four sketches of objects in Matisse’s studio

Henri Matisse collected objects and placed them as actors centre-stage and in the wings in the dramas of his still life images.



He used cut out shapes to position his players and the cut outs themselves became art.


He spent a year searching for a Venetian carved wood chair and was delighted with his find.

These six last images include a couple of illicit photographs, and scans of post cards and illustrations in the book accompanying the exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts exhibition, “Matisse in the studio“.  I love the simple lininess in the third and last of these illustrations and the simple blockiness of the cut-outs and just the idea of exploring the relationships between the contents of a studio full of things.

felt tips

A couple of weeks ago, I went drawing in Birmingham with the artist who blogs as outside authority. OA had recently been at a workshop led by Sarah Cannell and had been encouraged to draw using three randomly chosen sharpies, using colours to annotate the composition, for example to outline shapes of interest or represent receding layers. After OA caught the train home, I nipped into the art shop just before it closed and bought three felt tips – chisel tipped at one end, brush pens at the other – and went in search of a subject. In this view of the old Curzon Street railway station behind the Woodman pub drawn on a scrap of brown paper, I almost but not completely missed the point of this technique. My colours were not randomly chosen – by selecting a cool lilac, warm orange and a green I found myself representing the colours I could see. I slipped into using a bit of conte crayon to bring out highlights and darks, pulling the pub forward. Still, it made me think differently.

Found surface

Artist blogger, outside authority, and I spent an afternoon in Birmingham, during which OA made about 20 drawings and I made two.  Here is what was supposed to be a simple sketch in conte crayon on scrap brown paper from the canal side in Brindley place.

We had started the day at the Ikon Gallery, viewing the exhibition of lithographs and other work from German print-maker, Kathe Kollwitz.  I find it difficult to put into words the impact of her images.  She lived in a poor neighbourhood of Berlin across the end of the 19th and through the early 20th century.  Much of her figurative art depicts her own face as she aged and approached death.  Her depictions of women, domesticity and oppression carry an intense humanity.  One wall showed the same scene in multiple variations, the mother holding her dead child.  On the other wall, I found images of households where the shadows obscure the male figure while the woman is highlighted.  I had to look and see the dark silhouette of the man’s back, hands behind him, standing in despair across the other side of the bed: what had taken place between him and his wife who is lit in the foreground?  Again, light shows a mother in bed with three beautifully drawn children in the covers.  The dark mass to the fore is a man, head in hands: unemployment reads the title and I guess the children are hungry.  One I found intriguing and then shocking, a woman lying on her back, her left leg projecting to me, foreshortened and intrusive, in the wreckage of a herb garden, a child in the dark background: raped, said the title, reflecting on an event at the start of a peasants’ rebellion.  I thought back, in contrast, to an exhibition, the legacy of Rubens, a couple of years ago, and the paintings of jolly rolling frolicking flesh to depict rape in classical mythology.

Look back

This little sketch was made in the late afternoon walking down a path through wood and bracken.  Huge limestone boulders in the gloom of the trees brought to mind the petrified carcases of trolls, as viewed by scared hobbits who had forgotten their family history.  I had walked too far down the path by the time this idea had come to me, so drew what I could see looking back at the wood.

The last sketch of the holiday.  Out on a long cycle ride, I had watched clouds build up and lightning flash across the distant mountains.   I was daunted by the spectacle and could find no way to express this.   Then I took shelter from the downpour in a vacant goat shed.  Cycling on to l’Albufera nature reserve, I drew the clearing skies on a bridge over a waterway on a small sketchpad with conte crayon and water.