Olives and mark-making

I remained intrigued by the shapes, surfaces and tones of the gnarled olive trees growing amid limestone blocks in Mallorca’s mountains.  I was reflecting on a workshop I had attended with fellow artist blogger, Outside Authority, led by artist Oliver Lovley, where we concentrated on building shapes with different pencil marks.  Searching for guidance I found this sketch, on the News Illustrator Facebook home page, owned, it turns out, by Richard Johnson, field artist and journalist for the Washington Post.   His draughtsmanship is beautiful, skilled and illustrative.  I used a photograph taken in Mallorca and sought to emulate his mark-making technique for this drawing.

Here is another, earlier attempt done standing in the shade on one side of the road, looking at a tree apparently grafted onto a stump leaning over a fence.  The picture is on a much smaller page and more textured surface and I resorted to brushed water to merge the marks, which sort of missed the point of the exercise.

In the English Midlands, trees are mundane by comparison.  Here are three sketches of the same fallen log, eaten from inside by a fungus erupting in strange black fruiting bodies.  These too were undertaken with Oliver Lovley’s workshop and Richard Johnson’s technique in mind.


Rethinking textures

2016-04-30 From the train

My approach to drawing has descended to making random marks in fountain pen secure in the knowledge that I can use water to move the ink about, disguising my sloppiness.    I can take things further and obscure the whole thing with conte crayon.

At a workshop last weekend, artist Oliver Lovley went back to the basics, using a palette of varied marks to represent different surfaces, part representational drawing, part mapping the subject’s components with textural symbols.

2016-04-30 Malt Cross Nottingham (2)

in this interior sketch, I used ruled lines to delineate the shading and reflected light on straight metal bars, contrasting this with looser lines building the wooden beams and panelling.  A simple trick I learned too late was to paint in soft shadows directly using the water brush, carrying ink lifted from the pen nib.  This would have worked better for the glass globes on the chandelier than what I show here, bleeding the tones from strongly drawn lines.

2016-04-30 Malt Cross Nottingham (4)

Reverting to pencil, I surrendered to the discipline of a straight edge to show light reflecting on the wooden panelling and plaster walls, contrasting this with the rough and curved surfaces on the pottery and the wavy hair lines on a fellow artist.

2016-04-30 Malt Cross Nottingham (1)

2016-04-30 Malt Cross Nottingham (3)

The upper rooms of the Malt Cross in Nottingham sit above caves hewn in sandstone, once used to keep cool ale.  Here the intersecting surfaces are of the rusting metal casing and smoother radiating fins of some contraption set against cracked stone and pointed bricks.  In a first quick sketch, I used my usual pen lines, liberated with water and a light dusting of crayon, using colour to set apart the surfaces.  In the second, I attempted to use just the pencil marks to show the same thing.

2016-05-01 Breakfast in Birmingham (5)This last drawing was from the following day, sitting with my children having breakfast in a café before going to watch my wife cross the finishing line in a 10K run (a creditable 56 minutes 9 seconds).  This composite of several waitresses as they each stood at the counter was drawn directly in pen and water, finished again with conte crayon.  Although drawn first in loose lines, I corrected the straight lines with a ruler, to set these against the curved bars of the seats.  I have tried make the marks differentiate between the rough wooden table and the finer grained seat backs, the loose weave of her hooded top and stretched fabric of her leggings.  I applied a minimum of crayon to a few surfaces, rather than obscuring the drawing by flooding the image with colours.