Aim: Allow your own emotional response to direct mark-making
“Take 10 pieces of card and give them to friends. Ask them to write down a characteristic of someone in a novel or newspaper article in the first person. Ask them to choose something which might engender an emotional or physical response. Examples might be “I killed 15 women” or ‘”I won the lottery” or “I feel nervous at parties”.
Ask someone to sit for you as a model. Every 10 minutes ask them to read from one of the cards. As they read the statement out, try to change the way you use your materials to respond to the statement. Make angry, scared, joyful marks as prompted.
If you don’t have access to a model, make a self-portrait or simply imbue another object – a
chair, perhaps – with these qualities.”
Initially I thought we have to do 10 separate drawings, but then decided to do all the marks on one – I believed this will create a combination that might result in a more complex image.
As I could not find a model to sit for me at the moment I decided to choose an object. After some time the choice fell upon my raised bed where we grow some veg. The model is slightly overgrown cucumber with its leaf – not cat walk specimen but I felt it “wanted” to be drawn))
Using stepladders as a stand, the composition was set with clock facing me to be able to monitor time, the written statements were placed face down in a random order – this would create unprejudiced reaction and order hopefully. Statements were written a few days prior which gave me some time to forget them. I also decided to do it early in the morning and with no music or other distractions to be able to react with a clear head.
I chose a selection of media that jumped at me first – charcoal, chalk, oil and soft pastels, colored pens, black ink, few mixes of acrylic paint, water, pencils.
I will decide what to use accordingly as i read the statements. Let’s explore!
First statement: I crossed the ocean in a boat!
The first thing that i felt was the calmness of the air and the vastness of the water – so first marks were made using pencil, mainly outlining the object. Then colours came in – blues, greens a bit of yellow – this was obviously related to the cucumber but also the water itself. Then my imagination started playing images of dangers – rain, wind, waves, sharks, loneliness, cold etc.. So i responded using oil and soft pastels, ink – images were popping out and i just went with it – drawing quickly and almost stabbing the paper…
Second statement: I seek larger slice of life.
Colour (red, orange, yellow, white) was the immediate response along with cliché images – adding crown to the shark and the cucumber, car with big wheels, gold chain and fish, blood on the teeth of the shark – I guess this means ruthlessness of “big fish” in business word… I also had response in words – (why? I do not know but it just happened) – so I added some: gold fish, disco, glamour, fun, watch me, cream, respect, life – do not remember the order they came out though. I also used white acrylic and applied it with my hands and fingers – this felt like “cream” – richness of the big piece of pie… I also splashed some white over as a bling in the air I suppose…
I think this experiment might be getting a bit out of hand now )))) Imagine cucumber ruling the world ?)))
Third Statement: I live in a matrix
Well this will explain cucumber in gold crown on a night out)) Slightly stopped in my tracts I went with what came to my mind – caged reality? Conspiracy theories? The mesh was applied using dripping paint, the eye was enlarged as if the cucumber just realized something is going on here … A few phrases/words popped in my head and i written them – Lost, where is cucumber?, is earth flat? And outlined word Cream in black ink…
Here I took a break – mainly to let some of the paint dry so I can use dry media as well if needed. Cup of coffee and recording of the statements so far followed…
While waiting I tried not to think too much of where this was going – so i do not make a direction but maintain immediate response to the statements to follow. The thing I was thinking is – do I carry on the same piece or take a new piece of paper……
Fourth statement: I feel frozen inside
Blue – cold – snowflake – expansion from the centre… Immediately i wanted to draw circles and hard lines emanating from the centre. Then I used white paint to dab blobs of paint – sort of like frost bites – following lines of this net.
Fifth statement : I dream pictures in colour
Cucumber regained some colour and this was the first response, then I used red, green, yellows and allowed my hand make marks on its own – circles, frames/pictures, dabs of paint, etc…
Sixth statement: I want to fly high
Few words were added and wings to cucumber, shark, rain droplets, then I felt that if one to fly it would feel like a rush through a substance while generating currents so I splashed some paint using brushes and sticks…
Now it is getting very busy and wet on the paper…. I’m starting to find it difficult to un-relate with the surface – it sort of feels that I’m beginning to repeat gestures and marks…
I also noticed/realized that i somehow “forgot” about drawing cucumber but instead “feel” what it would “feel” … Interesting discovery..
I decided to stop here…. it felt too much on one surface… so I changed the paper and continued from blank page…
Seventh Statement: I killed them for fun
I did not expect this one… First response was the colour of blood and i sort of attached the paper with a brush doing variety of gestural marks, sliced the cucumber, added the leaf, which started to wilt now and curled up on itself… I suppose this statement made me angry but I tried to feel “happy” as it directed…
Eighth Statement: I’m still alive!!!!
Interesting how the random shuffling placed the card here … I’m glad my cucumber is alive so i went with green – it felt natural here. Using thick paint straight out of the tub i added liveliness to it and made leaf open again as in the beginning. Vertical markings represent growing stems or living things, also i added word Life in white first. And another cucumber was born ))) Splashed some colour in celebration..
Ninth statement: My vision is not clear
Well, to be honest i was lost for words and sort of got frozen…. the only response I had was to splash some grey ink over and then i really felt that “the vision” of where this is going was gone… so I stopped……
Tenth statement: it got lost… literally … and I think this was meant to be as I’m feeling exhausted after this exercise to be honest…. till next time I’m emotionally switching off …
Reflection: To what extend did your emotional and physical responses fuse? Did this change as you progressed with the exercise? Did you find yourself able to respond emotionally and physically at one and the same time?
To start with I was trying to tune in with the idea of combining an object with a human statements, and even though it was confusing I think I got into the process/response/reaction quite quickly. As it progressed the thing that changed was how I felt – I started to feel at one with the object and red statements, as if I was it and felt its emotion… It sounds weird but I think it was due to complete immersion in to the experience… I would say that I responded more emotionally – this perhaps because I see things in pictures and colour and quite a calm person. I rarely (never, would be better word here really) let myself react physically (arm waving, shouting, breaking things etc.) to anything, I tend to overthink and analyse things to come to a discussion rather than argument… So I think this is why there are more gestural marks that attacking the surface approach, but also it could be due to statements I had. Apart from couple mostly they were “soft” rather than aggressive/harsh. But the process really took it out of me – i definitely need a break and a cuppa now))
Overall I was surprised of the outcome and experience I had. I think second drawing with less in it is a better drawing – visually more pleasing and I quite like it hanging on the wall above my PC. But I quite like the first one too – it’s a bit over-complicated and busy but it has energy about it.
This experience will be helpful when I get to the Assignment – painting with music, I feel that I have more understanding now on how to approach it.
Above: Thoughts of a cucumber, a day in a studio. (A1 cartridge sheet, mixed media, all sort of tools and loads of emotion went into the making of this salad)…