28 November 2015

Drawing Life and Death - UCL Art Museum

A three-hour session at UCL Art Museum on a Saturday afternoon, 20 people there, starting out sitting in a circle, getting up to draw an object, sitting down to discuss it a bit; coffee break, and then a life model. It packed a lot into that short time, and I really enjoyed it. Excellent facilitator,
First task: get some drawing materials and choose something in the room to draw. I chose a (wax?) model of a brain and tried to distinguish one lobe from another, or perhaps to make them identifiable by someone who knew something about the structure of the brain. How would a knowledgeable person approach drawing this object? How would they "see" it?
When I raised this point in the discussion, fortunately there was an anatomist present, and she talked about what sort of section it was, and what functions the lobes controlled, balance for one thing (I was struggling with labyrinthitis at the time!), and that the brainstem was also shown.

Next task, draw something 2D - I looked intently at the fine lines on an Albinus etching (1749) and tried to render them with my clunky pencil. Then, draw something 3D - the hand of a skeleton. Different approaches to the same subject, bones; during discussion some people felt the 2D artist had already made all the choices for them, whereas with the 3D drawing they had more input and interpretation.
 The model did several 2-minute poses and several 6-minute poses. Life drawing is ... challenging ...
 He ended with a shoulder stand -


Sometimes you realise that Today Is The Day - for tackling that heap of papers that's been building up.

Set the timer for 15 minutes - start - and if in doubt, bin it. Or at least that's the theory.

When the timer pinged, or rather buzzed, to signal the end of the task, I had a few things left over, things I couldn't quite manage to put in the bin. Taking a photo is helpful with this, so here they are -
- an article about Idris Khan, in the Guardian's Saturday review, 02.09.06 (here, with fewer photos; a more recent article on him is here)

- Persephone Biannually, with cover pic of Southern England 1944: Spitfires attacking flying-bombs by Walter Thomas Mornington (1902-1976) - available as a print from the Imperial War Museum (it knowingly references the cart from The Haywain, and surely that low-flying plane is either about to crash or has an extremely skillful pilot?)

- article on the art of Lucy Ward, needing another read on a tube journey sometime soon (available here)

- a little cutting from a horoscope that makes me smile wryly -
Gemini May 22-June 21
As the multi-tasker of the zodiac, you are great at juggling many different projects. However, your home life could do with organisation. Eventually everything will fall into place but something will have to give.
- a quote to send to a friend

- a few doodles, combined with yet more articles to re-read - or bin straight away

- two recipe supplements from the newspaper - these go into a heap for sorting later, and yes I do make a recipe from them now and then, the latest being Smoked Haddock Dauphinoise (too rich!)

Now we're at "the irreducible minimum" -
- a postcard that needs keeping, but where to put it? Unlike the recipes, I have no collection of "postcards that must be sorted some day but should be looked through more often"; they are in various places and I just don't feel like gathering them, at the moment, or perhaps ever

- a lovely little used envelope, with an interior of tiny squares and a fragile but valient feel to the paper

- two tiny pix of art from a magazine, to be glued into my notebook

-recipe for a cauliflower salad with pomegranate seeds (or pistachios) that, seduced by the photo, I'll make in the next day or two

- a memorable fact: "the arctic tern, travelling from the Arctic to Antarctica and back each year, sees more daylight than any other creature on the planet". What's more, arctic terns can live for 30 years, and thus travel 2.4 million kilometres. Amazing.

Sorting was quick, documenting The Irreducible took rather longer; now the originals can mostly be binned. 

Something, as the horoscope hinted, is giving.

27 November 2015


Removing some same-size squares of "texture" from a magazine left interesting layers showing through, each one unplanned -

Sort of a reverse-collage.

