Dear Cleo 17 02 12


Dearest Cleo

Today is Sunday, my traditional catch up day with my coursework, although I haven’t written for several days I have not been idle. I got hold of some tracing paper and traced my motif and firstly I got carried away and did this.


Figure 1 (17 02 12 01) Still life Graphite and Sharpie on A4 tracing paper

It didn’t advance the compositional element much but drawing on tracing paper is such fun and the 4b pencil makes nice marks. I have noticed that the still life has that slightly wobbly feel that you get in a Cezanne still life. Cezanne achieved this, they say, by putting coins under one side of the objects in his still lives, whilst this is a possibility, it does not ring true, as he would have had to put a house brick under one of the feet of the models for his figure paintings. The most probable explanation is that Cezanne tilted the subjects in his drawings for effect, that this same effect can be achieved by placing coins under one side of the object, is probably an urban myth, no coins were harmed or used in the production of the above drawing. This drawing, however, did serve as a vital link in achieving the solution to this project but more about that later.

Using the tracing paper I traced the dominant features of the set up and produced the following two drawings. One of the best attributes about tracing paper is that if you do a drawing on it the flip side is free or DOGOF as it is known in the trade. Degas was a great exponent of this technique, flipping over the tracing paper to achieve a better composition long before the invention of Photoshop.


Figure 2 (17 02 12 02) Conception Graphite and Sharpie on A4 tracing paper


Figure 03 (17 02 12 03) DOGOF Conception Graphite and Sharpie on A4 tracing paper

Whilst both these reductive images still remind me of a bottle and a drinks can, I can see the alternative interpretation, hence the retitle. I can see how this image could be rendered as still life with three apples, probably in acrylics and fulfil the brief, but my reading was telling me that this was not the route to go down.

The book I am reading is called Reductionism in Art and Brain Science by the very learned scientist Eric R Candle. The premise so far, I am only up to page 35, is that nobody sees anything, the brain makes up what you see from signals passed to it by the retinas. These signals pass down two distinct nerve centres, one determines what it is, and the other determines where it is, before joining again in another bit of the brain, to complete the made up virtual picture.

The brain evolved for survival so it is easy to see that the where is is more important, whether it is a sabre toothed tiger or a rabbit, is less important than whether it is close enough to eat you my dear, to kill or be killed by anything that is near to you, is a secondary option.

In order to make up what your retina see the brain uses two processes to make things up, one is called bottom up thinking and the other is called top down thinking. Bottom up thinking is ingrained in us, we all know that light comes from above, that is the sun, so that is what the brain anticipates and why the light bulbs are on the ceiling of your house. Close your eyes and think sabre toothed tiger, you have never seen one, but you will be seriously afraid of the image your brain conjures up because, like elephants, the DNA never forgets. It is also the reason why babies can recognise faces and why ducklings adopt the first thing they see as their mother.

When the brain fails to find a sabre toothed tiger in the mix it uses top down thinking which is based on the experiences of the person in question, I can see a link here with phenomenology but it is early days yet so I will continue reading the book before reaching any valuable conclusions.

Perhaps a good timely example of these two phenomena, it being almost Valentine’s Day, is that love is blind. The bottom up brain thinks she is not as scary as a sabre toothed tiger and the top down brain thinks she is the prettiest girl I ever met so it could be the start of a beautiful friendship (Bogart; Casablanca)

Abstract art exists somewhere along the neurological pathways before your brain can make its virtual world up, most abstract art is dismissed by the brain as “a wall splashed with a number of stains” (Leonardo da Vinci) because the brain is unable to make up a plausible explanation for the signals the retina is sending to it.


Figure 04 (17 02 12 04) Sketch and thumbnails Graphite and Sharpie on A4 cartridge

With this in mind, I consider myself to be an experienced viewer of abstract art, so much so that it doesn’t blow my mind, I looked again at the image in figure 1 to see if I could find a solution to this problem. A sketch and two thumbnails later and I had it.

By ignoring the objects in figure 1 above I got a sense of the edge shapes and the central vortex, to prevent the eye diving down the vortex I have used two devices. Firstly the increasing width between the perimeter lines of the vortex that reverses the normal perspective effect and of course reversing the tonal shading of atmospheric perspective on the sides of the vortex. My Brain sees it as a flat two dimensional image, It doesn’t feel happy that it is unable to make up a virtual reality for itself but it has solved one of it’s problems, I can neither eat nor be eaten by a flat sheet of A4 cartridge paper.


