Ink and Rain

In my last term of the drawing school, I am resolved to make the most of the classes and battling through four days a week and three evenings a week. Virtually all of these are out and about, for the principal reason that although I am confident with my urban environment, I really struggle to draw skies, water and trees. It has led to me approaching my endeavour much like a rambler. With an over-sized backpack, raincoat to hand, packed lunch, sturdy shoes, folding stool or cushion, and a lot of art kit, I cycle or trek across London and set myself up for a long day’s drawing. An artist’s life is not glamorous. Drawing outside all day is twice as tiring as being in a studio, as much as the elements of wind, rain and sun pass over you again and again, they are invigorating.

Yesterday my class paid a visit to Richmond in the west-London suburbs to draw the river. I set out to try monotyping au plein air, a process I’d tried in the studio once or twice, but wanted to try in the great outdoors. The weather couldn’t make up its mind and when we weren’t being blown away we were being soaked. Not ideal for a new process, I felt like Turner must have being tied to a ship’s mast to experience a storm. My kit threatened to blow into the water, my papers leapt in every gale. I knocked my pots over, smeared ink all over my things,  my hands, arms and face.

But it was fun. This process of monotype involves smearing and painting ink over a smooth surface (I use perspex), wiping away and painting it, pressing damp paper on (I resorted to dipping sheets in the Thames and almost falling in) and rolling over it to print the ink from plate to paper. Each time was an experiment, as I still have no idea how to master the science of ink/oil/white spirit mixtures, paper types and dampness, so there’s a fair amount of pot luck.

I’ve mixed feelings on the results but I’ll be honest about sharing them as I’ve learnt a lot from where things have gone wrong. There’s a rip or two on the third piece, where the paper may have been too dry. And the fourth is patterned with dots that look like snow, caused by bits of plants and seeds blown by the wind and caught in the ink. But it seems a nice way of working directly on site. Some of these or their ‘ghost’ prints (leftover ink makes a faint second copy) I might work on with more ink, or pastels, a la Degas.

Heron near the boat sheds
Under Richmond Bridge

Richmond Bridge

Boats with Twickenham bridge behind

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