Over the past number of weeks I’ve been setting tasks for the Thursday Club, which I fully intended to follow myself. But I was drawn to other things, I worked from a truncated piece of sawn off ivy after looking at the Canova casts, I guess this is where my attention took me, a little away from the brief, which was to look at something old and worn and be drawn into the patina of its use over time. I realise that I must accept this divergence from instruction when making art work and I fully expect it to happen in others; laws created to help with structure were, after all, made to be broken. Last week’s task to draw an object of everyday complete escaped me, I got sucked into other works that I had on the table.
And so this week I have decided to share with you some thoughts about drawing and making work. One of my favourite artists of all time is Odilon Redon, I love his inspired colour work and I love his strange and moody drawings, particularly his work from trees.
And so I sought out some quotes from the artist, where he discusses his approach and relationship with making work. I have made a little video incorporating his ideas with my own musings while I work on a drawing. I hope you enjoy this and it suggests something as a starting off point for your own work. When setting out you can bear in mind one of the nuggets I have chosen from Odilon Redon, describing process and material.:
“I await joyous surprises while working, an awakening of the materials that I work with and that my spirit develops.”
In the video I discuss my choice of pencil. Recently my choice is for hard pencils and I have a collection of H - 6H. I love the point you can get on a hard pencil, its precision and the way you can build up soft layers and create delicate marks. Hard pencils score into the soft paper to this is something you need to work with when using pressure. I also use a rubber to carve back into the marks. A trick with cumbersome rubbers is to slice off a wedge and you can use this to fine tune back to the ground in a very satisfying way.
I just let the drawing flow as I was recording, so there is a bit of interference in the way I would normally work, I made the video over two days, following perhaps from an observation of Redon’s:
“I have often, as an exercise and as a sustenance, painted before an object down to the smallest accidents of its visual appearance; but the day left me sad and with an unsatiated thirst. The next day I let the other source run, that of imagination, through the recollection of the forms and I was then reassured and appeased.”
I love this quote in the way that it combines the observation with imagination. I am not quite so clear in the way I work, I tend to hop back and forth between observation and imagination, I like to keep the objects on hand for reference, seeing how the light falls across the surface or the particular structure. Sometimes I go with trying to understand the structure and others I allow the form to be more lyrical a suggestion of a movement, a rhythm or expression, in the same way music does. Odilon Redon sums it up:
“My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined.”
This makes perfect sense to me, drawing is at once a discovery and a forming of a particular space with its own rhythms, tones and logic, not necessarily of this world. The objects I choose perform within the drawing interacting with one another and hopefully with the viewer too, they have a suggestiveness which is indetermined and ambiguous.
So this is the task for this week. For a staring point find something you can look at in detail, something or things that have a degree of complexity which will capture your full focus, taking you out of your head, into the object and onto the page!
Put on some music, as I say in the video I like the radio for its surprises and I listen to Lyric FM, and I can recommend this for your flow.
Choose your materials I recommend:
It’s useful too to have a piece of sandpaper to hand for fine tuning your point, I know sharpeners these days just tend to chew the pencil, so a combination of knife and sandpaper is good.
Go with the flow, and here is another tip from Odilon Redon:
“Nothing in Art is achieved by will alone. It is achieved by docilely submitting to the subconscious.”
It would be fun to share these findings. As usual if you would like to do this please upload to Instagram and #thurs_day_club or to the CrawfordGallery_ThursdayClub (private) Group page on Facebook
Or if this is tricky you can send them to me and I can upload them.
You can make comments, suggestions or observations directly to the Crawford education here:
Emmet Place, Cork, Ireland
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