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Artist profiles: Dryden Goodwin

In the Guardian Guide to Drawing Goodwin says he believes “drawing is about how the mind processes what the eye sees”. This intrigued me as I think with my recent abstract pastels I find drawing to be about how the mind processes what the heart and mind feels. These two quotes about his work also stuck out:

“Over the time spent looking there’s a sort of fantastical element that enters in – an almost hallucinogenic thing where your sense of what you’re looking at changes”. To me this relates to flow.

“That this speculation is always fluid, that no one act of representation, no one point of description, can ever be finally resolved in time” (David Chandler, Plymouth University). This relates I believe to a large degree to his above and below drawings and red studies. These capture several moments which means you also view the drawings in a time lapse too so what he is trying to achieve is in unison with his method. I would like to know if he draws from photos or life to achieve this.

Although I don’t ‘like’ the drawings, I like the concept of exploring what is hidden or revealed between the two moments the drawings capture and that what the drawing is what is between the drawings. I see that as with Paul Noble the choice of style and medium perfectly suits what he is trying to say with his work.

At a personal level I find Goodwin’s drawings jarring. There’s something – almost a sense of disintegration – about them that makes me feel uncomfortable. This is a shame because I’m sure this is not what he intends having read other articles where he talks about the intimacy of the approach and his sometimes close relationship with his subjects.

As a beginner wrestling with even getting the technical basics right on top of telling my inner critic to take the high road, it feels I am some way off from knowing what is right for what I want to produce. I am however very grateful to my tutor for bringing this need to consider technique and medium in relation to subject to my attention.

There’s no such thing as a new idea

At the beginning of my Foundation course I powered through some of the recommended reading. I find my own ideas come in thick and fast when I’m mentally riffing off what other people are doing. But what do you do if your idea has been ‘done’?

At some point in a gift set I was bought a little bottle of eye and skin firming creme. It is called something like Philosophy and ‘Hope in a bottle’. This struck me as at once absurd and accurate. I am completely immune to being told what to wear by the fashion industry and find following the herd mindless materialism. I rail against it. This silly little bottle of nonsense got me thinking about the ridiculous ways women are expected to primp, pluck and change themselves, particularly the current trend for contouring and strobing to change our face shapes. I fear for the often narcissistic, selfie-obsessed and often vapid world my daughter will grow up in, that prides extroversion and style over substance and introspection.

This gave me the idea of a collage that features words and pictures, like the bottle of hope, that comments on this. Like a medicine cabinet. I began collecting newspaper and magazine snippings and enlisted my Facebook friends in commenting on some of the the things they’d seen that they thought were absurd (anal bleaching – seriously??!).

Then it happened. In one of my recommended reading texts I came across Hirst’s medicine cabinet work. The wind was knocked of my sails. Then another time I was thinking about the popularity of data visualisation and had some ideas about how to use graph type imagery in drawings. I had several train journeys of manically writing down ideas and sketching out concepts which to me were too precious to put into my course sketchbook for fear of someone stealing my idea (not my tutor I might add!!) Then I came across Theaster Gates, started looking into his more recent work and – boom – he’s done it already.

I didn’t know what to do. Should I ignore this because I will have my own slant on things and there is no such thing as a new idea, or do I keep pressing on for my own unique space. After five months of pondering on this I’m still not sure how I feel so I’m posting this to get it out of my system and in the hope my tutor will have some thoughts on this.

Sketchbook: Brush pens

Before I went on holiday I continued exploring different techniques following my tutor’s encouragement. I bought some new brush pens and below are a few attempts with them, all in A4. The second is a sketch of a very bright door way in the morning sun in the Californian mountains. I tried to use all of what I’ve learnt so far from urban sketching, adding in more detail where I wanted to draw the eye by using a finer black ink on the detail of the plants in the doorway.  Afterwards I realised the shadows of the door way make no sense, things are reversed and dark where they should be light. In my defense it was 6am and I’d been up again since 5am with horrific jet lag.

Next is an unfinished sketch a Griffith Observatory, abandoned due to the breeze and my husband’s fear of heights.

Finally is a drawing I did before we went away based on a favourite photo I took in Venice. I was not pleased with the results despite spending a long time on this. The water is not convincing and I struggled with the concept of having to think about drawing from back to front.

