Friday, June 13, 2003

The bird drawings I did at the natural history drawing workshop renewed an interest in wild life art. A few years ago I became interested in the paintings which Charles Tunicliffe did at ‘Shorelands,’ his home on Anglesey. He devoted his artistic life to recording birds and country life and the wood engravings done for book illustrations and his large watercolours which earned him election to the Royal Academy are true works of art and deservedly popular.

Tunnicliffes’ sketch books are fascinating documents, examples used to be displayed in the museum at Llangefni on Anglesey which has a large collection of his work. Drawings of birds hold more artistic interest than than paintings – the paintings of the likes of Basil Ede for example do not quite capture the excitement that catching the sight of a bird in the wild. I think it is partly due to the carefully contrived backgrounds which most paintings in the genre have. I suspect this kind of art is mostly admired for the technical skill displayed by the artist in rendering detail.

In pursuit of inspiration I turned to Victor Ambrus, another artist I admire and well known now for his illustrations of the archeological sites investigated on Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’ programme. He once published a book of animal drawings, now long out of print, that I use for study. The drawings reproduced in the book are all done with graphite pencils. I make studies of them using Woolf Carbon Pencils which are similar. The following sketchbook studies are based on some of Victor Ambrus, drawings but there is one which is entirely mine. Can you spot which it is?

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

I enrolled for a day course on Natural History Drawing and Painting run by the University of Birmingham Extra Mural Department. The venue was our local museum which has a good natural history collection. The tutor presented us with cases of butterflies, shells, stuffed birds and a hare. Recalling Durer’s famous drawing of a hare I was put off attempting it. All that fur and the fine tips of the ears was too exacting. I settled on a wigeon which provided more than enough interest for the day. I stayed with simple drawing tools 2b pencil and a Pentel colour brush. I find the Pentel brush produces a variety of marks that add interest to the drawing and the marks can be diluted into washes with water. Here are two pages of sketchbook studies:

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Sunday mornings provide a nice quiet opportunity to study chess. I find it an absorbing and relaxing pastime and have no aspirations to play in tournaments or gain a club norm. A schoolboy interest in the game waned until a couple of years ago when I was alerted by the fact that there was a theory going around that keen chess players rarely developed Altzheimers Disease. They may suffer mental exhaustion and need psychiatric nursing but rarely suffer the brain degeneration that goes with Altzheimers. Having reached the age when I can go upstairs and be unable to remember why I did so I decided that the memory training that chess requires would be beneficial!

Playing chess also has a lot to do with pattern recognition when deciding what moves to play. This is not so far removed from painterly activity where the emerging pattern of marks and shapes influences where the brush is to be placed next. I read a lovely concise definition of art by Alfred North Whitehead which was; “Art is the imposition of pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of this pattern.”

I discovered recently that Marcel Duchamp was a keen chess player and somebody has published a book of his games. He is quoted as saying; “From my close contact with artists and chess players I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.” I like that and even today, when we all use Fritz on our laptops and GM’s are challenged to play tournaments against computers, intuition can often influence the moves top players make.