Dear Bryan 17 04 12

Dear Bryan

Thank you so much for a lovely warm conversation in the Google Hangout this evening. It brought one massive thing home to me, it is not always wise to relate all one’s correspondence exclusively to a close confident but that sometimes you can branch out and have a more than useful dialogue with another correspondent.

The hangout started with a brief discussion about how the stakes were now higher with less brief at this level to direct the course of my studies, placing the onus firmly and squarely on me to become the owner of my own destiny.

Since about the 1960’s art has devolved from movements and schools into a greater individuality and freedom, and each must attain mastery of his own destiny. Whilst the great masters had individuality and freedom there is perhaps a particularly individual role enjoyed by British artists such as Constable, Bacon, Turner, Freud and Blackadder, not forgetting such contemporary talents as Emin, Hurst and Riley. British artists have a remarkable individuality even though it is possible to trace Hurst’s glass tanks back to Bacon’s “virtual rooms” and Emin’s use of the bed as an artistic motif  back through Rauschenberg’s Bed of 1955 through Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait and as far back as Giotto’s The death of Saint Francis. The use of the bed as art is not really as revolutionary as the Daily Mail or The Telegraph would have you believe.

I was pleased to learn that you advocate that seeing art in real life is a totally different experience from looking at art in tiny reproductions in books and on the internet that goes in total avoidance of the wow factor. I forgot to tell you my sight theory, everybody is looking at things in their phone or computer screen and almost all emails come with a warning not to print them off to save a tree, why the warning?, because we are going to need an awful lot of trees to carve the white sticks out of for the blind people who have spent a lifetime squinting at screens.

You echoed some of my own doubts about the format of the “Dear Cleo thing” in that I will need to manage it carefully to allow for the sophistication necessary for degree level writing that is not always compatible with the understanding of a six year old, and I take this on board fully and in any case, from tonight, I have realised that I have more than one correspondent and can express my loftier concerns to you. In my defence, as I said, I find it easier to write when I know my audience and the easier I write the better understood I will be when a stranger comes to read it on my blog, and as you well know there are a lot of Strange people on the internet. You can see above and below that I am already trying to become more specific and referential in my writing this has a dual effect, it slows me down a bit but I don’t have to refer to the Arnolfi thing and have the correct spelling and official title of the painting in my virtual brain, God help me when the electric goes off.

When I started the course with the title Investigating Drawing I thought I would be investigating other famous people’s drawings or at least comparing their drawings with my own, I never realised that I could compare my drawings with each other, but now you have pointed this out, this is surely the way forward to develop my own talent, to be discerning (used in perfect context) to find the way forward and sort out the dross from the good stuff so as to distil the excellence and progress. It’s funny how it seems (The Carpenters) that the greatest discoveries come from listening to other people.

I was supremely interested in the discussion we had on my sketch books and life drawings. I had always considered them to be kind of throwaway stuff I do to keep my hand in practice for when I do a proper drawing but recently I have come to think that the energy in them must migrate into my proper drawings. I had a chance to look over the ones you referenced and discovered something remarkable. Your favourites were done when I was relaxing with a glass of wine, I wonder if they would get better with absinth, they might but I wouldn’t. The wirey people are relatively static but the scribbly people are generally dancers and singers, perhaps I need to use a different technique to portray movement and that is something I can take forward and experiment a bit with. The life drawing with halo’s was something I was trying to do to introduce more mark making into my life drawing and I think that the negative space around the halo can count towards carrying a picture to the edge of the frame and thus paying attention to the background.

The discussion on the projects and assignment was lively and I learned the most from the talk of the background of the hand and can totally understand now where you are coming from, that it was a missed opportunity to introduce more tension and life into the drawing. Knowing about Alvarez Closet Series of drawings will enable me to investigate pixilation further and have another go at that and I can already see a link to the parallel project in Twombly.

The discussion of my ideas for my proposed parallel project and critical review was well received, in the coming weeks I will make a start at formulising it after I have done a little more reading around the subject.

This was my sixteenth assignment review, and by far the best, almost like a coming of age. For the first time I realised how much effort the tutor puts into an assignment and the thought process behind it. Seeing it face to face has saved weeks of thinking and wondering before getting  so angry as to write an email saying “Excuse me but exactly what did you mean by these three words in the middle of the five pages of writing you sent.” I know it may be a money thing but I think this way of doing it would be very helpful to students at level four, I know it would have helped me back then.

The technology of the event was quite surprising but very enjoyable, I kept wanting to shout to the Kitchen “You will never guess who is on our telly, Mam!” and I now have a new technological toy to play and experiment with to create stuff.

All the best


PS Just in case you didn’t check them out up the page, here again are the pictures that go with the writing.

Dear Cleo 17 04 01

Dear Cleo

Well now you are on your Easter Hols, I hope the end of term went well and you are excited by what lies ahead in the next fortnight.