I like the brush pens but feel a bit overwhelmed by trying all these new techniques and fear I am jack of all trades and master of none at the moment. Or perhaps that’s just my inner critic getting at what should be a time of fun and exploration!

Sketchbook: Reflective surfaces

Module two left me quite irritated that I couldn’t convincingly draw reflective surfaces. I’ve had a few chances to practice since then during my trip away. The first is a quick and unfinished sketch of a wine bottle and glass in pencil. Beneath that a A5 tea cup I finished and then an unfinished brass A5 vase. The very bottom is a bottle of water drawn in A5 pencil on the plane which I think is the best of my efforts although I still don’t have this technique down at all.

Sketchbook: Animals

Whilst in the US I stayed on a ranch with 4 horses and 2 dogs. I had some time to do some sketches of the horses which I hadn’t tried before. They are difficult but I tried to think about shapes and how the anatomy was the same or different from humans. I can see why the masters were so focused on anatomical studies as it makes such a difference in how you look at things. These are not ‘good’ sketches in that they are quite basic but I learnt a lot from them. The first is from a photo chosen as the horse was standing in a challenging position. These are A4 and graphite pencil.

After I returned I remembered my tutor wanted me to do more in large format so I took some A3 paper and did something I hadn’t done before which is try line in large format. For once the cat stayed still. I was nervous but enjoyed building up the layers of lines to achieve the shading. I really like the curve of his paw over his haunches. I’d like to try this again and then try adding some watercolour paint or just water so the lines bleed.

Sketchbook: Shell

I spent over 2 weeks in the US so much of my sketchbook is from that holiday. I thought I’d have more time to draw but I’m glad I took my pencils with me as I found some interesting objects. This was a shell from the Mermaid Suite, a grandly named shack on an ex 60s hippy commune in Topanga canyon. I was up at 4am with terrible jet lag. I ran out of time to finish it but was quite excited by the sense of depth I was beginning to achieve on the curvy edges at the front of the shell.

Assignment: Organic forms

I was initially looking forward to this exercise as it seemed like a great opportunity to tie together and try out combinations of what I have learned so far on the course. This quickly changed and I realise it is deceptively the most difficult assignment yet.

I initially picked an apple, an avocado and some peppers in a bowl. I tried a preparatory sketch and soon realised the bowl made it unnecessarily cluttered, I’d reverted back to boring old realism for the apple, the surface of the avocado required new mark making skills I didn’t have and I the surface of the small peppers was actually very reflective, continuing my battle with reflective surfaces. I noted down the problems identified which you can see on the image below.

I though I’d try some individual prep sketches of the items paying attention to hard and soft lines. I was still frustrated by how tight the drawing was so set off to research some creative marks. I’ve gone into more detail on how this made me feel and what I learnt here.

Here is a further preparatory sketch where I tried to experiment with a looser more expressive type of line. I found this difficult on the smaller long peppers because of their size, even working on A3 paper.

Here was what I intended to be my final drawing. I happy with the apple. The looser edges on the left came out well and I liked the way the more expressive lines still conveyed a sense of shape. I don’t think I achieved this with the avocado because I got hung up on the surface texture. I really didn’t know what to do with the small pepper and didn’t really resolve how to be loose and expressive on a smaller item. I think the work on the shadows is poor and shows I was getting tired and frustrated at this point. I also didn’t know what to do with the background to make it interesting. I was drawing items on the table so they didn’t really have a background for shadows to be cast over for interest.

Two days later I felt unsatisfied and restless with the drawing. By now I’d eaten the apple so it wouldn’t go off (!) so grabbed a few peppers and tried again, beginning with a warm up sketch which felt stilted and not as relaxed or expressive as what I had achieved with the apple, which annoyed me as the shape and size wasn’t hugely different.

This is my final drawing. By now I think I had realised the limits of my ability at this stsage. The background still lacks interest and the shadows are still poor. This is looser than I normally draw but still tighter than the apple in my first attempt. I was happy with the depth I achieved with the two larger peppers. The problem with being expressive on smaller items remains as can be seen with the smaller peppers although I liked what I achieved with the stems and the stem shadows. Underneath is a photo of what I was drawing.

Overall I found this incredibly challenging and wonder why, three modules in, I am still falling back on realism when I don’t consciously push myself to try other styles. I still don’t find expressive, loose drawing a natural or comfortable thing. I wonder what exercises I can do to relax into this more. Something to research as when I persevere I do see progress although it is very slow and small.