Tag Archives: abstract

Sketchbook: More abstract pastels

After my creative spurt last week I had a few days of feeling terrified I wouldn’t be able to do that again. Then on Saturday morning in that space between being awake and asleep I started to see – or rather feel – two colours, a kind of orange and purple, and had a strong feeling regarding some shapes and how I could represent on paper the feeling of how safe my husband makes me feel.

I got up and drew the picture below. Again using the A3 Bockingford watercolour paper my dad gave me and the Unison pastels my husband treated me to. I started with the sweeping shape, which to my mind partly was representing a curved spine, then worked the colours around it to represent emotions; the darker colours to the top right my uncertainty and fear, the warmer colours in the foreground the warmth of love and feeling safe.

At this point I paused because it felt like something was missing. I had deliberately created a sense of drawing the eye to the point above the base of the curve as that to me was an important point of intersection, between love and fear. I decided to add the orange dot as the focal point for this juncture for reasons I can’t really explain.

This drawing is not a landscape in the physical sense, although it looks like one. It continues on from my other pastel drawings which are about emotional landscapes, our interior spaces and what inhabits them. I am in love with the result at a very personal level because this very strongly feels ‘me’ and I have conveyed not only what I saw in my head but the incredible depth of emotion I wanted to get ‘out’ and onto paper. I asked my husband what he thought it was about and he said a journey. I suppose it is as our relationship is a journey and his presence is creating new emotional vistas.

on your sures

I have not consciously tried to emulate any artist when drawing these last four pastels pictures. This has been about me trying to draw emotions and exploring the funny new technique I’ve developed for applying pastels. Perhaps I find it so enjoyable as I can be freer, I’m less (almost to the point of not being) critical of myself because there is no ‘right’ in non-figurative work that inhabits the world of the emotion. I really enjoy looking into all of the artists my tutor recommends to me, but more often than not if they are not surrealist artists I don’t feel excited – although I do of course appreciate and admire – their work.

My husband commented there was something a bit Turner-esque about my recent pastel drawings. When I went to look at some of Turner’s paintings again I can kind of see what he means as there are shapes that look a little like clouds. I smiled when I came across this painting which I hadn’t seen before by Turner, Vermillion Towers, as the colours are complementary.



Sketchbook: My first serious attempt at abstract art

After experimenting last night, I decided to fill an A3 watercolour page with a wash using a few shades of pastel pigment picked up and applied with cotton wool. I applied the yellow and then a few shades of complementary purples and blue (see second drawing below). I was so pleased with the effect I spent some time staring at it and suddenly felt drawn to return to an idea I had in my first module of drawing a line that represents my relationship with my daughter. Except this time I was reflecting more broadly the nature of ego, identity, the hopes and fears that having children represent and the risk of projecting ourselves onto them or damaging them in some way. My mind then wandered to that first module and experiments with mark marking.

For reasons I do not entirely understand, and without really thinking too much, some ideas formed in my head of feelings I wanted to represent. I  gently used conte carre to create two lines, and then a gentle line flowing away from then. I went over what I see to represent two figures with water to darken the line. Finally I developed the cotton wool technique further and added the hot orange in the bottom right. I found this to be a deeply meaningful experience and was thrilled with the results as a representation of the mind, of hopes, fears, love, damage and everything that goes with familial relationships and the raising of children.

I wanted to continue the story so then moved onto the next drawing (see first drawing below). For me this needed to represent a stage before what I had just drawn, so I chose to separate the two figures with the warm orange to represent a divide, a thought, a hope, and the second figure bending away from that expectation and pressure.

By now I felt very absorbed and wanted to do the final stage in this to represent joy but also fear as a fragile being moves into the world and begins to find their own way – a child perhaps. I was certainly thinking of my daughter when I worked on this. I decided to reverse the colours as this is her own story, and have organic forms moving into a brighter sunset yellow to represent a dawn for her but a sunset for the parent – loss but in a positive way. Finally after pausing I added the final line in conte carre to represent the figure.

If I were to be harsh I’d say this is unlikely to score my points in high art. Who am I but a beginner using hackneyed colours to represent certain emotions with a crude technique. But if I put ego and what the external world values commercially or technically to one side and speak for me personally, then this is probably one of the most moving experiences I have had. When I laid the three drawings alongside I could see the story I wanted to convey,  I actually loved the result, and I feel there is more in this series I wanted to do to continue exploring the ideas I am thinking about at the moment.

I didn’t tell my husband what these drawings are about but asked him what he thought. He is aware I am reading about and thinking about these issues at the moment so perhaps was biased but he said he could see it was about relationships and in particular parenthood. I am going to ask a few friends who don’t know what I’m thinking about at the moment what they think this is about to see how they respond out of curiosity.

This was a strange mix of emotions – I would be interested to know if my tutor thinks this is normal – I felt very at peace afterwards but also very energised. This work suddenly means a lot to me and contains themes which I think I could spend a life time exploring, and with a technique and medium I really love. I wonder if it scales, so my next thought is to look at how I might work in larger format. This is something my tutor has encouraged and I haven’t felt strongly enough about any idea or confident enough with any media to try it yet but I feel driven to do this now.

When I got up this morning I could see even more things in the drawings that I hadn’t seen before. The figures are almost like needles and thread, like the patchwork of our lives that we weave. I have decided to title the three ‘Triptych’ because it both describes the fact it is three but the subject matter too:

“Despite its connection to an art format, the term is sometimes used more generally to connote anything with three parts, particularly if they are integrated into a single unit”. (Dictionary definition)

Sketchbook: David Blackburn, abstracting and pastels

Last weekend I was looking at a watercolour I had painted of Venice, and decided to have a go at doing it in an abstract way using the Unison pastels my husband had bought me. I didn’t really have a plan, I just decided to pick some colours I thought were complementary and try to emulate using blocks where I could see different colours, brights and darks. Below is my first pass. I hadn’t used a ruler for the horizon and being left handed I seemed to have inadvertently got the blocks sloping downwards which was frustrating. I need to remember to pause and step back more from my work when I become absorbed in it.

I straightened up the lines a little but decided it was too harsh so began to blend the edges between the blocks a little, as well as adding some rounding on the domes of the building to create more interest.

[insert picture here]

I wasn’t sure where to go next with it so decided to pause and research some more pastel techniques. This was quite nerve wracking as the Unison soft pastels go down so quickly and this was working on A3.

I aspire to create the light and warmth that David Blackburn achieves in drawings like the one below, which glow. If I only had £8,000 to buy it! A guide to pastel techniques has just arrived by post so I will experiment further before returning to my drawing.