Re-purposing II

2015-10-25 St Abbs head July 2014 (4)

This is how this picture now sits after working into the distant moor and cliff faces with sandpaper, knife, pumice, washes of sepia ink and a dusting of conte crayon.  I have accentuated the highlights of the water and brought the tide further inland.  The next challenge is the foreground which needs more respect.  I like the textures that arose from the netting but want to wash over the white and bright green, and shape the near slopes more.  I need to unite foreground and background into one image and that means, in part, stripping off the clean white sea I seem now to have painted.  I have a photo showing grass heads – but how much now should I follow the photo?

Here is a gallery of images of this one scene on St Abbs Head in the Scottish coast, drawn originally in July 2013, some original field sketches and some in various stages of re-purposing.

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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)

Re-purposing

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.

 

spilled ink

Last weekend I only managed to find time for this unsatisfactory sketch, done in the late afternoon in the local wood.

2015-08-01 ink not yet spilled on conte crayon field sketch

It is done in conte crayon on heavy white textured paper (Stillman and Birn beta sketchbook).  I was trying for a composition that showed the depth of the layers of foliage through changes in light and tone.

Irritated with this field sketch, I later poured water on it.  It beaded and scattered across the crayon resist, carrying some of the pigment in swirls of floating dust.  I threw on sepia, yellow and green ink.  This was now spilling over the sides.  I put thick card under the page to isolate it from the rest of the sketchbook.  The inks threatened to leave the water repellent surface so I trapped them under a crumpled acrylic sheet and left this to dry.

2015-08-01 ink spilled on conte crayon field sketch (2)

The next day, the paper was lifted from the card by sharp dissection.  I had to glue it to a new sheet to effect repairs where cuts and rips had penetrated to the surface.  Now looking at it, I wonder whether to work back over this surface.

some evening

2015-07-12 Barston fields (1)

I have found, near the bird reserve, a 3 mile circular walk though fields.  Over these last three weeks, thigh high barley has been ripening from blue green to yellow.  Thick poles of corn have yet to reveal their richness.  The oil seed rape has flowered weeks ago and now forms dense forests of waving seed pods, with sporadic wild oats reaching above.  The ground between the plants is bare but there are wide margins to the fields offering some corridors to wildlife.  One short half mile stretch seems to harbour the favoured roosting spots for buzzards.  I hear them calling, mostly hidden in the foliage though I spotted a pair calling alternately in one tree.

2015-07-12 Barston fields

Here I am experimenting further with small sketches, washed in first with watercolour, before working over this with conte crayon, eraser and knife.  These were from an evening walk ten days ago.

Imaginary dragons: thoughts while walking round an extinct volcano

A few weeks before the General Election, parties that expect to form governments stand on a platform of “financial rectitude”.

This is strange because it does not seem that peoples’ livelihoods have been threatened by lack of financial rectitude so much as by a cult-like adherence to an economic orthodoxy that sanctifies national debts to financiers over what is owed to the populace. Financial institutions created debts from nothing and sold them as assets. In this cult, money debts carry a moral imperative: sooner that someone is impoverished than the bank is not paid.

2015-04-04 volcano watercolour and conte crayon (2)

Rock shelter, built to capture moisture and encourage vegetation on the arid slope of dead volcano. Pen and ink, watercolour, conte crayon.

 

I have found illuminating David Graeber’s broadcast series Promises Promises: a History of Debt, available on BBC IPlayer and based on his book, Debt: the first 5000 years. Part of his thesis is that debt and credit are ancient concepts, reflecting the webs of reciprocity throughout society. Credit and debt are an essential lubricant in human relationships and enterprise, but are inherently unstable: debt tends to accumulate causing poverty and societal unrest. Periodically, ancient monarchs felt obliged to declare jubilees in which debts were annulled. What we call the economy is a much narrower concept, typically focusing on money which for us is the sharing out of national debt as currency that can be taxed.

2015-04-05 volcano watercolour (1)

Seaward rim of dead volcano – compressed volcanic ash eroded by the winds. Watercolour sticks, wash, pen and ink.

 

My other source of economic wisdom is the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s first book The Colour of Magic. The world is flat, carried on the shoulders of four elephants riding on the cratered carapace of the gigantic space-faring turtle A’Tuin. On this disc is the Wyrmburg, a massive mountain balanced upside down on its pinnacle by magic, on which beautiful near-naked warriors do ariel battle on the backs of imaginary dragons. Whatever you do, don’t stop believing: it’s a long way down to crash.

2015-04-04 conte crayon 2 (2)

Looking across the caldera. Love tokens writ large in stones in the crater. Conte crayon

 

I belong to a political party which states the following on my membership card.

The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

2015-04-01 volcano conte crayon (3)

Lichens colonise the seaward slopes of the volcano and vegetation concentrated where the scant waters collect in the crater. Pen and ink, conte crayon, clean water.

