Remember those carrot tops I was drawing on 6 June? Well, here they are now! They grew root-like tendrils from the eyes on the stumps, so I planted them in a pot the other day and they are now 23cm tall. I'm not sure what the two triffidy bits at the top are going to be, in my dreams they'll produce gorgeous big umbels like the ones below!
This is a sketchbook work from 2015 which I have been increasingly drawn to recently. I don't really know why, I think it just encompasses some of the ideas I have been putting together in my head for The Architect's Garden series (my Dad designed yachts and other marine vessels as well as buildings).
In my mind, this drawing has titled itself The Black Pearl (from the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' films). Today that galleon seems to sum up my feelings: menacing, dishevelled, yet with battered sails still flying bravely and defiantly in the black-hearted winds of change. If Covid19 hasn't decimated my close friends and family, cancer has.
RIP Robin John Walker, beloved brother, 13 July 1962 - 20 June 2021.
... to all our American friends!
I took this photo 4 years ago at the Edinburgh Christmas market and something about it makes me think of fireworks and celebrations, so very appropriate for today. Only 4 years ago, though. So many unbelievable events have happened since then, it feels more like 10 years ago.
I really got into 1930s book endpapers a couple of weeks ago. I made a few with the risograph textures I had been using for my Binky McKee patterns (above) and couldn't resist experimenting with a cut-out element from my recent drawing In No Way Pure. The result is pictured below, I had to do it by hand as I couldn't work out how to make a mechanical repeat tile (too much maths involved) but, hmm interesting!
Shortly after drawing last week's sprouting carrot tops, I drew a the core of a bell pepper. Its flesh had been cut away for a salad leaving the arched pyramid form with its bustle of seeds inside, rather like a deconstructed buttressed church sheltering a congregation. Or a big ghastly alien throat, if you prefer. It hung around in my work room and began involving itself in a most interesting process - I wouldn't say it was decomposing, because nothing went mouldy (wrong PH for mould, perhaps, a bit like sourdough culture?) - the fleshy parts just began to disappear leaving the seedball intact, I suppose by dehydration. I drew it again collapsing upon itself, pictured below.
I didn't throw it away after drawing it, I seldom do throw away these things, hence my collection of gross objects which will freak anybody out when I die and they come to empty my room. But look what it has become now. The photos below show what's left; it's the size of a conker now, and the small remaining part of the base of the pepper (right pic) has become a pretty flower. From a big, proud, glossy green fruit my bell pepper has gone to this - fascinating, as Spock would say. It actually feels nice to handle.
Oh well, I suppose it happens to us all in time! I will get around to drawing its remains soon which will clarify what I see, something photos cannot do. And I may even experiment with growing the seeds.
Growing carrot tops in a saucer of water on the windowsill.
With everything in the world blooming, growing, seeding and dying back all at once there is so much all around to draw. I'm not sure how it works, but drawing from life especially in the summer when there is so much cyclical life of plants on display feeds into the larger drawings, where my studies become the things, or the subject matter, of the larger works.
I really enjoy drawing from life, and don't use photography to draw from if at all possible. I do use photos as a reference for my Binky McKee pattern making because the work is highly stylised and there is no need to understand spacial positions. My larger ink drawings may not appear to require spacial information, but I definitely do need it in order to get to grips with an organism and how it works. (More here on how I use photos for my Binky work).
Here is a little collection I made over the last week of things I want to draw:
A perfect haul of treasures and lots of drawing to do!
A run of beautiful weather at the end of the week meant outdoor jobs. Laundry got out drying on the line, and B started work on building a new concrete step, and, of course, tending the garden originally created by my parents - my architect father who built and maintained the structure of the garden, and my creative, educator mother who planned and planted and weeded and nurtured it. I can sit and stare at plants for hours, working out how they grow and develop and start their cycle all over again. B and I did a lot of weeding and separating plants which had grown up through their neighbours and in the process I always find mysterious weird things, some are pictured above, which I am sure inform my drawings unconsciously.
