Repurposing III

2015-11-21 July 2014 Pettico Wick 2

Thanks for the comments on the previous version.

In response I abandoned any attempt to reference the photograph I shot on the same day as this painting was first sketched out.  I kept changes to a minimum: dropping the skyline to give more explanation to the background coastal hills, smoothing out some texture  in the bottom left corner to link better the two halves of the image, scouring back some of the intense white of the nearest sea to reveal colours beneath and selectively glazing the foreground in acrylic to give more shape to the overgrown rock surface and reduce the brightness of the whites.

I now call this a finished piece.

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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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.

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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)

 

 

 

Malham Cove, snow, last March

Malham cove in snow, reduction linocut

Ten months ago I stood in the sleet and mist on the rocky path that leads up the side of a steep drop that had been carved by falling water powered by the melting Ice Age glaciers.

Malham Cove (14)

I have adapted this sketch, experimenting with carving a relief into a soft cut rubber block.  The aim was really to understand how the tools worked this material.  It was like butter against the broad bladed gouge yet buckled and resisted the greater pressure applied from the narrow V shaped cutter.  It took a while to learn how to cut fine lines.  This was the first cut.

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Those small white vertical lines seemed to say nothing about the rock structure beneath, so I made four prints with various depths of blue and then recut the block.

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Actually, I quite like this simple image without the blue underprint.  To me, it has a pleasing abstract nature.

Printing was done on the floor with an eighteen stone weight applied to the paper and block: i.e. placing a dictionary on the paper, with me standing on the book, lifting my daughter and with my son balancing on my feet and holding onto hers.

 

… seen as the person you would wish to be, not the flawed person you are.


On the train from Johannesburg to East London, I felt physically sick that I had breached the taboo that people of good conscience should not have dealings with the apartheid state.  During that journey, my tiny transgressions of racial segregation went unnoticed by others and left me frightened.

From East London, I hitched up the East Cape highway to reach Butterworth where I would have three months experience in a hospital, a part of my last student year.

My choice of South Africa for my elective training was self consciously political.  The British establishment supported the South African state, characterised resistance  as communism, saw racial segregation as good neighbourliness.  Left-leaning factions exploited opposition to apartheid as an icon of their own ideological purity, likened Labour-led councils to Soweto, linked Conservative budget cuts to the Sharpeville massacre.  I took this opportunity to go and observe, to bear witness, if only to myself.

Past students had written gushingly of their pride in helping out in a small newly independent developing country called Transkei.  But Transkei was a lie, a Bantustan, its independence a sham, its purpose to deny people citizenship within the country as a whole.  This strikingly beautiful place had given South Africa Steve Biko, martyred during a 22 hour interrogation by police in Port Elizabeth in 1977, and Nelson Mandela, lawyer, leader of the African National Congress, then guerrilla leader, by then in prison for 22 years.

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I was woken at midnight and rushed to theatre.  A young man had been stabbed through the heart.  Our anaesthetist was barred from reaching us by the curfew.  Our only surgeon had intubated the patient but needed me to squeeze the bag so he could open the chest, release the trapped blood compressing the cardiac muscle and stitch the breach.  He had never seen, let alone done, this procedure before.  The man survived.  Every night, though, the morgue filled with those who, bored and angry, had occupied themselves with axe fights and had lost.

All equipment  was used and re-used,  lumbar puncture needles blunt and bent so the trochar would not release, suture needles sterilized briefly in disinfectant between one casualty and another.  Each day, in the medical clinic, cachectic old men in their forties, starving, presented only when the progressive malignant blockage in the gullet reached completion: a standard story, instant diagnosis confirmed on X-ray, no treatment, no palliation.  In the midst of abject poverty, there  was obesity and the devastation wrought by poorly controlled diabetes.  There was no privacy: long lines of people in front of multiple consulting stations in a large room.  A hundred waiting ill, convulsed in laughter as I tried to take a history in my comedy Xhosa.

Nurses who were princesses, were outstanding in their professionalism and skills.  There was a rag bag of medical staff, each with a personal story of how they washed up in this strange pariah backwater.  Bizarrely, several were refugees from oppression in other nations.

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I returned convinced that racial segregation was entrenched, that apartheid would be overturned only by bloody revolution, that the white tribe would fight back tooth and claw and to the end.  That was 1986.  This week, watching the archival footage, I was again reminded by how truly remarkable was the peaceful transition to universal suffrage.  Once again, I was moved, profoundly moved, to watch excerpts from the Peace and Reconciliation proceedings: Desmond Tutu, in the chair, breaking down in tears as one after another, individuals recounted their suffering or their crimes.

In the commentary, I heard many times the impression interviewers had of Nelson Mandela.  Here was a man who saw you as the person you would wish to be, not as the flawed person you are.

mangove swamp (2)

Biting the paper III

I’ve more or less said all I wanted to say on this already.

This is the beck that winds its way down to feed the fall into Hull Pot.

I created this version at home, working into the original with knife and hard eraser.

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The wall with the hole from which poured the water was there but was more behind my left shoulder.  Putting it into view is, what is termed, license …

As for the original, I propped myself against that wall, my feet in snow, and painted in a gap between drizzle and sleet.

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