Tuesday, 31 August 2010

wall painting


A second wall painting from St James church, part of a repeating pattern.As with the previous image, there is a naivete and simplicity profoundly touching to behold.

wall painting


The church of St James, Cameley, Avon dates from the 11th century. It has a number of wall paintings from different periods, revealed by 20th century repair work, the earliest being perhaps as old as the church itself. I would imagine that the image pictured is early. I found its simple delicacy and naivete most moving.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

on recognising one's own egocentricity

From the preface to the 1975 Penguin edition of Dark as the Grave in which my Friend is Laid, by Malcolm Lowry, written by Douglas Day, University of Virginia, August 1967, on Malcolm Lowry:
"..He was never able to define himself to himself....he was acutely egocentric: his gaze was almost always inward, so much so that he was very nearly blind to the world outside- except in so far as it reflected his own thoughts and feelings. From time to time he would try mightily to focus on something outside himself-the world situation, friends, wives, the sound of a voice, the colour of a sky...."
I read these words with something of a start of recognition, for I read of myself within them. I am by no means comparing myself with the greatness of Malcolm Lowry, but recognise that I am myself, "acutely egocentric", and that my gaze is most often inward, rather than directed outward to the world beyond the narrow confines of the self. It was therefore somewhat reassuring to read later in the preface, that the writer did not consider egocentricity to be "synonnymous with conceit". I can assert that it is not, although the two conditions appear to lie so closely alongside one another that one may be mistaken for the other.

dark rainbow drawing II

This is the first drawing that I made for almost a year, and is not a new drawing, but instead represents a visit to an earlier work, now 'finished' in July 2010. The drawing dates from 2008, and was originally untitled, one of the rainbow drawings made whilst living in Turnpike Cottage, shortly after return from hospital in the late Autumn.
On regarding it with a critical and not altogether friendly eye several weeks ago, the notion of obscuring the bow with crumbled, dark pastel suggested itself to me, a possible development that could have meant the ruination of a drawing. Instead, the drawing has been revised, I think successfully, and I can look upon it with something of the feeling of relief.

on intimate material

Is it more or less intimate to write of, or make visual work about a love affair, for example, or ones' struggle with depression and difficulty in making art? I would now hesitate to write of, or make visual work about the former, yet have written about and made drawings about the condition of depression and of the intense difficulty I experience in making art.
Illness is intimate; depression is a condition striking at one's innermost self, thus to write about one's personal experience of it is to expose oneself. Icannot but question my motives in so doing. However, I believe that I am attempting to put forward my own experience in a way that may be helpful to others; after all, I read the accounts of other people's experience in order to gain an insight into my own. In comparing my older work with more recent, I must accept that the polaroids of the floor texts, for example, were made at a very different time of my life; then, personal material had sexual content, now it does not. At the time of making them, I had no difficulty in writing, now I find writing only slightly less difficult than making visual work. The writing of the floor texts issued forth in a sensuous flow, now I am excrutiatingly self conscious, and find my voice stifled, my sentences devoid of lyricism.
I have lost confidence and struggle to find a voice that seems true to myself, a voice that endures, that distinguishes my words, that identifies me.
The person that made the floor texts has disappeared, yet I long to resurrect her, make her substantial once more, give her chalk and see her fashion living material with it.

Monday, 26 July 2010

floor text 1991


The twelfth text. This text closes with the words, "he also is afraid". Much of the writing concerned two relationships, and was deeply emotional. Now I would hesitate before using such intimate material, unless I buried the content by the same process of erasure, overwriting, or fragmenting the text.

floor text 1991

The eleventh text of the twelve. This is perhaps the most intimate of all of the texts, describing as it does lovemaking in the early hours of the morning.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

floor text 1991


The tenth text from the twelve. This text poses a question in the third person; "how long has she been responsible for other people's emotions?", the tone suggesting the context of a therapeutic interview, or perhaps a self reflective passage in a novel.
The words do not refer to me, but someone said them to me in the first person, and I altered them.
I felt at liberty to write anything I chose on the floor, the practice of erasure, and overwriting enabled me to transcribe very personal material in the knowledge that most of it would be inaccessible to the viewer. Thus, threads of conversation, reminisences, and self revelatory diary entries were written, scrubbed out, and re-written over each other in an intense, mobile process.

Monday, 19 July 2010

floor text 1991


A ninth text. The words of this text can be read plainly, on looking closely at the image. They read, "I cry often and uncontrollably for no reason at all", and are taken from the questions and responses of psychometric tests, heard one morning on the radio. This particular phrase lodged in my mind, something about the rhythm of the words caught my attention, and the image of someone giving way to uncontrollable weeping without an apparent cause made it a phrase impossible to resist writing on the floor.

floor text 1991


An eigthth text. It is possible to read certain words; " sudden and palpable", " suddenly empty", "and I realise". Although I can recall fragments of some of the texts with ease, this text, and some of the others, remains obscure, the meaning of the words irretrievable. It is almost as though they were written by another person, even though I remember the intensity of the experience of writing on the floor, and the feeling that with these texts I had achieved something of a breakthrough in terms of my work.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

floor text 1991

A seventh text.
My mother told me of how as a child at school, during an afternoon rest period in the summer, she took a small pillow and lay on her back in the grass, to gaze up at the sky. The pillow upon which she laid her head was covered with blue parachute silk, a detail that I find most poetic. Whilst staring at the passing clouds, she was overtaken by a feeling akin to vertigo, and the fear that she might be swept upwards into the sky, and lost forever. She told me that she held onto the grass at her sides to prevent being carried aloft.
Her words engendered a powerful image in my mind.
This text ends with my transcription of her experience.

Monday, 5 July 2010

floor text 1991

A sixth text. This image is perhaps the most ephemeral of all the floor texts. It suggests absence to me, not presence. One can feel the absence of the writer. Perhaps these texts are about loss, and the passing away of things.
It is curious to look upon them now, at a time when I am unable to make visual art, or even to write very much. All has fled, and I am bereft of images, or words that shape images. The feeling of loss attends me constantly, and I do not know how to find that which is lost.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

floor text 1991


A fifth text. I cannot now remember how many texts I made transparencies from for projection, but I have chosen twelve to include here. I believe that these twelve would have been rephotographed as transparencies, although there are yet more polaroids of the texts than these.
I gave one away. It read, quite clearly, "how long can you go without touching?"
Sometimes I wonder if the person that I gave it to still has it.

floor text 1991


A fourth text. The words, "have to leave early", are repeated three times.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Louise Bourgeois

