Odilon Redon. Artist research. Part 1. Form and gesture.

Odilon Redon (1840-1916)  French artist who was a print maker, painter, drawing ‘noirs’, pastelist, and draughtsman.

Post- Impressionism and symbolism.

I chose one of his charcoal drawings; ‘Armor’ 1891, charcoal and conte crayon.


From https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/339671

This drawing is very dark, Redon has used charcoal to maximum effect to create deep areas of black tone to make this ‘woman’ look covered up in a balaclava style headgear. I think it may be a woman, as the eye has a female feel, ‘she’ has been drawn with long eyelashes and has a gentle nose. But it could be a man. ‘Her’ face is a bright feature in this drawing. You can just make out how the charcoal and conte pencil marks are drawn around the head, they have a spiky and fuzzy feel. You cannot see any emotion on her face, but I get the feeling she is hiding. The background is also shaded quite dark, but not totally as you can see the structure of her head and neck. Her shoulders are expressed with cross hatched line and deep scribbling. This drawing gives me a sense of fear, evasion and something unspoken, I mean the ‘woman’ seems to be gagged by the headgear. A tat creepy, but I like it.

I understand Redon was influenced by Hindu and Buddist religion and his worked can be described as ‘a synthesis of nightmares and dreams’. He seems to explore his imagination and internal feelings, you can see this in his charcoal drawings. His later work shows lots of colour described in pastel and they are of flowers and still life subjects.

His work reminds me, or has echos of the writings of the psychoanalyst Carl Jung.


Playing around with paint Cy Twombly style

Just for fun and freedom I got hold of an old scourer and dipped it in paint to create these Cy Twombly style paintings.

Here is me standing in front of ‘Untitled’ Bacchus Painting, 2008, size 3175 x 4683 mm, by Cy Twombly in the Tate Modern. I understand he used a brush on a long stick to paint this large canvas. More research is needed on this interesting artist.


My responses to this painting are in short phrases and words; monumental, red revolution, stunning, sensual, dripping, scribbling, dramatic, over whelming, raw, organic, visceral, writing, giant, swirling, story telling, historic and automatic drawing.


Joan Jonas and Picasso at the Tate Modern June 2018

This month I went to see the exhibitions at the Tate Modern, The EY  Exhibition Picasso 1932, Joan Jonas and Shape of Light. I was interested in Picasso and Joan Jonas as they both practice drawing and mark making in their art. Both explore emotions and story telling using a multidisciplinary approach too.


Picasso’s drawing practice was varied as it showed his work in different forms, such as on paper, on collage and in print. He drew with free flowing movements, portraying work on large and small images. Also, on close up inspection of his sculptures you can see the mark of the artist. I was interested in his use of composition, line, tone, shape, pattern and form. One room had many of his ink drawings, which showed rich light and dark tones.


Joan Jonas was inspiring too, her drawing appears on stones, chalk boards, large sheets of paper, sand, objects and her body. She uses her drawing in relation to video performance with reference to fairy tales and stories. I like the way she used long sticks with chalk for drawing and a reed pen and ink for sketching. In fact her drawing appears on walls and canvases too. Her drawing methods are quick, short marks that are a response to the performance she is engaged in. Animals, birds and fish feature highly as images. Jonas holds the paper against her body and face to draw, she even has actors drawing next to her in a ritualistic way.

I would be interested in exploring some of Jonas’s techniques, particularly using video/film to record the movements and physical actions of drawing.


Form and Gesture. Part 1.

Drawing 1. Part 1. Form and Gesture. Exercise 1 Experimenting with expressive lines and marks

For my temporary drawings I explored light. So here is my shadow.

Carl Jung thought the shadow ‘to be the unknown dark side of a personality’

Here are some solar powered fairy lights in my conservatory. I love the dark and the lights are so fragile too. Kind of reminds me of sailing in the dark, where distant lights look fuzzy.

Fairy Lights in the conservatory

Light on the stairs.

Light on a table in the garden.


Just a simple exploration, which I may follow up with more light and dark experiments.

Exercise 1

On four sheets of A 3 sized paper and using a variety of media and mark making tools I started to create marks to represent emotions. In the photos below is a sample of my tools. There’s a selection of sticks from the garden, reed pens made from bamboo, old tooth brush, palette knives, wooden stirrers, black India ink, oil pastels, crayons, feathers, charcoal, spray bottle containing black diluted watercolour paint, bits of card and paper. This just a small sample of items you can use for mark making.

