Keep it simple, stupid

Still on holiday for this sketch (I’m eking them out). The chair had been calling to me for a couple of days. I liked the shape of it, the simplicity, moulded from a single piece (probably plastic) and upholstered in grey tweedy fabric. I knew I didn’t want to paint it. Somehow a line drawing seemed right, and fortunately it came without too much bother. I had fun with the slightly broken lines, and especially with the fringe on the cushion. I like the sparsity of the chair compared to the complexity of the plant and stool. Fineliners rule! (well, sometimes).

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Fill your boots

There is a saying around Luton which is used when you are giving someone permission to go ahead with something: ‘fill your boots’. I don’t know where it comes from, but I like it. It has a quirky quality, which inevitably leads one to enquire ‘With what?’ Anyway, I digress.

It’s been a long time since I owned a pair of Dr Marten’s AirWear, but now that my circumstances as a school art technician allow for somewhat more freedom of dress than previous careers, I’ve indulged in a pair of iridescent turquoise snakeskin patterned DMs – it was love at first sight.

So, here they are (well, one at least), immortalised but nowhere near as shiny and delicious as in reality.  In a nice twist I used some Dr PH Martin’s inks to create a background for the Dr Marten’s boots.

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Statuesque

In one of the sculpture galleries at the V&A museum in London is Michaelangelo’s David. He does tend to dominate rather. However, there is also plenty of other stone-hewn flesh to sketch, and this time it was the turn of Crouching Boy, also by Michaelangelo.

One of my favourite ways to represent white marble is to work in white gel pen on a black background. It’s fun and a good mental discipline to have to add in highlights, rather than to leave them blank. Another bonus is that often you don’t need to spend very long to capture a credible likeness, as there never seems to be quite as much shading.

Sometimes I charge right into a drawing without circumspection. Not this time. When drawing just with pen it’s a risky business, as once you’ve committed there is no going back. I was on the last page of my sketchbook and wanted to do it justice, so I took care and time to think about the spacial relationships between the broad back, the head and the knee in particular. This pause for thought definitely helped in constructing the outlines.

Crouching boy white gel pen

The light in the sculpture gallery is rather diffuse, which means that it can be hard to see where the highlights and the darks are. It gave me some problems on the leg, trying to show the less defined muscles yet still leave enough shadow, but overall I’m pretty content with the way this one turned out. I would have been even happier if I’d been the sculptor!

Bronze Babe

I don’t know much about Jacob Epstein – which could be easily remedied, of course. But I do appreciate the way that he handled bronze. This bust, entitled ‘Third Portrait of Oriel Ross’ is on display in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and principally it was the scrunchy hair textures which attracted me. Epstein had sculpted huge hunks of lively, wavy hair, its dynamism in contrast to the smooth skin of the young model. Her pose is confident, focused, and even slightly assertive. I like it very much.

Bronze has a most beautiful quality once the patina has developed – slightly golden-orange, and yet overall dark, showing the play of light on its surface. It never ceases to make me wonder that something so durable can represent flesh so well.

Epstein bronze.jpeg

I wasn’t carrying much in the way of materials, but did have my Inktense pencils, brush waterpen and a fineliner. A decent kit for such a sketch. I wanted to convey the bronze patina, with its glints of golden light; tricky especially as with the Inktense you are trying to predict how they’ll look when you’ve added the water and let them do their thing. Maybe there should have been more darks in there for a realistic result. Since I didn’t sketch this out in pencil before diving in with pen, I failed to achieve quite the correct proportions, but I feel that the more I take this approach the more I’m forced to look carefully before committing to paper, so I’ll persist with winging it.

In retrospect I quite like the reiteration and correction lines, and the intense streaks of colour, which have saved this from being a slavishly realistic representation and offered up something a bit different. Maybe our errors are where the magic really begins?

Cross Primate

I don’t know who this rather feisty little chap is, but he is to be found (stuffed) at the Cambridge Zoological Museum, with a padded bench very handily opposite for tired sketchers.

