Aim: Your own emotional responses to direct your physical mark-making.

Method: Ask friends to write down a characteristic of someone in a novel or newspaper article in the first person. Ask them to choose something which might engender an emotional or physical response. (10 phrases required).

Pose the model and every 10 minutes they read one of the ten phrases.  Try to change the way you use your materials to respond to the statement.  In the absence of a model make a self portrait or simply imbue another object – a chair, perhaps – with these qualities.

Reflection: Make some notes in response to this exercise. To what extent did your emotional and physical responses fuse? For example, you may have found that to start with you felt an emotional response to the statement and then translated this into a physical response in your mark-making. Did this change as you progressed with the exercise? Did you find yourself able to respond emotionally and physically at one and the same time?


A combination of family friends and I have come up the following first person statements for this exercise.

  1. I am going to torture him.
  2. —-
  3. My girlfriend left me yesterday
  4. I enjoy the sounds, sights and smells on a quiet beach.
  5. I worry for my children’s futures.
  6. I am driven by a sense of injustice.
  7. I am uncertain about the future.
  8. I hate bullies.
  9. I get lost in the moment reading a book.
  10. The damp cold rain chilled me to the bone.
  11. I am always confident.

I worked on A3 cartridge paper for each of the drawings.  I started with no real idea with where the drawings might go. I ended up doing several drawings on the same subject, an object a chair.  So as not to over work the drawing I did either two or three responses only within each drawing rather than cramming 10 emotional responses into one drawing!

I have noted a numerical/alpha reference to each of the drawings to indicate which drawings correspond to the statements.

Setting the timer for ten minutes and limiting myself to this time I started drawing.  Apart from a short break they were done in one long session – back to back.  At end of each short session I noted the way I felt and the type of strokes this had induced when doing the drawings.

Each of the drawings is rendered in charcoal.  I used a selection of charcoal pencils for the drawings, working with hard soft, light medium and dark charcoal to support the response to the statement.  There is a total of four drawings for this exercise incorporating the ten emotional responses to the first person statements noted.

1a
(1)

1 & 3
[1b]

Drawing 01
1, 3 & 4
[1c]Statements

  1. I am going to torture him.
  2. My girlfriend left me yesterday
  3. I enjoy the sounds, sights and smells on a quiet beach.

Response

1  Stabbing, short strokes, hard charcoal

3.  Soft dark charcoal, gloom, darkness

4.  Medium charcoal sunshine, bright, joy, plants

5
[2a]
5 & 6
[2b]

Drawing 02
5, 6 & 7

]Statements

  1. I worry for my children’s futures.
  2. I am driven by a sense of injustice.
  3. I am uncertain about the future

Response

  1. Tight, terse marks
  2. short tense, terse and  sharp marks
  3. Tentative, light, weak, short uni-directional marks

8
[3a]

Drawing 03
8 &
9 [3b]
Statements

  1. I hate bullies.
  2. I get lost in the moment reading a book.

Response

  1. Vigorous, strong marks. Se out framework and build up marks /tone.
  2. Concentration, single minded focus

10
[4a]

Drawing 04
10 & 11
[3b]
Statements

  1. The damp cold rain chilled me to the bone.
  2. I am always confident.

Response

  1. Stark, clean, cold
  2. Bold lines

Drawing Statements Response
01    
1 I am going to torture him. Stabbing, short strokes, hard charcoal
3 My girlfriend left me yesterday Soft dark charcoal, gloom, darkness
4 I enjoy the sounds, sights and smells on a quiet beach Medium charcoal sunshine, bright, joy, plants
02
5 I worry for my children’s futures Tight, terse marks
6 I am driven by a sense of injustice short tense, terse and  sharp marks
7 I am uncertain about the future Tentative, light, weak, short uni-directional marks
03 I hate bullies Vigorous, strong marks. Se out framework and build up marks /tone
I get lost in the moment reading a book Concentration, single minded focus
Drawing 04
10 The damp cold rain chilled me to the bone Stark, clean, cold marks
11 I am always confident Bold lines

I have tabulated the statements and responses etc above.  Each statement was carefully considered as I started to draw.  I tried to channel this emotion and the thoughts in my head which resonated with the statement into a physical manifestation through mark making and in some instances the particular choice of charcoal.

The choice of marks as a reaction to the statements varied considerable.  Short sharp marks contrasted with long fluid marks.  I choose charcoal as the medium due to it ability to be expressive and bold allowing the marks to be illustrative of the physical response to the emotional statements.

In order to be able to fully react and respond to the statements and deliver an emotional and physical response I moved myself to a very quiet relaxed area of the house and was undisturbed for several hours doing the exercise.  Clearing my mind at the very beginning greatly helped as did the very graphic nature of the statement posed!  “ I am going to torture him.”

I tried to imagine how to torture some-one; I was assisted in this by having watched a drama “Gunpowder” about Guy Fawkes’ attempted revolution a couple of days earlier.  This even for late evening TV was very graphic in its portrayal of how several people we tortured and executed. I did a bit of research on the events and found that in fact the BBC had actually minimised the actual horrors inflected on the poor wretches whom they had caught.

Recalling what I had read and seen was then more readily translated into a physical response.  The marks used were an expression of this physical response.  Torture brings to mind hard fast violence with stabbing and hard strokes of the charcoal depicting this violence.

At the end of each ten minute session I cleared my mind by quickly reviewing my response and the physical manifestation of the response.  To intensify the emotional response i imagined my reactions if a member of my family were in the situation how I would feel and react.

I actually found that working in this manner brought more vigour and intensity to my mark making as well as focussing my mind on the subject.  How do you torture a chair, worry for it future.  You can if you substitute the chair for a person, someone close and personal to you.

An emotional  mark-making Artist – van Gogh

Fig 1. Shoes (1888)
Fig 2. A Pair of Leather Clogs, (1889)

An artist who brought passionate and emotional marks to his works is van Gogh.  Much has been noted on the mental health of Vincent van Gogh and how this affected him emotionally, physically and mentally.  He seems to have utilised this internalised passion into many of his works.

Fig 3. Worn Out (1882)

I have noted some simple examples here from both his painting and pencil work.  He gives the shoes and boots a personality and life unusual when portraying mundane objects such as shoes.  But van Gogh would have known the owners of this footwear and imbued them the depiction of them with how he both perceived and felt for the owners.

In the drawing “Worn out” he seems to empathise greatly with the mournful and depressing figure of a middle-aged man slumped in a chair with his head in hands.  Van Gogh must have often been in a similar funk!

We don’t know what he was thinking as he depicted the shoes and boots above but there is no guesswork involved in seeing how he feels and lives the moment of distress felt by the sitter for this moving but simple drawing of a ‘worn-out’ man.


List of Illustrations

 

Fig 1. Van Gogh, Vincent. (1888). Shoes. [oil on canvas] At: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436533  (Accessed on 29 Oct 2017)

Fig 2. Van Gogh, Vincent. (1889) A Pair of Leather Clogs,  [oil on canvas] , At: https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0120V1962 (Accessed on 29 Oct 2017)

Fig 3. Van Gogh, Vincent. (1882) . Worn Out. [Pencil on paper] At: https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/d0378V1962  (Accessed on 29 Oct 2017)


 

 

 

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