Part 1: Research point 1 – Expressive lines and marks

Look for contemporary works where you sense some of the artist’s feeling – where the marks, lines, etc., offer something of the artist’s state of mind. Look for speed, pressure, angles, curves, jabbing marks, disjointed and rough marks, etc. For example, see Julie Brixey-Williams’ drawing loctationotation at http://www.saatchiart.com/art/-loctationotation/91093/396898/view

Make notes in your learning log and consider whether art really is capable of expressing emotions. After all, a drawing is not (usually) a human being so how might it act as an emotional conduit between artist and viewer? Is it the image, the medium or the act that brought the art work into being that makes it ‘expressive’ or ‘expressionist’? Or is it all of these and more?

Studio table

Sarah Spackman, Studio Table, 2012 (charcoal, pencil and ink) (Jerwood Drawing Prize 2012 catalogue, p.73).

If you’ve already completed Pre-degree drawing: An introductory course, you’ll have experienced similar exercises intended to help you undo rigid ideas about ‘right and wrong’ ways to draw. Physical and material approaches to mark-making will make you more aware of what drawing can be and how you can embrace it as a way to express your own ideas with confidence. Above all, though, drawing should be pleasurable. So please don’t be intimidated by any of the activities – simply try them, take risks and enjoy the process. Even the most accomplished artist experiences disasters from time to time, so don’t be put off if this happens. It’s all part of the process of learning and of being an artist.


Lacewing, M. [n.d.] Expressivism: ‘Good art is moving or captures a mood or feeling’. [pdf] Available at: http://documents.routledge-interactive.s3.amazonaws.com/9781138793934/AS/Thevalueofart/Expressivism.pdf [Accessed: 12 May 2015].

‘…we can object that it is too restrictive to talk just of ‘mood’ or ‘feeling’. What is expressed is not just emotion. This misses out the intellectual aspects of art, the ideas that the artist is expressing. We can argue, then, that it would be better to talk of good art as expressing a vision rather than a feeling or mood.’

Expressivism pdf file

Margaret Davidson has observed in her 2011 book “Contemporary drawing: key concepts and techniques” that intentionality ‘…is the over-arching concept in contemporary drawing. It is the one main concept that every contemporary drawing artist needs to understand and use. It is what makes the difference between art with thought and meaning, and something soulless.’ An understanding of intentionality or vision is what we need to learn – to understand ‘…the how and why of drawing, as well as the what.’

Davidson, M. (2011) Contemporary drawing: key concepts and techniques. [Kindle e-book] New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, locations 2540 and 2552.

In “Drawing now: between the lines of contemporary art”, there are eight examples taken from Julie Brixey-Williams innovative project ‘locationotation’, in which she explores the way the human form shares and interacts with space through ‘movement and gesture to explore traces’. The project engaged 52 dancers who simultaneously performed a pirouette drawing using graphite powder on 21 x 29.6cm watercolour paper in 52 different locations at exactly the same time on Saturday 9th June 2001.

locationotation: Deborah Kay Ward, in front room, Islington, London N1, 11.30am on Sat 9th June 2001

JBW locationotation

Downs, S., et al (2007) Drawing now: between the lines of contemporary art. [Kindle e-book] New York: I.B. Tauris, location 1041.

In this pirouette drawing I can really sense the movement of the dancer (as artist) in the space, on the surface of the paper – in fact remembering that this drawing must have been a foot, heel, toe mark-making movement it is surprising to discern what could be the fleeting image of the upper torso of the dancer with head tilted back, face looking skywards and arms outstretched. It’s quite remarkable – what I see here is the energy, enjoyment and exuberance of that single pirouette.

locationotation: Beccy Birchill, on a lino floor, in the warm-up studio, Harbour House, Kingsbridge, Devon, 11.30am on Sat 9th June 2001

JBW locationotation 2

Downs, S., et al (2007) Drawing now: between the lines of contemporary art. [Kindle e-book] New York: I.B. Tauris, location 1089.

In as similar way, this drawing says two different things to me: firstly, the explosion of the pirouette from start to finish is captured beautifully, and secondly, a shell-like image resonant of the coastal location of the studio.

The German artist Birgit Megerle is primarily known for paintings that seem to suggest ‘a frozen meeting point where the histories of photography, cinema and theatre overlap with that of painting. Static and muted, often rendered in grisaille*, they depict moments of non-event that seem heavy with emptiness’. Phaidon Editors (2011) Vitamin P2: new perspectives in painting. London: Phaidon Press, p210.

