Drawing as a process study visit at the British museum Friday 6th May – with tutor Michelle Charles

on Fiday the 6th May I attended a OCA study visit to the British museum –  to look at a selection of the museums extensive collection of original drawings.  This is my feedback

OBJECTIVES

  • to gain a perspective of the range of original work that is part of the extensive print and drawing collection of the British museum
  • to think about the process of drawing to aid and channel your own creative practice and to analyse the practice of drawing
  • to look closely at actual working drawings from 15th and 16th century old masters to contemporary artists working today
  • to have the opportunity to closely observe and make drawings directly from the works in the collection.
  • to have the opportunity to really think and reflect on the process of drawing and perhaps most importantly ” drawing by its nature encompasses though as process and and perhaps gain confidence and knowledge that so called mistakes or errors are a necessary part of art making in every form”

the study visit also offered the chance to reflect on the experience of the visit –  and  to think about your own potential and also  to network with other Open college of the arts students.

Before going into the study room our group of six met our tutor for the visit Michelle Charles outside for a brief introduction where we each shared where we came from, what  we were Studying  and why we had chosen to study with the OCA which was very interesting.

we were then met by Sarah Jaffray who is currently a project officer for the Bridget Riley art foundation. Sarah explained that the British museum’s extensive collection of original art includes European art works from the Renaissance until the present time.

During the session Sarah spoke about a collection  of drawings that had been selected specifically for our visit. We had an opportunity to look at the works and Sarah gave a talk on each of the drawings. These are the drawings that we looked at:

