31 March 2014

REED PEN DRAWINGS AT CROMWELL BOTTOM




There's a place near where I live called Dog Bottom and another called Slack Bottom; not very poetic names but certainly memorable.  A few weeks ago I visited another place called Cromwell Bottom,  a nature reserve that I'd never been to before. We only decided to go because it was dreary weather, too chilly for the tops and I fancied somewhere new but it turned out to be a really interesting site that I wish I'd known about earlier.

Its located on the River Calder, between Elland and Brighouse, near a canal, with remnants of industrial workings and is described on the Natural England website as being "one of the richest areas in Calderdale in terms of biodiversity, acting as a stepping stone this site boasts over 130 species of plant, 200 species of recorded birds, large numbers of mammals, amphibians and a plethora of invertebrate life".  

What appeals to me are the two lagoons which have large reed beds. Apparently the reeds are a nuisance and have to be cut back, but I love the way they look and of course appreciate them for pen making! I harvested a few reeds and made a series of quick drawings in my small manila sketchbook:

26 March 2014

PRESS RELEASE FOR STONE ROSIE

For the sake of completism I feel the need to include here the Profile/Press release about Rosie that made its way onto the Intu Elephant Parade website recently, based on some emails and a phone conversation I had with their feature writer.





Creating a national tour elephant with local flavor

Press Release • Mar 13, 2014 14:00 GMT

Angie Rogers is the Yorkshire-based artist, who created Stone Rosie, the elegant and intricate Elephant Parade design inspired by York Minster.

Angie says: "I was surprised and delighted to be asked to submit a design for the Elephant Parade national tour and of course accepted the challenge as I have always loved elephants.” She said the inspiration for the design came from pondering “the sheer size and grandeur of these wonderful beasts.” She said this helped her make the connection to another favourite of hers - the great gothic cathedral at York.

“An elephant is like the cathedral of the animal world, large and stately to look at, a repository of history and memory, a precious source of wonder to be cherished and saved.”

Angie said that as a painter and printmaker, she finds the features of York Minster she is most drawn to are those great expanses of jewel-like stained glass. “When seen from inside the building they seem to float in an ocean of dark space. This is the aspect I wanted to celebrate on Stone Rosie, my creation for Elephant Parade.”

Reflecting on the selection of design entries for the national tour, intu’s Trevor Pereira commented: “From the moment we conceived the idea of giving Elephant Parade a countrywide platform to raise awareness of elephant conservation, intu was committed to creating a national tour with local flavor – an exposition that would surprise and delight the millions of people that experienced the elephants, yet draw on artistic references from all corners of the UK. Angie’s Stone Rosie design had the ‘wow factor’ even from the initial A4 design sketch and it has arrested public attention at every UK tour stop so far. It’s an incredible design statement and we’re proud to be showcasing it for the intu national tour.”

When asked to talk through her design, Angie mentioned the elements of the 'Heart of Yorkshire' in York Minster’s West Window that decorate the elephant’s forehead, while the famous Rose Window - featuring the white and red Tudor roses - adorn both her sides. “I gave Rosie blue eyes to signify her heavenly nature and to acknowledge the role of blue pigment in the history of Western painting,” she adds.

By a strange twist of fate, the arrival of Rosie quickly followed Angie's recent transfer to a new painting studio located at a remote chapel in the South Pennine hills above Hebden Bridge, where she lives.

So Rosie came to life in a spiritual building filled with glowing stained glass, the very medium that inspired her creation.

Rosie's delivery did cause a bit of a stir however as she was too big to fit through the internal studio doorway and had to be painted in a corridor. This wasn’t ideal Angie says, not least because the light is not as good as in her studio. But the upside of this was a raised awareness about Asian elephant conservation amongst the visitors and concert goers coming to Wainsgate Chapel, as they squeezed past roly poly Rosie on the way in!

Angie said that it was a challenge to paint something so large, particularly when painting on a 3D rather than a flat surface. “I did wonder at times why I had picked such an intricate pattern. It was particularly tricky getting the design to work over the curve of the elephant’s belly. But I am a perfectionist so I wanted to get it right.”

Angie has previously been involved with a number of conservation projects. In 2011/12 she was Resident Artist for the Watershed Landscape Project. A woodcut she made of a Twite - an endangered small ground-nesting Finch of the South Pennines - was used on the label of Light Twite, a local, organic, bottle-conditioned pale ale commissioned to lift the profile of the RSPB's Twite Recovery Project.

The natural world is a major source of inspiration for Angie’s work. She says she enjoys observing the minutiae of detail within the flora and fauna of her local environment, as well as a broader viewpoint of the austere uplands, moorland reservoirs and steep wooded valleys that surround her home. Angie believes encouraging people of all ages to discover and enjoy their local wildlife is a vital foundation for fostering a wider concern transcending geographical and national borders. To this end she has organised numerous outdoor art activities and has even taken her portable printing press out into the wilds when working with schools and community groups.

