Friday, 26 June 2015

Beyond the bridge

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the distance
The vista beyond the bridge begins to broaden to the left and the right hinting at the wide expanse of water where the Hertford Union canal joins the River Lee Navigation. When I chose this spot to work in I imagined I would be concentrating on the view you can see above but I found it rather dull and it didn't grab me.

So I started looking around and my attention was drawn to this boat on my right. I began this sketch by describing the boat as a line drawing having no idea which direction it was going in. I often find that the emerging drawing seems to know where it wants to go and all I have to do is follow along behind.

My labours were accompanied by the lively sounds of some small children yelling at each other in one of the nearby flats. Sometimes their yelling would abate and then would crank up again until they were yelled at by an adult and meanwhile I just kept adding tones and marks until I had practically covered the paper and then I run out of steam.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The fascination of gabions

The word gabion comes from the Italian word gabbione meaning 'big cage'. Gabions can be cages, cylinders or boxes filled with rocks or concrete and are typically used in large-scale construction projects like civil engineering, road building and landscaping. They are also becoming increasingly popular as structures in domestic gardens.

I could see this ceramic sculpture from
where I was sitting. There are quite a few
of them along dotted along the canal
So I was strolling along the tow path looking this way and that and then these gabions caught my eye. They are supporting the bridge that was the subject of a previous drawing. I had in mind that I would try and draw the rocks, the metal cage as well as the leaves and produce something that would be very representational. I was to discover that I had set myself quite an ambitious task and became sidetracked into something rather more painterly and achievable.

I set up my sketching stool on the grass verge by the side of the wall to avoid being run over by cyclists, joggers and dog walkers and got stuck in. I can confirm that those leaves on the left hand side of the photo above are stinging nettles and it wasn't a great idea to brush my hands over them (I couldn't see any dock leaves nearby to rub on my hands to take the sting away).

It was a breezy day so I had to contend with paper flapping around and art materials flying away. There was regular foot traffic going back and forth over the bridge and I was surprised how clearly people's voices carried. I met my friend the car mechanic walking his boss's dog. He took a good look at what I was doing and was very encouraging. Then he said 'I expect you'll work that up more when you get home' and I realised that I wouldn't do that because once I've left my location I've lost my frame of reference. So I've realised that feeling the sun on my skin, or the breeze that blew my water bottle away and the sounds I'm listening to are as important as the sights I can see while I'm working.

Here's the finished sketch

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Sheltering under a canopy of leaves

The drawing of the canopy with the real branches in shadow adding an extra dimension to the scene
A fairly dull view ahead of me...
 Since I began this series of drawings I have been progressing my way along the tow path from Wick Lane towards White Post Lane. For this drawing I doubled back on myself and sat on the same bench that I used to make my first sketch. This time I faced the canal instead of having my back to it and looked up at the canopy of leaves above me instead of looking straight ahead.

I started in the same spirit as the previous drawing where I tried to let the line wander where it wanted to go. I began the drawing without looking at the paper, only at the view, but discovered I didn't have the confidence to complete the whole drawing doing that because I wanted the finished result to look a bit like the view I had. I might try that approach again later in the series just to see what happens.

... but look what I saw at my feet, a scene full of possibilities

Monday, 15 June 2015

View from under the bridge

My drawing of the bridge photographed on the bridge
I wandered along the canal until I reached the new pedestrian bridge that links Roach Road with the canal. Roach Road is one of the local roads named after freshwater fish and the others are Smeed Road, Dace Road, Monier Road and Bream Street which has led to the area adopting the name Fish Island. This location, which is in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, isn't actually an island but is bordered on two sides by canals and the East Cross route borders a third side so the area has a feeling of being an island.

A locked gate revealing
an intriguing view
Apparently it was the artist Paul Klee who said that drawing is like 'taking a line for a walk'. I like the idea of starting a drawing and following where it wants to lead me so I tried to follow this maxim with this sketch of the bridge. I admit that I was tempted to interfere with the route on a number of occasions but then I would take a deep breath (plus a sip of tea always helps) and let the drawing wander where it wanted to. I did feel rather helplessly confused by all the competing lines in the composition but I had to remind myself that that was what had attracted me to the view in the first place.

