Archive | May, 2012

Man In A Black Square

31 May

Some time ago I took some digital photos from my second floor studio window, looking down on the people walking past below. I worked them up into drawings and I’ve been gradually cutting them into blocks for printing. I’m planning to do a series of nine block prints, all square and the same size, with the figure offset within the square. It sort of ties in with my feeling that artists are voyeurs, spying on the world to record what they see. Well, some of us are anyway. Once I’ve done all nine, I’ll exhibit them in a 3×3 square formation so that the black squares make the most impact and also to emphasise the isolation of each individual imprisoned in their own dark square.

I cut the image into a recycled piece of signwriter’s foamboard, I think the brand name in Britain is Floatex. I use it because it’s free and gives a very fine line that I can’t get with lino or wood. I used it extensively to teach block printing to people with drug problems; some have blood-borne viruses and the last thing you want is a cutting tool injury. The foamboard doesn’t have to be cut – it can be incised with a 4″ nail or even a biro.

I printed this today using Daler-Rowney block-printing medium and lamp black oil paint, using a Japanese baren to take the print without a press onto Fabriano Accademica 120gsm paper. I’m going to have to do more experimentation because I only had one good print out of 5. I might try it out with a Zercoll paper or adjust the ratio of paint to medium until I get it right. Ho hum, that’s my fate sealed for the bank holiday. [Holiday? Don’t make me laugh :)]

Street Scribbling

30 May

Getting a bit stir crazy in the studio today so I went out into the street for ten minutes or so mid-afternoon and did some speed scribbling of passersby. I don’t try to hide but people rarely seem to notice me. The guy on the top right, who was swigging from a can of beer, grinned at me from far off and as he walked past said, “Lovely drawings Darlin'”. He wouldn’t have been able to see them but it was nice to get a compliment 🙂

It’s good discipline to get out and do some very fast drawings from life, it forces you to identify what’s important and what must be recorded before someone moves on – you’re working with seconds, not minutes. It’s possibly the nearest that drawing comes to photography, which captures the instant. Quite a few men carry ‘man bags’ these days, as well as the ubiquitous rucksacks. I can’t persuade Husb to carry a man bag, I’ve tried but it’s like trying to get him into a pair of shorts – hell will freeze over first!

Drawings For A Dead Biker

29 May

There’s an odd little church nearby for born-again-bikers; the pastor and church members are outlaw bikers who have converted to Christianity and today they held a funeral for one of their members. There were hundreds of motorbikes, some really gorgeous ones – Triumphs, Harleys, a few vintage and everyone turned up in full colours as a mark of respect. They were from all over the place and were not just the Christian bikers [whose colours bear the logo ‘God Squad’]. It was a great scribbling opportunity and as I was sketching it took me back to my own wild youth, I was a biker chick and rode several BSAs and a Triumph. The occasion reminded me of two of my old biker friends who died from tragic accidents, ironically not involving motorbikes, when they were in their twenties. It’s over two decades ago now but today’s funeral brought the grief back very suddenly and sharply. When people die, we struggle on and gradually the grief fades into the background, but never really goes away, waiting to be activated by something, like it was earlier.

I don’t know the biker whose funeral it was today – someone said his name was Baz – his friends did him proud. It was a fantastic turnout; the streets around were full and the police held up the traffic so the hearse could be accompanied by an unbroken convoy of hundreds of motorbikes. My friend, neighbour and fellow artist, Mel, posted photos of the cortege on Facebook here. It was good discipline for me to sketch a crowd, I normally work with single figures so I need to practice putting people together, getting the perspective and proportions right. I also rarely draw inanimate objects, so doing the bikes was a challenge – how do designers cope with it? Their brains, and patience, must be phenomenal!

Stuff Behind My Eyes

28 May

Had a day away from the studio today to catch up on admin and do things I’d been putting off for a while, like getting an eye test. I’ve been squinting for a good while now and need new specs so finally got round to it today. I like the bit when the optician shines a light into your eyes and you have to look in different directions while they check out the back of your eye. If you concentrate, you can see all sorts of weird stuff going on quite clearly. Loads of veins snaking from the centre and little moon-like craters set against a backdrop that looked a bit like honeycomb and all bathed in an eerie red glow. I don’t like the bit when they puff a jet of air into your eye but the peripheral vision test was fun because I had to don an eyepatch. They’d run out of adult ones, so I was sitting in Boots the Chemist in a kids black eyepatch with a skull and crossbones on it!

While I was waiting for my appointment, I did a quick sketch of an elderly lady going through the paperwork for her new specs. She could hardly see and had a very pronounced squint that went when she tried on her new glasses.


