Monday, 17 October 2011

Tutor Report following Assignment 2

Tutor Report Form

Student name:
Syliva Philpot
Student number:
Course/Module title:
Painting 2: Exploring Concepts
Assignment number:

Overall Comments

Thank you for forwarding the work for your second assignment, together with the preliminary work and your sketchbooks.  As you know I have had difficulty in accessing your blog, but the emailed documents were enough to let me see your learning log notes and research.   You were very fortunate to find a suitable model for the exercises and to be able to attend life drawing classes where you could find some poses to meet the requirements of the course work.  I am not clear why you have written in your blog that life drawings could not be included with this assignment, as we had an exchange of emails on this subject.  Life drawing is not a compulsory part of the course but you are able to include these where appropriate.

Feedback on assignment

Your work for the first exercises was mainly carried out at the life drawing class and I am glad to see you exploring different angles and viewpoints to observe the balance of the figure.  The seated pose work in the sketchbook shows figures sitting comfortably, although you should look carefully to check the size of the head in comparison to the body.   There is a very effective use of tone in the standing figure of the female nude.  In the exercises in looking, you have carried out a lot of good experimentation using different techniques and materials.  The stick paintings are successful and I am glad that you enjoyed this method of working.  It was an excellent idea to work on mid toned paper and the pastel drawings of the seated figures, especially the female figure, has been very well observed.  The balance of the weight of the figure is clear, as is the direction of the light source. 

You show a clear understanding of the concept of negative space, although the proportions of the body appear to be out.  Look at ‘Nude’, a pencil and crayon drawing by Georges Seurat to see how he uses this to show the form of the figure.  Your quickly painted side view in acrylic paint is well observed, using the white of the paper to show through for the highlights.  This portrait is expressive and well drawn. 

You do not need to include drawings which have been produced in the life class which have no connection to the projects in the course book, as this adds to the bulk of your parcel.  In the seated figure with pattern, the head appears rather small for the body again and this is something for you to pay attention to when working with the figure.  This painting shows good use of collage to emphasise the blocks of colour in the background, which also add texture, and I particularly like the way in which you echoed the shapes of the pattern of her top in the background.  I realise that you drew a black line around the figure to make her look like a cut out, but you do not make it clear why you decided to do this, as the figure appears to be flat rather than three dimensional.

Your sketchbook work for the extended pose is good as you explored different options and the twist in the body has been well thought through.  This painting concentrates on the model rather than the background, and I note that you used a palette knife for the background.  Why did you decide to cover this large area in thicker white paint rather than leave the white of the canvas to show through a thin wash of colour? I am glad that you allowed her foot to disappear off the edge of the painting, instead of trying to squeeze it in, but preliminary thumbnail sketches would have helped you to avoid this problem in the composition and fit the figure to the rectangle.  The upper body and head of the figure are well painted and there is enough of the pattern on the blouse indicated to make this clear without too much detail.  The palette you used for the skin tone is good; although I think that the background lacks the warmth of the figure and seems to be quite separate.  I note that you spent less time than required on this painting and perhaps a little more work on the background would have helped to link the figure to her environment a little more.  What do you think?

Your self portrait at work links the figure to the background more effectively and there is a lot of information.  The light spilling into the interior from the doorway provides atmosphere and it was a very good idea to provide harmony in the painting by echoing the same colours throughout, such as the blue of your sweater repeated elsewhere in the painting. 

Your self portrait head is very successful in use of colour and in proportion and I can see that you have achieved a likeness.  The brush strokes have been used expressively and white paint has been reserved selectively for highlights on the pearl earring and spectacles.  The glasses have been painted well as they do not dominate the face.  Although you were influenced by Gianni Maimeri’s ‘Woman Seated’, the lighting conditions you have used have created a completely different tonal range in your painting.   I would like to see you experiment with a full range of tones and use less white paint, which can give the appearance of sugared almonds if used excessively.

I am glad that you decided to redo the initial ‘green’ painting and make this your Summer seasonal painting instead.  The second ‘green’ painting most definitely meets the brief and there is a good contrast in tone to show the light through the trees to give depth to the painting. 
Be careful that the brush strokes are not a similar size in the foreground and middle distance, as the marks you make will also suggest depth in the view, as seen in Van Gogh’s painting of ‘Trees and Undergrowth’.  You did not include any sketches or colour studies with the sketchbook work – did you gather information for the painting? 

