EDiM #113 & 114

May 13, 2011


Every Day in May, #113 – draw or paint a fence. Conte crayons, paper collage.

There are plenty of interesting fences in my life, including the latest one around the new IKEA shopping complex being built in nearby Tempe. Today’s fence and what is beyond the fence comes from the unusual metal staircase and balustrade inside the Tropical Plans Centre, Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, discovered last month as part of the Great Garden Sketchabout there. Under the influence of Roz Stendhal’s online course in visual journalling, run by the Strathmore paper company, I’ve taken on board this week’s focus on collage. I came upon collage as a vehicle for the articulation of hidden personal messages in my adolescence; it never caught on as a visualisation of personal journey, but better late than never.

In terms of potential content, Roz mentioned things which I’d never considered before, such as cutting and pasting one’s own sketches and collaging photocopies and scans of objects of sentimental value and which resonate emotionally.  The advantage of cutting-and-pasting one’s own sketches is that it immediately overcomes any drawbacks associated with bleed-through or other similar conflicts between medium and paper. I’d recently come across some notes scribbled by my late father, found inside some art magazines. Poignantly, he was obviously considering a comeback to painting because the magazines were dated two years before he died. I can only conclude that he was researching painting theory just before being diagnosed with the illness from which he later died. One of my strongest memories from around this time was showing him the Jackson Pollock at the National Art Gallery in Canberra and coming upon a small work by Trevor Passmore, his teacher at East Sydney Art School; Passmore taught there before going off to England. My father never finished his course of study but the art-making process was tapped into indirectly through his working life in the advertising industry. At the time I came across these notes of his, I thought of enlarging individual words and somehow incorporating them into a work of mine, especially since there were a lot of words to do with art-making.

A very long time ago, I took a weekend crash course in pastel drawing. The first day was all about the medium and drawing objects ‘from life; But on the Sunday we had to construct an A3-size collage and draw it in pastels. The idea of reproducing a collage in drawing or painting  was revolutionary for me, because it tapped straight into content from the magination, from disparate images placed in and around each other. Stendhal’s idea of cutting-and-pasting one’s own sketches for inclusion in a collage of disparate images is equally revolutionary.

With the collaged papers in place, the sketch now reads as The Green Man of English myth and legend, or The Body with chakra points and an internal view, interior “fencing”, or literally, a staircase/fence inside a tropical garden/forest. Or an exploration of response(s) to Beauty. A lot of internal debate went on about the power of the eyes/face and concealing the more obvious (and distracting) human features.

#114. Draw something ugly you love and keep for sentimental reasons, Journal about it, too. COPIC markers, marbled paper, photocopied handwriting, paper and card collage.

This is the only Every Day Matters challenge this month which specifically calls for text. I could have ignored it, as is my wont when it comes to text.

My father was fond of succinct phrases and proverbs. Directly quoting others seemed to help him articulate his own feelings. I came upon several lines he’d written under a description of mixing colours from an art textbook.

A question is reality

A hypothetical question is a forced illusion

You add value & happiness to my life

The three lines had no context at all; they sound like snatches of words he may have overheard on the radio, affirmations made by somone being interviewed. I photocopied them life-size and mercifully they fitted the height of my page; I thought them too distracting placed horizontally.

Any connection with the object as sketched is tenuous. The object is a small Sri Lankan painted wooden elephant, a present from an acquaintance who I helped. I keep it because it offsets some brightly coloured temari balls of mine. I have toned down the the garish colours of the wooden carving. I am busy with bookbinding at the moment so a background of Margo Snape marbled paper came to the surface – another strand of my current life which I thought should be added to the mix, especially since it highlighted the flesh tones of my ‘fence’. Its swirls matched the direction of lines on the other page. I wanted at least one sketch this month to be in COPIC markers, but they are used here quite without any of their natural subtlety. The way the elephants tusks wrap around part of the script was fortuitous and something I retained. Literal meaning is pretty sparse, but the juxtaposition seems to hit me at a deeper level I cannot articulate.

In terms of ‘reading’ the pages of the ox-plough book, I have alternated very serious all-over spreads, with collage, with lighter more lyrical sketching on a very white background. I can’t say this will be a recurring format for the rest of the month. I realise now I am a long way from the original plan. These latest “sketches” are not the most seductive or beautiful of the pages done so far this month. But they have certainly been the most challenging at a deeper personal level. They certainly took many, many hours to put together. Such labour-intensive effort rather flies in the face of a daily sketching challenge, I know.

I can readily understand why Roz Stendhal works on a much larger (A4) format than the one I am working with at the moment. I have gone back to see some of her work and I very much like the subdued, elegant work involving sketching and collage. I am aware my collage overpowers the sketching, which is something she warns her students to be wary of.

I thought this month was going to be a personal review of Object Drawing and different media. Objects plainly carry a lot more personal psychological significance than I’d given them credit for. I am no great fan of art-making as therapy, but all art communicates basic, central human truths when it’s not expressing wonder at the universe. I am not sure this exercise in art demonstrates any social or ethical issues.

2 Responses to “EDiM #113 & 114”

  1. quirkyartist Says:

    Another interesting and thoughtful post. You are doing far better with collage than I am. I really find it a struggle to add it unless I feel it is relevant.

    • rodbyatt Says:

      I’ve noticed how dramatic and compelling your EDiM sketches are with the painted backgrounds, compared to the majority which are on white backgrounds. There is a certain predictability creeping into EDiM with watercolour-on-white-paper, though the mastery of the technique by some is impressive/daunting/inspiring.

      I like your restrained use of relevant collage; mine are overpowering the sketch/drawing element.

      Stood in front of a row of acrylic inks in Eckersley’s yesterday but walked away, so I definitely need to review my internal opposition to pre-painted backgrounds. I’m striking more and more textbooks which talk about going out plein air sketching with pages with already-tinted backgrounds: one leafs through one’s sketchbook of pre-painted backgrounds to find one relevant to the scene! Time for me to get with the programme…

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