Drawing and painting Hawksmoor
These days I’m happy to think I draw consistently well, but I’m still nervous about conveying real feeling into drawings. Simply, I go into automatic mode recording what I see and don’t think about what originally made my pulse race about the subject. Re-visiting drawings in new mediums is proving useful in taking a step back, using the information I have from my detailed drawing method, but also digging into my memory banks to recall abstract feelings about that moment, that setting, that mood. This can be week afterwards, the longer the better really, as it means any instinct to re-create a literal impression is surpassed by imagination. Both the print and painting below were not sketched-out, they are both instances where I have let myself go to new and daunting mediums. It could be argued that the results are more personal responses than the original drawings.
I’ve drawn Christ Church in Spitalfields a few times now and this print is taken from a succesful night drawing I made in January. It was my first attempt at mono-printing this term and (typically) later attempts haven’t been as successful. This method, where only one print is made, involves smearing a lot of ink over a metal plate, wiping it away to reveal lighter areas, and running it against damp paper through a high-pressure roller press. It turned out to be an excellent exercise as, whilst other printing methods make me a bit of control freak, here I let go using rags and fingers on the plate, ending up with more ink on me than the paper. Working in reverse is tricky, but made me focus more on the energy of the building’s spire into the sky, rather than the accuracy of the angles. My own finger prints can be found in the inky streaks, so in a way I feel I don’t need to sign it. I love the original, but I love the print too, it feels more expressive and says something else that I feel about the church.
Here’s a drawing of my local Hawksmoor gem, St George’s in the East, Wapping. Drawn early in the morning whilst squatting on the ground, I tried out charcoal as a messy challenge, which was at odds with the clear and precise angles of the stone. Returning to the drawing a month or so later, my imagination was quickly mutinous, recalling the last of winter’s distinct light bathing the church in warmth against a cold sky. The voice in my head instructed that it wanted to be painted, and before I knew it the colours took over and I was putting raw oils onto the canvas, mixing them directly on the surface. It’s yet to finished hence the trees look scraggy, but already it’s left me with a good feeling about where I could go from here with my work.
Oil Painting, begun April
Oddly, I’ve only just recently read Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor novel after doing these pieces. It blew me away, and struck so many chords with my own perceptions of the city I live in and the ghosts of the pass I sometimes feel at my shoulder as I draw. I can’t help but feel his lines ‘…for when there was a shape there was a reflection, and when there was a light there was a shadow, and when there was a sound there was an echo, and who could say where one had ended and the other had begun.’ surmise a reading of Hawksmoor’s buildings not too different to what I’ve been trying to explore myself.
p.s. A quick greeting to new readers who’ve found me from Spitalfields Life. It was a real treat to stroll the streets with the Gentle Author, and then spend a day in the sun drawing and listening to various jazz songs on the ipod, toe-tapping and oblivious to looks from nosy passers-by. I look forward to more discoveries.