I could not find any learning log notes in connection with your seasonal work which means I was unable to ready your explanation for the two still life groups entitled ‘parallel project summer’ or for the tennis drawings.  What is the purpose of the square ‘cubist’ painting based on two figures with pints of lager and traffic lights?  This seems to be linked to the spring painting but you say that the summer painting is the garden scene. 

It was a good idea to work in the garden for ease of working outdoors as any practical problems can be more easily overcome.  I would suggest that you look at the variety in size of your mark making to show differences of texture of the foliage, lawn and building.  The impression of the figures provides enough information and you were correct to avoid too much detail in these.  Always check the consistency of shadow direction as the sun seems to be overhead of the figures on the patio, but long shadows are cast across the lawn.  Was the sky really so dark in tone on such as sunny day?  In her watercolour painting of ‘Silver Birches’, Lucy Willis has used the direction of the shadows as an important part of the composition. 


You do not need to send the actual sketchbooks in future, as emailed photographs will be enough to let me see your preparatory work and this will also save on the weight of your parcel.  Your sketchbook work is good and these books are developing into a valuable resource to inform your paintings.

Learning logs/critical essays

You have sent enough evidence to let me see that you are continuing to devote the required amount of time on this element of the course work.  Hopefully the problem in accessing your blog is a temporary one.

Suggested reading/viewing

For the next assignment dealing with the landscape, follow up all of the references to the artists suggested in the course book and try to find contemporary exhibitions of landscape work.  Please let me know about any particular interest you may have in landscape, to enable me to suggest other artists for your research.

Pointers for the next assignment

You must learn to be more selective about what you send for assignments as guidance from OCA asks that these should not weigh more than 2kg and this parcel was over 8kg.  You were required to send the seasonal work and at least one final piece from this section, rather than every single piece you completed as well as some extra work not required, and you should carefully consider what to send in future.  This is especially important as you are working on board, which is not required for the initial exercises, and you should remember that submission for assessment asks you to restrict your final portfolio to a maximum of 15kg.  

For the next assignment you will be working in the landscape, exploring studio paintings, working outdoors and using sketches and photographs to inform your painting. You will also be working on the ‘Autumn’ seasonal painting and I will suggest a target date of 31st December for Assignment 3, but if you have any difficulty with this suggested timetable, please let me know. 

Tutor name:
Jane Mitchell
12th October 2011

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Imaginary Landscape

Exploring Concepts

Assignment 3 – Landscape

Imaginary Landscape

I selected two of the sketches I did on a recent holiday to Spain, and it was those recollections which influenced the final painting.  Two tree studies were included as well as a sky study. I enjoyed this project more than I thought I would.  Mindful of the difficulties I have experienced with packages, I made a conscious effort not to use canvas boards.  I applied gesso to A2 cartridge paper which was rather lightweight, and it appears to have worked.

I have been reading about the British Impressionists and their early inspiration taken from Bastien-Lepage and people like Guthrie, William Stott of Oldham, George Clausen and Frank Bramley all tended to use the square brush across the form technique,which was regarded as "Naturalism" although they did develop their technique further into what is known as British Impressionism.  

I have used the square brush on the mountains in the background.  However, when it came to the foreground I felt I needed a flat foreground (in view of the busy textural quality of the background).  The rocks would also provide quite a lot of texture.  Once in this mode my trees became stylized in an almost Gauguin style.  I was quite pleased with the result, more so than much of my other landscape work.   I felt the colour scheme also worked well with a strong blue on the right off-setting the pale ochre yellow.  The orange/red roofs are also complimented by the olive greens.  I think the balance is about right in terms of colour and texture.  The composition has repetition and complementary mass elements as well as a fairly strong ‘A’ triangular arrangement echoed in the mountain peaks.  For me it was a fairly loose piece of work, something I find difficult.

Exploring Concepts
Assignment 3 – Landscape
Dutch Landscape Painters
Willem van de Velde (Younger) 1633-1707
Van de Velde was tutored by his father and was commissioned by Charles II of England to create sea fight paintings, so in 1673 he moved to England.  The Duke of York also became his patron along with other English aristocrats.