I am saddened to learn of the death of Louise Bourgeois. On a return visit to Bristol, my partner and I go back to the Arnolfini Gallery, and whilst my partner browses in the bookshop, I look once more upon the series of drawings shown in a small room upstairs. It is as though I were seeing them anew, they impress me again with their uninhibitedness and apparent simplicity.
Yet it is not easy to make drawings like these. Thinking that the spiral might be a perfect, if predictable, symbol to articulate something of the condition of depression, I attempt a drawing of a spiral, only to tear it across in dismay. I cannot draw like Louise Bourgeois.
The important lesson is that of understanding that one can only draw like oneself, and finding a way to do so.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

good days

Good days are when I do not cry and hit myself about the face and head with my hands.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

floor text 1991

A third floor text. At the time of making the floor texts, I did not consider them to be drawings. They were texts; words written on the floor in sentences, even though those sentences were almost unintelligible, overwritten, erased and fragmented as they were. Now, at a distance of almost twenty years, I am able to understand them as drawings, and to accept the polaroids of them as images in their own right, not just as documentation of an event.
At a period in my life when I am desperately unsure of how to proceed, and distrust my work as an artist so profoundly, it is helpful to look on the polaroids again, to experience them much as I did at the time of their making.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

posies

One of my most cherished possessions is a small, blue glass jar, of the sort usually containing ointment, or a preparation for the skin, when new. I dug it out of the ground, whilst living at the lodge in Hampshire; we unearthed a good deal of spoil buried by previous occupants of the site.
When my partner and I first moved to Somerset, and lived for a short while in a tiny rented cottage, it was my habit to cut wildflowers from the wayside, and place them in the blue jar on the mantelpiece of our bedroom. As the cottage had been a turnpike cottage in the 18th century, it was built on the very edge of a now busy road. The bedroom overlooked the road and thus was noisy and dusty. It was dimly lit; the posy on the mantelpiece seemed to offer up a light of its own, especially when it contained yellow flowers. Throughout the Summer I picked a succession of small posies, buttercup, wild geranium, thistle, dead nettle, and snowberry from the hedge, each posy slightly different from the one preceding it. In the Autumn, when I was admitted to hospital, the posy contained flowers from the later months of the year. On discharge, several weeks later, the posy was still intact in the bedroom, sere and shrunken. I removed it, and kept it, wrapping it in tissue and placing it in a small box, where it still remains.
I have continued the practice of cutting tiny flowers to place in the jar. Now the flowers come from the garden of the house that we rent, and exhibit a difference from the wild posies that I used to gather at the cottage. The garden has a rockery, mauve and white Aubretia swarming over the stones, which looks well in the glass jar when it is picked. This Spring, I have kept each little posy as it finishes, and have laid them on tissue paper in the kitchen, where each day I struggle with the fear that prevents me from trying to draw them.

garden

I imagine my mother in the garden in the early morning, bending over the flowerbeds, choosing which flowers to cut for the posy she placed in my room. She has slipped a jacket on over her frail white cotton nightdress, and is moving softly about the garden, appraising each plant with love.
My mother enjoys the garden most in the early morning, or just at the close of day, but especially in the morning before the dew has evaporated, when the air is fresh and fragrant and all is quiet. Then, walking slowly about the garden, she is at her most gentle, as though the garden had imparted its own tranquility to her. Her appreciation of the flowering plants is almost ecstatic; she can hardly contain the joy she feels in their presence. She bends down to lift a flower head so that she can look into the upturned bloom, her eyes drink in the colour, shape, texture; her sensibilities are those of an artist, her wonder that of a child.
She remains a powerful force in my life. Now at a geographical distance from her, I miss her sorely, and grieve, for she is elderly and the years in which we shall have each other's company are numbered.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

posy

My Mother had cut wildflowers from the garden and placed them in a glass vase in my room when I came to stay, pink campion, bluebell, yellow poppy, and forget-me-not. The fragile posy is beautiful, and lasts for the three days of my visit, before the campion drops its head and the bluebell fades, yellow petals falling from the poppy. Wild flowers succumb swiftly when they are picked.
I cannot bear to discard the vanquished blooms, so remove them from the vase, and wrap them in foil to take with me when I leave. They will dry and shrivel, their colours fading, the petals becoming brittle. I should like to draw them, to explore their significance for me in a drawing, but find myself unable to do so, encumbered as I am by the weight of fear.

on drawing VII

Each week I attend individual sessions with an Art Psychotherapist. I have not yet been able to use the materials that she lays out for me, paper, pencils, pastels. Today I spoke of a recurrent impulse that I have to take a small piece of charcoal and crush it beneath my fingers onto a sheet of paper, thereby marking the surface with black dust, effectively ruining the stick of charcoal, and soiling the paper.
I am, however, held back, immobilised. I cannot ask for the piece of charcoal, I have rehearsed it so many times in my mind, that to do so now would seem mannered. Nor could I bring myself to take the material in my hand; I sit with my hands folded in my lap, as inert as if I were paralysed.
It is too great a step to take.
I cannot draw.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

floor text 1991

Another polaroid of the floor texts. The texts were made over a period of several days, and the polaroids taken on different days, and at different times of the day, as the work progressed. Therefore the changing levels and qualities of light influenced each photograph; some appear almost bleached, some much more intense, some are warmly coloured, some are cool. I stood in different places to photograph the texts, and took the photographs from different angles.
I used water sometimes to remove text, and then wrote over damp boards, the water enhancing the richness of the old boards, rather akin to moistening a pebble from the beach to intensify its colours.
The experience was pleasurable, I felt a certain frisson from writing on surfaces that normally one is forbidden to write on, and a simple enjoyment in transcribing words more usually contained within the pages of a sketchbook or notebook, on a much larger scale with a free flowing material. There was also a sense of liberation; writing on the floor enabled me to become expansive, not an experience I was familiar with.
The room echoed slightly, had very high ceilings, and in the evenings, when I often worked, was a calm sanctuary. Then few other students were working in the school, so that it felt as though one had the place to oneself. The writings were made in the Spring, the evenings in the North being long and light. I worked in the spirit of experimentation and discovery, rare companions whose presence I was grateful for.

on drawing VI

There is a home in my mind for the drawings of Louise Bourgeois. I feel that I must take inspiration from her practice of drawing daily. I have discovered that she also used words in much of her work. This I find intensely reassuring, as I do the uninhibited spirit in which she made drawings.
I am myself immensely inhibited, at present paralysed by fear and unable to work. It is therefore a relief to find that I can admit the drawings of Louise Bourgeois to my mind and not feel completely overwhelmed by them, but rather invigorated.
The impulse to write and the impulse to draw have become separated for me, and I have become confused regarding their status in my work. This is why I have retrieved the floor texts to look at, and returned to the polaroids taken of Patrick engaged in our chalk line game. I am trying to be aware of and respect these impulses, and not immediately crush them before they have an opportunity to register in my conscious mind, for I find that often the impulse to draw begins with what amounts to a desire in the fingertips to take up a particular instrument, and a resurfacing of the remembrance of the tactile qualities of particular papers. For example, I imagine and remember the feel of charcoal in my fingers, and the unique way it yields under the pressure of contact, and can hear in my mind the sound of its transference to the paper, yet I have not used charcoal for years.
I have not allowed myself the opportunity to explore the sensuous in terms of my drawing, at least not recently. I am deeply afraid, so afraid of failure, that I have become bound to using only one kind of paper, of only one set of dimensions, and to the practice of not drawing directly upon the surface of the paper, but of using an interface upon which there is drawn an image to be transferred. Confronted by the self sufficient beauty of a new sheet of watercolour paper, upon which it has become my practice to make a drawing, I panic, put away the sheet of paper, and turn in despair from a way of working that had been so important to me.
The process of persuading oneself that a drawing can be made on "any kind of paper and in any medium", (quoted from the current Arnolfini exhibition guide) despite countless successful examples of the work of others made by these principles, is slow and arduous. As such is the process of reintroducing oneself to the idea that written text can function as a drawing, and that words can themselves be incorporated into drawings.
I have never yet felt such a profound sense of crisis regarding my work and my practice as a visual artist, although I have experienced periods of utter sterility throughout the course of my life.

