Enough just to be itself

Kerfe (method two madness) says “I like that you create a world that exists outside of humanity here. Serene. Enough just to be itself”.

I had not thought before that was what I was doing, but, this time, I cycled out to the woods in the nature reserve with that thought in mind.

Night was falling as I drew.

There is poetry in the rhythm of the trees. The poetry I am reading treasures the moments of warmth against the oncoming darkness.

Ditch

I sketch from a little wooden bridge across a brook running through a wood.  I am using H and 2B charcoal pencils, dabbing the paper with water to intensify tone and allow the image to emerge from rapid light lines.  Three years ago, in the spring of 2017, I drew this same scene in conte crayons on tinted paper.  Interestingly, that blog post linked back in succession to two further posts each with my random political reflections at the time of drawing. This sequence of drawings mark for me a pathway of descent.

Tonight,  on the brink of a lockdown that marks the utter failure of government public health policies, we are invited to doublethink, to hold its lies as truth, its greed as charity, its self-interest as science, its disregard for law as high principle, constrained as we are by newspeak, their simplified language that binds the media and opposition in chains, closing down thought and dissent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

rant

I am stunned by the utter chaos and shambles of the current Tory government in the UK.  It goes beyond partisan politics, beyond incompetence, beyond corruption.

Elected to “get Brexit done”, this Tory government passed a Withdrawal Bill in January bypassing Parliamentary scrutiny and now say this is not the Brexit they intended, but it’s become an international treaty which is law so they announce in Parliament that they will knowingly break the law to rewrite it unilaterally, so the most senior lawyers in the civil service have resigned as they are duty-bound to do, meanwhile this Tory government champions Britannia ruling the waves by threatening small inflatables carrying handfuls of frightened asylum-seekers with the might of the Royal Navy, meanwhile this Tory government voted overwhelmingly against putting into law measures to prevent another horrific Grenfell Tower fire, meanwhile this Tory government plans to criminalise peaceful activists trying to place climate change central to public policy, meanwhile this Tory government, building on ten years of deliberate unpreparedness for a predictable pandemic thus killing more than forty thousand people, now, after six months and in the face of an obvious and predictable rise in SARS-CoV-2 infections as we enter autumn, this Tory government still cannot offer a effective Track and Trace system despite spending billions, cannot source protective gear in the UK and have made no preparations for schools to reopen other than mantras and wishful thinking so in a few weeks and with more deaths those same schools will shut with no plans for how to educate children except spitting out recriminations and instead this Tory government shouts at young people, whom they had previously hectored that it was their patriotic duty to go out to eat and drink and go to work in offices not work at home and buy sandwiches and repopulate trains, now they tell those young people, “don’t kill yer gran”…

 

 

I could go on.

scratch

Here are experiments with a Conte a Paris charcoal stick, on various surfaces, rough 100% cotton rag and smooth paper and with various layers of dampening to catch the lines.  Some have 2B charcoal over this or a touch of colour from Conte crayons.  Some are from my recent photos and others outdoors.  Above a disused aquaduct across a river, below the view down a gully to the sea.

Here I was trying to capture the lines made by fast flowing water down stream of a weir and the smooth deep welling as it reached the stones. There is a bit of Paynes grey watercolour used to wet the paper.

Here a small sketch of the trees on the opposite side of the railway line, waiting for a train.

The next three are all from the same vantage point on a bridge looking at the trees and woods stretching behind the bank of the canal, in the order of drawing.  It shows I have to draw and draw again to see something, which is that the composition is not made by the trees but by the three enclosed fields.

This last was done with stick willow charcoal outdoors and later reworked in brush pen, leaving the charcoal layer intact.

H charcoal squares and shapes (17 sketches, a journey)

I have been using a pen and Indian ink, drawing texture from inside shapes as in the next two pictures. However, I want to simplify my field sketches.

I have approached these next drawings differently. I start by mapping the image mentally onto a square and then apply simple blocky shapes to build the sketch.

The instrument I chanced upon is an old charcoal pencil. It is an unsubtle H grade, unyielding when mark making. Even sharpened it quickly reverts to a chisel.  The squared-off edge imposes jerky movements and irregular polygonal shapes.

Even so, it is easy to succumb to the temptation to try for shading tones and building textures, as in the evening fields below (I was out looking for owls and observing Jupiter and Saturn rise). But the tool is too crude for this purpose.

Below are two attempts at the same woodland, looking through the leaf-clad trunks rising from dense fern undergrowth.  Light filters through from the sky and there is dense shade in a hollow made by an A of two leaning trees and a bush.  The hard charcoal cannot offer the contrasts of shading I wanted.

Further along the same woodland (I was cycling the Tarka trail between Great Torrington and Bideford in Devon) I tried again.  This time I licked the drawing point (and a little grossed out, dipped it in water) to deepen the tones.

In the next pair of drawings, now from a cliff top, I started with a charcoal sketch overdrawn with a soft graphite stick.  I then redrew this, reverting to heavy lines and crude shapes, splodging it with watercolour from a fat squirrel hair brush.  Interestingly the H grade charcoal seems pretty water-fast.

In another clifftop view, the charcoal and watercolour is overlaid with a black marker for depth of tone and conte crayon for texture.

At the estuary at Bideford, a boat drawn up onto the bank gave the foreground, with the Torridge bridge behind.  On a baking afternoon, the sun behind me, there were few variations in tone. I found myself simply colouring in my shapes, making this a naive (= childish?) painting.

Further up river, from the Landcross bridge I drew a crenellated building on the river bank, set against trees.  A search on the internet reveals this to be ruined lime kilns, shaped according to the landowners whim. This simple fast drawing is closer to my purpose: the paint should not simply follow the lines.

I lost the charcoal pencil  from my drawing kit.  So I reverted to the pen, but now keeping the lines to a minimum.  I could not use the bite of this smooth paper to capture the reflected sky sparkling from the water.  Instead I used a white conte crayon as a resist before dragging wet colour across. I also used crayon to adjust the intensity of tone on the distant hills and overlay the near grasses.

A shout to Outside Authority whose enigmatic drawings always influence me.

The advisors have not been free to speak

A couple of weeks ago I joined a zoom meeting of Scientists for Labour a group affiliated to the Labour Party.  The speaker was physicist and veteran science policy adviser Sir David King.  He served Labour and Conservative governments.  Under the Blair government he ran a large foresight programme for major events such as a pandemic.  He now chairs the Independent SAGE, which appears to comprise the experts one might have expected a government to have consulted in managing a pandemic.  The meeting is publicly available.  While he talked I tried to sketch (not very well) and made a few notes.

Here he talks about the fact that the UK had been a world leader in preparedness for such a pandemic, setting out how to manage such an event in 2006.

“the biggest foresight program I ran  was on the infectious diseases … our report … said that it was highly likely that a pandemic of the kind that has just occurred would occur … it might emerge from a wild animal … it would spread around the world very rapidly … within 3 months … it would have a genetic make up that we would have no defences against … we set out what should be done, the WHO was represented on the group … and it is kind of surprising and amazingly annoying that the country that produced this report … and the WHO responded very well … that we are the country that sits behind every country in terms of our operation.  Sixty five thousand excess deaths to date …”

 “it is difficult to believe a word of what the government is saying”.

“complete mishandling of this pandemic of appalling proportions”.

“… this looks like criminal behaviour …”

“A vast number of people have died unnecessarily …”