                                              William Turner Fighting Temeraire ©Bridgeman Library                 


                                                   Willem van de Velde, The Cannon Shot © Bridgeman Library

J M (William)Turner  (1775 – 1851)  has clearly been influenced by Willem van de Velde’s painting of The Cannon Shot illustrated above.  Turner has used the exact view but featured his ‘man of war’ mirror image on the left had side of the painting.  The still water is similar, but the sails have been removed, the horizon level is the same.
John Sell Cotman (1782-1842) of the Norwich School knew Turner and by association no doubt fed on the same influences. Cotman was a marine and landscape painter whose later style moves towards an almost abstracted style with flat areas of paint. Similar links were forged with Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) who helped to establish watercolour in its own right as an artistic medium. He painted and drew ruins, castles and churches, the subject matter of the period which motivated the Romantic movement whose interest was in untamed nature with its strength and scale, often including the terrifying, as depicted by Gericault and Delacroix (French Romantics) . Incidentally, Dutch Shipping offshore in a rising gale by Ruisdael, as well as Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the people appear to have influenced Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa, so the influences continue to interlace the history of art.

Jacob von Ruisdael 1628-1682
Jacob von Ruisdael (1628-1682) was a doctor as well as a painter.  He had tuition from his father and also from his uncle.  Central motifs were a feature of his work echoing the Baroque (1585-1700) style, also known as the Golden Age, which ultimately lead to the Romantics.  The paintings have a dramatic heightened reality, with exaggerated elevated buildings on rocks or hills, and one is reminded of Claude Lorraine’s fantastical landscapes, a French artist working in Italy.
Ruisdael travelled a lot and sketched as he went sometimes accompanied by Meindert Hobbema his pupil.  One of the features of the Dutch Landscape painters was the apparent lack of figures, although occasionally they do appear hidden away in the shadows, as it was the landscape that became the main focus of interest. This in itself was a departure from the traditional view that landscape did not have the moral seriousness of classical or religious paintings.
Ruisdael’s native landscape of Holland is flat and this is exemplified in his paintings which feature low horizons and therefore make a feature of the sky with dramatic cloud formations.  Perhaps it was the monotonous flatness of Holland that required the use of the elevated technique.  One of the themes that often recurs is the dark foreground with a sunlit highlight in the middle/far distance to add depth and interest.  These paintings were evidently completed in the Studio as it is clear from the Mill at Wijk-bij-Duurstede that there is a conflict regarding prevailing weather conditions evidenced by the slack sails of the barge and sails of the windmill, as opposed to some fairly choppy water in the foreground, and there would certainly have been some wind under those storm clouds.
Jacob von Ruisdael, Bentheim Castle © Bridgeman Library


William Turner, Chillgerren Castle ©Bridgeman Library

Again we see the influence of Ruisdael’s Bentheim Castle in Turner’s work, Chillgerren Castle, using the high elevation to add drama to the panting.  The tonal values are also similar. Sunlit passages in both paintings occur in the distance, but Claude Lorraine must also have influenced both of them. Turner’s painting uses a cooler palette. Ruisdael’s work still sees the use of chiaroscuro whereas in the Turner we can see a slight change which will eventually develop into an almost impressionistic use of colour, in his later works.
    Jacob von Ruisdael, Landscape with a stream © Bridgeman Library
    John Constable Windmill on a Hill, © Bridgeman Library

It has to be said that John Constable (1776-1837) did not frequently elevate his main motif, though this example does show a possible influence of Risdael, with the use of logs at the same angle as the landscape with a stream, and again the massive cloud formations, and a general similarity in composition.  However, most of Constable’s Dedham Vale paintings do not use these devices and are a realistic portrayal of the landscape which is well known to me having lived in the area for almost all my life. One cannot ignore Claude (1604-1505) who was a French artist Constable admired “the most perfect landscape painter the world ever saw” and we see a thread of influence radiating throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, no doubt affecting the Dutch artists as well as the later English and French Romantics.
    John Constable, entrance to Fenn Lane, ©Bridgeman Library

One of the features of Ruisdael’s paintings was the sunlight middle ground and here Constable could be using a similar technique.
John Constable, Windmill with landscape ©Bridgeman Library  

Jacob Ruisdael, Windmill (near Harlaam) with Landscape 1650-52 ©Bridgeman Library

