Throughout Units 5 and 6 my work was focused on the male physique, especially body builders and those with muscular bodies.
The body has always fascinated me and I have found that I enjoy interpreting the human form through drawing and painting. I was adamant that I wanted to stay with this theme and continue looking at the body in Unit 7. A lot of my other work was inspired by comic book art and fantasy art. This has always been a major influence on my work. I knew I had to move away from this and use my own ideas to create my work.
I decided to concentrate my attentions on the female body. This would also create a contrast and diversity between the work I did on the male body.
Studying the male figure in Units 5 and 6 was really enjoyable and the whole research aspect which I did was also really interesting and I learned a lot. I felt that my ideas and skills developed continually whilst I was doing work in my sketch book, especially my drawings. I found that my drawing skills improved dramatically and this was down to life art classes without a doubt. The skills learned and improvements which were made because of life art show quite obviously in my work. The difference in my sketchbook work when you look from start to finish is clear. I have had some amazing feedback about my drawing skills and this has spurred me on to continue. I know how much life drawing improves you as an artist from not only observing progression in my own work but looking at the work of other students in my class and seeing how their work has also developed and improved. This was definitely because of life art and the simple but crucial techniques you pick up. It helps massively when drawing, especially people.
Towards the end of Units 5 and 6 I had produced three large acrylic paintings which I was most proud of. Considering I had never painted before the course, I was very pleased with the outcome of my work.
Using the ideas that I had from Units 5 and 6 about the male body would propel me further in my work for Unit 7.
Initially I did not have a solid idea to work towards for my FMP work. However I had plenty of rough ideas to get me started which would then hopefully lead me on to some great final work.
Learning from Units 5 and 6 I knew that I wanted to use my own visual research as I had used only found images for the last Units. This would give me the control then to develop work from my own ideas.
Before I got into any practical work I wanted to do some rather thorough research.
Initially my preliminary research started right back with historical art and how the body was rendered and interpreted, especially the female body.
The artists which I focused on to begin with were, Donatello, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Michelangelo and Da Vinci. Their work is so iconic and changed the way people looked at art forever. These are the men other artists and lovers of art will always refer back to and be inspired by. You can recognise their work instantly and each artist has their own individuality.
I managed to get several books from Clitheroe Library where I live which helped me greatly with my research. I didn’t just want to look at the artist’s work but look more into why they did their art work the way they did and try to understand it on a more personal level.
When you compare modern art with historical art the contrast is clear straight away. And I definitely wanted to steer away from the classical and conventional interpretation of females and focus on what we don’t perceive as the norm.
There always seemed to be a running sexual theme hidden within historical art. Hundreds of years ago it was extremely difficult to be openly sexual in any way. Sexual activity was abhorred and thought to be unholy. So these people such as artists who would have been rather extravagant and maybe more out there than most, would have had to suppress a lot of that energy, therefore they translated a lot of that in their work. I found this part of my research really interesting. It made me look at the art work differently as I would never have looked at that aspect of it before. This made the work a bit more controversial which always adds to the appeal of something as it naturally draws us in and captures our attention even more.
Sex is everywhere and always has been but today we can be more open and outspoken about it in contrast to when Caravaggio for example was making art work. And sex definitely influences a lot of people. Not only do we see it in art but in books and on television and in the music industry.
When you look at how women were portrayed in historical art to how women are portrayed today, or how the even portray themselves, it is completely different.
Women were given a very classical look and rendered in more of a modest way. This was why I was more interested in stepping away from that and wanting to interpret my work in a more modern way.
I felt that my research went extremely well and that not only was I inspired but that I did learn a lot also. I stepped away from historical art when I felt I had researched enough and moved on to more modern artists and their work.
My modern researched covered the following artists:
Jonathon Yeo, Jenny Saville, Michael Leonard, Robert Mapplethorpe, Eric Fishl, Francoise Neilly and Frank Frazetta.
I believe that I covered a really varied collection of artists and their work. Each one helped me in developing my ideas for FMP.
The artist which I took the most inspiration from whilst I was conducting my research was Michael Leonard. When I saw his pencil drawings it just made me want to produce something as professional and as realistic looking. Even though Leonard drew and painted mainly men, I wanted to achieve something similar with females.
In a lot of Leonards work the figures are always doing something which involves movement, like removing a piece of clothing and I wanted to create some sense of motion in my work.
From this I went on to produce lots of different sketches in my sketchbook. My sketches and drawings are what I feel has always been my strongest area.
