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

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Beginning a Puppet.Some Initial Thoughts.

The end of June is the deadline for Clive Hicks Jenkins’ and Peter Slight’s Online Puppet Challenge.
I really wanted to contribute to this so have been mulling it over for a while now. How? Why? What? The theme was “Myths and Legends” and I have chosen the legend of the Henham Dragon ( see my original post here)

I don’t have much time but enough to get some ideas down on paper, even if few of them actually get made and  just researching another art form is a delight.

2D or 3D?

Because I am really a 2D artist I am starting with a simple articulated paper puppet. Clive makes beautiful articulated maquettes which he uses for his own work. These  forms can be arranged in different positions and so acquire a curiously appealing life of their own.

They are not quite the same as shadow puppets but have the same feel about them.  Shadow puppets from Turkey, India and China are sometimes painted on treated hide which makes the skins transparent, allowing the colours to glow when lit.   See an article on the Karagoz puppet tradition in Turkey here.

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Image by Tom Brosnahan who wrote the article. His website “Turkey Travel Planner” is one I will be returning to as we plan to get to Turkey next year.

I am not sure yet what exactly I will do but this is one of the forms I will be exploring.

Pinocchio
The whole subject of puppets is fascinating and if I were to consider 3D I could look at the traditional marionette. I have never made one,  but have  using puppets as inspiration in my work a few times. I also made sample drawings for a version of Pinocchio many years ago.  

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Rough for Geppetto’s  workshop. pencil drawing.

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Pinocchio and Jiminy. Watercolour

For my research I had visited The Little Angel Theatre in Islington and taken a few photos. Yesterday on a rainy Bank Holiday Monday I found them again. It was all long before computers and digital photography and most interesting is the photo of the “inspiration” wall, a collection of magazine clippings, cards and real photos.

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Photos from the Little Angel Theatre..more years ago than I care to remember.

It’s all so inspiring…. I am now wondering about a 3D Dragon.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Coot and Willow Print

I’m still working on the lovely cootses and as it’s a while since I did any lino work I made a quick trial reduction print to work out some ideas. It’s an image I want to develop along with some others. I like these neat birds.

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I did a few initial drawings and tonal sketches for what will be a 3 colour reduction.

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Various first stages and the lino block

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Some final stages with various different colourways.

I like the image, but the printing needs work :). Maybe one really good one out of 6.

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Coot and Willow..  image 6 x6 inches

I see the coot pottering about on the shoreline here, in and out of the willows. There is always a fisherman somewhere. The coot is large, the willow tree is small. That’s just how I wanted it.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Some Coot, Coots or maybe Cootses

The Coot, Fulica atra, the dark waterbird.

Coming back from holiday always takes a bit readjustment and I am well behind in my various projects. I didn’t get any sketching done in Amsterdam so output was low but input very high. The Museums, bars, canals markets, food and people were so much fun and so interesting, even in the rain, that we are going back in the autumn. However it was my turn over on Beautiful Beasts last week and after seeing a feisty coot on one of the canals I decided to do some coot sketches.  You can read more about these sketches on Beautiful Beasts: see Canal Coot and A Cute…ah no….a Coot Chick.

Near the Rijksmuseum, sections of the canal have been planted with nesting platforms of water plants, just a few feet from the bank. This small coot was very busy chasing anything and everything, including us, away from her nest which contained at least one not-very-pretty little chick.

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Her ugly baby 

But I am very fond of coot and see them all the time round the reservoir. I had made this sketch of one of our local birds last year.

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It’s also also given  me the opportunity to finish a trial scraperboard of a coot chick which I had started some years ago.

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Scraperboard on the desk..

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Scraperboard 4 x 5 inches

In reality the very small chicks are odd looking, with their red/orange bald head and a halo of yellow feathers. They lose these quite quickly. The characteristic white shield of the adult bird, which gives rise to the old saying “as bald as a coot” takes about a year to develop.

