The first year at university was all about arty exploration, recognising your strengths and weaknesses, brushing up old skills and of course learning new ones!
Backgrounds and Layouts
One of the first projects, after far too many headache-inducing lessons on technical perspective was to draw our current room.
So where was I living? In a garage, I kid you not.
Despite the fact that I found lodgings just in the nick of time and managed to haul all my worldly goods from Devon to Bournemouth roughly one week before the start of the course, and despite the fact that said room was attached to a plush detached house situated a stone’s throw from the university itself, that room was, in fact, a garage. A garage with a sink I might add, so whilst I had to go out into the garden and through the back door to access everything else including the bathroom on cold winter nights, I could at least wash my hands in my room afterwards.
No it didn’t make any sense to me either.
So here’s a collage of photos of my first room at university, including yet another god-awful snap of myself. I think I am now resigned to the fact that I’m simply one of those people with a knack for pulling the most unflattering half-cut-looking expressions in photographs.
And here’s the outcome of that first project, first as a line drawing and then prettied up a bit with some blue ink staining.
Next up was to create a fictional layout, namely meant to be an ‘artist’s workshop.’ Not quite sure how I got from that to creating a blacksmith’s workshop but I guess they do count as artists in their own right. We also had to choose a specific angle from which we wanted the layout to be viewed, preferably one that could then be animated onto later. For reasons unknown I decided to go for a high angled shot, I guess I thought it would make the scene more interesting to be looking down from the rafters like a raven.
Here’s the layout:
A daytime version rendered using watercolours:
And a night-time version also rendered using watercolours:
I decided to make the beams themselves as simple overlaid paper cut-outs and prefer the cropping/colours of this second version.
Now I really like churches and old buildings so was quite happy to learn that we would be visiting a church called the priory to have a go at drawing all its complex architecture. I was decidedly less happy after three hours or more sat in one position fighting with my pencils.
Turns out that churches aren’t fun to sit in for extended periods of time even on rainy days, or maybe that should be especially on rainy days as all that stone becomes a magnet for the sort of damp that sinks right into your bones. Also I think I sat in a draft on one of those designed-with-the-comfort-of-rocks-in-mind wooden pews. I was possibly using the prayer cushion as a vague relief for my bottom, vague because the prayer cushion was so hard it was like adding another rock to the rubble under my behind.
This is the best sketch I took from that day; it was drawn in blue pencil so I shopped a black and white version for ease of viewing.
I even thought – charcoal to the rescue! Or maybe not as this little image shows:
On another outing we visited the Russell Coates museum. Situated on the Bournemouth seafront just tucked away from the hustle and bustle I recall Russell Coates being one of my favourite places in the town centre but then I’ve always liked the atmosphere in fusty old museums. Here are two sketches of the exterior:
Drawing in the museum evidently was not as much fun as scampering around gawking at the exhibits seeing as I cannot find a single sketch from inside. Perhaps I was just having an off day as I remember really struggling with those turrets and perspective in general, still at least it was sunny and the ground was dry enough for us to sit outside on the grass and picnic.
We visited Marwell Zoo for life drawing at least three times during my years at uni however the only animal sketches I can seem to find from my first year are a few sketches I created from photographs in a wildlife book.
It was at this point I found I very much prefer working on stained paper to having a blank sheet, any associated fear of ‘ruining’ the image I’m about to create is removed since the paper is already mucky!
I also like the challenge of creating something out of nothing, transformation, because clean paper is, well, pristine whereas a messy brown blob can be fixed and blossom into something unique.
That idea is pretty much how I went about creating this cheetah:
This was literally a page I tested some new materials on in the back of my sketchbook. It irked me so much that the page was ‘a mess’ that I had to dive in and put something there to correct it, the colours and shapes reminded me of anger (possibly the one I felt at having a crap irremovable page in the back of my book) which led me to think of a roar, et voila find a picture of a big cat roaring and add it in charcoal – sorted!
In the studio:
So in the studio I discovered I really hate life drawing but I love chalk and charcoal for making all those painful sessions that much easier!
These were created right at the end of the year, after many a failed attempt to get anything to work at all in life drawing. I was chuffed to bits that proportions and details were fitting as well as managing to finally capture a sense of character; maybe all I needed was for the life model to play dress up and spark my imagination!
This was probably the point when I realised I work well with tones and that I find tonal/block work easier than line. I also found I had an affinity with artists such as Seurat and the lovely term, ‘chiaroscuro,’ first entered my vocabulary.