I always used to hammer it into students that a sketch book was their personal idea library. Not a scrapbook, as so many lecturers allowed them instead, but a place in which you record manually your response to external stimuli, through using eyes and some form of record keeping. For my generation initially the only affordable method was drawing or working from observation onto paper. Nowadays we are blessed with cheap recorders in the form of digital cameras. Why not a scrapbook? Primarily because it collects images chosen by others. You don’t form your own visual library but absorb and regurgitate the aesthetic of others.
A camera is a poor second to drawing, but when it is as cold as it has been recently, or as wet and stormy then being like an impressionist and trying to work away outside, using pencils or pastels is coming close to martyrdom. I don’t do martyrdom, although if you listen to Barry, our local Coastguard castigating photographers who get too close to the waves in taking their photographs, you might think otherwise.
Using a long lens enables me to look closely into the waves, and many of the spectacular shots seen recently in the press appearing to show people at risk have actually been taken with 300 or 400mm lenses which compress space to create the illusion that people are much closer to the waves than they really are. A dangerous technique this, not for the photographer but because it creates the impression for naive youngsters in particular, that it is safe to get close to tons of unpredictable, freezing cold seawater.
With images on a screen in the studio, warm and dry, it is possible to work up impressionistic images without needing to freeze appendages trying to respond to fleeting events in situ. At the moment I am using the photographs as memories, not working directly from them but using a mental image to create a series of memory impression images, but I think the projector and laptop are the next step in developing this working method.
This week has been sparse in the studio as meetings and outings have interfered with the routine. The drawings done last week have fed into a canvas, and I am annoyed with myself because my experimentation has in part failed because I did not heed lessons of the past. I have tried mixing oil and acrylic and not achieved the standards I wanted because of some simple mistakes like using the wrong kind of masking tape.
I learned long ago that only Sellotape brand makes the right connection on primed canvas – neither leaving a sticky residue, nor pulling off any paint, but effectively blocking bleeds all the same. The tape I used here failed to do this, allowing the turps to leech over the acrylic giving a less than perfect finish. Now I have to find a local supplier, as most go for cheaper alternatives.
After agonising over it for some time I decided not to try to correct this but rather to press on with another painting. So more of the ritual drawings, maybe another canvas, maybe all moving towards a larger, more formal picture looking at composition and scale.
Heyho, onwards and upwards. I wonder where all the shingle went from Seaford beach, anyway?