Constable copied the Risdael  painting of the Windmill at Harlaam.  There is also another painting attributed to Risdael called The Mill Wijk-bij-Duurstede, (below) painted in 1670. Both this windmill and the one at Harlaam have been depicted during winter snow as well.
Jacob Ruisdael, The Mill Wijk-bij-Duurstede 1670 ©Bridgeman Library

The influence of Ruisdael on both Turner and Constable is evident from these illustrations. 
    Jacob Ruisdael, Riverside Landscape ©Bridgeman Library

     John Constable, The Hay Wain ©Bridgeman Library
It might be stretching a point to see similarities between the Hay Wain and Ruisdael’s River Landscape but Ruisdael did many paintings of watery landscapes surrounded by trees, this one happens to feature sheep and a horse in the river, that taken with the idea of a sunlit middle distance, then in combination, there is a general influence.  I also sense similarities with Constable’s Hampstead Heath sketches and Ruisdael’s work. I do think Ruisdael’s clouds have a greater lightness and sense of transparency than Constables, but Constable’s form is more realistic.
       Jacob von Ruisdael Wooded Landscape  ©Bridgeman Library

      Jacob von Ruisdael Landscape with ruined Castle and church With Cornfields © Bridgeman Library
       John Constable, Hampstead Heath ©Bridgeman Library  

Land Art

Exploring Concepts
Assignment 3 – Landscape


Contemporary Landscape and Land Art

Christo and Jeanne-Claude

A husband and wife team with roots in Bulgaria then Czechoslovakia and Morocco respectively. They moved to the US in 1964 and at that time started producing earth or environmental art. Their work is reminiscent of the earth mounds and various earthworks found around the world, and the large carved heads on Easter Island. Planning these projects can take up an enormous amount of time and money, the Wrapped Reichstag building took 24 years before approval was given. Christo studied in Sofia and Prague, Jeanne-Claude studied Latin and philosophy in Tunis.

The land art of these artists mainly involves the technique of wrapping buildings or parts of a landscape in order, they say, to enable people to perceive the environment with new eyes and a new consciousness. They maintain that even after the art work has been removed, visitors can still see and feel them years afterwards. I find myself feeling sceptical with regard to the latter comment and wonder how they know this with particular reference to their own work. It is also clear that great effort is made to establish the fact that the cost of these projects is covered by the artists themselves, presumably for fear of vilification. On a relatively small scale I concede that a different perception is achieved, for example with the Wrapped Reichstag building (see picture below) which morphs into a ghostly shape, and when lit sympathetically can become something different again, much as one might light a figure or face to create a different perception. Christo produces the drawings for the project. The aim of their work is simplistic, to bring joy and poetry to people making them feel free and smile.

                                ©Bridgeman Education Wrapped Reichstagg Building, Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Nonetheless, part of me finds this attempt at extreme art profligate and missing the mark artistically, and I want to say please spend the money on something useful. Build a model and wrap it up, if the idea is to produce a different take on something familiar. I find it difficult to accept that installation work is art, I consider it merely something out of the ordinary and therefore interesting – the shock of the new, so I guess I am going to find this section difficult. I have never been influenced by received ideas but prefer to make up my own mind. My work in studying Philosophy tells me that reality is nebulous at the best of times so the arrays are endless. It is true artists uncover possibilities, representing aspects of ourselves and our environment that can be perceived in different ways, but that can be mere novelty. Does it mean that anything that presents reality in a different way is art? A charged question that does not have an easy answer. Yet when we see something that quintessentially fulfils our own criteria for an art object, we instantly know it, but feel duped or unconvinced if such criteria are absent or found wanting. As a project, these undertakings by these artists are to be admired, but, in my opinion, more on the grounds of a structural engineering effort than the creation of a work of art

Andy Goldsworthy

 Andy Goldsworthy is a British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist born in 1956. His influences are: Brancusi, Richard Long, Ben Nicholson, Paul Nash and David Nash amongst other. He studied at Bradford College of Art and University of Central Lancashire. Although he now lives and works in Scotland he originally lived in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria. He is considered the founder of Rock Balancing.

His Drawn Stone was a commission from the Fine Arts Museum to incorporate a crack at the de Young Museum characteristic of the tectonic plates of California. The crack runs from the edge of the Music Concourse roadway in front of the museum up the main walkway into the exterior courtyard and to the main entrance. The crack bisects in two where stones serve as seating for visitors to the museum. Goldsworthy aims to display forms that are just beyond the realms of reality, and in this particular work a fine line between the artificial and natural.

