Thursday, 28 May 2015

The adventure continues

You can just see the green boat in the distance where I sat for this drawing
I walked past the wall of graffiti for this sketch and set my stool up near the green boat you can see in the distance. I settled on a view of a boat with lots of interesting stuff stored on the roof that was in front of a warehouse that, in turn, had horizontal and verticals lines on the siding which also took my fancy.

Lunch break
I had barely got started on this task when a nice man engaged me in conversation and we spent quite a long time setting the world to rights. Then I found out he lived on the very boat that was the subject of my drawing. He clearly has a penchant for push bikes because in addition to the ones I could see stored on the roof of the boat he had another one he used when he cycled off on some errand after we had finished our conversation.

As I was wrestling with all the competing stuff on the roof another man stopped by to say hello. We had chatted a few days before and he told me that he's a mechanic and the dog he was walking belongs to his boss. This poor mutt spends his days stuck in the machine shop and only gets to go out when his owner's employee takes him out during his lunch hour so the dog was understandably quite excitable. Earlier on another passer-by showed an interest in my drawing but I didn't have much to show him at that point. I feel I am becoming part of the canal landscape now I'm beginning to get to know people while I am at the same time also responding to it which makes me feel slightly uneasy but I expect I'll get used to it.

Here's the finished drawing leaning against the tree trunk in the foreground

Monday, 25 May 2015

The view from Wansbeck Road

The scene behind me with the A12 in the distance
I've walked along Wansbeck Road quite a lot recently to and from Hackney Wick station and I keep seeing a view of the canal I wanted to record on paper. The weather has been very variable lately but late last Monday afternoon the sun came out and I decided if I wanted to get any drawing done that day it was now or never. So I walked up to Wansbeck Road where it crosses the Hertford Union Canal and set up my pad of paper and used the railings to lean on.

While it was very sunny it was also remarkably windy. My trolley blew away from me at least once. My eyes were watering so much I couldn't see what I was doing but I was determined to complete this drawing in charcoal and here it is for you to see photographed lying on the pavement before it had the chance to blow away.

There were two boats travelling through the lock gates while I was working on this

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Gates at lower lock

The girl on this boat told me how much she just loved all the graffiti on the wall behind me
I settled on the gates of the lower lock as my subject today and I spent quite a lot of
time eating my lunch and watching the world go by before I put pen to paper. I was sitting right in front of a wall covered from top to bottom in what I think is really uninteresting graffiti. As far as I can see its only redeeming feature is that
it is very colourful and it is always being repainted. I seem to be very much in the minority here. I was interested to see how many passers-by made a point of photographing sections of this colourful mess or having their photo taken in front of it - it is clearly a tourist attraction and all I was doing was getting in their way.

There was quite a lot of boating traffic too, going up and down the canal which I found much more riveting. The boat above moored up and waited patiently while a Thames barge came through the lock. I observed the whole process for long enough to see how slowly the lock filled with water once the sluice gates had been opened and how this determined the pace at which canal life proceeds. I was also struck by the physical effort the boating crews have to exert to open and close the gates and how many single people work the locks on their own which must be quite an art.

I used pen and a wash of Indian ink for this sketch

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Paving and mud

My view from where I was sitting looking towards the middle lock
When I was a little girl I used to like playing in the back garden making what I called mud pies. I would take soil from a flower bed, dump it into a tin washing-up bowl, tip loads of water on it and then mix it up into a lovely mess. When I finished that I would pour it all over my Dad's crazy paving patio that he had painstakingly created from a job-lot of broken paving stones that had been delivered by the council. To be honest it was more like gravy than pie.

My interest in mud survives to this day and this became the focus of this drawing. The mud won out over three other possible contenders which were: the foliage near the middle lock, two narrow boats next to each other and the lock gates of the bottom lock. The day I drew this we had sun all day: it was glorious and so it meant I had to be content to study dry mud as all the puddles had dried up.

