companionable drawing

Today my daughter asked to go for a walk and do some drawing.  This is not something we do often.  She had in mind a muddy walk through fields to a place where we had previously drawn buzzards.  So we did.

31-10-2015 Barston Fields (Hannah)

She chose a composition looking out into a field where an old almost bare oak tree was crowned by reddening foliage, glowing in the late afternoon autumn light.  She drew bold lines in pencil then switched from that to watercolour and then conte crayon, constrained by my art field kit and guided by the technique I am developing for myself.  I looked only twice – when she finished the pencil marks and when she had finished.   I will be honest, I really like this piece.

31-10-2015 Barston Fields (3)

Here is my piece.  However, unlike my companion, I reworked this when I got home.  I had looked again at her painting and at a shot taken on my phone.  I had not seen what she had, that the bare tree still had leaves at the top and side, and these should be the focus of the sketch.  I also needed to bring the foreground forward.  Here is the drawing as completed in the field and photographed in sunlight.

31-10-2015 Barston Fields (1)

The light across the cut maize stalks was striking.

2015-10-31 puddles in autumn

Yesterday, we went by train to the music shop to sort an annoying buzz affecting the C string on my tenor ukulele.  We sketched on the train.

2015-10-28 On the train - Hannah (1)

2015-10-28 On the train - Hannah (2)  2015-10-28 On the train (3)


2014-07-14 Pettico Wick

This was painted in July 2014.  I sat on the bluff of St Abbs Head looking down on the series of inlets from the sea forming Pettico Wick.  I worked on board with charcoal and pastel, lifting and scrambling the fragments with very wet sepia ink and gouache.  Despite all my contrivance, the board whipped in the wind, striking me paint-side on my face, and flew to land paint-side down in the damp grass.  I scoured into it with hard eraser and knife, revealing the under-surface to define the crags.  It dried to muted muddied tones in the boot of the car, and has languished in a box for the last year.

2015-10 St Abbs head July 2014 (4)

Last weekend, I pulled it out again and wondered how to develop it – to experiment with its surface but keep something of the chaos of its making.  I worked back in with conte crayon to refresh the colours and refloated the pigment in water and inks.  I sought to control the wet mix by layering it with netting, restraining the fluid from covering the central highlight and holding the puddles to evaporate on the image rather than pour over the side.

2015-10 St Abbs head July 2014 (3)

I have painted in a low sky, giving definition to the distant coast and a sense of scale to the whole piece.  Here it is photographed by lamp and by day light.

2015-10 St Abbs head July 2014 (2)

It took a week to dry out and I am ready to work into it again.  I think I will next use knife and sandpaper to regain some of the earlier layer, particularly in the rocks forming the coastline.  Then I will paint successive dilute acrylic glazes over the grass and heather to bring some coherence to the higher land.

How would you develop this?  I would welcome advice and suggestions.


Enclosed space

I read that the Qing dynasty lasted around three centuries and established the boundaries enclosing the multicultural peoples who now comprise the modern Chinese state.  Ai Weiwei‘s installation “Fragments” recycles hardwood pillars from Qing dynasty temples into branching interlacing and interlocking structures.  Apparently, viewed from above, it maps the territories of modern China.  Walking through it, it retains the sense of the sacred space, but opened out, regaining the feel of the forest that gave the wood.  I felt small, like a child weaving in a game beneath arches made of adults’ arms.  Stepping back and stretching up, I tried to draw the negative spaces made by the conjoined beams.

2015-10-1 Ai Weiwei Fragments (9)

2015-10-1 Ai Weiwei Fragments (6)

I worked in the exhibition hall in a small pocket book with fountain pen and waterbrush.  Later, I dusted this with conte crayon to recreate some of the colours.  These were the original sketches.

2015-10-1 Ai Weiwei Fragments (2)    2015-10-1 Ai Weiwei Fragments (4)

“Straight” too is a map of sorts, a landscape created from thousands of iron bars reclaimed from the twisted ruins of buildings that collapsed during the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.  Walking round did indeed feel like taking a journey.  The contours mount successively to form hills with precipitous cliffs between one terrain and another.  Then, turning the far corners and walking down the other side, the piece sweeps down and broadens like a costal plain or wide river estuary.  My quick sketch does not capture the majesty of the work: as I started someone stood in front of me and I found myself incorporating her into the sketch, breaking the lines and reducing the sense of scale.

2015-10-16 Ai Weiwei Straight (2)

Round the walls are great panels documenting the 5000 or so predominantly young people who died in this quake, and who otherwise might have been forgotten.  The exhibition notes describe that Ai Weiwei’s team undertook a citizen’s investigation to systematically name the deceased and to call to account the officials whose actions led to the use of poor quality building materials in schools in this seismically unstable region.

Apparently, it was in response to this that Ai Weiwei was imprisoned for 81 days in 2011.  He memorised every detail of his cell, recreating these as six half life size dioramas, a piece called “S.A.C.R.E.D.”.   As voyeurs, we peer in through the two tiny cell windows to see him within – to see him standing, walking, sleeping, showering, shitting – at all times flanked by two officers, impassive, intensely not communicating, positioned always just within his personal space, dogging his every move.

2015-10-16 Ai Weiwei S.A.C.R.E.D (2)  2015-10-16 Ai Weiwei S.A.C.R.E.D (1)

This one view, of Ai Weiwei lying covered with a sheet, triangulated by the two immobile guards is intensely powerful.  It calls to mind the emotionally intense vigil of the fourteenth station, the motionless figure on the slab draped with a cloth, the watchers and the enclosed space of the stone tomb.

File 18-10-2015, 13 41 11





Autumn evening light

2015-10-04 Siden Hill Woods (6)

The path within the wood runs close to the edge where the trees meet the open field and the foliage is backlit by the westering sun.

This sketch was made first in conte crayon, highlighting the sunlit leaves in cool yellow and those starting to brown in warmer greens.  Scanty layers of watercolour were dragged across this resist for the ploughed earth, distant trees, sky and shadowed leaves, trunk and twigs.

I later adjusted the balance within the field sketch to give more substance to the turned clods in the field, with crayon and purple paint.


2015-08-29 16.19.16 4

This is the remaining sketch from our holiday in August.  I took a long walk past the expensive marina, along the coast path and then inland up steep wooded hills.  It was hot.

This sketch began with a layer of conte crayon, then  water colour scattering over the layer of resist.  This is shown below.  It’s photographed under different lighting I notice (intense sunlight), showing more dramatically the blue of sea and sky.

2015-08-26 12.03.29-1

After a couple more layers of crayon and paint, I blocked in deep shadows with the black brush pen.

September has been a thin month for drawing, limited to a charcoal sketch of Jeremy Corbyn when he won the Labour leadership and some desultory drawings of birds in the nature reserve.  I tried to mix conte crayon and watercolour again as well as drawing in ink, but could not find the technique that day.

2015-10-04 22.03.55  2015-10-04 22.04.07-1

2015-10-04 22.02.31-1  2015-10-04 22.02.46

2015-10-04 22.04.21

The less often I draw, the harder it becomes to do it.