I also potted up some cuttings and repotted some house plants including a cactus I had given my mum in 2006. It was so tiny and perfect in its lava-like form I think she believed it to be a decorative ornament because she never watered it, although she had green fingers and was a gifted gardener. Consequently the plant seemed to remain dormant and didn't put on any new growth in eleven years. I began to water it regularly about 4 years ago and I was astonished by how it took off, and now it has quadrupled in size. After all those years of neglect followed by sudden vigorous growth I thought it was probably time to pot it on, and oh boy did it need it! Its tap root was like a parsnip, massively strong, and all the roots had grown through the plastic pot holes and transformed into a sponge-like, flat mass. I cut the old pot away and trimmed up the roots except for the parsnip, which had thrust itself through a drainage hole and grown all around it in a big bulge. All I could do was snip into the collar of plastic to loosen it and hope the plant will push it off in time. I didn't think to take a photo but I'm sure somehow it will find a way into my work, it was kind of scary-horror.
Last Wednesday I completed the first drawing for 'The Architect's Garden' series. I hit upon the title In No Way Pure by accident; I overheard the words "no way pure" listening to something while I was working on the very last segment of the drawing. I just knew it was the perfect title, with a nod to Le Corbusier and Purist architecture, at the same time as referencing the promiscuous spawning activity of the organisms in the drawing. I hastily scribbled a note at the time, but omitted to note the source.
The phrase may have come from Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes (Arena) on BBC iPlayer, but I'll have to watch that again to find out if that is so. I have no problems with watching it again as I have a Delia Derbyshire obsession. It could also possibly have come from Sisters With Transistors produced by Anna Lena Films. B and I purchased a ticket to watch the film on virtual cinema, but I feel that was too long ago (12 May) for the stage the drawing had reached by the time I heard the phrase. That's an amazing film, by the way, documenting the seriously cool women who pioneered electronic digital music. Even if you're not a fan of the musical genre, the trailer alone is worth a watch. I made screeds of notes in the dark while watching it which are pretty much illegible, but no mention of "no way pure" amongst them. If you are reading this off in the future (ooh, time travel - play that Dr Who theme again!) the links will most likely have expired, apologies for that.
Anyhow, I digress; as soon as I finished the drawing I began trying out some papers from the sample pack of Awagami Factory papers I received on 17 April. I have been itching to try them out, but wouldn't allow myself the pleasure until I finished the drawing, I just kept gloating over them until now. I used my main mark-making techniques on both sides of the sheets, pictured below are my two favourites. The labelled sides are the 'reverse' side with the 'right side' beneath; on the left is Kozo Natural Select 46gsm which is a lovely soft natural white, and on the right is Kitakata SH-16 36gsm, which has a most pleasant buff colour.
Just one small section to go now! I'm not even going to think about messing it up at this stage.
I'm not going to complain about free websites but Weebly logged me out while writing this post and everything I had written was lost, not even saved as a draft, and I don't have time to rewrite. Crapola. Lesson to self: write content in a different app, then copy and paste. Grr.
It was a slow week as far as work went. The weather turned horribly cold - and it was my birthday yesterday! That turned out to be a very busy day, and for a couple of days before that I did a lot of housework, laundry and ironing (bed sheets, not the drawing this time, although it does need it). I also began the week pattern-making a new design, see my Binky McKee blog for that if you fancy a look.
Apologies for the awful lighting, that's a Scottish spring evening for you, for the weather took a turn for the better today meaning it's warmer, thank goodness, but big black clouds on one side of the sky and brilliant sunshine on the other. Really hard to get even lighting under the circumstances.
I got in a good few hours' drawing today so here is the top section of the work gradually creeping across. I'll post a progress pic of the whole sheet when the light improves enough to get a good photo, at the moment when I try the top half looks creamy and the bottom half is burnt out with bright light.
It feels as though the drawing is coming along in steps, which brings me to - the film The Thirty-Nine Steps. I have seen both versions half a dozen times each, but I have never read the book by John Buchan. However, I've been listening to an excellent reading of it on BBC Sounds in the audiobook section while working on this, what a ripping yarn! - but I would swear half of it isn't even in the films, in fact I don't know where the story line for the film came from. So far I haven't found any mention of wet stockings, sex interest, or the bridge in Killin (close to where I used to live) at all, yet the tale has us already returned from Scotland to London.
I continued with a bit of sketchbook work at the beginning of the week, following on from the experimental drawing I posted last weekend, trying a few different approaches to the brick drawings. You'll see the book is increasingly held together with tape because it's much easier to remove the page to work this kind of drawing; I need to keep turning the paper around without the book getting in the way and I get a better wrist position with the paper flat on the drawing board.
