Tombstone

Somehow these dark grey trunks silhouetted against the winter afternoon sky brought to mind tombstones. The field sketch is below using conte crayon, charcoal and white gouache in tinted paper.  Above, I tried to darken this with washes mixing burnt sienna with ultramarine or paynes grey, the watercolour scattering on the powdery surface.  I have also turned down the exposure on the photo.

Below is the quick preliminary drawing, with the sun behind me. In reality that trunk is tiled with rich brown scales mortared in green. I need to have another try at capturing that.

our history

Folk singer Rhiannon Giddens brings together musical traditions from her mixed race heritage in the southern States of the USA (her parents married only 3 years after the unconstitutional ban was overturned), along with Gaelic and wider sources. She is a phenomenal and versatile performer with ballet and opera composing credits to her name and recently appointed the artistic director of the Silk Road ensemble founded by cellist Yo Yo Ma. She is also a music historian. She traces the history of the banjo from its African roots through the travelling bands of enslaved then indentured musicians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the appropriation of this genre into black-face minstrelsy continuing well into the twentieth century, and the general abandonment of this tainted culture by its originating people such that the banjo associates today with white folk music.

The preface to David Olosuga’s book Black and British describes how Enoch “Rivers of Blood” Powell fantasised a history in which empire is excised, returning to an imagined time of Britons untainted by rule, misdeed and othered people. This is indeed the history served up by our schools. However,  we cannot understand ourselves without history, and there is no history save that it contains Black and colonial history, out and inward migration, the rich mix of cultures and ideas that shapes our everyday heritage. Stripped down history to pretend a white narrative is thin gruel indeed.

On Sunday I chanced upon a live concert by Rhiannon Giddens and her partner, Francesco Turrisi, from her home in Ireland, relayed from Santa Barbara.  These are the sketches I did live and playing back the show. You can see I was really challenged trying to capture the shape of her face and features while singing, and I put the gallery of attempts below as a record.  By contrast Turrisi was quite easy to capture but he sat still and faced away from the camera looking at Giddens. In the sketch above, she is playing the viola and her face is full of shifting expressions as she looks back at him.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

respite

This is an attempt to render tones in false colour; using a pink and pastel blue to represent mid-tones between white and black on black paper. It began as a dog-sketch, that is a drawing done in the time it takes for a spaniel to become bored waiting for me.  I reworked it later at home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Alongside drawing I am also trying to learn to play this Balkan love song on electric guitar (“Phirava daje phirava …”, first line of the verse which translates as “I travelled mother I travelled, I went to Tetovo, to see Mirvet, to steal her eyes”).

Tetovo it a town in Northern Macedonia.  I realise I have been near there two decades ago, visiting my mother on her Balkan adventures (working for a non-governmental organisation, manning a polling station in post-war Serbia, smoking, drinking and playing endless cards)

evil empire

Three sketches in conte crayon on black paper started outside and finished at home, stimulated by the recent life drawings of Rosie Scribblah.

Here are the original sketches, the first from my bike on the footbridge over the ford by the watermill, the other two on foot while my dog sat patiently by.

These drawings are a small respite, but with a pandemic uncontrolled by active choice of those with power, democracy devalued and the world moving to the tipping point for massive climate change, there seems small comfort in art. We are on the brink of knowing whether democracy can have a small win against careless self-serving misgovernment, a little step towards the next struggle, or whether the full force of devastation and destruction is to be unleashed on us at this time.

Enough just to be itself

Kerfe (method two madness) says “I like that you create a world that exists outside of humanity here. Serene. Enough just to be itself”.

I had not thought before that was what I was doing, but, this time, I cycled out to the woods in the nature reserve with that thought in mind.

Night was falling as I drew.

There is poetry in the rhythm of the trees. The poetry I am reading treasures the moments of warmth against the oncoming darkness.

Ditch

I sketch from a little wooden bridge across a brook running through a wood.  I am using H and 2B charcoal pencils, dabbing the paper with water to intensify tone and allow the image to emerge from rapid light lines.  Three years ago, in the spring of 2017, I drew this same scene in conte crayons on tinted paper.  Interestingly, that blog post linked back in succession to two further posts each with my random political reflections at the time of drawing. This sequence of drawings mark for me a pathway of descent.

Tonight,  on the brink of a lockdown that marks the utter failure of government public health policies, we are invited to doublethink, to hold its lies as truth, its greed as charity, its self-interest as science, its disregard for law as high principle, constrained as we are by newspeak, their simplified language that binds the media and opposition in chains, closing down thought and dissent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

rant

I am stunned by the utter chaos and shambles of the current Tory government in the UK.  It goes beyond partisan politics, beyond incompetence, beyond corruption.

Elected to “get Brexit done”, this Tory government passed a Withdrawal Bill in January bypassing Parliamentary scrutiny and now say this is not the Brexit they intended, but it’s become an international treaty which is law so they announce in Parliament that they will knowingly break the law to rewrite it unilaterally, so the most senior lawyers in the civil service have resigned as they are duty-bound to do, meanwhile this Tory government champions Britannia ruling the waves by threatening small inflatables carrying handfuls of frightened asylum-seekers with the might of the Royal Navy, meanwhile this Tory government voted overwhelmingly against putting into law measures to prevent another horrific Grenfell Tower fire, meanwhile this Tory government plans to criminalise peaceful activists trying to place climate change central to public policy, meanwhile this Tory government, building on ten years of deliberate unpreparedness for a predictable pandemic thus killing more than forty thousand people, now, after six months and in the face of an obvious and predictable rise in SARS-CoV-2 infections as we enter autumn, this Tory government still cannot offer a effective Track and Trace system despite spending billions, cannot source protective gear in the UK and have made no preparations for schools to reopen other than mantras and wishful thinking so in a few weeks and with more deaths those same schools will shut with no plans for how to educate children except spitting out recriminations and instead this Tory government shouts at young people, whom they had previously hectored that it was their patriotic duty to go out to eat and drink and go to work in offices not work at home and buy sandwiches and repopulate trains, now they tell those young people, “don’t kill yer gran”…

 

 

I could go on.