I made a book for a young friend. It describes one of our recent adventures: a circular run we completed together, before lockdown. Here are some of the pages:
Here is the book under construction. The binding was made from the stiff cardboard from the back of drawing pads, strengthened at the spine with scrim, and covered in brown paper. In the absence of a bookbinding press I used two 12kg weights, and the breadboard. There were 32 useable sides (16 leaves), 4 signatures of 2 sheets and 1 signature of 1 sheet. The paper is Khadi smooth watercolour paper.
What is inktober? It’s a drawing challenge. There are prompts each day in October. The challenge I set myself is to do a drawing for each prompt, in ink, square. You can see the prompts here and on Inktober.com Why do I do it? It’s different from my “normal” work. My urban sketches and other art generally take several hours, and are from life (non-fiction). I do the inktober drawings quickly, in less than half an hour normally, and from imagination (fiction). Inktober jolts me into other worlds. It’s also a challenge, and enjoyable. I also like to see what other people draw, from the same prompt. The drawings are posted on instagram with the tag #inktober2020.
I did it last year for the first time. It surprises me that I can do it.
Yesterday I participated in another online life drawing session with London Drawing. The model was Andrea: @andrea.morani_lifemodel on Instagram. Andrea was in his studio in Italy. The 200 or so people drawing him were distributed across the world.
Here are some monoprint sketches of Laetitia, a ballerina with the Opera de Paris. This was a life drawing session , 9th May 2020, organised by @londondrawing. 200 people took part, from all over the world.
London Drawing (@LondonDrawing) organised another online life drawing session, this time with the model David Wan (@DavidWanLondon).
These pictures are monoprints, made by drawing or pressing on the paper which is placed on top of an inky sheet. What you see is the reverse of the sketch. The places where I pressed took up the ink. It’s like drawing or pressing on top of carbon paper, if you remember carbon paper. I like the technique because I can’t see what I’m drawing, so the lines tend to be more free, and I worry less about “getting it right”. The dark patches are made by pressing in the paper with fingers or an object, so it’s possible to get very dark tones quickly, which I like. It’s also a bit unpredictable, at least for a beginner like me, I have, so that the picture is a bit of a surprise. It helps that the picture is a mirror image, so when it appears, it’s different from what I drew.
If you’d like to see examples of a master of this technique, see the website or instagram account of John Carbery, @johncarbery.
“London Drawing” run Life Drawing sessions in libraries and various other locations in London. Right now, they can’t. So in an imaginative and entrepreneurial move, they are running life drawing session online. Yesterday I mastered the technology and had a go.
Here’s the result. The model is Adrian (@modbodadrian).
How is drawing a life model online different from just copying a photo?
Well, there’s the time factor. The model can only hold the pose for a limited time, and so I have to draw quickly. The shortest pose was 2 minutes and the longest about 20 mins.
Then there’s the fact that the model is making an effort: he’s there and he’s doing his best to create a striking pose and keep still. So I want to honour his effort and do my best also. That creates a useful dynamic to concentrate.
And there’s the fact that each of these pictures records a moment in time: the person was there, in their space, and the rest of us were dispersed about the country (and some in the USA!) all drawing the same model at the same time. So this is my record of the event.
It was a good experience and I am grateful to London Drawing for organising this and to the model for his good humour, experience and professionalism.
The session was conducted over “Zoom”, with about 20 people drawing, and two online organisers and the model.
Here is a postcard collage I sent to my friends in another city.
It is inspired by the website: sendmeapostcart.com, and shows the connections we make, the lines which bind us, the distances which separate us, and the pleasure I found in meeting this family again after many years.
Here is a corner of St Eustache, near Les Halles in central Paris.
St Eustache was built between 1532 and 1632. I drew it standing in the pedestrian area near Les Halles, as people flowed by. I enjoyed the fact that there were huge chimneys on the church, shown high up on the left edge of the picture.
The sky was overcast. It was a Monday. A group of lively young people were hanging about, calling to each other.
This pedestrian area was one of those liminal zones: between public and private, not quite a pavement, not quite a plaza, partly a thoroughfare, partly a resting zone. As a result, the social rules were ambiguous. People were hanging around, people were passing through. Evidently there have been incidents. A large poster said: “City of Paris, Meeting Point, Public Calm. The operatives of the City of Paris in charge of Public Calm welcome your feedback and comments between 6pm and 6:30pm, Monday to Friday. To report an incident (“incivilité”) call 3975 or go to Paris.fr/incivilité”.
I was intrigued by the idea of City operatives charged with “public calm” (“tranquillité publique”), and wonder how and whether it works.
Here’s another sketch in the same area. This the “Bourse de Commerce”, the Commodities Exchange. It’s now the former Commodities Exchange, with massive building work going on to convert it into a contemporary art space. The architect for the conversion is Tadao Ando.
This was a sketch as I was waiting for the swimming pool to open.
I did some people-sketching in a café and in waiting areas on the trip. I am on a mission to get more people into my drawings, so I practice.
I walked across to the Left Bank, searching for “Maison Charbonnel”, the home of the maker of the etching ink that I favour. The place was there, on the Quai Montebello, just across the river from Notre Dame. However, because of the Métro strikes, or because of the weather or for some other reason or no reason atall, the shop was closed “until the 3rd of February”.
I drew a picture of Notre Dame.
This took about one hour 35 minutes. The temperature was 7 degrees C.
Then I took sanctuary in a marvellous art shop I found: “Magasin Sennelier”, 3 Quai Voltaire. I was served by a gentleman who might have been there since the 1950s. He was pleased to tell me he knew L. Cornelissen & Son of London, and Green and Stone, and he knew Mr Rowney, of Daler Rowney paints, personally. Or had done. Sennelier paints were superior, I was authoritatively, if not entirely objectively, informed.
In the South I made a pen sketch of a vast canyon:
And here’s a quick sketch in the library, before dinner:
Here is the marvellous Turks Head Café, Wapping, rescued from demolition by local residents in the 1980s.
Inside, I found warmth, quiet tables, and the gentle murmur of conversations: people actually talking to each other. I felt welcome here. The food was marvellous. Next time I’m going to have the Blueberry Tart. I only noticed it after I’d already had the substantial Chicken and Avocado Sandwich.
I went to pay my bill. When I returned to my table, there was a little group of people admiring the sketch (above). I chatted to a man called Mark, who, it turns out, runs the website “lovewapping.org“. We exchanged anecdotes about the representation or otherwise of residents’ views on local councils. His group grapples with Tower Hamlets Council.
Then I went outside to draw the café.
The tower in the background is St Johns Tower. The tower is “all that remains of the parish church of St Johns circa 1756 … the surrounding ground was rebuilt as flats in the 1990s to an attractive design reflecting the previous building on the site” says the Knight Frank website (an estate agent).
This drawing took 1hour 15 mins, done from the pavement by a huge brick wall. The colours are Perinone Orange, Phthalo Turquoise, Mars Yellow and Hansa Yellow Mid. As you see, the front of the cafe faces West, and caught the setting sun.