Tuesday, 22 January 2013

cloud pencils

I have in my possession well over a hundred coloured pencils, stored in various tins and boxes, kept sharpened to fine points, regrettably unused for the past three years. I have been collecting pencils for years, having an especial liking for the different greys and for those which have the names of colours painted on the shaft.

On a  snowy afternoon in January I select four grey pencils from one of the tins - what I think of as cloud pencils; indeed one of them bears the words  cloud grey, another the word  storm. The pencils are made of cedar, the scent of the exposed wood is almost intoxicating, I am tempted to sharpen one further just to intensify the resonant exotic odour.

The pencils are by Derwent of England, and are members of their Graphitint range; made of water-soluble graphite and coloured pigment, although it was my habit to use them in their dry state. They are beautiful drawing instruments, of a glossy, metallic mid-grey, their provenance, colour name and number printed in white along the length of the shaft. They feel lovely in the hand, smooth, perfectly balanced, so that holding them is close to being pleasurably therapeutic, evoking memories of their use in previous drawings. To handle the pencils thus is a conscious play on my part to approach the making of cloud drawings once more, to become involved again in a process which held great meaning for me, and which began at a time when I was otherwise at a loss as to how to proceed with my practice.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

untitled cloud formation drawing

This untitled drawing would have been made in 2005 or 2006, and like some of its companion drawings, eschewed destruction, although it had been relegated to the bottom of one of the boxes where I store unframed works. Along with a contemporary drawing posted earlier, it had been in my thoughts for some weeks before retrieval, whereupon I decided to publish it, and include it in the suite of cloud drawings for which I still have some regard.

I feel a faint stirring of hopefulness when I look upon this drawing, and the other untitled cloud drawing recently reinstated in my affections. Both drawings lie on the floor of the back bedroom, and I look upon them each day, trying to find in myself the necessary courage to recommence the drawing of cloud formations, but with the precious gift of hindsight.

I am immensely heartened by the knowledge that there is an established canon of works depicting cloud formations- I often need reassurance of this nature before I can proceed, and remember feeling extremely insecure and somewhat embarrassed when I was engaged in drawing rainbows. I have not an idea in my head for a  new work, but a cloud is not an idea, the execution of a drawing of a cloud formation does not require one to be in possession of an idea. It is as close as I can get to making a purely abstract drawing, which I would love to be able to do. Always there is an imperative in my mind that whatever I draw has to depict some object or phenomonem - I can never escape into the realms of abstraction. However, it is eminently possible to take flight into a landscape of clouds, to find a release whilst gazing upwards at the heavens, rather as my mother did when a little girl, lying on her back in the grass during a Summer afternoon rest period at infant school.

It is not my intention to draw clouds from direct observation, at least, not at first, rather to attempt to construct drawings of imaginary formations, relying on remembered observations. I need courage in order to proceed. I am deeply afraid by the thought of committing myself to the making of suites of cloud drawings, am frightened by the spectre of self harm which forever looms in my psyche, and manifests itself in blows to the head and face when I experience failure. For failure is inevitable, but I must learn to experience it as a vital part of learning; one must make mistakes in order to make progress. There will be failed drawings, as, I am hoping, there will be drawings that I may regard as successful. I do not intend to attempt to copy the drawings above, rather to absorb them into my thoughts as gestures made in graphite and coloured pencil dust, which gestures I may consider on my journey to new works.

Sunday, 6 January 2013


This slight drawing represents a moment of rare indulgence and pleasure on my part. It is the last drawing to be made before the onset of the crisis of fear which has prevented me from being able to work, and dates from November 2009. It is a drawing of a lupin seedling, which was growing in a little pot on the kitchen windowsill. Something about the frailty of the minute leaves, and the courageous aspect of their habit of growth moved me to make this tiny sketch, which remains precious to me, especially so as the seedling did not survive, and I have only the memory of it captured in wax crayon and pastel on a scrap of paper.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

untitled cloud formation drawing

This drawing was made in 2005, and is one of the earliest drawings of cloud formations completed whilst still a student at Winchester School of Art, and whilst living at the lodge. It survived the rigorous purges performed upon many of it's companions, and until a few days ago lay at the bottom of one of the boxes in which I store unframed drawings. I had not looked at it with any degree of attention for years, but the drawing had nevertheless been an active presence in my mind for some weeks before I retrieved it. It was made at a time when I possessed a degree of courage and hope in terms of my ability to make drawings, when I felt a measure of creative freedom and confidence.

Nothing could have prepared me for the tide of self disapprobation and loss of faith which has swept over me during  recent years, causing a truly devastating departure of both skills and self confidence. Yet I believe that I am emerging from this crisis with renewed hope, and a keener , more reliable sense of the worthiness of each drawing, although at times I still weep with despair when I consider my work in comparison with that of others. One does not emerge from such a crisis unmarked, and the struggle to recover one's sense of self worth is dark indeed, yet amidst the pain and darkness there is now a frail light, like the pallid grey dawn of day after a long and wearisome night of tormented sleeplessness.