Learning from Hockney

Loose sketch of David Hockney's My Parents

This is a rough sketch of a David Hockney painting called ‘My Parents’ for Sketchbook Skool‘s Boot Kamp. The idea with this assignment was to look carefully at a piece of art and write your observations alongside it.

I kept putting off doing this homework because I couldn’t decide which drawing or painting to look at. Then, last night I noticed a postcard of this painting on my coffee table that I’d bought on my trip to the Tate Britain the other week and thought I’d just go with that one.

It looks quite a simple painting but there seems to be a lot more going on in it than I think I noticed at first glance. In particular, another part of the room is reflected in the mirror and now I want to go and look at the original of this work and read more about it to find out if there’s any significance to the things in the mirror.

My main thought as I was drawing it was that it reminds me of a Renaissance painting called The Marriage of Arnolfini, or The Arnolfini Marriage, which shows a man and woman standing side by side, with a mirror on the wall behind them, reflecting another part of the room. There’s a lot more symbolism in that painting, which is what made me wonder if there’s more to this piece by Hockney too.

What I like about this though, is that unlike the Arnolfini painting, it’s not perfectly symmetrical. His Dad is sitting at an angle and in a different position from his Mother but there’s still balance to the composition. I also like the light coming in high from the left side because the shadows create interesting depth to what could otherwise be quite a flat painting.

It’s funny what you notice when you draw something.

Copying Mamma

Ink and coloured pencil copy of Moomin Mamma image

I’m slowly catching up with Sketchbook Skool’s Boot Kamp but I’m not quite there yet. I have another assignment that I’ve not started yet and I’m expecting a new one to arrive in my inbox tomorrow. Oh well.

This is the most recent one I’ve finished. The assignment was inspired by Tommy Kane who suggests making copies of work by artists that you admire or are inspired by. Not, of course, to pass it off as your own original work, but to learn from the artist. His argument is that all artists (not just visual artists either) are by-products of the people whose work they admire.

I went to see the Turner exhibition at the Tate Britain on Monday and a tiny part of me was tempted to choose him as the artist whose work I’d copy for this assignment. I decided against that in the end and went with someone whose illustration work on first sight might appear quite simple – Tove Jansson.

As well as being a fine artist and an author, Tove Jansson illustrated her series of Moomin books. I’m currently reading her biography and am a huge fan of her and the Moomins so she seemed like a good choice for this homework.

I chose this particular drawing because as I was reading the biography I came across a description of Moominmamma and instantly recognised it because I have a postcard of the picture framed on my bookcase.

‘Berries, shells and roses surround her body with a symbolic world of fruitfulness, birth and love. The sun shines in brilliant glory behind her head… Mother is love.’ (Tove Jansson, Life, Art, Words, Boel Westin).

In copying this illustration I learned just how much detail there can be in a seemingly simple image. There are white outlines separating some of the details from what’s next to them and the background reminds me of a Matisse cut-out (Matisse was one of Tove’s favourite artists).

So, doing a straight copy of someone else’s work isn’t something I’d seriously considered doing before but it’s a really interesting exercise.