Portraying by drawing. (1.8)

I have decided to start with a simple watercolour on paper of all the plants. I had used my non dominant hand and a single brush. I find that if I use my non dominant hand I have less control and the marks are clearly not accurately representational and as such have character and a looseness that I can’t seem to achieve with my right hand, which will aim for perfection and then fail,  leaving me with an image that looks like it was meant to be accurate but has not achieved that. Here I struggled with the variety of green colours that the plants displayed. I used a limit palette of primaries mostly and tried to mix the variation between greens but was not even close to accurate. 


Here I have loosely drawn the lines of the subject in ink and then overlaid with watercolour. Trying to capture the chaos of the linear grass and then separately bringing in the colour. Again non dominant hand for the lines and following the lines within the plant and looking at the plant rather than the page. This time I have reversed the process and painted first and then applied the lines over the paint. I have not traced around my paint, but redrawn the image in ink repeating lines until I felt they were right. 


I love experimenting. Here the plant had a soft white fuzz on the surface of its leaves. It suggested to me that I could use the colour in the background and create a soft edged negative space to represent the lines of the plant. 


Continuing to experiment with separation of colour and line. Here I have a deconstructed saltbush. I have looked closely at all the shapes and sizes within my tiny saltbush plant and turned the page and the plant repeatedly and drawn the line of the leaf that my eye alighted on. Then I have applied colour in thin watercolour, noticing how the waterproof ink resists the application of colour. 


I thought I would use the ink resist quality on a different scale here, but used a different pen, which clearly was not waterproof. Instead it ran and separated reducing what was once clear detailed line to colourful blurry blobs. This was not my intention but I have included it as the separation of colour does give an organic feel, that does resonate with the blemishes and holes in the leaf that I was drawing. 


Similarly to the grass image, this image was created using lots of line first whilst focussed on the plant. This line was then used to guide the loose application of appropriate colour. I was trying to highlight the spiky nature of the tiny flowers on this little plant. 


Here I have looked closely at the tiny clusters of flowers on my plant and drawn the outline in yellow ink. The configuration of these three suggested a flow across the page to me, so I have highlighted this with a swath of yellow watercolour. 


The miniscule little stamens in the tiny flowers were repeated over the paper in yellow sharpie. This configuration has moved away from direct observation a bit and is reminiscent of the fields of dandelions that grew in my childhood backyard. The sharpie resisted water even more than ink. You can’t see it in the photo but the texture over the sharpie is different to the watercolour. 


Here I have looked at the various growth stages of a flower on a single plant. I have overlaid drawings of these in sharpie ink. Then I had allowed colour to diffuse around the outside and into areas left untouched by sharpie. 

Sources and media (1.7)

I have chosen a small cluster of plants from the Australian Arid Botanical Gardens in Port Augusta. We passed through there on route to Central Australia and I chose these plants as they are plants that are hardy but beautiful. Suitable for the desert landscape that I will be living in for the next few months. 


This is a view from the bird hide in the Arid Botanical Gardens


And a close up of the little tube stock plants they had for sale at the garden. This photo is taken after we moved on to Woomera, in the window of the old men’s quarters of the rocket base. I tried to choose plants that showed a variety of leaves, flowers and grass. They have travelled with me whilst I drew them.

I would like to say that I have chosen the media to suit the subject, but that is not completely true. I have chosen to use recycled paper, ink and watercolour to produce my images. I did want to include the greens and yellows of the plants, and have chosen watercolour for it’s ability to shade and vary itself. I am using recycled paper because I had a good lot of it that came in a journal I bought in Melbourne. It has the interesting quality of not being sized, so it absorbs the colour and the water quickly and to some extent unevenly. I am never after a photorealistic image, but rather just a sense of some qualities of the subject and I am happy to embrace organic marks that occur due to the nature of the media. I enjoyed the possibility of line in the previous exercises and have chosen to use linear black ink to contrast with the gentle fluffy coloured watercolour and to allow a range of possible marks. 

Drawing

I’ve previously considered the nature of drawing as opposed to painting or printing. I have done all three as university subjects in my ongoing fine art degree and whilst I feel once the lines between them would have been quite clear, in the contemporary university world the lines are much more blurred with increasing overlap. 

For me drawing is mark making. So any mark produced by any means, that wasn’t there before, is a form of drawing. Of course with this wide definition, painting and printmaking are in fact subsets of drawing. Not sure how painting would feel about that :). Traditionally I recognise that most people would associate drawing with more discrete marks, like line and dots, and traditional mediums of pencil and ink, rather than blocks of colour such as used in painting, but really a block of colour is just a fat line, and is certainly a mark. Watercolour seems to fall under the auspices of drawing, despite the fact that it is called watercolour ‘painting’. 

I am especially interested in setting up situations for the creation of serendipitous marks in my drawing, and would like to embrace a wide range of marks, mediums and substrates to achieve the results I look for.

My choice of medium and substrate for Project 3 is dictated by availability as well as the media I would like to experiment with more. I like things that have some degree of unpredictability and organic random marks. I like to work to a ‘rule’ that is guided by my observation of the subject matter. I want to include colour, not just because it is fairly intrinsic to the observation of plants, but because colour is important to the aesthetic I am looking for. 

Research point 1 – Wabi-Sabi

I had already come across the concept of wabi sabi in the past and feel a strong affinity with it. After I saw this reference in the course material I also purchased Leonard Koren’s two little books and have read them both. I have previously been interested in the idea of entropy – the movement of all matter from order to disorder. I have made art works exploring this and looking for beauty in the complexity that develops on the way to degradation and disorder. Part of the wabi sabi concept includes acceptance of the ephemeral and transient nature of the world, finding the beauty in this transition from order to degradation. Embracing the organic aesthetic that evolves from this process. It is part of the reason I have come to textiles in preference to paper or paint. There is a certain resilience in textiles not found in some other mediums, but this is combined with an ability to manipulate the surface, or let time and nature manipulate the surface, so that trace and serendipitous marks can also be more fully explored. 

Wabi sabi is certainly in evidence in my textile collection – especially in regard to the futon cover, which is a heavily repaired piece of cloth, that is both stained and degraded. It was originally a working textile, providing warmth in a hostile environment, but has subsequently been sold as a collectors work of art. It highlights the boro technique of combining and repairing textiles, that was originally a practical technique, but is now more purposely used to create art textiles. 

After reading Koren’s book I thought that rather than being just a narrow aesthetic, wabi sabi felt more like a way of seeing and a way of living. Not dissimilar to practising mindfulness, where you really see what is in front of you, rather than living too much in your head. Wabi sabi aesthetic also often hints at the passage of time, and brings with it that feeling of pleasurable melancholy that I associate with that. 

Detail and definition (1.6)

Some of the earlier works have already looked at detail, but for this section I decided to use 3 colours of sharpie pens and five pieces of square printmaking paper that I had torn for another project, to create a small series of simple drawings of detail from my textile pieces. I have tried to utilise the tendency of the Sharpie to spread and run into the soft paper to create a (somewhat limited) variety of marks.