Figure 05 (17 02 12 05) Strange star Graphite and Sharpie on A4 graph paper

The star shape was a dream from earlier in the sequence of this problem and whilst I am aware that stars are not flat, I got that I think from a brilliant bit of top down thinking by Galileo, drawings and pictures of stars are flat 2 dimensional images.

The tones brought something else back, Rothko’s floating colour fields, I almost dusted down the watercolours but no, that is for another day, I have 200 pages of a science book to read and need to progress to project 2 of this course but one day….

There are a number of people who deserve thanks for the inspiration provided to complete this problem and I would like to thank in no particular order Leonardo, Cezanne, Degas, Escher, Rothko, Photoshop, Google, Amazon Eric R Candle Drawing Now and Galileo. Not forgetting Mum, Dad and my teachers for the grounding in top down thinking I received and of course my ancient ancestor, the one who didn’t get eaten by the sabre toothed tiger for the bottom up thinking.

Goodnight Cleo


Dear Cleo 17 02 08

Dearest Cleo

There was one thing I forgot to tell you yesterday, I found a place on Youtube where they teach you how to pronounce Phenomenology, this may be to help you avoid looking like a prat when you use the word in normal everyday conversation. Lambert, Hegel and Husserl are the philosophers associated with this idea. Although I am still a little unsure of the concept, I have ordered Art and Phenomenology from Amazon, I have cancelled my prime membership so they are now delivering within a fortnight to convince me to come back to Prime, I will have a read and report back in five or six weeks.

This blog is getting very wordy so by way of a change I will tell you about my drawings, and put some pictures in.

I applied a grid by computer for the golden section to the photograph of the drawing I did the other day and I was pleased how close to the golden section the drawing was.



Figure 1 (17 02 08 01) Photograph of still life with golden Ratio superimposed grid, Computer generated image.

I then played about with two L shaped framing cards, did four crops and arrived at these eleven images;




Figure 2 (17 02 08 02) The villagers lined the route to the church of Santa Maria del Giorno for his funeral , Computer generated image


Figure 3 (17 02 08 03) Claude rested in the shade of the entrance to the Cemetery of Santa Maria del Giorno to wait for Guilliamairo’s widow, Computer generated image.



Figure 4 (17 02 08 04) Claude rested in the shade of the entrance to the Cemetery of Santa Maria del Giorno to wait for Guilliamairo’s widow reworked, Graphite on about A5 cartridge.



Figure 5 (17 02 08 05) Road to Luigi’s farm Computer generated image



Figure 6 (17 02 08 06) Marianne at the beach with fishing boat Computer generated image



Figure 7 (17 02 08 07) Reading the news Computer generated image


Figure 8 (17 02 08 08) Saxons awaiting the arrival of the Normans Computer generated image



Figure 9 (17 02 08 09) Jason enters the lair of the Gorgon Computer generated image



Figure 10 (17 02 08 10) The party Computer generated image



Figure 11 (17 02 08 11) Superman flew close to the turbine of the stricken airliner Computer generated image

As Leonardo once said, “look at the walls splashed with a number of stains or stones of warious mixed colours. If you have to invent some scene,you can see there resemblances to a number of landscapes, adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, great plains, valleys and hills, in various ways. Also you can see various battles, amd lively postures of strange figures, expressions on faces, costumes and an infinate number of things, which you can reduce to good integrated form. This happens on such walls and varicoloured stones (which act) like the sound of bells, in whose  pealing you can find every name and word you can imagine.

Do not despise my opinion, when I remind youthat it should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stainsof walls or the ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or likeplaces, in which if you consider them well, youmay find really marvelous ideas.

The mind of the painter is stimulatedto new discoveries, the composition of landscapes the composition of battrles of animals and men, various compositions of landscapes and monsterous things, such as devils and similar things, which may bring you honour, because by indistinct things the mind is stimulated to new inventions.”

I also took one of the photocopies and worked on it with a sharpie emphasising the lines radiating from the focal point and a star seemed to appear



Figure 12 (17 02 08 12) Star, Sharpie on A4 photocopy

I carried on with the sharpie and darkened the whole of the tabletop which threw the objects into greater relief.



Figure 13 (17 02 08 13) Star 2, Sharpie on A4 photocopy

Enough already for tonight, tomorrow I will get some tracing paper and see how that goes.

All the best


Dear Cleo 17 02 07

Dear Cleo

Well I have finished the introduction to drawing ambiguity and I now understand lots of things, but that was only with the help of Google.

Chaos theory is very similar to conspiracy theory but Chaos theory looks forward, whereas conspiracy theory looks into the past.

