The role of sketchbooks

I wrote a rambling dissertation last year about the place of nature based art in the so called “Art World”. In it I posed the question “Was cave art the precursor of modern sketchbook art”. I think there is a link and that the “Cave Art”exhibition at the British Museum last year presented some new insights.

In my final year show, my sketchbooks were the bit that was assessed as really good art, which surprised me quite a bit. I was encouraged to do more watercolour work and to try to build a style from my direct observations of the world around me. So I have had my head down for about 6months.

In the Autumn last year, I visited my Son in Australia and we went to a coral cay in the Great barrier reef for a holiday. It was a spectacular place and I did loads of sketches as well as writing an article for the Travel Agent who arranged the trip.

Here are some examples of the work I did out there, and the development process.

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The Sentinel- Peregrine protecting its nest site

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrines often find just one spot where they can perch adjacent to their nest site (in this case on coastal cliffs). They are restless observers of every thing that is going on around them and ferocieous defenders should an intruder pose a threat. I love the sense of a lofty perch, and the poertraiture of these wonderful birds.

The rivals

The rivals_edited-1In the winter of 2011 during the very cold weather, I watched Red-breasted Merganser males displaying in a corner of Langstone harbour. I hope this conveys the half light of a very cold winter morning, against a semi-industrial backdrop. I have included just enough of the detail of the birds to recreate the overall experience of being there. It was re-created from a couple of very quick sketches made with very few lines to convey the posture of the birds.

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The crab apple raiders 2

Crab apple raiders 2_edited-1This is much bigger than the original, (about 36 inches by 24 inches) and is a move towards cutting out everything that doesn’t contribute to evoking the experience of observation. I seek to create memorable images that convey the deep enjoyment of the visual experience of nature. The part of our field of vision that is actually in focus is a fraction of the overall visual experience. The rest contributes colour, rhythm, movement- all of the things that malke up our sense of being alive.

Gramps is 90 (2) checking the football results

Checking the football results

Checking the football results

Being a good Edinburgh based Scotsman, the football results are terribly important. This is the second of a pair of portraits to celebrate his 90th birthday.

The Portsoken Volunteer project (2)

The Portsoken volunteer small fileBrian is now a very good friend, and I have made a lot of drawings and a couple of paintings of him to date. The project is not by any means over yet, and I expect that this work will feature quite a bit in my end of year show.

The latest drawing is pretty well life sized. here is a small section of it showing the developments in my technique that have taken place in the last six months. It has been reviewed by Robin Lee-Hall, Tanya Russel, Rob Pepper and Brendan Kelly, all of whom have had positive but critical remarks to make. It is a great privilage for me but to have this standard of input but, well, more work required.

Gramps is 90

This is for my Children whose Grandfather is 90 this week.

I guess one gets better at this with practice. Tanya Russell seems to think so.Gramps is 90 small file

Portsoken volunteer project

Following on from the charcoal drawings that are already on mu blog. I am now working on two oil paintings. One of them is still at the planning stage but is based on one of these charcoal drawings. It is up for critical review on Wednesday 5th Feb by Rob Pepper and Robin Lee-Hall.Portsoken Volunteer No1

The sparrowhawk

Here is the detail inserted into “The flush”sparrowhawk detail in The flush_small file

“The flush”

I continue to try out many styles and themes related to my twin obsessions in art. One is nature based themes, and the other is painting people. These themes are not as far apart as may appear to be the case and I am using techniques that can be adapted to both. Gradually, they are converging on a settled overall style, but it is a really slow job. I have decided , for the moment, that I need to continue to pursue a fairly broad approach.

The flush_edited-1

Here is a sparrowhawk which I painted onto a heavily textured surface that evokes the random foliage to be found on the edge of a wood, where the effect of the wind and light are more important than depicting detail. I have often introduced a small amount of highly figurative detail into semi-abstract landscapes. I have experimented a lot with figurative detail in this space and made several efforts to get it right. Here is the overall space which is about 60cms wide.

My fellow students think I need to try to position people in these spaces tather as I have positione birds and animals. This may be the next step.