I did try to produce a large scale drawing which could have been a possible piece of work for my FMP. However, it did not work out as I was hoping it would. The drawing was A3 size and was very detailed. The paper which I was using was damaging as I was doing the drawing. Because I was blending and rubbing out constantly to create the effect I wanted, this was having an effect on the paper. Towards the end of completing this particular piece I realised that the paper was too damaged and it was making the drawing look untidy. Even though I was disappointed with what I had done, I used it as a learning experience. The work had not been successful down to several factors. One being the cartridge paper and its texture and the fact I was blending a lot with my fingers. Therefore this was causing the paper to damage because of the natural oils on my fingertips. Also, constantly using my rubber to create lighter areas on the work was also damaging the paper. After discussing issues I came across with my tutor I decided that perhaps the desired effect I wanted to achieve maybe was not within my talents at this time. I didn’t want to look this as a negative but more of a positive. From this I actually produced some linear drawings that were used in the exhibit. Even though I was inspired by Leonard, especially his drawings, I accepted that my work may never look as his does. So taking this I used my skills to create several pieces which showed I could produce really strong and unique work.
One thing I have learned which I feel is very important is that we are all individual and this makes the work we do individual too. So I am happy within myself that I will never be like certain artists but I am capable of producing work that is still impactful and that draws the viewers’ attention.
I was very adamant that I wanted to use my own visual research and was lucky enough to be able to photograph some people and use these images in my research and to eventually go on and produce work which was displayed in the exhibit.
I was able to photograph two people during my research. Both were women and had completely different body types. This was really important because it abled me to get a lot a variation and contrast in my practical work and my sketchbook work.
One was actually a fellow student who was very happy to volunteer and let me photograph her. She has a very slender physique and I produced some of my best work using the images I had of her. I was able to use college equipment and a photography suit to get the images I wanted. I was actually happy with the location and the lighting because it cast a really effective shadow and this was great for the photographs when I had them printed.
The second women I took photographs of were a complete contrast to the first. She had a very muscular physique which is what I wanted to focus on anyway so I felt very lucky that I had that opportunity. She also had a lot of tattoos. I found this didn’t actually affect the outcome I wanted when I produce the work using the photos of her. I made a decision that I would not include the tattoos in any of my drawings or paintings. There were several reasons for this. One being that I didn’t want any focus taken away from the figure. She had a lot of tattoos and I felt the viewer may focus on these more than her and that isn’t what I wanted. Secondly was the issue of time. It was extra detail to include that I felt wasn’t necessary for my work. My tutors agreed that the tattoos were not necessary and I was really pleased that I made this decision and that keeping them out actually improved my work.
I had a lot of photos to work with from both women. If I had the chance to photograph someone again I would definitely change certain aspects. I would chose maybe a more outdoor location so that I could get natural lighting on the figure. This would enable me to see light and shadow in greater detail and therefore have better images to use to produce the outcome I wanted. Also, I would vary positions more and be more experimental with regards to positioning. The women I worked with were very relaxed and happy to pose in different positions and even help me with ideas and suggestions. A few factors were involved that did have an effect on where I did the photo shoots. Because of work commitments and schedules, the women were only available at certain times at certain places. But using the photos I had I did get some great ideas and produce work which I am really proud of.
Another piece of work which was used in the exhibit was a large oil painting of the muscular women I took photos of. I had never used oils and was only used to using acrylics. I wanted to achieve a more realistic outcome in my painting and because of oil paints and their ability to blend easily, this was the best option. As the group progressed towards the final stages I had an idea of what I wanted to produce for the exhibit. I really was hoping to produce three large oil paintings of this particular woman in different positions to be hung for my FMP. However, I did not anticipate the difficulty of using oils and therefore I actually only produced the one painting. This really disappointed me initially as I felt I was letting myself down because I realised I was running out of time. I found my tutors really supportive and their reassurance and guidance built my confidence back up. I realised quality was much more important than quantity. Keeping this in mind I focused on the oil painting and using the time left to complete it using the skills and techniques which I had.
During the process of painting this particular piece, my tutor pointed out that I should focus on getting the skin tone correct. I was happy with how the painting was coming along but there was something not quite right about it. With guidance from my tutor and his help I worked through the painting completely again and achieved an even better more professional outcome. When I stepped back and looked at the painting, I realised again I was not happy. I had made the background far too vivid and the colours looked garish and I wanted to change it. I didn’t want to take away the focus on the figure in the painting with the background, so I decided to tone it down. I was so happy with the painting when I had finally completed it. Everything just seemed to fit into place and work well as a whole piece.
From this experience I realised that even though I had a particular idea in mind and wanted to stick to that, things are not always achievable. Time is a factor in this instance and also the media I was using. Oils, I have found, are tricky especially when you are not used to them. In a way I wished I had stayed with acrylics. Acrylics were familiar to me and past work I had produced using them I preferred to my newer work. However, using the oils was a massive learning curve for me and again I can only look at it in a positive way. I got really positive feedback from this particular piece which made it all worthwhile.
