Tag Archives: Bideford Black

My Geographic Palette #3 – Walnut Ink

23 Jul

 

culvert 1a

About 3 or 4 years now some friends gave me a bag of fresh walnuts – that’s walnut fruit – the nut is in the centre of an apple sized green fruit. I made my own walnut ink from them, please click here if you want to see the technique I used.

 

 

Anyway, I used it to work up a painting using ink washes of different intensity based on one of my original sketches of culverts way up in the Brecon Beacons. I was on a field trip with colleagues from The FIRE Lab a few weeks ago and I’m using those sketches to develop a new body of artwork.

The ink looks lovely when it dries out – it rehydrates as well so it doesn’t go to waste.

walnut ink dry

The FIRE Lab has some great blog posts, check out this one about the technology of the Tawe Path walk.

 

 

 

 

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 …. 🙂

 

 

 

On The Spot

20 Apr

 

Last Saturday I did some ‘live’ drawing at an art event at Volcano in Swansea’s High Street. My young nephew posed for the best part of 2 hours but he was happy as Larry playing games on my phone. I worked inside the building and drew onto translucent drafting film with carbon, Bideford Black and white conte crayon. Meanwhile, passers by could see the drawing developing from the outside. When I went to take a look, the white conte was far more obvious than on the inside and looked much better in my opinion. The video shows the drawing in progress.

 

Nathan Volcano and Rose 2

I like the challenge of being put on the spot and drawing live, I’ve always been a bit of an adrenaline junkie and I guess that live drawing is my middle aged version of tearing around on motorbikes in my youth. What a buzz!

If you’d like to see some of my other artworks, please click here.

Making Mistakes

19 Apr

 

 

Nathan 4 small

I did something unusual at the weekend. Fellow artist Claudia Mollzahn was holding an art event at Volcano theatre in Swansea’s High Street and offered me window space to develop something over two hours. I’ve had some translucent drawing film on a roll knocking around the place for ages so I decided to stick it on the window and draw what I could see of the street behind it. Unfortunately I made the mistake of not trying it out first and when I put it up, it wasn’t as translucent as I’d thought, I couldn’t see anything through it. Then my young nephew came to the rescue. He was easily persuaded to sit in a chair playing games on my phone while I drew a massive portrait of him. It was great drawing on the inside of the window, loads of people passing by stopped to look at the drawing being developed from the other side.

Nathan 5

I tried out different drawing materials, some worked, some didn’t. I sketched the basic drawing with a graphite block and some white conte crayon, My home-made walnut ink was a wash out, it wouldn’t stick to the surface of the film at all, so I used Bideford Black to fill in the dark areas and carbon for the lines. Making a mistake often leads to something good.

Nathan 3

If you want to see some of my other artworks, please click here.

 

 

 

The Sentinel

27 Feb

Sentinel

The Sentinel is a massive quartzite standing stone, the first ancient monument we met as we walked up Mynydd Llangyndeyrn, which translates from the Welsh as the Mountain of the Church of Saint Cyndeyrn. The stone was flat on the ground until 1976, when its socket was found and it was re-erected. Nobody is sure what the stone signifies although it may have been a way-marker and some think there may have been another opposite, forming a portal to the Bronze Age landscape of the Mynydd. As I circled the stone, looking for the right angle to draw it, I noticed the coastline in the distance. I was on the mountain with archaeologist Dewi Bowen and film maker Melvyn Williams and Dewi told me that the coastline was North Devon, around the Bideford area. Coincidentally I had some Bideford Black in my bag and so decided to use it to draw with. It’s a strange oily black pigment, a bit like coal, that used to be mined commercially in Bideford until the late 1960s. Local artists still dig it out and use it and I was lucky enough to be sent some back last year. It’s very possible that Bideford Black might have been traded and used many thousands of years ago.

Click here to find Dewi Bowen’s book about standing stones. Click here to see some of Melvyn Williams’ films. Click here to see my art for sale.

Emerging Patterns

23 Jun

d 2 final

I’m continuing to work with the paper I marbled earlier in the week, squinting and staring at the random shapes and letting them form into something that makes some sort of sense. I read recently that artists may see patterns in things more readily than other people. It didn’t take me long to see the broad shoulders emerging near the top of the paper and the rest of the male body developed very quickly.

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I’m resisting the temptation to overwork it. I’m trying to keep the drawings of Egon Schiele in mind as I develop these works on marbling, keeping the line simple and flowing and not working in a lot of detail; making the figures spontaneous and minimal. The Fabriano paper has been ‘distressed’ by snails because I left it out overnight and they’ve nibbled some interesting patterns into the surface. The drawing has been done with willow charcoal, Bideford Black and white conte crayon.

Like Watching Clouds

22 Jun

marbled paper small 4

I carried on doing some intuitive drawing today, using some of the Fabriano paper I marbled last week; the ones I left outside to dry and then forgot about and left out overnight. The papers have been chewed and roughened by snails and it makes the surface more interesting. I stood across the room and squinted a bit and gradually some human shapes started to form. I tentatively drew them with willow charcoal and then, when I was happy with the line, I went over it with carbon and Bideford Black. I darkened some of the areas of marbling with the Biddy Black and finally used a white conte crayon to put in some very small highlights.

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I have always worked from life, strictly observational drawings, even if I embellish them later. This process today is far more like watching clouds and seeing what patterns form in them. I remembered that when I was a small child, I used to do just that, gaze at the clouds for ages and then draw the things I saw on whatever paper was at hand. More often than not it was cut-up brown paper bags from the grocer. My mother couldn’t afford to buy me sketchpads so she’d keep all the brown bags from shopping for me to scribble on. Kids these days would find it hard to scribble on plastic grocery bags.

See How It Goes

20 Jun

pastel nude

 

I’m going into a phase of experimentation for a while. I have been marbling some Fabriano Accademica paper with black oil pigment and turpentine and I left it out in the garden to dry out; it was quite smelly because of the turps. I forgot about it and it was out overnight and when I looked at it today, snails had attacked it, chewing out some small holes but also munching away at the surface, making it textured in places. Interesting.

I’ve been rooting through old sketchbooks, looking for drawings to work from and I quite like this simple one, done in an olive pastel at a life drawing session. I’ll use it as the basis for drawing onto the marbled paper, with different black and white media; graphite, willow charcoal, carbon, Bideford Black and oil pastel. And see how it goes…….

 

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