Summer school

During every summer and winter break the National Art School in Sydney puts on a range of courses – drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, and more. This provides a week of immersion in a particular area, and this year I decided to plunge in! The course I chose was Contemporary Drawing, and turned out to be not just conventional drawing with pen or pencil but including a range of different techniques – rubbings, overlays, collage – in order to develop an abstract idea. The course was at times challenging, inspirational, overwhelming and ultimately satisfying. There were some areas I struggled with, but, as is so often the case, these were the things that yielded the greatest area for future development. By the end of the week I was exhausted, but came home walking on air. There were several things that I got from the course – one was that I remembered how much I like to develop a process, starting from one point, and after a series of steps (often not consecutive) end at a completely new place. Another was to go BIG!

Below are three pieces, the first two are finished and the third is still a work in progress. The first came about after a series of steps. The tutor set up a small still life of jugs, a bottle, an old toaster and a few other objects, then tied them all up with multiple wraps of narrow yellow tape. We drew this is a number of ways, from different angles, using a variety of techniques and textures. Next step was to choose one drawing, put a sheet of tracing paper over it and draw one small element of the drawing, using colour or texture. Then another sheet of tracing, and draw another area. This continued for about 5 layers, or till we were satisfied with the emerging drawing, which we then redrew, taking into account the effect of the tracing paper. The original still life completely disappeared and the image took on a new character.

The next one is charcoal rubbed thickly into a sheet of printmaking paper, but with a random geometric shape masked off. I then used an eraser to remove areas, drawing what I could see in the room. I started by looking up at the light fittings and beams of the room, then let the shapes suggest further rubbing to create the structure. Finally the masking was removed from the geometric shape, and that was made solid red.

The final drawing took the longest, and is still not finished. We began by going around the campus making rubbings of anything that threw up interesting textures. I did some on cartridge paper and some on tracing. It took a while to work out how I was going to use these, and eventually (cutting a long story very short!) I cut the pieces into strips, overlaid them and wove them into a topographic map that I had brought with me to use for collage. I then started drawing into the rubbed pieces and the map, using marks on the map and on the rubbings, melding them together, using Inktense water-soluble pencils, wetting some of the lines to soften them. I intend to make the image very detailed, almost lose the map, but I will let it dictate to me what happens. There are a couple of details showing the sort of marks I am making.

NAS1web NAS2web NAS_mapweb NASmap_detail1web NASmap_detail2web NASmap_detail3web

Author: anna warren portfolio

I draw, I paint, I am a printmaker. Always searching for the interesting detail in the world around me.

32 thoughts

  1. Wow. You’ve had an incredible week. I particularly love the charcoal drawing with that flash of red. What a stunner. What areas did you struggle with? It will be intriguing to see how you resolve the weaving/map. Your top drawing has a surrealist feel to it. Would you like to return to National Art School for the winter break and which course would you do? Yes, I know, many questions….


    1. It really was an incredible week – I was so into it by the end I would have loved to keep going. The main thing I struggled with was the rubbings, the first set I did were horrible, no good textures and I had chosen harsh colours, and I couldn’t work out what to do with them. The tutor ( who was wonderful) suggested I went and did some more, choose better colours. I did, then slept on it and the idea of making them into strips came to me, then the ideas gradually came together. I don’t know if I will go to the winter school, in some ways I now want to save it up till I really need more inspiration! Depends on the courses too. Glad you like the charcoal one!


      1. I like them all. What an unusual idea to use a map – but looking at it, the map lines remind me of pen and ink drawings of yours – which you showed in 2013. ie like the lines in the book you made.


        1. I love maps Julie, for all sorts of reasons – but the lines on the map are just asking to be followed, and expanded, and diverged from … and I have treated them very much like the lines on my little books. I can’t resist them!


    1. I love drawing – it has always been the thing I start and finish with. It certainly has been broadening though, so many things are now accepted, even sound and video. I like what you are saying about the map, the big and the small…


  2. Lucky you! What a great way to start your summer. Three very interesting techniques. Seeing the woven work makes me think of a Colorado artist Helen Hiebert. She did 100 days of paper weaving using very interestingly textured hand-made paper. Looking forward to seeing how this class might influence your work. πŸ™‚


    1. Thanks Gale – it really has been a great way to start the year. I will look up Helen Hiebert, it is so interesting to see how other people deal with a particular technique. I hope there will be a knock-on effect in my future work.


  3. Ah … so this is what you have been up to Anna πŸ™‚
    Gosh very mind taxing in a way … so many techniques to incorporate … and pulling it all together
    Love that black charcoal softness and then .. the red puzzle piece that may or may not fit the empty space .. Maps … goes without saying I love that idea !


    1. Yes, it has certainly kept me occupied Poppy! It was mind-taxing, quite challenging but the satisfaction of finally coming to an outcome was very good. I wasn’t sure the black one was going to work, but after looking at it for a day I decided that it did. The solid red was a suggestion from the teacher, and I think she nailed it! And maps – love them!


  4. Fabulous, Anna. The quilt/map is my favourite – I love maps too. Looking forward to see where it takes you. Happy New Year x


    1. Thanks Marnie! I’m really enjoying the map, no idea where it will end up. I really felt I was going back to my roots with this course, very liberating. Thanks for commenting, and happy new year to you too. Hope to see you later this year x


  5. Wow, Anna! These are really refreshing and different to view! You have been busy. It is wonderful to see your work on here again. I have missed your posts. The class you did sounds fun. I really love your map idea; it’s fresh and creative.


      1. You’re welcome! That’s great! I wish I felt the same. I’m kind of in a slump for some reason. But I am still working on a photo of Kili, my daughter’s favorite character from The Hobbit movie. πŸ™‚


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