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.

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. 

Dance for Joy

My studio window with fired clay dancers overlooking the river

These dancers are portraits of real people. In the eighties I went to New York and was asked by a friend who is a professional dancer to come to her classes to observe. She had been a principal dancer for the Martha Graham Dance Company and was teaching at the famous Alvin Ailey’s and Julliard Dance at Lincoln center. She later founded the Jeanne Ruddy Dance Company. So I came sketchbook in hand and sat crosslegged on the floor and tried to catch the movement of the young dancers. I was used to static life drawing classes where the model holds a pose. These dancers were reaching , dipping, leaping , turning . The Graham technique employs much floor work so they were also rolling, balling up, and releasing. Arms and legs and hair went flying, swirling , whipping around. Into this I pushed my pencil and tried to stabilize one movement. I admire the Martha Graham body of work and the technique. The use of myth , the drama of passion, love, betrayal, lost in spirals and trapped in nets trying to survive the human condition on the stage is riveting. One of my favorites is “Rite of Spring”. It is tribal, virginal, sacrificial, and ends in celebration. So my small dancers leaping in a circle are frozen in their own rite of Spring.