Chaos theory goes something like this, Chelsea are nine points clear at the top of the Premier league, it would take an incredible series of chaotic events for them not to win the Premier League, such as the centre forward sustaining an injury or a bad bounce of the ball at Sunderland, Watford and Burnley denying them the title. It could even be as a result of an Amazonian butterfly flapping its wings at the wrong time.

Conspiracy theory goes like this; we are going to name and shame the butterfly in the Amazon that denied Chelsea the title.

There was also the jerk equation, which no one but the janitor in Good Will Hunting could ever solve.  If I put an equation in my painting would it evoke subconscious feelings of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in viewers of a certain age? It was a pretty equation though but I don’t have the fonts to write it but think triple quadratic and you will have a good enough impression of it.

The book also introduced me to a number of philosophers and their ideas and with a bit of Googling I am beginning to know them but only in the sense that I know the postman, and definitely not in the sense that Vincent knew Joseph Roulin, his postman.

So I am learning lots but I am unsure as yet how it is helping with my drawing, maybe I should draw butterflies. Staying with the subject of drawing I have printed off some copies of my still life drawing and am playing about with them with marker pens and tracing paper, hopefully I can send you the results of my experiments tomorrow.



Dear Cleo 17 02 05

Dear Cleo

Today I had a busy day I watched four episodes of The Secrets of Drawing and continued with part 1 project 1

Drawing 2 Investigating drawing

PART 1 Exploring Composition

Project 1 observational drawing (continued)

I have decided that the coffee table is the last non arranged still life in the house, while I was blowing up the photographs, I became facinated with the pixels and did the following three drawings


Figure 07 (17 02 05 01) Pixelated still life, graphite on graph paper 200 x 160


Figure 08 (17 02 05 02) Pixelated still life crop, graphite on graph paper 160 x 110


Figure 09 (17 02 05 03) Playing with pixels, graphite on graph paper 160 x 110

I enjoyed doing this, I remembered that I had seen some Bridget Rilley Sketches on graph paper and fet that the graph paper would go with the pixelation. The first two are enlarged crops from the photographs working with the pixelated method ensures that adequate attention is paid to the whole of the picture surface right up to the edges.

Goodnight Darling


Dear Cleo 17 02 04

It is time to begin the serious work of completing the course so without further ado I plunge into Project 1

Drawing 2 Investigating drawing

PART 1 Exploring Composition

Project 1 observational drawing

I thought about the brief and then thought about it some more, and decided that there no inconspicuous areas of a room in my house.

I drew and painted my house numerous times in part I of this course without even considering the why.

Firstly the outside walls are a given, as are the external window and door shapes, laid down more than a hundred years ago by a builder and an architect to suit the living requirements of the time. Twenty years ago I extended the house at the back in conjunction with an architect to provide a better internal living space. From the outside the extension blends perfectly with the original design

The inside enclosed spaces were a given but over the course of a century there have been adaptions, only small but significant, the main one being knocking two rooms into one to form a larger living area.

The house forms a perfect living space for me and Freya my cat which is pretty amazing really as it was designed as a family home before the electrical age let alone the electronical age.

I have lived in this house for thirty years and have adapted it to suit the needs of a family, a weekend retreat for my daughters and a home for Freya and me, in every way the space has succeeded. I am in awe of the skill of the 19th century architect who designed a space flexible enough to achieve this.

Leaving aside the architect of this space, I have filled the space with furniture that I feel is sympathetic and functional with the internal space within the limits imposed by the designers of the furniture whom I feel sure communed with the architect of this space if only by Ouija board. How can Ikea furniture sympathise with architecture designed over a century ago in a different country? That it does is a tribute to Ikea’s designers. The furniture being large tends to be static which only leaves the ornamentation, the pictures on the wall change only when I have painted a better one and the statuary remains largely stationary.

To recap, my home is a vast still life arranged by me to be soothing to me, the only time there is ever an inconspicuous area of a room is a temporal one, an unmade bed, a pile of unwashed dishes, the shopping that has not been put away yet, the current painting I am working on or the books and magazines on the coffee table.

It is here that I focus on the coffee table, my cleaner rearranges the books and magazines on the coffee table so that they are in neat piles with their edges square to the coffee table edges my arrangement of these books and magazines is much more haphazard and I am wondering if it is a subconscious arrangement of a still life or an inconspicuous area of a room. Now that I have noticed the fact I suppose I will never know, because I will be forever conscious of the temporary still life on my coffee table.

I have taken some photographs of the way it is at present, it is only a day since the cleaner has been so it is still pretty orderly and I will take more photographs of the changes to it over the coming weeks as the coffee table becomes a fully functioning still life. In the meantime I will continue my search for an inconspicuous area of a room.



