My photo for me, art and photography.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Box Hill

After getting to sleep at about 4am last night (for the fourth night in a row, and for no particular reason) my parents woke me up at about 10am to say 'we're all going for a walk, be ready in 20 mins' fantastic. Feeling like a complete zombie, and really not in the mood for walking downstairs, let alone up and down a whopping great hill; I threw my 5 year old unused box of watercolours along with a paintbrush, a 5 year old unused bottle of nut brown ink and a pen, a bottle of water, my camera and some new unused conte pastels into my bag. If I had to go, art could be my excuse to get out of walking - plus my foot was really hurting. I think it's from walking around London all day in ugg boots - they really aren't good for you, or geared for long distances - I've not seen one person wearing them who doesn't end up with their feet turning inwards, so they're walking on their instep. I love my boots - they're warm, they're comfortable, but they make me walk like an idiot. Those shoes would be great if somehow, someone could invent them with decent soles which don't wear out in a week, and do something to prevent them from making your feet collapse inwards.

I digress. So we got there. Dispite being bundled up like an eskimo, this hill is very high and the winds were very cold and rather strong, so I was absolutely f-f-f-FWEEZING! This did not deter the insane bikers and lycra loonies and their bicycles from congregating en masse for their Sunday rideout. I don't know quite what the tradition is, but every single Sunday, as far back as I can remember, it's what they do. They congregate in the carpark of the pub at the bottom of the hill - you can see the sea of bikes glittering from the top of the hill, have a pint, eye up eachothers bikes, have a bit of a geek out session over the paint job on someone's Goldwing, and then just.. well.. ride. Don't ask me where, I wouldn't know - it's just one of those quirky Brit-Geek things I think.

Top of the hill, grey clouds gathering, wind whistling into my ears, armed with a pashmina, an art book and a big paper cup of tea, I managed to find a spot relatively rabbit-poo free and settled down. Incidentally, a half-burrowed rabbit hole is an excellent cup holder. Kept my tea nice and warm for quite a while too!

this is what the place looked like (black and white because the photo didn't really come out too well)

I've decided to stop running from my fears and avoiding things that make me feel awkward in life and instead face them head-on, so I thought now would be a good time to apply that philosophy to art too. I have had a life long hate for watercolours. I can't use them, I hate the way they look and... yeah, I could go on, but the general idea is that I just don't like them. I don't feel I have any control over the paint - it just dribbles or it's so dry I can't really do anything with it, and I have to work from light to dark, which I don't like doing. I like to work dark to light - I always put the highlights in last, and I absolutely detest the way colours bleed into eachother resulting in wishywashy pictures which, to me, look really dated and tacky - kind of like that faded print from the 1980s of some flowers in a vase that your gran's had on the wall in her loo for the past 20 years that she bought in a charity shop somewhere for 50p.

Anyway. I still hate watercolours, and I still hate the way they look, and I think I always will. I think they're also slightly stigmatised, because I associate watercolours with retirees pootling round the countryside in sun hats and beige velcro shoes with their little art groups and folding chairs, painting old houses and flowers and such; but part of me feels that I should find it within me to respect them and it, and the only way to do that is to be able to master being able to use watercolours myself. So. Here's my attempt at a watercolour (bearing in mind that I've avoided using this stuff like the plague. I think I've done maybe 2 watercolours in my life. Does watered down acrylic count?) If you want to see it bigger, I think you can if you click the picture.

It got a lot colder when I'd finished, and my hands had actually turned blue, so I packed up my stuff and toddled off into some trees to attempt the second type of unused medium. I was using ink in 'nut brown', fittingly, for a tree, and one of those old fashioned pens that you dip into it - I think it was my grandfathers - it's about 100 years old anyway, and pretty much unused up until now. I don't like it. I mean, I quite liked drawing with the ink, but the actual process itself I found rather irritating - I'd load the pen up with ink - and I checked before I left the house how I was supposed to do that - sort of scoop it up and then scrape the excess off the front as I pull it out of the jar.. but half the time it'd be fully loaded - a nice big blob of ink on the back of the pen, but it just refused to migrate to the paper. I don't know if it was scared of drying or what, but it really started to annoy me after a while. That ink is kind of strange too - it's a Windsor & Newton one, and it dries shiny. It didn't say anything about it on the bottle itself, but it's like it amost has a gloss/varnish quality to it, and when it dries on the pen, it's not like regular ink which is kind of powdery when you scrape it off - it's kind of plasticy and peels off like cheap nail polish, so I don't know if that has something to do with its reluctance to get off the pen? who knows. I got it home and wasn't satisfied with the shading, as I'd lost patience with it by then, so I bulked the shadows up using a conte pastel. Slightly cheating, but never mind - it was only a practice sketch. The colour on the photo came out a bit funny because I shot it with the lights on, which messed up the white balance and I couldn't really fix it - that's the best I managed to do. Looks a bit daft, but it's not particularly important.

Lastly, flipping through an old art book, decided to try and sketch a face in an old fashioned style. I'm not sure who this guy is, some kind of violinist from about 1860 I think; and a rubbishy sketch of a lamp in the living room (hey, it beat watching the news) trying out a new exercise I'd read in a big book on art that I have - of drawing the thing without taking your eyes off it - something about getting your hand working in sync with your eye better.. or something. It was actually surprisingly hard - my first attempt, which I shall not post here because it really is truly diabolical, looked more like a fried egg than a lamp. What you see here is the heavily modified post-experiment-salvage-operation version haha but yeah. Interesting experiment. Try it youself and let me know what you think of it!

If you're wanting to learn more about that place, here's a link to the National Trust website (also on their menu is a place called Polesden Lacey which, if you're in the area, is just up the road from Box Hill - about 10 mins drive away - you simply MUST visit! it's one of my favourite places in the world.)

Tomorrow, I'll be going to see a man about a website, and hopefully, weather permitting - which is usually an uncertainty in this country- I'll make a start clearing the rubbish out of the shed, and taking the first steps towards making it sound, and converting it into my studio! I can't WAIT! I espied a really nice studio easel in the art shop I mentioned in yesterday's blog for £45 so I think a return trip is in order for further investigation.