I became distracted by the limestone surface and explored what might make marks on it. Conte crayon and charcoal just skimmed across barely leaving a trace. I resorted to oil pastel, trying to find the shapes of the olive tree in the pits and ridges of the stone.
My wife is practicing the flute in the room above my head while I make this post. A year ago, I bought her a handful of lessons and a flute, and I think this ranks up near our assorted children and a time-wasting dog as a positively life-changing event. It helps, I think, that I set the bar low by learning to play guitar – she surpassed me within months.
On our holiday, I had a purpose. I knew of a place where the olive trees grow gnarled and twisted among limestone, so that rock, trunk, roots and branches seem sculpted from the same stuff, a setting for scrawny sheep and goats gently clanging their muted off-key bells.
This was the first attempt, in black grey and flesh crayon on brown card.
This was an attempt on toned paper to capture the dark reflections of trees in a brook running through the woods.
I see this drawing was done two years to the day from this reflection on the outcome of the 2015 general election. Then, fear of a progressive coalition including the Scots drove the English to give the Conservatives the majority it needed to blunder into the pit of deceit and despair that is Brexit.
This time Labour stand out with a brave and hopeful manifesto of investment in people.
Sadly, the polls still suggest that people will choose the bleakness and self-serving incompetence of the Conservatives: perhaps hope hurts more than savage certainty.
Siden Hill Woods on my left, a view over fields in late afternoon sunshine in April.
Drawn on A5 dark blue Ingres textured paper in conte crayon
Whitby Abbey drawn while the children hunted for quiz clues.
A complex surface dappled with sunshine and shadow.
An attempt to simplify and abstract in a few tones on Strathmore tan paper.
In recent sketches I have sought to capture the effects capture sunlight on and behind trees using my standard field kit of conte crayons, ink and water. In the earlier sketches, I drew on textured white paper, dampened so the crayons layer thickly and reworked the drawing later with paint. Then I started explore the use of toned paper, struggling to leave unworked negative spaces to form part of the image. The most direct inspiration for this is from the recent sketches of professional artist and blogger, Rosie Scribblah as well as the current explorations of trees in other media by my occasional art buddy, outsideauthority. Unlike my previous drawings, ones shown here are all completed in the field, not reworked at home.
Last week, returning from drawing at the burial ground, I found a footpath along fields which skirted Nunnery Wood, fenced off on the western side. The evening sun filtered through the trees and last year’s undergrowth glowed. In the first sketch, at the top, the tan surface just about shows through between the short strokes of grey, an attempt to suggest the sky broken by branches into intersecting polygons. In the second sketch, the surface shows through the light strokes showing the fields but I still could not bring myself to leave the paper untouched.
The next two were done today, closer to home in Sidden Hill Wood. The low sun slanted in from the left so the many small branches and early leaves scintillated in the background and the nearer trunks glowed green and gold. I drew on machine-textured Ingress paper. Having completed the first as well as I thought I would achieve, for the second I tried to abstract the woods into simple blocks of lightly applied colour through which the toothed paper still shows.