Part 5: Assignment 5 – Depicting your environment


For your final assignment on this course, you’ll produce a group of paintings, drawings or other images that describe aspects of your environment. The number of images will differ from student to student, depending on the nature of your work: discuss this with your tutor.

Your final work might include a combination of any of the media and materials you’ve already used. Here are some ideas:
• using pieces of pottery or things you find in your garden
• pin rubbish out onto a piece of cardboard or paper so that it lies as flat as possible and looks a little like a Victorian etymological display
• ink tonal sketches of the town, village, city, countryside where you live
• a ‘journey’ around your room.
• your pets or the animals in your neighbourhood (look at David Hockney, Elizabeth Blackadder and Stella Vine)
• painting something from the TV (e.g. Natalie Dowse).

You could start by making a quick photo/drawing/painting of:
• faded bits of wallpaper or patches where the sun has faded the surface
• under your bed
• writing in steam on the bathroom window
• shadows/light photos
• houses in your neighbourhood lit up at night (e.g. Barry Sykes)
• a photo of you each day as soon as you wake up
• a fly on the windowsill (can you paint the sound?)
• the view from your window
• the food you eat
• a streetlamp going on or off
• changing light or the way light hits a wall/ornament inside or outside your house
• found images in your house: photographs, the paintings or pictures on your wall, etc.
• rubbings of the textures around your environment. (You could then make paintings of the rubbings. This is one of the techniques that Hayley Field uses, along with documenting the changes in light of her studio.)

Even if you don’t use images from these quick drawings/paintings in your final collection they may affect the way you work and you may return to these methods in other projects. The broader the range of materials you use, the greater the choice you have for selecting the perfect combination of media to communicate your ideas in the most articulate and self-aware way possible.

Here are some ways in which you might choose to depict your subject matter:
• any painting media already used on this course – or a new one
• photographs
• drawings
• monotype
• layering paintings into drawings
• film on your phone
• coloured pencils
• silverpoint drawing
• rubbings
• monoprint.

Use one of the range of surfaces listed in earlier exercises and assignments. Or use envelopes that come through your letterbox or paper/newspaper/packaging you have in your house. You’ll need to edit and curate your work to produce your final assignment collection. Think about:
• How do the images work together? Do they tell a story?
• Does one look out of place? Why? What, if anything, should go in its place?
• How do you want the collection of images to look – harmonious, barely there, striking, overwhelming, subtle, discordant, child-like, complex, tonally similar?

Pretend you haven’t created the objects but have been told to ‘curate’ them, i.e. give them some sort of coherent context. You might want to try this a few times to see how works in a collection can gain very different meanings when presented in different ways. Photograph each presentation and make some brief notes in your learning log. You might want to try a few locations for presenting your final selection. Try to steer clear of using props or anything too ‘twee’. Maybe find a wall or walls in your house where you can group your paintings – your bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, sitting room or loo.

Assignment inspiration

The reading, thinking and the work produced during the course of Part 5 has, for me, come to some kind of distillation in the assignment. Wandering and wondering has inspired me to attempt to grasp what I feel now about my own local environment and express that feeling as a single simple motif – what is it, a plant, a weed, a tree, an imagined non-place?

My ‘garden’ desert island is not remote, nor is it populated – it is instead an imagined place, a dream-like condensing of images and ideas. It is, as Peter Davidson proposes in his 2005 The idea of North, “… the idea that place is composed both of physical geography and of essence or idea.” (p.30).

I have attempted to lay hold of what ‘my place’ means to me – a retreat, a safe place, even an idea of paradise.

So, my motif, both image and idea, relies on a generic representation of nature based on the many shapes and forms of the plants, trees and weeds that have populated my work in the exercises, gelled with an idea or essence of what ‘my place’ means to me.

I have used a variety of found objects – packaging, pottery and wood – and techniques – monotype, rubbing – and thinned oil paint to create the pieces.

Finished paintings

Part 5: Assignment 5 – Depicting your environment “My garden ‘desert island'” [wood block ink study & coloured ink on index card]
I made a wood-block cut of the image on a found piece of wooden decking (see below) and before painting it with oils I tried out a ink block print (see above). But, surprise, the only image transferred to paper was the black lines of the raised sections of the decking – not really what I was after. You can still see the black ink lines though in the piece completed with coloured inks.

Part 5: Assignment 5 – Depicting your environment “My garden ‘desert island'” [carved wood block – oil on offset of decking board]
Part 5: Assignment 5 – Depicting your environment – hand-made press for monotype prints

I made this from an old found screw press that was used for squeezing fruit in a metal container. I adapted the screw mechanism to fit on a frame using pieces of scrap MDF board and a length of copper pipe – reasonably successful, but probably rubbing over the paper on the glass plate is just as, if not more, productive. I used the press for my ink block print and for the two monotypes below.

Part 5: Assignment 5 – Depicting your environment “My garden ‘desert island'” [monotype print 1 – oil on A4 250gsm Bristol Board]
Part 5: Assignment 5 – Depicting your environment “My garden ‘desert island'” [monotype print 2 – oil on A4 250gsm Bristol Board]
Part 5: Assignment 5 – Depicting your environment “My garden ‘desert island'” [Amazon packaging 1 – oil on 20 x 19cm packaging offcut]
This fantasy image includes a small interpretation from one of my sketch ideas – the TV image seen as a reflection through a window – thinking about my garden ‘desert island’.

Part 5: Assignment 5 – Depicting your environment “My garden ‘desert island'” [Amazon packaging 2 – oil on 26 x 15.5cm packaging offcut]
‘Rate this packaging’ – how has it come to this? I’m in my place, my space – leave me alone.

Part 5: Assignment 5 – Depicting your environment “My garden ‘desert island'” [rubbing – graphite powder on Bristol Board, sealed in clear plastic and trimmed to shape]
Part 5: Assignment 5 – Depicting your environment “My garden ‘desert island'” [Garden pottery – oil on piece of broken jardiniere]
Part 5: Assignment 5 – Depicting your environment “My garden ‘desert island'” [found 30 x 22cm oval wooden plaque – oil on wood with beads, shells and stones]
The found oval plaque was hidden in a tree in the garden, forgotten about. It originally had inlays of different kinds of wood within the design, but year’s of weathering has seen most of this fall away. I used the found plaque to make the rubbing with graphite powder, used it as template for all the other pieces in this ‘garden’ collection, and finally brought new life back to the neglected plaque by dressing it up in the image above.

Curated collection

Part 5: Assignment 5 – Depicting your environment “My garden ‘desert island'” – curated collection 1
Part 5: Assignment 5 – Depicting your environment “My garden ‘desert island'” – curated collection 2

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
27 June 2017


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Open College of the Arts (OCA) student currently studying Drawing 2

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