Reflections, reviewing, revising, reconsidering.
Following the weekend of the Drawing Breath workshops I felt physically exhausted, emotionally exhilarated, intellectually accelerated and calmly curious. I haven’t spent much time with drawing this year as I’ve been making films. So it felt like going home for the weekend. With a group of like-minded friends.
Now, two days later, I’m beginning to connect the work made over the weekend with some other recent research relating to river mud. I took some of my favourite work from the weekend and pinned it up on the studio wall. Yesterday I felt a little flat, so allowed myself time to develop a few things that were still lingering in my mind.
I really enjoyed the part where we were told to choose an object to draw and put it in a bag, so you couldn’t see it, and hold it in your non dominant hand. Then draw it with the dominant hand, from the sensation of holding it. I had taken a quantity of dry river mud from Garden Cliff – a beautiful rusty red colour, full of haematite. It took weeks to dry it out, in preparation to make pigment with it for printmaking. This bag of material felt quite sharp, brittle, grainy in my hand. I loved the weight of it, the way that it pressed into my palm. It reminded me a little of kinesiology. It literally gave me a sense of gravitas, held in one hand and drawn by the other. Balance. I drew with charcoal, my comfort zone material, and found myself working quite confidently, drawing almost to scale. It is one of those I placed on the wall.
Two odd things with this red earth. One, the Mars landings and two, the possibility I may be anaemic. My body needs iron.
Yesterday morning, the day after the course ended, I was thinking a lot about how the bag of dry, crumbly earth felt in my hand and created a mono print with that memory. I laid white ink down on the block, drew into it loosely and took a print on black paper. It is fairly similar to the original charcoal drawing, but there was more of a curve underneath, showing the weight in my hand more than the original drawing did. Maybe memories really do hang heavy in our minds?
This print reminded me of another I did a week or two ago, when I pressed my sketch pad pages onto the wet mud of the riverbank, revealed at low tide. That’s been on my wall since. It’s shaped like a brain and now, when I look at the first drawing of the soil in my hand, it think it looks like a cross between a brain and a heart.
So, going back to the soil for the drawing exercise. During the lunch break, I piled it into square glass vase then half filled it with water. It was mesmerising watching the material dissolve into the water, slowly sinking, settling. A small amount remained dry, like mountains, or icebergs, paler than the wet earth below, creating air pockets. I made a tiny video.
It was only when I was looking intensely at it for twenty minutes that I noticed little bubbles were forming in the red liquid. Some organic matter was releasing gas from the soil into the water, compacted by the weight of the dry material above. Those little bubbles reminded me of the first exercise we did, of blowing bubbles onto paper. And of the time that a geologist explained to me that the smooth circular bumps and hollows in quarries were caused by air trapped during the rocks’ formation. When it came to drawing the vase and its earthy contents from memory, without looking, I wondered if I could include the bubbles, but using a chunky graphite pencil at a smallish scale defeated me.
Another thing I did for the first time during the drawing breath weekend was to draw my breath with my eyes closed, using dry watercolour crayons onto paper fixed on the wall, then sprayed it with water. Like the water in the vase, the pigment was released, creating streams and drips which represented my breath flow.
We drew our lungs, our hands and, without intention, I drew a brain and a heart. Using earth loaded with iron.
body and mind
drawing and meditation