A spring day cycle ride, equipped with conte crayons and ribbed coloured Ingres paper.
I continued my attempt to use tinted paper to provide mid tones, using just one other hue, plus white and black, to build an image. In order to work outdoors, I bought a smaller Strathmore Toned Tan pad which would fit in my cycle bag. The paper is less robust and textured than the Daler Rowney Ingres pastel paper I used previously.
I had cycled to what passes for a nature reserve, rough land and flooded gravel pits trapped between a business park and motorway. Traffic was thundering behind me, but I looked across a pool, rushes and a line of trees to a darkening rain filled sky. The idea was to use a grey to build the cloud and reflections in the water, leaving negative shapes of the trees. I would then draw darker brown into the trunks and branches, so they are outlined by the light tone of the paper. As it turned out, I did not have the dexterity to do as I planned. Then it started to rain, quickly dampening the paper and solidifying the crayon strokes. As the paper became really wet, colour sluiced off the sticks as an opaque wash but the earlier strokes drawn dry acted as a resist, keeping their integrity. Though unintended, I am pleased with the effects: the virgin paper in the midground represents a line of rushes glowing in the evening light.
When I started the second sketch I was both wet and covered with mud all down my right side, having slid down a steep bank I was trying to climb. This image illustrates that if I want to draw in three tones, I must leave my colours at home. The paper’s tint was supposed to represent the foreground, but I had to keep adding to it, until no paper was left.
This post was written to the haunting, beautiful Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields, a musical discovery thanks to Spotify’s weekly selection for me.
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.
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.
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.
This sketch was done during an evening cycle one evening last weekend. The mill chase had flooded the road. I drew from the foot bridge. By accident I have captured the ripples of the flowing water in the foreground, perhaps by dragging the side of a crayon over wet ink on textured paper.
This reminded me. Only a few miles from me is Sarehole Mill, known to Tolkien in childhood. The urban area in which I now live was once the rural inspiration for Hobbiton. Perhaps we are the invading orcs of his imagination. I must go to Sarehole Mill to draw one day.
These are three exercises in capturing the sky and bare trees of winter.
It was very lightly raining. The conte crayons marked unevenly, speckling on the textured paper and giving deeper tones where they chanced to hit rain drops. The trees were drawn in using a black ink brush pen. The paper was by then sufficiently wet that the ink bled, softening the marks.
I had emerged from the woods and skirted a field. The point of this sketch was to show texture and tone in what appeared a heavy white/grey sky and its reflection in standing water on the grass. In the field, I blocked this in crayon, covering the colours with a heavy layer of white. Once home, I completed the sky by covering it with wet gouache so the tones still showed through.
Here, I was once again inside the wood looking through the trees and low lying holly to the grey sky beyond. Once again the sky and interlacing twigs were built in layers of crayon and the sense of filtering light rescued with subsequent dabs of gouache
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.
Ravenshaw Lane is on a regular short cycle route for me, one I usually take when light is failing but I need to get out for an hour or so. At one end is an industrial unit, set in parkland, making large metal waste tankers called whales. The lane is tarmacked at either end but in the middle dwindles to a footpath and a narrow wooden bridge across the river. Standing on the bridge, I watched the fading sunlight filter through hanging rusted foliage in a garden above the brook. I managed only to get the bones of this sketch onto paper before darkness fell. I finished it at home from memory. Initially, I drew in the fence posts and plants scrambling up the bank and fence in high key, but muted them as the what light there was came from behind the fence: I wanted to emphasise the backlit curtain of brown foliage.
This was drawn in conte crayon then watercolour laid over this.
The next day, I went to Liverpool. I have been privileged to be the person who has taken an exciting piece of science into the clinic. The whole project, from its inception long before I was involved through to the current trials, was recognised with a prize.