Category Archives: Drawing

After Another Hiatus- The Subsidiary Nature of Drawing

Tent:morgay

Camping at Upper Morgay, Various pencils, ink & w’colour on paper, 21x16cm

When I’m away I never stop drawing; perhaps I’m just keen to remind myself of my own existence.

However, I always consider that the real stuff takes place in the workshop. I’ve obviously now given the lie to my pretence that drawing is some kind of pure, primal activity. What I mean is that it’s good to be back to working for a purpose; that purpose being producing paintings, of course. Implicit in that “purpose” is that painting has a higher status than drawing, which in a way it has: paintings are more hard-wearing, more complex.

Getting going in the workshop has been like pulling teeth, so, rather than mither on about that, I’m going to lay out some of the process.       I know I’ve done something similar before but then I seemed to be working with some kind of direction. In this case I feel I’ve been hacking a trail.

glassfeather1

1st Feather in Glass Drawing, Ink & wash on paper, 18x16cm

Glassfeather2

2nd Feather in Glass Drawing, Ink & gouache on paper, 18x16cm

Glassfeather

3rd Feather in Glass Drawing, Ink, pencil & gouache on paper, 18x16cm

Glassfeather4

4th Feather in Glass Drawing, Ink & wash on paper, 17.5x11cm

Glassfeather5

Tiny Feather in Glass Painting, Oil paint on card, 11x10cm

Glassfeather6

Bigger Feather in Glass Drawing, Pencil on paper, 26.5x24cm

Glassfeather8

Feather in Glass 1, Oil paint on board, 24×22.5cm

Glassfeather7

Feather in Glass 2, Oil paint on panel, 33x30cm

It’s useful laying these out. It makes me aware that the more a painting develops (and mine tend to develop through the process of repetitive drawing rather than layering, as if all the layers are left visible at the finish) the more it becomes independent from its source. Whereas the drawings delineate and refer only to their subject, paintings offer much more. All paintings refer not just to the immediate but to every other painting and to the strange state between object and image. They give  something of emotion and otherness. Perhaps all that is, after all, is pleasure.

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Not one but three!

There is more evidence that the folders are being used and sent around. Some weeks back (I know, I’ve been busy) I got an email from the inestimable Jane Fielder, gallerist, painter and all round excellent person containing images of not one but three  drawings done in response to my original. I’ll let her speak for herself.

JaneF1

“Sorry it’s taken so long Dave….didn’t like this first attempt(but maybe ok now I’ve scribbled over it)….so did another couple and stuck on top hope that’s ok!
I was dead chuffed when I got it in the post…I’ll pass it on at life drawing tonight….
Dying to see the results…love to have them at the gallery if you fancied that. Booked till end of March 2014 though
With love
Jane”

JaneF2

“2nd go”

JaneF3

“3rd attempt!”

I love the way that Jane has started to give another dimension to this; the rolled paper makes it sculptural; the layering gives a feeling of document as artefact that I really like.

By the by, I saw Jane at a party at Sue Vickerman’s (poet, novelist and life model sanspareil. Have I mentioned her before? If I haven’t here’s a link– it’s well worth a look) and she did say, as above, that she would love to host an exhibition of the finished pieces. So I’m hoping they’ll all come flying back eventually.

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After the Hiatus

Well, there has been a bit of a gap, due to finishing, framing and hanging work. So now I’m  stepping back from trying to impress people and attempting to persuade them that I truly believe that what I make will give pleasure for years to come and is worth parting with hard-earned cash to acquire.

Mole1

1st Dead Mole (delivered by cat) 19.6.93   Crayon & watercolour on paper   21x17cm

 Instead, for a week or so, I’m  going to think about drawing again- the engine that drives the painting; that reminds me of where I am; that lays down the moments, line by line. The activity of drawing never stops; it is as onerous and pleasurable, as well as necessary, as eating.

Mole2

2nd Dead Mole (delivered by cat) 21.6.13   Pencil on paper   21x17cm

This blog was never intended as being all about me or my drawings, So- if anyone wishes to post their drawings, why they draw, what they think about the process and activity of drawing, I’d be more than happy. Drawing is one of those ur activities- I think the impulse to understand the world through graphic means is as powerful as through language.

