Tuesday, 22 January 2013


Another sub-zero morning. The snow that fell over the weekend is still laying, compacted and icy but there is a thin bright sunlight and another opportunity to stretch my legs; taking the St Swithun's Way out of Winchester for a mile or two along the western edge of Winnall Moors. Birds are easy to spot against the whiteness of the landscape and show themselves easily as they busily search for food. 

The track past the allotments and desirable north Winchester residences leads to a footbridge at a farm gate. Beyond this the path is narrow between fence and stream. Un-gloving my hands I make a quick sketch of the northern end of Winnall Moors.

The fingers are too cold to allow more than a sketchy impression. A magnificent Buzzard quarters the field to my left, close enough to see the colours and patterns on its broad variegated wings and fanned tail. 

I'm reflecting on my studio output - not enough for my liking - and wondering where my work will take me next.

I have made some charcoal and oil 'paintings' on primed paper experimenting with observational drawing/layering and surface.

Quick drawing in charcoal, achieved with a few strokes of the charcoal stick over an old piece of letter-press, primed with acrylic primer and washed over with oil washes, diluted with turps.

(From overhead, a female Sparrowhawk flies down the hedgerow and settles in a tree about 80 metres ahead. She is looking at me. I am looking at her).

I used a similar approach in the red painting - then layered over the top some text and drawing in crayon - based upon images from the '15-day process' project and woodcut/letterpress work.

An experiment with superimposing monotype-drawing onto an oil-painted canvas, again there is a debate about surface and what comes in front of what. Conventional wisdom would suggest that blue should recede and the warmer orange should advance but this is reversed here. The type of line and application dictates which colour appears to be 'on top' of the other. 

The next monotype over a dramatic painted canvas took this idea further. 'GREENWOODPECKER' Has been a constant companion for a few months. Once the time has been invested in carving letters for a woodcut block it is hard not to use them everywhere. In this case I reversed the text onto a photocopy and then drew onto the back of the canvas, laid over almost-dry relief ink to impress the letters and drawing onto the surface of the canvas.

(I think Long-tailed Tits are among my favourite birds. Matt Sewell has described them as 'tiny clouds in track-suits'. In the winter they hang around in gangs and are constantly on the move. A bunch of them is feeding close to where I stand.)

There is a long way to go in  thinking-through my creative process. In the last three months it has taken-in aspects of the random to generate compositional strategies selecting elements by random numerical process. I made some progress when I tried to scale this up to a room-sized installation.

This brought together a lot of the ideas into one place. I need to extend this to bigger work and also to extend the vocabulary of my mark-making to emphasise and contrast the variation between fine-drawing and gestural painting, clean lines and dribbly splashes of colour. I was pleased when I took the sheets of paper off the wall that some stood up as compositions in their own right. 

Reminiscent of Freud's work 'on dreams' - the image is made up of disparate, unrelated elements.

(Returning across the playing fields, onto the Wildlife Reserve, a Water Rail is squealing in the snow-draped sedge-bed. Although I have seen them elsewhere, I have never set eyes on a Water Rail on Winnall Moors. I hear it often but it's just about being in the right place at the right time - and being there regularly helps increase the chances).

I am really pleased that this random-process drawing and the small monotype on canvas will be included in an exhibition in Bracknell, in February - about which more later. 

The other thing I am contemplating is how walking and experiencing the landscape influences and informs my work. There is a conference in Sunderland this summer that looks at this subject. I want to investigate this more closely and integrate my outdoor and studio work.

(39 bird species found in a two-hour walk, not bad - but several obvious suspects are missing - House Sparrow, Starling, Reed Bunting, Rook!)

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