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Foggy And Hangliding

30 Dec

worms head

Husb and I met up with some friends today for a good walk down at Rhossili, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and a short drive from where we live. I took a brown paper sketchbook and some conté crayons to have a bit of a scribble. It was windy, cold and damp which didn’t make it easy to draw en plein air, so I stopped after a quick sketch. We walked down the steep path to the beginning of the causeway to the islands, which were cut off by the tide and then clambered back up the hillside. It was really foggy when we arrived but it lifted and some people took to hangliding above the huge beach.

Collage En Plein Air

29 Dec

Foxhole 7

Husb and I went for a walk down to Foxhole Bay on the Gower Peninsula today, partly to get some exercise and also to get some art work done en plein air. The land and sea are very rugged and I decided not to draw but to do some collage using papers I prepared quite a while ago, scribbling over recycled prints with oil pastels. I also had some sheets of sturdy watercolour paper that I had brushed with my home-made walnut ink.

 

 

We clambered down a steep, rough path and settled about 30 feet above sea level, on a flat area that is the remains of a rare Ipswichian raised beach, which was the sea level sometime in the past, probably before the last Ice Age. It was a good place to work, I laid out my board and ripped the different collage papers, laying them down on the watercolour paper and rearranging them, taking photos as I worked, inspired by, rather than slavishly copying, the environment around me. It’s an interesting way to work outside; the work of art is ephemeral, it exists in the camera. When I finished I smooshed the paper back into my folder to use another day.

Class Glass

12 Dec

 

Dinas garage

I had a lovely surprise today. Local stained glass artist Deanne Mangold, of Class Glass Wales, came to visit with a glass panel for me based on one of my drawings of ancient standing stones. Deanne had seen some of my drawings at an exhibition, Yr Helfa / The Hunt and wanted to translate one or two into stained glass. And here’s the result. I love it, it’s gorgeous.

 

The original drawing was done in the field, literally a field behind the garage in Dinas, North Pembrokeshire, where there’s a magnificent ancient stone monument. If you want to see more of my drawings en plein air of Neolithic and Bronze Age sites in Wales, please visit my Artfinder gallery.

 

Saint, Sunlight And Scabby Exterior

28 Nov

 

St Christopher b

I did more sketching towards the end of my recent holiday in Italy, in Bologna, than earlier in Florence, mainly, I think, because making art is my profession and drawing while I’m on vacation feels like work. But after a few days I had itchy fingers and started to scribble in my sketchbook again. We visited some magnificent churches and cathedrals; this one below is the Basilica of San Petronio. The outside façade was left unfinished and in quite a rough state, which is in complete contrast to the fascinating interior, allegedly because the architect wanted to rival St. Peter’s in Rome and once the Pope got wind of it, he put pressure on to stop the project from being completed.

 

church b

One of the many beautiful things inside is a gorgeous painting of Saint Christopher. I managed a very quick sketch which doesn’t do it justice at all. Another fascinating thing is the longest meridian line in the world, marking out a calendar on the marble floor. We stayed and watched it in action just after noon, where a large dot of sunlight appeared alongside the date shown on the floor. It was very exciting!

 

The holiday was arranged by New Scientist magazine and focused on Renaissance art, architecture and science, expertly led by Andrew Spira.

 

The Skinless

27 Nov

anatomy b

Another quick sketch from my recent trip to Northern Italy, this one from the Anatomical Theatre in the Palazzo Archiginnasio in Bologna. The theatre, built in 1637 by Antonio Levante, is a beautiful room in carved wood which looks, to me anyway, like a classical anatomy theatre should. There are two wonderful life-size wooden statues of the Spellati – the Skinless – by Ercole Lelli and I managed to scribble one of them.

Bokashi!

26 Nov

Hiroshige 1

Husb and I spent a few days away in Northern Italy, exploring museums and galleries on a guided tour arranged by New Scientist magazine. We took in a fabulous exhibition, “Beyond The Wave”, of Japanese Ukiyo e printmakers, Hokusai and Hiroshige in Bologna. I was fascinated by their process. To my surprise, the artists themselves didn’t do any printmaking, but just provided the initial simple ink line drawing (which didn’t survive the process). The drawing was transferred to a number of blocks, up to fifteen depending on the amount of colours, and cut by a carver. Finally the blocks were handed over to a printmaker to produce the fabulous full-colour images that we’re used to seeing today. This process reminds me of that used in the production of modern comics, with the artist producing pencil drawings, handing them over to an inker and then to a letterer. Coincidentally, Hokusai and Hiroshige are a great influence on Japanese Manga and Anime.

