School demos

Lesson demo 1

Teaching how to use graphite powder in drawing. This is more a painterly approach. Lay out blocks of tone softly with a cloth. Work in highlights with a putty-rubber. Only then dive is with ever softer pencils. This is a top-down method that parallels painting a ground, under-painting, over-painting then glazes.

It’s a way of thinking that avoids errors introduced by filling in an outline that so many children use. This offers a clear route in via broad tones towards fine detail last.

Lesson demo 2.

So many children get in a fix and want to start again. Sometimes that’s because an outline is off. Sometimes they have represented a boundary with line that they can’t even see. For example, a face outline partly covered by hair. I teach them to build up details starting from the eye-line. That way, the eyes get the most attention; they are, after all, the most important feature ina portrait.

Biro III.

Bic Biro on A5

It’s not quite finished, there is something wrong and I’m not sure what. This letterbox view on this landscape book doesn’t help but the solution may lie in careful hair measurements. The original photo has a twist – the model is looking 3/4 to her right. In this view, the isn’t enough information, maybe that’s why it looks odd.

The tuning-fork tree.

More storms, 60mph gusts. Dried up later. 7°C.

A6 sketchbook:

In work today, I had time to watch a tree beaten by storm Gareth. My mind turned to the problem of how can we animate a winter tree? The tree is so obviously a chaotic kinetic system when moving through wind. Each branch will have its own resonant frequency, but then I noticed something. Each branch must be a different length. If it weren’t, there could be a serious problem. Serious for the tree, it could lose branches in storms more often.

Imagine the branches are swaying in wind. If there were only two branches, the tree would vibrate like a tuning fork. The resonance of each branch would support the motion of the other branch, this feeding energy at greater and greater amplitudes. I’d say there is a system heading towards catastrophic fractures.

Three’s aren’t constructed that way. Not this one anyway. Each branch is a different length, this avoiding such a destructive fate.

Some galleries in Manchester.

12°C, light and sunny.

I came for art, E came for cubing.

William Kentridge was the main billing at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. This place has changed much since I last came here 25 years ago. I remember a show of John Berger back then. Abstract painting doesn’t normally do it for me but Berger achieved it. I still remember the vivid depth in those layers of shapeless brush marks. Today was another eye-opener.

Never before have I got on with Video Installation as an artform before. William Kentridge produced 4 films that used stop-frame, rotoscoping and multi-layering. Some layers were hand drawn or painted; some, pages out of books. The sound was rich and clear too. Often, other films of the genre were shrill and visually, jarring. This had none of those problems. Some videos were played through numerous projectors into constructed rooms. You were left spoilt for choice of view. One room offered swivel chairs. Others were simpler projections before a bench.

Beyond the projection rooms were other still displays of printed material. Tables were set up with angle-poise lamps with various books. It made you feel part of the exhibit.

I made it to two galleries and a museum in one day. They were all worth the visit. But sorry, the Whitworth aced the day. The cafe served wonderfully refreshing food and the building was a cinematic space to walk through. I was moved to buy the exhibition book.

Art fix

17°C, sun and heavy showers.

Tate Gallery, Liverpool.

They’re showing Egon Sheile and some other stuff from their modern collection.

This is what they said about the sculpture above:

Louise Bourgeois 1911-2010 Mamelles 1991, cast 2001

Rubber, fibreglass and wood

Mamelles is a large-scale wall relief in which a series of female breasts have been moulded within a horizontal structure reminiscent of a classical frieze. The breasts can be seen as a symbol of woman’s nurturing role, while also exposing the female body as a sexualised object, stripped bare and vulnerable. Bourgeois has linked this work to the mythical seducer Don Juan, and said that it ’portrays a man who lives off the woman he courts, making his way from one to the next. Feeding from them but returning nothing, he loves only in a consumptive and seltish manner.’

So, there you have it.

The main point of the trip was to see Egon Scheile. Although the show was mixed with phots by Francesca Woodman, there was structure to it. Panels were laid out roughly chronologically so adjacent worksspoke together. Early drawings had delicacy precision and passion all at once. Thefine line precision was almost lkike silverpoint drawing. It took time to read these pictures. I’m writing thisas a pseson who first saw Scheile’s work in the mid 1980s. This visit was a top-up meant as a motivator for me. I have barely drawn over the last 4 years or so.