I started with the word Calm and explored making loose free style marks with a feather, I wanted to express a feeling of openness, freedom and flight. My lines became curvy, sweeping movements, I tried different pressures with the feather, so I created thick and thin lines with lots of gaps.


On my second sheet, continuing the theme of Calm, I drew with an oil pastel, but using very light pressure on the paper and making horizontal lines. I was thinking of calm water.


My other two sheets on Calm were very similar, but I used charcoal which was a smooth gliding medium to draw on paper. The marks for the emotion calm became soft, flowing, gentle, open, light, curvy, thin and sketchy.

My next sheets are about the emotion Anger. To get started I gave my paper a squirt of black diluted watercolour paint, then using an oil bar I was keen to make long and short jagged marks. Like I was attacking the surface. The lines became thicker and darker. I think the centre was like an ‘outburst’ of emotion. Striking the paper like this is tiring and the sharp downward movements jar the hand. Art making is very physical.


My next sheet was me stabbing the paper with a strong stick dipped in ink, wow, this was very emotional, as the very act of hitting the surface felt like I was attacking the paper and gripping the stick hard made my wrist ache. The marks were short and dotted but I scratched across a few times. When I stood back it looked like a face. A scary piece for me to make.



My other Anger piece was made with charcoal and a craft knife. Charcoal is a wonderful medium, as it crumbles, smudges, it’s messy, forgiving, you can make thick or thin lines, it’s dense and snaps easily.

I created a dark cloud, which I loved getting my hands dirty, smudging the charcoal in rapid circular movements over the paper was great. Anger certainly engages you in visiting dark lines and patches.

To finish I cut into the paper with a craft knife. This was my favourite mark making action, I think it enabled me to really explore the charcoal and if I did this again I would use a different surface, such as cardboard or thick paper. I would also use a different colour, perhaps red.

Drawing 1. Part 1. Form and Gesture. Exercise 1. Experimenting with expressive line and marks. Frustration Circular Mark Making

I have explored another emotion, Frustration which is in my Circle Drawings section and also here in my sketch book pages.

This experiment started off as part of my emotional mark making exercise, I called Frustration.  The drawing of the circle in repetition is frustrating.

It’s like that phrase ‘I keep going around in circles’,  meaning to not achieving anything.

So here is a selection of my circular mark making, created on hand made Khadi paper, which is a rough watercolour paper with deckled edges, and using a rigger brush with black India ink to make the marks. A rigger brush is a long brush originally used by sign writers, it’s great, as the brush makes long lines and is springy enough to bounce back and create additional marks.


My other circular ones were made with ink spread with my fingers and a chop stick dragged over the image. Plus a charcoal one with line and a sepia coloured one made with wax and acrylic ink.



My time spent ‘playing’ with mark making has been exciting and interesting. The very act of messing about with materials makes you lose yourself in the art and concentrates your thinking. I recently went to the Tate Modern to see Picasso and Joan Jonas, who both have used mark making in their drawing practice. Joan Jonas makes her drawings on her body, on stones, on boards and paper, she uses reed pens, inks, paint and chalks to make her marks. Picasso again uses inks on paper to draw his emotions of love and desire. Oddly I found both artists the same in their art practice but with different approaches, Picasso more paint based and Jonas more video based art. They both told stories and used emotion as part of their expression.

Mark making is emotional and carries deep meaning for me. I loved the way ink blends and runs, the darkness of the colour, the way charcoal is messy and immersive, the use of basic sticks and twigs is a very primitive way to make a simple mark. The act of drawing and watching someone draw is very intense. When I was making my art in the studio my daughter was watching and she kept making gasping sounds, she found looking enjoyable and interactive.

I like the repetition of drawing, the gesture, the movement, the action, the feel of the materials, it feels like a ritual act.

Joan Jonas and Picasso 1932, at the Tate Modern until 5th August 2018 are both worth seeing for their drawing skills.

Drawing 1. Part 1. Form and Gesture. Exercise 2. Feeling and expressive lines and marks. Experimenting with Texture.

Here are my experiments with texture and frottage rubbings. I thought my first two pages showed how line can express a texture, I think I worked from more natural objects like shells and stones so you could see the lines on the surface.

The second two pages became flatter, more abstract, as I shaded or placed wax and a wash to get the texture feel. Even scrapping and gouging the surface of the paper makes a good mark. I enjoyed the frottage rubbing and could see it would work well in an image, but only in small areas. I understand that Max Ernst used this technique in his art.