  1. Hogarth – a sketch for a print series “industry and idleness series'” the sketch was very accomplished and was the finished drawing for the print plate it included two point linear perspective. Even though the sketch was fairly final and complete we could see where he had made his decisions on the paper first in pencil/ graphite and then in ink. The drawing is a perfect example of the process from drawing to print.
  2. Frank Auerbach ( b.1931) drawing of Ruth Bomberg. Sarah explained that Auerbach drew Ruth on the same day Thursday at the same time 3pm every week for seventeen years!  And that the charcoal drawing has traces of all those moments that he had spend with Ruth when he drew her. His working process is to draw then wipe off his lines, and to  draw over the first image again and again in a continual process – so that the final art work  would have traces of all the drawings on the one picture. There are around 99 drawings of Ruth Bomberg by Auerbach ( I recall seeing one at the recent Auerbach Tate gallery show earlier this year). Ruth’s husband donated all the drawings to the British museum.  I really like Auerbach’s drawings I admire the strength and intensity of his mark making and the way he edits and changes his drawings and the way the overlapping can just be glimpsed on the paper.
  3. Dead partridge a delicate watercolour drawing from the early 1500’s by a pupil of Albert Durer. The drawing is very intricate and detailed but would  probably have been a study for a larger  piece of work, although it could pass as a complete work as it seemed so polished.
  4. Richard Hamilton ( 1922-2011) a pen and wash study from a series “going into a dark bed ” for a series of works as a response to James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses. The sketch shows the head of a woman with closed eyes leaning to the side with her hand plopped against her face. Also on the page is a simple study of a hand and wrist. I really liked the use of the lines to suggest the form and tones – the drawing had a delicate calm and tranquil quality to it. I particularly liked the way Hamilton had tackled the foreshortening of the arm against the sleeping woman’s face. I also liked the shape  of the hand with it’s simple but very effective curved lines.
  5. Ariane Laroux ( b.1957) ink drawing on white paper. The drawing is of a side profile of a man wearing spectacles- he appears to have his right hand supporting the the back of his neck – you can see his fingers around the side of the neck with a pencil. His left hand is in front of him and he is wearing an elaborate watch. But what is remarkable about this drawing is the Laroux’s working  process –  she edits as she works leaving expansive areas of the white paper for the viewer to fill in the gaps. Sarah explained that  Laroux interviews her sitters as she draws them, also that she describes her drawing process as “walking into the White’ I really liked the drawing it excited and fascinated me. I thought the marks used to build up the form of the figure looked very organic almost like the bare thin branches of a leafless winter tree. I also wondered whether the climbing branches could also refer to the veins and arteries branching throughout the human body?
  6. Honore Daumier – a line drawing sketch of s man in profile  holding a bottle leaning on a bar. sarah explained that Daumier was a satirist. I really liked the drawing particularly how he is economical with his lines like Ariane Laroux’s drawing Daumier has omitted areas of his drawing we know that the man is leaning on a bar by his posture although the drawing does not include it. I also really liked the comedic expression on the figures face – a really fun and clever drawing.
  7. another Daumier sketch this time a full length figure viewed face on of a man reading a letter. Unlike the other drawing Daumier this time  uses a ink wash to suggest tone. I really liked the drawing the way he includes the shadow in a block of tone to the right of the figure.
  8. Adolf Von Menzel drawing studies of two men one bearded in profile and the other head study showing more of the back of the sitter dated from the 1830’s. The drawing is very detailed and included tone . Sarah explained that it is a study for a painting.
  9. Goya – a sketch in tones using brown chalk. The sketch again is a study for a painting and includes figures and a horse. Sarah explained that Goya was mainly concerned with exploring light and shade in his work. I really liked the sketch the tones were striking and lively adding depth to the compostition.
  10. Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) a charcoal drawing called ‘ figure in a landscape’ de Kooning was chiefly an abstract expressionist artist and liked to manipulate movement in his work. Sarah explained the sketch is all about making choices and decisions on the paper trying to establish where to place the mark and leaving everything there. I thought the drawing was interesting and I liked the way that he had attempted to capture the movement of the figure in the landscape with fleeting marks.
  11. Bridget Riley ( b.1931)  drawing on graph paper where she is  trying out and experimenting with colour. Sarah explained that Riley had began by working in just black and white but in this sketch in pencil and water based paint she is working though colour theory. Riley when a student at Goldsmiths college had visited the study room at the British museum to learn from looking at the drawing collection. Riley’s  drawing process is to work though the drawing in detail  and that she prefers the drawing process above painting. Today she does her drawings and her studio assistants do the painting she mixes the colours for them. I really liked the drawing as I could see the entire process mapped out on the paper – the carefully measured and constructed almost mathematical geometric lines  and the careful colour mixing. Sarah recommended a paper written by Riley ‘ at the end of my paper’ that is easily downloadable for free.
  12. Raphael – a reddish brown chalk study for a larger work called ‘ Rontormo’ in the drawing Raphael had sketched a head and above the outline of a torso. I really liked the delicate handling of the chalk and the way he has captured the faraway dreamy facial  expression of the figure. The shading on the figures neck is really beautiful. Sarah showed us the back of the drawing which contained other Red  chalk figure studies explaining that during the Renaissance period artist materials were expensive and not always readily available which may explain using both sides of the paper.

After looking at the drawings we were given a sketchbook and the opportunity to draw.

I really liked the Richard Hamilton line and wash drawing so did a quick sketch of the figure and the hand.

I then did a forty minute drawing of the Ariane Laroux drawing as I found it a fascinating drawing and her drawing process very interesting. I drew with a 3B pencil using marks to try and capture some of the feeling of the original drawing I drew largely blind following the drawing with my eyes as I worked my pencil across the paper. I was really pleased with my drawing  and Sarah took  a photograph of it  for the artist as she felt she would be pleased that had l had chosen to sketch her drawing

i really enjoyed the visit and will return again to the study room. The visit made me evualate my own drawing journey and made me realise that I am definitely going to change from the painting  degree pathway to the drawing pathway as I realise that drawing as an artistic journey really exites me. When I got home I downloaded the Bridget Riley essay which is really interesting and useful. Many thanks to the OCA for such a fantastic study day – to Michelle for being such an inspiring  and encouraging tutor with plenty of advice including  – to believe it our selves. Also thanks to Sarah Jaffray who had so much expertise to share.

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