Dear Cleo 18 03 01

Dearest Cleo

I hope you are not too cold and that you are enjoying your day off school, snow days weren’t invented back in 1963 we were made of sterner stuff back then so today I am enjoying my first snow day ever.

Well I have done the sketches for project 1 and thought about the context and investigated the background, thought about the composition and the form I guess all that remains is to produce a decent drawing to complete this exercise.

To refresh your memory, this was the initial sketch.

Figure 1 Initial sketch graphite on A4 cartridge

This was the first development in the sketchbook.

Figure 2 First development graphite and sharpie on A4 cartridge

It was at this point I got fed up of flicking the pages of the sketchbook so I did this and continued to work in a process similar to that of Degas with tracing paper. It is an old technique and you may remember that Raphael used a similar process using pouncing when working with Marcantonio.

Figure 3 Setting the stage graphite and sharpie on A4 cartridge

Having escaped from the sketch book I tried quite a free approach using the sharpie.

Figure 4 Sharpie on A4 tracing paper

While it had a bit of movement in it, I didn’t think it had a lot of places to go other than accentuating the movement but then it would have become a sort of Italian futurist pastiche or descend into a comic book.


Back to the tracing paper to make this.

Figure 5 Sharpie and Graphite on A4 tracing paper

My life classes helped in achieving believable proportions in my figures but in the life room people stand still, now I have to learn to make them move.

Cue several weeks watching people walk. I remember Joey or Chandler changing their walk, everybody walks differently just try people watching for an hour or so. If you go to the zoo all the animals seem to walk in the appropriate way for their species, all racehorses walk with the grace of a thoroughbred except the ones I choose to bet on, but all humans walk differently. I invented a completely un-provable theory that the difference in ways of walking is somehow due to the distance between the settee and the armchairs in your parent’s home. This helped with grouping the various types of walk into long distance, medium distance and short distance and no armchairs, I am resolved that there are four basic types of walking but there are sub-categories dependant on the size of the coffee table or other obstacles in the way of those early walks. Try changing your walk like Joey and Chandler, it is impossible, you have to concentrate on what your legs are doing, you didn’t do that since you were two.

That research over, I made this.

Figure 6 Sharpie and Graphite on A4 tracing paper

I was establishing the proportions and the perspective as well as trying to make them walk, having conquered those problems the research paid off and I drew these fairly convincing walkers straight out of my head. I tried to depict all four basic types of walker so you will learn to recognise them in your people watching.

Figure 7 Graphite on A4 tracing paper

Now that I had a handle on the walking business, I considered the composition returning to my earlier considerations of the stage. While the portrait format was fine for developing figures, all great history paintings are landscape format because that is basically the way we see. It is also why stages and screens are landscape format.

So I made this.

Figure 8 First compositional sketch Graphite and sharpie on A4 tracing paper

A bit more thinking produced this.

Figure 9 Second compositional sketch Graphite and sharpie on A3 tracing paper.

I was fairly happy with the composition now and with a bit more tweaking I produced a full size cartoon.

Figure 10 Cartoon Graphite and sharpie on A2 sugar paper.

This is probably the juncture to discuss the composition of the piece as the last commentary will be about the making.

As already mentioned landscape is the format of our vision but we see more of what is in front of us and below us rather than the ceiling glance around the room now and confirm this you, see it works for you too. So while we all walk differently we all see more or less the same the ceiling is not so important to humans, the reason for this is probably because Pterodactyls were extinct but the time we came along and the now forgotten stone age proverb which is difficult to translate but goes something like “he who walks under trees with get a sabre tooth hat”. The imminent danger was from being charged by a wild animal or from something like a snake or a crocodile jumping out of the long grass. Degas knew this look, at the acres of floor on his ballet dancer drawings and paintings. The reason there is so much ceiling in my composition is because when I did the initial sketch I was sitting down in a low chair looking up at the pretty faces, If you are sitting down reading this look up at someone standing in the room and whoops, where did all that ceiling come from, don’t try this in the garden though in case there is something deadly lurking in the grass. As you know from reading this blog, I still have the meteorite hole in the ceiling, absolutely nobody sees it unless I get up to get them a drink. Nobody looks up, which is probably why so few UFO’s are spotted, in the old days ceilings were dark from fumes from the fire (it’s what we had before central heating) or the nicotine staining of the cigarette smoke. Walls were wall papered, ceilings were dark places where spiders and bats lurked. Anyway that is why there is so much ceiling in my composition and not as much floor as a Degas.

Well after all that reading and sketches you deserve a pretty picture and here it is at last.

Figure 11 From the settee to the armchair, charcoal on A2 tracing paper.