She says: "As a child drawing tiny images of the wild roses growing along the neighbourhood hedgerows, I little imagined that years later I would be painting 98 double Tudor roses on the curving form of an elephant.

“The love of wild things and the desire to be an artist have never waned though, and I'm proud to have had the opportunity to put the two together with the aim of saving wild elephants.”

She says she misses seeing “Rosie’s smiling cheerful face each day” but she has been to see her at intu Trafford Centre, as part of the Elephant Parade national tour, presented by intu. She says: “It was great to see her in the intu shopping centre. The elephants look big - but not as big as one does when you are painting it. It’s great that the tour has taken these elephant to a number of cities this year, I only wish it were more.”

To find out more about Angie's work visit www.angierogers.com

For more information on the Elephant Parade national tour, presented by intu – including latest news on tour venues, gallery images and access to further artist profiles – visit the tour website:www.intuelephantparade.co.uk

17 March 2014

THE STORY OF STONE ROSIE PART 2




Its been a long 6 months since I posted  THE STORY OF STONE ROSIE PART 1  and during all that time the life-size version of Rosie the elephant has been touring the shopping centres of Britain (strictly speaking only the ones owned by a company called Intu). Sadly Intu don't own any in Birmingham so the city of my birth has missed out on my proboscine achievement. (Proboscine is to elephant as lupine is to wolf I just found out. I'd have thought it would be pachydermine but apparently not so.) I prefer pachydermine.

After completing the tiny elephant I was cowed by the thought of doing it all again on a vastly bigger scale. I was hoping though that it would be easier working big, much less fiddly and easier on my eyes. Needless to say it all turned out very different...


Wainsgate Chapel is a slowly decaying listed building on a pot-holed lane up a steep hill heading up into the moors. I'm lucky enough to share a quiet painting studio there with my friend Sarah. There are beautiful views nearby, this one from the road looking across to the hill top settlement of Heptonstall and the moor beyond.


I  imagined Wainsgate would provide an ideal environment for decorating Rosie.  Unfortunately however, although the fibreglass Roly Poly could get through the front door, she was too fat to pass through the door to the studio. This meant she had to be painted in a very dark and chilly corridor, with stone flags, between the toilet and the studio doors. Even when it was hot and sunny outside I needed 3 jumpers on and insulated shoes.


To see anything I had to use an army of plug-in lamps bouncing light off the ceiling - a right performance as nothing much to hang them on and we are not allowed to put in screws or heaven forbid nails. 


I will never forget the freezing feeling of those stone flags which I had to grovel on to paint Rosie's under parts. Its amazing how actively you can grow to hate a corridor. But the sweet expression on Rosie's face always cheered me up. In this photo she looks like one of those Galloway belted cattle, apart from the red toenails.  The intention was always to paint them gold and red makes the best base colour.


I'm not even going to mention the fiddliness of painting round those red hearts of her ankle bracelet, no wonder many other Elephant Parade artists just paint over them.


Fitting the flat design onto Rosie's bulging belly involved a real challenge to ensure the circle stayed perfect. And then there was the other side to do exactly the same - whose idea was this! It turned out that the shape of the big elephant was significantly different to the small one and required a lot of adjusting.


98 double Tudor roses needed to be painted if you include the giant ones on her rosy cheeks. When I first had the idea for my elephant design I didn't realise how intricate the Rose Window at York Minster really is. Maybe I should have modified it for the elephant, but I became fixated on producing an accurate transcription of the original.


And then they all required a fine black outline to help create the illusion of stained glass. So much work and very tiring on the arm muscles.


The artists acrylic paint has a subtle sheen and the mars black pigment I used is a very warm black which seemed appropriate to the subject somehow.



To make the blue at the centre of the rose window more intense I used a range of different blue paint pigments.


Even though we had warm weather I needed a fan neater to help dry the paint so I could keep working in the icy corridor.


It is important to me that Rosie should have appealing eyes and I'm pleased with how they turned out.  Medieval stained glass made use of cobalt and soda-lime to achieve blue but in the Western painting tradition ultramarine blue, being the most expensive and beautiful colour, was reserved for the most important subjects of the painting such as the holy family and Mary in particular. I made Rosie's eyes blue to express her spiritual nature.


At last Rosie gets to peek out of the big entrance doors at Wainsgate chapel and to admire the gentle Yorkshire rain.



Here she is waiting for the truck that came to take her off on her adventures away from innocent, peaceful Wainsgate to the hectic frenzy of the herd at Kings Cross Station concourse and far beyond.