26 November 2015

Poetry Thursday - "My dearest dust" by Lady Katherine Dyer


My dearest dust, could not thy hasty day
Afford thy drowsy patience leave to stay
One hour longer: so that we might either
Sat up, or gone to bed together?
But since thy finished labour hath possessed
Thy weary limbs with early rest,
Enjoy it sweetly: and thy widow bride
Shall soon repose her by thy slumbering side.
Whose business, now, is only to prepare
My nightly dress, and call to prayer:
Mine eyes wax heavy and the day grows old.
The dew falls thick, my belov'd grows cold.
Draw, draw the closed curtains: and make room:
My dear, my dearest dust; I come, I come.

Opening "101 Sonnets" at random, I found this 1641 epitaph, and a mystery - did Lady Katherine write the poem, or did she commission it? The memorial on which it appears was erected 20 years after Sir William's death ... and she had to wait 33 years altogether before she joined him.

But this is not a sonnet in itself, the poem has an earlier section, which you can read here, as well as a bit of family history. Their seven children appear as adults on the tomb, which is at Colmworth in Bedfordshire.
Two of the suns are dressed as royalists, and two as roundheads (via)
The three daughters hold handkerchiefs - weeping about a family schism? (via)

Browsing Chillida

Found photos, from a magazine-browsing session months ago. An article on Eduardo Chillida, no idea what magazine it was in. Events overtook me and I never did look closely at the images, until now.
His ironwork, made early in his career, is new to me. The text on that page, cropped from the photo, read:

"In Silent Music (1955) and In Praise of Air (1956) Chillida has fully mastered the material and is able to articulate it according to his wishes:

A piece of iron is an idea in itself, a powerful and unyielding object. I must gain complete mastery over it, and force it to take on the tension which I feel within myself, evolving a theme from dynamism. Sometimes the iron refuses o give in. But when I eventually reach my goal I always know; the individual fragments crystallize with a sudden shock and form a whole. Nothing can no separate the space from the force which encircles it."

Stone sculpture:

 From his "Homage to Goethe" series:
When you google Homage to Goethe, most of the images are from pinterest -
Here's an interview from the late 90s, mostly about his public art, in which he says that on his return from "Europe" to the Basque country:

" In the studio every day, I was looking back to the things I had been doing for the last year, and then I stopped to ask myself, "Why?" This was a crucial moment for me. At that moment, I decided never to look back. "

A question and an answer:

Wagner: Issues surrounding your work involve interior and exterior, solid and void, time and space, weight and weightlessness. Do you think you are continually solving these problems?

Chillida: The sculptures are very large and my work is a rebellion against gravity. A dialectic exists between the empty and full space and it is almost impossible for this dialogue to exist if the positive and material space is not filled, because I have the feeling that the relation between the full and empty space is produced by the communication between these two spaces. You can't simulate volume.

And this, about Chillida's homage pieces:

Wagner: You have often dedicated works to these people: Bachelard, Pablo Neruda, as well as artists Alexander Calder and Joan Miró. How were your homage sculptures conceived?

Chillida: I discover connections, even without thinking of people. I am concerned with them because I admire them in the history of thought. Miró was a fantastic person, his work inspires an unusual feeling. Everyone has always noticed him because of color, but I look at the drawings of Miró. The drawings are very important, all the curved lines were always convex, never concave. This was an important problem: I drew concave lines and his were convex. A concave line encloses a space, but it must be accessible or it is dead. He changed my way of looking at line and space, so I wanted to do an homage to him, "Homage to Miró" (1985).

A recent art market view of Chillida's work is here; the first of the Homage to Goethe series sold for $2,8m.

25 November 2015

Finishing off the year's JQs

My journal quilts this year (size 6"x12") contain fabrics stitched on various train journeys, and others stitched at home, at the studio table under the window (with the radiator, under the window, making it cosy, and Radio 4 as company). Which fabrics were stitched on which journey doesn't really matter - the JQs, for me, are a way of continuing to use fabric on a more or less regular basis. Also I like the gathering and steaming and combining of the smaller pieces - these have been steamed and "relaxed" and their combinations are auditioning -
The small bits might get used in JQs, or they might become the basis of a ceramic piece. And there are some larger "all-in-one"s being stitched for the final JQs.
What the pieces look like when gathered is always a surprise - sometimes needing amendment with stitches added into some areas.

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.