Louise Bourgeois drawings

Yesterday my partner and I visited the Arnolfini in Bristol where there is currently a show of drawing by Otto Zitko and Louise Bourgeois. I found myself unable to respond to the work by Otto Zitko; expansive drawings made in blue paint covering walls and ceilings, but able to engage with the sixty small drawings made by Louise Bourgeois. The drawings seemed to be made in paint and charcoal, and perhaps pastel, and were intimate in size. They represented a series of grids, spirals, shell forms and what appeared to be the edge of blue water, or perhaps an open hand. They were pared down to basic elements, yet were sensuous and lyrical. I found in myself a sense of wonder that drawing could be like this, and also a great sense of reassurance. The series is entitled Je T'aime and the exhibition guide quotes Louise Bourgeois's words regarding the drawings as being "about the marking of time while waiting for someone special to arrive".
On the opposite wall of the small gallery in which the drawings were shown, was a drawing from 1946, a line drawing in pencil, showing the consumption of one human figure by another.
The exhibition guide describes drawing as "being the most fundamental vehicle of creative expression"... and in relation to the work of Louise Bourgoise, as "an obsessive daily activity, done on any kind of paper and in any medium".


Friday, 7 May 2010

floor text 1991

This image is taken from one of the polaroids of the floor texts made in the classroom of the High School for Girls in Glasgow. The 35mm transparencies made from the polaroids were shown in the context of the slide projection installation that I made for my MA degree show, but I have never exhibited the polaroids themselves. It is only very recently that I have retrieved them from their boxes to look at, having been thinking, and writing about the chalk line drawings made with Patrick.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

whiteout II

During intervals between taking polaroids to document our activity, I helped in the creation of the whiteout. Patrick worked with total absorption, until the required effect had been achieved. Here he is putting the finishing touches to the work, determined that this should be the wildest, most dangerous snowstorm ever, one that would require a great deal of courage and endeavour to negotiate.
Beyond him, the path extends for a couple of feet before turning left across the garden. We would draw chalk lines along the length of this path, then turning right along the path that leads to the bottom of the garden, and right again until we reached the compost heap, the railway terminus. Wild animals lived in the forest behind the compost heap, a kind of wildebeast, so the end of the line was a dangerous place. One could never be sure that the animals would not attack, and overturn engines and carriages, running amok amongst fleeing passengers and railway engineers.
Patrick's railway also had goods sidings, and railway buildings, which were drawn onto the path. Goods to be transported were placed by the sidings; piles of leaves, little heaps of earth, fragments of real coal from the coal shed. We drew trees and lineside flowers as well as the chalk lines themselves. It was the lines that were the most beautiful, however, representing our greatest effort.

whiteout

Here is Patrick, engrossed in covering paving stones with chalk, to represent a blizzard, or whiteout, through which the chalk railway lines would run, invisible except on entering and leaving the snow storm. One of his small engines can just be seen, marooned in difficult weather, whilst Patrick creates one of the most intense whiteouts in all of our chalk line games together.
This game was played in early Autumn; leaves from the cherry tree have begun to fall on the path, and something about the quality of the light indicates a dull day in the latter part of the year. Yet the greyness of some Autumn days causes the yellow of the leaves to sing out, almost as though they had absorbed all of the light from the day, and were themselves returning it.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

on writing and drawing

Since childhood, I have had a passion for, and committment to visual art that I have not had for literature. Despite this, my first impulse, usually, is to write, rather than draw, to choose words rather than visual imagery to articulate my thoughts and feelings.
An exception to this was during the time of making the rainbow and volcano drawings, when it was difficult to write at all. Then drawing offered me the means of releasing difficult personal material visually.
Now I find that the words I write are more powerful than the drawings that I make, indeed at present, I am unable to make drawings at all.
Whilst a postgraduate student at Glasgow school of Art, my studio, the first I had ever had for any length of time, was a classroom in a Victorian High School for girls. The room was large, folding glazed doors dividing it from the adjacent room, with a blackboard made of blackened glass, and the original wooden boarded floor. During the last months of my time at the Art School, I began to write on this floor and on the walls in white chalk, words taken from my diaries and sketchbooks. At the time I was more able to write than to make visual art; although I made a good many transparencies, mostly of personal objects, such as items of jewelry, spilt face powder, and pages from letters for example, I found it difficult to assemble discrete pieces of work from them.
The floor texts afforded me the opportunity to write text upon text, to obliterate, to erase, allowed the freedom to experiment whilst using the simplest of drawing and writing instruments. They comprised autobiographical material, questions and responses taken from psychometric tests, the recounting of dreams and diary entries. They had a strong visual presence; despite their ephemeral almost illegible nature, and the fragility of the material from which they were made, they functioned like drawings.
Some years later, whilst playing the chalk line game with Patrick, I discovered the connection between the lines we drew on the paths of my parents garden, and the earlier texts made on the floor of the old school room.
At present, when my self confidence is shaky regarding my status as a visual artist, it is reassuring to look upon the polaroids I made of the floor texts, and to let the realisation that written words can function as drawings begin to find a home in my mind.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

on drawing V

I am advised that all is not lost, that I shall be able to make drawings again, that the well spring from which the volcano drawings issued, has not disappeared permanently. Do I choose not to believe this, or is it a characteristic of depression that I cannot?
Even feeling that the volcano drawings might have some merit is difficult, and when I look upon them, I am persuaded that my achievement is of a very minor order.
I am afraid to begin to draw, convinced that what I produce will be inferior. I do not know what to draw, or how to draw. I know that when I begin, the bullying will also begin, the self recrimination, chastisement, the comparing of myself with others, the self punishment when I see how far I must always fall behind those who are successful. It simply is not worth the pain to try.

Monday, 19 April 2010

on drawing IV

I cannot draw, I cannot make art at all. There is no need, no imperative.
I had hoped for years that I would be able to make a worthy contribution in terms of my work. Now I am forced to recognise that this can never be.
Who does not feel pain on relinquishing a long held dream?
I research contemporary artists, and am overawed at the evidence of such ability. My own endowments are very minor.
Drawing for pleasure is a phrase that has no meaning for me. I made the volcano drawings and the rainbow drawings from a need to express material visually. But in truth, the words that I write are more powerful than the visual images that I produce.
Where is the focus of my attention? My efforts as a writer and as a visual artist have been directed towards the delineation of psychological states, most recently my own long standing struggle with clinical depression. My concern is with struggle, with difficulty, with darkness rather than light.
During periods of intense difficulty, I may, or I may not be able to write, or to make drawings. The first rainbow drawings, and two of the volcano drawings were made at a time of darkness on discharge from psychiatric hospital. The greater the intensity of my suffering, the less able I am to make work at all, however. Do I thus identify periods of greater anguish by my inability to make work?
Or is the condition that I find myself in at present rather one of resignation, the kind of crisis that occurs as one approaches middle age, and becomes painfully aware of the passing of time, and the dwindling of one's capabilities, the fading of one's youthful dreams?
Never since leaving hospital have I felt more keenly the sense of separation from the self that made those chalk line drawings on the path.