8 March 2014

A TREE DRAWS ITSELF (with some help from me)



A huge beech tree nearby was felled by a recent storm. It smashed down right over the river, Hebden Water, and the old footpath that leads up the valley towards Hardcastle Crags.  In the spirit of my renewed passion for drawing with material found on site, I chose a twig from what would have been the topmost branches of that tree to make this ink drawing.

You can see the twig 'pen' resting across the sketchbook. An insignificant little twig that except for a sudden twist of fate would have remained unseen and inaccessible to all but the wild things of the air. It felt unexpectedly gritty with a faint, bitter scent of winter and being springy with a frayed tip made a versatile drawing tool.  Having been laid low, it was returned temporarily to the heights, carried up the ridge to make my drawing from above, before descending again for the photographs.


Originally the fallen tree completely blocked the path, then some local authority workmen came and amputated a few large branches but you still had to struggle over the main boughs. Then nothing.  Now this silver haired local man has spent days with a hand saw! in an attempt to clear the way. I applaud his community spirit and hope he doesn't do himself an injury.



4 March 2014

REED PENS AND VAN GOGH


Following on from my previous post, some googling for images of Van Gogh's reed pen drawings that I like so much led me to a very interesting article by Robert Hughes from The Guardian, 27 October 2005, titled 'The genius of Crazy Vinnie'. Not too keen on the title (it may be ironic) but Hughes totally gets it and brilliantly sums up Van Gogh's reed pen technique:

"  Van Gogh's preferred drawing tool was the reed pen. This was simply a piece of dried reed-stem, hollow and shaped to a chisel point. Not very many artists liked to use it. The only Dutch artist who preferred the reed to a quill or metal nib was Rembrandt, and this must have borne its own significance for Van Gogh. The reed was not flexible, like other pens. Nor did it hold a lot of ink, so it would not produce long, sinuous lines. The style it favoured was short, blunt, angular and (in a limited way) calligraphic. In some drawings you can see Van Gogh brilliantly exploiting the limitations of the reed. He draws a tuft of grass, for instance, as five or six springing, more or less parallel strokes. The first one is heavy with ink. The next, less so. By the fourth or fifth, the reed is almost empty and the ink strokes faint. This creates the impression of a round tussock, rendered not as flat pattern, but turned towards the light. Then he dips his reed in the ink bottle, recharges it and begins again, on a different clump of grass. The marks are abstract and yet not: they have a tremendous graphic sufficiency, tiny though they are.
The reed pen also favoured shortish parallel marks, curving exuberantly. Hence the sense of flow in some of the drawings: the wreathing and twining of substance. In a way, some are reminiscent of Leonardo's water studies, except that you know (or at least think) that you are on solid ground.
It was common for artists, when using pen and ink without resort to wash, to render areas of darkness and shadow by means of cross-hatching. Van Gogh very seldom did this. His drawings are accumulations of shorthand forms, squiggles and dots, dashes and hooks, whose density provides surface with its fluctuation of light; but they have almost no chiaroscuro as such. What you see is a tapestry of microforms, sometimes linear - such as the water patterns on the beach or the internal coilings of the cypress trees - and sometimes dotted. Perhaps he got the idea for the dots from Seurat, but they amount to a kind of notation that is entirely Van Gogh's own.
Garden with Sunflowers 1888

This use of tiny shapes, linked in their almost riotous accumulation but each distinct from its neighbour, is the basis of some of his most powerful and exquisite drawings, such as Garden with Sunflowers, 1888. Now and then the effect is as fecund and near-dissolute as an unusually good Jackson Pollock. Wild Vegetation, 1889, can only be "oriented" as a landscape by a glimpse of hills behind the tangle of bushes, but it is hardly descriptive at all: what the drawing is about is less the character of leaves, vines and blossoms than the primordial character of making marks.   "

Wild Vegetation 1889

Go to  http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2005/oct/27/art  to read the whole article.

OUTDOORS WITH REED PEN AND INDIA INK




Up on a hillside looking down on Hebden Water as it swirls through the trees on its way down into Hebden Bridge. I was actually trying to record a huge Beech tree felled by wind and lying right across the river but ran out of room on my square format sketchbook page.

Using the same bit of old stem as last time to draw with, I liked its chunky feel, but shan't be able to use it again as it just imploded in my grip. Still, plenty more stems around...  I am enjoying the freedom of drawing as opposed to woodcutting, and the crude pen prevents me from being too tidy with the mark making. Intended to complete the right hand space but my hands suddenly became unbearably cold.



It is impossible to draw with a reed pen and not think about Van Gogh's wonderful reed pen landscape drawings, they are by far my favourite works by him, with such a variety of lines, dots and squiggles.