Charcoal for mystery and depth, Knowth Ireland

IMG_1784Interior of Knowth passage grave co. Meath Ireland.
Basin Stone now found at the Newgrange visitor centre.

Again, I found this in a drafts folder so I am publishing it now. My earlier posts were about using inspiration and creating volume with charcoal. One of the most inspirational times in my life have been discovering the ancient archaeology of Ireland. I have heard it said that once the neolithic gets into your blood it never leaves. There is something about visitng these sites that is so moving. I guess it is a reverence for the work of the ancestors now preserved in stone. Obviously there is a ceremonial usage to these sites and I have always been intrigued by veneration. The dead were as much apart of life in 3000bc as were the living. Large amounts of time were invested in creating these sites to honour the dead. It was a huge commitment of labour and it often took a full generation to complete a space. Knowth had two entrances oriented to the dawn and sunset of the Equinox. The basin stones held burnt bones . They were ancient crucibles for those gone to the Sky.
To create and emphasize the carved out nature of the shape I curved the charcoal lines toward the centre.
The smudgy black and white lends mystery to the picture. It is pitch dark in these subterranean places so you can imagine the fire light of the torches on the walls . Now much of the passage makes room only for crawling until the inner chamber is reached. The inner spaces of Knowth are not open to the public but there is still much to see outside. There are standing stones, small stone circles, and the impressive site of the huge green mound can never be forgotten.


Art lesson -Tonal shading

ImageOne of the most important and enjoyable techniques to practice is the freedom and fun of shading. You have heard people say  I cannot draw a straight line. In shading you do not have to. There are many ways to shade in a form with the side of a pencil or repated strokes to create depth. This is called crosshatching but it requires some continuity of application which can be demanding. The best way to learn about shading is with charcoal. Because of our education process, where we are taught in school to use pens and pencils, it is more difficult to free yourself while drawing from self criticism . Abandoning the pencil is an effective practice to achieve new levels of creativity and expertise. There are stumpy pieces of very black charcoal and longer pieces called vine charcoal. There are charcoal pencils but it is difficult to keep then sharp. I love the sound of vine charcoal on the paper. To create a 3-D shape find the light source and be consistent in applying the charcoal to the side that is not getting the light. In this picture of the interior of Newgrange passage tomb in Ireland I was not concerned  about a light source because it is  an interior without light. I am using the charcoal to create mystery and volume from my own imagination.  Charcoal can be smudged in with the side of a finger and eraser or a paper wadded sharpened wand. If you haven’t tried it  do begin  and enjoy the freedom it can give you.



How To -2- If You are Stuck

Often in the creative process we get stuck. It all seems monumental and failure ever present. One of the best ways to get unstuck is by doodling.
Take a square of paper and draw a squiggle line. You can even close your eyes. Continue the line with your eyes open. Use different pressures. If you want to scribble with anger that is ok. Scribble awawy. Move out of the line and cross over a few times to make some freeform shapes. Keep going. Sometimes you will start to see shapes emerge into something recognizable. If you do that is fine,

Let yoursel go and do a doodle

Let yourself  go and do a doodle

but it is not a necessary part of the process. If you have bright colored markers the next step might be to colour these shapes. The more you work on it the more your mind will release tension. I have whole collections of large pads where I have  done my doodles. I started this process years ago during a difficult time and kept up with it till I could begin again.The large doodle in the post was done during this time . Your inner critique is silenced with this. Why? Well, because the mind cannot  label the result and it gives up. You end up with a fun collection of drawings that you cannot judge as good or bad. So start doodling and have fun.

How to Paint – 1

Dragonflies as big as your hand

Dragonflies as big as your hand

While I was walking up the path the other day I was thinking about how many people would like to be able to paint the coming of Spring. In my classes I would always stress the need to start a sketch book. This book contains little drawings of what you want to refer back to. Learning to draw is important if you are trying to paint. A light pencil drawing or a wash of yellow ochre to outline your shapes to help with your design is the best way to start. Drawing is practice. We are all born with the ability to draw. It is part of our human heritage. The ancient caves of  Lascaux still never fail to awe those who see these beautiful bison leaping across the stones. If you stopped drawing in third class this is where you will start. If your drawings are childlike , honour that child artist and build your skills with practice. I know you can draw a daisy . Now draw a group of daisies. Take photos, refer back to them as you work in your sketch book. See how you improve the more you try.