April

On a soft, calm day in April, yet edged with steel, I founder, and cannot refrain from shedding hopeless tears.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

on destroying drawings

I cannot bear to keep drawings that are unsuccessful; they remain a constant source of disgust and embarrassment. Earlier in the year, in February, I wrote that I had made four drawings of rows of tiny, black , leafless trees, and that it was all I could do to refrain from cutting them up. Yesterday I retrieved them from the bottom of the boxes where I store my drawings, and looked at them. I was able to recognise them for drawings that I would not feel comfortable to show anyone, much less exhibit, and so I cut them up, salvalging as much unmarked paper as possible. They were poor drawings, in terms of both concept and execution. It is a source of great relief to me to have destroyed them, almost as though they have never been. Sometimes, as I have written, I err, and destroy a drawing for which I have regard, but as my confidence in my own worth as an artist is so precarious, I often find it difficult to distinguish a drawing of any merit from those which I know are unsuccessful.
To destroy an unsuccessful drawing is cleansing, and a kind of release from failure, almost as if the possibility to make better works had been restored with the disappearence of inferior pieces. To destroy a drawing about which one is unsure, to cut a swathe through ones' work, quite literally, without pause, but with an unrelenting sense of purpose, is, however, damaging. Afterwards one's confidence is shaken, and there is hurt from which it takes some time to recover. It is a compulsion, taking hold when one's sense of eqilibrium is disturbed and an unremitting urge to destroy prevails.

on drawing III

I cannot draw the pink cup; it is too difficult. I draw for about two minutes, producing a tentative, disproportioned sketch on the back of an envelope. But my heart is not in the work, I do not wish to draw the cup, and confronted by the task, am forced up against my own limitations and discouraged. I lose hope, and shed tears.
I am obliged to rethink my practice. What do I expect from a drawing? What defines a successful drawing to me? I know that a drawing can be as simple as two lines crossed at intervals by shorter lines, made in chalk on a garden path. I find myself wondering if I could not reproduce those lines in chalk, on paper, or, severed from their context would they still exist as successful drawings? But context was not the sole reason why the lines were successful as drawings in their own right; some sections of our childish railway had a genuine aesthetic presence independent from their purpose. However, I cannot reproduce the relationship of chalk to concrete, on paper, neither can I replicate the proportions of the lines to the path. Would it be possible to make fragile lines in pencil echoing those earlier chalk lines, on paper ? I am afraid to make the attempt.
I feel that I need an object to draw that can funtion symbolically, but I may be mistaken in feeling this. At present I cannot trust my feelings.
My work is not abstract, although it cannot be described as purely figurative, or representational. I do not deal with the problems of composition; in my drawings, the isolation of a figure in an expanse of white paper suggests a struggle with context and composition that I have not come to terms with, and instead avoid, preferring to deal instead with lack of context. I know that my powers of draughting are limited; I have never been able to draw with any great skill, my attempts at life drawing when at Art School, for example, were very poor. I do not have the eye for proportion, or the ability to transfer what I do see to the page. I have a poor comprehension of spatial relationships.
Yet still remains this stubborness to persist in making art, a desire to make drawings that amounts to a need. What is to be done?

Friday, 26 March 2010

on drawing II

Whilst in psychiatric hospital the chalk line drawings were very much in my mind. I felt an acute absence of connectedness with a former self, that was exceedingly painful.
One needs permission from the self to draw. In the case of the chalk line drawings, that permission was granted instead from Patrick himself, issuing from his childhood need for play; play involving a landscape that would offer him the scope he needed for adventure. I was released from the need to ask for permission from myself. An imperative was at work. I was fortunate indeed in having such a close relationship with him, and in possessing a box of pavement chalks, seemingly designed for our purpose.
Whilst making the rainbow drawings, some dozen years after our drawing game, I was again granted the permission to draw, and as my circumstances were far from easy, to be able to draw was a merciful release. (This is not to say that there was a period of a dozen years in which I was unable to make work, I did make drawings during those years, but the rainbow drawings brought me closest to the experience of mark making with Patrick).
I have again lost a sense of connectedness. With the cessation of the rainbow drawings, and of the volcano drawings, my practice has once more come to a close. I do understand that my experience is not unusual; there are, and have been, many artists who experience a break in their work, a period of sterility, when it seems impossible that one may work again. My own working practice has been subject to these enforced breaks when work is impossible, for as long as I can remember. One strives after the feeling of connectedness, it is as though a vital part of oneself is missing. I cannot yet gain permission to begin drawing again. The thought of following the instruction from Mary Potter, "Draw all the time..." is daunting in the extreme. I take coloured crayons in a fistful and scribble furiously on tissue paper, but there is no answer there.
Perhaps it would be possible to take an object from one's surroundings, something used each day, and make a drawing from that?
The most intimate object I have, at present , is a small porcelain cup, from which I drink coffee every day. It is pink on the outside, and creamy white on the inside, bearing on the inside a delicate painting of a small bouquet of flowers. If I were to follow the words of Mary Potter, I must surely attempt to make a drawing of the cup, in pencil, with care. I hesitate. I am afraid of such a committment. It is easier to write about fear, than it is to attempt a drawing with the possibility of failure.

on drawing

I rediscovered drawing, after a break of several years, in the most delightful fashion whilst playing with my youngest nephew, who was then only three or four years old. ( He is now almost fifteen).
We devised a game, which came to be known as "chalk lines", and was played on the long paths of my parents back garden. The chalk lines were drawings of railway lines, made in children's chalks, upon which we ran his small die-cast metal toy locomotives and carriages. The lines would stretch from one end of the garden just outside the house to the bottom of the garden and were beautiful, spidery drawings. I made a number of polaroid images during those times, some in black and white, showing the delicacy of the white lines against the aged concrete path, and some of Patrick himself. Two of the latter I have especial affection for; they show Patrick, crouched double on the path in the manner of the very young, busily engaged in covering paving stones with a mass of white chalk, his interpretation of a blizzard, or 'whiteout', through which hazzard we were to manoevre his engines and carriages.
The practice of drawing thus with Patrick was stimulating, and invigorating, but I was not able to further the experience or develop a practice of drawing for myself.
Why was it not possible for my drawing practice to have grown from the chalk lines on the garden path? Those drawings are severed from my present experience as though they had been made by another person.
The closest I have to those childish lines, are the drawings of rainbows, made many years hence, and expressive of a very different experience.