I was particularly interested in Goldsworthy’s approach to the materials he used and the techniques he devised in using them. The stalks and blackthorn thorns made a particularly interesting curtain of shapes. Almost like mark-making on canvas, except that these marks were oriental in the style they produced. He appears to have a sympathetic understanding of the materials he uses and if, as in the cracked wall, something goes wrong he is keen to understand why, and may incorporate the effect in the finished work. As these installations are not meant to be permanent I wonder how the judgement is made as to when they have reached their sell-by date and should be removed and or destroyed. Christo and Jeanne Claude maintain there is an “after-image” of their work many years later, I wonder if the same idea applies to all temporary installations, in which case is it the installation or the recollection of it that validates it?

This last question hangs in the air for me as I suppose I tend to regard art as permanent, as permanent as it can be. The question of legitimacy and provenance must at some time be called into question. One of John Martin’s paintings has recently been restored and a large section has been completely re-painted. To what extent does the work remain an original? I guess I think of this because in the world of historic cars these issues are hotly debated and the value of a vehicle, often in the millions of pounds, is at stake. Was the nut and bolt collected after a famous car crashed at a circuit sufficient to validate the car subsequently re-built around it? That same argument could be used to say that art should be regarded as something temporary then such questions do not arise. This conflicts with my objections to a throw away culture and obsolescence. Throughout art history we have examples that provide us with a path of exploration and development would could not exist if art is to be lost without trace.

Also, if, as suggested in an earlier paragraph the “art” becomes a recollection then it must be a different iteration in each person’s mind. Perhaps in later generations the “art recollections” might be electronically linked to the brain to display another and perhaps even more interesting work of art, now that really would be a different perception on an epic scale!

                                          © Bridgeman Education Library Conch Shell, Andrew Goldsworthy

©Bridgeman Education Library, Leafwork - Andrew Goldsworthy

I find intervention in the landscape a hollow art akin to architecture, which does not have the same status as art, although possibly some buildings should if such work as Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty is attributed in that way. I don’t think we would refer to Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral as art, perhaps we do now, who knows? When such earthworks as the White Horse in the South Downs and many other figures produced throughout the country, these are mostly pre-historic and have either political or pagan roots. They are valuable because of their historical context. So they have significance. I can’t see the ecological point to modern works, perhaps I am missing something. I am concerned about the effects of pollution on the environment and loss of habitats for our flora and fauna, and feel that scarring the landscape in this way is merely adding to the general detritus that man imposes on his surroundings by despoiling the earth. I am sorry if this offends but I have to tell it as I see it. In their favour Christo and his wife do clear up after them.

John Piper (1903-1992)

The son of a solicitor, John Piper trained at the Royal College of Art. Living as he did in Epsom as a child he was able to explore the countryside, making drawings for a little guide book he was producing. Although keen to take up a career in art, his father had other ideas and agreed that he could do so after working as a solicitor for three years first. That was not to be has his father died soon after John failed his law exams, so he was then able to pursue his chosen career.

Piper’s early work was representational but hinted at the brooding style he would later adopt. This no doubt was influential in his appointment as a war artist from 1940-1942 and his wonderful painting of Coventry Cathedral has been compared with Picasso’s Guernica. His work does not command dizzying fees, but for me his near abstraction and subtle use of colour, coupled with fascinating mark making makes his work particularly interesting and produces a lively texture.

                                                  © Bridgeman Library John Piper Near Newcastle, Emlyn, Carmarthenshire

                                            Interior of Coventry Cathedral of the Blitz 1940,  John Piper ©Bridgeman Library

Piper’s use of colour in Coventry Cathedral uses blue and yellow with red as an associated colour closer on the colour wheel to yellow than the blue, the use of yellow ochre helps to pull the picture together, and the various greys modulate the prime colours. The colours act as a foil for the black and white scribed arches, windows and rubble. There is a sense of desolation but also of hope.

 I would like to explore this style of painting and I think it will make me more aware of the importance of neutral colours in a painting, particularly when using primary colours. I like using black to strengthen outlines and have also been looking at Abstract Expressionists such as Pierre Soulages, George Mathieu, Franz Kline and Hans Hoffman.