Biting the paper

When I paint, I want to fight the paper.  Bite it, scratch it, hack into the layers.  I want to build the image and gouge holes in it.  Cover the image with another and another.

Buckden Out Moor looking west (2)

Somehow, I don’t think watercolour is really my medium.

Buckden Out Moor looking west Horton Scar

I enjoy the watercolours of other bloggers.  Looking at their skilled work, I think  you have to have to be kind to your medium, offer the paper understanding, respect the areas that should remain untouched, build the experience layer by glorious layer.

Horton Scar (1)

I took up watercolour so I could carry a field kit and paint outdoors not because I had any instinct for the medium.

Horton Moor (36 1)

In this series, I have drawn into each pocket sized rectangle with soluble graphite and crayons moistened with drizzle and drifting snow.

Horton Moor (37)

I have subsequently worked into each image first in watercolour and then with knife, water and a hard rubber, tearing the surface to create texture and claw back the whiteness beneath.

Malham Cove (15)  Malham Cove (18)

In one or two places the cratered paper was holed.

Working in the rain and snow: Hull Pot

The Yorkshire Dales are pocked by deep scars: chasms eroded out from beneath the limestone by running water.  There is an excitement in this landscape in which springs erupt unexpectedly out of rock, run a distance and descend again into dark sinks.  Everywhere, my walking was accompanied by sounds of accumulating snow-melt: gurgling, rushing and roaring.  I purposely planned my route to paint at two deep pot holes.

Hull pot (7 1)

The day was accompanied by drizzle veering into snow.  I set up to draw in these conditions using a large sheet of heavy textured watercolour paper folded into sixteen panels that would slide into a plastic protection.  I decided to experiment with soluble graphite and inktense watercolour pencils.  This way, I could snatch brief interludes in the weather, use the drizzle itself or ground water, and work with limited materials I could hold in my pockets.

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This proved tricky.  I could indeed work into the snow-dampened paper and the falling flakes or drops added to the texture.  However, I had to work for just a minute or two or the whole thing would wash off.  Drying in my pocket, the adjacent surface lifted some of the pigments though also added to the textures. This then was the first sketch.

hull pot (7)

Only later, with the paper thoroughly dried, did I work again into this with conti crayon, watercolour and knife to create the image I wanted.

I am editing this post in response to a comment below to add links to my use of this folded paper approach, in case you are interested.

Snow and mist

I follow many blogs.  A favourite is posted by a bloke called Jason who translates Spanish poetry and paints.  One thing I have copied is his use of the long vertical format for his images.  He achieves intense colours and a rich light that I find I cannot emulate.

Last week in the Yorkshire Dales, I found a simple subject: the snow had built in the lee of the dry stone walls on the distant fell across the valley.  Mist cloaked the heights.  In the foreground, islands of richly coloured coarse grass stood out against the snow.

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After painting this, it dawned on me that the curling lines made by the walls were following the landscape.  This karst slope comprises  shelfs and drops made as hidden water eroded the rock from beneath.  I tried a quick sketch.

Buckden Out Moor looking west (24)

Jason paints “directly from nature with my arse in the mud and my hands getting cold“.  This too is how I like to paint.  Except I worked standing, drawing into paper dampened with snow, with water soluble graphite and an inktense black crayon.

Distant buzzard

I am always excited to see a predator.  On this day, I watched a peregrine recovering height following (I am told by the person who first spotted it) a failed dive onto a curlew.

In a distant tree, through the scope, I watched a roosting buzzard.

Hams Hall Buzzard (3)

Hams Hall Buzzard

I am working on my field technique, capturing the jizz of the bird.  This experiment in wash and conti pencil was from memory.

Hams Hall Buzzard (4)

And these sketches were done quickly from photographs on the Birdguides site in an attempt to simulate direct observation, exploring the rapid use of line and wash.

Hams Hall Buzzard (5)

 

Thryme

There is a place where, no matter how thirsty, it is better not to eat of the puthyrme fruit.  In that place, the deceased are cremated, no matter what the mode of death.

This picture began as a random doodle using acrylic ink into pools of water on the paper, forced to dry fast under a closely directed lamp and then worked into with chalks and ink.  As it evolved, it took shapes drawn from Christopher Priest’s imagined archipelago in which space-time is drawn into an vortex overlying equatorial islands such that flight is possible but traveling unpredictable.  In The Islanders (2011), he writes a travelogue, a kind of guidebook, and only as you read about first one then the next of these various islands does it become apparent that this is in fact a narrative of tragedy and love.  However, I think I first read the chilling story of the puthryme in an anthology, long before I had heard of the author or knew his books.  That story is called The Cremation and I found it again recently in The Dream Archipelago.  As I came close to finishing this drawing, its links to that story became clear in my mind.

Last week’s birds

I started in charcoal and with a snipe that was conveniently sheltering in reeds close to the hide. As the stiffness eased in my hand and brain, I could switch to watercolour.
Snipe - charcoal snipe - charcoal

cormorant - watercolour

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Meanwhile, I have finally fixed my home computer so it connects to the internet (it involved scouring the drive for remnants of an anti-viral program that spookily had itself become malign).  The first installment of our cancer vaccine trial is published and this week I am hiding to write the next manuscripts, to walk and paint.