In my small sketchbook, I made some little studies of the beautiful simple compositions of some of the prints. Most had very sparse detail and the artist’s original line drawings are usually quite basic. The richness of pattern and colour are down to the skills of the printmaker who often used a blending technique called Bokashi which gives beautifully graduated colours. Ukiyo e prints became very fashionable through Japonism and had an enormous influence on later 19th century and 20th century European art and artists including the Impressionists and post-Impressionists and individual artists including Cassatt, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and van Gogh.

Galvani

24 Nov

galvani

It’s tiring going round museums and galleries and churches, so Husb and I had a bit of a sit down in the Piazza Galvani in Bologna, which has a large statue of Luigi Galvani, the pioneer of bioelectromagnetics whose work inspired Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein. When I draw statues, I try to get them from unusual angles and this one just happened to have a seat right behind the tails of his coat. Very convenient.

Walking In Their Footsteps

1 Sep

peace 4

 

Here’s the final drawing I did last Bank Holiday Monday, when I joined a group of women from across South Wales to remember the original women’s peace march that led to Greenham Common back in 1989. We set out from Swansea really early, then had speeches, songs and a short march around Alexandra Gardens in Cardiff; sidestepping the preparations for the Cardiff Pride event later that day. One of the original marchers, Ann Pettitt, spoke of her experiences, so interesting. Of course, I had to scribble her! I didn’t go on the original protest but I joined 30,000 others at the huge “Embrace The Base” event in 1982, where we all linked hands around the perimeter fence, I think it was about 9 miles.

 

severn 1

 

Then off to Chepstow for tea and Welsh Cakes in the Drill Hall and then recreating part of the march onto the old Severn Bridge on the M48. I’ve driven across that bridge many times through my life but never walked on it. There’s a very good pedestrian and cycle path and I was surprised by how many were walking it on a lovely day. Here’s a view of the new Severn Bridge from the old one with sheep walking across the land below the bridge.

 

The Melted Rocks

24 Jul

Paviland wordpress

One of my favourite places is Paviland, a strange otherworldly cove on the coast of the Gower Peninsula which is the site of the Goat’s Hole Cave, famous for the skeleton of the  “Red Lady of Paviland“, which is actually a young man. From the main road, it’s a fair walk across fields via a marked footpath before the ground drops sharply and narrows into a steep rocky valley down to the beach. The slippery and difficult rocks look as if they have been melted and are splashed with colour from mosses and lichens and veins of different minerals coursing through them. I always take a sketchbook when I visit and I made this large monotype from one of my sketches.

 

Out Of The Blue…

22 Jul
2018 sunshine coal

Buried Sunshine

 

Where do we draw inspiration from? Well, frankly, could be anything, anywhere, anytime. Sometimes it flows from a planned programme of research, other times it just hits you out of the blue. I try to listen to a TED Talk each day and one popped up yesterday by the oceanographer Penny Chisholm about the tiny species Prochlorococcus, the most abundant photosynthetic species on the planet. She was describing how aeons ago, vast amounts of photosynthetic organisms, which lived by absorbing sunlight, sank below the sea, became compressed over unimaginably vast amounts of time and turned into coal and oil. Then came the phrase that hit me … “coal and oil are buried sunshine“!

WOW! I live at the edge of the South Wales coalfield which was mined right back in the 15th century; mining really took off at the beginning of Britain’s Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, continuing until the 1980s, and I’d never thought about the buried sunshine beneath my feet.

Some previous drawings en plein air from Big Pit in Blaenavon.

 

I immediately started to imagine some visual images so I drew one straight away with Daler Rowney artist quality soft pastels onto Khadi handmade paper. While the idea of buried sunshine is beautiful, coal and oil lock away vast amounts of carbon and once they come out of the ground and they’re burned, that carbon is released back into the atmosphere. Which isn’t good. Perhaps we should leave the rest of this ancient sunshine safely buried.

 

You can see Penny Chisholm’s TED Talk on this video…

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