Figure 1 (17 02 05 01) Coffee table 01 photograph



Figure 02 (17 02 05 02) Coffee table 02 photograph



Figure 03 (17 02 05 03) Coffee table 03 photograph



Figure 04 (17 02 05 04) Coffee table 04 photograph



Figure 05 (17 02 05 05) Coffee table 05 photograph



Figure 06 (17 02 05 06) Coffee table 06 photograph

All the best


Dear Cleo 17 02 03

Dearest Cleo

Well little woman, thing are progressing at a pace already, Amazon, as is their want, posted Drawing Ambiguity Beside the lines of contenporary art through my letter box today, I only ordered it as it was recommended by Amazon when I tried to buy the book I really wanted. The book I really wanted and bought will only be delivered in about a weeks time, so I will write about that in the future.

I really enjoyed watching ” The School of Rock”with you, the last time I watched it was with your Mum an Aunty Loz when Aunty Loz was a little older than you are now

Following our meeting today, I read the preface and the introduction to Drawing Ambiguity and while it involved less than the normal ammout of words and pictures I need to look up on Google, it was still quite daunting. It included the following quote by Georges Perec “I put a picture up on a wall.Then I forget there is a wall…. The wall is no longer what delimits and defines the space ,that which separatesit from the other places where other people live. It is nothing more than a support for the picture.”

The quote is a summary plot of Stephen King’s novella “The Shawshank Rebellion” and hopefully you will have read the book before we watch the film together.

It set me to thinking though, that there is a relationship between great art and the soul or what is commonly known as the emotions or in art the expressiveness.

In the begining, art, music, drinking, dancing and feasting were aligned. The tribes’ Shaman with his mask and his musicians,the dancing, the smell and taste of the food and wine appealed to all five senses and so had the ability to touch the soul, or expressive qualities of his tribe.

In the so called dark ages the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths banned the production of graven images, probably to diminish the influence and the power of the shaman.and it was only in the fourth century that the christian church began to realiise that the combined exposure to multi sensory perception could effect the expressiveness of their flock or touch their souls. Think of being in a church looking at the artwork, listening to the choir, touching the woodwork of the bench, smelling and almost tasting the  the insence.

It is no wonder the movies  are popular, add popcorn and holding the hand of the person next to you, the next time you are there pay attention to the smell and why do you think the supermarket has an instore bakery. I think I read once that those great patrons of the arts, the Medici, popularised the opera during the Renaiscance.

Think now of Michaelangelo, touching and seeing the David while listening to the sound of his hammer and chisel and tasting and smelling the stone dust as he carved, his perceptory senses were fully engaged as his soul expressively sculpted the David.

Think of Vermeer, and Picasso whose paintings abound with musical instruments yet there is no stories of them being proficient musicions. I dont have a mandolin or a guitar to include in my still lives but I would readily include a musician to bridge that gap and why do oh so many still life paintings include wine or food as their subject?

Great art seems to come from deploying the five senses so that the soul or expression comes to the fore, even Vincent could have been listining to the voices on his head to complete the five.

I digress my dear, comming back to reallity (Billy Joel) here are todays sketches



Figure 1 (17 02 03 01) Marks on a washed down pub blackboard,Sharpie on A6 sketchbook



Figure  2 (17 02 03 02) Still life with wine  appealing to to the senses,Sharpie on A6 sketchbook

I know the titles are long but it saves me from going into paragraphs of explanation, maybe I already did that above.

Sleep well my dear

Love Mickos x

Dear Cleo 17 02 02

Dearest Cleo

Well it is time to move on from Mickos the hat my learning log to a new level,drawing 2 starts today. I have read the course outline and it seems pretty daunting, I remember all those years ago when I read the Mick Maslin book and the Experimental drawing book on the train on the way to life class in Bethnal Green. Maybe it is time to get them back out again and refresh my memory. It is time to get focused, gird your loins, think hard and embark on a whole new adventure. I have ordered the Primacy of Drawing and Drawing ambiguity from Amazon so I will have plenty to read tomorrow anyway.

I have been looking at cubist drawings and attempting to understand the thinking behind them, I bought  psuedoscope which is a contraption with mirrors offering a whole new vision of the world and I think I can see in a cubist way through it. It needs a good bit more experimentation yet but it offers hope in the investigation I am carryng on. I have attached my first feeble attempt of a cubist still life, let me know what you think.

I am having a whole new set of problems with the wordpress but I can see these being overcome with much time and a little bit of patience.


Figure 1(17 02 02) Still life. Graphite and Sharpie on A4 cartridge