Block, pit and tower

The most west and southern tip of the British mainland is littered with industrial buildings with a history and pre-history of mining and trade.  Here I looked across the moor to the Ding Dong mine.  Each ruin seems to comprise a block building like a castle keep, a chimney and a pit.

Here is a glimpse of Dong Dong close up, the side of the building and the opening to the mine shaft.  Covered by a grate, it drops maybe a hundred feet, perhaps more.  Men were lowered down that pit once.

Here is another, by the roadside, the map did not even give it a name.  I drew the stack, I guess that opening beneath was a hearth of sorts.  Behind the scrub is the distant sea.  These sketches were drawn in Indian ink (or graphite for the middle sketch), then conte crayon, then watercolour, then another layer of crayon.  I love the use together of translucent and opaque media, and the crayon as a resist for the overlying wet paint.





Space, strings and saurian skulls

An afternoon in the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden geared my brain for observing the landscape in Cornwall, where she spent much of her life.  Apparently Hepworth pioneered the idea of the pierced object in abstract sculpture, an idea developed famously by Henry Moore.  The Tate’s notes on this piece “Sphere with inner form” describe the “smooth thin shell, punctured by circular and oval openings, covers the crusty inner form, which is also pierced. The warm brown patina of the outer surfaces contrasts with the green of the interior faces and the inner form”.  I reflected on these comments “she drew attention to the relationship between ‘an inside and an outside of every form … a nut in its shell or of a child in the womb, or in the structure of shells or of crystals, or when one senses the architecture of bones in the human figure'”.  Is this a particularly female perspective or simply a mark of a great artist, who can express the vitality beneath the surface?

I began my sketch drawing freehand with the brushpen and then with fountain pen loaded with india ink.  It was later that I worked colour back in, using watercolour, and conte crayon both as a resist and as an opaque layer on top.

The Tate’s notes on Hepworth’s 1966 piece “Spring” draw attention to its ovoid shape, in short, it is an egg.  This relates to ideas of nature’s cycles and rebirth (and therefore also death or dormancy too?  The notes don’t say this).  As with “Conversation with Magic Stones“, this idea had been developed through multiple versions, with previous iterations carved in wood, the painted  smooth shell contrasting with the coarse grain of the interior.  I loved that the pierced interior is strung through and through with threads.  I wanted this to make music – a stone lyre.

 I walked round this piece “Bronze Form (Patmos)“, holding open the shutter of the iphone camera, distorting it so I could see three sides together.  The critical feature of this sculpture is the enclosed space, within the bronze shape that folds over it like a wave.  It was inspired by her time on the Greek island of that name.

My immediate response to Bronze Form was to see, not the space within as Hepworth intended, but the outer shell as the twin-arched saurian skull, that heavy block of bone evolved to develop piercings and pillars, lightening the load and providing a framework for powerful muscles.

I wrote on the page “Sculptures built of space and pillars, like huge distorted saurian skulls.  Others solid but holes strung with strings like a stone lyre”.  I reflected that these shapes seemed natural “set against the more unnatural forms of the the cultured plants” in the garden.

The magic of stones

I found a shady corner on a hot day in the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden (part of the Tate in St Ives).  I had walked through Hepworth’s bronze installation “Conversation with magic Stones“: comprising three standing figures and three low-lying irregular polyhedrals.  The notes tell me that though this was a late piece, it was a large-scale realisation of ideas developed through multiple earlier works across several decades.  For her, the figures depict something of human relationships: totemic persons in tension with each other, the mythical landscape and magic stones.  From my standpoint, I saw the hard-edged uprights alongside the less regular lines of the bamboo setting: the distressed flat metallic surfaces against the smooth natural cylinders.

When I looked at my sketches made over several days in Cornwall, I started to recognise something that Hepworth had been conscious of in developing her work.  Here are three of the ten or eleven remaining stones that comprise the Nine Maidens of Boskednan sited in the midst of moorland.   These placed stones speak of now unfathomable relationships among the early Bronze Age inhabitants and between them and their surroundings.  How did these stones relate to matters of kinship and exclusion, exploitation of resource, search for meaning, and hierarchy of power?

On the coast west of St Ives, I chanced across another stone circle set deeply in the ferns.  This was not marked on the map: I cannot say whether this is the work of ancients or a contemporary folly.

Each sketch was started in pen and indelible ink – really an exercise in mark making.  However, I then applied conte crayon to give texture and act as a resist for simple watercolour washes.


cabbage field

This is the last of my pictures from our week in Cornwall.  Unfit and used to cycling  the flattish West Midlands, I struggled, breathless and heart pounding, up the Cornish hills.  It was a relief to find a gap in the hedgerows, sunlight and a composition to draw.  Here I looked across a large-leafed blue-green crop extending to the hill’s edge where I could see the blades of the distant wind turbines.


As usual I started the composition in fountain pen.  I worked conte crayon heavily into the wetted surface, aiming for a contrast against the lighter strokes catching the bite of the rough paper.  The white crayoned clouds formed a resist which scattered the dilute ink used to shade their undersides.


parallel lines

I lost the point of this drawing somewhere.

Goss Moor hosts a confluence of pylons and high voltage cables.  The pond by the track held on its surface two almost perfect parallel lines, broken only by the slightest of ripples.  In my drawing, I have coarsened the water’s movements and successive corrections have blunted the starkness of the reflected wires against the reflected sky.


As usual this was developed from my bike as a tone drawing in fountain pen and water.  I wetted part of the surface when applying conte crayon, getting greater contrasts between solidly and lightly applied colour.


Seven lines and two colours

I invented a rule to abstract from the subject .  The rule limits any drawing to seven lines and two colours.

2016-08-22 Trerice 1

I consciously cheated on my own rule in these two drawings at Trerice, an Elizabethan house in Cornwall.  In the first, I followed the letter of the rule but not its spirit, drawing continuously to create more complex shapes and textures with a single so-called line.   Ironically, I wrote the rule above in blue ink then spread this with water to provide a third colour.   In the second, I used black crayon in addition to the permitted yellow and green, deciding black is not a colour.

2016-08-22 Trerice 3


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The river Gannel has created a narrow tidal flat between steep sided low hills.  I came upon this from the side where a smaller spring joined the flow.  I cycled as far as I could until my road was submerged, stopped there, looked down and drew the water as it flooded and retreated against the silt, grass and planks bordering the path.

I drew, as usual, in fountain pen and water, light strokes of conte crayon and then strengthened the shapes of the wavelets with brush pen and black ink (shown below).  The heavy black ripples were a mistake, unbalancing the sketch.  I wanted to highlight the posts and planks against both silt and water.  Dissatisfied, I reworked the mud bringing in pinks and blues to supplement the ochre.  I rebuilt the wavelets textured white acrylic ink and, when dry, rubbed in crayon, losing all but a few white reflections.  It won’t bear further manipulation and the image is now too distant in my mind, so this (above) is how the sketch is finished.

2016-08-22 11.22.15-1