I decided quite early on that I would make a start on the Residency with some work about the Willow Tree. Looking over my sketches from the summer the willows are so often there. It is an iconic tree of this currently sodden, watery area and they line the Reservoir.
There are local names for some varieties, the Bedford Willow, the Huntingdon Willow. They are everywhere and there are many different kinds. One book notes 18 UK varieties.
I like to start things with drawing and research. The purpose of both are to get to know my subject. I can read and learn but I don’t think I really “see” unless I draw.
What is the purpose of drawing.. for me
Drawing, for me, is all about learning. Initially it’s about trying to record what I can see. Accuracy at this stage is important to me because the more accurate I try to be, the more I must study the subject. Through drawing I will learn about structure, line, colour and form, but most importantly I begin to discover what it is I like about something. And that is really important.
My first exploratory drawings of the willows are just a few leaves. I am still not out and about much but I brought some tatty old leaves back from my shoreline walk about a month ago. Once inside they dry out, twist and form wonderfully curled shapes.
My drawing and models
My way of arranging them for drawing is to throw them onto white paper and see what happens. This works much better for me than carefully and deliberately arranging things. It is also the way my Filipino gardener friend Pedro, back in Leu Gardens, plants seeds and bulbs. His handling of plants was one of great empathy, respect and understanding. He was well rewarded.
“ Three Willow Leaves” pencil on hp paper, 10 x14 inches
So here is a drawing of the leaves. I loved the curling shape and the way the cast shadows tell of a shape you cannot see. The desiccated surface of the leaf makes the central vein more prominent and I could see the layers of the surface, some were peeling away. Tiny bits broke off. These things are very brittle and fragile.
The hours it takes are all a part of the slow absorption of the information. It’s a very peaceful process and totally absorbing. It reminds me of my old “leaf of the day” drawings.
I will be doing quite a few more study drawings and some sketches and colour notes. There may be a lot about willows this coming year!