8 things I’ve learnt

8 things I’ve learnt from the Foundation in Art and Design

  1. Think beyond the obvious. This has been the biggest lesson for me. The course trained us to follow a certain method during the life of a project: generate ideas about the topic/theme, perhaps use a mind map, and in the sketch book collect ‘visual information’ as far as possible from primary sources, leave aside any preconceptions about where the project may be leading;  explore each  idea as far as you can, look at the theme from different angles, I like the analogy that for each avenue to be explored we needed to squeeze all the juice out of the lemon; then develop the sketches and ideas that are the most interesting; stop and reflect – what works and why? finally refinethe best work into the final image(s).
  2. Knowing when to stop – not sure if I’ve really learned this yet. But after spending nearly a whole morning on one life drawing  I realised that the result was over-worked. If I had stopped after an hour the drawing would have been more spontaneous.  

  3. Linked to this – less is more . OK this sounds like a cliché, but this is another hard one for me to learn. Many of my drawings try to explain everything, but the best  images leave something to the imagination.

    pencil sketch of the Neovenator in Leicester Museum and Art Gallery







charcoal sketches of a dog's skull, done without looking at the page


This second image may not be conventionally accurate, but it has more going for it.

4. Do something – keep sketching. Sure, I get ideas by thinking about art (sometimes at 3.00 a.m.) but if I get stuck real progress and ideas are generated by doing. Get on with some drawing, experiment, don’t have preconceived expectations, just do something – in my experience an avenue will normally present itself.

5. But have your intention in mind, however modest. I made a model of a giraffe’s head using paper, wire and masking tape. I asked my tutor what’s the difference between this and  Blue Peter? The difference, I was told, was my intention – not to create something that was a replica of a giraffe, but perhaps to capture something else essential about the animal.

6.  I’m also learning to make room for chance. One of my favourite images for my final project was a piece of serendipity:

A torn image of a luxury watch from a magazine came to rest on a test print – the imaged wasn’t planned but it works

7. Research the topic and techniques. There are lots of aspects to this. For me, reading about artists and looking at their work has been vital – artists know things I don’t know and can do things I can’t do. For example, I find translating favourite pictures into colour palettes  really rewarding.

grid of the main colours that I see in "Still-life with White Vase"
part of Karl Schmidt-Rotluff's "Still-life with White Vase" 1921 Oil on Canvas

Early on the Foundation programme we did a project based on text. it culminated in the task of taking an old paperback, destroying it,  and creating it into something else.  My response was this:

flock wallpaper effect sticky-backed plastic on book pages

As you can guess, I was indignant about having to tear up a book for this project. But what I had failed to do was any research into book art. I didn’t realise that there was such a thing.  My reaction would not have been so blunt if I had taken the time to explore the huge range of book art out there,  which can be enchanting, respectful, clever, funny and beautiful.  One example is  Georgia Russell  

My visual response might have been the same – but my position would have been based on some knowledge, as well as emotion.

8. Contrast (colour contrast, pattern and texture, whatever)provides drama or tension; but lack of contrast can provide a different type of drama and atmosphere – I’m thinking about Gwen John for example.






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s