I used a few other compositional devices to induce a sense of movement, the open door at the back was a device Velazquez used to move your eye through the picture in Las Meninas, doors are normally closed so relating the figures to open doors increases the sense of movement. You may not have noticed but there are no cast shadows, this is normal in eastern art, a cast shadow anchors a figure down. The wing walls at the front produce a corridor like space where you expect someone to walk out of and into the picture space at any moment as well as being a Blackadder type buffer to slop your eye wandering off the right hand edge of the frame

The making was not so difficult, I have recently seen Degas’ pastel drawings on tracing paper and wanted to try it. I didn’t think it would work as well as it did because tracing paper is very smooth but I quickly got used to technique.

It saved me from squaring up the cartoon and allowed me to make changes as I went without being constricted by outlines. My avoidance of large flat areas of colour was helped, I think, by studying cubism in my parallel project.

I nearly forgot, and I know you are dying to know, the big guy at the front had a long distance between the settee and the armchair, the lady on the left had a medium distance, the lady on the right had a short distance and a small coffee table and the guy at the back had no armchair a large coffee table and two dining chairs.

Well you made it to the end, well done, and remember to look up because as Oscar Wilde said, that is where the stars are.

Perhaps the snow will ease and we can go back to work and school tomorrow.

My love as always

Mickos xx

Dear Cleo 18 02 24

Dearest Cleo

Thank you again for the great day out we had on Saturday I’m hoping that Auburns flu is better, it should be, its only boy flu, he isn’t old enough yet to get full blown man flu.

Going back to the problem of stages and moving images, the next time you watch an old drawn Disney movie reflect on how solid the background or stage set is and how full of life the characters are. A cartoon is merely one of my sketches pulled out over time and just like the old master paintings, a film is something that tricks the eye into believing in an alternative reality.

I am a great believer in synchronicity, I only ever buy The Times when I have a lot of time to kill, I bought a copy on the day the car was being serviced, and this was their current ad campaign

Figure 1 Advertisement for The Times 1

I bought another copy the Saturday after.

Figure 2 Advertisement for The Times 2

Both pictures are impossible but both are showing the effect of time on a given stage, your brain can interpret, understand, relate to and make sense of the nonsense your eye is seeing, just like watching a film.

I almost forgot, it is half term for you, I hope you are enjoying it.

My love as always

Mickos xx

Dear Cleo 18 02 12

Dearest Cleo

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow you’re in luck, it’s going to be a Mickos day we will be gone early and come back late and plan as we go.

When I was sketching the other day, the first thing I thought of was this.

Figure 01 Perspectival sketch for Adoration of the Magi Leonardo da Vinci

You can see how carefully he has crafted the architecture or stage to give a sense of space for his actors to move around in. Notice how lightly drawn his actors are and how in places they are transparent with the set showing through. One of the best examples being the camel at the foot of his stairs, how the form looming out of the page is suddenly flattened when you notice the stairs grinning through.

The second thing I thought of was this.

Figure 02 Nude descending a staircase, reworked photograph with watercolour pencil and pastel Marcel Duchamp

Again, notice how solid the steps and the background areas opposed to the lightness of the figure, calling the stage to mind. There is another curious thing about this, while it looks like a sketch for the painting, it was actually done two years after the painting was completed on a photograph of the painting using chalks and watercolours.

So when you sit in the Mercedes garage in Waltham Cross there are always giants upon whose shoulders you can sit.

Thank you for the great time we had at the zoo, and I have to agree with you, I too thought the white tiger was the best

My love as always


Mickos xx

Dear Cleo 18 02 11

Dear Cleo

I missed seeing you and Auburn last weekend and I am looking forward to catching up this weekend I brought you something nice back from Paris which I think you will like.

There was a recall on the Mercedes which meant I had to wait around in Waltham Cross for half a day, it was an ideal opportunity to start to come to grips with project 1. In addition to my trusty A6 sketchbook and pen I took a new red A5 sketchbook and some pencils.

I am quite used to drawing in my A6 sketchbook and no one seems to pay much heed but I reasoned that if the bigger sketchbook was red it would look official and people would pay less heed, this proved to be the case and I sketched untroubled.

The girl at the reception desk in Mercedes directed me to a seat opposite the toilets and it was too good an opportunity to miss. I drew the figures moving by at speed and then drew in heavier the background that wasn’t disturbed by the motion of the figures.

Figure 1 A5 sketch on A5 cartridge paper

The sketch immediately reminded me of Leonardo’s perspective study for the adoration of The Magi and Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase and I resolved to investigate this further when I got back to the studio.

But more than either of those the sketch suggested a stage with actors passing through, this was a theme that was to stay with me throughout the day. There was something about the world being a stage where each and every one of us must play his part (TM Shakespeare/Presley) that kind of gripped me and probably influenced the rest of my sketches.

I did the next sketch in the bar of the Weatherspoon’s while I was waiting for my lunch to be served, as you know there is no music in Weatherspoon’s so I was fairly conscious of the conversations drifting around me when I had finished the sketch, I took a page of the sketchbook and jotted down recurring phrases, as I have said already, I was feeling fairly theatrical and this seemed to fit the mood. Looking at it now it seems to sum up a Weatherspoons on that particular day, I am not good at using words in my creations but maybe I will find a way to distil these particular works into a design that does conjure up a Weatherspoon’s on a cold Tuesday afternoon.

