Thryme

There is a place where, no matter how thirsty, it is better not to eat of the puthyrme fruit.  In that place, the deceased are cremated, no matter what the mode of death.

This picture began as a random doodle using acrylic ink into pools of water on the paper, forced to dry fast under a closely directed lamp and then worked into with chalks and ink.  As it evolved, it took shapes drawn from Christopher Priest’s imagined archipelago in which space-time is drawn into an vortex overlying equatorial islands such that flight is possible but traveling unpredictable.  In The Islanders (2011), he writes a travelogue, a kind of guidebook, and only as you read about first one then the next of these various islands does it become apparent that this is in fact a narrative of tragedy and love.  However, I think I first read the chilling story of the puthryme in an anthology, long before I had heard of the author or knew his books.  That story is called The Cremation and I found it again recently in The Dream Archipelago.  As I came close to finishing this drawing, its links to that story became clear in my mind.

Entering the city via the sewer

One night I experimented with powdered charcoal and pastel, scraped into shapes with a time expired credit card and palette knife on a smooth resistant plastic surface.  The first version developed almost by chance to show a distant city, part obscured by mountains against a red sand-blown sky.

https://kestrelart.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/powder-and-glue-2/

The second piece was undertaken more deliberately.  I wanted to show the path into a city through a river that in the way of cities has become more an outflow for waste.  The city was to have been monumental.  The superstructure of the tram system was to spider across the foreground above the open sewer.  These two urban arteries were to draw the eye back to a massive city that reached up and up, piercing the clouds.

At the start, I built in the textured surface of the tram supports over the smooth waterway.  But at some point, the picture lost direction.  I began lifting out with tissue, lost much of what I had done and in exasperation scrubbed at the surface, abandoned it and went to bed.

After a week, I began to work into what was left in pastel, then ink.  I began to see an alien city, with distorted organic buildings.  I tested options digitally on the iPad.  This weekend I added stalactites to make clearer the structural positioning and added what is not quite a bird.

Here it is, not the image I had imagined at first, but one that grew in the drawing.

The way into the city.

Thick paint printing on mottled ground

I worked quickly, printing in layers with acrylic paint brushed roughly onto an aluminium plate, over the stained grounds shown in the previous post.

https://kestrelart.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/playing/

  

 

One limitation was the lack of planning – I was drawing from memory but struggled to project my mental image onto the negative plate.  Acrylic was a limited medium for printing.  It dried too quickly to print predictably but the thicker areas that stayed wet splodged and lost edges.  Some of this can be addressed by using a retarder in the mix which would allow me more time to draw negative shapes into the plate and control the thickness of the paint.  next week …

I hope to get time this weekend to go to the nature researve and do some simple drawing.

Playing

At the end of each school year, home comes a big folder of of all the lovely paintings my kids have done, week by week. We do a bit of slapping paint around at home too.   Some go on the wall.  Quietly, quite a lot go in the paper recycling.  When in the experimental drawing workshops, I often wonder what distinguishes us from small children playing with paint.  I sort of think, not a lot.

We seem to have been playing with monoprints: layering pigment on metal plates and pressing paper on this by hand.  The output from the group is very varied.  My own approach was at first to use quite dilute gouache, and some ground charcoal and chalk pastels.

I wondered what then to do.  I had made nine monoprints in rapid succession.  I could look at the pretty patterns and say – “finished”.  But a few purposeless patterns are not art any more than just looking at mountains or rivers or the appearence of stained tissue on a microscope slide are art.   Eventually, this is the stuff of the recycling bin.  Unless I use it.  Somehow.

  

I started to go over these first patterns first in charcoal (not sure about that) and then I explored printing again, using thickly brushed acrylic.  This is still experimentation.  but I begin to have an idea.  I am thinking of printing more sparingly over these patterns, building layers with rose and viridan to re–create an image of a heron on look out that I have previously attempted in watercolour (with very limited success).  A version I’ve not posted before is below and I’ve linked to the previous attempts also.

https://kestrelart.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/not-so-much-a-painting/

https://kestrelart.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/woodland/

Powder and glue

Foam board – two sheets of shiny plastic sandwiching a layer of expanded polythene.   I bought half a dozen pieces but then puzzled about how to use them.  I experimented with an off-cut.

It doesn’t take charcoal.  This makes pale marks and pressing harder just scores the surface.  OK, why not fix that layer and then draw into it?  The sprayed fixative sat on the surface layer in a puddle.  I crushed some charcoal onto this and started making textures with my finger.  This seemed pleasing but I was inhaling the fumes of the slowly evaporating solvent.   Start again – the only other glue in the house was my children’s PVA stuff.  That must be safe.  The nozzle was blocked so I took this off and squeezed.  Out came great globs.  I ground down all those charcoal stubs that accumulated from sketching and threw it in and switched from fingers to shaping it with a palette knife.

