Tuesday, 29 July 2008

"The drawing that is fast,...

... direct and right at first time with an economy of effort or line, is either beginner's luck (and no less a blessing) or, more likely, achieved as a result of the accumulated legwork that has already been put in over the years. Rather than a sudden flash of inspiration, it is a release of controlled energy that crackles with its own spontaneous life.
The knowledge of drawing packed solidly behind it, so a line conveys simultaneously form, weight and authority.

Another morning coffee
Another morning coffee, pen and ink in Moleskine, 13x21cm

The speedy slick line is only that: all shallow effect, no form, no substance - a fast lick of Brylcreem on a very thin thatch.
Drawing is unquestionably difficult, clumsy at times, sometimes longwinded and slow. It will show every thought, every change of mind, every unsure probe and rethink."
(Pamela Kay, A personal view: Gouache, p. 47)

Ohne M
Ohne M, pen and ink in Moleskine, 13x21cm

I had taken Pamela Kay's fantastic book about gouache with me to Eigg - along with the gouaches themselves, which I ended up not using at all. But I managed to read quite a bit in her book. In particular her chapter on drawing was fascinating, and the above quote stuck.
Part of my previous hesitation about using ink was that I felt it to be too solid, too definite. The searching for lines, patterns and marks seemed so restricted. On the other hand are the minimal lessenings I've been doing for a while: short, sparse, definite hints at something, with the something usually being landscapes.
Her quote is, I feel, about both these issues. And about much more. Towards the end of the week on the island I had firmly gotten to like the ink pen: its strong marks which would still remain searching and open.
So my sketches in metropolitan and summery Berlin continue along the same lines (sorry!), and yet are so different from only a week ago. Places and people, I suppose.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Listen to the Sands

More Singing Sands
More Singing Sands, 34x24cm Pastel on Board

The beaches here
They sing.
Loud and clear
They are dry and
You walk on them with bare feet

The most beautiful sound they make
In concert with the tide that is moving in.

Even the gulls are in awe and fall into tune.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Island time

Across the pier
Across the pier, Ink and neo ii in Moleskine, 26x21cm

Island time
It embraces you
Engulfs you like the tide
It's ferry time
Neep and spring
Circular not linear
You sink into it

Island time
All around you
It warms your body. Your heart. Your soul
It's all there is

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

And off into the horizon again

... not westwards as this view towards Barra but to the East today.

Trawler and Barra
Trawler and Barra, Ink and neo ii in Moleskine (21x13cm)

I'll leave you to my blog's autopilot for a wee while. I'm curious how that will work. I am very much a 'write post and post it now' person. While I had initially prepared many draft posts, I found I never really went back to most of them - despite having promised tutorials on clouds gazing etc. So, when Blogger introduced the auto-post for future dates function I pretty much ignored it. Somehow I do like the idea of writing something to store for future publication. But my liking of that is pretty much abstract and remained abstract rather than practical. So, I'm curiously watching from afar as Blogger will be spouting out a few prepared post. And don't get cross if I don't reply to the posted comments immediately - but I'm never too quick with that one anyway.

See you soon.

Monday, 21 July 2008

A look out of the window last week

... while making tea was like this: every morning, afternoon and evening. The distance depending on the cloud base, rain and general fog.

Amazing what you can find in this, if you stretch your eyes, mind and general outlook.

So, here's the teaser for the recent entry in our Moleskine project. It's posted off today to Vivien, so I may show the rest in a short while. This one's been good fun.

Well... realising that among the two hundred photos I took, there is not a single one from the view I painted most over the past week, here's a sketch... a sunny one:

The most magnificient drama
The most magnificient drama, Ink and neo ii in Moleskine (26x13cm)

And another one in pastel, sunny again. Same spot, different drama in the skies:

While making tea
While making Tea, Pastel in Moleskine (21x13cm)

Saturday, 19 July 2008


Seabirds swim

Seabirds swim
Ink and Neo ii in Moleskine (26x21 cm)

They swim. They fly
On the waves
When they break
All turquoise and white
They flap their wings
A few seconds long
Then they swim
The shoreline.

Friday, 11 July 2008

... and completed

is my pastel box with today's purchase of this one:

With a safe hand I picked precisely the green that Casey uses in his six Unisons. Well. We'll see what wonders it'll do to the Scottish Hebrides.

This also means:

It's good and I am gone. Not fishing but off to the sea for a week.

Finally. Holiday. See you, albeit briefly next weekend for a quick interstop. Have a good time until then.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

The darkest, lushest magenta

in my large pan is the only remains of my lucky find today.

1 kg blackcurrants
a good gluck of sloe gin
1 kg of jam sugar (or whatever you use to make it set)

I stumbled across a plenty of reduced blackcurrants in one of my local shops. Jammy, really. Usually, three blackcurrants tend to cost an arm and a leg here, if you can find them at all, and my mum would turn her eye to heavens knowing that I would spend money on buying fruit to make jam with - that's what the garden is for. Never mind.

This is what's left - except for the six jam jars full of delight, of course.

Jam: the darker the better, I think.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Help... she's painting people

... even worse: small people.

In the close, detail
In the close, Detail
Mixed media in small Moleskine

But thanks to Joan Eardley, I'm confident that a bit of over the top colour scheme along with collage will help me out with my poor people drawing skills.

This is a small detail (as in 3x2cm) of my entry into Lorraine's Moleskine. Theme: close. And playing to stereotypes, I'm sticking with a literal, physical Glasgow tenement close. Well, which is in fact a lot closer in many ways that are not literal, but that's by the by.

There is another detail in the Moleskine Blog, but I think that will be all the early gossiping you'll get about this one, until it's in Vivien's safe hands to post the whole sketch.

