I had a setback, just after Christmas, when I was admitted to hospital with abdominal pains that led to me having my appendix removed; very tidily via ‘keyhole’ surgery.
This forced me to stop everything for a while but it also provided me with an opportunity to try out media and subjects that I’ve neglected for too long. I set up a simple still life composition and picked up some old Conte pastel pencils that I was given many years back.
I had forgotten how pleasant it is to build up colours and tones slowly, without the urgency imposed by rapidly drying watercolour or acrylic paint. There is a pleasing feeling of control of the process with dry media that I find can help to deepen my observation of the subject. This is in turn beneficial when I decide to use paint.
My assortment of coloured pencils was not quite working for me though, each type had noticeably different characteristics, including the need for applying fixative, which I wanted to avoid. I made the decision to clear out my stock, which I gave to the school art department for students to use, and invest in a new set of good quality coloured pencils. After trying a few different types out, I settled on the Koh-i-Noor Polycolour pencils, which have good quality colours and a nice softness without the powdery nature of pastel pencils.
So now I am starting to explore and play with these nice new colours, it brings back that feeling I had as a child, the joy of simply making marks and building up areas of colour, even just in little thumbnail trials, as here.
I’ll post more in a while, it’s too late to photograph the other sketches just now and I have started back at work.
Today I’ve been accompanying a visit by art students from the school to London and the Tate Modern. The long coach journey has limited our time there but they have still had an all-too-rare opportunity to see some influential and thought-provoking works. I will be interested to see, from the sidelines, what fresh ideas they bring into their work after this.
They are good, motivated and pleasant students and my role as ‘responsible (male) adult’ has been easy so far. Free of the burdens of teaching, I had the luxury of being able to make notes and sketches of my own and to use some reflection time to gain some ideas and even a few insights.
I like the Tate Modern, from its wonderful cathedral-like turbine hall to its range of exhibits and the wide range of :ordinary’ people visiting.
I found myself drawn to Mark Rothko’s deeply meditative ‘seagram murals. Ideas arose for me about colour and the responses that arise from immersing oneself in the experience of it. When I sit in front of these colossal canvases, I feel a deep calm that I encounter also in good meditation sessions. I also have a distinct feeling of a low, continuous, note, just on the edge of hearing. I ask myself why I have still not made my own attempt to work woth really bold colours, which I do use as base layers for my landscapes.
One of Joan Miró’s paintings also evoked something of this feeling for me, the deep blue field drawing me to stand as close as I was allowed and simply looking, feeling no need to imterpret or even ask questions, it was sufficient to spend time in the experience of the colour. Calm, nearly soporific, a feeling of deep space…. Was this the dream-like association referred to in the exhibition text?
Ideas sit, captured in the pages of my sketchbook and circulating in my mind.