I took part in The Big Draw day on 17 October at Jim Unsworth’s studios and garden. It’s some weeks ago now, but with the benefit of time I can look back and reflect how the day has affected my practice.
Here is a gallery of some of the work I and the other participants did – I can’t remember now which was whose work, but it was a collaborative day so in a sense the drawings are an output of the whole group.
Jim wanted us to make big and open observational drawings – he furnished us with huge mop brushes, great chunks of charcoal fixed to long sticks, large pot of black decorators paint, large sheets of paper taped to the wall or laid on the ground, and asked us to draw his greyhound, tangles of briars, an ungainly bare rose bush, a corner of the garden, and finally, from memory and imagination, a response to the day’s efforts. We were encouraged to improvise tools and ways of making marks.
Although drawing from life, investigating and observing the subject as we worked, he wanted us to record our responses to what we were looking at, in other words our feelings about it. These weren’t to be realistic copies of what we were looking at. There were no rights or wrongs, so long as the drawing was open and honest…if we strayed into ‘arty’ techniques or effects this was quickly pointed out.
The drawings we made were very expressive and satisfying to do.
A few days later I made this quick sketch from life of a tree in a hedgerow in a country lane, using black ink, water and fingers.
The influence of the Big Draw is there – the drawing is as much about my response to the tree as it is a representation of the tree. The confidence the workshop gave me was still fresh in my mind.
It can still be seen in many of my subsequent paintings for Part 3 – there is an expressive quality that shows how I think about what I’m looking at that wasn’t there before. I’m drawing and painting faster, trying to capture my response rather than the detail of my subject. I haven’t made any work quite as free since the workshop, but now I know I can!
One thing I promised myself was that I’d reorganise my studio so that I can tape paper to the walls, splash paint around, and not worry about making a mess. I still haven’t done that…maybe now’s the time to do it, before I start Part 4.