Frottage art by Max Ernst

Frottage by Max Ernst

Additional pages from my sketch book, textural rubbings and photos of textures.

From my sketch book

I feel I should list some artists who explore mark making for my future reference.

Cy Twombly, Robert Maplethorpe, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Patrick Heron, Niki de Saint Phalle, Yayoi Kusama, Mark Wallinger, Jim Dine, Henry Moore, I like the Surrealists movement too.

I thought that mark making is not only made with paper and tools, but it’s on the skin, in digital art, sound, graffiti, kinetic art, sculpture, printmaking and painting. Here are my daughter’s tattoos.  Close up you can see the ink marks bleeding into the skin.


Drawing 1. Part 1. Project 2. Form and Gesture. Exercises 1 and 2. Groups of Objects. Basic shapes and fundamental form.

Exercise 1; Groups of Objects

This drawing is just my warm up image, as I feel I need to complete this exercise with additional work. Anyway this drawing has been created with ink and a reed pen, it’s a very open drawing with space between each object. I feel it needs ‘grounding’ on a base. Drawing circles is challenging, but mine came out looking quirky. Drawing with ink and a pen makes short, fat and thin lines. I like them. Ink is runny too.


This next drawing is a selection of objects drawn with ink and a reed pen on a coffee coloured back ground. Drawn with ink and a chop stick, it’s a bit similar to the previous image, but I used more regular shapes to practise perspective. I think it needs more variety in the background.IMG_3767

Exercise 2; Observing shadow using blocks of tone

This is my attempt at drawing two objects using tonal values.  A coffee back ground drawn with a graphite stick.  I used natural side light, but will need to draw one with a lamp and light at the side, for more light and dark contrasts.IMG_3769

Exercise 2; Creating shadow using lines and marks

Four sketches in pencil, biro pen, ink and charcoal. I tried to vary the marks on each bottle. The one in pencil is just a simple light shading technique, the next is drawn with a biro pen making lines to create the form, but not with an outline. The third bottle has been expressed in ink, seem to suit the subject and I really enjoyed this. Last one was drawn with charcoal and I picked out the light with a rubber. I need to work on the form as it’s lost it’s shape on the top.

Drawing regular shapes, from my sketch book


Drawing 1. Part 1. Project 2. Form and gesture. Basic shapes and fundamental form. Exercise 3 (Creating shadow using line and marks) Exercise 4, (Shadows and reflective light) Reflection of both tasks.

Exercise 4 Shadows and reflective light


I drew these two jars with charcoal and putty rubber. The light was reflected in many places with additional lines that were bent out of shape. I shaded the background half dark and half light, as the top was a very dark area. The table was a plain colour and the shadows became soft and gentle. It’s quite interesting how a shiny object distorts it’s own surroundings and the use of a very responsive medium like charcoal enables me to convey the lines and marks. Lifting out the tonal values with a putty rubber is most satisfying.

Exercise 3 Creating shadow using line and marks


This simple collection of still life objects I drew with a graphite stick using my left hand (I am right handed) which kept the lines loose and free. I experimented with cross hatching to gain shape and form. But I like the wobbly lines and spaces, it gives the subject some character.

Reflection of Exercises 3 and 4

In these two exercises I tried to approach the light and dark differently. The top picture is darker in tone with the addition of lines to express reflected light. The bottom drawing is looser and lighter, with whiter tonal values. I used crossed lines to show form and texture.

I think charcoal is a great tool for getting those deep dark moody tones and a putty rubber helps to lift off the charcoal to make bright light areas. Graphite stick is soft and blends well too. It is easy to vary the pressure and gives lovely light tones.


Ann Marie Varnam. BA (Hons) Fine Art

My name is Ann Marie Varnam (Ann Marie Whitton) and this is the start of my Fine Art Degree journey with The University for the Creative Arts.

For over twenty five years, I have been working as an artist painting and selling my art online. I worked as an art teacher at Oaklands College and Sandringham School in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, and I ran my own workshops and classes from my studio at home.

I have attended The University Of Hertfordshire gaining qualifications in Art Therapy Foundation, and Traditional Print Making methods.  However I have never obtained an art degree, as I am now retired from teaching and the children are grown up, I decided it was time for myself to take on some personal study. Hence I enrolled with the OCA and have started with the Drawing One course. It’s been tough starting from the beginning again, but I am exploring new subjects and mediums. Having the support of a tutor helps me to focus on the tasks too. I am looking forward to continuing with my studies for my degree path.

More about myself :  http://annmariewhitton.co.uk/