The Remains of the Day
“The Remains of the Day”
Coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth. 36.5 x 30.8 cm. February 2019.
Venice: November 2018. It is nearly 4 pm and the sun is already inclining westwards. I am going west as well, back towards my apartment, plodding along happily worn out. But then…a light bulb moment…
‘I know – what if I point my lens into the sun?’ It is poised above Punta della Dogana and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, shining directly into my eyes. (I raise the camera, quickly compose and then close my eyes as I click, click, click.) Voilà!
The air is all haze and halo, evaporating some objects while solidifying others (including people) into dark abstractions. Sea mirrors sky; blazing here, sparkling there. A seagull has swooped into my view. Perfect.
There are probably only 90 minutes of daylight left. I will be back sitting on my bed by 5 pm scrolling through photographic images. ‘Here’s a good one.’
The two drawings from this day are bookends – starting with “Early One Morning” (07:50) and finishing with “The Remains of the Day” (15:50). Matthew (husband) came up with the titles – the first being a Celtic folk song and the second, a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Early One Morning
“The Remains of the Day”
A Room with a View
“A Room with a View” – coloured pencils, 31.5 x 28 cm. January 2019
We have a room with a view!
On our first night in Venice I sit at the open window – looking, listening, still. And then I reach for my camera. Perhaps this view (this sentiment) can be captured in a drawing. Shutter clicks follow.
Sounds of lapping water drift upward. Distant voices from figures on the bridge float on the air, echoing between stone. It has been raining; maybe it still is – [I can’t remember]. The buildings are lace silhouettes, their white lights reflect on black water.
(“E.M Forster, I’m borrowing your novel title for my drawing. Is that OK with you?”)
The following three nights I hardly glance outwards as I flit about the room. I am already used to the view – desensitized. Isn’t that a peculiar thing about human nature…
The Artist’s Way
“The Artist’s Way” Coloured pencils October 2018
The artist’s way is a journey where sometimes one feels certain about the path ahead only to become thoroughly lost at the next turn.
When I visited rue Quincampoix that night in October 2016 I was in familiar territory and was delighted to see it illuminated so vibrantly. I took photos and walked in a happy daze. Continuing home (so I thought) I turned up one street, thinking it was another, and led myself into an unfamiliar area. Alone. At night. Lost in Paris. After some hasty and intimate time spent with my map, I righted my wrong and got home.
Similarly I went into my most recent exhibition full of certainty. But over the two weeks in the public gaze I lost my bearings. Certainty dissolved into a state of trepidation as I experienced the full spectrum of reactions; from praise, through indifference to actual hostility. (Only one person was truly hostile.)
To be lost, found, and lost again in an endless cycle throughout a life, questioning one’s art and one’s very existence, is the artist’s way.
In the end the thing that you feel is your undoing is also your way back to sanity – art.
Another drawing from the same photo-shoot is “Guiding Lights”, drawn in 2016.
The drawing below shows the way I drew this street back in 2012.
“Conversations at Dusk” 2012
“Boulevard” 19.5 x 25.5 cm. Coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth.
Bright lights and shadowy figures marching across the boulevard merge to create a lively kaleidoscope at Place Blanche. This is the final drawing (I mean it this time) for the “Remember Paris” exhibition opening in five weeks’ time.
To view the catalogue of 30 drawings for the exhibition, click here.
Non, je ne regrette rien
happy with undercoat beginning…
This morning I photographed my first layer of a big drawing (380 x 505 mm) after a week of laying on the under-colour in Sennelier oil pastels.
A couple of hours later… Uh oh – I’m not feeling the love.
And…that’s it. No regrets.
A few hours later: In hindsight, every work which is labour intensive needs to be believed in. It is a huge effort but it will be worth it. In this case, I didn’t have quite enough belief (or enthusiasm) in the piece for all the effort I knew I was going to have to put into it. That’s probably the primary reason I let it go.
PS: Another reason for dumping the picture above was that it was too similar to “Rhapsody in Gold” drawn in 2017.
“Rhapsody in Gold”
pastels and pencils
240 x 255 mm. May 2018
Have you ever waited at traffic signals after dark and observed how surrounding colours change depending on whether the signal is red or green? In “Wait” the colours of île de la Cité are also made bright by a boat’s high beam illuminating the arches under Pont d’Arcole. (We can’t see the boat but we know it is there.)
Here is a deep dark “Walk” (partner of “Wait”). Notice how light from the signal casts a different glow on the sky in each of the two drawings.
A much lower key “Walk” than “Wait” as the green walking man gives off lower light than the red standing man.
In recent posts I have been showing the oil pastel under-painting (before coloured pencil is layered on top). In comparing the under-painting stages of these two drawings (drawn several months apart) I see that this primary stage is now richer and more consolidated than it was in mid 2017. It is fascinating to chart the evolution of a new idea.
oil pastel undercoat of “Wait” (May 2018)
oil pastel undercoat of “Walk” (August 2017)
Next time you are sitting in your car waiting for the lights to change, or standing at a pedestrian crossing after dark, observe the colours as the lights go through their paces. (Trust me, it is more entertaining than merely being impatient.)
oil pastels and coloured pencils. 240 x 350 mm.
“We weren’t in love oh no far from it” (Bob Seger sings in “Night Moves“). Nor am I in love with Moulin Rouge but I certainly am captivated by her lit-up sails and their effect on Place Blanche. “I used her, she used me but neither one cared/we were getting our share“. She gives me art, I give her publicity (not that she needs any from me)!!
“Night Moves” is a partner to “Irresistible Blanche”. They are the same size and will hang side by side when exhibited in September.
For those of you interested in my technique using oil pastels as undercoat to coloured pencils, below is the drawing when the oil pastel/undercoat stage was completed. At this point I was ready to begin layering coloured pencils on top. You can read about this technique in my post Brush and Pencil or in the April 2018 issue of Ann Kullberg’s Color – https://annkullberg.com/collections/color-magazine-all-issues
You could say the cake was the oil pastel and the icing the coloured pencils. Cake + icing = delicious!