The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden is a 3 1/2 acre site, a haven amid dense housing, implementing organic permaculture of plants and promoting wildlife.  It is run by the charity Mind to provide people with an environment supporting mental health.  My son has the great good fortune to be support worker there.  He originally trained in 3D design and then horticulture.  He is using these skills in a way that makes the garden accessible to individuals and which also reaches out to the community.  Weekends during May, they are raising funds through plant sales.  My wife, nephew and step-daughter have all been baking cakes for this enterprise.

The beds contain diverse growing frames, some simple and functional, others spiralling out of the ground.  I spent a few minutes yesterday sketching, in my smallest pad, first a willow growing frame and then a metallic sculpture turning gently in the wind, both set by the pond, home to newts.

Who are these characters?

Dr Sketchy’s was themed on characters from Quentin Tarantino films.  That would be those films I have never watched.  Even with months of notice, I never found time to work through the canon.  So from tagging on facebook and a little searching online, I can tell you that these are (in no particular order) Santanico Pandemonium, Mia Wallace, Stuntman Mike, Mr Pink, Jules and Vince and these are played by Liberty Pink, Mysti Vine, Kitten von Mew and Trampy Holford.

I cut down my drawing kit to Ingres textured toned paper, graphite stick, conte crayons and black ink brush pen.  Stuntman Mike was the last and most sparing of the images.  Mr Pink (Liberty Pink in false beard) was the first.

I drew the two ten minute poses by Kitten von Mew side by side.  After these I started working larger.

Mysti Vine (posing with her green companion “Sid”) gave me a challenge – skin reflects light with so many more hues than do clothes. I struggled to simplify this to two or three tones which would have been more effective on the dark blue paper.

The diminutive Liberty Pink posed as hired thug Vince (John Travolta in Pulp Fiction) and Mysti Vine as Jules declaimed from the Bible before shooting us with a banana.

I am not sure who was the gun toting bloke who warmed up before Liberty came on to sing at the start.

Dr Sketchy’s yesterday migrated unexpectedly and with an hour or so to spare up the road to CherryReds café.  The food looks great: I’ll make a point of going back sometime.  Despite this (and it must have been a real challenge to the organisers), as always the team put on a great act.  I saw lots of interesting good sketches round the room.

tinted paper II

I continued my attempt to use tinted paper to provide mid tones, using just one other hue, plus white and black, to build an image.  In order to work outdoors, I bought a smaller Strathmore Toned Tan pad which would fit in my cycle bag.  The paper is less robust and textured than the Daler Rowney Ingres pastel paper I used previously.

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I had cycled to what passes for a nature reserve, rough land and flooded gravel pits trapped between a business park and motorway.  Traffic was thundering behind me, but I looked across a pool, rushes and a line of trees to a darkening rain filled sky.  The idea was to use a grey to build the cloud and reflections in the water, leaving negative shapes of the trees.  I would then draw darker brown into the trunks and branches, so they are outlined by the light tone of the paper.  As it turned out, I did not have the dexterity to do as I planned.  Then it started to rain, quickly dampening the paper and solidifying the crayon strokes.  As the paper became really wet, colour sluiced off the sticks as an opaque wash but the earlier strokes drawn dry acted as a resist, keeping their integrity.  Though unintended, I am pleased with the effects: the virgin paper in the midground represents a line of rushes glowing in the evening light.

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When I started the second sketch I was both wet and covered with mud all down my right side, having slid down a steep bank I was trying to climb.  This image illustrates that if I want to draw in three tones, I must leave my colours at home.  The paper’s tint was supposed to represent the foreground, but I had to keep adding to it, until no paper was left.

This post was written to the haunting, beautiful Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields, a musical discovery thanks to Spotify’s weekly selection for me.

 

trees

 

Here are three small sketches from a walk across fields last weekend.  They were started in the open air, using conte crayon, water and cool grey brushpen, and reworked at home with layers of crayon, watercolour, white gouache and knife.  They are done in the smallest size Moleskine notebook, about A7.

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I have been following s series of tree sketches by outsideauthority which stimulated me to think again how to capture their form.  On this walk, there are no unbroken woodlands, but rather narrow lines of trees following the ditches and tracks.  I stood on a wooden bridge like a troll’s lair in the gloom of the branches and looked out into the open fields beneath a heavy winter sky.

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For the second picture, I looked back along the track I had walked, marked by single trees overhanging the hedgerows.  I overworked the pleine aire sketch with successive layers.  The knife proved the most effective tool and I, at least, like the dynamism of the heavily worked surface.  However, in the lower part of the tree, I should have scored the paper vertically across (not following) the main branches, to capture the sense of the upward growing peripheral twigs in three dimensions.

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I forgot to make a record of the third field sketch.  Here is the finished, somewhat unsatisfactory, piece.  The path crested a low hill and the descent was marked by trees clinging on to the eroding soil.

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Alternative versions

Alfred Stevens 1817-75 “Truth and Falsehood”: Truth tears out the double tongue of Falsehood and pushes aside the mask concealing his grotesque features.  His serpent tails are exposed beneath the drapery.  The group and its companion, “Valour and Cowardice”, are full size models for the bronze groups on the huge monument to the Duke of Wellington in St Paul’s Cathedral.  London.  Plaster.  [explanatory notes on plaque, Victoria and Albert museum].

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The current relevance of the statue is immediately obvious.  However, my mind was thrown back to 1999 when a cabinet minister declared eloquently “If it falls to me to start a fight to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play, so be it. I am ready for the fight. The fight against falsehood and those who peddle it”.  The resulting action led to his being jailed for perjury.  I am sure the image shown here is of Truth defeating what were then Falsehoods which we now hold true: religious dogma defeating rationalism, self interest overcoming balanced enquiry, empire over civil society, autocracy scourging democracy.  When the powerful shout loudly about the lies of others and frustrate open scrutiny, it is to cover their deceits.

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Here are alternative versions of my sketches undertaken at the Victoria and Albert a week ago, reworked with conte crayon, paint, knife and (in the third image) digitally enhanced black tones.  Rodin’s tortured twisted Muse spoke  of a deeper truth than Stevens’ allegorical statue, of the anguish and beauty of human existence.  The theatre masks are props to tell a fictional narrative but when the narrative finishes, the masks are removed.

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