Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Simple Pleasures

View from Cottage
Having recently completed several revisions of some 250 3D renders for Cambridge University Press over the best part of a year, I suddenly felt an inexplicable desire to step away from computing for a short while and partake in simpler pleasures - like sketching! To start with we nipped off on a short break to Crieff where I was reminded what upright apes actually use legs for. It's called walking and Perthshire is a pretty good place to do it. I'm going to let you guess what the image entitled 'View from Cottage' is all about, but to help you out a little I should mention we stayed in a self catering cottage where the stunning views looked over to the Trossachs and Ben Vorlich's white peak.
You may have noticed this image is sketched on canvas and displays some fairly dynamic impasto/sgraffito strokes. Well, that is because I finally got round to testing my giant Sennelier oil pastels and I can honestly say they are absolutely amazing for sketching. This image was made in a 30 x 40cm canvas sketchbook using white, medium grey and black pastels with a craft knife for scratching and a blending stump for blending.

Holyrood Raven
Here is another image done with the same tools, this time sketched from a photo I took of a Raven perching on Holyrood Park's Crags.
Pesky things never sit still so here we go again with the great photo debate - well I am firmly on the side of taking reference images, I love taking photos, I do it more than sketching - but as many say, it is often best to use reference as inspiration rather than slavishly copy. I mostly use photos for initial form and lighting info then stop looking and let the image grow by itself. Here I quite liked the slightly irksome distribution of tone and the way the contrast between bird and bleached out background makes my eyes dance in a jarring kind of way. Art shouldn't always be about balance and harmony you know, shake things up! Why should the viewer always get their creative nuggets spoon fed? :D

Salisbury Crags
Shaking it up a little, this sketch was done on the same day as 'Holyrood Raven' on my iPad in ArtRage and shows the view of Salisbury Crags from Holyrood Palace Cafe. I used the pencil and crayon tools and as you can see, put the basics down quickly then left it. Sometimes unfinished things posses a charm all of their own. I like this sketch.

Three Graces, Canova
It has occasionally been known to rain in Scotland, but fortunately there are still plenty of sketching options thanks to a proliferation of Museums and Galleries. This is an iPad/Artrage oil brush sketch of Antonio Canova's masterpiece, The Three Graces currently housed in the National Galleries of Scotland. I often walk past such pieces on my way to visit Sargent's gorgeous Lady Agnew, but sometimes it pays to stop and notice other treasures. On the same day, I discovered Frederick Church's breathtaking Niagara Falls which really must be seen in the flesh.

Wolf Head
The National Museum of Scotland is also a great place to gather references with an abundance of useful stuff for arty types. This is a wolf's head sketched with afore mentioned giant oil pastels. Now, I admit any arguments on the morality of stuffing and displaying creatures are (quite awkwardly) put to one side here because - and this will always be a contradiction - I am a fauna lover which, ironically, is what draws me back to see animals in the kind of detail it would usually be all but impossible to see without smearing oneself in dung and indulging in a spot of rural creature stalking. Or failing that, buying tons of expensive photographic gear and carting it thousands of miles across the planet, at which point another moral argument kicks in involving gigantic carbon boots! :D Click on images to zoom.