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Successful Drawing Part 2

Succesful Drawing2

Note book page, ink & pencil, 17x22cm

Drawing & its Relationship with Language (continued)

Richard Gregory in his seminal “Eye & Brain” says “…visual & other perception is intelligent decision making from limited sensory evidence”. And goes on “We now think of the brain as representing (visual perception), rather as the symbols of language represent characteristics of things, although the shapes and sounds of of language are quite different from whatever is being represented. Language requires rules of grammar (syntax) and meanings of symbols (semantics). Both seem necessary for processes of vision: though its syntax and semantics are implicit, to be discovered by experiment.”

I like the “limited sensory evidence”. The human eye is not that great an information gatherer in comparison to some other species.  But what we do lack in optical quality we make up for in processing power.

If we accept that a baby, new born, is adrift in a sea of sensations, unmapped; that understanding only comes about by relating one visual sensation against another and that that can only take place within the context of the memory of all previous sensations; then we have to accept that visual perception can only take place within a framework, a system where sensation interacts with memory, with relationships,  with everything else in an individuals life.

This is where the visual, and more especially visual representation,  develops something akin to language. Representation can  be said to have a syntax: edge, centre, soft, sharp, strong, faint, pattern etc. And it is easy to see that visual representation can be a carrier for meaning in ways formal and symbolic.

But does the visual operate through  an actual “language”?

Language pre-supposes at least a two way exchange. Originally between child and carer; between child and other children and so on. Language starts with a social exchange and develops into enabling conciousness and thought- it could be said to exist on the surface of the mind, where the discrete individual interacts with others.

The visual, on the other hand, is initially private. Seeing is the processing of information going directly into the dark space of the brain. Although influenced by social interchange, one does not need anyone else to learn to see; this is achieved, as stated above, through experiment.

Gregory also says “Two and a half millennia ago Greek philosophers thought that light shoots out of the eyes, to touch objects as probing fingers”. Anyone who draws knows that there is a truth in this. We probe and test, try out and criticise the results of our inadequate foray into the outside world; then return with the knowledge gained to try again, this time to try better.

Language, as words, is great and I love all forms of writing, I love talking (too much). But I get weary of the ability it too often gives to dissemble, to evade and obscure. More than anything it’s disgust at the dishonest rubbish I talk sometimes.

This is where I find drawing so unique, so exciting. Despite visual representation being  a social act, the visual is nevertheless  secret, dark, unknown. This is where drawing becomes so important as ,despite (perhaps, because of) it’s inadequacies and stuttering inaccuracies, it manages to reveal so much about the mysterious inner workings of another’s being. And, honestly done, provides access to an experience of a world you’ve never seen yourself.

MorandiFiori

Giorgio Morandi Flowers, 1959, pencil & watercolour, 22x21cm

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Successful Drawing Part 1

Succesful Drawing

Drawing & its Relationship with Language

Drawing, to be successful, must operate at a sub- or sur- linguistic level. By that I mean, in order, for example, to draw a cup on a table we must forget what is “table”; we must forget what is “cup”. Otherwise what drawing becomes is merely a process of placing a series of signs or symbols onto the surface of the paper. We might as well save ourselves a lot of trouble and say in words “here’s a cup, here’s a table. The cup is on the table”. I hope it’s not too obvious  to state that a cup seen at 3 o’clock of a sunny afternoon is not the same as the identical seen at 2 in the morning by candle light.

Jorge Louis Borges wrote  about just such inadequacies of language,  its inability to give a true rendering of the world and how it might be made more accurate in “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins “. It really is a fantastic piece of writing and I would recommend anyone to read it more than once. But Borges, at the end, admits language’s failure in a quote from G K Chesterton:

“He knows that there are in the soul tints more bewildering, more numberless, and more nameless than the colours of an autumn forest… Yet he seriously believes that these things can every one of them, in all their tones and semitones, in all their blends and unions, be accurately represented by an arbitrary system of grunts and squeals”.

The world, in all it’s complexity, is literally indescribable. Any means of description is ultimately doomed to inaccuracy and error and language can be seen as only  a  crude system of signs, useful for providing information and assigning status amongst members of our species but ultimately alienating. This is where I would privilege observation and graphic representation over words. And why I’ll continue this in a second part and try to deal with some of the implications.

