Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Roses - The beginning of a project

Back on the 19th June, it was a right sunny day so I decided to go and draw in the local park.  At first I was finding selecting subject matter really difficult, I did really have much of an idea of what I wanted to draw and why I was drawing - was it just for the enjoyment of it, was it so I could make inkjet prints to sell, was it to make a painting from, or a print?  I decided that it didn't really matter, I am in the enviable position of being able to stroll along to a beautiful local park in the rare English summer sunshine and draw, so I should enjoy it.

I came across a really gorgeous circular walled rose garden in the park, so I decided to park my posterior and set to work.  I started on some roses and found that they danced a little too vigorously in the wind, so I gave up on those and decided this little arrangement as photographed above, would be my chosen subject.

Generally I love to paint landscape, but today I wanted to do something a little different; in my mind I thought I would treat the subject of the roses as a kind of landscape in itself - I didn't want to make a botanical study, but something more akin to what I usually do in my work - which is to pull out shapes identified within a subject, and navigate around what I see before me with my pencil, in my sketchbook.  In order to not end up with a botanical study I realised very quickly that I would not want to draw the roses as isolated elements on a white sheet of paper, and actually, I was really interested in how I could depict the very complex relationships between all the different twigs and branches surrounding the flowers, and the way the light fell on them, etc etc.  Very quickly I found myself getting all very dizzy and mixed up, literally describing every single line and shape I could see. branches upon branches, tangles of twigs, interspersed with swooping leaves. What the hell was I embarking on? The quick morning study that I could take to the studio in the afternoon became an all-day drawing, and to be honest not a very enjoyable one.
Because I was unsure as to whether this drawing would be something I could develop into something, and because I was tired and stressed from the tribulations of life, I found I was in an agitated frame of mind, but that was soon remedied by a good exercise of the vocal chords down the phone to a stupid man (another story) and a spot of lunch. After these 2 activities I felt a whole lot calmer and could resume the drawing exercise, remembering I was blessed to have the time to be able to spend the day drawing, and actually, even if the drawing didn't succeed or come to any use for any other creative ideas, it didn't matter.  Such failures in making art should be embraced as another memento for the scrapbook that is one's own creative experience and learning curve. So I carried on drawing, despite the fact my roses now looked like this, thanks to the slightly harrowing wind:

You might also notice from these 2 snaps that the light falling on the leaves had changed over the course of the time I was there for.  At this point it had become less and less about capturing the moment that I found inspiration in the flowers, and more about the interaction of all these delightful shapes, both negative and positive, and their interaction with one another. By the end of the day my drawing was done and looked like this:

Not a drawing that can be framed as it spreads over 2 pages in my sketchbook...but it is what I would call 'a slow burner' of a drawing. I had no idea of whether it had succeeded in anything once I had finished it, but what I did know was that eventually I had managed to immerse myself in its creation (though it took a while to get into that mental state!).  That's the greatest thing about drawing for me - that total engagement with your subject, that collaboration between the head heart and your hand...there's nothing quite like it, without wanting to sound too pretentious.  Looking at the drawing a couple of weeks later, I can see the potential to make quite an interesting painting from this, but still, I am loathe to make a botanical painting, or a second rate Georgia O'Keeffe, and what I really want to try and do is use the shapes as a framework on which to hang painterliness, experimentation, and a creative excursion.  But before all that, I felt that I should make a woodcut, to reinforce the strength of the shapes that I am so captivated by.  I felt by working with the composition in the medium that is woodcut it would help me to gain authority over the subject, remove the awe, and make the image mine so that I can do whatever I wish with it in the future.  The journey with my roses was underway.

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