Tag Archives: clouds

blue sky, and thinking [again]

Sunday 18 April 2010

It has been very warm and sunny all this week, with a heatwave forecast for next week. I am finding this quite odd, when contrasted with the knowledge of a volcanic dust plume from an Icelandic volcano drifting grey ash clouds at high altitude above most of Northern Europe. With no incoming or outbound flights in the UK for the last few days the skies have been unusually quiet – just as nature intended. We are grounded, but the weather has been quite lovely… wish you were here

Wanting to take a slightly philosophical stance on nature’s subtle intervention (the best kind of art), I was delighted to read Alain de Botton’s musings on a world without planes… Heathrow, he writes, would become a museum, [and of planes] we would stroke their steel dolphin-like bodies in museums and honour them as symbols of a daunting technical intelligence and a prodigious wealth.

Modern air travel has destroyed any sense of geographical distance, the physical experience of moving through a landscape, or even the metaphysical space and sense of the passage of time that our travelling predecessors would have gained from crossing land and sea… perhaps the exception would be the hot-air balloon…

I was amused by the notion that Botton was the writer-in-residence at London’s Heathrow airport – how could he possibly think clearly with the constant noise of take-offs and landings? Of course, he actually resided elsewhere, it’s just a creative job description..

Clear blue skies or grey clouds ahead… (some animated cloud drawings)


[the art of idleness, part one….]

read more about the art of idleness

on van gogh, trees, skies and birds

Friday 2 April 2010

I went to see the current crowd-pulling exhibition at The Royal Academy this week, The Real van Gogh: The Artist and his Letters…. What person doesn’t feel an affinity with the life and work of Vincent? The passion, the determination, the frustration, the rejection, the anxiety, the joy and the sadness. I have been twice to Amsterdam, to the excellent Van Gogh Museum and the equally splendid Rijksmuseum, so even though I feel quite familiar with Van Gogh’s early and later works, it did not deter me from wanting to visit this exhibition. To see the exquisitely detailed pen and ink drawings on some of his letters was delightful, despite the annoyance of the inevitable crowds of people, huddled and jostling for a closer view. You can read and view Vincent Van Gogh’s letters online

I was most captivated by his early drawings and paintings of the Dutch landscape, because of their similarity and resonance with the East Anglian landscape.


Vincent Van Gogh, Pollarded birches with Woman and flock of Sheep, March 1884

In a letter to Anthon van Rappard in March 1884, on his landscape drawings (including the one pictured above), Vincent wrote that: I always count it among the possibilities that some day or another I’ll find an art lover who would like to take them off me — not one or two, but 50, say. […] If I didn’t have to, I’d most certainly much rather keep studies, at least, for myself, and I would not want to sell them. […] I sometimes think about not doing anything else except pen drawings and — painting.

These drawings revealed his raw determination to understand the landscape, free of the subsequent stylistic influences such as orientalism, pointillism and impressionism, as colourful and energetic these later oil paintings are to view in reality. It was most inspiring to see so many of Van Gogh’s many studies of trees together, the pollard birches and contorted willows… and I even attempted to quickly sketch one or two details… I am inspired to return to sketching in the woods once again…


[sketchbook studies of Van Gogh’s tree drawings]

Three hours later, as we headed back to the train station there was just enough time to quickly see the soundscape installation by the French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot at the Barbican Centre. Here is a video clip of it on YouTube.

I found this exhibit both delightful and mildly unsettling. The birds (Zebra finches) seemed happy enough and unconcerned by our human presence. At one point, most of the birds gathered together in a playful formation and elegantly swooped and swerved between us, or rather between one end of the space and the other, from one musical perch to another. I then noticed that one of the finches was not as active as the others; it was huddled on a guitar, its feathers puffed up and with its eyes closed, and so I felt I had to tell the invigilator that I thought it looked sickly. I am sure they thought I was being overly concerned (no animals are harmed in the making of this artwork…) What would Van Gogh have made of this art installation, I wonder, or indeed the enduring fascination and attention surrounding his art and life? In the Royal Academy shop there were tea trays, fridge magnets, necklaces, in fact every conceivable Vincent-inspired commodity except perhaps chocolates in boxes…

On the final drive home it was nightfall, and in the skies were near-black, heavy rain clouds, magnificently set against the light of the full moon. On arriving home, I proceeded to draw this view from my immediate memory, three quick impressions of a night sky with dark clouds, in ink pen…

Seeing the work of Vincent van Gogh once again, reminded me that to be an artist you have to scratch beneath the surface of things, you have to be truthful and honest in your search for the meaning of things, you must see and interpret things through your own eyes and not be totally steered by the eyes, ideas, words or opinions of others…

The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and his Letters at The Royal Academy is on until 18 April 2010.

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s‘ installation at The Barbican Centre (free admission) is on until 23 May 2010.

prints and drawings

Friday 26 March 2010

one of the lichenscapes etchings, proofed in colour…


[etchings, proofs on various papers]

another road trip; subsequently did some while looking out of the window sketches to while away the seated hours, in what could possibly be the smallest functioning sketchbook, at only 10cm square…


[miniature sketchbook, with tesco pen]


[miniature sketchbook pages]


[field and sky drawing one]


[field and sky drawing two]


[field and sky drawing three]


[field and sky drawing four]

I am hoping that drawing directly from the landscape, sat within it or just passing through it (as here, partly from observation and partly memory) will in time inspire a new direction in my work… I like the sombre mood of dark clouds against a rolling landscape…