Assignment 5: Tutor feedback reflection

Updated on 25 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

15 February 2017. What luck that I still have lots of time to prepare for assessment! While part of Assignment 5 was quite successful (see end of this post), it did not turn out to be a great idea to deviate from the study guide despite having felt it to be a good way to tackle Part 5 of the course. I learned lots from this assignment – and I am extremely glad I took the risky route, because otherwise it might have taken me ages to find out about the following (and at this point I want to kindly ask OCA to provide beginner students with more precise information to avoid them getting lost somewhere on the way):

  1. Stick to the study guide at all times unless the deviation is so thoroughly signposted/cross-referenced that it can be used by tutors and assessors with great ease: So, since I am always struggling to find enough time for OCA study (needing to do at least 15, sometimes 20 hours per week to finish a course within a year’s time), for me any deviating, no matter how useful it might appear, is going to be no option in the foreseeable future.
  2. Do all exercises in the sketchbook in a meticulously structured way: For me, until now, the sketchbook had been something for personal use only, to accompany the “real” work. I think now that I might be slow to understand, but it took me until writing this post to grasp that it is supposed to contain the real work. I will need to buy a new, larger sketchbook, because I often tend to produce larger size stuff, up to A1, when experimenting.
  3. Experimenting itself will have to come with more immediately written down thought directly relating to the experience gained when actually applying the paint: This is something I seem to have misunderstood until now. I know that I tend to use techniques not like tools taken from a toolbox, but as a wisp of intuition. This will have to change radically, or in my tutor’s words “If you can, go back to the initial work and reflect on what happened and how you felt the exercise went before extending your own evaluative written content about this exercise”. Not sure where spontaneity comes in here, but maybe this aspect files with “misunderstood” as well: I guess that applied spontaneity in its real sense builds on knowledge and technical ability, not the other way round.
  4. My sketchbook is well-annotated, but difficult to read: I had not realized that this would be necessary as I had assumed the notes were for my personal use only.
  5. Always use the Harvard referencing system, even in blog posts: No tutor has pointed out to me until just now that this is expected even in learning logs, not only for set pieces of writing such as essays: I will go through my posts and correct them.
  6. Paint, paint, paint, even if it is only tiny side notes: Making drawings and using photos is inadequate to produce the kind of information tutors and assessors will look for: I will try and put together a “travel set” to have in the car to use when I encounter spare time. This is often not more than literally minutes and I have not found a solution yet for travelling with wet paint without destroying some of the results. Also, the paper in all the sketchbooks I have is not really made for painting. Watercolours tend to soak both the front and back of a page and cause the paper to undulate in a most unfortunate way, while acrylics make pages stick together. I will have to ask my art supplier for advice.
  7. I do not seem to put enough information on my artist research into both sketchbook and blog, while also not taking enough personal information from the research I do: This is another difficult point. There is so much going on in my head that it becomes quite overwhelming at times, so that the researched information gets pushed to the side. Will have to switch my brain on more often …
  8. Only tackle the final painting after exhaustive experimentation: I do not know how I will cope with that, because I am never finished with experimenting. So-called finished paintings always tend to surprise me with new turns, e.g. in my illustration of Andersen’s tale (Lacher-Bryk, 2017a). My tutor points out the effect visible in the vase as something worth working with in an experimental series before attempting the final piece. However, I did not know before working on the final piece that I would encounter this effect. I hope that I may find a way to correspond to requirements here.
  9. Be careful not to overwork (“overexplain”) the final paintings: My tutor indicated that preparing by making lots of small paintings will help with avoiding overworking, while allowing to increase the risk-taking. I just hope that this will the case with me, it will need a lot of mental resetting.
  10. Explain more, e.g. why I choose a particular subject beyond finding it “interesting”: To me the introductory section I wrote for my self-evaluation seemed sufficient at the point, but this is not so. I need to “explain why I chose this subject against the project exercises for clarity”. I have to admit that at this point I am not sure what is expected of me, but I guess that I will need to add some project exercises whose results will then sort of prompt me to embark on the subject of shadows.

To summarize, there is still too little researched background, both in a theoretical and practical way, to my finished work despite an extensive, well-written learning log. While I write this I notice that my scientist’s mind, with some gritty resistance, seems to be making another step forward in understanding what is expected. I have to accept, quickly, that it is the process of creating, and not with any preformed goal in mind, which I need to be looking for, documenting every emerging aspect, based on and constantly related to the work of artists in the field (as my tutor says about my research on Abstract Expressionism: “I would make your point of reference here much clearer. Explain in more detail why and how it has been interesting for you. Explain in more detail how this references your interests in shadows and how you may wish to make abstract works from this and so on.”. I am extremely glad that I chose Understanding Painting Media for my next course, where I expect to find ample opportunity to do just that. My tutor suggested that I read widely around my subject of shadows in preparation for the next course. This sounds like a great idea and will clearly help me with structuring my imagination.

