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