Tag Archives: david blackburn

David Blackburn and negative space

I have been very interested in David Blackburn’s work since my tutor introduced me to him, so I was delighted to find the drawing by him below which works almost in negative form like some of the Alexandra Blum drawings I have been looking at. It looks incredibly difficult to achieve and something that requires real forward planning, but it creates a very atmospheric feel and is something I may try, particularly as charcoal is so forgiving.

(Woodland Scene, Bairnsdale) Trees 1965. Charcoal, signed and dated lower right, 28.5 x 38.5 cm

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.


Artist review – David Blackburn

Following my tutor’s recommendation in my assignment one feedback I have been looking into David Blackburn’s work and technique. I found this documentary including interviews with him and footage of his pastel technique.

I was pleased to see him using Unison pastels as I bought two recently to experiment with but have not yet tried them. I would like to try how David masks his work, beginning strokes with the pastel on the masking paper and across onto the piece he is working on. This provides interesting blending but also introduces an element of surprise into his work. I am particularly drawn to the way he gets the colours to sing so vibrantly. I love the magic of the northern lights, and his colours and blending has this ethereal quality. I suspect this is lots and lots of layering.

He talks about transformation and the beauty of the landscape. His work also shifts you from small to large, the way something could be a leaf or a horizon. He clearly loves his local moors. This has given me some thoughts about how I might reflect my Essex surroundings. Essex has such a bad reputation and it would be nice to show the parts people miss in their stereotyping of Essex girls and suburban sprawl. There are many beautiful little areas, not to the scale of the moors but lovely nonetheless.

David also produces several pieces and then arranges them into a larger piece of work. Again this is not something I’ve seen done with pastel before. I’m really looking forward to trying this out. I’ve also discovered Chardin and Levy-Durmer from this OCA post on pastels. There’s also some interesting techniques described in this OCA post New ways with pastels.

Addendum: 07/03/2017

In my sketchbook submission for this assignment is an A4 page of blocky pastel colour. I followed David Blackburn’s method which you see a little of the in the video I mentioned above to see if I could replicate his effect. It’s fair to say – after trying different things such as blending with my fingers, a brush, a stump, applying a sweep of one colour over another running it across a piece of paper on top of the drawing and then onto the drawing – I ended up with a muddy mess. This was with Unison pastels too which he uses. How he blends his colours so effectively and conveys such luminance is still beyond me. I have a lot of exploring to do yet!