This is a story about drawing looking from my viewpoint as an artist. It definitely has twists and turns and is certainly much more than a ‘how it was done’ narrative.
Some of the terminology could be unknown to those of you reading this who do not draw or paint and I have tried to clarify certain expressions such as Chromatic (from Chroma) to explain the intensity of colour, how vivid it is. There are even more aspects to Chroma which will no doubt appear in future Journals as will other nuts and bolts that hold together drawings and paintings.
And we shall travel along the path my drawing has taken this year. I know how fascinating I find other artists’ working practices and hope it will be of interest to those of you who draw and paint as well.
Throughout any and every year I make drawings in the form of sketches and studies, my favourites began with my collection of Eggs as you can see below.
Nasturtiums with Munsell Chip colour notes
It will be no surprise to learn that these are colour maps which locate shifts from one colour, perhaps at its most vivid – highly chromatic, to a more subdued version – less chromatic. And there are changes of light to dark – high value down to low value. White is high value and black is low. During painting there will be many decisions, each one simple enough but add everything together and it helps to have thoughtful rehearsals beforehand.
Among my other drawings are those that explore the form of something that I am working on but instead of colour I will be looking at the construction of maybe a jug, a flower, a piece of cloth, and how a shadow falls over an object . . . These working drawings usually remain in a sketchbook or on a single sheet of paper which ends up in a drawer in my plan-chest . They all assist me to think things through and even though I may find them mesmerising, they are made without any awareness of being on show.
Sketchbook drawing for Winter Roses 15 x 20 cm
Left – a drawing of shadow shapes 2022 . . . looks like it almost could have been the same flower!
Right – a drawing made in 2020
Gradually I’ve become aware that I’d like to make something more of my drawings and this summer I began to do so, for a very good reason which I shall now explain.
My paintings take quite a while to complete and there are times when I become aware of a particular difficulty. It is this. I can find myself in the middle of a painting (still life, flowers, portrait) and have a strong feeling that the composition could have been better. Maybe the view point I chose could have been more interesting, perhaps the objects might have been placed to overlap each other which would have tied the complete subject matter together in a more satisfactory way. This becomes evident as the painting takes shape when it is beyond change. And my solution to this late awareness? – to begin by making drawings of everything together and this has been a real friend.
Some drawing equipment and a description
Various grades and brands of graphite pencils B’s – 3H’s. various erasers : putty, white, a perilously hard typing correction one (extreme right small pencil shape with a blue brush on the end), a small propelling pencil shaped rubber that’s the orange one to the left with a black top and then a paler bit(very useful), a pencil extender for when there is only a little bit of the pencil left, a craft knife for sharpening the pencils – I also use a sandpaper block a great deal, made by sticking a piece of fine sandpaper to a smallish board which I keep in a plastic bag at all times even when I am using it ! (lots of graphite dust)
How I progress: I began to make measured drawings with graphite pencils on paper, of what will be my next painting – to scale. There are often quite a few unfinished versions of these drawings stuck on my studio walls and I take this unfinished quality as a rational but unspoken warning filter – the composition simply wasn’t absorbing my interest. The Block In of a drawing produces beautifully simple shapes as everything begins to fall into place, if it doesn’t well maybe its lunch time! There again, maybe the composition just doesn’t fit in with an aim I may have – for instance, it is not the right size for a collection I am putting together.
Some of this drawing has been shaded, but look at the simpler overall shapes of the limes and bottle – and flower at the back.
Then I thought of taking these drawings further to become finished works in their own right. And this summer that is just what I have been doing.
Clockwise from Top Left . . . Brilliant pink . . . Brilliant pink . . Poppies Orange & Red . . . Main photo Poppies Orange & Red
Oddly enough I often finish the drawing after I have finished the painting but there is method in this madness. The first drawing I made in this way was a 100% delight. In the morning I couldn’t wait to pick up where I had left it the evening before. I inhabited the richly coloured curling leaf from a Crab Apple Tree. Its logic and surprises revealed themselves in the pattern of veins dictating its curving form, the direction of serrations of its edges. It all sounds very dry in words (maybe) but in reality these words are the stuff of 3 dimensional form. And having worked on this particular drawing I felt it was all resolved . . . that was that and I went on to the next challenge. SNOWDROPS
As an Aside
Sometimes I think I must invest it all in some more significant meaning. But to the leaf, for instance, what can be more significant? And I am trying to understand that specific leaf in the company and proximity of other things that make up a still life.