29 Faces in May; Eurovision Jedward Elves

28 May

Hilarious skit and sketch on the Eurovision Song Contest from Elfin Safety sketcher, Ziggy Shortcrust 🙂


29 Faces in May; Eurovision Jedward Elves.

Waiting For The Torch

26 May

We spent a happy couple of hours in our friend’s penthouse flat this afternoon, watching the ‘Olympic Torch’ parade go by. I did a couple of quick sketches of the street below while we waited. I normally draw a single figure so it’s good practice to draw groups, especially from a very high vantage point. Here are some people outside Paddy Fields, IMHO the best Chinese takeaway in the city; some of the staff sat out on the roof as well.

Outside the Asian clothes shop, Jasmin, there was a party going on. The shop was decked with Union Jacks and there was a big table laden with snacks outside, for the partygoers and passersby. They carried on for quite a while after the torch had passed. It was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours in a heatwave, it was bearable with a good breeze up that high. We complain when it’s raining, as it does most of the year in Swansea, but seriously, this heatwave is a killer for gingery Celts like me – I’m turning into a giant freckle!

Chalk Nude [parental guidance]

25 May

I spend a lot of time doing life drawing and studying anatomy because my practice is figurative and representational, although I take some liberties: I like Egon Schiele, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh and the German Expressionists so taking liberties comes naturally. But now and again I take a BIG liberty and head towards the abstract. It happened during this particular drawing session. The model, the pose, the brown paper sketchpad I bought in New York, the set of conte crayons; all were in the right place at the right time to scribble this little abstract nude. It reminds me of petroglyphs I saw high up in the Karakoram Mountains when I visited Pakistan. They’re over 10,000 years old, picked out of the rocks with primitive tools, but they contain the essence of humans and animals, despite their abstraction. I’ve tried to work in this style since, but it’s very hard. people often look at abstracted art and say, “a child of six could do it” – they have no idea how difficult it can be.

A Highly Coloured Man [parental guidance]

24 May

Just got back from life drawing at Swansea Print Workshop – went a bit mad with the oil pastels tonight and had a good scribble all over the sketchbook pages before I started drawing the figure. I’ve been doing it a lot recently to break up the intimidating neatness of the plain page. Blank pages are like bullies and they intimidate me. So I show them who’s boss! And then it feels as if the drawing is emerging from the background, rather than me imposing it onto the page. Does that make any sense? This is our older male model. I like drawing him, ageing bodies are very interesting. Drawn with pastels and compressed charcoal into an A3 cream Bockingford sketchbook, using both pages. Now I’m going to bed 🙂

Dystopian Man

23 May

I haven’t done much sketchbook work for a couple of weeks because I’m working flat out on a painting – sort of. I’m not a painter but I’m entering an international painting competition and I decided I’d push the definition of painting a bit and approach it as a scribbler and printmaker. The theme, broadly, is Utopia or Dystopia and of course I’ve e gone for the dystopian viewpoint. I’m very close to finishing but it’s taking all my time and energy, no time for sketching or printmaking until the deadline, which is this Friday.

It’s on quite a large scale, about four times the largest I normally use and I’m working onto primed heavyweight cardboard with litho/relief inks [oil-based] applied with squeegee, roller and pallette knife and using oil bars for the detail. So it’s sort of paint. But I don’t use a brush – ever. It also involves a lot of rubbing off with rags and scraping with all sorts of implements. I’m having a good time. This is a detail. The finished piece has three figures – male, female and child. This was the man as of last night. I’ve done a lot more work on him but I forgot to take my camera in today. It’s a pretty grim image but that’s okay because I wanted to see how far I could portray a concept, a state of being, using just human figures with little else to contextualise them. It might fail miserably but I’ll know by Friday.

BTW I’m using cardboard because Toulouse-Lautrec used it and if it’s good enough for him ……….

Drawn To Print

22 May

Just got back from an excellent talk by the new artist-in-residence at Swansea Print Workshop as part of the year-long ‘Drawn To Print’ project. Her name is Ros Ford and she’s primarily an etcher, working on huge copperplate etchings of urban industrial landscapes. I did a quick scribble during her talk, which doesn’t do her justice so I hope she doesn’t see it. She’s with us for a couple of months and she’s running some workshops, starting this Saturday, with one designed mainly for artists who draw, but don’t print and it’s aimed to ease them gently into printmaking. All Ros’ practice is based on drawing from life. If you’re around this Saturday and fancy doing this workshop [or one of the future ones] you can book online on the Print Workshop’s website.

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