A few days in That London to take the lad to see possible universities. We looked round UCL with an interest in Biomedical Science. The city was relatively quiet with much reduced numbers of foreign tourists. I reckon the foreign voices heard in the square were peole who live here coming as inland tourists to london. Many wanted to take photos of the kids after they climbed up on the lion statues.
After a coffee and a walk, we ended up at the National Portrait Gallery (which was closed). Round the back is the National Gallery which had an enormous queue. But… in the square was a big cluster of easels and staff giving out drawing materials. This is “Sketch in the Square”. It turns out they are from the gallery’s public education department. There was the choice of sitting at an easel (but they were full) or wandering off with a board/paper and medium. I seized the opportunity and took A3 paper, a clipboard and a nice thick 2B graphite stick.
With only a graphite stick (a ‘chunky’) I needed to shade as soon as possible to sharpen the tip on the chunky. There are things wrong with each drawing even though, the second one I did get to use a rubber. Nevermind, if I don’t point out the faults, then maybe nobody will notice. Don’t tell. I think my choice of media was about right, 2B is quite hard but darks can be marked with heavy pressure.
Folks did notice me drawing though. I got some fabulous comments, from a guttoral “Woooowww” to a chat with an undergraduate from Mumbai who asked for permission to take a photo. A couple of nervous teenage girls said ” I just wanted so say how much I like your drawing“… then ran away. I overheard an unseen group talking about putting a picture on their ‘story’. More kids stopped to watch than anybody else. I loved it, I suppose all those years drawing in front of kids in class took away and self-counscious inhibition. I’d go every day if I could.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.