I normally think of myself as pretty calm, and suspect this comes through in my art. So what was going on the day I produced this doodle?
It began with the last page in a sketchbook whose paper I’d never really taken to. Finishing it would be a relief. I laid down a set of lines in Indian ink, drawn with a feather dip pen made on the spot. I applied blue ink, then drops of red, which I blew into spindly shapes. It began to have hints of landscape about it, reminding me of the walk up Mam Tor in Yorkshire. I encouraged this tendency with mark-making, a bit of silver acrylic, some white gel pen, a smidge of blue fineliner – even a bit of finger painting got involved. It was a real no-holds-barred experience. Sometimes these things just happen.
And suddenly, a title suggested itself: And Man Walked; and Farmed; and Fought.
Here’s something rather odd (for me). After looking at some op art and futurism, (thanks to the kind suggestion of a friend) I had an idea for combining two pictures into one, giving an opportunity to show two contrasting scenes. I admit I had some difficulty in deciding what these scenes should be, but I used this rough sketchbook to try a couple out, using Tombows for colour.
I really enjoyed setting my mind free to explore this picture, with no pressure to succeed.
If I was to turn this into a ‘proper’painting I’d improve the symmetry of the curves to achieve more of a cathedral effect, I would probably choose a less grassy plant for the natural scene, to give denser leaf colour and broader shapes and contrast more with the grid, and I would definitely think more about the cityscape (I was tired at this point) and introduce more varied silhouettes. But, I think there’s a germ of an idea her and I’ll get back to it at some point – just leaving the ideas to mature for a while.
Still vaguely reflecting on abstract art this week, it popped into my head to make a picture with a grid as the basis. I had Paul Klee’s Sinbad the Sailor picture in my head at the time, which I admire especially for the beauty of its sea-coloured grid. A print of this painting used to hang above the fireplace in my parents’ house during the 70s, so I have it quite deeply ingrained in my memory. Obviously, the outcome is not very like ‘Sinbad’, but nevertheless, it’s always interesting to understand where the idea for a picture originates.
I originally wanted to use the outline of a day lily as the subject, but when I went to find one in the garden, the last one had just expired. However, the variegated privet-type bush was doing well, and I thought that would be sufficiently structural for my experiment.
First I drew the sprig outline in pencil, and then overlaid a (non-measured) grid of squares each around 1cm in size. From the outset I thought that this picture would fade into the background rather than filling the page, so in that respect things went as expected.
I added the watercolour – three different yellow shades for the leaves, changing colour with each boundary line. I added in some cobalt blue to add a bit of interest and suggest the variegation. Seeking a complimentary palette for the background I opted for a selection of blues which I applied in varying dilution strengths. It was tricky to know when to stop with this part of the process. It seemed obvious that the darkest colours should be closest to the stem, but how far out to take the pattern? And how much white to leave? Impossible to really know. Deciding to leave the stem white seems to have been a good choice, as it provides a pleasantly smooth arc, cutting through the angular grid.
The jury is still out on whether I should erase my pencil lines or not – I’m currently thinking that they add a little something. But I reserve the right to change my mind on a whim… and I might have another go at this idea at some point, it was very interesting.
I’ve been talking to a friend about abstract art. The concept baffles me rather and doesn’t always sit very comfortably with my ideas of what makes an engaging picture; I can’t escape the hunch that an abstract should still have a ‘point,’ and I would say that I’m more of a ‘literal’ than ‘conceptual’ picture-maker.
However, something must have been triggered in my mind after our discussions, because in a quiet moment, when the rain was bucketing down outside, I had an idea for a picture. The aim was to use watercolour, to make a picture loosely based around drops landing in a puddle.
I pencilled in the concentric circles (using a pair of compasses, I hasten to add – my circle drawing isn’t that good!). Next was working out the colour combinations of blues, warms and cools, trying to organise them so that the individual ripples would still be discernible. The red segments were last to be added, and it took me a deep breath to have the courage to put them in – but I’m pleased I did.
If I was to repaint this, I would try to allow the watercolour more freedom – I was definitely trying to control it too closely here. More of a splashy, wet, blurred effect between the colours could be nice.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back to revisit abstraction, but I confess it was an amusing little dalliance while it lasted.