Me, I just found another exercise at the end of the course which is a sort of self critique to see if you are smart enough to agree with your tutor’s impressions of your work so here goes.

Demonstration of visual and technical skills

Mickos used a wide range of materials including graphite, ink, Conte crayons, charcoal and acrylic paint, unfortunately he used canvas for the support of one of his acrylic works which technically makes this work a painting it will need to be redone if he intends to submit it for assessment as a drawing. He is confident in his technical ability but needs to get more of the immediacy from his sketchbooks into his final pieces. He displays good observational skills but has a tendency to tighten up in his final pieces to achieve a sense of realism, however, the realism of the crushed cans in the Blackadder response is quite free and loose, and the apples in the assignment piece are not really apples but a symbol for apples and as such work well. His design and compositional skills have come on in leaps and bounds since studying Blackadder and recognising the importance of pattern and the edges of the painting, this was a skill that he developed well in the assignment piece. (31%)

Quality of outcome

The content of Mickos’ blog reflects well the issue he is grappling with at the time he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of art of the past and applies it well to his work, even if at times it causes his work to have a derivative feel, for instance the assignment piece has a distinct feel of not very close follower of Cezanne. His Blog is clearly written and easy to navigate, I am not too sure about the Dear Cleo format, but given time, it may develop, and it worked for another madman didn’t it. Mickos has no concept of the word discernment, so I shall refrain from commenting until he understands the word, let alone the concept, however, he is well able to conceptualise his thoughts and express his ideas. (15%)

Demonstration of creativity

Mickos showed a good sense of imagination experimentation and invention in his responses to projects 1 and 3 of part 1 of the course using the framing angles to good effect to investigate his  own drawings to produce new compositions and imaginative landscapes. I would suggest that he buys more framing angles and incorporates them into his work on a permanent basis rather than as computer generated prints.  I look forward to him experimenting with collage because I sense he may have an aptitude for it. With regard to personal voice, at this time it feels like Mickos is doomed to be a bad Karaoke singer but with effort and application this could change, his raw natural talent could mature into something quite distinctive and tuneful. (19%)


Mickos reflects well on what he is doing and what he has done in terms of art history and theory but lacks politicisation. He needs to rediscover his Trotsky roots and make art that has verve and feeling and impact. I was impressed by the connection he made with Blackadder but it somehow lacked a sense of anger. Mickos needs to rediscover his sense of anger and outrage and channel it into his work. Perhaps his critical reviews and essays should come as post scripts to his letters to Cleo and should have proper Harvard referencing. Otherwise, I can see he has read widely around the subject and his written work is easy to read (16%)


Mickos has scored an astonishing 81%. I think this reflects more my high opinion of him, rather than his actual achievement on this part of the course, however, it is a strong beginning ,and bodes well that with full application, Mickos will complete the course,  if not to his full expectations, with at least a creditable pass.

Well there you go Cleo; I can already hear you saying “this Mickos is full proof that you are the student and not the teacher”. It is good to dream, but not let dreams to be your master (Kipling),  have given my all, I now give part 1 to my tutor in the hope he looks upon  it as kindly as I.

My love as always,

Mickos  x

Dear Cleo 17 03 31

Dearest Cleo

I hope you are well and that you did your homework today without all the grief that you gave your Daddy last Friday while I was at your house. I know you were a bit over whelmed by the day but I hope you have settled down now and are back in the routine. Keep the head down babe and throw the tantrum when no one can see.

For me, I have finished my homework for part 1 of my course; I have enjoyed it immensely and had great fun doing it discovering more about my art and myself at every turn. I had a bit of self doubt here and there and I think I may have done a slight wrong turn in interpreting Matisse on canvas rather than on paper. I was a little confused and over excited but I now think I understand that the outlying definition of a drawing is that it must be on paper, whatever the medium.

Investigating my own drawings was a bit of a first or me, I only used to use them for squaring up from, it was strange to let them grow from a carefully arranged composition of a still life into a new  composition altogether.

I found the Blackadder School of composition very interesting because I didn’t look at patterns that way this new way of seeing was very beneficial on the gallery visits I have been on sonce studying that part of this course.

The research I have done in this part of the course seems to be feeding back into  my drawings in ways that I don’t fully understand yet, space seems to be opening up in my sketches, maybe I am learning to see in a different way, and perhaps I am. I want to see the discrete steps of the thought process that produces seeing in my brain, I know it all happens in milliseconds but there must be a way of slowing it down so that I can watch the growth of the fully formed image. A bit like the Abstract Expressionist paintings by Ad Reinhardt that are black but if you take the time to look, the colours appear as if by magic. (this even happens with the reproductions but is much better in real life)

So I am back now to Leonardo’s staring at the patterns on stained walls but I think I am beginning to see more than I did before.

Stay lucky until the weekend and I will see you then.