IIFA Teaching Week 3 and 4: Figure in Space, Pattern and Colour
We started the week tutoring the painters. Our focus was to get the students concentrated on drawing space in proportion. Starting in the studio, we set up a simple subject of 2 pieces of A1 paper, one on the floor and one on the wall in the corner of the room for the students to draw. Before starting the students made schematic drawings of the room, the A1 sheets, themselves and the space between them and the paper. We had interesting results varying from areal views, maps and plans made of energetic lines of trajectory, which hopefully helped the class better understand the proportions of the space they were drawing. Drawing the paper in the room produced some good results, students enjoying it more than they expected, with some pleasing drawings that included the artist as well as subject and room. Next we introduced a model seated on the papers. Before making a sustained drawing we showed examples of artists drawing interior spaces such as Hockney and Martin Shortis, discussing, proportions, scale, composition techniques such as cropping, peripheral vision and foreground space for example. We then asked the students to make thumbnail sketches, encouraging them to move around to explore different compositions. This is something they very rarely do and we had noticed previously that they have had a tendency to launch into a large drawing starting with one detail and working outwards hoping for the best. Many of the thumbnails were more successful than the main drawings and some students used the session to make a whole series. Three students based their main drawing on a thumbnail composition and came up with interesting interpretations of the figure in space using imaginative view points, grounded figure, devices to lead the eye and sense of the artist's position in relation to figure. All strong compositions that considered the importance of tying the design to the edges of the page.
For the afternoon we hang A1 sheets around the campus which is built out of the old Modi cloth factory buildings. We pin the paper amongst the derelict cloth factory sheds, tumbled down chimneys uncoiling to the ground, down alleys stacked with old vents, in a boiler room, on the bonnet of a rusted old Buick and on the tarmac lane cracked and broken under the strain of weeds pushing up the soil. The students found a sheet to draw using it as a reference point for scale, proportion and composition to focus their landscapes and especially examine the breadth of space in their view points. They began with thumbnails and then more ambitious large charcoal drawings.
My favourite class so far was on Tuesday with foundation, section A. We had planned to work outside but the smog in the morning reduced visibility so much it would have been impossible. Instead we set up what we were going to do at one end of the classroom were there was a large wall sculpture of a tree filling the whole wall, a nice backdrop for our rather theatrical lesson. Our class was on figure in space, leading on from last weeks introduction to drawing the figure and would draw on classes I had learnt whilst training at Whitechapel with Becki. Arranging the class was a military operation with three tiers crammed into the small space, sitting on floor stools upturned as board rests, sitting on stools and standing at the back behind the wonderful sloped, teak stained Victorian type school desks filling the classroom. We gavr the class tiny A5 sheets, asking them to draw the class room, really explaining that they need to include walls on bothside, the floor, ceiling and foreground which is as important above us as below. We took this further explaining that those on the sides of the room would have to draw behind them to get the walls in. We did another small drawing asking them to this time put themselves/their position in the drawing so they were really exploring their entire field of view before starting with the main piece.
We stopped for a crit to look at the small drawings, which allowed us to see and discuss how differently we all perceive space, evident in the brilliant little felt tip drawings scattered at our feet in the middle of the circle. We then got into our huddle to look at images on my tablet, as I showed examples of different ways artists have interpreted space in art from Duccio and Massacio to Nadal Chand through to Hopper, Hockney, then Van Gogh, Bonnard and Tim Hyman drawings.
Before getting back to work we reiterated how important planning in this way is; many students helpfully shared their experiences of having to redraw the space several times after incorrectly estimating the proportions of the room. Using the small drawings as a guide, we asked the students to make larger drawings of the room and also introduced colours for them to use: two pastels one cold and one warm colour as well as a choice of black or white paper (this was to introduce a new element for variety but also were running out of materials after being so liberal in the first two weeks). After 5 minutes drawing the space we introduced a model. After 10 we moved the model to a different position in the room for the students to add to their drawing. We repeated this and as the model moved around more and more students were struggling to place the figure. To resolve this we extended their drawings by adding more paper, so the work got bigger and bigger. The scene became quite theatrical and it was exciting to see the strange drawings that were being produced, not least because of the mind bogglingly wonderful way some dealt with the space and all in striking colour tones.
We repeated the class for Section B&C, this time in the park but with less success due to various issues. Probably to do with the classes mood that day as well as the difference of being outside both for their ability to focus and also because the task was more difficult in an open space. A couple of student made some of the best drawings in this session however.
Matisse with Fashion Design and Textiles on Wednesday. Our first time with these groups and they were great, they also have by far the best studio; light, airy, open planned top floor with a glass exterior wall opening out onto a lawn terrace. We made a set for them with draped patterned fabric, rugs, flowers and fruit for them to draw from. We introduced Matisse to them for the first time ever and talked about using pattern shape and colour to draw something. We took this further discussing how the space in Matisse work is on one often flat plane, how this turns things into pattern and how we would like to challenge the class to do the same with the set in front of them. We worked on thumbnails and felt tips to begin with, which worked well. The sustained drawings were harder as there was a tendency to over work and fixate on detailed rendering of forms instead of simplifying and focusing on compositional edits/decisions, especially when we added a model.
We repeated this class with foundation on Tuesday 12 November. Rosy was back with us and since this was really her area she took the lead and the students produced some fantastic work. We had tweaked the class slightly so, for example, we worked on coloured paper. This group seemed to take very naturally to the idea of making patterned, rhythmic colour compositions by flattening the space they were drawing. The work produced certainly showed inspiration from the Matisse and Vuillard work we looked at but also the patterns, design and feel of Indian miniature painting in some.
For fashion this week we worked outdoors using ink, exploring pattern and mark-making again, leading on from the Matisse inspired class last week. We set up a scene against the large studio windows for a more sustained ink and brush drawing. Some of the work produced was very illustrative and really well thought out compositionally. Some used thick and thin lines with pattern and a variety of marks to create rhythm and balance in the work. Others used the single black tone and white of the paper to capture a sense of light and dark in and out the room. We moved on to colour using oil pastels on colour paper with ink. This introduced using limited colour with black and also new texture and mark making combining wet and dry materials and resist marks.
for painting we had prepared a lesson on sketchbook work. Making sketchbooks and working on the busy streets to gather source material for a studio drawing/painting later on. Due to various other commitments most of the class were absent so we postponed and instead went on a sketch crawl with the four students present. We explored a very interesting area around the school, which is the opposite end to where we live and definitely more down town. From blacksmith families in their tents on the roadside to the blue black toxic river damned with rubbish where pigs and egrets feast, this is a rough, gritty sometimes repulsive but vibrant place to explore and draw.