Over one week, I retold to my children a tale they know well, illustrating it on the iPad as I spoke .
Here it is. Sweet dreams …
I had an hour to sketch before the light faded. A male mute swan seemed to be avidly defending his territory. I think he was driving away the erstwhile cygnets. I tried to capture this first in charcoal then in black watercolour, aiming for fast gestures to capture just the movement and postures. Here too are earlier drawings in charcoal from the end of June: the same male in calmer mood preening, interspersed are other charcoal sketches of lapwing, common tern, barnacle geese and black headed gulls.
One night I experimented with powdered charcoal and pastel, scraped into shapes with a time expired credit card and palette knife on a smooth resistant plastic surface. The first version developed almost by chance to show a distant city, part obscured by mountains against a red sand-blown sky.
The second piece was undertaken more deliberately. I wanted to show the path into a city through a river that in the way of cities has become more an outflow for waste. The city was to have been monumental. The superstructure of the tram system was to spider across the foreground above the open sewer. These two urban arteries were to draw the eye back to a massive city that reached up and up, piercing the clouds.
At the start, I built in the textured surface of the tram supports over the smooth waterway. But at some point, the picture lost direction. I began lifting out with tissue, lost much of what I had done and in exasperation scrubbed at the surface, abandoned it and went to bed.
After a week, I began to work into what was left in pastel, then ink. I began to see an alien city, with distorted organic buildings. I tested options digitally on the iPad. This weekend I added stalactites to make clearer the structural positioning and added what is not quite a bird.
Here it is, not the image I had imagined at first, but one that grew in the drawing.
The way into the city.
Like the other major religions, Birding seems dominated by men with beards. I, who am clean shaven in the week, need two days growth before venturing to a hide.
Birding cathedrals are reserves clawed back from the human landscape: flooded quarries, salt marsh, the remnants of once great woodlands, heather moors and grass downs long stripped of their dominant oak forests.
Fanatical birders chase rare species and keep lists: like all religious zealots, they twitch. But birders are mostly inoffensive people: they don’t bless guns or systematically abuse power.
Birders are not evolution-deniers, for their witness is of feathered dinosaurs, extant not extinct. For those so minded, the holy doctrine is cladistics: evidence-based and probablistic in nature and therefore neither holy nor a doctrine at all.
Unfortunately, one thing all major religions have in common is intolerance. And the next person who comes into a hide and chatters …
I worked quickly, printing in layers with acrylic paint brushed roughly onto an aluminium plate, over the stained grounds shown in the previous post.
One limitation was the lack of planning – I was drawing from memory but struggled to project my mental image onto the negative plate. Acrylic was a limited medium for printing. It dried too quickly to print predictably but the thicker areas that stayed wet splodged and lost edges. Some of this can be addressed by using a retarder in the mix which would allow me more time to draw negative shapes into the plate and control the thickness of the paint. next week …
I hope to get time this weekend to go to the nature researve and do some simple drawing.
At the end of each school year, home comes a big folder of of all the lovely paintings my kids have done, week by week. We do a bit of slapping paint around at home too. Some go on the wall. Quietly, quite a lot go in the paper recycling. When in the experimental drawing workshops, I often wonder what distinguishes us from small children playing with paint. I sort of think, not a lot.
We seem to have been playing with monoprints: layering pigment on metal plates and pressing paper on this by hand. The output from the group is very varied. My own approach was at first to use quite dilute gouache, and some ground charcoal and chalk pastels.
I wondered what then to do. I had made nine monoprints in rapid succession. I could look at the pretty patterns and say – “finished”. But a few purposeless patterns are not art any more than just looking at mountains or rivers or the appearence of stained tissue on a microscope slide are art. Eventually, this is the stuff of the recycling bin. Unless I use it. Somehow.
I started to go over these first patterns first in charcoal (not sure about that) and then I explored printing again, using thickly brushed acrylic. This is still experimentation. but I begin to have an idea. I am thinking of printing more sparingly over these patterns, building layers with rose and viridan to re–create an image of a heron on look out that I have previously attempted in watercolour (with very limited success). A version I’ve not posted before is below and I’ve linked to the previous attempts also.