…and the fish.
Back and forth, back and forth I go across the thick Arches paper, spinning it on the polished wood of the table to bring whichever part of the composition I need to work on next closer to me. (The sheet measures 76 x 57 cm.) In this way it’s almost stopped having a top and a bottom, which given that the three protagonists are all airborne… four if you count the fish… is a reasonable way to be making the drawing. Yesterday the oak leaves blew in from somewhere. (Marly Youmans uses the lovely description ‘diapering’ for the informal scattering of leaves and flowers in the backgrounds of my compositions.) Sometimes I’m fast, scribbling away for all I’m worth, confident of where I’m going, and at other times so abstract do the patterns become as they swarm across the sheet that I have to slow down to make sense of the knot of flailing limbs, enfolding arms and flapping coat-tails all tangled up together. The fact that there’s no guide to this drawing other than photographs I took of the maquettes, makes the whole process feel pretty improvised. It’s reported the painter Cedric Morris started at the tops of his canvases and worked his way south, bringing to completion each worked-on section before moving downwards, a process for which he coined the term ‘knitting’. I’m doing the same with this drawing, though working centrifugally as the composition spins on its axis. If Cedric could be said to have ‘knitted’ then maybe I’m the artist who ‘crochets’!
Today I think I must tackle the angel’s head, and perhaps Tobias’s too, as they’re in such proximity to each other. I’ve been putting this moment off, anxious about ‘pinning down’ the representations of them. Jack too has yet to make an appearance, and this morning I plan to encourage him to stretch out on the rug of the upstairs sitting-room where I’m working so that I’ll have him at hand to model. He’ll doze happily in the Autumn sun once he’s had a good, energised twenty minutes of tearing around the garden retrieving his frisbee.
I fear I’m going to be teasing you with this one, posting only details of the drawing as I work my way through it, saving the ‘reveal’ for a big finale. Today I added a wing and a torso, as well as making some adjustments elsewhere. (The sharp-eyed will see that there are changes to the coat-tail and pocket.) I was fast yesterday and slow today. It was ever thus. Three steps forward and one back! Please bear with me. You won’t have to be too patient though, as the drawing has to be finished this week!
The large chiaroscuro study of Tobias and the Angel (the detail above repays clicking on to see a magnified version) is progressing in rather unexpected ways. I’ve been exploring tone and texture to conjure angelic wings and garments that are a step onward from what I’ve attempted in the past. Something happened with the mark-making, transforming what I’d intended to be a tweed-textured jacket into a weave far stranger, almost suggesting a matador’s glittering ‘suit of lights’ oddly combined with the spotted markings of a big cat. This wasn’t at all the direction I’d planned, but now I’m hooked. The detail shows a glimpse of a flying jacket-tail and a leg, together with an unfurled wing made from marks like ripples on water combined with metallic fish scales. I nearly titled this post ‘Adventures in Drawing’! Artlog regulars will notice that I reversed the composition from the way the maquettes appear.
Images conjured by Boris Zabirohin for Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev’s Russian Tales. These are so compelling that I could stare at them for hours. When I posted this yesterday I hadn’t been able to trace the book, but I’ve since found that copies can be acquired HERE.
I find the right-to-left bias of the illustrations interesting. As all of the compositions ‘face’ to the left I’ve been pondering on whether this is just the way the artist works, or the images favour R-L because they’re arranged throughout the book on the right hand side of the page-spreads facing the opposite texts. I wonder too whether I find these images to be so absorbing because of my own recent compulsion to be working in BLACK AND WHITE. However THIS long-ago drawing made when I thought that I might be an illustrator, is the closest I’ve come to Zabirohin’s dense pen and ink rendering.
The central image of my forthcoming exhibition is to be a géant painting of Tobias and the Angel (153 x 122 cm) work on which is just beginning. Today I’ve been exploring potential compositions for the subject, using stock maquettes from the studio and a quick cut-out pencil sketch of Jack. The moment I want to capture is the boy’s elation as he catches the fish. In nearly every painted representation of Tobias the convention has been to show the angel as winged, even though it’s clear from the story that the boy has no idea his human-looking travelling-companion Azarias, is in fact the archangel (lovely word, that) Raphael. I intend to stick to that tried and tested tradition in the matter of the wings. However more unusually I plan to show Tobias airborne as Raphael swings him safely from the water, and even the little dog soars as he exuberantly leaps in the excitement of the moment. Here are some of my arrangements of the maquettes, one of which I’ll choose to build into a study prior to starting on the painting.
On reflection I think this last image is going to be the one I choose to base the composition on. Jack loves to eat fish so he’s the perfect model for the painting.
I found the tiny knitted fish lying on a bench at an exhibition I opened last month. It had a paper label pinned to it with a message printed by hand:
PLEASE ADOPT ME. I WANT TO COME HOME.
Blind Saint and Wolf
2011 – Conté pencil and acrylic on paper – 26 x 26 cm
2011 – Conté pencil and acrylic on paper – 42 x 30 cm
Blind Boy and his Beast
2011 – Conté pencil and acrylic on paper – 23 x 20 cm
2011 – Conté pencil and acrylic on paper – 18 x 24 cm
2011 – Conté pencil and acrylic on paper – 21 x 20 cm
Remaining works available from the Martin Tinney Gallery
My good friend Zoe Blue has been busy busy busy with paints and scissors. I’ve been giving Zoe an on-line maquette-making tutorial and today she’s sent me photographs of the figures she’s created that have absolutely blown my socks off! I think that my work here is done because she’s already made the technique completely her own, romping away after a hesitant start to create these lovely, lively dancers.
Brava Zoe. I greatly look forward to seeing how you use the maquettes in your drawing practice. Ten out of ten for these creations. You’re clearly my star pupil!