We had a wonderful model in Stroud last week, who held a difficult sitting pose over three hours. I was pleased with the way she came on, drawn entirely in pencil, but at the end, I had clearly squeezed her legs in, spoiling the proportions,and gave her a rather sour expression, which was quite unjust.
So I took her home and set to work. First, added a strip of matching paper at top and bottom so I could correct her legs and complete her head. Then I reworked nearly the entire drawing, until I was generally happy with her look. That is one of the joys of pencil and graphite. If you use good quality pencils and paper, you can rub out and rework endlessly. It actually seems to improve the drawing, giving it a deeper overall look. I thought that the studio cushions looked a bit like rocks, so went to town on them, and she quickly became Andromeda, sitting on the rocks at the edge of the sea.
But this Andromeda isn’t the poor sacrificial girl in Burne Jones painting that I copied a few months ago. She was forced to wait in chains to be claimed by Perseus, if he won, or be eaten by the dragon if he lost. My girl has got shot of chains, and Perseus, and is thinking what she plans to do next. I think she may suggest to the dragon that he goes and has a frank discussion with her parents as to why exactly they had changed up their daughter on the beach.
Sometimes I doodle just by dotting with a fine tip fiber pen. Usually with inconsequential results, but sometimes it works well. This cormorant was drawn from memory after a visit to a lake. The dotting allows you to correct it as you go along. The red seals just set it off.
This shark was more considered, based on a couple of photographs. I used a grey pen for the water, which worked better than I had hoped for. This was a birthday card for a fishing son.
I haven’t done much printing recently, despite building a new hydraulic jack press, but I have done some. First, this year’s Christmas card, a lino print of a festive tufted duck. The red was dabbed onto the print with a stencil.
Then I went to a Dry point engraving workshop, run by Beth Jenkins at Ardington School Of Crafts. The engraving itself, based on a photo I took last summer, didn’t look all that special, but when I rollered on coloured inks over the intaglio engraving, the whole thing suddenly came to life. More a monotype than an engraving.
Each time I go out drawing birds I produce anything up to four sheets of drawings or paintings. The question was what on earth to do with them. I already have a plan chest full of work which I have to edit down, i.e. clear out and burn, at regular intervals. So I decided to work at a fixed size page, 12in by 9in, and bind the finished work into sewn books. I’ve completed the first one, with about 24 pages and an old woodblock print on the cover.
I used the coptic stitch binding that I learned a few months ago. It’s a bit loose, but it makes a nice coffee table book, and at least it is easy to look at the pictures, which are well protected.
I went to Slimbridge two or three times a week during November and early December, and really worked on my bird drawing. Mainly dry media although I still take all of my watercolour kit with me . I find it hugely satisfying.
The drawing process itself is thoroughly enjoyable , but you also learn so much more about the birds just by studying them so closely and intently for a long period. The colour and pattern on some of the birds , such as shelduck or lapwings , is just staggering. Even drab looking greylag geese have the most beautiful feather patterns.
In amongst work on my boats, I’ve managed to do some drawing today. I went to the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust at Slimbridge, which is just down the road from us, and had a go at painting some of the birds from life. Not brilliant, but it’s a start. I shall go back over the winter to see the migrants.
In the evening, I went to the Stroud Life Drawing drop in session for the first time in a long time. We had a lovely model, which made a nice contrast to the middle aged men that I seem to have been drawing in life classes for years. I used pencil to try a tonal drawing, which is not usual for me. Worked quite well and was fun to do.
Catching up still on art projects. after St Abbs Head, we spent two weeks in New York State, with one week in the beautiful Catskill Mountains. I didn’t paint any birds directly, they flitted about too quickly. But I did paint four that I saw flying around the house in Woodstock, even though I copied the pictures from a guide book. I feel the world is a better place for having a bird in it called the yellow bellied sap sucker.