24 November 2015

Drawing Tuesday - Barkcloth at British Museum, again

A chance to draw the piece I'd wanted to do - as "something completely different" after my finicky literalness last time -
It's from Vanuatu and includes sea urchins, lobsters, and a bird, as well as mythological figures. I hope this closeup gives and idea of the barkcloth quality, marks, and painting -
 My plan of attack was light lines to position the elements, then splodges of colour added with a waterbrush and soluble Stabilo crayon, and finally the outlines in marker pen -
Going over it three times meant I got to know it well!
And for good measure, here's a version I traced on the ipad -
Truer to the original perhaps, but not to the spirit of the thing.

With half an hour left, I turned to a piece representing a journey, from the Solomon Islands, early 1900s, a long tapering piece with a long thin line -
It's pale and rushed, but was interesting to see the buildup of the bands of patterning, some of which represented frigate birds, and bush tracks through the hills to an island refuge. The large figures are bonito fish.

And the rest - everyone was prolific! Apologies for the faintness of some of the images, my little camera just isn't up to it.

Janet K's headdress and strikingly bold patterining -

 Mags' spirit masks (she's posted in detail on her blog) -

 Janet B's bark cloth clothing -

 Sue had a field day with patterns -

 Jo drew in the Japanese Gallery nearby -

 Cathy went for the spirit maks too -

 Pictures of the pieces in this exhibition abound - google "bark cloth british museum" or just click here.
The exhibition is open till 6 December - access is via the Japan Gallery, 5th floor, north staircase.

23 November 2015

The lamp lighter cometh

London still has some 1500 operational gas lights in various parts of town, and four lamp lighters maintain them, going around to wind up their clocks every fortnight.
Some of those lamps date back to 1813, a time when the streetscape was very, very different. Lamps that get damaged are restored to their original state (nice to know that).

The oldest stretch is on Birdcage Walk - lamps have the mark of the reigning monarch, for instance King George V -
If you see ladders chained to a lamp post, those belong to the lamp lighters, or rather to British Gas.

See the video here.

22 November 2015

Pigment timeline

Developed by the Materials Research Project team at the Slade school of art, UCL, the pigment timeline is a visual historical timeline of natural and manufactured colour and a unique and innovative visual display of quantitative information. It is made from 180 pigments bound in gum Arabic, sequentially ordered chronologically as they emerged onto the artists’ palette from the Neolithic to the contemporary.

21 November 2015

Coffee at Edith's House

New(ish) cafe in Crouch End, uber-themed in a tongue-in-cheek way -

I simply couldn't sit among the wallpaper etc in the back room -

The owners' pooch, Roux, is far too well trained to gobble up crumbs -
There is an extensive scone menu!

20 November 2015

Talk and Draw at the National Gallery

A while back, I went to the "Talk and Draw" Friday lunchtime events quite often, and today (as part of a Production Procrastination project) I decided on the spur of the moment to go. It was in Room 45, and the painting was Rousseau's 1891 tiger in the storm, also known as Surprised! - a very child-likeable painting, being oggled by a group of adults for a change.

In the Talk part, Aliki told us about the painting in the context of the times in which it was painted - how Rousseau, a self-taught painter who got confident enough in 1880 to leave his lowly clerk job, moved among the independent artists. Picasso was a supporter of Rousseau's art.

The subject matter, the power of nature and beasts, is one used by generations of painters. Rousseau took his plants and animals from the Jardin des Plantes and the natural history museum, mixing them up - pampas grass in a jungle?

Our "assignment", given that the painting had been "made up", was to remake the painting ourselves, either using elements in it or some photos of jungles and tigers she had prepared. The materials were pencil crayons ... something I've never used effectively. We took a couple of warm colours and a couple of cool colours.

Not sure whether the pencil crayons have been used effectively here, but I certainly used them vigorously and freely and with some pleasure. The 45 minutes of drawing time passed in a flash and I was pleased to get most of the paper covered and to have discovered some fast ways to make marks, eg those trees.
All this with four colours?
Sometimes it's good to Just Go and not think about it too much. As my current art-throb William Kentridge says somewhere (maybe in this video), it's important to maintain the same level of energy throughout the drawing.

Discerning Eye exhibition

I popped in to Mall Galleries to have a quick look and ended up with some photos of works that struck me in some way. It's good to have longer look and try to figure out what the attraction was.

Inside and outside space, awareness raised through drawing class

Chicken scratches on bits of cardboard? You couldn't "copy" this,
it would have to come from some sort of personal well

The colours, peaceful yet exciting, with an enigmatic subject

Laquered(?) paper - gorgeous

One of several pieces of sculpture made from what looked like grating

Colour, and figures ... moderately interesting; nice grouping

Loved this. Mysterious and slightly scary, a touch of
 the Giottos perhaps; and that number 11, did it just drift down?

Large piece with edgy collaged element

Still life of studio, with cubic "sweeties" scattered
among the jars of brushes - why not?!

Grouping of landscapes, including three sunk into wide, mitred, painted frames

Small sketchbook in hinged box, great idea

Pleasant, pleasant pictures, easy on the eye and mind; salve to the spirit

Monoprint and machine stitch, tones and colour

Lion Girl by Julia Hamilton - darks and lights

Work by some of those shortlisted for the drawing bursary -

Miranda Ellis
Blaze Cyan
The show has an online gallery - here - 451 works by 195 artists.

