Having arrived at Lancaster University and settled in, it was time to start some proper work. The days of freshers were now behind us and the reality of university life had started staring us square in the face.
Before arriving in September, we (students studying Fine Art BA Hons) were asked to complete a series of pieces that would depict a familiar subject in such a way as to reveal it in a new light. The aim of the preparatory task was to test our imagination and artistic skills - we were given enormous scope for variety and creativity. Anything that we considered to be of personal interest became under scrutiny in an attempt to conjure up some new way of perceiving it.
This project, our first university piece, followed the same theme: drawing the unseen. Our assignment was to create a large scale collaborative drawing relating to the unseen. Each group of seven was given a word, e.g. 'Overlooked', 'Tiny', 'Hidden' (in my group's case: 'Private'), and had to go out into the environment and gather images, information and data and return to the studio to use this material in a large drawing. The piece was to be completed on a 1.5m x 3m sheet of paper stapled to the studio walls. We were given a week and a half to complete the project.
In my group of seven, we had to brainstorm how we would interpret something as 'Private'. We needed to establish what our focus was going to be, what we were going to observe on campus and how we were going to portray this on our sheet of paper amongst other things. One question that became central to our initial discussion was: what is private; how is something defined as private? We came to the conclusion that what one person considers to be private, another person may not - Privacy, and what can be considered private, is completely subjective. With this in mind, we exchanged our own personal ideas of what is private. Underwear, building work, bedrooms and text messages were suggested, but body parts became the main focus. When we went out onto campus, we drew sketches of people who appeared to be alone; who appeared self-contained; who were cut off from the rest of the world (either by headphones or a book for example). My aim was to capture people in thought, e.g. students that were texting or listening to music. These figures tended to portray a person isolated within themselves which was what I wanted. My own sketches can be seen in the slideshow below.
Our group also went into a small area of campus that looked like an abandoned garden. This place was of interest to us because it too, like the people we observed, appeared private, isolated, secretive. We as a group found that this information may come in handy to us, so spent a small amount of time here as well. When we reconvened afterward, however, we all agreed that these sketches of the garden were the least successful. After the session, we went away and continued to draw sketches that supported our own ideas. I decided to draw a number of sketches of eyes because our main focus had been on perspective. The eye is often considered as secretive - the type of look that one gives can reveal whether they know any secrets/information that may be private. Along with this, eyes are individual to each person. Whilst everyone has eyes, everyones' eyes are unique and personal. What is personal can be considered private.
During the second session, we, again, considered what was private. We played on this idea of 'what is personal is private' and considered whether we should study genitalia. We also contemplated the notion that body parts that are covered up, e.g. arms, legs, sometimes faces, can be portrayed to be private, but they do not have to be as covered up as a person's genitalia. Ultimately, however, we settled with our initial idea of perspective and decided to draw out an eye. We noted that, along with our previous reasons for studying eyes, a human eye was the appropriate subject for our topic because eyes can be considered the gateway to the soul, something which is extremely personal and self-contained (in a literal sense).
The eye we created contained a variety of textures and images that, when viewed together, create an interesting final product. Sketches of female bodies begin the image on the left. Chains and a toilet accompany these drawings, which are surrounded by a jet black darkness. The bodies appear to come out of the darkness, as if they are trying to be hidden, but they serve to break down the darkness. This dark tone continues from left to right, but gradually lightens, much like the original image which was taken from an anatomy textbook. The drawing appears less crowded/noisy on the left side, with less focus on smaller images and more on accurate tonal values in relation to the original picture. As the viewer is drawn immediately to the pupil, the direct centre of the project, they are met with a variety of textures. Again, accurate tonal values juxtapose dashes of charcoal and sways of random lines. Within the darkness of the pupil, small drawings of hands joined together, lips and an eye emerge and merge seamlessly with the patterns of curved lines. Whilst all different, these images undeniably depict a pupil.
As the viewer's own eye is drawn upwards to the emerging hand and eye, the tone continues to gradually lighten. A great contrast can be seen between the right and left sides of the drawing. The right side is littered with various sketches and images which all relate to the overarching title 'Private'. In a number of cases, a rubber was cleverly used to bring out the lighter tones in these sketches, giving a greater three-dimensional feel. Drawings of faces, naked bodies, legs, padlocks, eyes, feet, bums, noses and keys fill this space. This area of the drawing is extremely busy, but encourages the viewer to pick through every image and see if they have missed any out. Less strength was used in order to show this contrast and gradation between darkness on the left and light on the right. Beautifully drawn lips and ears can be seen after first glance, tricking the viewer into thinking that they have missed so much more. The image on a whole is/was very well thought out and cleverly decorated, but can be considered forced and over-worked in some areas. Nevertheless, the final product resembles an eye successfully.
Working as a group
Working as a group was challenging. Squeezing seven people into a small space and getting them to work at the same time on the same drawing proved difficult, but each member was committed to completing and adding their own touch to the image. Whilst some people spent more time engrossed in the drawing than others, everyones' influence is clear. As a group, we were the first to finish and had plenty of time to spare on the final day to add finishing touches. This left us open to over-working the image, but I feel as though we coped well.
I learned not to feel too preciously about my own areas and to follow criticism and ideas from others. If one person felt they could improve my area, I learned to let them change areas without kicking up a fuss. Vice Versa, I also found working as a group to be extremely informative as I was opened to the different styles of each member.
Individually, I felt I committed a good amount of time to the drawing, but feel I could have gathered more information through greater work in my sketch book. I feel that my areas, whilst not as interesting as others, accurately represent the original eye which is what I set out to do. The drawing, in my opinion, is strong in its contrast between light and dark and the focus on the topic. It is weak in that some areas feel overworked or forced. Nonetheless, as the opening project for university, I feel it was extremely successful.