Before the oil painting, I had actually produced three smaller paintings which I completed during the two week half term. I did these using the photos from my first photo session at college. I had no plans initially to ever use these in the exhibit and had done them more for experimental purposes. However, my tutor was so impressed by what I had done; he was really excited and eager to include them in the exhibit. This made me really happy and I was more than willing to let them be hung as part of the exhibit.
The work which was shown in the end of year show were as follows:
Three linear drawings, three acrylic paintings on canvas and one large oil painting.
Here you can see how they looked in the exhibit.
The tutors spoke to me about positioning of the work and I was more than happy for the work to be displayed however they felt looked best and most impactful. We made a joint decision that the large oil painting would be hung away from the other work and placed in the corridor. This was because the linear drawings and the three smaller acrylic paintings worked so well as a group. The oil painting was impactful enough on its own. This was a really good decision and worked best for the exhibit.
We did group crits the day before the opening night. This enabled us to help each other out and give feedback on the work we had all produced. It also gave us chance to give pointers to one another for in the future which would help us all in our decision making to improve our work even more.
The crits were so helpful and the feedback I got from the other students was so positive and nice. Here I have put together the feedback from the students
One student mentioned how great my observations were on movement and overall use of composition. They said that my work is brave and that the subject matter I have used has been really successful. My representation of women is very positive and shows women in a strong role instead of that classical interpretation you see in older art work. It was said that I have brought my work into a very modern aspect which works really well. The drawings got the most positive feedback which I was most happy with as I feel that drawing is my strongest area. They all agreed that the drawings work so well because you can see movement in the body, which is exactly the look I wanted to achieve. They were very impressed with the linear drawings because I kept in the constructions line which gives the work a more unique and contemporary look. They also said how it reminds them of Da Vinci’s drawings on the anatomy which I was so pleased about.
With regards to the paintings, they were so impressed with my oil painting considering the fact I had never used oils before then. So, even though I had struggled with that painting, their positive feedback really made it all worthwhile.
A few students mentioned the background on the oil painting and how it worked really well with the figure. I had told them how I’d had an issue with the background and that I did change it because of the garish and distracting colours. They all agreed that the grey background works so much better and keeps the viewer focused on the women in the painting.
If I was to continue painting in the future one student mentioned how I could experiment more with backgrounds instead of doing quite light, plain backgrounds. I agree and there is always opportunity for experimentation. I just felt for these particular paintings, a soft background worked better so that the focus was always on the figures.
Overall all the feedback I got was so positive and all the hard work that went into what I did really showed because of what the other students felt about my work. It is so important to get their input because they know also how much work everyone has had to do. We all have a shared appreciation for how hard the whole group has worked and as a group all gave each other advice to help us in our future work.
On the opening night of the exhibit I got a lot of positive feedback. Most people were more drawn to my framed linear drawings which I was so happy with. They commented on how the drawings worked together as a group and that I kept the construction lines in.
I feel that exhibit was a great success and gave me a chance to show the public and also my friends and family the work I had produced. I was made to feel proud of what I had achieved. So the days when I struggled and felt like what I was doing could have been so much better, to see their reactions of people and their views on my work and how happy it made them really was incredible. Also, to hear the feedback of the women I was able to take pictures of and to hear their views and see their reactions on how they looked on canvas and in drawings was really exciting.
I have learned so much in the past year. Not only have I improved as an artist but I feel as a person I am stronger and more patient. I have had to make decisions that were so important to the outcome of my work. I realise all these decisions, whether good or bad, have all lead to work I am really proud of. This past year my confidence has grown tremendously. I definitely would not have improved the way I did if it wasn’t for the assistance and advice from all my tutors. They have shown me that they really do want the best for each individual student. However, it is only down to myself to make sure that I put in the hard work required. It takes dedication and patience. I have found this year both enjoyable and very hard. I have also had a full time job as well as the college course and at times found things rather difficult. But seeing the outcome by the end of the year and how fantastic the exhibit was made everything so worth it. Seeing the reactions of people towards your work is what it is all about. I am so grateful that I was able to get the chance to do this course.
I have met people along the way not only tutors, but students too that have helped me greatly and been extremely supportive. I feel happy also that I have helped where I can with my fellow students in their decision making to improve their work.
I have learned skills which I can take away and use continually within my work whether it is personal or professional. I have also learned that I am different to everyone else. My work is individual and you cannot compare yourself to others because that does not help the improvements needed to make you not only a better artist but a better person too.