I love the British Museum. Not only does it house the most amazingly strange artefacts, and the most amazingly old (a rock handaxe from Africa said to be 500,000 years old), but it allows you to see the original drawings and prints of many old masters. When I was there in February, I checked into the drawings and prints room and eventually had in my hands the original drawing that Durer made of his rhinoceros. That is, the drawing he made from which the engraving was made. It’s 500 years old, and it was so exciting to be looking through that time tunnel at how Durer worked on that particular piece of paper. The two hours I spent there flew by, but the excitement of that experience endures.
Strange then that I should be so taken up with abstract drawing, and not representational drawing at all. I do practice analytical drawing from time to time, and I probably should more than I do, but what really intrigues me is the possibility of using line and tone to create something new, that might never have been seen before. I draw this way because I want to see what it looks like. If you think that sounds double dutch, how about this quote from Picasso who said something like this : “If you want to know what to draw, start drawing it!” And as usual he’s right. You really do have to take the plunge, put graphite to paper and see what your hand wants to do.
Take this drawing, for instance. It’s part of a series I am working on called ‘Excavations’, inspired by visiting the archaeological dig at Star Carr. This took between 30 and 35 hours to make, painstakingly building up layers of graphite, so that the darker the paper grew, the deeper the depths I was plumbing. Perhaps I should explain that I start off with a 2H pencil and work three layers over the entire graphic area before moving onto to gradually darker and darker tones. I also make no corrections. Partly because you can’t successfully erase mistakes from work that’s built up in layers without destroying the whole piece. So I don’t. Instead I try and find a way of incorporating the deviation so that it blends into the whole composition. This kind of drawing takes me to another place, literally.