Still Deads

20 Aug

I spent the day at Swansea Print Workshop doing a short course in subtractive drawing with the new artist-in-residence, Aoife Layton. Pretty hard going, partly because it’s very different to the way I normally scribble, using a fine pen into an A6 sketchbook. Today we used A2 cartridge that had been prepared with three coats of rough gesso. We had to coat one with charcoal, rubbing it in well with our hands – lovely and messy! The other was coated with graphite block which was then wiped in with a rag soaked in white spirit. We used an odourless one, but there isn’t a satisfactory alternative to white spirit.

Then we had to begin to remove the black pigment with various drawing materials such as sandpaper, wire wool and craft knives. We had a variety of objects to choose from for our subjects including a large sweet jar full of dried corpses of lobsters and crayfish. I used some of these, Still Deads rather than Still Lifes. The top drawing is the charcoal one, the bottom, graphite. I think the one below looks like some strange crustacean Danse Macabre.

When I was in school, we were taught to always fill the page with a drawing, but these days I prefer to position the image carefully within a space, isolating and emphasising it.

22 Responses to “Still Deads”

  1. paperstew August 25, 2012 at 18:22 #

    Wow, I’ve never tried that technique using spirits to remove charcoal. Very interesting approach. Thanks for sharing Aoife’s site!
    Your work is lovely, as usual! It totally would have fit into a plankton show we had this past month in Corvallis. 🙂

  2. orangepurplegreen August 21, 2012 at 21:51 #

    Very interesting technique. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Nancy Farmer August 21, 2012 at 19:49 #

    Interesting… you are making your own stratch-board, or whatever it is they call those black things. Does the gesso crack in the end? I am wondering if you might have to glue it onto a board to preserve it well – I was interested in trying silverpoint, which needs a gesso surface and never got round to it because of this technical issue… oh and because of lack of time, generally.
    I love the dancing crustacean, I would think a whole Danse Macabre troop of crustaceans would be an interesting picture.
    Incidentally, do you know that the French call it Still Dead in any case: ‘Nature Morte’ is French for Still Life.

    • Rosie Scribblah August 21, 2012 at 20:58 #

      Wow, that’s interesting, I didn’t know about Nature Morte. As long as you use a heavier gauge, acid free, artist quality paper and frame i9t properly with archival quality materials, it should be ok. Acrylic gesso is quite flexible and I rolled these to carry them with no problems. hhmmmm a troupe of dancing crustaceans – now there’s an idea …….

      • Nancy Farmer August 22, 2012 at 07:34 #

        Ah… I remember now, I was also considering egg tempera, which doesn’t work with acrylic gesso, only the old-fashioned rabbit-skin-glue sort. Hmm acrylic gesso would probably be fine with everything else, thanks for the info! And I would love to see your dancing crustaceans 🙂

    • Rosie Scribblah August 22, 2012 at 09:04 #

      I think dancing crustaceans is becoming more of a possibility by the minute 🙂

  4. notes to the milkman August 21, 2012 at 18:21 #

    Reblogged this on The Milkman Goes To College and commented:
    An interesting approach to drawing.

  5. notes to the milkman August 21, 2012 at 18:20 #

    A very interesting technique! Thank you for sharing this. I’ll certainly think about having a go myself. I’ve covered paper with charcoal and then attacked it with a putty rubber, but this seems to take the idea to a whole new level.

    • Rosie Scribblah August 22, 2012 at 09:06 #

      I’ve also done the putty rubber thing but this is far more emphatic and durable. It’s also harder to do as you have to really attack the paper with sandpaper, emerycloth and wire wool, but it gives far more depth and richness in my opinion.

  6. settleandchase August 21, 2012 at 15:19 #

    What an interesting technique..I love the last one, somehow falling through the air – macabre and beautiful at the same time..

    • Rosie Scribblah August 22, 2012 at 09:05 #

      Thank you – it was very interesting to draw them – something I don’t normally do 🙂

  7. sherylmcdougald August 21, 2012 at 05:32 #

    These are beautiful, and I’ll bet the depths of black are so much richer in… person, so to speak… in real? In real life? Whatever, bet they are gorgeous!

    • Rosie Scribblah August 21, 2012 at 08:08 #

      Thank you Sheryl. There’s more variety in the blacks; it’s interesting how you can get the different blacks by using sponges, rags and fingers.

  8. Helen Cherry August 20, 2012 at 23:20 #

    awesome stuff and agree with both the comment about careful placement of image and with your analysis of the bottom picture..

    • Rosie Scribblah August 21, 2012 at 08:07 #

      Thank you Helen. I understand why we’re taught to fill the page, to make our drawing freer, but now I’m more interested in the effect that space has to play in a piece.

      • Helen Cherry August 21, 2012 at 09:13 #

        Absolutely right Rosie.. There is a time and place for space in a picture whatever the meduim used.

  9. Rosie Scribblah September 18, 2012 at 07:52 #

    Thanks for sharing this 🙂


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