Her untitled coloured pencil on paper drawing depicting two figures standing still against a kind of macabre background featuring a shimmery skeleton with more obvious skull is like a ‘frozen meeting point’ between life and death.

BM Untitled

The background dance of death surrounds the vibrant young couple and you wonder if the breaking through of the skeleton’s skull into their reality is a premonition of impending doom for one or both of the figures clinging onto their colourful, vibrant life.

The drawing has a scary, eerie quality to it which is evoked for me in the artist’s mark-making, use of line and scraping/ smudging of the drawing medium.

The background seems to be almost sucking at the life-force of the figures, wrapping itself around them in an ominous fashion and they are bravely holding on.

Megerle, B. (2010) Birgit Megerle. [Exhibition catalogue] Berlin: Stenberg Press, p.43.

[*grisaille: a technique of monochrome painting in two or three shades of gray. Mayer, R. (1991) The artist’s handbook of materials & techniques. 5th ed. London: Faber & Faber, p644.]

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Barriball, A. (2005) Brick wall. [Graphite pencil on paper] Tate [Online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/display/focus-slow-looking-contemporary-drawing [Accessed: 8 May 2015]

Part of a Tate BP Display series “Focus: Slow Looking: Contemporary Drawing”, this drawing by Anna Barriball has sculptural qualities in the depiction of the brick wall captured on the flat space of the paper. For me, there is a real sense that I could run my fingers across the wall, and even trace the mortar between the bricks.

Picasso %22Self portrait facing death%22

Picasso, P. (1972) Self portrait facing death. [Crayon on paper] In: Collings, M. This is modern art. London: Seven Dials, p.263.

Drawn less than a year before his death, this self portrait was drawn with crayon on paper. “A friend, Pierre Daix, tells of his memory of the piece on a visit to Picasso, ‘[Picasso] held the drawing beside his face to show that the expression of fear was a contrivance.’ Then on another visit 3 months later, Pierre recalled the harsh coloured lines were even deeper, and Pierre writes, ‘He did not blink. I had the sudden impression that he was staring his own death in the face, like a good Spaniard.’”

So, what do I see here regarding Picasso’s feeling, his state of mind at the time of drawing his self portrait? Staring eyes, yes probably unblinking, staring death (or the prospect of death) in the face. The stubbly face hair marks and almost cruel lines of old age. And if I half close my eyes I get a skull-like image floating in front of me.

Clarkson, A. (2010) ‘Pablo Picasso: self-portrait facing death (1972)’, Pallimed: Arts and Humanities, 26 July [Online] Available at: http://arts.pallimed.org/2010/07/pablo-picasso-self-portrait-facing.html [Accessed: 8 May 2015]

Automobile tire print

Rauschenberg, R. (1953) Automobile tire print. [Automobile tire, black paint on paper] [Online] Available at: http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/collection/artwork/25845  [Accessed: 8 May 2015]

I didn’t manage to make a temporary drawing using a wheel/tire in the warm-up exercises. However, I managed to find this example of an artist extending the line beyond the flat surface into real space, illustrating the dynamics of the line itself. Featuring in Gallery 6 of MoMa’s online resource ‘onLINE: Drawing through the twentieth century’, Robert Rauschenberg pioneered this new form of making art, blending performance elements using manufactured objects. In this case, “Rauschenberg instructed fellow artist John Cage, an avant-garde composer, to drive his Model A Ford in a straight line through a pool of black house paint and down a long strip of paper. The result is a print in which tire tracks form a direct record of the car’s [the manufactured object] movement down the street.”

web Two together  pencil and charcoal(1)

Spackman, S. (n.d.) Two together. [Pencil and charcoal on paper] [Online] Available at: http://www.sarahspackman.com/page4.htm [Accessed: 12 May 2015]

Sarah Spackman’s drawing still-life ‘Two together’ uses pencil and charcoal to create a painterly perspective to the drawing of the desk, desk-top, paper, bulldog clips and background enclosure – darker, blended mark making in the foreground, gradually receding to fainter suggestions of the physical space. There is a looseness about the drawing that is pleasing to my eye and, while it is a fairly simple uncluttered composition with the eye drawn to the darker clips sitting atop the white space of the paper, it does express a kind of duality: in one sense paper and clips lying on a well worn/worked desk [physical]; and in another sense ideas of randomness/creativity (the raggedly stacked paper) and tidiness (the crisply drawn clips) [intellectual].

Research point 1 pdf file

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
24 May 2015