Figure 2 A5 sketch graphite on A5 cartridge

Figure 3 words graphite on A5 cartridge

I had realised that I only needed a brief indication of the figures to establish the perspective of the figures within the stage from observation, the moving figures could be conjured up from memory and imagination with maybe a little help from my lay figures. The stage is the solid part the figures are ephemeral, the emphasis I think of the quote from Shakespeare is on the permanence of the stage and the world and the ephemeral nature of the actors passing through this permanence over time.

It is a bit like life really, these bricks will remain after I am gone, solid, immovable whilst I once ghosted in front of them, your creations will outlive you, whether they be children, buildings or works of art that become increasingly valuable for having exceeded your lifespan, a relic from a former time.

This is getting a bit deep here, and I am sure this must have been debated philosophically by people far cleverer than I but I am just saying.

Figure 4 A5 sketch graphite on A5 cartridge

The last sketch was completed few days later in Farringdon while I was waiting to go to a meeting, you can see how the human presence has been reduced to a few Giacometti like lines to indicate the perspective of the actors that can easily be added later a la Degas.

The stage has time, the actors do not, their time is relatively short, instantaneous in passing through the stage. it is only through the changing of the stage, that a story progresses and is confirmed as a play or an instant as a painting.

Thank you to the Mercedes recall for the opportunity to think clearly about the bigger picture or bigger stage.

That was heavy darling, I hope you made it to the end and I am looking forward to seeing you at the weekend

My love as always


Mickos xx

Dear Cleo 18 01 21

Dear Cleo

I had a great day yesterday playing with you and Auburn and Little Women was a better film than I thought it would be before you made me watch it.

Today’s consideration is time, specifically time in relative to drawing.

A small drawing in my A6 sketchbook rarely takes more than a minute or two, but that doesn’t include the looking, the sifting of the scene to decide which part of the scene is worthy of record or might grow into a painting someday. The looking and selecting takes the time, sometimes I can look for a whole evening before making a two minute sketch and sometimes I make a two minute sketch as drawing practice just because I need it, it is then that the sketch takes 2 minutes.

With regard to looking at the sketches, I suppose I am the one that looks at them more than most, contemplating, wondering how to make them grow into a painting, photographing them to put them on the blog and flicking through them to find the next page in the sketchbook. I have never been guarded with my sketchbooks and willingly hand them over to anyone who is interested, looking at them afresh to answer the questions, Where is that? or When was that?

My tutors look at the sketches, I presume looking for the rawness of my creativity, sometimes they seem to find it, other times not, for every sketch I have an opinion on, others have a different opinion.

The viewers to my blog see my sketches, the stats tell me so, but what the stats don’t tell me is how long a visitor spent looking at a piece of my work, time it seems is relegated to a click on the internet, the internet deals with clicks and not contemplation. I can hardly blame them, I suppose, I myself have visited major artists retrospectives in museums in less than two hours, but that of course excludes the research I do before I go, when I get there I have no need to read the writing on the walls, but only to confirm the nuances of brushstrokes tone and colour, only with knowledge can you look fast.

My other favourite mode of drawing is at A2 size, here the problem gets harder. I used my assignment 2 piece as a Christmas card, so including me, the tutor, the printer, the viewers on the blog and the people who received one and displayed it in their homes over the Christmas period, it is probably my most viewed drawing of all time, I have had only two requests for a copy from people who never received one in the first place, for a limited of fifty prints that is not a good take up but the drawing took only ten minutes in the first place. I am reminded that Picasso considered a drawing required a lifetime of experience regardless of the time involved in its execution.

Technique has a lot to play in the length of time it takes to do a drawing, careful rendering of a form can take many hours, but they are hours that never seem to drag, measured only by the empty wine glass, the empty packet of cigarettes or a feeling of hunger or sleep.

The life drawing class is the Olympics of art, you rush through ten second poses, thirty second poses five minute poses, ten minute poses and to take us into the break, a thirty minute pose. By the time the coffee break comes, everyone is so exhausted, including the model, that everyone takes in excess of half an hour to drink a single cup of coffee before returning sloth like to the life room, the second half is invariably a lying down pose so that the model can doze and be the least tired person in the building.

I have had drawings on the easel or next to the easel for weeks searching for the next move or direction. I think that if more thinking had been done prior to commencement, these drawings would roll easier through the production line or at least not glare malevolently from the easel, making you fear entering the studio.

You have probably guessed by now, that I do not equate time with creativity, creativity = however long it takes, after all Leonardo spent a lifetime creating the Mona Lisa and Van Gogh spent a few years doing thousands of paintings, each to his own. I am content to create enough work to pass this course well, I can tell already that time is not a major factor of my process and the course is telling me it needs to be. I feel another challenge coming on, Challenge accepted.

Regardless of anything else you are definitely going to watch a Star Wars movie next weekend, with or without me (TM U2)

Love as always

Mickos xx