Key words from the brief:
- Use your sketchbook to develop additional visual material based on ‘the everyday’ theme
- Work with any materials that help push your creative process further into unexpected directions
- Reflect on the experience of assignment one in your learning log either as a piece of writing or as a short video narrative.
- Share your work on the OCA forums or join in the Everyday Sketchbook Circle
This was the first assignment I was asked to where there’s no clear end point, in other words there’s no clear definition of done or when the work is finished.
So to help myself I created my own brief that outlines how I’ve interpreted the assignment and how I’d respond.
Assignment 1 – My objectives
To demonstrate what I’ve learned from the exercises including:
- Rapid drawing and slow drawing
- Collecting facts/data/ research and incorporating that into a sketchbook
- Experimentation with new/unusual techniques, make mistakes
What am I trying to say?
Theme: The everyday
To develop a narrative/series of scenarios around the subject ‘Going to work’
Questions to explore and try to answer
- How can I tell the story/create narrative?
- How can I incorporate research?
- How can I make the process experimental and push my boundaries?
All of these drawings were made in a three week period during my daily commute in and out of London. Most of them had to be made between train stops so were made very quickly; the task was just to get something down rather than worrying too much about accuracy or composition.
The slower drawings on station platforms were done on a Monday morning where there were major delays caused by over running engineering works. So I had lots of time to work with.
Waterloo Station sketching
I wanted to spend a couple of hours sketching on the Waterloo Station concourse to capture travellers moving through the station. The challenge for me was try and capture something of a scene where the subjects were constantly moving.
Unlike my other commuter drawings done during my journey to and from work during the week, this trip was made on a Saturday during the day.
The difference was very noticeable. More relaxed, conversations between passengers on the train, mums with children, more colour, fewer grey or navy blue suits.
I chose several different vantage points on the station, either standing or sitting in or around the concourse or up on a balcony that provided a wide overview of the station below.
The drawings were mostly made using ink pens, Sharpies and a Letraset Promarker for grey tone. I also experimented with a mini watercolour set to see what working with a wash of colour would be like.
I used an A5 sketchbook with most of the images spread across both pages and sketched continuously for just over two and a half hours.
I also took several photographs on my iPhone as additional research/reference material.
I used these sketches and photographic reference to experiment with different media and techniques. One of the things I was interested in was developing the fidelity of the images using the additional photographic reference. By this I mean adding some detail to at least some of the figures in the sketches.
Image development 01
This was an experiment to see if the energy and frantic mark making from the A5 sketchbook would scale up an translate into a studio based interpretation of the same image using different media and colour.
For this experiment I scaled up the image and printed out an A3 sized copy. I then put this on a lightbox and worked on top of this in my sketchbook.
I used pen and Indian ink as the basis which is one of my favourite mediums; it’s possible to achieve a broad ranges of mark making and deep blacks without much effort.
Colour was added using liquid watercolour.
Image development 02
The starting point was this image was another rapid sketch.
This time I wanted to experiment using the same print roller and poster paint technique that I discovered during Exercise 1.2.
For this I worked across two pages of the sketchbook using the original sketch as a guide.
Image development 03
For this sketch I used the following sketch as the starting point.
I like the original sketch because of its energy and movement, but some people on stations do stand still to look at the electronic notice boards or simply wait for their train. So I wanted to use a combination of drawing techniques to communicate stillness and movement.
I also wanted to add a bit of colour to the image using liquid watercolors.
I started by enlarging the original sketch to A3 and then, like the first image development worked either directly from the original sketch on a lightbox or drew the static figures using the photographic reference.
Image development 04
This was a further development and inspired by the distinctive drawing style of James Hobbs.
For this image I made a copy of Image development 03 and worked on the lightbox again, keeping some elements of the original drawing but adding more detail and refinement from my photographic reference. The result is a refinement and composite of sketches and photographs.
Image development 05
This was an experiment to see if/how an A6 rapid sketch would translate into an etching (approx. A4 sized). Etching involves a lot of process and usually requires careful planning, time and consideration – the opposite of rapid sketching that can be finished in minutes.
The sketch I chose to work with was the station at night.
This image has a combination of rapid and expressive lines and tone which I thought I could translate into an etching.
The etching was made on a zinc plate.
I used a soft ground to make the think black expressive lines and a hard ground to make the thinner more detailed lines. The plate was exposed to 12:1 nitric acid for approx. 20-minutes to get a deep etch to give a good black.
The tone was then added using an aquatint.
At this point I decided not to take it any further because I felt I’d learned what I could from the experiment.
- Parts of the image work but overall the image would have benefited a lot from more care, consideration and planning.
- The backdrawing on top of soft ground is a very expressive fast way of making marks.
What I would do differently:
- Think through and resolve more areas in the drawing possibly by taking photographic reference alongside the sketch that would help to fill in detail later.
- The subject really required ‘slow’ drawing or at least some note taking to capture subtleties with lighting.
- The aquatint just didn’t give the blacks expected. Tonally the image is a bit samey. I should probably make and print my own test strip. Also don’t be afraid the leave it in the acid for longer.
Reflections on PART 1
I made the decision to experiment with video as suggested in the brief, and combine that with a shorter written reflection.
The nature of the drawings suggested to me that I could arrange my reportage drawings in a sequential sequence incorporating additional research material (sound recordings), to help tie the images together.
I used Photoshop to enlarge and focus on different areas of images to give the illusion of a camera zoom/close-up.
The video editing was done on Adobe Premier Rush which was ideal for what I wanted to achieve because it’s very simple to use. It does have some limitations with regards to audio which means the audio editing is very crude.
How did I do against my own objectives?
Rapid drawing and slow drawing – I used both rapid and slow drawing to collect source material and then experiment with developing this in the studio.
Collecting facts/data/ research and incorporating that into a sketchbook – I collected some physical materials, train tickets, free newspapers, and was not incorporated into images but has been saved for later exercises. I took photographic reference that is added to my Learning Log and audio recordings that have been used in the narrative video.
Experimentation with new/unusual techniques, make mistakes – I experimented with two techniques:
- Trying to collate and develop rapid reportage sketches collected on location together in the studio whilst trying to maintain some of the energy and dynamism of the original sketches.
- Using moving image as a way to arrange a sequence of sketches into a narrative.
What went well
- I enjoyed the PART 1 – it was gently challenging in making me think about how I used sketchbooks and how I might use them in the future.
- The research task to look at other artists sketchbooks was a real surprise to me and I learned a lot by seeing new breadth and possibilities from other people’s practice.
- I found the rapid drawing exercises using unusual and unfamiliar media really fun and a great way to generate ideas and push work in unexpected directions.
- One of the biggest benefits for me was to get over my shyness/embarrassment of sketching in public. I just decided to go for it. It resulted in a lot of reportage material that I think has potential to develop later in this course.
- Assignment 1 has made me start to understand the possibilities of taking reportage rapid sketches made on location back into the studio.
- The experiment with video taught me alot about the editing process and has potential for future development.
- I like that I’ve been able to integrate the reportgage sketching into my day job.
- I’m really looking forward to the next parts of the course.
What I would do differently
- What I’ve proven to myself during PART 1 is that I can collect lots of material through direct observation quite quickly, and working in A5 and A6 sketchbooks seems to be an effective usable format for the way that I work. What I haven’t done yet is really use my sketchbooks as melting pots for developing ideas and experimentation. I know this is the objective of the later exercises in the course.
- I found the How personal do you want to be exercise a bit of a struggle because I didn’t quite understand what it trying to get at.