Drawing the Erratic – A drawing one success story

At the recent assessment a large drawing caught the eye of the assessment team and I wanted to single out this piece as an example of what can happen when a student follows the logic of their research. I was lucky enough to be Gwenyth’s tutor for the OCA course Drawing One and during a Google Hangout session for the third submission it was clear that one subject — a large rock near her home in Sweden — meant a lot to her. I remember Gwenyth saying that it was a place that she walked to when she wanted to think. It was a destination that mattered and I suspect that many of us have some thing similar. That conversation proved crucial as it unlocked a significant subject that formed the basis of her final submission. (As a side note, this is evidence of the usefulness of using Google Hangout for some of the feedback at Level One; it really does reveal stuff that can be hard to get at in the purely written format).

As my students will probably attest I play down any thinking about making ‘art’ or anything with meaning, especially at Level One, but instead encourage them to make work and see what emerges from the making process. Taking care to notice what’s successful and what’s not so successful in the work is important and comes into the ‘Quality of Outcome’ criteria at assessment. Pulling hard on the threads that fascinate is a good way to start the process. By picking a subject to obsess over, Gwenyth’s work began to flow and a voice began to emerge.

One of the products of this research was her large drawing — which is almost as big as the rock itself. The problem of scale forced her to think creatively about how to make something so ambitious. You can read in detail the thought processes (and her strategy for shipping something so large for assessment) in Gwenyth’s own words on her blog.

She writes about how Anselm Kiefer’s work informed her intention to draw ‘heavy’ and of how the subject grew in meaning as the rock in question — a glacial erratic — is not native to the local environment but has settled there.* This is important. As Gwenyth writes:

Like me, The Erratic is an immigrant. It has travelled to its resting place in a process that was an upheaval. It has been shaped to fit into its surroundings until it can change no more. No matter how much it adapts, lets lichens and mosses grow on its surface, it will always be different. It is in its world but not of it. I feel a great affinity with this boulder and making this piece has reinforced that feeling.

So, the act of drawing and redrawing has bound a student to a subject and revealed something quite profound and, I hazard to suggest, moving. This, for me, is evidence that something modest can grow through attention and labour into something really quite special. Regardless of any academic submission or result, this is important stuff and I feel privileged to have been part of the experience.

Post Script: In my final feedback I said that I would have liked to have seen more sketchbook drawings of the erratic. I liked what had been submitted, but I’m always greedy for more sketchbook work as I know assessors respond favourably to sketchbooks bursting with intense work. After that last submission Gwenyth made more drawings and some of these were submitted for assessment.

*An erratic is a boulder transported and deposited by a glacier having a lithology different than the bedrock upon which it is sitting: http://www.landforms.eu/cairngorms/glacial%20erratics.htm (accessed 26/7/17)

You might remember reading a post Gwenyth wrote about meeting a fellow student here.


Also published on Medium.

6 Comments

  1. Stan Dickinson 3 August 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks, Bryan, and thanks, Gwenyth; inspiration for someone just about to embark on this module.

    Reply
  2. Inger Weidema 3 August 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Thank you to both Bryan and Gwenyth – this evaluation and the blog-post behind it is very inspiring, for all of us, regardless of specialism.

    Reply
  3. Sue Parr 4 August 2017 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing Bryan. Great to see this work here Gwenyth! It is awesome in every meaning of the word! I love the connection you made with this great rock – it is very moving. Good luck with the rest of your journey!

    Reply
  4. Joy Hodgson 5 August 2017 at 3:45 am

    Well done to my sister Gwenyth – her artistic ability never ceases to amaze me!
    Her success on the current academic road ahead certainly appears achievable.

    Reply
  5. Susan Keene 7 August 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Thank you for this inspiring and instructive blog-post.
    I loved the way you compare yourself to the erratic Gwenyth, and how your sketches evolved into a magnificent, beautiful drawing. I can identify with your feeling of not being native to your surroundings; I am in a similar situation. Alas, I cannot find an erratic for myself as I live in the Netherlands 🙂

    Reply
  6. Diana 25 August 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Thank you Bryan and Gwnyeth for this insight into how we or the pencil can evolve into something worthwhile to a beautiful drawing/painting and can stir one’s emotions or to respond in this way. Well done Gwnyeth.
    Diana

    Reply

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