It’s the end of a long and tiring day, but I managed to finish the manier noir drawing I was working on. And now to bed 😪
Spent a happy day at the Creative Bubble artspace in Swansea with the 15 Hundred Lives collective on our monthly public art event. I’m continuing with a series of manier noir drawings inspired by a visit to Berlin a couple of winters back. I saw the Holocaust Memorial under a couple of feet of snow and it was even more powerful and awe-inspiring than normal, throwing stark shadows between the dark stelae like a German Expressionist film set.
I learned the manier noir drawing technique from Irish printmaker Aoife Layton. I started by stretching a large piece of Fabriano Accademica paper on my wall and giving it two coats of acrylic gesso. When it was dry, I scribbled over it with blocks of compressed charcoal and then rubbed it in with my hands to get a fairly even, black surface. I draw with wire wool (steel wool) and fine grade aluminium oxide paper, or sand paper, rubbing away the black to reveal tones of grey and white highlights. It gives a dramatic, sculptural, chiaroscuro effect. The phrase manier noir means ‘in the dark manner’ and is often used to refer to mezzotint prints.
These are three separate drawings; I’m working on one piece of paper because it’s easier to prepare one larger rather then lots of smaller pieces. Eventually I’ll separate them and frame them up, probably in very plain boxy frames, for an exhibition coming later this year.
Here’s another of the 30 minute portrait drawings I did recently at Swansea Museum. Not easy getting a likeness and a reasonable drawing in such a short time and of course I can see everything that’s wrong with it! If I was doing a formal portrait then this would have been the first of several drawings until I got it the way I like it. The sitter is very distinguished looking and I think I captured some of that with the drawing. I used Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens into an A5 ringbound sketchbook.
I’m doing another live drawing day soon with another 7 sitters. It’s part of the ‘museum experience’ I’m doing as part of the 15 Hundred Lives collective which is on until May the 17th.
Husb and I spent the last day of our short Belgian break having a wander around Brussels in the unseasonal heat. We stopped under the shade of a tree in a park for a while and watched while a group of young men kicked a ball around. I scribbled them, they moved fast and were very energetic so it was hard to do anything more than contorted stick figures. They remind me a bit of Lowry.
Then I drew the people lazing in the sun. I noticed that many have stooped shoulders and dropped heads because they’re constantly using Smart phones. I used a graphite stick into my A5 hardback sketchbook.
I can’t get enough of Sir Frank Brangwyn’s work. Here’s another study I did from a drawing at the Brangwyn Museum in Bruges. The original is in charcoal and chalk onto a brown paper. I used four grades of graphite into my A5 hardback sketchbook, much smaller than the original.
These days drawing in this sort of style, early 20th century, tends to be associated with comic book artists, as does the sort of narrative in art that Brangwyn and Klimt practiced. I love comic books and graphic novels as much as I love the Secessionists and German Expressionists. A Facebook friend told me that there’s a lot of Brangwyn’s work in Leeds as well, so if you’re anywhere near there, or Bruges or Swansea, do check out his art. It’s fabulous.
Husb and I visited the Frank Brangwyn museum in Bruges today. Sir Frank has long been an artist hero of mine but despite massive fame in his lifetime he isn’t very fashionable now. It’s time he was noticed again. He was one of the founder members of the Vienna Secession; his work in the early 20th century shows the mutual influences of Schiele and Klimt. He died in 1967 aged almost 90, having produced a huge body of work; painting, drawing, etching, lithography, woodcuts, even applied arts like furniture design. I’ve known his work since childhood because Swansea hosts the magnificent Empire Panels in the Brangwyn Hall. If you’re in the city, check them out.
I was particularly taken with a large tempera painting of blind beggars from the 1920s and I did this study of the head and hands of one of the figures. His use of strong linework is sublime and easily up to the standard of his fellow Secessionists. I used some graphite sticks that I coincidentally bought at the Vienna Secession when I was there last summer.
We’re in Bruges. There is a Museum of Chocolate. There is a Museum of Chips. It’s a very cultured place. Like many very old cities, the buildings have evolved without much uniformity and the rooftops are all higgledy piggledy. I managed a quick graphite sketch in my A5 hardback sketchbook, it’s been pretty cold so I couldn’t do any more.
Husb and I are having an early night because we were up at one o clock this morning and we’ve already crammed a lot in.
Went up to the farm a few days ago to collect a load of manure for the allotment. I stopped to have a look at the pigs, feeding in a big field. Most were quite dainty sows but there was one boar, Big John, with enormous tusks, a Mohican hairdo and a massive personality. Out came the A5 hardbacked sketchbook and Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens and Big John got scribbled.
It was really hard at first because I’m not that familiar with piggy anatomy and like many animals, he moved constantly. But after some tentative speedy scribbles, I got into my stride and did a few, just as fast, but with more confidence and certainty. Don’t worry vegetarians, he’s a much loved piggy living a happy life; he’s not destined for the table.
Here’s another of the 30 minute portrait drawings I did at Swansea Museum last Sunday. I have been asking people I know who are Baby Boomers to volunteer to sit for me as I want to build up a large collection of 30 minute portrait drawings over the next year or so in preparation for a large scale art project. It’s great that there has been no shortage of volunteers. It’s not easy to sit for a portrait, in public, with the artist staring intently at you and random people walking past. Swansea Museum is a pretty busy place too. So I’m grateful to my ‘Boomer’ guinea pigs.
I’m doing this as part of the 15 Hundred Lives event at the museum, it’s part exhibition and part a ‘museum experience’. It’s called PROCESS and it’s on until May the 17th so if you’re in town, check it out. Entry is free, there’s an art trail to do for the kids and the museum is a pretty special place. Dylan Thomas described it as the museum that should be in a museum. There’s still a feel of the old ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ about it.
A visual blog from Melanie Ezra with a bit of me in there too :)