turn the table and change the way you saw yourself?! A slightly disturbing thought perhaps? I remember seeing the film 'The Golden Compass' back in 2007 based on Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy. In it each character has their own personal 'daemon', an animal spirit, that manifests all the thoughts and emotions going through the mind of the character, thus giving any observer a direct insight into what might be going through the mind of the person being observed whilst the character themselves may remain apparently emotionless - again, rather a disturbing if intriguing notion .
This train of thought around what we reveal or hide to others and how we would like others to see us lead me further to contemplate what our drawings actually reveal about us? Does it work in the same way as handwriting? A quick trawl of t'internet told me that some people believe it does and many and varied are the Drawing Personality Tests one can take.
"...the way the page is filled, level of detail, types of strokes, proportions, accuracy and much more...." are all deeply significant and
" From all of this it is possible to provide a personality profile. Drawings can reveal feelings, influences and interests -- the artist's inner emotional state and development. When used in conjunction with handwriting analysis it can either confirm a personality profile, or reveal traits not evident in the handwriting." Hmmm, I thought, this could give me a level of insight into my fellow 'Redbrickers' hitherto hidden.........worried yet?
So, as I said, being a curious cat, I undertook one of these tests and the feedback I got for my drawing was as follows:
"You tend to pursue many different activities simultaneously. When misfortune does happen, it doesn't actually dishearten you all that much. You are a thoughtful and cautious person. You like to think about your method, seeking to pursue your goal in the most effective way. You are creative, mentally active and industrious. You feel morose and are prone to lethargy."
Pretty accurate I thought... apart from the last statement which I strongly disagree with!!
Anyhow, an interesting 10 minutes was passed and if anyone else should feel inclined (go on I dare you!) the test can be found on http://drawing.feedbucket.com/
Personally I think it a shame if Kus didn't view the works produced on Thursday as, once again they were a strong and handsome bunch and did his good looks justice. Now that I understand the psychology behind the drawn line, they are also deeply revealing.......but I feel duty bound to spare my fellow artists' blushes and what their marks reveal will remain with me. Though there are one or two folk whom I may be watching a little more intently in the coming weeks.....
I will just conclude by suggesting that people fall into 3 categories:
1) those who would secretly like to know how others see them
2) those who wouldn't
3) those who don't care (or say they don't!)
Which are you??!
by Catherine Morris Kus by Catherine
Paintings and drawings by Catherine, Cathy, Dick, Fiona, Hadyn, Patrick, Roger H, Roger S, Sandra, Steven, Sue D-Y, Sue, Tom and Tony.
Portrait of a Man with a Floppy Hat (Portrait of Erwin Dominilk Osen) 1910 by Egon Schiele
‘The world we inhabit is stuffed full of blank spaces. Moments of blankness are everywhere, though frequently invisible- a short pause in conversation, for example, or the background in a picture. Whilst these ubiquitous blanknesses tend to be read as meaningless in themselves, they also tend to have meaning structured around them. In this way blank spaces remain invisible within the discourses that hide them’.
I wish I could take the credit for the above statement but a woman named Angelina Morrison penned those words and put her observations and instincts into organised and articulate sentences. Sadly, these days, even my six year old granddaughter can outmanoeuvre me with her ability to over talk, verbally change tack and logically and articulately confound me before she goes off in a flounce. However in spite of this I will try to string some words together.
Angelina goes on to discuss totally monochrome works as a pictorial whole, as blank spaces in themselves which make no attempt to tell stories and contain nothing visually recognisable. I do not want to venture that far into discrepancy. I want to linger in the area where she began in which blank spaces have meaning structured around them. To turn this around, whether it is in abstract or pictorial art or spoken discourse, the blank spaces can emphasise, clarify and balance the meaning to either the verbal structures or the visual configurations around them.
For instance look at the watercolour and black ink work entitled ‘Man in a Felt Hat’ by Egon Schiele. He has drawn, in some detail, the head, face and hat then apart from two simple comparatively faint lines, there is a large blank space taking up more than a third of the pictorial space until your eye reaches the bottom quarter of the piece where the hands are depicted in detail. The blank space is as important as the drawn detail and gives the picture its drama and illusive meaning.
In the life drawing sessions, if only, I tell myself, I can refrain from trying to fill all the paper space, if only I can just hold back from painstakingly completing every facial and physical detail, if only I can work out where, compositionally, the blanks should be in order to strengthen the work. How long should a silence be before it loses meaning and context within a discourse? Silence can be deafening, sometimes it can be calming, or scary or refreshing or it can be uncomfortable, it all depends on context. It is a considered ratio and balance within a pictorial work and I think an interesting path to follow. On the other hand, often an unfinished work is stronger because of the unintended blank spaces which have occurred by happenstance.
