Dropped in on my friend Claire Spencer to collect an oil painting I had bought at her recent exhibition in Kidderminster. The theme of the exhibition was inspired by the writings of the 19th Century American naturalist Henry David Thoreau. It was a varied exhibition of drawings in charcoal and pen and ink, pastels, watercolours, and oils. Thoreau lived for a year in a log cabin by Walden Pool in the Maine Woods keeping a diary of his observations of wild life. Claire found similar subjects in the Wyre Forest near Bewdley. Her large charcoal drawings were fascinating, the variety of marks she used to express tree forms and textures of the undergrowth were marvelous artistic expressions of the natural woodland.
Much of this variety is due in part to whe wide range of charcoal drawing materials now available. I used to be a purist who would not use anything other than natural willow charcoal. This came – I told myself – in varying degrees of hardness as a consequence of how it is manufactured. Claire's drawings convinced me that this was a blinkered outlook and that there is a place for compressed charcoal sticks and pencils to extend the range of the medium.