I loved this exercise. It was a real eye opener for me. It’s the first time I have really attempted to embody an emotion and each time I moved onto the next drawing material I could feel a shift forwards in terms of my approach – I really felt as though I was exploring and learning as I was going along. I used oil pastel for the first of the four, followed by a sharpened twig and ink, then conte crayon and finishing with charcoal.
My first emotion was joy. The first drawing was done with an oil pastel. I immediately found the line too heavy – joy for me is a sense of floating, expansion and openness and as the use of the lines didn’t feel quite right I introduced the dots to try and create the feeling of floating energy.
Using black as the colour was also quite tricky as I felt that a dark line would impact on the feeling of lightness so I almost had to let the pastel move by itself softly across the page in the hope that it would capture the flowing feeling I had imagined.
I then moved onto using the ink and this time I decided against using lines. Looking at the first image I liked the way that the dots gave a sense of freedom so I began drawing them, heavier at top of page as I wanted to convey the essence of floating upwards. I wanted to leave an emptier space this time to convey the upwards flow of the emotion. I found the twig lovely to use – it felt so delicate and its marks really represented my feelings within joy because it felt so light, however, I was frustrated with the end result as it is incredibly hard to see and therefore, loses some of the impact intended.
I then moved onto the conte crayons and tried to express joy with small lines rather than dots. As I began drawing the idea of balls of floating energy came into my mind. I wanted to capture this floating feeling using the lines but also smudged them to create a gathering of energy.
With the charcoal I wanted to refine it down because it is a heavier medium and I thought it wouldn’t produce dots in the way I was imagining. I also didn’t want lots of smudge as I thought that would take away from the feeling of light.
I began by drawing one and then three horizontal lines, trying to keep it as minimalist as possible but somehow they felt as though they had a downwards energy even though they were at the top of page. I, therefore, crossed them and somehow that was enough!
As I began working on the sad images it really felt as though a slow movement was required with the first lines of the oil pastel. I also felt as though sadness needed to have a downward motion to it as well. It is a heavy emotion and I wanted to leave half the space free on the page because of the emptiness that I feel always accompanies sadness.
I also considered that ‘sadness’ should have continual lines – no fluttering or peaks as it is an all consuming way of being. I, therefore, began overlaying the lines in downward motion beginning from the top. I started off using relatively light pressure and colour and as I continued added in darker veins. I felt the lighter, wider strokes were the foundation underneath for the all pervading sadness. Those lines represented that ever-present feeling and then I added the darker lines over the top to reflect any peaks of misery within the sadness.
Having completed the first picture I felt that I wanted to explore further the placement of the image and the space around it. So, for the second ink drawing, the ‘sad’ needed to encompass the feeling of low down, alone and heaviness which is why it’s low on the paper. Within the shape the lines are drawn horizontally to represent the feeling of weight and flatness – there’s still lots of emotion there but it doesn’t peak or move, it’s just a burden of weight.
Taking the feeling of flatness further with the conte crayon again I felt the position on the paper was really important. It’s the flatness that I was pursuing with this image. It was a challenge to leave the image as just one line of colour, however, it felt to me that it captured what I was aiming for.
With the final picture with charcoal, the small lines are representing the accumulation of sadness, clumping together like a being lying in one’s heart or stomach. I was trying to represent an accumulation of sad energy – undefined and yet it is individual if one broke it down in the terms of the way it is put together, but as a collective group it’s this lurking presence. And because of the flatness and heaviness it’s form is a square of low energy that has been crushed and turned into something else. The square is losing its spring, being compressed by the weight of the sadness.
The first thing I really connected when making the drawings for anger is the intensity of the energy. It is quick, intense and strong so I tried to recreate that in the way that I applied the strokes of the different mediums. My initial drawing with the oil pastel was incredibly fast – I managed to break the pastel and found myself making a cross, rather strangled sounding roar at the same time so I was clearly getting into it! I also observed in myself how invigorated I felt after the short burst of such a fiery energy.
I then moved onto the second image and, oh dear, I snapped the twig too! This group of images were by far and away the quickest and clearest for me to convey the emotion – no subtlety at all! Whilst working using the ink I tried to keep the marks to one area – I wanted to express the isolation of the anger as it comes and goes. I, therefore, tried to include a space before and after the image – the short space before because of speed we move into anger and then the longer space after because we have expressed the intensity of the emotion and are, therefore, in a quieter space.
When using the Conte crayon I was trying to represent the feeling of the anger springing up out of nowhere. I jabbed the crayon to the paper and was interested to see the textures and quality of the lines that were made as the crayon broke off and scattered. The final image with the charcoal again took on a similar form to the previous three. I question whether it is because of the intensity of the emotion that made it harder for me to be contemplative and explore ideas within my expression of anger in the way I did with the slower emotions. I think it is an area I need to further explore in my sketchbook – how to capture anger using thought and intention but without losing any of the vigour and immediacy of it’s raw state.
Starting with the oil pastel for calm, I have placed the energy of the emotion higher up the page but horizontal rather than vertical in its orientation. I started off by using lines but felt I needed to be more sweeping, less singular, more of a whole, all encompassing feeling. I also introduced slight variation in tone and upwards motion in the line but wanted to keep the general feeling of relaxation and flow. The shape is a light feeling but not one that peaks with emotion. I wanted to capture the ethereal quality to the calm so I also smudged the edges.
My second drawing, the ink drawing, was an attempt to encapsulate the feeling of calm into a pebble-like shape (as for some reason I think of a smooth pebble as being calming), keeping the image higher in paper as in the previous picture. When I began, however, I noticed that my initial lines were too quick and carried too much energy in them – I had to slow down with the drawing for this one and be mindful and steady with each mark I made.
I attempted then to try and embody the feeling of calm with every stroke of the twig. I found I used the side of the twig a lot more than previously as I tried to get the haziness in the form that I had added to the oil pastel image. I also added a darker edge to the bottom of the oval shape to add some weight to the feeling of the calm as without it, it felt too flighty. Finally I added some more weight to the lower sides of the shape by adding some dark areas but to balance those I added a shadow below – but this was meant to be a shadow that was made of light to give steadiness but without weight.
With the conte crayon I then decided to use the shape of the white shadow and draw it in the upper part of the page, overlapping itself and producing a network of the shape, layering it onto itself so that the form is.
And my last challenge was to try and create the calm feeling in one stroke, to keep it as minimal as possible – the essence of the 3 drawings before it in one motion. Again, I found this a real challenge as it required me to leave the mark at a very minimalist stage – it said everything I wanted it to and yet I still have the feeling that I ought to have worked into it more. So again, something for me to work on more in my sketchbooks – what is minimalist and what isn’t enough. Where is the line between the two?
I learnt an incredible amount from this exercise. It has taught me about the development of an idea by by committing to it within myself and then allowing whatever needs to come out, to surface and express itself. It has been a lesson in mindful listening to what comes up in terms of how I direct myself (rather than charging ahead with what my mind thinks I should do) and also about being responsible for each mark I make. Connecting with the evolution of the image through each step, each moment and realising that if I dedicate myself to my intention then anything can start to happen!