It suggested the mosaic approach was good for this drawing, above is a small section I worked after the sketchbook drawings. I'm still very interested in a 3D approach for another drawing, perhaps with triffids growing out from it. Below shows the progress across the whole sheet to date, it's feeling very exciting.
I began adding brick structures to the drawing this week, using my Dad's old curve templates to reinforce the The Architect's Garden theme. I began by making mosaics of the brick and tile shapes which fit inside the curve shapes behind the floating organisms.
I began one quick experiment in my sketchbook, playing with making a solid brick structure from the curves. The first one here is a bit dodgy, and the yellowish smudge on the left is a bit of dinner - gross, I know, and professional to the end! (That would never happen to one of the actual drawings). I'm a bit out of practice since the 'Empty Spaces' brick drawings of early 2014, I haven't made any brick drawings since; but The Architect's Garden work has renewed a purpose for them combined with all the templates diary work I did last year, so it's perhaps time to brush up on my technique.
I haven't yet decided how illusionistic I want the bricks to be for the current work, only that I don't want it to be 'clever' as in Escher's wonderful works; so there will be a bit more sketchbook work (sans dinner, hopefully) until I make up my mind. The decorative, flat mosaic style may be more appropriate for the drawing I'm working at the moment, but I may do something different in the next one.
Below: Empty Spaces 3 2014, and a detail of the drawing. I did a lot of bricks back then! I forget the exact dimensions now (the original is stored in the loft) but it's somewhere in the region of 60x80cm. The materials are still pretty much the same as I use today; mapping pens and rotring technical pen on Japanese tissue.
A new drawing underway this week, progress shots above. I am using replacement tissue paper for the old Kozu Shi I used in the past for my large drawings. No longer in production, I used my very last piece of it a few weeks ago, and had already experimented and tried a few others before settling on this one. I'm currently drawing this new work on a half sheet of Imitation Japanese (approx. 50x38cm) which is very nice, but takes the ink in a slightly different way from the old Kozu Shi; wherever the pen pauses, a small blot forms especially if the pen is new and full. It's nice and characterful and I definitely enjoy using it for simple linear work and monotypes, but ideally I would like to find a closer match for Kozu Shi for the kind of work pictured above.
Then somebody asked me on Instagram if I was using gampi. For all my obsession with Japanese papers, amazingly I hadn't heard of gampi before - research required! I ended up on a fascinating journey and learned so much on the way, understanding so much more about why my papers behave the way they do, and decided to give some gampi papers a go.
My first port of call is always Jackson's in London, who have a wonderful selection of different papers, and where I always bought my Kozu Shi (in fact, they were marvellous when I discovered production had ceased and rang them up and hunted out every last sheet they had left for me, which lasted several years as I 'saved it for best'). It was time to place a new order with Jackson's for some more Fabriano Rosaspina which I use for Binky paintings anyway, so I looked for gampi and found they do lots! I bought a sample pack of Awagami papers which arrived yesterday, the papers are so gorgeous I was drooling over them all, the presentation of the pack is simply beautiful with lots of information about each paper and I definitely found two or three which I will try.
Above is a detail of the small preparatory drawing I made in 2015 for Before There Were Saturdays. I have it hanging in a frame in my workroom and recently the more I look at the top section pictured here, the more I want to apply this way of drawing to the Architect's Garden ideas. I'm not sure why, but I'm thinking a lot again about the zoological engravings of Ernst Haeckel; perhaps because of their symmetry and structure, which suggest a certain kind of architecture.
As well as the architectural interest I am curious to start using the whippy, scribbly shapes pictured above on the left, which were experiments in a sketchbook of 2015.
I think there is another reason for the urge to get onto work like this again: I have been very busy starting a new set of very painterly small floral Binky McKee work with monsters and funny dogs (on those papers I was preparing the other day) which I am loving to bits, but as a balance to all the joy and figuration libre my patient side feels inclined to start something altogether slower and more rational - that's the beauty of being two artists instead of just one, you get to do the best of everything. It's restful and refreshing to change things about, and seems to benefit both disciplines.
As well as the work you see here, I illustrate under the name of Binky McKee (my mother's maiden name was McKee, Binky was every single one of my great grandmother's many cats!)
If you would like to visit my Binky website, please click the picture above.
(Sorry the archives don't nest!)
A 2013 work book, still very much in use
Please note all images on this website are ©Heather Eliza Walker 2013 - 2020, and may not be used or reproduced without prior consent.