Defeated yet emboldened: times and events cry out for us to do more …
This was an attempt on toned paper to capture the dark reflections of trees in a brook running through the woods.
I see this drawing was done two years to the day from this reflection on the outcome of the 2015 general election. Then, fear of a progressive coalition including the Scots drove the English to give the Conservatives the majority it needed to blunder into the pit of deceit and despair that is Brexit.
This time Labour stand out with a brave and hopeful manifesto of investment in people.
Sadly, the polls still suggest that people will choose the bleakness and self-serving incompetence of the Conservatives: perhaps hope hurts more than savage certainty.
The Secret Garden is a 3 1/2 acre site, a haven amid dense housing, implementing organic permaculture of plants and promoting wildlife. It is run by the charity Mind to provide people with an environment supporting mental health. My son has the great good fortune to be support worker there. He originally trained in 3D design and then horticulture. He is using these skills in a way that makes the garden accessible to individuals and which also reaches out to the community. Weekends during May, they are raising funds through plant sales. My wife, nephew and step-daughter have all been baking cakes for this enterprise.
The beds contain diverse growing frames, some simple and functional, others spiralling out of the ground. I spent a few minutes yesterday sketching, in my smallest pad, first a willow growing frame and then a metallic sculpture turning gently in the wind, both set by the pond, home to newts.
In recent sketches I have sought to capture the effects capture sunlight on and behind trees using my standard field kit of conte crayons, ink and water. In the earlier sketches, I drew on textured white paper, dampened so the crayons layer thickly and reworked the drawing later with paint. Then I started explore the use of toned paper, struggling to leave unworked negative spaces to form part of the image. The most direct inspiration for this is from the recent sketches of professional artist and blogger, Rosie Scribblah as well as the current explorations of trees in other media by my occasional art buddy, outsideauthority. Unlike my previous drawings, ones shown here are all completed in the field, not reworked at home.
Last week, returning from drawing at the burial ground, I found a footpath along fields which skirted Nunnery Wood, fenced off on the western side. The evening sun filtered through the trees and last year’s undergrowth glowed. In the first sketch, at the top, the tan surface just about shows through between the short strokes of grey, an attempt to suggest the sky broken by branches into intersecting polygons. In the second sketch, the surface shows through the light strokes showing the fields but I still could not bring myself to leave the paper untouched.
The next two were done today, closer to home in Sidden Hill Wood. The low sun slanted in from the left so the many small branches and early leaves scintillated in the background and the nearer trunks glowed green and gold. I drew on machine-textured Ingress paper. Having completed the first as well as I thought I would achieve, for the second I tried to abstract the woods into simple blocks of lightly applied colour through which the toothed paper still shows.
Beneath these daffodils my mother rests. She had been gardening to within a day of her death.
In July last year, all the family took a hand to carry her casket up this hill, sliding slightly in the mud. In the autumn, my sister and nephew planted bulbs above her. Last weekend, I sat on the bench looking down across patches of spring flowers and shrubs marking graves, set among taller trees, looking west across farmland to the distant Malvern Hills.
I struggled to capture this view with conte crayon on dark textured Ingres paper. It is too bright, with too many colours. At home, I kept coming back to this until I had to repair a hole in the paper and the chalked surface would take no more. I cropped the image so the broken trees lead the eyes out beyond the edge. It no longer resembles the true image but feels a better representation to me.