At the moment I have in mind a distant city, monumentally big, with river and suspended tramlines weaving their way toward the foreground.

Except this is not that image, it is still just charcoal suspended in glue. Perhaps some colour was needed.   Cheap chalk pastels – small pieces ground down with the handle of a hammer seemed to go a long way.  Some white and paynes grey acrylic ink into the mix to create more contrast and definition.  This all seemed pretty viscous.  I propped it up to look and left it there overnight.  It slowly slid down the board as it dried.

I have found a use for foam board.  I’ll stick paper to it.

Garuda

Throwing graphite dust at paper and burnishing the surface with charcoal and a soft rubber resulted in a shiny surface broken by lines of powder that I attempted to fix in place. I was thinking about the novel Perdido Street Station (China Meilville) as I drew this. This is classic steam punk fantasy with soaring descriptions of a twisted urban setting for a crew of hybrid warped and strangely sympathetic characters.

Experimental drawing class has begun again. A big class this time – about ten of us. Twenty or so imaginary sketches in charcoal and graphite made by strangers will, I think, be melded into a larger image and reshaped. Sounds like fun.

These workshops have changed the way I work, making me more open to mixed media and experimentation. I gained the confidence to submit work for exhibition for the first time. This is the piece:

https://kestrelart.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/drone-iii-we-must-leave-these-people-no-place-to-hide/

And the exhibition is at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.

http://www.rbsa.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/friends-exhibition/

Just to add – thanks to Kevin Ryan for the experimental drawing workshops at the Midlands Arts Centre.

Drone II

How might it feel in my home town if we walked under constant surveillance from a kilometre in the sky?

If those remote eyes guided missiles?

If any male over 18 years were defined as a legitimate target?

If any gathering of more than three people were viewed as terrorist activity?

How might we live our lives, buy and sell, celebrate and mourn, work and learn, protest and be free in fear of sudden, targeted, guided but blindly lethal attack?

How much or little might our society have to change for this to be thinkable?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/02/drone-wars-secrecy-barack-obama?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/11/obama-drone-wars-normalisation-extrajudicial-killing?

Also

https://kestrelart.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/experimental-drawing-shards/

https://kestrelart.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/drone-i/

Experimental drawing: shards

The chosen reference for our experimental drawing workshops  is the work of Anselm Kiefer.

His work is carried out on a large scale, constructed thickly with paint, clay, ash, straw, metal, glass and the written word.  The images constitute a dialogue, perhaps more an argument with recent history, art and culture.

Responding to his art challenged me.  Paint combines with solid materials stuck to the surface.  Is this collage or mosaic or painting or a display of found objects?  Are the components iconic or, like individual pigment granules, devoid of individual symbolism?  Other than scale, what distinguishes this art from a child’s picture of glued autumn leaves?

In my first layer, I blocked in a silhouette of my home town in acrylic rose and phthalo green.

Weeks then elapsed.   I returned with toolbox, a hammer, glue, white porcelain plates,  bark, feathers from a predated corpse and tarmac gathered from a surface disrupted by a root.

I suspended the shards and granules in a sea of glue and swept into shapes using a plastic blade.  In my mind, there was a direct link back to this earlier work in charcoal (https://kestrelart.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/swarm/).

Two more weeks have passed since.  Paint and glue has dried.  This week, I spent some time drinking coffee, just looking and thinking.  Then I tried to recreate and expand the obscured cityscape, painting into and over this surface.  I will post that next layer sometime soon.

I have only seen Anselm Kiefer’s paintings as photographs.  I cannot find an example displayed in the UK although the Tate and the National Gallery of Scotland seem to have archived a number of pieces.  I did not know of him earlier in the year when work was exhibited at the White Cube.  My knowledge of him to date is largely gleaned from the internet, including http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anselm_Kiefer

Fine artist Chris Wood comments below and introduced me to the work of Julian Schnabel.  I post the link here so anyone else interested in this theme can follow it.  http://www.julianschnabel.com/category/paintings/plate-paintings

Experimental landscapes IV: St Abb’s Head

The final one in the series:

Drawn from memory, sketches and photograph on my phone.

Charcoal and white gouache, watercolour and chalk pastel.

Experimental landscapes III: between breakfast and homework

Bridging the gap between breakfast and homework this morning, we folded a piece of purple typing paper to create a book with panels as numbered pages.

Unfolded, we took turns drawing a continuous line across the panels aiming to create double pages in the book from the discontinuous panels.  We began with a dinosaur theme but the middle pages got hijacked by a fairytale castle and somehow the last ones became cityscapes.  We wanted to colour it quickly and the paper would not take paint, so we used thick chalk pastels, too big for the job.  No finesse here.

I refolded it, sewed the spine and cut the pages .  Here is the sequence of pages, with pretentious words added.

This quick game was based on the method suggested by Greg Poole and described in the last post.

https://kestrelart.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/1000/