As the long summer days begin to recede comes the autumn light that gives rich intensity at the start or end of the day, I have put together tips focusing on experiencing the light, and the land to make more visceral responses in drawing and writing.
1. TIME & PLACE. Allow for two hours (early morning or evening) in a garden, park, woodland, coast, somewhere that you feel drawn to, that you would enjoy spending time away from crowds and distractions. Media – charcoal, water-soluble graphite stick, a pen and some water (a waterspray if you have one), with a portable sketchbook or some paper. Pack a drink and a treat.
2. SOUND. Drawing underpins my practice, but before this I take time to experience with all senses what I encounter. In your chosen place in nature, get comfortable. Close your eyes, listen to the sounds around you, spend at least a minute just listening, then open your eyes, splash or spray some water on the paper, take the graphite stick and draw the sounds as you hear them ignoring the water, just let the graphite move across it. Let your hand making the marks on the paper experience the sounds you hear and respond through drawing.
3. LIGHT. For this next drawing look at the shapes of light and dark, choose either portrait or landscape format on your paper and for your drawing. Use the graphite to draw the dark, the paper will be the lightest light. Squint your eyes – which is the darkest dark? Draw just the darkest dark with the charcoal.
4. MOVEMENT. Look around you for movement such as the branches, air, insects, birds or energy. On the same drawing, use a found stick/twig/feather and dip or spray it with your water to drag the water through the drawing. It will pick up the water-soluble graphite in places and not in others.
5. IMAGINATION. Close your eyes again, imagine yourself sending roots into the earth, and branches high into the sky. In your minds eye, what do you see from your roots when you look up? Notice it, then open your eyes and make a new drawing using all the drawing media. Repeat this with the minds view from the uppermost branch high in the sky. Lastly, stretch your arm in front of you and imagine your eye in your hand, draw what you imagine your eye from that point would see.
6. WRITE. Close your eyes to find your stillness. Then open them, what do you notice? For example a leaf, a branch, a shadow, a stone? Imagine a story or a poem from the point of the view of what you choose. What is the story that this objects wants to tell, and just begin free-flow writing. This will give you the bones of a story or poem you can develop, or it may land whole.
Put the materials down, enjoy the drink and treat and appreciate your time in nature, I like to thank nature for what I’ve received. Tip: wait until tomorrow to look at the drawings/writing. These will contain a more visceral response to nature from which to make collage, paintings, or write a short story or poem.
As the Programme Coordinator and tutor on foundation art and design programmes at West Dean College my aspirations are to encourage and support creative learning for all ages and levels and experience. If you would like to know more about the foundation courses on campus or online join me at the next Virtual Open Days, 10th and 17th November. Register to attend on the website.