Listen … Poo tee weet

It is written that of all the 31 known sentient species, only humans believe in free will.  This illusion arises because although perceiving the existence of four dimensions, none the less, their view of time is severely constrained to glimpsed, mostly falsified memories and a probablistic view of the future.  Their outlook on life is as if their heads were imprisoned in helmets and vision permitted only through rigid six foot scopes without mirrors or lenses to enhance the passing image while strapped unknowing to flatcars careering under their own momentum along interweaving railroads.

Even if you read the book thirty years ago, i bet you will get the literary reference right away.  If you are guessing, I won’t spoil the game but someone I hope will post it below in a comment.  It is a classic of twentieth century fiction (actually much based on fact, frighteningly).  I re-read it in snatched moments recently.  I’ve had little time to draw, hence this rather rough sketch.

Powder and glue

Foam board – two sheets of shiny plastic sandwiching a layer of expanded polythene.   I bought half a dozen pieces but then puzzled about how to use them.  I experimented with an off-cut.

It doesn’t take charcoal.  This makes pale marks and pressing harder just scores the surface.  OK, why not fix that layer and then draw into it?  The sprayed fixative sat on the surface layer in a puddle.  I crushed some charcoal onto this and started making textures with my finger.  This seemed pleasing but I was inhaling the fumes of the slowly evaporating solvent.   Start again – the only other glue in the house was my children’s PVA stuff.  That must be safe.  The nozzle was blocked so I took this off and squeezed.  Out came great globs.  I ground down all those charcoal stubs that accumulated from sketching and threw it in and switched from fingers to shaping it with a palette knife.

At the moment I have in mind a distant city, monumentally big, with river and suspended tramlines weaving their way toward the foreground.

Except this is not that image, it is still just charcoal suspended in glue. Perhaps some colour was needed.   Cheap chalk pastels – small pieces ground down with the handle of a hammer seemed to go a long way.  Some white and paynes grey acrylic ink into the mix to create more contrast and definition.  This all seemed pretty viscous.  I propped it up to look and left it there overnight.  It slowly slid down the board as it dried.

I have found a use for foam board.  I’ll stick paper to it.


Throwing graphite dust at paper and burnishing the surface with charcoal and a soft rubber resulted in a shiny surface broken by lines of powder that I attempted to fix in place. I was thinking about the novel Perdido Street Station (China Meilville) as I drew this. This is classic steam punk fantasy with soaring descriptions of a twisted urban setting for a crew of hybrid warped and strangely sympathetic characters.

Experimental drawing class has begun again. A big class this time – about ten of us. Twenty or so imaginary sketches in charcoal and graphite made by strangers will, I think, be melded into a larger image and reshaped. Sounds like fun.

These workshops have changed the way I work, making me more open to mixed media and experimentation. I gained the confidence to submit work for exhibition for the first time. This is the piece:

And the exhibition is at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.

Just to add – thanks to Kevin Ryan for the experimental drawing workshops at the Midlands Arts Centre.

Cami de Nou de l’Otre from Embaise de Cuber

OK – just more holiday sketches form Mallorca

I walked along side a reservoir high in the north western plateau / mountains in Mallorca.  Each 200m stretch along the path appeared to be a separate territory for an Eleanora Falcon.  These large tailed birds were hovering low over the landscape or perching on rocks, hunting dragonflies I think.  The flat valley floor is walled by high limestone faces on either side.  Looking up, I had a couple of glimpses of circling vultures.

In this sketch, I attempted to balance the tangle of undergrowth shaped by a fallen tree against the calligraphy scored onto the cliff by rainwater.

Later, I found myself looking down a steep rock tumble falling 900m  from where I sat to the town of Soller below and then the distant sea.

Opening onto the sea

A small sketch on Arches rough paper with a limited range of colours and the squirrel mop brush on a hot day in Mallorca.

Now I am preparing to submit some pieces for an exhibition for the first time.  And I am learning that there is more to display than sticking a bit of wood round a picture.  My experimental pieces like Drone III and White Birds have irregular edges and uneven surfaces from the action of the medium making them difficult to mount properly.  I will find out later this week what has been made of them.  I need to select three of the five pieces I am having framed.  Even writing about this feels a risk – there is a low probability of these pieces being accepted (even lower if I don’t get my act together and submit the form by Wednesday!).