An instruction from Mary Potter

"Draw all the time, anything and everything, and you will find things begin to happen. The only answer is to keep on doing it-particularly when you are not in the mood, and your potentialities will develop."

Mary Potter, English painter, 1900-1981, quoted in Mary Potter A Life of Painting, by her son, Julian Potter, page 116. Published by Scolar Press 1998.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Bonfire II

Although amongst the dried, dead wood there was a good deal of green material, including the yuccas, the bonfire burnt with spirit, subject to invigorating gusts from the light breeze.
This image shows a similar long view of the back garden as the previous photograph although my father and the cat are both absent.
There are four apple trees in the "apple tree plot", all dessert apples, two of the trees originating from around the time in which the house was built, so they are now venerable trees of eighty years or more. Visible in this photograph, on the right of the image near the path are the "Ergremont Russet", next to it, and only partially in sight, the "Laxton's Fortune", and beyond both on the left of the image, the "Charles Ross". Out of sight, next to the "Laxton" is the "Tideams Late Orange". Further down the garden is a "Bramleys Seedling", also planted when the house was new. At one time there were nine apple trees in the garden, but they age and fail, and some have had to have been removed. Each year my father has pruned the trees with care and love, having taught himself how to do so from a book on the fruit garden, " The Fruit Garden Displayed". The book was first published by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1951, and is one of two volumes, the other being, "The Vegetable Garden Displayed". I have my own copies of both of these titles, although mine are somewhat later editions ( 1965, or 1968). The volume on the fruit garden has comprehensive chapters on the pruning of fruit trees, and fruit bushes, illustrated with wonderful photographs and diagrams. From this book, my father meticulously taught himself to care for the apple trees that came into his possession with the ownership of the house and garden.
This year he has completed work on the "Tideams Late Orange", and the "Ergremont Russet", the two smaller, younger trees in the apple tree plot, and has begun pruning the "Laxtons Fortune", one of the older, larger trees. Progress depends on the weather, and the light; it is difficult to prune on a dull day, one needs to be able to see well.
The Bramley, at the other end of the garden, has grown immense, and three days work is required to complete the pruning.
Afterwards all the long timber, representing a season's growth, is collected, and removed to the bottom of the garden to be burnt on a new bonfire.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Bonfire

My beloved father can be seen in this image, making his way down the garden carrying a bundle of dry prunings, wrapped in a dust sheet, to be burnt on the bonfire.
I recently spent a few days at my parents' home, in the company of my father, my mother being away attending her sick brother in the North of England.
My parents have lived in the same house throughout their married life, and this is the garden in which myself and my sisters played as children. This photograph was taken at the bottom of the garden, and shows the "apple tree plot", and a view of the back of the house, visible through the smoke from the bonfire.
My father and I had spent the previous day clearing dead material from perennials to allow for new growth, and removing two unflowering yuccas and a rampant growth of ivy from one of the borders. The following day, early in the morning, we built a bonfire, and consigned the results of our earlier labours thereon. Both my father and myself had regrets about the removal of the yucca, but the plants had become unwieldy and distorted, and the position they occupied was unsuitable for them. The place from which they were removed can now be restored to the planting of early bulbs such as bluebell and snowdrop.
The time spent with my father was precious, as was the experience of being in the garden. I am all too aware of the passing of time, and the inevitability of our mortality. This garden is one in which I have played as a child, and worked with love as an adult. I know it intimately; my fingertips recall the texture of the lichen on old fencing and apple trees, my ears the sound of my fathers' footsteps, my visual memory the sight of my mother tending flower beds, or hanging washing on the line.
In this photograph one of my two cats, Silas, can also be seen, interested in the proceedings, yet keeping a safe distance from the fire at the end of the garden.

Friday, 26 February 2010

on breathing II

I breathe shallowly, from habit. Rarely do I draw a breath of air deep into my lungs and feel its force enter my body like a tide. When I do the experience is electrifying, and a sense of lightness overtakes me. One can imagine being so filled with air that one would float away, like a balloon, way up high.
I wrote that I wished that making art could be as simple and elemental as breathing, that images would flow forth as air eases out of the lungs, as much a part of one's functioning as drawing and releasing breath. But the process of making art, like the process of breathing, has to be learnt. One has to learn how to breathe. And having learnt, one must exercise, drawing deep breaths as well as habitual shallow breaths which do little to invigorate the body. Breathing deeply takes effort, the rib cage expands reluctantly at first; it is only after holding one's breath for a short while before releasing it slowly, that one experiences that euphoric lightness.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

on breathing

Every so often, when making work, one experiences the thrill that I wrote of previously. When I look upon some of the drawings I have made, I experience a rush of pleasure, and disbelief. Every so often, a piece will go well, and the finished drawing will have a sense of rightness, as though it could not have been made in any other way. The drawings that possess this quality are rare. I wish that making art was as simple and elemental as breathing. But breathing has to be learnt.

revised position 2006

This drawing is entitled "revised position", and was made in 2006.
Buried in the earth near the lodge where my partner and I lived were the remains of destroyed outhouses; we found, and unearthed, a good many bricks, slates and pieces of terracotta roof tiles.
The drawing was made by embossing damp paper with a fragment of slate, so that it left an imprint, and traces of earth. I inadvertently moved the slate slightly, so that there are two outlines. That is why the drawing is titled as it is. When the paper was dry, I drew into the surface with graphite and coloured pencils, disturbing the traces of earth as little as possible. I made many such drawings, but this, and one other, are the best of them, most of the others have been destroyed.
This drawing has emotional content for me. I remember making it, the excitement of experimentation, and a thrill at the result, when I lifted the slate from the paper, and saw what had been left behind.

Monday, 22 February 2010

on dust and drawing

Today I managed to clean the house, and then empty the bag of the vacuum cleaner, which had been needing emptying for some time. As usual I am astonished at the amount of soft grey dust packed into the bag. It occurs to me to wonder if I could use it as a drawing material, but I would think that the acid content is rather high, which would eventually compromise the drawing paper. Despite the minimal, fragile and ephemeral nature of my drawings, I nevertheless take care that they are made on acid free, buffered watercolour paper, and I rest my hand on a piece of linen as I work, so I touch the paper as little as possible. I store them between sheets of acid free tissue paper and try to use in their making only materials having a high degree of permanence. The use of wax crayon and felt tip meant a departure from those strictures, and I have no idea how these materials will age. I imagine that the felt tip will lose its brightness, and that the individual colours will assume a brown homogeneity. I hope that the wax crayon retains its bright, soft colours.
The dust from the hoover bag is wonderfully fine, and of an even mid grey. It coats my hands as I empty the bag.
Motivating myself to clean the house, or to do anything at all, is a Hercluean task.
This is indeed a difficult period. I find it painful to try and make decisions, as I cannot trust myself. This makes drawing well nigh impossible. Much of the time I question myself as to why I should continue to attempt to make art at all. Depression saps one of joy, wraps one in a shroud of doubt, and loss of hope.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

