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The Woman in the Moon
The Woman in the Moon is a comedy from about 1590, which forms part of a historical repertoire of works to be performed by boys’ companies. The first woman, Pandora, is created by Nature and gifted with attributes from the heavenly bodies. The disgruntled planets conspire to control her temperament, each in turn affecting her mood and desires through melancholy, ambition, aggression, romance, lust and deceit until Woman finally finds her natural state in the changeability, verging on madness, induced by the moon. At the end, Man, as her husband Stesias, is condemned to always follow slavishly in her wake, admonished to never act on his anger in violence.
As such it is an … how can I say this … interesting choice of play for these times, performed and indeed toured by the all-boys school attended by my nephew. What ever one may think of the play, it was well acted and they are, I am told, to be filmed for the BBC. I am curious what lessons the boys drew from their participation. What are we to understand from this contemporary performance?
We arrived late and unable to get seats, watched from a high balcony far back. This did allow me to draw, albeit small scale and in the dark. Here are Jupiter, and then my 12-year old nephew, probably the youngest in the cast, as Hermes casting his mercurial influence to induce in Pandora, sly deceits.
The Woman in the Moon is also a poem by Carol Anne Duffy, whom I have long admired. Perhaps one day I will illustrate her words, having found them by chance for this post.
art by committee
Seeing, imagining, drawing
In the columned quadrangle behind Pompeii’s small theatre had been placed three bronze sculptures by the late Polish artist, Igor Mitoraj. He drew on classical sources for his bold structures, typically fractured and fragmented to suggest the ephemeral nature of all we build. Here, Teseo screpolato (Cracked Theseus) is shown against the remains of walls hit not only by Vesuvius but much later by Allied bombing.
I have scraped conte crayon over heavily textured stiff paper then used Faber and Castell cool grey brush pens to deepen the tones on the metal surface and brickwork.
My daughter worked on smoother cartridge paper and gained greater depth of colour from the conte crayons. I love the interlocking shapes which build the tones of the bronze face.
Seeing, imagining, drawing
Herculaneum was hit by waves of superheated gas and dust moving faster than an express train before being buried in 15-30 metres of ash. It was forgotten. Much later a new town was renamed Ercolano, in honour of the ruins discovered beneath its foundations.
We sat in front of the baths, looking across the columns which once lined the ancient exercise yard. I had wanted to show the current multi-story buildings, decked out with drying washing, perching small and uncertain above the steep cliff of the excavations and the walls of the dwellings the volcano destroyed. I misjudged the scale and found no space for the modern buildings above the grey border wall.
My daughter has written cryptically about her sketch, done at the same time: “I was thinking at the time that I will do it a little different from my other drawings”.
Seeing, imagining, drawing
My nine year old daughter and I sat together in the evening sunshine, looking down Via della Scuole to Pompeii’s forum, set against the overwhelming backdrop of Vesuvius’ crater. We shared the same view and the same materials, coloured ink in fountain pens, conte crayons and cool grey Faber Castell brush pens. These last are a new addition to my field kit: they build on the crayon pigment scattered across the textured paper, solidifying it as blocks of solid tone.
How differently we perceived the scene and reconstructed this on the paper, integrating the different elements, light, volcano, walls, pavements and road. The differences stem in part from learned techniques and in part learned norms; the use of perspective falling into both categories. Faced with representing four dimensions on a rectangular page, one of us drew the kerbs of the paved highway as converging lines, the other switched their direction to retain their essential parallel geometry.
Once again I notice I have reduced the natural world to interlocking rectangles.
This small sketch was done using fountain pen and conte crayon, on site but with corrections to tone balance and colour done later. The key components are bulrushes at the edge of a flooded gravel pit, and a small hawthorn bush.
Urban sketching: Soho House I
Soho House was the elegant Georgian dwelling of the industrialist Matthew Boulton who, working with James Watt, developed steam power to support mechanisation in factories. HIs mint first struck the large British copper penny which I remember being still in circulation when I was a child.
The Birmingham urban sketching group met there a couple of weekends ago. Walking there along the dual carriageway opened my eyes to the varied urban landscape, dotted particularly with widely diverse places of faith.
My first sketch, a warm up, was lightly drawn in pencil, worked up in pen and then again in crayon. It was intended to be much more abstract, incorporating the lines of the building right into the tree shape, but deviated to become more straightforwardly representational.
I was less interested in the House itself than in the backdrop of smaller homes set at angles to one another yet sharing one roof. This I worked up in pencil then pen, aiming to capture especially the reflections on the windows. Eventually I brought in a wider range of colours and tones with conte crayon.
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.
This is an idea I took from Rosie Scribblah, an artist in South Wales whom I know from her blog and whose work I greatly admire. A while back she posted many sketches on prepared grounds, made of brown paper fragments pasted into the sketchbook. I tore up my lunch bag and stuck it onto some pages. On others I applied acrylic paint. This was done weeks before my using the pages to draw. The idea was to fragment and distort my thinking while translating observation into drawing.
Here are a mixture of drawings. The prototype Mars exploration suit, giant deer skeleton and trolley bus were done this weekend in the Think Tank, Birmingham on an Urban Sketchers session. The first was built on an area of yellow paint, heavily textured. The skeleton was drawn on a page covered with a mix of green and rose paint, greying where they met. The drawings were done in fountain pen and conte crayon. Mixed in with these are my first attempts to use prepared grounds, birds drawn from life onto brown paper and paint, one from 2014 and the others from a week or so ago.
As an aside, I have watched Rosie’s fascinating artistic journey across her recent blog posts as she abstracts from the landscape to produce stunning images of ancestral stone monuments in the South Wales hills.