Three weeks ago I drew in ink and graphite an abstract based on the forms of a swan.  Today I painted into it and over it.  I built on remembered photographs of smoke pouring from shattered cityscapes but this is not intended as representational art.  I do not claim it to be a great picture.  I painted in haste and in anger.

I had driven to work listening to the BBC correspondent Paul Wood.  He has spent five days reporting from inside the city of Homs, under siege and under artillery bombardment.  To quote:

” An eleven year old boy was brought in having taken full in the face a mortar blast which had ripped off all his face below about the middle of the nose and we just saw those shocked eyes staring above a bloody mess …”

“The man who wraps him in a white sheet and puts him in the ground … we asked him, have you had to do this for any of your relatives and he said well four of them, my son, my brother in law, my cousin, my uncle.  Very many families have been touched by this kind of loss …”

I know I live a comfortable life far from this but violent repression thrives on silence.  Perhaps, moved by this,  you too might paint in anger.



North Kent Marshes

Last weekend I enjoyed meeting friends from University whom I rarely see, ending with a long and entertaining discussion past midnight with my host’s son about the nature of science and knowledge.

I arrived late, diverted on my way down by a cloud formation like a great rent in the sky.

Coming off the motorway to follow this, I realised the sky contained about 20 red kites (and the side road filled with cars presumably belonging to other birdwatchers).  I only had about 10 minutes to watch these and no time to draw.

The next day was spent wandering the North Kent Marshes.    What was striking was the intensity and variability in the whites that made up the sky and mud flats.  This is the first sketch, drawn in charcoal and overlaid with gouache.  This week, I intend to re-draw this scene directly in transparent watercolour.

This gives me an excuse to post an old painting, this time done in watercolour (except for acrylic corrections to the light on the right side) of marshland south of Brittany.  I think I painted this about three years ago.

This illustrates a tension I feel in watercolour – my instinct has been to put in depth of colour, as here.  When I have used thin washes, the result just looks washed out.  However, the most beautiful of watercolours often employ the luminous quality of light reflected through pigment off the underlying white paper.  I guess this requires a clever selection of tints and contrasts to make white look exciting.  This will be my challenge when I re-paint the North Kent marshes.

Across the Marsh to where Ettinsmoor meets the sea

“They were on a great flat plain which was cut into countless little islands by countless channels of water.  the islands were covered with coarse grass and bordered with reeds and rushes.  Clouds of birds were constantly alighting in them and rising from them again.  Many wigwams could be seen dotted about …

Eastward … you could tell by the salt tang in the wind which blew from that direction that the sea lay over there.  To the North there were low pale-coloured hills, in places bastioned with rock.  The rest was all flat marsh.  Seen under a morning sun, with a fresh wind blowing, and the air filled with the crying of birds, there was something fine and fresh and clean about its loneliness.”

Reading this to my children, I was struck how evocative is this passage.  I remembered reading it myself for the first time when i was about eight.

How influential are are ones childhood books?  Today, I am thrilled by the loneliness of marshland and the wheeling and crying of massed waterfowl.

If you have not guessed this passage comes from C.S Lewis’ “The Silver Chair”.