on being unable to make work

It is February, and I am unable to make work, a state of affairs that began in November 2009, and has continued throughout the Winter. I have made some scribbles, and did make four drawings of rows of tiny black, leafless trees, but I am afraid that they are not good , and have consigned them to the bottom of the boxes where I store my drawings. It is all I can do to refrain from cutting them up, my usual practice with drawings that are not successful.
The voice of experience tells me that this painful period will pass, even if it takes months to do so. At present my mind is as barren as a desert, utterly devoid of ideas, and confounded by the quality of ideas and expression I see in the work of others. It is during these periods that I descend on previous works with a vengance, seeing in them only inadequacy, or paucity of expression and technique, and I commit acts of destruction. At these times I am consumed by self distrust, and reduce to nothing drawings that I am embarrassed at having made, unable to see good or bad, with any degree of trustworthy judgment.
I have exhibited little over the years, and my drawings remain in their boxes, unframed, unseen except by myself, and occasionally members of my family. It seems to me increasingly that I draw for reasons that are entirely private. My works embrace only the personal; narrow in terms of the scope of ideas they engage with. I might describe them as tentative expressions, using fragile materials, and cautious methods; I cannot bring myself to draw directly on the surface of the paper without an intervening means, such as the tissue paper drawings.
I find my drawings eccentric, and odd, the suspension of images in a sea of white paper, for example, without context or other content, without reference points or clues as to how they may be read.
I am concerned with making only the barest intervention and impact in terms of the images I produce, and the means by which I produce them. I find myself unwilling to use photography and photographic processes any longer, as I am anxious about the impact on the environment that these processes effect. I have attemptemted to reduce the effect that I have to the minimum, yet am seduced by pastels, and wax crayons, and coloured pencils. I have used, with the delight I felt as a child, felt tips, and permanent markers, and watercolours. It is difficult to remain aescetic.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Differentiation 2007

This drawing is entitled "differentiation", and was made like the mensis Ianarius drawings, in the early part of 2007, although a little later. It is intended to be quietly humorous, the two slightly different forms of the trees possibly suggesting male and female. The drawing is made, as were the previous drawings , using a stencil, which again took its inspiration from a "Magic Crystal Garden" kit, although this time a kit comprising just a conifer, or Christmas tree and the sachet of fluid. As before, the two tree forms are made so that they slot together, resulting in a three dimensional tree. The idea of male and female forms came to mind, not necessarily to do with how the two became one, but how they appeared when separated. In this drawing differentiation does not suggest prejudice, or exclusion, but distinct and unchangeable difference of form and function.
The drawing is made from graphite powder, pastel and graphite pencil.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

mensis Ianarius II 2007

This is the drawing entitled "mensis Ianarius II", and was made, like the previous drawing, in the month of January 2007. In this drawing, the green shows above, the darker brown below, a reversal of the previous drawing.
January shows two faces, the demanding countenance of Winter, and the yet chill, but promising one of the turn of the season. There are days, few though they are, when the sun shines brilliantly from a sky of peerless blue, and the breeze bears the scents of Spring.
On such days one draws air deep into the lungs and hope arises like water from a spring.
At the time that these drawings were made, I was living with my partner in a 1920's gamekeeper's lodge on a hill in rural Hampshire. I remember still, a January day of blue sky, and castle clouds, and sweeping air, the sound of the skylark carrying on the wind.
This drawing was made, as was "mensis Ianarius I", from a stencil within which was applied graphite powder, and crumbled pastels. The image was then drawn into with graphite pencil.

mensis Ianarius I 2007

This is a detail of a drawing entitled " mensis Ianarius I", meaning the month of January. It is one of two drawings.
It was made, appropriately enough, in January, 2007, and was inspired by the appearance of trees in the early part of the year, often blackened with rain above, and seemingly lifeless. It is below the soil that life begins, when the sap starts to rise in the months of Spring. In January all is dormant; we have only remembered experience and hope, to sustain us through the difficult early months of the year.
This drawing shows the form of the tree to be dark above, yet green below, the green may be read as a promise of new life to come.
The drawings were made using a stencil, the shapes of the trees taken from the cut- out paper trees that come with a childrens' toy, a "Magic Crystal Garden" kit. The kit comprises a plastic tray, upon which paper shapes of a mountain ( Mount Fuji), trees, and shark toothed rows of grasses are to be set, and sachets of Potassium Phosphate held in solution. The sachets are poured into recesses in the tray, and within hours crystals appear to "grow" on the boughs of the trees, on the tips of the grasses, and on the slopes of the mountain as these soak up the liquid. The paper cut-outs are pre-dyed with coloured inks, thus influencing the colours of the resulting crystals. The cut-outs have a charm and simple beauty, the trees are themselves lovely objects, in two pieces, one of which slots into the other so that they become three dimensional. I made a stencil by drawing around them, one above the other. Graphite powder and crumbled pastels were applied within the stencil and rubbed against the edges. I then drew into the image with graphite pencil.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

untitled volcano drawing

This drawing is untitled and was made in October 2009. It is, for the present, the last drawing in the volcano series, although I made four drawings afterwards, I destroyed each one of them.
It would be possible to imagine "Mons Quies" as being the last in the series, as though time and weather had softenend the outline of the volcano prtrayed in this drawing, clothing its slopes with vegetation and crowning its summit with snow, thereby presenting a final phase in geological evolution. I have, however, presented the drawings in order of their making, following a different chronolgy, one which allows for the presentation of the evolution of thought, which is not straightforward in terms of logical progression. It is not clear either, whether this volcano is no longer active, or if , like in an earlier drawing, there are unspent forces within.
The drawing is made from wax crayon, and graphite pencil.

Friday, 5 February 2010

untitled blue volcano drawing 2009

This drawing remains untitled, although I refer to it as the blue volcano drawing. That is because the snows covering the lower slopes of the mountain are tinted blue, as though rendered in the early light of a clear morning. The staining around the summit indicates that the volcano has been active recently enough to mark the snow with ashy debris. As with previous drawings, the shape of the mountain is suspended in an expanse of white paper, without the context of surrounding landscape.
The drawing was made in the Autumn of 2009, following the obscured rainbow drawings. It was one of three drawings of volcanoes, one of which I regrettably destroyed. The destroyed drawing returns to my mind with pain. It is impossible to recreate lost drawings. The loss is permanent. It is a necessary part of ones practice to remove work that is not good, that fails to satisfy, but the destruction of that particular drawing, and some others causes me deep regret.

