This has been a week of working in pencils, both coloured and graphite, in pursuit of the personal, the musical, the pretty and the tricky… Also, just in case you don’t make it through my verbosity to the bottom of the post, there is a print sale going on this weekend – not a wimpy sale, a proper sale, with some prints less than half their usual price. Some have already sold out!
Back to the art. First, I finally plucked up the courage to personalise the welsh love spoon, which I called ‘Roots So Entwined’. I’m sure when you think of occupations wracked with jeopardy, artist is not the one that comes to mind. But when you’ve spent hours creating a picture that you are actually satisfied with, it feels unbelievably risky to alter it and potentially ruin all that hard work. Thankfully, of course, we live in an age where I can protect any work of art I make in digital form, but I still feel protective about my original pieces of paper and canvas. After a warm-up personalising a print (no prizes for guessing who for!), I took the plunge. My hope was to get the letters to look as though they had been carved into the original spoon, not just scribbled onto the picture. I decided on the type of classic copperplate font which you would associate with carving, rather than handwriting.
In practise, altering the original was much harder simply because the porous paper was already saturated with the coloured pencil for the spoon itself. So, in order to get the same depth as the letters on the print, I had to use some fine-liner, as well as pencil. However, it all came good, and is ready for its new owner. As I was doing it, I kept have new ideas about potential backgrounds and personalisation. I think engraving the year of a marriage at the top would sit well around the notch, and the number of years below the hollow heart. I also tried out a pretty background of soft dots, so contrast with the clean lines of the wood. Each dot is cross hatched with layers of different colours, hopefully giving a woven texture and is the exact size of a 5 pence piece – perhaps for an anniversary I could draw an actual 5, 10 or 20p into the background design to symbolise the years of marriage. I could do backgrounds of family tartan, favourite prints or colours. So many ideas!
So much for the personal and the pretty. Having so enjoyed drawing the first lovespoon, I thought I would follow the theme in a musical direction. Inspired by my amazing, opera-singing aunt, I was racing to get this done in time to celebrate a special birthday and just about got there in time! Like ‘Roots So Entwined’, this was a joy to do, I think because I so enjoy contemplating the artistry and craftsmanship of the spoon itself. As I was working on it, I had the line from a hymn going round and round in my head: “craftsman’s art and music’s measure”. I wanted to bring out the fact that this is a crafted object, and so emphasised the areas which show marks left from carving on the inner sides, and the clear scooping shape of the wood which create the impression of lines weaving in front and behind each other.
Unfortunately, making art does not always feel so easy! Sometimes it feels like a battle: an endless series of tiny failures. In the past I would have given up when I started to feel like this about a painting. But generally, now, I try to cajole myself in persevering. And, sometimes, it pays off. When I started this, the next in my series of ‘Microcosms’, I was torn between doing it in colour or sticking with the medium of graphite pencil. Having decided on the latter, it seemed SO much harder to capture the complex textures of the faceted orange segments, the fluffy pith and pimpled peel in pure greyscale than it would have been in colour. My guiding idea was the way that the segments fit so naturally together, hand in glove, side by side. Perhaps the symbolism would lead some to think of a world of fragments, but it seemed to me to speak of ecosystems which fit together like jigsaws: a world of many parts, interlocking but not in friction. Nice idea, but very fiddly to depict. In fact, the part which made me feel the most despairing as I worked on seems to be now the most effective: the revealed inner segments. I’m glad I persisted:
It was only after I had finished this picture of an orange that I came across the #sharetheorange campaign, which has just been launched to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. The motif of peeling an orange powerfully demonstrates how Alzheimer’s physically attacks the brain, actually reducing the weight of an affected brain by about 140g: the size of an orange. It has made me look at my image, with the process of peeling just begun, very differently. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to freeze that process, or even better, to re-peel the orange? It’s not much, but I will put £4 of every orange print sold will go to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
So that’s it: the personal, the musical, the pretty and the tricky. In the coming week I’m hoping to return to oils and take on some longer projects.