A Difficult Birth
285 x 305 mm, November 2013, mixed media on pescia paper. Copyright 2013
Conception was the easy and pleasurable part (as it often is). I knelt on the sand at Point Walter early on a breezy October morning. The oystercatcher was pausing between oyster catching. I realised I would have to prostrate myself on wet cold sand to be on his eye level and to get the composition I hoped for. My clothes got soaked but I got the photos. As I stood up, brushing sand off wet trousers, I thought triumphantly, “It’s a wrap.”
Next stage; the gestation period was steady and uneventful. I had the idea to use crayons in this drawing so I laid down undercolour with Caran d’Ache Neocolor I (a water-resistant wax pastel). Then I built up the colours, as usual, mainly with ‘Luminance 6901’ pencils. Later I used Caran d’Ache Neopastel (an oil pastel) sparingly for some accents and highlights. (Information about these crayons are now on the Art Materials page.) The mixed media drawing grew and matured at a consistent pace over a week and a half. I enjoyed the freedom of expression which comes when working with an image where much is out of focus.
This past weekend, though, was Hard Labour. I worked furiously to bring the drawing to fruition. I quote from my art journal…”It’s all going bad. Just realised the horizontal seaweed to the left of the bird is vile [see image below] and have taken it out. I think the picture is going to die. Still in saving mode right now – along with increasing dose of despair mode. I did everything I could to make it work – and the more I DID; the more it DID’NT. Or did it? I’m always harping on about ugly/beautiful. Here’s an example; I see “Eye Catcher” as ugly one millisecond and beautiful the next. I can’t make up my mind which; maybe both at once?” ( Journal entry from 10th November 2013.)
The drawing as it was on Sunday – with that nasty dark horizontal line (supposed to be seaweed) to the left of the bird’s feet. The sand was pale at that stage and whole thing looked insipid to me.
I worked until the light faded and then I lay on the couch in self-pity. Fail, Fail, Fail. I was done in. Later in the evening I watched a documentary on tv which I had been waiting for with keen anticipation: “David Bowie – Five Years: The Making of an Icon”, (BBC 2013). It cheered me immensely. One Bowie quote I particularly latched onto was, “The minute you know you’re on safe ground, you’re DEAD.” Wow! There’s no dishonour in being experimental, trying new ideas and failing. I didn’t mind the state of my drawing any more. I went to bed in a haze of acceptance.
This morning I got up and looked at the drawing with fresh eyes. It was okay; not perfect, a bit rough in places but I liked it. It had substance and energy. “Eye Catcher” (no longer ire catcher) was born and would live. I came to the conclusion that despair and elation, joy and suffering are intertwined and inseparable in many a creative process. Art hurts but, ahh – it’s pain with satisfaction!
ps. I forgot to mention that the oystercatcher’s beak is slightly open. Can you see that? He was just beginning to yawn!
Return to Contents of Posts page Related page: Subject 6: Birds in a landscape