Whilst doing Project 2 and learning about tone, one the artists I looked at was Georges Seurat (1859-91) and in particular his black and white conté drawings. It’s a very interesting technique that makes the picture almost like a fog as the lines are softened, there’s no real hard edges. The definition comes from his use of tone to distinguish where an edge might normally appear.
My two favourite pieces that really show the contrast and the variation of tone created by one media is ‘Woman seated by an easel’ and ‘Seated boy with straw hat’.
In the first one I particularly like how dark the brim of the hat is in contrast to the book she’s holding. I also like how sharp some of the straight lines look without them having been drawn in as a contour. In the ‘Seated boy with straw hat’ I like the mood created by the light and shadows being cast.
I had a couple of attempts at re-creating his technique, firstly with charcoal. This was smaller than A4 and to begin with I used a charcoal pencil which didn’t blend as easily as I’d hoped so the softness of the edges wasn’t there and the face looks more like a mask. I switched to powdered charcoal, which gave a softer effect, especially on the bottom of the legs and feet and the cupboard at the bottom right. Although the paper had a little texture, it wasn’t really rough enough to create the effect I would’ve liked.
I then tried using graphite pencils on a different texture of paper, thinking that the control of blending might be easier with graphite, even though the tone wouldn’t be as dense.
I’m really happy with this one. The pencils definitely gave more control and allowed for finer details like the scribbly effect of the grass and in the water. I was surprised by the amount of contrast I got between the jacket and hair and the collar and hat. The ‘fading out’ of her arm looks really effective too.
In doing these two pieces, I realised that I tend to go straight into pieces of work rather than trying out techniques in my sketchbook and need to get into the habit of using it more for that reason. The charcoal picture could definitely have benefited from some experimental work being done beforehand, or rather than completing the whole pictures, I could have done sections to show the technique.
Although for Project 2 the tonal works of Georges Seurat are the most relevant, it’s been interesting looking at the style of some of his paintings, a lot of which also have a softness to the outlines. I found it particularly interesting to see a number of his works of the same place and from a similar position.