Tag Archives: Paleolithic art

Bideford Black

14 Nov


I was with a group of artists working with the 15 Hundred Lives collective at Creative Bubble today. We have the artspace for a couple of days every month to work together and to let the public come in and see how art is created. I’ve been working on a very big drawing in charcoal and chalky pastels, based on an original life drawing, and I’ve been trying out an old traditional pigment, Bideford Black, which is a naturally occurring black clay-like pigment from Devon.

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I found it very interesting to use. It feels like a lump of crumbly clay but when you start to rub it on the paper, it quickly acquires a smooth surface and feels oily as it moves across the paper. I thought it would be hard to overlay it with other media, like carbon and chalky pastels, but they went on beautifully.

DSC08171It made me feel a connection to ancient artists, those who drew on the caves in Paleolithic times, using ochres, chalks and clays they found on and in the earth around them. Primeval. I like it. I’m at Creative Bubble for another day tomorrow so will finish the drawing then.

Fiendish Foreshortening (Female Nude)

22 May


Just back from life drawing at Swansea Print Workshop and here’s a drawing in progress. The pose was about 45 minutes. I used my Samsung Galaxy Tablet Note 8 using the free Markers app,saving regularly to keep a record of the development of the drawing.

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I like to go to life drawing regularly as the study of human anatomy underpins my artistic practice. The portrayal of the nude is a European artistic tradition going back tens of thousands of years, to Paleolithic times.

I’m a glutton for punishment and I choose difficult foreshortening to get some practice. This one was a pain!

Little Leftover

26 Mar


Today I packed up an edition of fourteen little lino prints to send to Boise, Idaho, USA to the lovely Wingtip Press for this year’s Leftovers print exchange. The Director, Amy Nack has been organising this for five years now and attracts miniature prints from all over the world. This year’s deadline is April the 15th.

This linoprint is based on some small sketchbook drawings I did of petroglyphs, paleolithic rock carvings, in the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan a few years ago. The original carvings are possibly 10,000 years old . The petroglyphs are mostly of animals, mainly the ibex.

The image is 10 cm square and printed onto handmade Japanese lightweight paper with black oil-based relief / litho ink.

Why The Nude?

7 Mar


Here’s another drawing from the Thursday Night Life Drawing Group at Swansea Print Workshop, done on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 with a free Markers app.

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Sometimes I’m asked why I draw nudes. It’s because I’m a traditional artist and I work within the European tradition which has portrayed the human nude for around 40,000 years, from Paleolithic cave art, through to the Greeks and Romans, the Renaissance and up to the modern day. It’s embedded in my culture and underpins my art practice.

Hare Pair

28 Jan


Today I finished cutting the small lino block of a hare that I started a couple of days ago. When it was completed, I liked the idea of cutting a mirror image to make a pair of hares. They’re similar, not identical and I cut them with my set of Flexcut tools, using a Flexcut Slipstrop to sharpen the gouges every 4 or 5 cuts. If you let the tools get blunt, it’s a real hassle to resharpen them, much easier to keep them sharpened as you work. And they’re pretty sharp – I managed to draw blood on 2 of my fingers, despite using a bench hook to cut on.

It’s good to get back to a simple technique like block cutting. I’m a huge fan of paleolithic art and one of the earliest art forms was rock carvings, or petroglyphs. Carving into lino or wood blocks is a similar process and although there’s no evidence that prints were taken off petroglyphs, it’s a small step to carving onto wood and using pigments to make prints. Fabric printing from blocks is thousands of years old and I feel this continuity of the practice whenever I carve a new block.

Next step is to do a proof print from each block to see if the image is complete or if I need to do any more cutting.

Puss ‘n’ Boots

13 Feb

14 cat n boots

Still nursing the lurgi this morning so I was sat with my legs up on a footstool wearing my cool Magnum HiTec boots. Sparta Psychokitteh came along and stretched herself on top of my snazzy leggings. I’m a scribbler. So I scribbled her.

As I was drawing, I drifted off into ‘the zone’. This sort of repetitive, physical mark-making induces a kind of meditative state in me. I thought about the books I’d read and the documentaries I’d watched over the past few weeks while I’ve been ill, about paleolithic art and cave paintings in particular. Most of the art from the Stone Age is recognisably animal or human, but there are lots of examples of abstract shapes, grids, dots and dashes and a number of theories about them. One is that early artists were trying to depict entoptic imagery, another that they were drawing hallucinations caused by intoxicants or rituals. I wondered how many artists have been consulted in the formulation of these theories because when I’m in ‘the zone’ I get totally absorbed in the phusicality of drawing; the physical nature of making marks over and over again. Were the earliest artists in our species experiencing something similar? Hmmmmm.

Drawn into my A6 blue silk recycled sketchbook with a Pentel V5 pen, size 0.5mm and Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens sizes XS, S and B. (Sparta chewed the bead off the ribbon and I had to tie it back on and it’s skanky now!).

Return Of The Lurgi

27 Jan

Ooooffff! Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does with a vengeance. Serves my own right for being complacent and thinking I was well enough to go off playing in the snow instead of nursing the rotten chest infection I had. The next day I was well and truly poleaxed and I’ve been in bed for the last 4 days. I haven’t been able to blog or draw, reading hasn’t been easy because my eyes hurt so much and my body feels like I’ve been used as a doormat by a Woolly Mammoth. I haven’t been as ill as this for 25 years and that was a rotten chest infection too.

But thanks to the marvels of the Internet, my enforced bedrest was relieved by watching art documentaries on YouTube, first some on Paleolithic cave art, which is a passion of mine and then the entire BBC series with Nigel Spivey, How Art Made The World. If you haven’t see it, believe me, it’s brilliant.


Deer 9

I saw some paleolithic art close up when I visited Pakistan a few years back. The bus driver stopped on a mountain road next to some rocks which were smothered with ‘petroglyphs’, pictures of animal and the occasional human carved into the rockface. I drew some into my travel sketchbook and when I came back, I carved some of them into lino and printed them up.

linoprint Karakoram Mythic Animal 2

I’ve been a bit bonkers about paleolithic art since.

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