I recently completed (and sold) a drawing of Pieter Bruegel’s Netherlandish Proverbs. It’s the same size as the painting — 117 cm × 163 cm — and made up of forty-eight paper panels. As with the other large multi-panel drawings I’ve made, I don’t smooth out the joins in the work but allow the grid like structure to subtly show through.
It was a great piece to draw as there is something of interest in every part of the work. Each panel stands up as worth looking at. By making this I’ve become aware of all sorts of detail I might otherwise have missed.
It’s full of visual representation of proverbs and saying. Some are well-known and still familiar to us (the guy in the bottom left hand corner is banging his head against a brick wall, for example) and easily understood, but some are more obscure.
There’s more information about the painting and the proverbs here.
While trying to finish my PhD I engaged in a little distraction and made a start on a life size drawn copy of the Mona Lisa.Aside from the distraction it afforded me (though I abandoned it and knuckled down to writing after a relatively short while) it gave me a chance to see if I could capture something of the expression that is so well known. In truth, I saw this as a technical challenge and not as a work of art as such. The Sans Terre / + I make with Chris is much more interesting as art, but part of me is still fascinated by trying to achieve something that is perhaps beyond my grasp.
Last weekend I made an effort to finish it, at least for the time being. I think that there is still some tweaking to around the mouth (though I’m loathe to do too much as the expression can change in an instant), but for now this is complete.
What next? I’m thinking that that this ought to be exhibited on the wall that now masks my painting of the wall of the Salon Carré from which the Mona Lisa was stolen by Vincenzo Peruggia in 1911. I might then erase it.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon in the National Gallery in London and made two drawings. I normally head to Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus and draw the guy on the right with his arms outstretched, but it was very busy so I headed off to see some other favourites. On the way to the room that contains Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Marriage (1434) I stopped to draw Giovanni Bellini’s The Doge, Leonardo Loredan(1501). It’s a captivating painting (and used by the National Gallery on the cover of the official guide), but a little cold. The drawing I made reflects this. The subject is a bit ‘blank’ in my copy. The painting is incredibly subtle. There are some lines the indicate something more than a mask-like indifference but not much more. The result is a portrait of a powerful but calculating figure. He was Doge of Venice from 1501 until his death twenty years later, so I suspect he was a smart politician. There’s a short Wikipedia page about him, should you want read more.
After making this drawing (which I have subsequently worked on as it was a little underdone), I headed to the Van Eyck. It’s always a little congested around the Arnolfini Marriage as every tour group stops there. Hanging next to it is a portrait of a man with a turban that I’ve admired for years. It’s believed to be a self-portrait of Van Eyck, but look like an excuse to paint the turban to me.
I started my drawing by roughing the turban details in and gradually locked down more and more of the cloth. Only when I finished it did I start on the face. I had blocked in some areas of shade but deliberately left it undone as I wanted to focus my efforts on the headgear. As I worked I became aware of Van Eyck looking back at me. It became clearer and clearer that the look in the work was so different from the one by Leonardo Loredan and fixed by Bellini. Van Eyck’s gaze is more quizzical, less relaxed. It is the face of someone working, which would of course make sense if it is a self-portrait. All this led to me tackling the extremely subtle shading of the face. The painting is only 260 mm x 190 mm, a little smaller than A4, which is the size of sheet I worked on.
While I worked (on both drawings but especially on the Van Eyck) small scrums of people gather behind me to watch me. I was listening to a long playlist of punk records on my iPod, so can’t really relate what they may have said. A woman did take some photographs and has said that she’ll send some to me. As and when they appear, I’ll post them here.
For my PhD submission I have produced a short (56pp) publication to accompany the thesis. You can buy it by following this link. As with 365drawings – a version of which will also accompany my thesis – I have used lulu.com to produce the book meaning that you can buy it directly from them and, as they have production facilities in several parts of the world, it’ easier for you to get it from them than me.
After After… is priced at £10 (plus p+p), but I’ve discounted it to £8 as an introductory offer. I don’t have spare copies so they cannot, at present, be bought directly from me.
If you want to buy 365drawings, it’s still available at £15 (plus p+p) and the link is here.
After After… contains a mixture of images and text that explores a work that I consider fatally flawed, but needed to come to terms with for my research. The drawings aren’t that bad, though some are better than others but what was really useful was reviving them through reflective writing. Much of it isn’t that academic and might be of interest to anyone who draws. I like this book better than I like the work (which was called After, hence the title).
An extract from the introduction:
I began making After… in the autumn of 2012 and abandoned it a little over a year later. In excess of thirty drawings could be considered part of the larger work but only twenty-two are discussed here. Writing about the entire corpus would serve no real purpose and the observations would have become repetitive. As production of After… proceeded it became obvious that the larger work had become a vessel into which any drawings that fulfilled conceptual criteria I had established could be placed, regardless of what they offered the project as a whole. This was due in large part to my preoccupation with accurately representing the appearance of the photographs that were the source material for the drawings, a preoccupation that overwhelmed any interest in what was actually shown in the photographs. Simon Morris, in the interview granted for this research, speaks of the importance of appropriateness when ‘mapping’ processes onto sources in order to make work. The process used for After… – the making of drawings of art works by others – is possible, but it is not always appropriate.
Below is a double page spread to give you an idea of the book’s content. If you click on the image, it will open in another window enabling you to read the text.