Mons Quies (calm mountain drawing) 2009

This is the drawing entitled "Mons Quies", and is the drawing for which my blog was named. "Mons quies " is the Latin for "calm mountain". It was made, like the previous drawing, "thought to be extinct", in the early summer of 2009, again, in a matter of hours.
The mountain is quiescent, having no volcanic crater to spill forth erupted material. The lower slopes are clothed with vegetation. Snow appears to lie on the summit and higher slopes.
It is not the portrait of a real mountain, none of the volcano drawings are. Rather it is fashioned after a drawn image, repeated throughout most of the series of drawings, influenced originally by the profile of Cotopaxi as seen in an engraving, but not an exact portrayal of that mountain. It is a mountain of the imagination, an attempt to chart the difficult terrain of a mental landscape.
The drawing was made using a transferred wax image, then drawn over and into with graphite pencil.

thought to be extinct 2009

This is a drawing entitled "thought to be extinct". It was made in the early summer of 2009, after a gap of several months since the previous volcano drawings made in the winter of 2008. It took only a matter of hours from conception to completion, as did the two previous drawings. I find that a characteristic of my working practice is its inconsistency. There will be a painful pause, during which time I may try to make work, often only to destroy it, then a drawing , or several drawings will be produced in a short space of time. There follows afterwards a repetition of that painful pause which may be of weeks or months in duration.
This drawing was made using an image drawn in wax on tissue paper, transferred as before onto drawing paper, then crumbled pastel was applied and rubbed into the surface, using a stencil to delineate the edges. The image was then drawn into with graphite pencil.
I wished to suggest the beginning of fire after a period of quiescence, during which time all activity had been believed to be over. The drawing thus may be read symbolically.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

untitled volcano drawing 2008


This is the second of the two volcano drawings made in the last months of 2008. Like the previous drawing it was made first in wax crayon on tissue paper, and the image transferred to drawing paper, whereupon I drew into the surface with graphite pencil.
The drawing represents a cross section of a volcano beginning to erupt burning magma. It was made some eighteen months after the thumbnail sketch I first made in 2007, when beginning work on the volcano series, and has much in common with that sketch. I feel that it also shares a naivete with that and the other volcano drawings.
It was made on the same day as the previous drawing, one winter afternoon when I was alone, both drawings happening quite quickly.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

untitled volcano drawing 2008

This drawing was one of two made in 2008, resuming work on the volcano series of drawings,both of which remaining untitled. It was drawn freely in wax crayon onto tissue paper, the image then transferred by the simple expedient of placing the tissue paper face down onto a sheet of drawing paper, and drawing over the reverse of the image with graphite pencil so as to leave an imprint of wax. I then drew into the transferred image with graphite pencil.
It was obviously influenced by the earlier drawings, but I had not referred to them or consciously brought them to mind when I was making this drawing. It was made during the time that I was working on the rainbow drawings, difficult months of darkness and fatigue.

dust cloud Cotopaxi 2007

This is a drawing of Cotopaxi, during an eruption of dust, taken from an engraving of that occurrence made by Mr Whymper, and originally published in "Travels in the Great Andes of the Equator".
The engraving is beautiful, minimal and entirely expressive of a peculiar phenomenon observed by Mr Whymper whilst he was some sixty miles away, ascending Chimborazo in the 1800's. In the brightness of early morning Cotopaxi emitted a "column of inky blackness", which issued forth with such "prodigious velocity that in less than a minute it had arisen 20,000 feet above the rim of the crater" ( this quoted in "The Story of Our Planet", from Mr Whymper's own book). The column then seemed to be influenced by an easterly air current, and was "rapidly borne towards the Pacific; remaining intensely black, seeming to spread very slightly", before being taken by a Northerly air current which caused it to drift towards Chimborazo, by which time it had spread to fall on Chimborazo's snows. Apparently, the dust cloud had travelled for about seven and a half hours before its descent.
The engraving from which I made this drawing is sparse, elegant, and visually compelling. I made a stencil of the shape of the mountain cone, and the issuing dust cloud, applying graphite powder and crumbled pastel within the stencil, and rubbing it towards the edges. I have exaggerated the shape of the cone, and shortened the stream of air borne dust, and made the whole very black.
The image is isolated within an expanse of white paper, devoid of any connection, or context. It was made in 2007.

Cotopaxi from San Rosario

This is a detail of an engraving of the volcano Cotopaxi in Ecuador, by Mr Whymper, taken from the book "The Story of Our Planet", as noted previously. It was originally published in Mr Whymper's own book, "Travels in the Great Andes of the Equator", for which I do not yet have the publication dates.
Mr Whymper enjoyed an intimate relationship with the mountain Cotopaxi, spending "a night on the cone just below the summit", and also being able to look down into the crater. This according to T.G.Bonney, in "The Story of Our Planet", chapter II, page 260-261.
Cotopaxi is the "highest active volcano in the world", and "situated about thirty geographical miles south-east of Quito" ("The Story of Our Planet", page 259)
Mr Whymper's own account, quoted in "The Story of Our Planet", is beautifully and graphically written. His description of the interior of the crater speaks of "Cavernous recesses" within, and "the pipe of the volcano, its channel of communication with lower regions, filled with incandescent, if not molten lava, glowing and burning ; with flames travelling to and fro over its surface, and scintillations scattering as from a wood fire..." He writes of the mountain blowing off steam in violent gouts, "The noise on these occasions resembled that which we hear when a large ocean steamer is blowing off steam."
This description, written more than a hundred years ago, captivated me. I wish I had been able to have been there at the time.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

untitled volcano drawing 2007

This is the second drawing from 2007 in the series of volcano drawings, and like the first, remains untitled. It is made from graphite powder, pastel and graphite pencil.
The books that I chose for my initial researches were only two, "The Story of Our Planet", as noted earlier, and a copy of "The Hamlyn Children's Encyclopedia", dating from 1971, given to me as a gift by my grandparents. Within its pages, I found what I was looking for; a coloured illustration of the cross section of a volcano in the first stages of eruption, to inform my own idea. I strove to convey the stillness on the surface, in juxtaposition with the impending explosion within.
I wished the drawing to possess the naivete of childhood, as I felt as though I were in my infancy in terms of understanding the subject matter I was attempting to engage with.

untitled volcano drawing 2007

This drawing was made in 2007, and is the first in a series of drawings of volcanoes. It is made from graphite powder, pastel and graphite pencil. Owing to a hiatus in personal life work on the series was brought to a standstill until the last weeks of 2008, when I was also working on the rainbow drawings.
As with the rainbow drawings, the employment of an archetypal symbol suggested itself to me, as a means to convey fragile states of mind visually.
"Volcanoes are external indications of inward disturbances...." These are the opening words of a chapter on "Volcanic Action and its Effects", from a geology book entitled "The Story of Our Planet", by T. G. Bonney D.Sc., first published in 1893. (I believe that the edition I have is from 1902). There seemed to be no more apt words to describe my own endeavour. However, the volcano drawings may be read symbolically , or not.
The shape of this mountain is taken from the profile of the Ecuadorean mountain, Cotopaxi, and inspired by an engraving in "The Story of Our Planet", by Mr Whymper, originally published in his book, "Travels in the Great Andes of the Equator".

Niagra Falls from Prospect Park by Illumination

The third image from the Niagra Falls series that I have in my possession is entitled "Niagra Falls from Prospect Park by Illumination". On the back of this postcard there is also a text beginning in the same elevated tone as that of the first card; "Exceeds Sun's Brilliance..." and continues "When the new floodlights are marching across the Falls, and resting on either or both of the American and Canadian faces of them, or playing in the mist of spray above them, they are described by beholders as more beautiful than ever the Spray and the Sun combined could make them in the past, or than ever the Moon and the mist could make them. The effect is described as one suggesting that both the Sun and the Aurora Borealis have combined to do their utmost in the creation of a new spectacle."