The way he has his tail slung casually over his shoulder appealed to me, plus his slightly cross expression. I was carrying Inktense pencils and a waterbrush, so that’s what I used, plus my trusty fineliner. It’s amusing how much this looks like an iPad sketch!

Primate Cambridge inktense

Are you sitting comfortably?

The V&A museum in London is a great place for sketching. On the very busy day I visited the gallery staff went above and beyond in locating me a folding stool to take with me as I mooched about looking for a sketch subject.

In a strange coincidence I ended up on the top floor furniture gallery, where there were far fewer visitors and some wonderful examples of furniture. These two chairs really appealed to me, both for their differences and similarities.

The first, older chair I neglected to read about, and now I regret my carelessness. I was attracted by its combination of elegance and comfort, and the beautiful turquoise silk upholstery.

The lower chair is by Frank Lloyd Wright, dating from 1904 – I never knew he’d had a bash at making furniture. This one’s an office chair, and seems to me to have a rather robotic personality. Although it looks rather hard and angular, maybe that’s a good thing in an office chair, keeping the user focused and away from daydreams.

V&A Chairs inktense

I first made sketches in black fineliner, and then, having carted my Inktense pencils around London, I decided that a splash of colour on these chairs would be just the thing. So that, with the help of a waterbrush, was what I did.

Sitwell? Don’t mind if I do.

Wayyyy back in February I had the opportunity to go tho the National Portrait Gallery in London. I was scouting around for something to sketch, when this striking bust caught my eye. It’s Dame Edith Sitwell, by Maurice Lambert. Made in 1926, I think it totally captures the spirit of the age – it’s strongly Deco in feel, and cast in silvery aluminium.

This A5 sketch was made with a fineliner outline, and black Tombow with waterbrush for the shadows.

Edith Sitwell bust tombow

I really enjoyed its clean lines and bold shapes, even if the super-elongated neck does rather remind me of the old Cluedo cards…

Rooms in Spanish for Cluedo game

Inappropriate

In the middle of this heatwave we’re having in the UK it seems a bit perverse to post a snowy scene, but I’ve a small backlog which must be blogged, so my apologies.

This scene was made after I’d been for a run along a track I know very well. I used my impressions of the view, rather than an accurate recording. The aim was to have a little experiment with my Dr PH Martin’s inks, using a coffee stain ground. I wasn’t sure what paper I wanted, and ended up on some textured acrylic paper which gave me plenty of opportunity to move the pigment around. I’m not a coffee drinker, and found the smell of the coffee very off-putting. I think I’ll use tea (which I also don’t drink, but which I think smells nicer) next time. I quite like the effect though.

More background was added in blue with water on a big brush. From then on it was all mark-making starting with a sepia fineliner and then adding sepia ink with a small stick,  a brush, and finally my fingers.

Running track ink

This picture was pure escapism and experiment. I’m not sure it entirely works, but what does that matter?

Swoop

As you may already be aware, in my next life I intend to come back as a corvid trainer in a spangly leotard. Until then, I’m making do with the occasional sketch of these intelligent birds. This one’s a jackdaw, of which there are plenty in my local area – cheeky, clever and sometimes just a little raggedy.

The picture is pretty big (for me) at about 16 x 12 inches, and done quickly in Dr PH Martin’s inks with a fairly generously sized Chinese brush. I did do some vague outlines in pencil before beginning, just to try to position it correctly on the surface (the back of a spare piece of mount board). I still didn’t get it all on, but it was refreshing to work much larger than usual. I think I will have to invest in some larger paper to allow for a new scale of sketch.

Jackdaw landing ink

On the Edge

I was given some new Staedtler fineliners in a range of lovely colours – first quick test out was to see how they worked together without water (they are water-soluble). What better than the kitchen windowsill? And yes, those are hyacinths, which look a bit worse for wear.

Windowledge pen

The pens were very nice to use (I restricted myself to just three colours here, don’t want to have too much fun all at once) – precise, and just the tiniest amount of solubility with each other, which I quite enjoyed. Yes, I think they will find a place in my art bag – I’ll squeeze them in somehow!