"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Pig in Jacket and the Consequences of Fire

Over at Printdaily this week my printing adventures have involved etching. Yesterday I spent the day going through the process, at a bit of a gallop, from start to finish. The whole process is faffy and time consuming and I had dithered about an image but, eventually with Chris’ Salute The Pig Project in mind I made a scribble based on my sadly lost, but not forgotten, Pig in Jacket.

Etching plate and Print of Pig.. you can read about the lengthy process over at Printdaily here.

“Pig in Jacket” was one of the small treasures that I kept when we made the big move over ten years ago. He was a small, I think about 4 inches high, white porcelain figure. I cannot remember when or where I got him. He had been with me for many years. Today I went back to the photo I found and made some sketches.

Lost Treasure 1. Pig in Jacket 

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 The Consequences of Fire
Just over three years ago, on the day I set up my “Buzz”show in London. I received an email telling me that everything I had in the world, apart from the suitcase of things I had taken to the USA, had been lost in a “ catastrophic” fire in Spain. I had taken a small storage unit, not much bigger than a walk in wardrobe, in a new steel, self storage facility, just to keep the special things in my life safe. It seems so ironic now.
I lost all my paintings and drawings, all my sketchbooks, beautiful old watercolour papers, my stash of now unobtainable professional scraperboard, my fine tools and brushes, gilding equipment, precious pigments, paints, the very special selected books I had kept, all my personal treasures, small pieces of jewellery, hangings and silks from India that my grandmother had brought back in the 1920’s. My teddy, my old toy dog, my tiny old lead farm animals, my desk, my easel, my book press and countless other small but irreplaceable things which I had tried to keep safe. But the state of the art storage unit protected with alarms, sprinklers, cameras etc  had gone up in flames. It was Spain, at its worst. Probably arson, possibly an electrical fault. Who knows, and not worth wading through the corruption and concealment to find out. What is gone is gone.

I have not mentioned the fire before because I loathe “pity me” blogs and the very best thing to do in these circumstances is to shake yourself down, be thankful for small mercies and get on with life.

Anyway amongst the losses was this pig. Oddly enough I had taken a few snaps of my favourite small things just before I left as I had planned some drawings and the photographs were on my laptop. It’s been in my mind lately to have another look at them, now things are not quite so raw, and Pig in Jacket fits in so well with what I am up to now.

A Previous Incarnation of Pig

It’s not the first time I have used Pig in my work.  Some 23 years ago he appeared in my Devil’s Alphabet, which I am about to reprint. Pig here is rejecting the drunken advances of the Devil.

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The Devil with Pig… A tiny scraperboard drawing.

.. and I think there will be a lino cut too.. He was a nice Pig!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Hedgehog Sketches

The sad story…
A while ago now, on a sodden cold evening a neighbour’s dog found a hedgehog under a nearby hedge. I know that a hedgehog out during the day is not a good sign and this one was not well. We are very fond of hedgehogs and I did my best: a warm hot water bottle wrapped in a towel, water, food, a deep bed of straw and many kind and affectionate words. 

I try hard not to be to sentimental about wild animals but it’s tough. Despite my efforts, this little one died in the night and is now buried in a box with a note and a print under the apple tree. ( Sentimental??? Moi???)

…and the opportunity
As a curious artist I also try to think of a dead animal as an opportunity for a study. I am not quite up to popping them in a pan or a bit of taxidermy but study brings both understanding and appreciation. So these sketches are both an homage and an opportunity to have a closer look at those amazing and beautiful feet with their silken hair and long curved claws.

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RIP Sweet hedgehog… We will be looking out for your relatives next spring.

Monday, 18 November 2013

A Motley Crew

A few more half hour sketches with the #portraitnovemeber  twitter theme in mind.

I cut up some old pieces of board to approx 8 x 6 inches and gave them a quick coat of gesso. They are by my desk for when I have a moment to create another member of the gang.

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It’s very interesting to see who emerges. I am fitting them in between pigs, prints and the other bits and pieces of life. This coming week I may try just one or two more finished ones.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

A Gorgeous Ginger Pig: A Duroc Boar

Some initial sketches of the extremely handsome Duroc Boar that we met on Saturday at Burwash Manor near Cambridge. (See also Chris’ post They Do Rock.)  We had gone to buy some interesting food from their very well stocked delicatessen ‘The Larder’  and to have a walk. This fabulous ginger boar had just been rounded up after escaping… and not for the first time it seems. He is big, lean, strong and has the most beautifully shaped head.
His coat is shades of russet, orange, blue black and ochre.

These lovely pigs have pricked ears that flop over at the ends. He reminded me of a huge terrier and with their wiry ginger black and tan coats there is something very dog like about them. He was being placated with buckets of apples. The girls who had rounded him up said he was a nice chap…”just boisterous”. I must find out what his name is.

Their faces are dished and their big heads have a high crown. Their jaw line is deep and their snouts are long.

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 Burwash Manor’s Duroc Boar.

“A Ginger Pig”… was the description of the baby Elizabeth I. In human terms this might be regarded as an insult, but to be compared with this super pig could be nothing but a compliment.

Burwash Manor cross their Essex Saddlebacks with the Durocs for a better quality meat. I hope to be going back soon to meet the saddlebacks.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Big British Lop Pig: First Sketches.