 

In this election, the Labour Party is standing on a platform of financial rectitude. Despite this, I choose to believe that, if Labour forms a government, its leader, Ed Miliband, has the toughness, intelligence and decency to respond flexibly and humanely to the challenges of the next five years.

Why is Labour’s manifesto so conservative? I guess that the leadership does see through the global economy as an illusory belief system which, while powerfully mobilising human resource, is also inherently unstable as well as being unfair, cruel and discriminatory. But I can see that it is frightening to challenge the faith. Even when escaping from the mountain balanced on its tip, one rides an imaginary dragon. Don’t stop believing: it’s a long way down to crash.

Amnesty International campaign: Free Raif Badawi

Last weekend, I lost myself to my thoughts while cycling, pounding the country lanes crisscrossing the canal until I reached the flight of locks and junction with the canal path that would take me home.  I slogged through mud, half cycling half paddling until I emerged on the road again, to wheel my way with a flat front tyre.

Kingswood Junction, Lapworth 11 01 2015 (1)

The dredging boat “Shoveler” at Kingswood Junction, Lapworth, drawn as evening fell and the winter light faded. This was sketched in ink and water, then layered with conte crayon and pastel.

 

My thoughts have been shaped by last week’s slaughter of cartoonists and journalists in Paris and from there to the killing of Ahmed Merebet, decimation in Nigerian villages, refugees fleeing civil war in Syria, children killed at school in Pakistan. There are so many victims of extremism, intolerance and war and so many of these victims are Muslim.  These reports have fleeting existence in news media before being replaced.

Seamus Heaney’s poem Digging begins:

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

His writing has its roots in the physical act of digging, the hard slog, the smells of soil and potatoes, the sounds of cleaved turf.  He says of his forefathers:

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

But lacking their brawn and skill, he concludes:

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Raif Badawi wrote a blog in Saudi Arabia.  Metaphorically, he dug with his pen.  He promoted the values of freedom, and importantly, tolerance and respect.  He is being beaten for it.  What little we can do, we should do.  I have linked to Amnesty International’s petition against this abominable act.

Layers

Here, one evening, I looked down from the high bluff made of volcanic rocks that had been forced through the more ancient softer petrified sediments.  I had previously drawn these contorted rocks in watercolour and sketched the shapes made by the two rock types in ink and wash.

I approached this using a board covered first in thick, unfixed charcoal, drawing in shapes with fingers and an eraser, reserving the brightness of the light reflecting from the sea. I then worked into this with very wet white acrylic, suspending the charcoal dust and building the contrasting tones.    Finally I worked into the wet layers with coloured acrylics, a couple of sticks of chalk pastel and a sharp knife hacking my way back to the paper beneath.  I photographed the piece on site.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

I set off with the piece on a board in the back of the car.  After a while I pulled into a lay-by and looked at it again.  In the deepening gloom, I ground more charcoal into the surface and slopped on more white paint, lifting the charcoal but obscuring the colour.  I tipped my remaining sepia ink in a streak along the line of the rocks.

I imposed rotational acceleration on wet, slowly drying paint as I drove round twisting lanes up and down hills, catching in the headlights owls, startled into flight by my progress.

I photographed it late that evening, still drying, paint still moving slowly to invade the bastions of ink.

2014-07-20 Pettico Wick (3)

This is the dried form, as it now is, waiting further action.

2014-07-20 Pettico Wick (2)

 

 

 

Chord progression

chord progression

I re-suspended the loose charcoal in the picture posted previously in very wet white gouache.  White and Prussian blue acrylic were applied in selected areas. The white acrylic pushed the gouache wash away whereas the blue slowly bled into it.  The migrating washes (below) were left to dry overnight and then the whole layer fixed (above).

The music was by Elena Kats-Chernin, the haunting Works for Piano Trio.

chord progression 1

I am thinking how to draw back into this.

 

 

The garden beneath the bones

The garden beneath the bones 2

This large picture began as a layer of chalk pastel using a remembered images of a fallen tree as a source.  I disintegrated that with charcoal, oil pastel and water.  The skeletal remains of a long extinct mythical creature were overlaid in acrylic.  And then I developed this further on the iPad as a steampunk cityscape, creating “The Ribs“.

Still, the real picture remained.  I experimented with printing from paper covered with coloured oil pastel and overlaid with white acrylic, placed face down on my picture, and with heat applied. Initial tests suggested the acrylic would melt and carry the oil pastel onto the picture.  It failed.  The acrylic did not adhere and instead, the paint for the ribs was lifted off.

The next experiment was more successful.  I took scraps of various papers, layered in oil pastel my desired colours and, on top, white oil pastel.  Again, I used heat to print these onto my picture, creating the effect seen above.  I worked into these with more layers of printing and then brought out contrasting tones with ink painted onto the resisting surface.  I had to repaint the bones.

All in all, satisfying textures and strengths of colour on a dark background.  There may be more to do on this.