There were three people involved in this sketch...
Got into a conversation with someone on the train home the other night. I was sketching and he was playing a game on his phone and we started talking about passing the time to make the journey go by, and what we had done that day.
It was a good conversation. I wished we all talked more like that.
Anyway, this is the sketch I did at the time.
As soon as I had drawn the eyes I felt it was going to be a pleasing sketch. And that was important to me, knowing I had someone watching it as well as me.
And why is that ? Why does someone else watching alter my relationship with what I am drawing ? Why am I so fickle as to want to be seen to be good at this ? Am I not suitably reassured in my ability to do this by now ? Why is it so important to impress a total stranger ? Why is it so important to be validated like that ?
Actually, now I have told you this there are four people involved in this sketch.
Okay, so not really someone working, but in uniform so it almost counts.
I got fascinated by how the beret sat on his head. It gave a tight outline to the shape of the skull, but then has that full overlap to one side. What is that called ? That lopsided excess bit. I bet it has a military term. Anyway, it took several goes before I was anywhere near the shape of it.
He then took it off, rubbed his head all over, and stuffed it in his pocket. The beret, not his head.
Was waiting to meet someone in the bar downstairs at the Curzon Soho the other day. Had got there early, so did some sketching. You always get film folk working on their new script or having meetings about projects there. There was even some actors rehearsing something the other day, standing up, acting it out, the lot. It's like Dean Street's unofficial office.
This guy was intent on his Apple laptop. Script...e-mails... couldn't see.
But very pleased with how he turned out.
Had a few tries at his head shape, the truth is somewhere in all those lines.
I seem to have gone through quite a few sketchbooks these last few weeks. Not from prolific sketching mind, I keep several different sizes on the go at once and they just all seemed to come to the end at the same time.
Lowry is one of those artists it is too easy to dismiss, as I completely had until this summer. The popular image of matchstick men and dogs on jigsaws and mugs too easily diffuses the real artist. The curse of popularity.
I went to the aniversary exhibition at The Lowry arts centre in Salford while I was there in july. I went because I felt I should. I had seen various Lowry's in gallleries over the years and on the whole, walked past them. I dismissed him as a naive painter, like Alfred Wallis. Someone to admire the being of, but not requiring further investigation. Someone raised up by a particular time and sensibility.
Visiting the galleries in Manchester and Liverpool over the summer I saw several more, and paid my dues, and stopped for longer than I might, because he was a local artist. I was 'treading his patch'. But all those houses and factories have long been swept away and there is scant connection to make.
And then, on a trip to Tate Liverpool, it had started to rain, and I took shelter in the covered walkway on Albert Dock, And there, suddenly, in front of me, Lowry's world opened up.
The reality and presence of it struck me. THAT is what he saw, THAT is what he wanted to record.
And I went to the Lowry exhibition with unhindered eyes. And saw...
Well, someone who understood his subject, and it's needs and voids. He organizes planes and shapes with as sharp a tension as Mondrian. He looks and sees real people with as clear an eye as Henry Moore. He sits as decisively in his world as say Nash or Palmer or David Jones, artists outside the stronger currents of the flow, painting their own view.
And, since then, I 'see' 'Lowry' everywhere. In others' art, in my own, in crowds, in emptiness. Looking down, looking at. He hijacks me unawares all over the place, jumps out and says "see this, see this".
And those matchstick people are more tension points within his frame, either en masse or alone. I think you need to look past them, around them, they are not the focus the Lowry machine would have them be. They are there, because they are there, because they are there, because they are there.
So, I raise my pen to you, Mr. Lowry. And apologize for ignoring you till now.
Anyone else see the recent turbine hall installation at Tate Modern ? Tino Sehgal had all these people moving and interacting with visitors, sometimes singing and then merging back into the crowd like they had broken out of the usual and then been claimed back by the real world. He says it was a portrait of London as diverse view points rather than one person's idea.
I loved it, it seemed to touch on so many connections, Flashmobs, Olympic athletes and crowds, Lowry's crowdscapes, Pollock's random gestures, shoppers, cathedral choirs.. I could go on. Small kids joined in and ran about with them like the adult world had finally woken up to the real fun of living.
And every so often one person would detach, fix on you as you watched, and come over to tell you some small story from their ordinary experience.
I was told, at various visits, about a guy buying bread and beer late at night in Brixton, a couple missing the Eurostar to Paris twice in one day, a woman in bed with a headcold while a fair set up in the field behind her house, an American woman being surprised she knew all the words to the US national Anthem after living in the UK for so long, and others.
It struck me these small tales were as much sketches as any drawing, they were selected views of someone that told something, but not in any way all, of that person. And I thought what would it be like if I sketched them whilst they told me these, a sketch of a sketch. So I had a go, and it was weird. I tried first with a girl who was telling me about her relationship with her mother ( I did ask if they minded before I did anything ) And it was way to intense. To be that close to a stranger and to look at them as subjects to sketch was too much. To look at and into someone's eyes, to see the tiny flecks of colour in their iris as they told you these things broke too many barriers. One girl almost jumped when I asked, and if the piece was about breaking down the wall between people my sketching did it too much. For both of us. Whilst putting another wall up at the self same time. The relationship between viewer and subject is an odd delicate curtain at the best of times, to try and throw it up instantaneously proved disjointing.
Everything I drew was odd, and uncomfortable, a bad idea. And I had to back away from the idea and go back to distance sketching.
So all I have to show for it is this, of someone else being talked to.
Whereas I was told about people's relationships with their family, and about them reassessing their world from another's point of view, this guy was getting a lesson in how to make tomato sauce.
I was going to post these last week, but the scanner problem stopped me, so allow me the small delay.
It was 25 years last week when the Big Storm swept across Southern England and toppled all the trees.
I was at college at the time, and walked thru Kensington gardens to get there everyday. The sight of all those trees, shattered and uprooted, was astounding. Some of the root systems were as big as houses. It was a surreal and charged place for several weeks as they worked to clear them all away.
Anyone else remember the avenue of plane trees towards Kensington Palace that were all flattened ?
I went out sketching the next day, it was too beautiful and sad and unreal to not. And here are two from that day.
I was included in some photographs a news reporter took, but have never seen if any of the photos with me in were ever used anywhere. I suspect not. The world can only deal with one trauma at a time.
This was my favorite sketch, at the time, and now. You will need to click on it to enlarge it to see it.
This tree had literally been twisted apart, the truck standing upright, but every single branch had been ripped away and lay around like huge scattered arms. It was up by the Lancaster Gate entrance between Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. I also added a sketch of the photographer. in the top corner, see.
Seeing the sketch again brings that day back in such sharp focus. I am back there, right now, on the same spot, in my mind.
Found a great spot to catch people in the National Gallery last friday. It was cold and raining and I was in Soho with an hour in hand before a meeting. In such moments, and in such a place, you could do a lot worse than the National Gallery. A LOT worse. But I am way too boring for that. so....
This guy was part of a very animated group discussing their cameras.
I liked how the cube stool he was sitting on got all squooooshed under his weight.