This exercise took some time to come together. It was a staggered creation, with some aspects added in as I discovered source material..
I found it difficult to access any good quality anatomical drawings of animals initially. I managed to borrow from the library a very old book ‘Animal Painting and Anatomy’ by Frank Caulderon (1936) London Kimble and Bradford, and some images online. These were drawings of mammals and I was not keen to try mammals at this point, as I was not sure how I would develop away from the original drawings.
Then I found some beautiful watercolour and collage works by Philip Gosse, and was led to a book by him containing his drawings of sea life: ‘A Naturalist’s Rambles on the Devonshire Coast’.
I made some chalk drawings on black paper from these.
I wanted to convey the quality of the floating weightlessness of a jellyfish and its watery environment, so I experimented with acrylic ink to produce the image below. I used an irregular wash of diluted blue acrylic ink onto damped watercolour paper, then added an equally dilute orange in spots and sprayed with water, to give the impression of transparency. Lastly I drew roughly with a stick, using less diluted violet to form the jellyfish and sprayed againg in places.
I think it is naive, but gives the impression of floating and transparency in a crude fashion. It is very far from the precise and delicate drawings of Philip Gosse.
This was very enjoyable. I was fortunate to be able to go to sketch some six month-old pigs at a friend’s farm, and had a lovely afternoon. They were such characters and wanted to communicate. The noise of their snuffling for apples in the straw and grunting in their sleep was just like pigs are supposed to be! They shifted and moved even when asleep and the flies irritated them.
The photos from my sketchbook have not come out well.
I took lots of photos whilst I was sketching and once home, selected a group to make a charcoal drawing.
I really like the portrait but wanted to draw a group, so opted for the second photo here. I considered the composition and chose to draw four of the five animals, as I liked the balance better when the animal in the foreground was left out.
I like using this approach with charcoal, giving the paper an initial covering and then adding lines and darker tones, picking out highlights with a rubber.
Then I thought I might try a similar approach using pastels on a coloured paper. I used a bright orange. I was nervous about the choice, but the other option I had at the time was green. I didn’t want the effect to be cold, and hoped the orange would infuse the whole drawing with warmth and give me a good base upon which to attempt the colour tones in the pig’s skin. It was a challenge and I was left with an OK result without much interest in the surroundings.
Although the original sketches and phots were taken in a barn, these pigs are usually “free-range” in some woods. They’d broken out a few days earlier, to my convenience!
I decided to take a walk to a pretty orchard and make some sketches and photos and then to try to incorporate something of the atmosphere onto the work, maybe using the gouache which I have just bought and never used.
I’ve taken a photo of the pastel drawing before attempting the background, in case I ruin it.
I think the orange is still too strong and the gouache spoilt the work, because I was too literal in the drawing of the background/foreground.
I want to move away from the attempts at realism but I don’t have the confidence, or the ideas, or enough experience of the media.
I was stuck to find any suitable objects that I wanted to draw for this exercise, so I went to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter and found a false killer whale jawbone. It was difficult to draw in the light from the cabinet, and I did not have much choice about the angle from which I could draw it. It took a long time and I had to go back a second time.
I am less than happy with the result.
Some time later, I was lent the skull of a roe deer and made two further drawings, one a rough sketch with pen and the second in pencil. I am much happier with these. I was able to control the position and light and am more familiar with the anatomy of the skull of a mammal.
I have been interested in drawing and painting sheep for some time, inspired by a local artist Sara Dudman whose exhibition Flock Together has just opened at the Thelma Hulbert Gallery in Honiton Devon. She and her fellow artist Debbie Locke have been collaborating on a project observing and recording sheep and the interactions between the flock, the sheep dog and the farmer, in fields, barns, and crossing the yard to the pens. They use cam-corders strapped to the animals and to the farmer to take footage, and also take video themselves. The footage is fed into a computer programme and then into a drawing machine. They work in layers, Sara Dudman using paint, graphite, gouache, and Debbie using the drawing machine to make black marks across the paper, tracing the movement of the animals.
I have also been inspired by the amazingly beautiful drawings and etchings of sheep by Henry Moore.
To produce my drawing, I spent several hours on three days sketching the sheep in fields. They move about a lot and so most of the sketches were hurried and rough, but I found that I became more confident the longer I tried. The first two days, I sketched on a small scale in my sketchbook, using 4B pencil. On the last occasion I was fortunate to stumble across a farmer shearing his sheep in the open field, with the sheep in a small pen. This gave me the opportunity to be much closer to them as I drew, on this occasion using charcoal and much larger paper. I also took some photographs.
I used the sketches and one photo of my subjects once I returned home to produce the final piece.
I am pleased and also less happy. I am happy with the progress made in understanding the form and underlying anatomy, and especially in making a better (but by no means perfect) job of the sheep’s legs. I like the sketches as they show the fact that sheep move, often together and that they are interesting when in groups. However, the brief seems to require a portrait of a single animal. I compromised, and have drawn a study of a ewe with her lamb. It is rather a romantic picture, but is taken from a photo, so sheep and lambs are romantic in reality.
I think the result is rather static, and that is a shame, but I think inevitable when one works from a photo, even though I made so many dynamic sketches.
Charcoal was a good choice for me with the larger scale drawing. I find I can achieve the impression of texture of wool and shadow more economically than with graphite. The attempt I made at a copy of a Henry Moore drawing of sheep was very instructive. He used cross-hatching, heavier when the tone needed was very dark, and very sparse more wriggly lines for the larger areas of wool on the animal’s back and flanks.
Because I do not have very much confidence when making marks to accurately portray line, I do not think I would have much sucess with a drawing like the drawing of a pig by David Jones, which I tried to copy in my sketchbook. Charcoal is more forgiving and gives me more confidence in the result.