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Coot are comical and very attractive. I am fascinated by their feet. I am planning a print.:)

Friday, 16 May 2014

There’s a Bee in the House

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It’s 8.30 am, a little Osmia rufa male with his ginger moustache (how hip is that) is peeping out of his overnight accommodation. He’s warming up in the sun before going out to chase girls..

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Next to him one of the holes has been filled.
Yes, the mason bees are  busy in the beehouse.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Conker Seedlings

When I joined Lucy’s Tree Following Project in February I rather wished I had known in advance because I would have planted some conkers. In a hopeful moment I went to look under the tree by the roadside and found some unprepossessing blackened conkers in the undergrowth, brought them home and stuck them in a pot. Out came sprouts and now they have grown into good little seedlings.

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I though it would be interesting to draw the development so put another one in some vermiculite. That too sprouted, but so quickly that I missed the early stages of growth.

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Today, outside in the sun and showers I sketched it. Two small compound leaves rise up from a split in the snaky root which has developed rootlets. Then a shower caught the ink.

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Chestnut seedlings sketches and old conkers: A4 pen, ink and rain.

A small  watercolour sketch stayed dry. Shame…a shower might just have improved it.

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The optimistic new Horse Chestnut Tree

I am almost packed. We are off to Amsterdam…Hurrah….

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Fenland Black Bee, almost done.

The bee is almost done. I have added the foliage, a suggestion of the Holme Fen birch trees and a view of the distant bird hide. I am dithering about adding a Highland Cow.
The hide is known as“Jon’s Hide” an eco friendly straw bale hide created by Jon Smith one of the restoration officers at the Great Fen project. You can see how the building of the hide progressed here.
The Highland Cattle are there to help manage the land. I included them in my first sketches at the beginning of April. They are good grazers for wet lands and will eat tough weedy plants, keep the vegetation down, break up the ground and so encourage more marsh loving wild flowers. 

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Pencil and Watercolour on Arches 300 HP, 10 x 11 inches approx.

As I quoted in an earlier post, “artwork is never finished…just abandoned”. At this stage I usually put a picture away for a week or so, out of sight. Then have another look and see if what is bothering me now is still bothering me then.
But for now I am done, especially as I have to get organised for a short break. London and Amsterdam for 6 days. I am hoping to get a quick conker sketch done before I go……

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Horse Chestnut Tree…slow Tree Following…

The Horse Chestnuts in the village have galloped ahead of me and are in full bloom, their fabulous scented candelabra flowers weighing down the trailing branches. I might get round to drawing a full flower head one day, but they are fiendishly complicated so probably not.

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One flower spike seems to have an average of about 25 individual flower stalks radiating out from the main stem. Each flower stalk may have from 2 to 9 or 10 individual  flowers. That would give roughly 150 flowers but they are not all in bloom at the same time. 

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Flower stalks at the base of the flower spike develop first and flowers at the base of those flower stalks are the first to open. They have a yellowy centre initially which then turns crimson. The 5 petals are wavy edged and so very delicate, with long stamens curving down and up from the centre of the flower.

The flower spikes are also very fragile. I have one disintegrating on the desk, the delicate petals fall as soon as you touch them. It is one of those projects where you might draw three individual flower stems a year…then wait for the next season to come around and so on. It might take many years to complete…….yawn. I do know of some patient and very skilled painters who would happily do that. Not me.

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So far I have more or less just looked in hesitant wonder at these complex things. But I have made a page of sketches and a couple of loose watercolours.

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A4 sketches … the spike is drawn life size.

The sketches help to work out the construction of its complex shape.

One tree in particular is very much more advanced than the others and on the the lowest flower stem a little conker is forming. April seems so early. I brought just that one stem back to draw.

This loose treatment seemed a good way of trying to portray the fragility of the flowers.

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Flower spike with first small conker, watercolour sketch

And one flower head.

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Each flower has 5 frilled petals The pollen on the stamens is ginger

Tomorrow I am Easton Walled Gardens with my painting group and I know their Horse Chestnuts will be magnificent!
More conkery things to come.

Over at Beautiful Beasts I am continuing documenting progress of The Black Bee and the Pied Shieldbugs. It will be finished this week.