In preparation for assessment I will now need to do the following:

  1. Assessors will be looking at my work in a way that is structured by the sequence of exercises as contained in the coursebook. In order to achieve this I will need to add to Part 5 posts cross-referencing and sub-heading information for easy access and use.
  2. Also I will need to add some more well-structured and documented preliminary experimentation, since there was too little of that in part of my assignment. It will have to fit in with a “development towards”.
  3. There will have to be an addition of more research and cross-referencing with contemporary artists, taking care to access a larger diversity of highest quality resources.
  4. Citations throughout my blog will need to be changed to fit the Harvard system.

15 February 2017. Having said all that I do not want to sound desperate. So, quoting from the many positive aspects in my tutor feedback:

“This is a great demonstration of creative activity and demonstrates clearly how an idea develops along the way.” (referring to the sequence of “A Shadow-only Painting” (Lacher-Bryk, 2017b).

“Your research is thorough, personally rigorous and the outcomes you have made demonstrated your creative and visual skills well. You have used paint loosely and haven’t been afraid to lose control, which is a big step in your development on this course […] The painting on acetate is bold and daring, so try to maintain this whenever you can.” (referring to “A Shadow On His Soul” (Lacher-Bryk, 2017c)).

“You have really developed a good personally driven research project here […] Overall you have done well and produced work that is personally driven, ambitious and wide ranging.”

Keeping this in mind I am off now to hopefully getting everything else right for assessment, following my tutor’s advice to “edit and pull out some pieces that leave the work teetering on the brink of your viewer’s interest”.

References:

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017a) Assignment 5, subject 3: Hans Christian Andersen “The Shadow”. An attempt at an illustration (including part 5 project exercises) [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 2 February. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/assignment-5-subject-3-hans-christian-andersen-the-shadow-an-attempt-at-an-illustration-including-part-5-project-exercises/ [Accessed 15 February 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017b) Assignment 5, subject 1: “A Shadows Only Painting” (including Part 5 project exercises) [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 15 January. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/assignment-5-subject-1-a-shadows-only-painting-including-part-5-project-exercises/ [Accessed 15 February 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017c) Assignment 5, subject 2: “A Shadow On His Soul” (including Part 5 project exercises) [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 blog, 21 January. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2017/01/21/assignment-5-subject-2-a-shadow-on-his-soul-including-part-5-project-exercises/ [Accessed 15 February 2017]

 

Assignment 1: Reflection on tutor feedback

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

28 April 2016, Yesterday I received the feedback from my tutor on my first painting assignment. It reflects very well where I see myself at this point of the course.

Going through the comments in sequence of appearance:

  1. Although I take great care to provide the best possible photos of my sketches and paintings, the warning at the beginning of the feedback letter made me aware of the limitations set by a blog-only submission. I do not know yet whether I will be able to send a portfolio every time, since I am based in Austria and it is either excruciatingly expensive or takes weeks to use a parcel service (the post office does not accept my portfolios addressed to the UK due to insurance restrictions), but I see that I want to be even more careful with my blog posts in the future. In particular I will add closeup images to allow my tutor to assess surface structures.
  2. I was very happy to read the line “You have made a promising start to the course”. Our everyday life took a nasty turn last year and I am struggling to keep up with the enormous additional effort to help our little son into a good future, while hoping to develop as a painter. I will keep this line in mind and hold on to to it, if things get difficult again.
  3. “… unexpected happy accidents …” and “What may be an ‘unsuitable material’ for one exercise may produce the best effects for another.”:
    Since I had not been sure about the degree of freedom for experimentation in this course I think that I can safely interpret the above as expectation to be as inventive as possible. I can see how the difference in experience I have in drawing as opposed to painting in acrylics has a major influence on the degree of creativity I am able to put on canvas. I am much more reluctant with paint and during the first part of Part 2 of the course I discovered some beginners’ mistakes using acrylics I have been making so far. For me this course is not only about coming to terms with “what paint can do”, but also “how to treat paint”.
  4. In the sense of the above I will try and include a number of different types of support in my experiments. Since my tutor was positive about my idea of painting on sandpaper with pastels or other media, I think that I will come back to it for the Part 2 still life with man-made objects, which will be my next exercise.
  5. “You should look for opportunities to use negative space …”: I am intrigued by the possibilities offered by negative space and still I keep forgetting about consciously making it part of my compositions. Since is not only negative space that gets lost repetitively in this way, I decided that I will place a large piece of flipchart paper on my studio wall with “negative space!”, “golden mean!” “complementary colours!”, and another few, so that I cannot fall back into my old habit of purely intuitive work. My tutor advised me to look at work by Edward Burra (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). As a watercolour painter I am used to painting around shapes with dark colours, but did not see this technique as making use of negative shape so far, since to me it was part of the whole process of interacting with a developing work and I had no name for it.
  6. I have already started making better use of my sketchbook in developing ideas. So far I often experimented on large sized sheets of paper, which might be seen as oversized sketchbooks, but of course this is difficult to follow if serving the purpose of illustrating a process of development. Most of my newspaper clippings and references to artist research have not made it into the sketchbook so far, because I think that I misinterpreted how to use the blog. Everything I thought useful went straight into a blog note. As I realise now this may be the reason why I keep losing the discoveries I made in the past. If time allows I will therefore try and have a sketchbook recording as well as a blog post.
  7. Regarding my split painting on white and coloured ground my tutor was not too keen about the idea. She suggested I redo the exercise as described in the study guide, so that a direct comparison of the whole arrangement becomes possible. Regarding her question, why I chose to have a monochrome painting on the dark ground and a coloured one on the white ground I would not know a valid answer except for an intutive decision when looking at the objects. Those on the monochrome side were, by coincidence, the simple shapes and strong tonal transitions, while the kitchen scales on the right provided some challenging shapes and forms. The former seemed more attractive to be depicted in shades of grey. If I find the time, I will repeat the exercise with a less demanding setup on two different grounds, although I quite liked the smooth transition between the techniques on the one support.
  8. Regarding the assignment piece (black tulip): I did not include my other sketches in the blog because they were both quite technical and not pleasing to look at due to getting the viewpoint wrong, while also I did not like the idea of having a break in the development of my idea. In the future I will however include all preliminary sketches. The photo I included in the blog both to give readers an idea of the original setup (something I do most of the time) and, in this case, as stated in the blog post, to have a backup: Tulips often wilt within the matter of hours. Due to my son’s condition I do not always know whether I will be able to finish a painting as intended. It took me a several days to complete it. In the meantime the bouquet had changed in colour and overall appearance – tulips tend to grow considerably after having been cut and then start hanging over the edge of the vase. In the future I will have to take more time to consider my choice of subject for aspects of durability.
    I mentioned in my post the research on paintings of tulips, but omitted the findings, because, as I stated in the blog, the ones I did find were nothing I wanted to paint (many were extremely badly carried out or gaudy or both) and so decided that I would like to see whether I would manage without referring to other artists. Not used research I will however also include in my blog from now on.
    The uniformly grey shadow area was intentional. The tonal variation in the shadow came mostly from folds in the cloth I had put under the vase and I had the impression that including this would draw the eye away from the message: I wanted it to serve as diametral contrast to my black tulip and coloured shadow, but I see now that by concentrating on an idea I forgot about the technical execution and thus got the tonal value wrong. The coloured shadow did not just have a yellow outline, but went from a green centre to red to yellow, so as to include all the colours in the bouquet itself. This was probably impossible to see on the blog photo. Since my tutor suggested that the idea of introducing a coloured shadow was worth pursuing, I will try and develop a line of thought from here.
  9. As mentioned in pt. 6 above I know I need to work at putting more emphasis on structured sketchbook work. I have no idea why the concept is so difficult to grasp for me, but I will get there eventually. I already draw on a daily basis in my small sketchbook. Due to time constraints the things I draw are probably difficult to use in course projects, but I keep coming back to them and some may be worth pursuing.
  10. I am happy that my learning log largely corresponds to what is expected from me. Again I will have to find a way of always having at hand the results I keep in my blog without having to produce a double diary. There simply is no time for that yet. Also, I know that a working knowledge of other artists’ approaches to a subject helps immensely with overcoming problems. My tutor suggested that I have a look at James Rosenquist’s painting ‘Untitled (Tulips)’ to support the idea (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). It is probably that I am on my own with the rare option of direct contact that I tend to want to solve problems my own way. In the near future I do not see too many chances to visit galleries, although I take every opportunity. This year I went to several already, but having to guess at the probable contents of an exhibition left me somewhat disillusioned at how to make the best use of the time I have.
  11. I will try and spend much time experimenting in Part 2. In this context my tutor pointed me to Josef Albers and his series ‘Homage to the Square’ (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). She suggested that I should repeat some of his studies in my sketchbook in order to gain deeper insight into colour theory. The suggestion made it clear to me that my experimentation on large sized formats may not be required at all. I will try and reduce the size, where possible, to include it in my sketchbook. Maybe here is where I can gain the time needed.
  12. And finally some more pointers for the next assignment:- apply results of experiments into final assignment painting
    – make a large number of preliminary studies from different viewpoints, look at
    range of ideas for composition and use of colour and tone, explore support –
    hopefully there will be enough time to do this in a serious way, I don’t want to rush
    them
    – develop a visual diary in my sketchbook – I know that many other students do this
    in a brilliant way, I just need to figure out a feasible strategy for myself

So, overall, most of what I need to change has to do with trying to approach my projects in a more structured and reflected way. Help!

References:

  1. Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Artist research: Edward Burra, James Rosenquist and Josef Albers [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 Blog. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/artist-research-edward-burra-james-rosenquist-and-josef-albers/ [Accessed 26 February 2017]