Alternatively, harking back to Angelina, there is the opportunity to take the power of blankness and conceptualise it by painting the experience of just being in the life room by painting a monochrome, just pure colour with no visually recognisable symbols. No foreground, no background just the sense of being there, like a silent theatrical performance. Now there’s a thought!
No critique or complimenting by me of the pictures in the gallery from last night that’s for you as artists to have your say if you so choose, but many thanks to Stephanie for modelling so well and so still for us in a not so warm space.
by Sandra Cowper
Paintings and drawings by Sandra (above), Barry, Catherine, Chris, Dick, Hadyn, Ivan, Roger H, Roger S, Russell, Sue D-Y, Sue, Tom and Tony.
I've squandered too much precious time recently following the debate resulting from the screening of Channel Four's 'documentary', Benefit's Street. The why's and wherefores, the ins and outs and the rights and wrongs of this programme have been well rehearsed and although my views are probably pretty obvious, I will spare you the tedium of a red faced rant from me. What I found interesting and what makes it relevant in this context, is the notion of how 'facts' are processed into 'truth' Why the inverted comma's I hear you say. Well facts are in themselves subjective depending on who is choosing and presenting them and of course the whole notion of truth is as slippery as a well greased pig. The basic premise behind the objections to 'Benefit's Street' is that the editing has been skewed to present an extreme form of poverty voyeurism dressed up as social concern. This claim amounts to one side disagreeing with the choices made by the other side and the force and certainty with which those choices were presented.
Now we come to art. Put simply, isn't the process we indulge in exactly the same. We garner 'facts', we make choices and we decide which of those facts should be presented in what order of priority. Some of us will decide that structure is what it's about whilst others will zoom in on colour and composition. It never fails to surprise and delight me how one subject can generate so many diverse opinions and approaches. I think of it as a number of witnesses at the scene of a crime all telling their stories, some attempting clinical accuracy others bound up with emotion, others distracted and wayward, but all attempting to say the same thing, | was there and it was like this officer........!
David our new and splendid model, was well toned and muscular with the face of a mischievous elf in repose. Russell, never slow to grasp a visual opportunity for wit and play, seized on this almost immediately, he was already the most unreliable of witnesses as the story was too good to become grounded in so called facts. The ear gently morphed into a puck like pointiness, the lips became pursed with a smidge of lippy, the whitened pallor contrasting nicely with the smoky and hooded vampiric eyes. Very Twilight, very goth but then the whole ensemble was softened by a Shakespearean cluster of leaves and flowers perched ever so gently on David's sculpted head. In the past I have also been a fellow fantasist, bored by the tedium of reality, I have inflicted horns onto one person and numerous wings onto others. I think there is something lovely when the subconscious world melts into the conscious world and reality becomes a vehicle for play, a casket from which new and rich stories emerge. In my view dreamers decorate our lives, they always tell the best stories and make the best friends except when in the witness box or editing so called documentaries about poor people than they need a slug of reality and their ears boxed! (Phew, the rant was nearly upon me...).
Suman , a new and welcome visitor made a lovely small drawing not unlike Steven's, however, although similar she embraced the white chalk for highlights method, whereas Steven an old school ascetic would rather walk barefoot to Leeds and back than introduce the dreaded white crayon. Roger was once similarly inclined with purist tendencies but he's strayed and now uses all kinds of demonic crayons and colour combinations, picking coloured papers with all the restraint of a drunken sailor on a twelve hour binge in Bangkok. Needless to say, it plays havoc with my photo processing, we're at the outer reaches of Photoshop but I don't complain. Sandra similarly seems to have become a devotee of the white highlight whilst Sue D-Y, appears to have discarded all pretense and decided there is just one bit of her drawing she just has to get right. Well all I can say Sue, is for heaven's sake leave it alone, you'll wear it out. Catherine has donned her stylish stained glass window specs, no doubt prescribed for winter sadness. Personally I feel happier just looking at the result. Dick seems to have found a new robustness and confidence in his work which bodes well for future developments. Ben and Ivan are competing for the accolade of sharpest pencil with lean drawings of incisive clarity, not an ounce of fat on either one. I would quite like to Photoshop Patrick's drawing on top of Haydn's as though I were a music producer laying one track over another. Haydn is all structure, like a bass player whilst Patrick is the synth weaving in and out with an elusive delicate melody you can't get out of your head. Tony is the most objective of witnesses and Sue has inaugurated her new sketchbook with a strong side view. All in all a good start to the year and one that shows no evidence of the chill factor resulting from a temperamental heater that has been told to shape up or ship out!