19 November 2015

Poetry Thursday - The Panther by Rainer Maria Rilke

Hear Rilke's own account here
Der Panther

Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe
so müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.

Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf –. Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille –
und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, 1902

Of the five translations here I've chosen Walter Arndt's; the rhythm imposed by the rhyming importantly embodies the panther's pacing. This spoken translation catches it too, and arguably better.

The Panther

               In the Jardin des Plantes, Paris 

His gaze has been so worn by the procession
Of bars that it no longer makes a bond.
Around, a thousand bars seem to be flashing,
And in their flashing show no world beyond.

The lissom steps which round out and re-enter
That tightest circuit of their turning drill
Are like a dance of strength about a center
Wherein there stands benumbed a mighty will.

Only from time to time the pupil's shutter
Will draw apart:  an image enters then,
To travel through the tautened body's utter
Stillness—and in the heart end.
                             Walter Arndt

Teachers' notes on translating the poem (here) give insight into the process.

If seeing caged animals, especially the big cats, makes you cry, you may find that this poem gets to the root of that feeling. As for the panther, so for us.

18 November 2015

Extended Drawing, third module (two weeks)

Arriving at class, we found tables laid out with objects, and each quickly wrote a description of what the interior of the strange fruit might look like. Then we passed the description to our neighbour, who drew a cross-section of the fruit based on the description -
 Next task, observational drawing - but with the aim of "showing something new" - in my case it was an act of imagination, imagining that the leaves of the pineapple could be turned to activate a musical mechanism (hmm, that would have made an interesting cross-section...) -
Now we were in the habit of writing on our drawings (must say I found that uncomfortable a first) and next task was to use the shape of one of the objects as the container for a space that contained ways for people to navigate it, with stairs, ladders, tunnels, etc -
Finally, the "peel-away" of a part of the outside to reveal something unexpected in the inside, and the possibility of putting the object in a context. Mine had a tangle of tubes inside (drawn from imagination) so I put it into "spaghetti junction" -
Adding the imagined components makes me want to look harder at real things, to get a grasp of their structure.

Using charcoal makes me want to use more charcoal. It's messy but I love it.

Some views of what other people were up to -

Artists etc mentioned:
Fritz Kahn (1930s infographics)
Brodsky and Utkin (wow!)
Wyld's Globe 1851
Henry Bradbury - nature prints
Albertus Seba's cabinet of natural curiosities

We had homework. For the second part of this module, Amanda listed the aims -

This is a foundation project, aimed at expanding ways of thinking as well as means of making.

General Aims:
Explore visual contrasts between flat space (pictorial)  and illusory space (perspectival)
Access imaginative depths that extend, circumvent or even surpass factual knowledge.  

Project Objectives
Combine or make creative use of flat and illusory space in drawing
Integrate creative ideas with empirical facts (apply personal research)
Evolve, inhabit and communicate imagined environments or 'systems'
Explore composition in terms of function and aesthetics.  
Use (if appropriate)graphic devices to enhance image/information synthesis and arrangement.

The homework was to do research towards either a "folly, museum, performance space" or something more like the layout of botanical drawing. Both appealed to me, and I could happily have spent the week (or forever) doing research on this. But by Monday it would be time to do the drawing...

Somehow the idea of the ivory tower took hold - it was something personal to me, for had I not spent years involved with academe in various ways: as a student at intervals; working in university departments in various capacities; married to, divorced from, or involved with academics, romantically and/or as friends. Its machinations intrigued me; surely there were visual metaphors, or simply visual opportunities, in the theme.

First choose your shape, then think about what to put in it and how to organise the drawing. The tower might have some of the architectural features of the castle in Annecy, and perhaps those solid stone buttresses propping it up. There would be tortuous stairs and fast, fancy elevators, and some glass ceilings for women, and small crowded rooms and large rooms with just one occupant, and collections of objects of various sorts. Such as ... ivories ... something I've drawn in various museums.

I spent a happy hour in the British Museum, after going to a talk there, drawing some ivory objects from the Chinese and Indian galleries -

And I went through my "museum" sketchbooks to find other relevant items, taking them along on my ipad -
But at the class, it didn't come together at all easily. So much to "want" to put in, more than could be done in the time available ... and, where to start?

First, though, Amanda demonstrated two things. She showed how tracings, made from objects in a sketchbook etc, could be arranged and rearranged, and then transferred to the drawing paper - and how paint or ink could be flooded in to fill areas. Simple, even basic stuff - but so very useful to have not just a spoken reminder but to see it happening.
The second demo was "trace monoprint" - again, a simple technique -
The ink is applied thinly and you draw (or trace) on the back of the paper. If the ink is too thick and the monoprint is too smudgy, do another...
This gives a different quality of mark, apart from any accidental transferral of ink. (Try not to press at all on the paper.)

And now my ivory tower.
in progress
all wrong
sparser, clearer (maybe)
More deletions, some rearrangement (gotta have balconies) - and the addition of shapes from photos of sketchbook pages, and at least it's got contrast and a cross section ... and something unexpected. The writing says, at top left "It's an ivory tower but..." then at lower right: "we all know about the madness in the attic". There's some slight madness in adding text at all; I surprised myself.
Next to it is (click photo to enlarge) a work using the trace monoprint technique.

Artists mentioned in the slide show:
William Kentridge - 30-minute film on his philosophy on drawing here, 3-minute film on his process here