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My Geographic Palette #4 – Graphite

24 Jul

graphite 4

The next one out of my geographic palette is graphite, a slightly greasy, slightly soluble solid black pigment and mineral found in The Lake District near Keswick, which is where I bought some nice chunky sticks of it and a whole load of top-quality graphite pencils. Not far from Keswick, at Seathwaite, is an old graphite mine which has been around since the late 16th century until it was abandoned in the late 19th century because cheaper graphite, although of inferior quality, could be imported, mainly from China.

tracing 5

Historically, this very pure graphite was used to mark sheep, still an important local industry. But it was used mostly for moulds to cast coins and cannonballs; it is said that it made such good cannonballs that it gave the British the edge over the French. When warfare moved on, someone had the bright idea of stuffing a thin wooden tube of wood with graphite and this kickstarted the famous pencil industry in Keswick which still has the Derwent factory and Pencil Museum. It’s a fabulous little gem of a museum, so informative and a great place for graphite geeks to hang out. Graphite pencils are a relatively late invention; back in the day, artists drew with charcoal, red lead, silverpoint and chalk.

 

Using a 6B block of graphite, I drew into my A5 spiral bound Bockingford sketchbook, using both the flat side and pointed tip of the graphite to get different textures. Then I took a watercolour brush dipped in water and rubbed areas of the graphite to create soft washes directly onto the paper. Then, while the paper was still wet, I drew into the damp areas which gave me more lines and textures.

This is based on a sketch I did en plein air on a field trip with colleagues from The FIRE Lab, near the source of the River Tawe. It’s a culvert – I’m falling in love with culverts, who’d have thought it? Please check out the FIRE Lab blog here – it’s a good read.

 

 

My Geographic Palette #2 – Bideford Black

22 Jul

 

Bideford 4

So, day 2 of drawing from my geographic palette. This is Bideford Black, an unique oily carbon-based pigment from North Devon, where is sits in the ground next to anthracite coal. It was mined for about 200 years up until the late 1960s but lost out to cheaper competitors and the mines closed. I was sent some by artists based near the geological seams a while back, in exchange for some of my homemade walnut ink. It’s quite greasy to draw with and a bit crumbly, and when used dry it looks a bit like a dense charcoal on paper.

 

 

I put some bits into a pestle and mortar and crushed it – surprisingly tough – into a fine powder and mixed it with water to experiment into an A5 300gsm Waterford sketchbook. I like the result. It’s a dense black – I watered it down quite a bit – and it flows easily. I based the little drawing on a sketch I’d done a few weeks back while I was out on a field trip near the source of the River Tawe with colleagues from the FIRE Lab team from Swansea University. FIRE Lab has a cool website with some great blogs – here’s one on walking the River Tawe path.

 

 

 

My Geographic Palette #1 – Charcoal

21 Jul

charcoal 2

 

This is my first tryout with my geographic palette, a drawing based on a sketch I did en plein air on a field trip with colleagues from Swansea University’s FIRE Lab a couple of months ago when we went off exploring culverts up in the Brecon Beacons.

 

The charcoal I bought a few years back when I visited John Ruskin’s house, Brantwood, at Coniston Water in the Lake District. At the time they made charcoal from willow grown on the estate, using traditional methods. It’s quite crumbly and benefits from being used with a heavyweight textured paper. I’m using a 300gsm Bockingford here and I’m pleased with the results, lots of tonal variation depending on the pressure I’ve used. It’s only a small drawing, I’m using an A5 size sketchbook, spiral bound from Pink Pig in Barnsley, and I’m abstracting away from the original which is starting to excite me.

 

 

 

 

My Geographic Palette

20 Jul

Geographic Palette small

I’m thinking about how to develop from the sketches I’ve done on a couple of field trips with colleagues in the FIRE Lab team and, as the research project is about ecosystems and environment, I thought I’d try as much as possible to use natural earths, plants and minerals in my artworks, so I’m putting together a geographic palette. I’ve made a pretty good start already, with graphite, lapis lazuli, ochre, charcoal, Bideford Black, some red sandstone and my own home-made walnut ink.

Over the next few days I’ll be researching and writing about them so watch this space …. 🙂

 

 

 

Baggy Waders

18 Jul

Brynmill Stream 3

I did some quick sketches en plein air at Brynmill Stream the other day, where some colleagues from the FIRE Lab were setting up an experiment in the water. I was fascinated by the baggy waders that they were wearing, I’d never seen any close to before.

 

I did a couple of very quick continuous line drawings and then a more detailed one, but as always it’s not easy to draw people in motion.

 

 

En Plein Air

17 Jul

Bath Carny 3

And the final scribbles from Saturday’s carnival in Bath. Drawing moving figures is a challenge but really good practice and I don’t normally get the chance to do it. That’s one of the advantages of drawing en plein air.

 

Bath Carny 4

 

 

More Bath Time

16 Jul

 

Bath Carny 2

Three kids in a Lazy Lounger and a man with nothing better to look at in the Bath Carnival at the weekend…..

 

 

Scribbles From the Bath Carny

15 Jul

Bath Carny 1

Husb and I went to Bath this weekend to visit friends and go to the Carnival. I like a good carnival. When I was a nipper, there used to be loads of carnivals in working class areas, with floats and what we called “Jazz Bands” who didn’t really do jazz but tunes on jingly things and kazoos. There would be baton twirlers too. I think that Elfin Safety might have done for them.

I did some contour drawings with a pencil into my A6 sketchbook – it was pretty fast moving at times and good practice. Originally, carnivals happened just before the Christian period of Lent and the word means “to remove meat”, which refers to the 40 days of abstinence that followed.

 

 

Snipe In The Dark Manner

14 Jul

Snipe 4

This is the last of the drawings I recently did at Swansea Museum as part of a day with Edinburgh artist and printmaker Kelly Stewart, organised by Swansea Print Workshop. I did loads of drawings of the Snipe and this is done in the manier noir technique on prepared paper (please click here if you want to find out more about manier noir).

Snipe 6

I did loads of drawings – here are a few. It was great spending a whole day locked away in a room in a museum drawing. Like I’d died and gone to heaven.

 

 

Another Blind Contour Drawing

13 Jul

Snipe 2

Here’s another blind contour drawing I did, of a snipe, at Swansea Museum last week. It’s a very useful exercise, it forces you to stop being precious about what you’re drawing, to loosen up and to concentrate on closely observing your subject, instead of watching the paper.

 

 

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