Part 1. Project 2: Using Space

Aim: To create a still life drawing influenced by Elizabeth Blackadder’s use of space as an integral part of the composition along with colour & detail. Use whole support as one rather than separating areas to background/foreground etc.

 

 

I started by looking at works of Elizabeth Blackadder – the suggested video was an insite to her working process and studio space. The objects she collects find their way into her works. I particularly like the way she hanged kimono and other bits and used the set up as a sketch to paint.

After examining some of her works on Bridgemans website i realised that she uses space and objects as one to create the composition. Works are balansed by use of strategicaly divided areas: verticals/horisontals/diagonals direct the eye and create a space variations; colours used quite extencively but not too saturated – only a few objects/areas have saturated colour that becomes a magnet for the eye; also the balance achieved by contrasts of colour and shapes of the objects used – round shapes interact with straight solid lines, overal the colour selection creates specific mood by complimenting each other.

Even though a lot of the objects appear flat at the start, the overall composition is quite engaging because of all the “tricks” mentioned above. The result is a proof of her experienced eye and observational skills, engagement with the chosen subject and a personal touch. Looking closer at the details it is evident how masterly she uses minimum, but the most important, detail to capture the essence of the depicted subject. I personally like the playfulness that comes through her work – i feel that she really enjoyed painting her subjects and portrayed  her personal vision of them.

 

Looking at works of Blackadder and H. Matisse i can see certain similarities – integration of objects with surroundings, energy, use of everyday objects and scenery, flat depiction of objects, use of whole space as one, relationship between colour and lines used – they seem to work for one another both equally important, placement in many works resembles collages etc.

The differences , in my opinion, is the saturation of colours used – E.B work is more tranquil in most cases while Matisse’s work tend to explode the senses upon viewing; Matisse compositions , especially interior, appear a lot more busy and “dancing” while E. Blackadders work appear to float but both create energy and dynamism within the picture that leads the eye around the composition.

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Instead of hanging something I chose a few objects and placed them as some sort of a collage – a few chair cushions,  plant pots, framed w/c sketch ( not mine) – on a green table next to the radiator. The idea was to use the objects as a background mosaic rather than separate elements. I used dulled colours, no shadows, the collaged objects are slightly misshapen but still recognizable for what they are. The pictorial space became one element without clear division between background/foreground. Most of the objects were drawn  “Off the page” with edges coming in and out of the used space. (half of A3 page, watercolour, attached to page 5 Sketchbook A3)

       

I think the result , while having some elements that E. Blackadder uses ( mentioned above) turned out a bit too busy , her still life elements mainly float around and are placed with a lot more space in between. I think if i were to use bold colours and outlines here, the sketch would be closer to Matisse’s use of space and composition arrangement.  However, i feel that the composition has a potential and while appears busy it does have some energy and allows the eye to wonder around the space.

In this drawing i used a small red case, make up bag and an old misshapen jumper hanging on the coat hanger. I’ve tried to use objects as separate elements with a lot of space between them and they were viewed at different angles ( from above, from the side and straight on). The space is divided into areas that partially become objects themselves – white wall behind the jumper, lines represent floor boards and some lines are going out of the page (table). (A3 watercolour, attached to page 5, sketchbook A3

)

The idea of using space and separation of elements seems very interesting but i’m not sure if i managed to find the right balance in the placement. It feels that i’m trying to fill the space even without realizing – for example the floor lines seem to make the space cramped a little.

In this drawing (sketchbook A3, page 6) I minimised the number or elements and concentrated on working with space itself.  Red cushion, the plant and a plant pot  all drawn partially coming in and out of the page (soft pastels, inktence sticks and charcoal outline. Using wet brush the pigments were blended, in contrast the background ( inktence) was left dry to have a different texture. It felt slightly empty and disconnected so I’ve placed the charcoal stick over the paper and decided to add the lines where i think they worked best. The result probably is the closest to E. Blackadder’s way of combining space and elements. I actually quite like the overall composition and feel like i might be tuning in with the idea.

This is a small w/c composition – it is probably slightly off the track but the idea here was to break space into patches with  just one more detailed object ( flower). Starting from the left corner going clockwise – rocks and sandy bank, clear sky and, a cloud, sea and the flower all represent a fragmented seascape. (A4 attached to the back of page 6 in A3 sketchbook)

 

Looking at some of E. Blackadder works she uses a lot of vertical/horisontal divisions of the picture plain. I triet to use this approach in works below:

Sketchbook A3, page 7 – dried up limes placed in a row, red represents the table top and blue is the sky (wax candle, oil pastels, gouache)

      

The below pieces are on the same sheet of paper ( A1) ,

First (on the right) i broke the surface into areas using pencil to draw the guidelines and then masking tape was attached to create hard border. Here i used objects from previous experiments ( red case, dried limes); Here i combined collage with  loose gouache.

Red case – tissue paper, pencil shavings, string, ice-cream stick, glue, cardboard

Second ( on the left) – also using previous objects : red case ( in the top left corner), plant, and pot  if looked from underneath. A2, w-c pencils, charcoal, oil pastel, gouache

 

both together:

 

 

Overall i think that the colours worked well in the sketches and the compositions have  potential, perhaps using different media and support is something to look at later.

 

Personally i prefer Matisse’s use of colour and a slightly more complicated arrangement but i find an interesting energy along with tranquility in Blackadder’s work. The combination of both approaches would be something that i might take forward.

 

 

 

sources/bibliography:

https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/artists/elizabeth-blackadder

https://scottish-gallery.co.uk/artist/elizabeth_blackadder

https://www.bridgemaneducation.com/en/search?filter_text=blackadder&page=3

 

https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/mati/hd_mati.htm

https://www.bridgemaneducation.com/en/search?filter_text=matisse&page=5

 

 

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