Vast works of other ages encumber

Stse is an almost-island, separated from the mainland of the great south continent by marshes and tidal bogs, where millions of wading birds gather to mate and nest.  Ruins of an enormous bridge are visible on the landward side, and another half-sunk fragment of ruin is the basis of the town’s pier and breakwater. Vast works of other ages encumber all Hain, and are no more and no less venerable or interesting to the Hainish than the rest of the landscape.

Ursula K le Guin, Four Ways to Forgiveness, Gollancz 1995.

Le Guin’s galaxy was long ago colonised by humans from Hain.  Indeed this is so buried in history’s layers that humanity’s first origins are forgotten, and people on Earth believe themselves aliens.  After that great expansion and genetic manipulations by the ancestral Hainish, peoples in each system developed in isolation for a thousand millenia.  Time dilation during near-light-speed travel and cold-sleep means that your left-behind children and grandchildren grow old and die before you make your new start on another planet.  In the last few thousand years, which might be only a few lifetimes for space-farers, the Hains have sought to bring all humanity back into a loose community called the Ekumen.

This positioned le Guin as a galactic social anthropologist.  The underlying framework for each story is that of Ekumen observers exploring and falling foul of variations of kinship, politics, religion and economics.  Her most recurring themes are variations on gender and sex, and the power relationships which spring from these.  The Left Hand of Darkness, her novel written nearly fifty years ago, to me seems fresh and challenging in its deconstruction of our assumptions about humanity, encapsulated in the sentence “The king was pregnant”.  The four novellas which comprise Four Ways to Forgiveness offer perhaps a more conventional take on sexuality, shockingly so, for it is tied into power dynamics, slavery, rape and oppression.  It took me a second reading to confirm that her gentle writing style was, in each narrative, capturing a love-story.

The throw-away description of the enormous bridge, the ancient vast ruin present but ignored, gives to me the feel of le Guin’s universe.

I drew this listening to the hypnotic rhythms of Canto Ostinato (Simeon ten Holt) weaving a tapestry of sound from four pianos.

Does the walker choose the path? Or the path the walker?

The drawing below was done by my adult son, who never normally draws, on the occasion of my birthday this week.

The phrase in the title references the Book of the Dead, the working manual for the Abhorsen who hastens the unquiet spirits through the seven precincts and past the final gate.

Mark making IV

2016-06-05 canal sketches (4)

These drawings are from an evening cycle ride a couple of weeks ago.  I built texture with moving lines before adding colour.

2016-06-05 canal sketches (2)

In each sketch, I roughed in an outline in pencil, drew in pen and added colour with a limited palate of watercolour, sometime with conte crayon.

2016-06-05 canal sketch grey wagtail

I followed the bright blue flash of a kingfisher into the dark under a bridge.  When I focussed on where I thought it had alighted, I found instead a grey wagtail, bobbing and dipping on a branch.

2016-06-05 canal sketches (1)

Mark-making I

2016-05-07 pulling down the libraryBirmingham Central Library has been rehoused and the old concrete building is being demolished.  The machine sprayed the structure with water while clawing at it.

At the beginning of May, during an outing for my son’s birthday, I stood in a vantage point and drew this in fountain pen and conte crayon while waiting for my family to catch up with me.

 

Resistance

2015-08-29 16.19.16 4

This is the remaining sketch from our holiday in August.  I took a long walk past the expensive marina, along the coast path and then inland up steep wooded hills.  It was hot.

This sketch began with a layer of conte crayon, then  water colour scattering over the layer of resist.  This is shown below.  It’s photographed under different lighting I notice (intense sunlight), showing more dramatically the blue of sea and sky.

2015-08-26 12.03.29-1

After a couple more layers of crayon and paint, I blocked in deep shadows with the black brush pen.

September has been a thin month for drawing, limited to a charcoal sketch of Jeremy Corbyn when he won the Labour leadership and some desultory drawings of birds in the nature reserve.  I tried to mix conte crayon and watercolour again as well as drawing in ink, but could not find the technique that day.

2015-10-04 22.03.55  2015-10-04 22.04.07-1

2015-10-04 22.02.31-1  2015-10-04 22.02.46

2015-10-04 22.04.21

The less often I draw, the harder it becomes to do it.