conte crayon

20150308 conte crayon   20150318 conte crayon (2)

20150318 conte crayon (6)

The rocks mark, in our distant past, when multicellular organisms evolved guts and first crapped on the sea bed.  It was a critical step, that we might no longer be sessile but could instead migrate, carrying within us the bacteria, the compost, that enables us to digest food. Each of us is an ecosystem comprising many millions of organisms in shifting relationships.  The technology now exists to profile the diversity of organisms within us and understand their relationship to health.  There are many conditions in which illness is caused through inflammation.  What part does our individual internal ecological diversity play in that, I wonder?

I spend so much of my free time trying to wrap my head round these complex biological interactions that I am culturally and artistically ignorant.  The exhibition “Rubens and his legacy” at the Royal Academy was for me a trove of work I did not know.  Here are two simple memories from that show.  First, there were connections shown between landscapes ranging from Rubens through to Gainsborough and Constable.  This visual impact was of deep rich toiling red shadows in the foreground and cool blue and green distances in the left upper panel like a view into an ethereal other land.  The second memory was the masterly, deceptively simple, descriptions of the human form in red black and white chalks.

My humble sketches above were simple landscapes in conte crayon, done on site in woodland and, as evening fell, from a footbridge over a small stream on my cycle route.  I have an idea to work over the woodland scene in thin acrylic glazes.  The second picture is much smaller, done on a scrap of tinted paper lodged in my sketchbook.  I worked further on this in crayon on my return home, to better capture the forms and reflections.

Tone drawings III: conte crayons and coloured paper

20130622 St Abbs Guillimots 1

The third and final day on St Abbs Head brought with it a set of experiments, learning from what I had tried before and also from observing other artists on the course.  Before picking up a brush, I explored picking out tones more simply on coloured paper with the limited range provided by a set of conte sticks.

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The guillemots on blue paper worked quite well – the blue paper provided both the highlights for the dark upper surfaces and the deper tones on the white underparts.

On the blade of rock opposite me was a shag, nesting, protecting at least two chicks.  Her deep dark glossy plumage provided a greater challenge.  Again, this seemed to work best on blue rather than orange paper – with white reflections, blue mid tones and black shadows.

I was not particularly satisfied with the results but still intrigued by the method.  As always, I look for means of rapidly making marks and filling volumes to capture the posture and movement of these beautiful birds.