There is a lot of work on display which demonstrates his great versatility. He did just about everything he could with his artistic talents, from book illustration and marketing posters to theatre set design and murals. It seems that he tends to be regarded as a designer / craftsman more than an artist... maybe that's because for most of his short life (killed in Normandy in 1944 at the age of 39), he needed to make money so presumably took whatever commercial work he could get. That, I think, inevitably gets in the way of making art for art's sake and sets him apart as far as the 'fine art establishment' is concerned. Also, despite being an exceptional draughtsman, his painting skills were possibly lacking a bit - though probably, he would have improved these had he lived longer.
Whistler seemed to occupy a rather uncomfortable position socially. He mixed with wealthy and aristocratic people though his own background was rather more humble. Maybe difficult for us to understand the implications of this today...
What impressed me the most was his dedication and complete absorption with making images. He always carried sketchbook, pens, pencils, inks around with him and drew constantly, wherever he was. Apparently, he even had a metal box welded to the back of his tank when in the army so he could keep his art materials to hand. That's dedication!
We had our monthly life drawing day at the art gallery yesterday. No painting for me this time; spent the whole day drawing. The drawing I made from the long pose was pretty much complete which is very unusual for me - and the figure has a head! It was such a great pose - loads of foreshortening. This may be one of the most successful life drawings I've made. Pity the cat lay on it when I got it home and carried off a lot of the charcoal on her coat! Ah well...
Here's the drawing before and after it had been 'improved' by the cat.
Didn't have time to prep etching plates for this week's session so it was literally back to the drawing board. Drawing smaller this week, charcoal in an A2 sketch pad. Not too happy with these. Hopefully back to the etching plates next week.
It's been a really creative start to the year. As well the life drawing based etchings, and making three submissions for Small Faces (delivered to the gallery yesterday), I also completed this portrait commission. This is a drawing of the client's mother in charcoal, also delivered yesterday. And it's only 21 January! I'm hoping the year will continue as it has started.
This term's life drawing started up this week. Made three A4 drawings on tissue over a soft ground so that should give me something to work with for a while. Three plates on the go at once! Four if you count my Small Faces. New way of working for me.
Definitely feeling rusty after the Christmas break but one of the good things about this way of working is that it doesn't matter if the drawings aren't any good - I can just remove the bits I don't want.
Here's a grumpy face to start the new year! Currently working on submission for Small Faces Open Exhibition at Solent Showcase Gallery in March. The organisers are hoping to fill the whole gallery space with A6 sized portraits.
This one is a quick pencil sketch but I'm also working on a palimpsest style etching too. More on that later.
I first came across the paintings of James Ensor (1860 - 1949) when I was seventeen. The Intrigue, above, absolutely captivated me. How wonderful, then, to be able to stand in front of the real thing over thirty years later! That was a couple of weeks ago and it's still very present in my head.
Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymansis an exhibition of work by Ensor curated by Tuymans currently showing at the Royal Academy. There are lots of works on paper as well as paintings; drawings and etchings. I'd only seen his paintings before so it was interesting to see his sketches and prints.
James Ensor, Skeletons Fighting over a Pickled Herring, 1891
What do I like about his work? I like the narrative element of course; the weird symbolism of the images keeps me guessing and wondering. I like the satirical works which remind me of the 'cartoons' of James Gillray and other similar artists. I like his macabre sense of humour (see his self-portraits as skeletons with titles such as My Portrait in 1960). I like the way he composed an image and the way he put the paint on the canvas. And in terms of the man himself, I like the way he started out by pinching stuff to paint from the weird collection of tourist tat his mother sold in her shop below his studio. I like the way he lived in Ostend all his life, a small seaside town on the Belgian coast. Above all, I like the way he just got on and did his own unique thing, and never really fitted into a neat category of style or subject matter.
Following on from my post on 7 December where I'd started to burnish back the image and etch over it again, I found that burnishing alone was too laborious and not effective enough, so I had at the plates with a scraper and then a drill with various grinding and polishing attachments. Much fun and some interesting effects. I drew another figure over this image at life drawing on Saturday so watch this space for a scan when the print is dry.
It was our monthly Saturday life drawing session at the art gallery at the weekend. This month I took along some etching plates to draw directly onto them to capture the full energy of the drawing on the plate. This gets lost when transferring a drawing from paper to plate as you stiffen up and lose a lot of the extraneous marks made when searching for the image. The images below show the drawing as made on tissue paper laid over a soft grounded plate (left). The images on the right are the tissue paper taken off the plate and scanned to see the drawing more clearly.
The first pair of images were made on the plate shown in my previous
post so when etched, there will be fragments of the previous drawing.
The second pair are on a new plate which will gradually become layered
with images; a palimpsest of figure studies.