trees

 

Here are three small sketches from a walk across fields last weekend.  They were started in the open air, using conte crayon, water and cool grey brushpen, and reworked at home with layers of crayon, watercolour, white gouache and knife.  They are done in the smallest size Moleskine notebook, about A7.

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I have been following s series of tree sketches by outsideauthority which stimulated me to think again how to capture their form.  On this walk, there are no unbroken woodlands, but rather narrow lines of trees following the ditches and tracks.  I stood on a wooden bridge like a troll’s lair in the gloom of the branches and looked out into the open fields beneath a heavy winter sky.

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For the second picture, I looked back along the track I had walked, marked by single trees overhanging the hedgerows.  I overworked the pleine aire sketch with successive layers.  The knife proved the most effective tool and I, at least, like the dynamism of the heavily worked surface.  However, in the lower part of the tree, I should have scored the paper vertically across (not following) the main branches, to capture the sense of the upward growing peripheral twigs in three dimensions.

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I forgot to make a record of the third field sketch.  Here is the finished, somewhat unsatisfactory, piece.  The path crested a low hill and the descent was marked by trees clinging on to the eroding soil.

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Alternative versions

Alfred Stevens 1817-75 “Truth and Falsehood”: Truth tears out the double tongue of Falsehood and pushes aside the mask concealing his grotesque features.  His serpent tails are exposed beneath the drapery.  The group and its companion, “Valour and Cowardice”, are full size models for the bronze groups on the huge monument to the Duke of Wellington in St Paul’s Cathedral.  London.  Plaster.  [explanatory notes on plaque, Victoria and Albert museum].

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The current relevance of the statue is immediately obvious.  However, my mind was thrown back to 1999 when a cabinet minister declared eloquently “If it falls to me to start a fight to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play, so be it. I am ready for the fight. The fight against falsehood and those who peddle it”.  The resulting action led to his being jailed for perjury.  I am sure the image shown here is of Truth defeating what were then Falsehoods which we now hold true: religious dogma defeating rationalism, self interest overcoming balanced enquiry, empire over civil society, autocracy scourging democracy.  When the powerful shout loudly about the lies of others and frustrate open scrutiny, it is to cover their deceits.

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Here are alternative versions of my sketches undertaken at the Victoria and Albert a week ago, reworked with conte crayon, paint, knife and (in the third image) digitally enhanced black tones.  Rodin’s tortured twisted Muse spoke  of a deeper truth than Stevens’ allegorical statue, of the anguish and beauty of human existence.  The theatre masks are props to tell a fictional narrative but when the narrative finishes, the masks are removed.

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Day out at the museum

Last weekend was a tenth birthday for the smallest person in our family.  We took a trip to see Undress, the exhibition on the history of underwear at the Victoria and Albert museum.  The historical timeline was short – perhaps people didn’t have underwear more than a couple of centuries ago or we don’t know much about it.  The early hoops were intended simply to keep dresses from contact with the hidden nethers.  A lot of the history of women’s underwear is about control.  Asked for her highlight, my daughter picked out the oddness of a corset marketed to be worn when cycling.  However, she became bored and found the atmosphere stuffy.  She dragged me out to sit in the main gallery, drawing Rodin’s bronze distorted contorted amputated Muse, and the passers-by on the broad stairs behind.

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The rest of the family carried on round the galleries but small person wanted more time to draw sculpture.  Her sketches are of the bust of Helen of Troy, and an unidentified statue next to Rodin’s Muse (in which I feature, sketching).  My drawing is of Alfred Steven’s full size plaster model for the “Truth and Falsehood” bronze, part of Wellington’s monument.  She was also drawing random people looking at the displays.

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We caught up with the family in the gallery of theatre costumes – by then she was using my phone camera, but I stopped to draw in pen and water, tinting this with watercolour later, on the train home.

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On the train, she watched Monty Python’s film Jabberwocky, with smiles chasing each other fleetingly across her face.  I tried drawing her, but once again I have made her too old and I could not catch her humour or rapidly changing expression.  Perhaps this is a foretaste of her appearance in her late teens, waiting to go into an exam.

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Revels of the recently risen, as the cold ones plight their troth

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Dr Sketchy’s, themed on “Brides and Prejudice and Zombies”, at the Victoria pub in Birmingham last weekend.

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Humour and imagination and hard work has gone into the into costumes and prosthetics, selection of music, script for the marriage service and backing images.

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Ten to fifteen minute poses, drawn in pencil, ink, conte crayon and watercolour

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I abandoned accuracy, drew with abandon and made up the details as I went on.

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Exaggeration and anatomical distortion were pretty inevitable.

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Credits to Lisa Troth, Trampy Holford, Steve Pledger, Liberty Pink, Kitten von Mew, Tiffany Beau and others.

low wall, Skye

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Here is another small sketch, started in the café during my son’s swimming lesion, using conte crayons and a cool grey brushpen.  Later, I re-suspended and covered the dry pigments in white gouache and scraped back into this to build the sky and loch.  I recreated the white highlights and the bright white wall with knife and eraser, lifting off the paper surface.

The photograph is nearly 60 years old, monochrome of course, and shows my mother, perhaps on honeymoon, in Scotland.

groundswell

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I have found myself drawing in the evenings more frequently, small sketches from imagination or photographs, in a pocketsize moleskine watercolour book.  The paper is tough and takes some rough treatment, textured so it catches the pigment from the conte crayons.

This sketch was done over two days.  It started as an image of trees reflected on water, suggested by outsideauthority’s recent post.  I overloaded it with crayon, wet it and ripped at it, repaired it by gluing it to the page beneath and left it to dry.  Next day I turned it by 90 degrees, painted into the dark areas with white gouache, sparing the virgin white where I had torn off the pigmented layers.  I drew back into this surface with strong strokes of crayon, brushpen and watercolour.

It says something of the apocalyptic feelings which are haunting me.