year one part seven: back to the drawing board

I have started reading “Drawing with the Right Side of the Brain” and am gently working my way through the exercises. I have often experienced “flow” when doing artwork and was interested to read that it is a state rather like meditation, where you put aside your nagging, literal, analytical left-hand brain and become totally absorbed in the given task. The trick is to do something that the left side of the brain doesn’t relish or approve of, so it gives up and you are free to put down what you actually see. Drawing upside down was a complete revelation. I had had a small success with Fidel Castro a few years ago, but was amazed that I could reproduce Picasso’s Stravinsky, a passable Egon Schiele and incredibly, a galloping horse. I decided that it wasn’t worth drawing the right side up... It is very painstaking because you don’t know what you are drawing (and therefore don’t make any false assumptions) but the results are astonishing.

stravinsky upside down (after picasso)

stravinsky upside down (after picasso)

In complete contrast, I am going to Carole Robson’s freestyle watercolour workshops on Thursday afternoons in Marden. I like her teaching style, which is very strong on the basics like composition and plant forms, which she then uses to give us the confidence to work freely. I’m able to relate to the layering process and the use of masking fluid, waxed paper, sticks, scratching, salt etc. because this is how I’ve always liked to work and the textural aspects are familiar territory for an etcher. It’s also a good way of integrating my twin interests of plant forms and landscape with a need for experimentation and above all, for colour. I crave magenta and orange and red!

fennel and common mallow

fennel and common mallow studies

I’ve always looked at hedgerows and tangles of plants but was never sure how to use them in etching. Carole taught me that the composition of “a patch of ground” is as important as a landscape, possibly even more so. The golden mean still applies, diagonals give movement and the eye needs to feel comfortable. Negative space counts for a lot too, and space for the eye to rest, as Liz would say.

I’m not sure where all this is going but I’m enjoying the journey! I seem to be trying to cram in a lot of things I should have discovered earlier. Time to study and experiment is something we rarely manage to fit in if we are engaged in earning a living from art. As a printmaker, I used to enjoy January, when many galleries were closed, sales were zero and everything was quiet. I would settle down in my studio and teach myself some new tricks. Eventually it became a peaceful new year’s ritual, paving the way for a fresh start.

next month: juggling with freestyle