I'm not sure if I'm going to post my work, it seems my testimony will probably be rejected by the court as a tissue of lies, the ravings of rabid fantasist and unreliable evidence. Get well soon Ian, hope to see you back in the Court of Human Sleights very soon.
Paintings and drawings by Ben, Catherine, Dick, Hadyn, Ivan, Patrick, Roger, Russell, Sandra, Steven, Sue D-Y, Sue, Suman and Tony.
AN EXCHANGE OF VIEWS with Anne Hutchison and Russell Lumb
Hi Russell. What did you think of Saturday’s session at Redbrick?
I have to confess, Anne, that I have not thought very much about Redbrick since returning home and donning my nursing uniform (tight-fitting, high-buttoned, white top with skinny, bottle green meggings) to minister to my dear wife who is cruelly struck down with a very common cold. However, the long drive home to North Yorkshire had already provided time to ponder the day’s personal lessons; a disappointingly familiar mixture of resolute optimism backsliding gently into premature ennui. Fortunately, the group persona allows dilution of individual failings and I was happy to bathe in the warm glow of others’ success. You and Tom appeared to be particularly content with your work, and I am sure that you are bursting to tell me about it, although I must warn you that we are short-staffed here, and you may have to lean on the bell for some time before receiving attention.
Looking at the gallery of work, I am struck by the fluid interpretation of the pose. You can see the stern, resolute strength from some angles, whilst from others, it seems slightly lazy and relaxed. From some perspectives, she is on starting blocks but, from others, about to slip silently into a warm bath. I love this- particularly with lots of candles and a glass of Meursault .Of the work which just depicts head and shoulders, in a rather bird-like way, the model seems alert and listening for a pin to drop, whilst others show her slightly frowning and critical. Maybe these are all shades of the post-Christmas experience. As usual, I have forgotten the model’s name, but was really pleased to see her, as I so enjoy her contribution and professionalism.
Julie is the name you cannot recall, and I am happy to agree that she is one of our most professional models. I also think that she is unusual in projecting facial expression without the extremes of laughter or even smiling, and I enjoy attempting to capture that expression. However, I am most drawn to the full figure pieces of David, Chris, Jackie and you, where facial expression is of limited importance, because these are narrative paintings rather than academic life studies. In an even more impressive manner, Tom’s portrait manages to be both; life portrait and expressive painting! The fact that Tom and I shared the same viewpoint, mercilessly illustrates the difficulty of this challenge, and offers the strongest possible incentive to redouble my efforts. In parallel, David and Chris may be lighting the way for your development?
I think at least we can go to bed ( in our quite separate geographical locations) happy that there is evident progress, some cause for satisfaction, but still no cure for the common cold.
Perhaps my unspoken dissatisfaction with this diablog is a little harsh, more an inevitable result of overwork and stress than any considered assessment of the genre. But I awake this morning with fresh vigour, despite a worryingly furry tongue, and feel confident that my old-persons’ flu jab will overpower any interlopers. Now that my morning rounds are completed and medication dispensed, I can return to the subject of life study, and notice first of all, that I have no desire to combine nursing and drawing, although there is a considerable history of artists taking advantage of the immobility of the desperately ill and worse. There can be no such doubts around the work produced on Saturday. All of them contain the spark of life, although this may be over generous to Chris, who remains in his dungeon period; at least we are spared the chains, and a prolonged study, as one’s eyes become accustomed to the gloom, reveals admirable sublety of colour and tone. In fact, the restricted palette was very popular on Saturday, particularly with the men. Possibly a sign of puritan simplicity in the wake of another bling Christmas?
Yes, Pierre Bonnard notably painted his wife in the bath, hundreds of times because she had to spend so much time there to sooth her skin complaint (nice).i am quite enjoying the diablog, but wondering where it will lead?
It seems that everything worth doing has already been done, but I am constantly surprised by just how precisely others’ work can pre-empt one’s flashes of “inspiration”. If it isn’t Peter Doig hogging all the best canoe scenes, its Barbara Rae cornering the market in lurid colour abstract landscape, and now, apparently, Pierre Bonnard making the most of psoriasis, which is not actually very much and a little flaky. It is possible to consider each of the Saturday works in terms of earlier exponents, which may result from stored , unconscious reference, or more likely, simply the inevitable repeated thought patterns of thousands upon thousands of artists addressing the same subjects with the same materials. Painting and drawing well is hard enough without also insisting on originality. So, Jackie’s sunny impressionism, Cathy’s stout “Spencer” and the softer traditional treatments of Issy, Lizzy and Sue ( Joe Cocker’s vocal backing) are all following well-trodden oaths, but providing fresh, personal experience.
