My son has created a new character, a Goblin Barbarian. I drew this on the Ipad while watching Flight Attendant on the telly. Apparently it doesn’t match what he has in mind though.
I have started to think about how I use the sketches I make, integrating those ideas. Here are starts. Above, I have drawn on canvas drawn in mixed greys and impure whites with water-miscible oils. The next step is to imagine colours onto this. Below, I drew in charcoal direct onto a lino block, aiming to sketch directly into a print (it’s a flawed idea as I will rub off the charcoal guide in cutting).
My weekly playlist, selected for my by spotify, included this track
which took me back to this moment in history, perhaps lost in more recent events
I am an atheist, but grace is something in which we all share.
Somehow these dark grey trunks silhouetted against the winter afternoon sky brought to mind tombstones. The field sketch is below using conte crayon, charcoal and white gouache in tinted paper. Above, I tried to darken this with washes mixing burnt sienna with ultramarine or paynes grey, the watercolour scattering on the powdery surface. I have also turned down the exposure on the photo.
Below is the quick preliminary drawing, with the sun behind me. In reality that trunk is tiled with rich brown scales mortared in green. I need to have another try at capturing that.
Folk singer Rhiannon Giddens brings together musical traditions from her mixed race heritage in the southern States of the USA (her parents married only 3 years after the unconstitutional ban was overturned), along with Gaelic and wider sources. She is a phenomenal and versatile performer with ballet and opera composing credits to her name and recently appointed the artistic director of the Silk Road ensemble founded by cellist Yo Yo Ma. She is also a music historian. She traces the history of the banjo from its African roots through the travelling bands of enslaved then indentured musicians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the appropriation of this genre into black-face minstrelsy continuing well into the twentieth century, and the general abandonment of this tainted culture by its originating people such that the banjo associates today with white folk music.
The preface to David Olosuga’s book Black and British describes how Enoch “Rivers of Blood” Powell fantasised a history in which empire is excised, returning to an imagined time of Britons untainted by rule, misdeed and othered people. This is indeed the history served up by our schools. However, we cannot understand ourselves without history, and there is no history save that it contains Black and colonial history, out and inward migration, the rich mix of cultures and ideas that shapes our everyday heritage. Stripped down history to pretend a white narrative is thin gruel indeed.
On Sunday I chanced upon a live concert by Rhiannon Giddens and her partner, Francesco Turrisi, from her home in Ireland, relayed from Santa Barbara. These are the sketches I did live and playing back the show. You can see I was really challenged trying to capture the shape of her face and features while singing, and I put the gallery of attempts below as a record. By contrast Turrisi was quite easy to capture but he sat still and faced away from the camera looking at Giddens. In the sketch above, she is playing the viola and her face is full of shifting expressions as she looks back at him.
This is an attempt to render tones in false colour; using a pink and pastel blue to represent mid-tones between white and black on black paper. It began as a dog-sketch, that is a drawing done in the time it takes for a spaniel to become bored waiting for me. I reworked it later at home.
Alongside drawing I am also trying to learn to play this Balkan love song on electric guitar (“Phirava daje phirava …”, first line of the verse which translates as “I travelled mother I travelled, I went to Tetovo, to see Mirvet, to steal her eyes”).
Tetovo it a town in Northern Macedonia. I realise I have been near there two decades ago, visiting my mother on her Balkan adventures (working for a non-governmental organisation, manning a polling station in post-war Serbia, smoking, drinking and playing endless cards)
Three sketches in conte crayon on black paper started outside and finished at home, stimulated by the recent life drawings of Rosie Scribblah.
Here are the original sketches, the first from my bike on the footbridge over the ford by the watermill, the other two on foot while my dog sat patiently by.
These drawings are a small respite, but with a pandemic uncontrolled by active choice of those with power, democracy devalued and the world moving to the tipping point for massive climate change, there seems small comfort in art. We are on the brink of knowing whether democracy can have a small win against careless self-serving misgovernment, a little step towards the next struggle, or whether the full force of devastation and destruction is to be unleashed on us at this time.
On a Saturday afternoon … what to do?
Make up your face as Coraline’s other mother
Skull mask, button eyes
Kerfe (method two madness) says “I like that you create a world that exists outside of humanity here. Serene. Enough just to be itself”.
I had not thought before that was what I was doing, but, this time, I cycled out to the woods in the nature reserve with that thought in mind.
Night was falling as I drew.
There is poetry in the rhythm of the trees. The poetry I am reading treasures the moments of warmth against the oncoming darkness.