Project Five – Research Point: Pets and other animals

1. Contant Nieuwenhujis (1920 – 2005)

Constant, not really a contemporary artist, is mostly known as one of the member of the avant-garde group COBRA where artists from Denmark, Belgium and Netherlands came together in the years 1948-1951 to work together on the theme of spontaneity and experimentation, with some inspiration coming from children drawings. Still today there are related activities going back to the initial ideas (see:  I like Constant’s works of a spontaneous  and free expressive articulation. The drawn animals seem like children drawings. With loose scribbling marks, some simplified and some exaggerated parts, color used as additional variety for line markings. The images are rather flat, no perspective and depth and with an empty surrounding space.


Constant (1920-2005) ‘ZT/Dieren (animals)’, 1949. Ink, pencil and crayon on paper (45 x 58 cm).


Constant (1920 – 2005)‘ZT/Vogel met wielen (Birds with wheels)’, 1948. Crayon and pencil on paper (63.4 x 44.8 cm).


2. Henry Moore (1896 – 1986)

Henry Moore is mostly known for his large sculptures, many of them quite abstract in perception. However, Moore was a humanist and the vitality and beauty played an important role in his works. He was a skilled draftsman and during WWII he was commissioned as a war artist with moving images of sleepers in a shelter in the underground. In his later years (1974) he made many drawing of the sheeps on the field at his home. Although these drawings seem to be quite ordinary at first glance, they show a quite unique drawing technique when looking closer. With scribbled marks done with a ball-point pen (for the sheep as well for the surrounding space in ‘Family‘),  from loose to very dense marks, he depicts not only the shape and the stance of the sheep, but also a monumental atmosphere of nobility and the beauty of the sheep (see ‘Head‘).

The two drawings show to me the difference between on the one hand an empty surrounding space (‘Head‘) that supports the focus on the personality of the sheep. On the other hand a merging effect with criss crossed marks of the sheep with the background (‘Family‘). Here the drawing techniques supports the enclosure and warmness of the sheep family. The background is made denser in the centre of the image to keep there the eye focus.


Henry Moore (1896 – 1986) ‘Head’, 1974. Intaglio print on paper (189 x 255 mm).

HENRY MOORE_Family_1974

Henry Moore (1896-1986)  ‘Family’, 1974. Intaglio print on paper (210 x 251 mm).


3) Peter Coker (1926 – 2004)

Peter Cooker was a London born realist painter and a member of the so called ‘Kitchen Sink School’, a group working together in the mid-1950s and fighting against the élitism of abstract art and more in favour of a figurative social realism depicting the labour of the working class of that time. A theme that in the 19th century also Jean-Francois Millet and in the following Vincent van Gogh embraced. Coker went further with his realism and showed some abstract values in his works. In the 1950s he worked often on the butcher’s site close to his home in Leytonstone.  In those butcher theme works, Coker is conveying through some bold contrast of darkness and an empty surrounding space quite a stylistic appeal. His work ‘Hanging hare‘ consists just of a simple outline drawing with dense hatched marks. It seems that with that the hare becomes a metaphor for the relationship of humans and animals as feed. His work ‘Sheep head on newspaper‘, done in bold charcoal strokes with some tonal differentation, provides a kind of message to otherwise ordinary objects.


Peter Coker ‘Man Carrying Pig’, 1955. Oil paint on board (1829 x 838 mm).


Peter Coker (1926 – 2004) ‘Sheep’s Head on Newspaper’, 1955. Crayon and ink on paper (416 x 552 mm).

COOKER, PETER_Hanging Hare_1955

Peter Coker (1926 – 2004) ‘Hanging hare’, 1955. Charcoal on paper (768 x 562 mm).

4) Garrett Phelan (b. 1965)

Garret Phelan, an irish contemporary artist, and he uses drawings for site-specific installations. One example if his project on Art Basel 39 / Basel Statement 2008 – ‘Battle for the Birds’. Available from:

In this project Phelan builds on the work of the 16th Century flemish still life artist Frans Snyders. entitled ‘Battle of the Birds’. In this violent painting Snyders depicts the theme of birds fighting other birds for the territory. Garrett Phelan articulates in his project the fight and revolt of the birds against humans for their rights, raising the point that the treatment so far by the humans were shamefully inadequate.  This project and installation was part of the touring exhibition ‘End of the Line – Attitudes in drawing’, initiated by Southbank Centre the Hayward during 2009. See also Dillon, B. (2009).

Phelan used a twofold drawing technique for his theme:
– In his his 19 drawing  ‘Mynahs 1-19‘ the parts of the human (arms, hands) are drawn with a simple ink outline. The hairs on the arms are showing that it is a man. The bird is more detailed rendered, with dense hatched marks with a broad marker pen, to keep the eye focus clearly on the birds. The surrounding space is empty, to support further the narrative of the 19 drawings.


Garrett Phelan (b. 1965) ‘Mynah No1’, 2008. Ink and marker on paper (14 x 21 cm).

– In his drawings ‘Ringed 1-17‘  Phelan somehow flips the techniques. Noe that human parts (arms, hands) are drawn as flat spaces with a black and orange marker pen. The bird is lighter, drawn in ink, rather vulnerable. Here the bird is passive, compared to the active bird in ‘Mynah 1-19‘. Again, the surrounding space is empty, supporting the focus on the narrative.

PHELAN, GARRETT_Ringed drawing no5_2008

Garrett Phelan (b. 1965) ‘Ringed drawing No5’, 2008. Black pen/orange marker on paper, (65 x 50 cm).

These drawings should be seen in the context of the entire installation where Garrett Phelan adds words and animations to the pictures. What I like about these drawings is the simplified narrative and the contrasting usage of drawing technique (ink line, marker pen strokes) that supports the contrasting elements of the human and the bird.


For my own work I would love to draw animals in a man made environment to pull up the contrast and relationship of keeping animals in a fast pacing society craving for mass production. The works of John Coker and Garrett Phelan are giving me some ideas how I may continue. Best would be to go to an animal farm where the animals are kept in stables only. On the other hand in the area where I am living many cows and sheep are on the field. Well, not now in winter.
Some drawing ideas: contrasting medium (ink, pencil and broader medium like marker pen or charcoal), extreme support formats to enhance certain perspectives, empty space versus dense marked surrounding space, looser and denser scribbled marks to depict the animal’s characteristics with contrasting straight lines for for mad-made objects etc.


– Oxford Art Online
– Online Images:
– Constant: available from: [accessed 12 February 2015]
  – Henry Moore, Peter Coker: available from: [accessed 12 February 2015]
– Moore, Henry (2003) ‘Henry Moore’s Sheep Sketchbook‘  London: Thames &Hudson
– McNay, Michael (2004) ‘Obituary Peter Coker‘ in: The Guardian, 22 December 2004. Available from:
– Dillon, Brian (2009) ‘The end of the line’ London: Hayward Publishing, pp.82-91 (Garrett Phelan)
– Phelan, Garrett (2008) ‘Basel Statement 2008 – ‘Battle for the Birds’. Available from: [accessed 12 February 2015]


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