Exercise 4.6: Visual Distortion

This exercise was an exploration into distorting images to form a style, and was designed to force me to edit, change and distort through several drawings of either a cat or dog as my subject matter.

As a reference image, I was originally going to choose one of my current cats, but as they are both jet black they're not the best candidates for creating texture and tone, so I did a portrait of one of my previous cats as his ginger and white fur offered up more variety.

1. 'Realistic' representation

The first drawing that I was asked to do was one that made the cat feel 'real'. I did a rough pencil sketch to represent him and focussed mainly on capturing his face and expression. The body to head ratio didn't turn out as accurate to my original image as I had hoped and as a result makes him look more kittenish, but I’m still happy with how I've described him here as an example before moving on to the next drawing.

1. 'Realistic' Representation / 2. Five Line drawing

2. Five Line Drawing

I liked this next section as it forced me to be creative with how I used the limitation of only having five lines to draw from. I planned carefully and broke the overall shapes down for each line, but only gave myself one practical attempt for each.

For the main body and markings, I began near the neck and across the back and wrapped around the outline features including the tail, legs, head and ears before arriving back where I started. Then by continuing the line, I looped around to create the impression of markings before ending with a squiggle. The ears connected together with a loop that overlaps slightly in the forehead and aach of the eyes then took up another line ear as a loop that included the impression of the pupil. In hindsight I could have connected these in the same way as the ears to give me an extra line for another feature. The mouth and nose were combined into a closed path to finish the drawing and give it expression.

The result surprised with what I could achieve with so few lines and I think this jelly-like version of the cat has its own charm in a completely different way from my attempt at accuracy before.

3. A Collage

The next version would be created out of a collage of magazine images. I looked for similar textures and colours and found foods useful as I used striped bread for the back and markings and smooth sky and water for the lighter areas of food. The exercise encouraged me to be creative and introduce surreal elements which i did mainly did around the head to create a mane from a mane of leafed metal garden ornaments. My favourite adjustment was the convenient shape of the butterfly ears.

1. Collage / 4. Collage Drawing

5. Collage Drawing

I was asked to then redraw the collage and the more I looked at it, the more I could see an bizzare 'flower child' theme emerging. A mixer that I had made into that cats right front leg made me think of plant pots and the leaves, flowers and butterfly presence only added to this. I focussed on this aspect and removed the food sections for my drawing in ink and markers drawing. I enhanced some of the flowers by adding stems and swapped the leaves to green to make them more accurate.

6. Incorporated drawing

As strange as the image I now had was from the collage drawing, I now had ideas for a concept that I could develop into a larger drawing. Instead of having plant pots on its legs, what if the cat was bursting out of a bigger plant pot with its full body? What if the cat was part of the plant itself? I was excited by how this could look and brought in the elements that I needed and ended up with the image below by sketching out my elements then adding colour with ink pens and alcohol markers.

6. Incorporated Drawing

Now that I had switched to a luminous green and the cat had a mane of leaves, I was playing with light fantasy elements. Strewn across the image there is now soil and debris from the large terracotta plant pot that this odd looking creature has burst or grown out of as he looks bemused at the butterfly resting on his forehead. I added a garden path and additional plant stems to the sides of the frame to give the scene some context for its setting and changed the petals of the emerging flowers to pink to keep a better colour balance rather than adding more bright yellows. I feel the image now has a narrative and that I can imagine this unusual green cat appearing as a character in a children's book.

I really enjoyed this exercise, but I'm not entirely sure that I achieved what it wanted me to in the end section. When it came to developing the final drawing, I feel that I mixed elements from all the previous versions instead of forcing myself into the avenue that the progression was leading me towards. This resulted in my lines and shapes in my final drawing more closely resembling those at the beginning and middle parts of the exercise rather than what my collage drawing had distorted into.

This was a great way to find a concept that I wouldn't have thought of otherwise, but I didn't find myself using for shapes or techniques for drawing as I kept reverting the style back to what I was used to. If I did this exercise again, I would avoid looking at anything but my previous drawing for inspiration as I worked and hopefully then I would find unexpected styles emerge in my final drawing.

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