Animal line study.
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.