This is pig number two of Chris’ delightful pig and pork endeavour over at Salute the Pig. A couple of weekends ago we went to Cold Overton in Rutland to meet up with Jan McCourt at his Northfield Farm and talk to him about his lovely and rare British Lop Pigs. Chris has also written up some of their history here: “The British Lop Pig-As Old as Our Hills.”

More about Northfield Farm as I  make more drawings of the Lops, who we found blissfully snoozing in deep warm bedding. On hearing voices tiny buried  pink piglets burst out of the straw. I defy anyone not to find them utterly, utterly enchanting. Their capacity of joy seems endless. 

I am still at the “getting to know you” stages with the pigs, and still researching and sketching the Mangalitzas and curly coats. Just as I found each bee has it’s own characteristics, so do the pigs. There are breed standards, different temperaments, talk of being good mothers, hardy, easy to feed etc.

Visually British Lop Pigs are big, long, white pigs with silky hair and, again, like the Mangalitzas, with the most fabulous ears. Huge, soft, floppy ears that lie like draped hankies over their faces, as long their noses, obliterating their eyes. And they have lovely smiles! Yes.. I know … its just the way their mouths turn up … but it is still very endearing!

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More soon ….

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Fascination of Sloe Globes

I am fascinated by the sloes. Every time I go for a walk I pick a few more.
The colour version I painted last week (Shine and Bloom) just made me want to draw more.
Last year I wrote in my Walking Diary:

In every sloe there is a small world. Tiny continents nudge up against each other, swirling grey cloudscapes wrap themselves around others, some shine like black buttons, nearby branches leave scratches and striations. Your fingerprints are left on the ones you pick...imagine obliterating those small lands so casually.”

Imagine indeed. This year the tiny dusty worlds are back in all their infinite variety.

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On Sunday I sketched them, before making the last reduction cut for the Berry Print, you can see the progress over at Printdaily. The last cut was a rough (very rough) approximation of a world map.

We love to find imagined landscapes in things, don’t we. They are the possibility of escape,  the potential for a different life. Mountains of another place appear in cloud banks on horizons. Miniature deep canyons are cut by rivulets of water in the sand,  muddy flood pools clear to reveal tiny wet underwater lands with waving grass, and shimmering contorted other worlds stare back at us from reflections.

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Sloe World 1 : Pencil, Image 8 x 6 inches

I am going to make a series of drawings of these little worlds. Some have split, some have split more, their contents spilling out. Some have more sea than land and some more land than sea. One day I may jump ship and set off to seek my fortune in one of them, so it’s good to know the terrain in advance.

I still walk with my small notebook. Not everyday, but when I do it is illuminating. My notes are full of creative ideas. Many will never be pursued but some, like the sloe globes, will.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Four More Days of Portrait Sketches

In between other jobs this week I have set aside half an hour a day to continue the portrait sketches.

Tuesday: A few more doodles of faces. I tried to make these more “real” than the constructed heads of Monday, looking for a bit more variation and character in them.

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Pen and ink,  A4 sketchbook.
There are always one or two which seem to have the potential for life and some appeal more than others.

Two I liked from Tuesday.

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Wednesday
: A few  more real people.. well almost real.. again pen and ink

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and two I like. 

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Thursday

After three days of rather random sketching I needed a bit of focus and  I remembered a couple of ideas for prints/paintings. The ideas came for a couple of walks, for which I needed a figure and a head.

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Loosely based on Chris. None of them really look like him as all I need is a head and his is the nearest.:)

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Friday

A few more sketches to explore some ideas.

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I might use a profile or a figure. I think to try a profile in lino would be quite a challenge.

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Hmmm…  I know I will have to simplify the image and thicken the lines. It’s going to be interesting. My lino cutting is still a bit rough and ready and I can see Chris turning into an aging Bash St Kid. Actually, that is perhaps not too far from the truth.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Shine and Bloom

Yesterday at my Barnsdale class we looked at some techniques for painting the shine on berries.  The hedgerows have been laden with them this year. Hips and haws, the brilliantly glossy red berries of black bryony and dusty blue sloes.

I made a couple of small samples of hips for the class, along with some colour swatches.

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I had picked lots of odds and ends for the class and today I decided to make a study of two sloes before they died.  They are so attractive on their lichen covered twig, with the one little shrivelled fruit  on the far end.

 

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Sloes on lichen covered twig  watercolour on Arches HP. image 8” x4”

And a few more ! 
A  small gallery of some more shiny, glossy, sheeny, bloomy, fruity things from the early days of this Pencil and Leaf blog.

I am slowly trying to get a website together and have been sorting out old images. It’s nice to see them again.

They are memories of steamy happy days at Leu Gardens in Orlando.  I would sometimes refuel for the cycle ride home with a few hand picked snacks. A caffeine hit from Yupon Holly leaves, vitamin C from Surinam cherries, and acerolas, delicious loquats and guavas, fresh carambolas and the curiously textured cocoplum. 


acerolas  2 red grapesbalsam 2 balsam apple bw balsam pear 1 bay bean colour  buddhashandetc  clerodendron blue seedpod cocoplum2asian eggplant cycadfinal copysurinam cherrycoral beanfin cherry sketch gardenia pod2easter orange finished fruit   loquat mission figs2 mosiac fig fruit  passion fruit persimmon  ramb col  ochna pom smallblackberry 2

And two more recent drawings of the wild plums at Grafham wild damson bd wild damsons col bg

Another couple of berries tomorrow.