While I was wrestling with not interfering with my own work I met a nice man who, having crossed the bridge, spotted what I was up to and stopped for a brief chat. It turned out that he too is an artist who, like me (and doubtless countless other artists), is more interested in the apparently mundane aspects of day-to-day life than grand gestures.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Working with soluble pencils

I toyed with this view of the pedestrian bridge which was one view from where I was sitting
I always like to have a selection of materials to work with because I never know in advance what I might want to respond to and how I might want to work. Today's sketch is a good example of this. I've been using pen and ink for the last few drawings but today I started with charcoal and then moved onto soluble pencil.

I liked this view too and might tackle it later
I considered the view of the bridge above and then the weeds under the stairs but neither of those views quite worked. I looked straight ahead and decided that the boats were just right so do you know what, I drew the path to the right of them instead!

I have the clumsy habit of tipping water or ink all over my paper while I'm working. When that happens I just incorporate it into the drawing and keep going. Fortunately it is a warm day today and the paper dried quickly.

The view I thought I was going to draw
There were a lot of dog walkers around today and one young woman was walking with about six dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages so I assumed she was doing this for her job. The Guardian newspaper ran an interesting article on this subject just a few days ago and while the idea sounds appealing I don't think I would have the patience to chivvy my charges along the tow path exhorting them to 'get a move on!', 'this way!' and 'Fido there's nothing wrong with your leg and you can run!' as I heard today. This episode did cause me and a passer-by to share a laugh.

So here's the finished piece using a different approach
I like to try and be experimental with my approach to 'making marks' when I am sketching because that way I can avoid repeating the same technique over and over again. I quite expect to employ a different method for the next sketch but that's a job for next week.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Reeds and wind

The gusts of wind played a part in creating this image
I've been down to the canal often enough now to almost guarantee I'll have a chat with someone before I get to work on the next drawing. I was strolling along the tow path earlier today and bumped into my new friend whose boat I had sketched the week before. He was busy chatting with someone else when I bowled up and I was soon drawn into the conversation. I remarked that I had fully expected him to have left on his travels by now which he agreed he would have done except for a technical hitch which would soon be put right.

I was wondering what might strike me as interesting and almost immediately spied this view above of reeds growing by the side of the canal. I found them very intriguing so decided to concentrate on them and ignore the boat that was moored behind them. I used Indian ink and dip pen again and managed to splatter my paper in an impressive sized blob that I decided to incorporate into the composition. I did this just as my other new friend, the car mechanic, strolled past with his boss's dog, Rizla on a lead. We had a brief chat and he told me the dog had taken himself off on a walk by himself earlier on in the day. He does this when he gets the opportunity but apparently he always finds his way back to the garage eventually.

I sat on my sketching stool and munched on a banana before I put pen to paper and while it was sunny it was also quite windy. The wind decided to get involved with the creation of this image and I quite enjoyed letting the watery ink travel in different directions by holding the paper vertical and letting the ink run. Last weekend I bought a small glass bottle from Muji with a diffuser attached. I don't know if it is meant to be a beauty aid but I filled it with water and enjoyed spraying a fine mist over parts of the paper and watching the ink react to it.

While I was letting the paper dry an elderly gent walked past using sticks to aid his progress. He stopped for a natter and told me that he'd had one hip replacement operation which had been a great success but now needed another one on his other hip. He told me he has in the past walked along a lot of the canal network when building materials were still being hauled around the country. He indicated, by pointing one of his sticks, to where Hackney Dogs Track used to be until they began developing 'that thing' meaning the Olympic Park. I've just read that it was called Hackney Wick Stadium and opened in 1932. It was mainly used for greyhound racing and motorcycle speedway. The company that owned it went out of business in 1997 having invested a lot of money in building a new stand and restaurant just a few years before.

What I found quite poignant was that this elderly gent became nostalgic about the times he used to walk the canals after they had become derelict, which lasted for many years, and he would get to see the birds fledge in spring which he said was lovely.