American Falls of Niagra in Winter

This is an image also taken from a postcard, in the same series as the first. It also has the date 1928 pencilled on the back, and is entitled,"American Falls of Niagra in Winter". A brief text informs us that the falls are "illuminated by one billion c.p. electric searchlights".
As with the firstpostcard, I enjoy the quality of the image; I imagine the original was hand tinted before the edition was printed. It is, by modern standards, decidedly 'low-tech'. Perhaps that is part of the attraction I feel towards it.

American Falls from Canada by Illumination, Niagra

This image is of a postcard dated on the back, in pencil, 1928. It is entitled, "American Falls from Canada by Illumination, Niagra Falls".
It is the photograph itself which I find beautiful, I enjoy the isolation of the colours and forms in the surrounding darkness.
I would not go so far as to agree with the text on the back, which assumes a somewhat arrogant stance and reads; "This new enhancement of America's beauty resources is nothing more than the Falls, under flood lighting for four hours each night. Their own power has been taken from them, brought under the control of man, and then turned back oupon the power creator itself, and we get a new beauty, ten-fold greater than any beauty known at the Falls before man took hold to conquer them for service."

rainbow and hand drawing 2009

This drawing is entitled rainbow and hand drawing. It was made in November 2009, and consists of two sketches on a piece of scrap paper. I came to realise that the smokey image at the bottom of the paper resembled a hand, and that the two images went together as if I had intended them to all along. So the drawing came to be the rainbow and hand drawing.
The drawing is made from felt tip, graphite pencil and wax crayon.
I still remember the joy of receiving a packet of felt tips as a Christmas present when I was a child. They are, in their way, as crude as wax crayons, and yet are similarly capable of great delicacy.

Monday, 1 February 2010

untitled rainbow drawing 2008


This drawing too, is untitled. It was made in the later months of 2008, following discharge from psychiatric hospital. Those months seem to have been shaded by a prevailing darkness. It was, nevertheless a period when several drawings were made, and I also resumed work on a series of drawings of volcanoes, a series begun in 2007.
This drawing is one of the first of the rainbow drawings, followed by the Winter rainbow drawings.
( In July 2010, I changed this drawing, so that I have only a photographic record of it, as seen here, this drawing no longer exists. It has been shrouded in a dark pastel cloud, and is entitled dark rainbow drawing II. It appears as a revised drawing much later, under the entries for August 2010).

untitled rainbow drawing 2009

This drawing also remains untitled, and I cannot remember the time of its making, except that it was around the Summer or Autumn of 2009. It certainly preceded the dark rainbow drawing, therefore must have been made before September 2009. I am familiar with it, yet I do not remember making it. I know that the figure of the double rainbow appeared with the rainbow drawings of 2008. Sometimes the rainbows are close together, and sometimes they appear to be separating from each other, almost as though they were being peeled apart.
For me, a drawing is an interface between the self and the external world, a site where received and processed information is laid down, where the articulation of the imagination takes place.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

untitled rainbow drawing

This is the second of the two untitled rainbow drawings made in September 2009.
I read that Werner Herzog likes to think of the films that he makes as being children. They are to be cherished as expressions of the self. If they are lame or disabled in some way they must receive greater love.
It is difficult for me to love my own work. I am intimately familiar with each drawing, but that is not necessarily love. Many I destroy, some of which I later regret having lost, and the pain of their loss is a deep hurt, akin to self harm.
The practice of drawing is intimate and exploratory in a way in which I believe no other practice to be. One's first tool, as a child, is the crayon or pencil, or felt tip, all drawing instruments. Mark making thus is elemental, absorbing, although this early period of discovery is short. All too soon, one becomes aware of one's shortcomings, and frustrated by one's inadequacies. Who does not remember the struggle to render perspective, or to depict the limbs of a figure as accurately as possible?
The rainbow drawings allowed me an escape from these concerns. I drew as I may have done when first a child, the crayons bunched in my fist, the wax going down on the paper as though it were an enemy. The pencil marks over the wax are subtle, but entirely uncomplicated, just short strokes of graphite, no sophistication.

untitled rainbow drawing

This drawing is one of a pair, both of which remain untitled. Sometimes a title, or a name for a piece arises in one's mind like a bubble rising in water. At other times they require a good deal of patient research. And very often a piece will defy any attempt to name it, as it is with these two drawings, neither of which have yielded to my efforts to title them. They were both made in September 2009, as well as the obscured rainbow drawings, and the dark rainbow drawing. It was a month during which work went well.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Winter rainbow II

This drawing is entitled Winter rainbow II, and was begun at the same time as Winter rainbow I, but finished several months later in the early part of 2009. My concerns remained the same, the use of the symbol of the rainbow to give shape to my experience of clinical depression, but whereas Winter rainbow I is bleak and raw, Winter rainbow II is softer. I wanted to take the image of the rainbow, and suggest something other than hope, which is why the images are clouded, obscured or rendered almost brutally.
For many months I was unable to draw anything other than the obscured rainbows, and I drew those almost obsessively, anxious at first that they might appear naive, or eccentric, and then beginning to accept them as unexpected, odd expressions of a troubled mental landscape.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Winter rainbow I

This is a drawing entitled Winter rainbow I, and was made in the last months of 2008. At the time I had recently been discharged from psychiatric hospital, and was beginning the long slow journey of recovery from depression. It was during these months that the rainbow drawings began, although a rainbow had appeared in a quite different drawing from the Summer of 2008.
This rainbow is sparse and cold, and almost brutally drawn, the wax crayons lending a lack of finesse.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

dark rainbow drawing I


This is a drawing entitled dark rainbow I. It was made in September of 2009, and preceded the obscured rainbow drawings. Sometimes drawings happen quite quickly, and follow on from one another with an ease that always takes me by surprise. This drawing was made within hours, and suggested itself to me as I worked.
The obscured rainbow drawings were begun in a rush, but finished slowly over the ensuing weeks, and I almost destroyed them before they were finished.

obscured rainbow drawing III


This is the third drawing from the obscured rainbow series of drawings, entitled obscured rainbow drawing III.
The drawings are made from wax crayon, graphite pencil and pastel.
To my eye, these drawings look almost naive. The wax crayons are bright and soft; they are the drawing tools of childhood, the graphite pencil and pastel belong to the toolbox of adulthood. I had conceived of these drawings as being made with the undirected spontaneity of childhood, yet with a distinctly adult theme. Although it is unfortunately true that children also experience depression, one's suffering as an adult, and as a child is different.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

obscured rainbow drawing II


There are three drawings in the obscured rainbow series. This is obscured rainbow drawing II. There are other rainbow drawings also, forming one of the two series of drawings that I have been working on most recently. I chose to explore the condition of clinical depression by using the archetypal symbol of the rainbow in a way that would be different from the expected.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Opening post


This is my first post, and I begin by posting one of my drawings.
This drawing is one of three "obscured rainbow drawings", made in September 2009, and is entitled, "obscured rainbow drawing I".
It is made from wax crayon, pastel and graphite pencil.