Four meditations on lines by T.S. Eliot: part I

CHORUS:

…King rules or barons rule; we have suffered various oppression, but mostly we are left to our own devices, and we are content if we are left alone.

We try to keep our households in order; the merchant, sly and cautious, tries to compile a little fortune, and the labourer bends to his piece of earth, earth colour, his own colour, preferring to pass unobserved.

Now I fear disturbance of the quiet seasons: winter shall come bringing death from the sea, ruinous spring shall beat at our doors, root and shoot shall eat at our eyes and our ears, disastrous summer burn up the beds of our streams and the poor shall wait for another decaying October.

Murder in the cathedral: part I.  T.S. Eliot

 

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platform

I used my holiday in Mallorca to think more consciously about using types of marks in drawing, rather than a style founded more in optimism than skill.

Here is a sketch from a platform overlooking a nature reserve.  It was started in graphite and then built in layers of watercolour and conte crayon, returning to graphite for final details.

 

 

Alternative versions

Alfred Stevens 1817-75 “Truth and Falsehood”: Truth tears out the double tongue of Falsehood and pushes aside the mask concealing his grotesque features.  His serpent tails are exposed beneath the drapery.  The group and its companion, “Valour and Cowardice”, are full size models for the bronze groups on the huge monument to the Duke of Wellington in St Paul’s Cathedral.  London.  Plaster.  [explanatory notes on plaque, Victoria and Albert museum].

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The current relevance of the statue is immediately obvious.  However, my mind was thrown back to 1999 when a cabinet minister declared eloquently “If it falls to me to start a fight to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play, so be it. I am ready for the fight. The fight against falsehood and those who peddle it”.  The resulting action led to his being jailed for perjury.  I am sure the image shown here is of Truth defeating what were then Falsehoods which we now hold true: religious dogma defeating rationalism, self interest overcoming balanced enquiry, empire over civil society, autocracy scourging democracy.  When the powerful shout loudly about the lies of others and frustrate open scrutiny, it is to cover their deceits.

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Here are alternative versions of my sketches undertaken at the Victoria and Albert a week ago, reworked with conte crayon, paint, knife and (in the third image) digitally enhanced black tones.  Rodin’s tortured twisted Muse spoke  of a deeper truth than Stevens’ allegorical statue, of the anguish and beauty of human existence.  The theatre masks are props to tell a fictional narrative but when the narrative finishes, the masks are removed.

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Day out at the museum

Last weekend was a tenth birthday for the smallest person in our family.  We took a trip to see Undress, the exhibition on the history of underwear at the Victoria and Albert museum.  The historical timeline was short – perhaps people didn’t have underwear more than a couple of centuries ago or we don’t know much about it.  The early hoops were intended simply to keep dresses from contact with the hidden nethers.  A lot of the history of women’s underwear is about control.  Asked for her highlight, my daughter picked out the oddness of a corset marketed to be worn when cycling.  However, she became bored and found the atmosphere stuffy.  She dragged me out to sit in the main gallery, drawing Rodin’s bronze distorted contorted amputated Muse, and the passers-by on the broad stairs behind.

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The rest of the family carried on round the galleries but small person wanted more time to draw sculpture.  Her sketches are of the bust of Helen of Troy, and an unidentified statue next to Rodin’s Muse (in which I feature, sketching).  My drawing is of Alfred Steven’s full size plaster model for the “Truth and Falsehood” bronze, part of Wellington’s monument.  She was also drawing random people looking at the displays.

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We caught up with the family in the gallery of theatre costumes – by then she was using my phone camera, but I stopped to draw in pen and water, tinting this with watercolour later, on the train home.

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On the train, she watched Monty Python’s film Jabberwocky, with smiles chasing each other fleetingly across her face.  I tried drawing her, but once again I have made her too old and I could not catch her humour or rapidly changing expression.  Perhaps this is a foretaste of her appearance in her late teens, waiting to go into an exam.

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Revels of the recently risen, as the cold ones plight their troth

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Dr Sketchy’s, themed on “Brides and Prejudice and Zombies”, at the Victoria pub in Birmingham last weekend.

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Humour and imagination and hard work has gone into the into costumes and prosthetics, selection of music, script for the marriage service and backing images.

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Ten to fifteen minute poses, drawn in pencil, ink, conte crayon and watercolour

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I abandoned accuracy, drew with abandon and made up the details as I went on.

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Exaggeration and anatomical distortion were pretty inevitable.

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Credits to Lisa Troth, Trampy Holford, Steve Pledger, Liberty Pink, Kitten von Mew, Tiffany Beau and others.

Mark making V

This is the last of this series.  The common thread was to use pen marks to build texture, irrespective of the colour applied over the top.  In this and all the others, I have tended to use the pen to draw outlines and then fill in texture in the enclosed shapes.