I think it's finished. But just in case it isn't, I'll put it to the side for a few days. It's fairly complex for a small Moleskine, so I'm sure I'll find a couple of things to play with when I look at it again.

The little child in a pram is in fact a steal straight out of one of Eardley's paintings... do you know which one?

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Swapping if not selling

Gestalten II by Tom Bush
Acrylic on Board
In my living room

I mentioned that Tom and I had arranged to swap paintings at the exhibition. And since then, this one has been providing a much coveted focal point on my wall. Gestalten II by Tom Busch.

I love it. Love it since I watched him creating, constructing, making it over weeks. Gestalten I is much stronger in hue, primaries against a cool green (have a look at this photo on flickr here where they hang side by side). Tom has a great ability to construct depth and play with shapes and colours. Well - that is how they ended up being Gestalten. Him, Michael and I discussed it. There is of course Gestalt Therapy.

But for me, Gestalten - figures, shapes - are ghostly, they are there and they aren't, come and go, you blink and they are gone. Friendly ghosts are now living in my living room.

And Tom, who's originally from London and moved up to Glasgow years ago, took great delight in providing not only a German title but a German name: Busch, instead of Bush, which did indeed confuse a good few people.

Monday, 7 July 2008

And another box...

... this time, my old and battered drawing box.

In fact, I had already made a new, larger one several months back as this was becoming severely undone. Yesterday, it occurred to me that I could use my collage skills to save this one. It's old, a cardboard box made when I was 17 or so, it has for the recent years enjoyed a lot of traveling as my drawing tool collection. So, on went some collage.

Also, I decided that my watersoluble Neocolour sticks are unnecessarily large. If I broke them into half, I figured, I could have two for one. The way I use them is really as replacement for watercolour - a light smudge of them, then some water and that's all the colour reference I need. I updated my collection to include some hansa yellow and red earth. I found they actually mix pretty well, so the 10 or so sticks I have get me pretty much wherever my colour eyes take me.

Now, with only half the stick length there is even some space left, so I'll make sure I get another watersoluble graphite stick (slightly harder than the 6B I already have) and I put some of the ink pens

Ink is something I tend to avoid when drawing: too definite and solid. But I think that's plenty of reason to take them along for the fun. I also figured I will only need a putty rubber rather than another standard one. Into the box too go alongside a couple standard pencils (HB, 2B and 4B), a waterbrush (to work with the graphite and the neo ii), a small blade and a sharpener.

Great... next come the oils, but with them I already now what to take. Paper, paper, board remains...

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Palette limitations in pastel

A day with time... So, I thought to myself to go back to Casey's short - but all you need - post on the six Unison pastels with which he travels. Check it out here

I'd been meaning to follow that one up since ever he published it, it only took me four months to do so. But I want to take some pastels with me to the Small Isles next week and although I have a perfectly good travel kit, it is rather large.

So, right in the spirit of sparseness, Casey does some of his plein air sketches with merely six pastels. They are Unison's Yellow 10, Yellow 15, Red Earth 9, Additional 30 (a dark purple), Blue Green 11, Green 29, and Grey 18 (a pale blueish grey). Have a look at Casey's post for the actual hues and values of these.

My oil colour mixing experiments have served me well for the first half of this year. Four colours is all I need, and any additional ones are luxury. So, how does this translate to pastels? My fascination with soft pastels firmly revolves around their immediacy: pure colour in stick form, just there to be applied immediately, with little binder, little mediation. Part of that of course works with each hue coming in one stick. And while I have far from a 400 and odd piece set of any pastel brand, I happily work with 40-50 hues at one time to choose from.

Casey's palette has some good yellows (incl a lime green), a red earth, a couple of blues/greys and a dark purple. That's not that far off from my hansa yellow - cobalt blue - raw siena - red earth oil palette. Ah, except the raw siena. The need for a good purple is obvious: in pastels dark purple is a firm favourite, and dioxazine purple is one of the oil luxury additions.

Well... as you see, my problem started with the selection of box. It is small. But not small enough to hold six - and only six - sticks. So I have about 20... rather unlimited, isn't it?

But, let us not be concerned with that - it's considerably smaller than my other box, and so small that it won't be noticed in my luggage.

I had bought some Diane Townsend Terrage sticks the last time I was in the US, some of them had to go in; pale blues greys had to, too; I took some high value blues too and some primary(ish) reds. There is some space left, and the only important ones I see missing are a lime green and a turquoise (for the sea in sunshine!!! says the optimist).

Any other missing? Or redundant even?

Friday, 4 July 2008

Head in the clouds

... or rather hillslopes in clouds.

Lessenings 10_2 (Past Arrochar),
Graphite and pencil in Moleskine, 21x13cm

The image doesn't quite fit, though, but you've certainly noticed that I'm barely here, there or elsewhere. Once the exhibition was running, work bit back with a vengeance and I've been running around trying to finish things up before the magical Friday 11 July when I will be away from Glasgow for a good number of weeks. Holidays and work away from the office are terribly good things to look forward to, but more importantly to have them actually happening.

In the meantime, I have been doing some more sketching while travelling. There is something extraordinarily soothing about it: the necessity to simplify - by virtue of movement - to just a couple of lines and marks. It's about marks and composition, like these two done last weekend on the coach from Glasgow to Inveraray for a Saturday outing with fish and chips at the harbour, a bit of walking through wet summer meadows amongst sheep and cows, a bit of boatwatching and a bit of pub grub and cider in the afternoon.

So, while I've got my head in the clouds or elsewhere, please bear with me. If not here, then elsewhere.

Lessenings 10_1 (Across Loch Long),
Graphite and pencil in Moleskine, 21x13cm