Cezanne chair

Paul Cezanne, graphite & watercolour on paper, 47x30cm

I haven’t heard hide nor hair about the fate of any folding sketch-books for a while. It’d be nice to know if they’re still out there. That’s all.

Actually as I was writing, an email arrived from Ruth McCabe with the next instalment from book three which is on here. I’m really looking forward to seeing at least one of these books completed. I’ll post Ruth’s drawing in the next day or so, so if it’s not there now it will be.

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Drawing towards Painting

`Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, `and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’ 

I still have the feeling that drawing is subordinate to painting, a precursor, a preparation. A tutor  at college, when confronted with dozens of my preparatory drawings, said something like “are they like training exercises for the 100 metre dash of  painting?”.

A few years later I had a conversation/ argument with a (sort of) eminent painter (me and eminence don’t rub up together that often, it raising feelings somewhere between that of fear and boredom). He insisted that  the activities of drawing and  painting were essentially the same whereas I thought that there is a difference of intention and execution between the two. I still think that. A painting is a  container of a rich mix of emotion and context; in some mysterious way  connected to all other paintings. Whereas a drawing is connected only to the perceived world for a finite period, an investigation of how we are placed in relation to its objects.

I can’t talk for anyone else so here’s a  recent (incomplete) series of drawings and one painting. It is part of an ongoing group of studies and paintings that never gets to an end but has frequent pauses. All I can say is that the painting, however slight or quickly executed, relies on the density of information gained through the drawings.

Is this a stupid way to work? It’s the only one that gives me satisfying results and I have a suspicion many other painters go through an equally tortuous, if not similar process.

Snails1

1.Drawing, pencil on paper, 21x16cm

Snails2

2.Drawing, ink on paper, 24x22cm

Snails3

3.Snail Shells & Lenses, watercolour on paper, 21×18.5cm

Snails4

4.Snail Shells & Lenses, watercolour, 23×20

Snails5

5.Snail Shells & Lenses, watercolour on paper, 23x20cm

Snails5a

6.Snail Shells & Lenses, oil paint on card, 22x20cm

Snails6

7.Snail Shells & Lenses, oil paint on panel, 35x31cm

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Playfully Serious or Seriously Playful- conversation 3

Just returned from a period of snow on the beach (not a cocktail) and leaking roofs in Devon and have much to do. But there was an interesting e-mail when we we got back. I had sent one of the albums to David Cook  (he of Airton, fine etchings, Rembrandt-esque drawings and slowly revealed space- see link) and this found it’s way back to Carine Brosse (see previous post). I started this one off with a very anodyne still-life and David has taken the theme and wittily, playfully, torn it up and turned it around and sent it off in a totally unexpected direction which Carine has run with & put another unexpected spin on. (Sounds a bit like a drawing/ 5 Nations final) All this seems to me to release a whole shower of unexpected meanings.

Whatever… I’ll just have to let the images speak for themselves…

3. David Cook  David Thomas

DCookEvoRevoDavid Cook

CarBrosseEvoRevo2  Carine Brosse

Despite what Paul Valery said about words  being only as a thin plank to cross a crevasse, not to be lingered on, I’ve increased the size of David Cook’s collage/ drawing so that the fragment of  crossword can be read better. But words isolated in drawings draw your attention to the manifold meanings packed  tightly within a small group of  letters. “Words are little winged fortresses”- Osip Mandlestam

Oh, and congratulations to Carine for having done a faster time than David Ashby in the Paris marathon!

I’m updating this on 8th May because I’m really pleased to have  received an addition to this conversation from Kim Edwards, all the way away in Saxmundham

Kim Edwards:con3

which is taking it further.From the distant echoes of sea in landlocked Grassington to the geographical reality of coastal Suffolk.

This is (for some strange reason) the only book where folk’s have consistently sent in images. Which is nice. But means that I just have to believe that the others are still out there, like William Franklin or Elvis.

But this delightful drawing by Ruth McCabe fell into my in-box last week-

conversation 3 ruthmccabe

I’d love to have an interactive map showing where all these come from but pencil on paper’s about as interactive as I can do. But it seems that there are areas in the country (and, despite not knowing the place, I do know of many of the artists) such as Suffolk where representation takes a more felt or sensed path rather than the way visual correctness is prized in Yorkshire. I over simplify, but there seems to be a more relaxed attitude in artists in East Anglia.

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