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This drawing was made last weekend from a vantage point viewing the water jetting through flaws in the closed lock gates.

When I next get out to sketch, which is unlikely to be today, I will aim to draw no hard outlines, but use the pen to just build textures so that the watercolour layers define the shapes.

Mark making IV

2016-06-05 canal sketches (4)

These drawings are from an evening cycle ride a couple of weeks ago.  I built texture with moving lines before adding colour.

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In each sketch, I roughed in an outline in pencil, drew in pen and added colour with a limited palate of watercolour, sometime with conte crayon.

2016-06-05 canal sketch grey wagtail

I followed the bright blue flash of a kingfisher into the dark under a bridge.  When I focussed on where I thought it had alighted, I found instead a grey wagtail, bobbing and dipping on a branch.

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Museum drawings

I am trying to infect as many members of my family with the drawing bug as possible.  My sons remain immune  but my wife was lured by drawing in a pub and  my daughter has come out drawing in the countryside with me several times.  She has become quite interested in this social activity of urban sketching.   Here are a mixture of drawings in museums, the first is mine in the Natural History Museum in London.  The rest are a mixture of mine and my daughter’s from an urban sketching trip we did together in the Think Tank in Birmingham.  Three pictures I have posted already but here are placed along side hers.

2016-03-29 neanderthal man model

We begin with exhibits – the prototype Mars suit, tipping water bucket, robot arm, pre-gear bicycle, tram.

While I drew the giant deer skeleton, she turned to the smaller stuffed animals on display.

We also drew people.  One of these is a picture of me, another by me of another sketcher, Raj.  The rest are of people mostly in the café.

For completeness, the last was drawn where we shared breakfast before we went to the museum.  It is my sketch in fountain pen of part of the Birmingham law courts.

2016-04-16 Birmingham court from cafe across road

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Sketching: A4s Awakens

I had raved so much about my first Dr Sketchy’s Anti Art-School session, drawing with cabaret and a beer, that my wife decided that next time she would come too.  She never draws, at least not since drawing the Esso tiger in junior school.

The great Dr Sketchy’s team in Birmingham put on  series of ten minute poses over four hours.  My wife drew clear bold lines in charcoal.  For the storm troopers, I blocked in reflected light in pink and blue conte crayon , then drew into it with black brush pen.

This character Ahsoka comes from the Clone Wars cartoon series, which I never watched.  The model played her with sense of aloof power.  I was struck by her dramatic lips and eyes.  I drew in pencil and then watercolour.  I keep meaning to go back and work into this in conte crayon – I don’t feel I captured her essence here.

Mysti Vine played a fabulous Princess Leia.  I like my wife’s drawing particularly though she is dismissive, claiming the best part of her drawing is the furniture.  There is something about her composition that works really well for me.

Kitten von Mew played Leia riding an ewok.  What is not to like about this costume?  On Facebook is a photograph with her in costume sharing a platform with Warwick Davis, who played the ewok Wicket in the third (or sixth) Star Wars episode.

And to finish, here are the masters of the force, Sith and Jedi.  Lisa, who organises the Birmingham Dr Sketchy’s sessions, played Anakin, the young Darth Vadar.

Personally, I am impressed with my wife’s drawings which are clearer and more expressive than my attempts.  For ten minute poses, I need to simplify my tools.

Three sketches when out walking

2016-03-30 Siden Hill woods and adjacent fields

Here are three sketches done when out and about this week.  The first was done in watercolour over pencil.  I sat in the upper story of a bird hide and looked down to where the woods on my left threw long shadows on the meadow, otherwise lit golden by the evening sun.

2016-03-31 Aquaduct across railway Wootton Wawen

The second was also watercolour over pencil, with texture and highlights added using cote crayon and knife.  This was a remarkable viewpoint, on the footpath sunken nearly four feet behind the canal, itself contained within iron cladding on the aqueduct crossing the railway.  The odd perspective comes about because I was looking vertically down on the cleft in the near canal side but horizontally at the one on the far side as well as the railway, woods and hills beyond.  I have resisted the temptation to score it out in an attempt to correct it.

2016-04-01 Woods and fields Wootton Wawen

Earlier in the day I crossed low rolling farmland and patchy woods.  This sketch was done in watercolour and then I worked over it in conte crayon.  It became too laboured. Later, I erased much of the crayon on the fields and woods and re-applied it with a lighter touch, while retaining the dense chalky opacity in the layers of cloud above.  The part that appeals to me is the mid ground trees on the right. I had taken these right back to white with sandpaper and worked more sparingly into the heavily textured surface, aiming to re-create the sense of light filtering from behind through the branches and early buds.