Resistance

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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.

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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.

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

 

Back to drawing birds

The Italian countryside, the heavily wooded hills and marshy lowlands were largely devoid of bird song.  An eerie quiet pervaded the landscape.  In the marshes, the few ducks were well hidden and the open water was mostly populated by herons, egrets and flamingos.  I understand from the media that Italians’ passion for hunting has overwhelmed the ecosystem and left it depleted of its natural bird life.  I did see a family of wild pigs snorting their way through the undergrowth.  Again, I read that wild pigs had been devastated by hunting and the population has been rebuilt using a strain from Hungary which is smaller and which breeds more rapidly.

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I shared a bird hide made of dry reeds with a photographer smoking a cigar.  He caught some fabulous shots of circling raptors and a kingfisher which alighted close to us.  I concentrated on the flamingos and egrets.  These were some distance away.  I stated drawing, spotting through the telescope and copying awkwardly onto the pad.  As juvenile flamingos came closer, I worked more loosely using brief glimpses through binoculars and drawing more from memory.  There is a tension between seeking anatomical accuracy for an unfamiliar species versus failing to capture movement through slavish copying.

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I found once again that I have no standard technique for drawing in the field. Here, in great frustration, I have switched between drawing in pen, and painting a rapid shape which is then overlaid with conte crayon.

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Layers

My field kit had become slimmed down to fountain pen and water. Over this year, walking through the local fields, and, shown here, on holiday in Italy, I have expanded it once again.

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Tuscany: view from the marsh to the hills. Layers of watercolour and conte crayon.

I now use watercolour and conte crayon in varying order, lastly using a black brush pen to accentuate shadows.

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Tuscany: view from the marsh to the hills. Watercolour background over conte crayon resist showing seed heads in foreground, with strong shadows drawn in black brushpen.

One objective is to create contrasts between opaque and transparent layers.  Another is to play with the crayon as a resist – the watercolour falls off it or collects in fractal shapes on its surface making interesting textures.  Conversely, grinding the crayon into wet colour builds deep interesting opaque patterns, sometimes lifting the paper to leave white highlights with adjacent ridges that catch subsequent strokes of deeper pigment.

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Water, reeds, hill terraces and distant wooded uplands composed in layers and drawn in layers of conte crayon and watercolour.

Sometimes this works, often not.

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View through the telescope: egret and distant flamingos with water, sand, woods and hills in horizontal stripes.

In doing this, I have noticed that my compositions are often built of flat layers; rectangles of fore, mid and background like a sponge sandwich cake seen from the side.

 

 

recording notes

Some sketches are little more than jottings – quick notes on colour or line or shape.

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I hung back behind my family along the path between overhanging trees and the stone foundations of Etruscan temples, and looked back across the valley to the medieval fortress of Populonia, with the sea behind.  This sketch comprised some fairly random swipes with conte crayon with lines and shadow drawn on top with a black ink brush pen.

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Here I had wandered along a raised bank out into a marsh in the hope of seeing some wildlife.  I had to step over a dead fox which smelt pretty wild and some way further on penned this note on the diagonal  barring made by the leaves of the reeds.