Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Basics

These past 2 months passed without me touching a brush or drawing tool, except for a weak attempt at a sketch on a hike here and there.
The first three sketches were done on different days on different hikes;

...a walk in the coutryside of Esvres where we crossed the roman bridge which was apparently crossed by Jean d'Arc in 1429 to get across the Echandon valley...
...sketching the photographer while he was executing his professional tricks...

...and lastly a lake at the Beaufoux estate with its calm waters and willows, the boats waiting patiently for summer to erupt...
I wanted to show up here with a beautiful watery painting of something watery, but helas, I am showing up instead with my process of relearning. My well intentioned painting resembles something of the French revolution on gray and busy guillotine days, so I hid it safely from the public eye.

While staring at my attempt, my professor of first year graphics, entered my somewhat desperate thoughts. He told me years ago that I couldn't draw. Our work was all put up on the board at the end of a day for critic and when he came to my "driftwood and key" still life, he was very silent. Then he turned to me and said abruptly that I can't draw and need to do 100 more drawings, on top of the already 100 drawings we all had to do. The tools were simply to be cheap white paper and any tool except the normal pencil or graphite or charcoal or brush, like ear buds, cottonwool, sticks, pins, needles, toothbrushes, etc, along with cheap black ink. We had to really dig in with the ink and get our hands dirty and draw, draw and draw. Not be fancy or pretty or dainty or finicky, but convey our subject/object on our paper by various marks, shapes, values. It was invaluable teaching, al those hours of drawing, which admittedly, I sometimes(more than sometimes!) did with heavy sighing and stubborn shoulders.

This morning I took my professor in my head along to the river. Cheap drawing paper. Cheap ink. My chair. I sought out a spot down stream with several interesting views. Gathered some sticks, stones, leaves, bundles of grass which served as my painting tools. The first attempt was still stiff and careful but by the third drawing I started loosening up and just focused on marks on the paper. The rocks in the water started losing their name and became dark shapes, the water ripples became squigly lines, the trees became thick lines and featherings, the grass became patches...

Hopefully the ice is now broken so I can provide a real painting next time!
But for now;
...the corner of the river where I painted..


...a shot on the tools and materials...
...and three of the many efforts from this morning...

19 comments:

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Wonderful - and what a truly instructive post!

Did I ever tell you how it took me ten years to learn how to scribble..... :) Plus I remember I very nearly had the screaming ab dabs the first time I had to draw in ink using something other than a pen!

I really like your approach to watercolour - particularly the boats one.

Cathy Gatland said...

Sometimes those 'tough love' approaches do us the most favours - I think your professor would be proud!

Lindsay said...

Ronell, no one does "loose" like you. I love this post and espeically all the tools. How simple and elegant! You inspire me to do the same.

I was also thinking how refreshing it is to see such low tech fun.

Patricia said...

The watercolor with the boats is gorgeous but my real praise goes to you for the ink drawings!!!! You have inspired me and I will in turn hopefully inspire my drawing students.

Jeanette said...

These were worth waiting for. Your touch and ability to make water look as it should has just been simmering under the surface.

The earthy tools and looseness are something that we all should adopt from time to time to remind us how to react to just lines and shapes instead of getting bogged down in detail.

Sometimes what seem to be harsh words sink deeper and do good even if they can feel soul destroying when they are spoken.

Africantapestry and Myfrenchkitchen said...

thanks for the support everyone!
ronell

Carole said...

Oh, Ronell, you CAN draw! Like anything else you have to warm up first. If I've not been on my bike for 2 months, I am shaky and breathless just going down the road - but after a couple of rides, I'm back in the saddle. The same with drawing for me - if I've not drawn for a while, I do the most clumsy, embarassing drawings until I get my eye back in again. And yours are far from clumsy - they are gorgeous! I love your ink drawings. Whilst I disapprove of anyone saying you can't draw - ever - your tutor did give some great advice about using basic and found materials and doing LOTS. And it does pay off, as you've generously shown us all.

Maureen Nathan said...

Inspiring, thank you. I like the ink drawings very much. sometimes our brains get in the way of our making and this is a great exercise in leaving it behind.

A Brush with Color said...

Oh, Ronell, I didn't have time yesterday to "come over here," but I came back and I'm so glad I did--how fabulous! Your work is brilliant, but I really loved your description of your thought process and recollections of your past lessons. Thanks for sharing that! I so enjoyed it.

africantapestry said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Carole, Maureen and Sue, very much appreciated!
Ronell

annie said...

Oh, Ronell, what a post, so rich with things to look at and think about. I really learn when an artist shares the process she has gone through. We can all sympathize with those times when the creative juices seem frozen, and your "found objects" really found a breakthrough--I love those inky little gems, like sumi-e. And I agree with Katherine and all, I do like the boats watercolor.
annie

vivien said...

these are really LOVELY!

Your professor wouldn't say that of you now :>)

I have a tutor who echoes in my head in the same way :>) when going through a bad patch on the degree and being very nervous of him (he was very acid and didn't suffer fools gladly) I was was overworking the paint

Each time he walked by he said 'put it down (the paint) and leave it ALONE'

round the class .... back to me .... and he's say it again and again!

It worked :>) just like your professor did for you

Joanne said...

Love your ink drawings with the sticks and other tool from nature. What a great way to learn to see, draw and help develop creativity. Thanks for the post.
http://journeysinart.blogspot.com/

Rita said...

Ronell, I've missed you at My French Kitchen, but caught up with you on Watermarks. It is tue what they say that we are our harshest critics.Please don't be so harsh on yourself. I just loved your drawings with ink and raw materias, I found them so creative, theraputic and inspirational. Rita

africantapestry said...

thanks annie,viviene, joanne and rita!
ronell

Gesa said...

These ink sketches are fantastic - I very much agree with others: what a useful approach to get back to basics and see what it brings to the surface. They are sparse but also so dynamic. As much as you admire my pastel drawings, I am inspired by your watercolour ones - something I cannot figure out, but admire all those who put it to such great use; it's a soft, subtle and yet so dynamic energy they give off.

Laureline said...

As far as I can tell, for a certain type of artist (of which I am one and I think you are, too), it's always a process of learning, losing the way for a time, relearning, picking up new materials, re- finding old ones, circling back to old themes and concerns, recalibrating, rethinking, refocusing. It's a lifetime thing. Or so I think. I try to be accepting of the process, as dispiriting as it sometimes seems.
These are lovely drawings.

Bill Fulton said...

Ronell, thanks for sharing your creative process with us. Art doesn;t come out in an even stream, but we go backward and forward and through all kinds of loops and spins. So glad to see your drawings!

muddy red shoes said...

mean tutor but it worked, you certainly can draw now...love the sketches, both the watercolour ones at the top and the ink ones.