I chose to sit near to my friend the disembodied head for this drawing. To digress for a moment body parts are not unknown in the canals around London. A few years ago a man murdered his sister not far from where we live and distributed parts of her body around the canal system and they were turning up for months and only last week the body of a woman was found in the Grand Union canal in a suitcase. I can't imagine why murderers think that disposing of their handiwork in a canal is a good idea.

From where I was sitting I could see this interesting structure. It appears to be a raft with tarpaulins stretched over it. I was sitting there long enough to notice that there was smoke coming out of the little chimney on the top and it made me wonder who was in there and what they were doing there – maybe it is someone's home?

When I finally settled down to observing the mud and paving stones I realised I enjoyed looking at the contrast between the lines on the paving stones and the random arrangement of the twigs, dried leaves, stones and the lumps and bumps of the mud so this drawing is a response to that. I tried to describe some of the patterns in the mud by applying Indian ink through the sort of mesh bag that you get vegetables in from the supermarket. It worked well when I tried it out at home on paper with a different surface to this one. It worked less well on this occasion 'out in the field'.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The middle lock

The Hertford Union Canal only has three locks and this is the one in the middle
I completed this drawing in one session and it took two hours. I'm now able to work for longer than I was at the start of this project where I was only able to concentrate for about 40 minutes but then I had chosen a very intricate composition for my first drawing. I've decided that having a flask of tea handy makes the difference between pressing on and giving up.

The more I studied this view the more variations I could see in the surface of the bridge. At first glance it just looks like a creamy coloured structure but then you start to see the bumps and inconsistencies and the shadows. I think it has weathered very well considering it was built in around 1830. It's covered in graffiti these days but since I don't want to celebrate bad artwork I've chosen to overlook it and concentrate on the view.

I've begun to attract comments from passers-by and so far they have all been interested in what I'm doing but I don't expect this will always be the case. I've designed some mini flyers the size of credit cards to give away to interested people to encourage them to look at the blog and see the drawings as part of a series and so far they have been gladly accepted. For the time being this represents the sum total of my marketing strategy. I'm off to a networking event tomorrow evening and I'm curious to see how these will be received.

A clearer view of the lock gates which are used regularly by boats on the move

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Working with found objects

I can never tell in advance how quickly I might finish a drawing

My tools included some leaves, a split twig,
a sponge and a paint brush
Today I fancied responding to the towpath by drawing with found objects picked up near where I was working. I find it tempting when working on a drawing to try and control every mark that I make on the paper. This is actually impossible to achieve so I can end up feeling quite exhausted.

Since I'm aiming to challenge myself with these drawings I decided today was the day to let go of my usual expectations and try and relax. Surprise, surprise it worked and I completely lost any sense of time.

What you can't see from the photograph is all the dust and gritty stuff that is trapped in the ink. I think it adds an interesting dimension to the finished piece along with all the little drops of water that found their way on to the page. I found a bench that was secluded from the wind but I was still subjected to a constant shower of dust. In the end I just stopped blowing it off and let it be.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Constantly moving water

The water was in a constant state of flux and looked different every time I raised my head.
Hertford Union Canal is very short being only 1¼ miles in length. On 17 May 1824, during the reign of King George IV, 'an Act of Parliament granted permission for the Hertford Union Canal to be made from the River Lee Navigation in the Parish of Saint Mary Stratford Bow in the county of Middlesex to join the Regent's Canal at or near a place called Old Ford Lock, in the Parish of Saint Matthew Bethnal Green in the said county of Middlesex.'

The canal opened in 1830 and effectively linked the town of Hertford at the head of the River Lee Navigation with the Regent's Canal and from there to the Grand Union Canal. This meant that traders in Hertford were now able to sell their goods the length and breadth of the country. Sadly the canal was not a financial success and it was bought by the Regent's Canal Company in 1854.

I chose for my second drawing to challenge myself and try and depict the water in the canal. It only took me just over an hour to complete it but my head was fairly buzzing by the end of it as I took in the constantly changing light and movement of the water. I was quite glad to have a short break as I watched a narrow boat navigate its way through the nearby lock before I returned to my 'labours'. I can't imagine how J M W Turner did it!