Saturday, October 17, 2009

At the end of last week and the beginning of this week I was very frustrated.

I had the studio space lined up ready to work in, I had the research and designs for the sculpture ready and I had the materials I needed to get started.

And then the car broke. It was driveable locally, but it was not up to the 3 hours each way back and fore to the studio.

But it's actually turned out to be a good week, once I came to terms with the fact that I was going to be here and not there.

The weather has been cold but sunny, with the colours of Autumn beginning to show through. Autumn is my favourite season.

Making the most of the weather, I went out drawing most days.

I've been drawing tree trunks again.

There is something, for me, very 'earthing' about standing and sketching.

As I walk I am thinking about all sorts of things, but my eyes are constantly scanning for something interesting to draw. Suddenly, I will see something. Often, I have walked past before my conscious brain has processed what my eyes have registered, so I walk back and look again to see what it was I noticed.

Then I stand, take a breath, and root myself to the spot. The flow of looking, drawing, looking, adjusting, looking, drawing begins and unfolds itself. Sometimes, I think I have finished but I sense I haven't. I stand a little longer and see a little more, and begin working again. A small A6 sketch can take 5 minutes or 20 minutes. I finish when I sense that it's 'enough'.

I have a nearly-full sketch book of tree trunk drawings now and it's interesting to look through to see how my 'style' has developed.

At first I was using pencil. But my mark-making was very tentative and the results were a little too grey and pale for my liking.

Sometimes I use a straightforward black pen (often a cheap biro). This is better, though a little too hard-edged for what I'm drawing and doesn't work so well for shading or softening the lines. I find it technically more challenging.

My favourite is a water-soluble fibre tip pen, with a water-filled brush. I draw in a Daler-Rowney A6 sketch book on 150gsm cartridge paper.

I like to draw the edges and the main features of the tree trunk, and then blur them with the brush. I then work into them, drawing some more, repeating the process.

I'm not creating a 3-dimensional, realistic representation of a tree. I take photos for that.

As I've mentioned before, I see figures in the trees and I gravitate towards the more elegant shapes.

I'm interested in the lines, the shapes, the contours and the curves.

But as I look back I realise that, really, I'm drawing breasts.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Sculpture Commission

The sculpture commission came about when we started off chatting about commissioning a painting for his shop. He'd already bought a few pieces off me including a sculpture that he was particularly fond of. He talked about how he connected more with sculpture than with paintings. At the time, we were sitting outside in his large and beautiful garden, and I commented that a sculpture set into the garden would look great. It clicked. And now I'm working hard to construct, complete and install it before the daylight diminishes and the weather turns too harsh for being outdoors. The end of the month is the aim. We'll have a garden party for the viewing.

Being commissioned to produce work like this has been a good process for me. When I work solely for myself (though as I type that I realise how untrue it is) I develop ideas and pick up influences and references as I go. They almost unconsciously weave themselves into my work. There's also had to be a bit more intellectual rigour in putting forward a clear and plausible proposition.

As part of the process I've put together a 30 page, bound document - a mixture of words and images -of my references and research, and sent it to my client. (Jo - we need to get a binding machine for the studio!).

I'm not going to detail the references here, because I'm finding the process to be a highly individual and personal one. But here are some fragments :

The basic concept is of a figure rising up from the earth. I was thinking a lot about it when I was in Brazil and knew I need to do something to get the process started and to have some actual images to work with. I took photos of Neto so I could begin thinking about the shape and structure of the figure. I also found some fashion images of figures in the landscape, where the legs were wrapped in long flowing skirts. This gave me a better idea for a more sculptural shape.

When I was back in the UK, I took a lot of photos and made drawings of trees coming up from the ground, and roots going down into the ground.

For the past year I've been drawing trees and seeing how they resemble the human form. I could see how the myth of Dryads emerged and what a potent idea it was. All of this was working its way into the process.

The base of the figure I will be sculpting will be covered in natural materials - grass, leaves, sticks, stones - elements that I've been working into my paintings for years.

I will be making the sculpture out of materials attached to a wood and wire frame. The size of the figure (about 4ft 6ins) makes this a little more problematical. But again I had references to draw from. Most days I walk by the River Taff where they are constructing a new fish-pass at the weir. Just recently they have been constructing the framework out of wood and metal rods and then pouring concrete. This showed me how I would construct the armature for my figure and attach materials to it (I'll be using fabric soaked in concrete and exterior PVA, with the whole thing being primed and then painted with many coats of white exterior paint - can't wait to get my hands in concrete!).

I'm due to start construction next week in the studio in London and I have most of the materials and tools ready to take.

But my car's knackered. That's the next problem to fix.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Sum Problems

It's been a bit hectic. As I thought it might be.

I recently had a great weekend with friends in Devon, where we started pooling ideas for a new venture I will be starting soon.

But mainly I've been working on research and studies for the two commissions I'm doing.

I've also been back and fore to London a few times to see people and, last week, to look at a vacant building I am going to use as a studio.

The plans for the sculpture are pretty much complete, so over the next 2 or 3 weeks I will start construction.

There are all sorts of technical and practical problems waiting to be encountered, but I'm trying not to let that put me off. I'll work my way through them.

But the first problem I have is one of size and scale.

And I have a mental block because it's about numbers. And numbers really don't like me. They never have.

When I was in school, I used to copy my maths homework from a brainy friend. I even put in a few deliberate errors so it wasn't too obvious. But the teacher caught on and told me I should be honest about what I didn't understand so he could help me.

So I did my homework honestly for a few weeks.

I got crap marks, the teacher shouted at me and I was moved down to a lower set.

So I went back to cheating. And hating teachers.

Anyway, to this day if I hear a sentence beginning with the words "two trains leave a station at the same time ..." I run for cover.

And don't get me started on two men digging holes.

My brain simply shuts down.

So here's the problem. And I'm sitting here forcing myself to describe it.

The sculpture is to be around 4ft 6 ins tall.

The human figure is 8 heads (see figure below)

I have a long timber post (that's not a euphemism).

I need to mark it up.

How big should each head be (in a nice round number) to make the whole thing approx 4' 6"?

You can figure it out while I go and lie down.


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