Look at Fiona’s latest lolling Lola, dressed in her sooooo trendy armadillo bikers’ suit. Don’t see many of those around here .
Guilty again of overlooking Fiona’s little person! It is so instructive to see the 3D record of the sitter, although usually achieved from various distant viewpoints. Just think what Fiona could do with decent access around the model. It’s definitely in the restricted pallete camp though. In summary, I think that there are many signs of positive development, and no more so than in your own work, where careful observation and accurate but firm expression have produced an unusually controlled piece. I would be disappointed, though, if we had seen the last of your more typical anarchic approach to the naked figure and look forward to our next joint venture
Paintings and drawings by Anne, Cathy, Chris, David, Fiona, Gerry, Hadyn, Issy, Jackie, Liz, Mike, Russell, Sue, Tom and Tony.
After Saturday's six-hour pose I am knackered. It's not your fault, Redbrick Mill-ers. The pose - a standing one (thus no pressure points) was relatively comfortable. But this time of year is, I have discovered after four years in the business, the Life Modelling Season. I have grabbed every booking I've been offered, in the knowledge that when summer comes, there will be almost no work apart from summer schools. So I am currently midway through a run of seven days in which I am modelling variously between 5 and 8 hours each day. This hurts.
I enjoyed seeing/hearing the print-maker as she smoothed the paper with caressing hands, and the sculptor as she trundled her shopping trolley from position to position round the backs of the artists at their easels. I wish I could say that I got notes for a poem from this, but sadly my head is currently too frazzled with Christmas to-do lists and the setting up of my alter ego Suki the Life Model's third website. But I get the vicarious satisfaction of knowing I am sort of a facilitator of the creativity of all of you attendees.
I’ve been watching Sky’s ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’ and quite strongly directing remarks towards said programme on screen that many of our regular life drawers could equal if not surpass most of the contestants. Imagine my frustration then when on Thursday and Saturday I was spectacularly unable to prove my point on my own behalf by producing some very mediocre work. Damn!
I should have stuck to drawing and more drawing until I was in the zone. Neither my head nor my heart was in the painting for various reasons. Either the planets were all misaligned or it was to do with the surface I was painting on or because I had mislaid my favourite palette knife.
That old palette knife is one that someone gave me some years ago, it is worn, cheap, thin, rusty, springy and I use it for everything from mixing and applying paint to scratching into and scraping off paint. I never work without it. On Saturday I could not find it, I searched all the drawers and my boxes and it was nowhere to be found so I had to proceed without my ‘comfort blanket’.
I had brought an old painting to paint over and, no matter how I tried, the leg from the under painting continued to encroach upon the figure being painted with the result that Suki ended up being some sort of contortionist.
However halfway through the day I found the said knife (where I had looked in the first place) and managed to just about salvage the painting but not to my liking and I shall paint over it again in the future.
Looking through the gallery I can see that other artists there on Saturday had a good day with some fresh and lively work to show for it. The pose was interesting with the model seeming to rely on the easel for support and the diagonal line of the arms and hands across the figure.
Kwan has interestingly captured the reliance of the model leaning on the easel with some confident, energetic lines around the figure set against the static solidity of the easel. While Jackie has painted a lovely composition with a quiet mood to it giving us quite a private moment with the model almost caught unawares. So good for us to see two new artists joining us at Red Brick and adds to the mix.
I also love Louise’s prints of Suki, it was so interesting watching Louise working with this method of mono printing using minimal materials with a lot less fuss and mess than one might associate with printing to such good effect.
The rest of the regulars as usual produced their high standard of work with Ann who was only there for the afternoon achieving a lovely, accomplished piece of finished work.
Ann also promised to leave a bag of apples for me next to my car. I’m not sure whose car you might have left them next to but I’m sorry I could not find them after strolling round all sides and having a scan around the nearby ground. However half way home the thought struck me that they might be on top of my car where I had not looked and I imagined a fat, bulging bag of apples balanced precariously on the roof. The result was that I drove and braked very carefully up hills and around bends expecting at any moment a cascade of apples bouncing off the boot or the bonnet into pedestrians and following vehicles. I did manage to stop and no they weren’t there.
Many thanks to Suki who was, as always, superb.
by Sandra Cowper
Paintings and drawings by Anne, Chris, David, Fiona, Jackie, Jane, Kwan, Louise, Sandra, Tom and Tony.