by Pat Harvey FRSA SGFA
At DRAW 13, the 92nd Annual Open Exhibition of the Society of Graphic Fine Art, professional artists working across a variety of media were honoured with awards from leading manufacturers of art and drawing materials selected by eminent watercolourist (and recently elected SGFA member) Trevor Ward. The prizes were presented by Tim Lihoreau, Breakfast Presenter and Creative Director of Classic FM — an appropriate choice, in view of the exhibition’s optional theme, Music.
Quick to pick up on the proffered theme is Clare Sparkes ASGFA, winner of the The Daler-Rowney Award for the Best Work in the Exhibition, sponsored by Daler-Rowney Limited, for Cello Practice. “Drawing is essential to my artistic practice. It is an instinctive process of perceiving and communicating. However, drawing and painting are for me intrinsically linked. I choose my medium as appropriate for the subject with which I’m working at any given time. Usually I draw with graphite on paper, and paint with either watercolour or oils. My work is driven by my experience of living as a human being in the world. It felt totally natural forming a response to the exhibition’s theme. Music has always been important to me, and there is a lot of it within my family. My inspiration for Cello Practice was my son. I composed the drawing over a series of daily cello practice sessions, observing the movements and posture of his focussed energy and striving.”
The Award for a Highly Commended Work, sponsored by Dr Ph Martin’s, went to Sarah Burgess TSG for Otherness. “My original training in embroidery and stitched textiles has left a legacy of attention to detail and a love of precision, but a return to MA study reinvigorated my passion for research. I use mono-print drawing as a way of layering marks and adding unpredictability. Temperature, humidity and degrees of pressure mean that the results are out of my hands. Complex printed surfaces are often layered with marks of stitch. My work frequently explores accidents that disrupt the smooth order of everyday life.
Dementia and memory loss have been important recent themes. I am also fascinated with the annual cycle of pruning, taking away old growth and stimulating growth in a new direction, and in how we value damaged things, as an imperfect or repaired object may have greater beauty than a perfect one. I was delighted to be selected to show work in the SGFA exhibition on my first application, and I was honoured to receive an award. I hope to show with the Society again.”
Barry John Harrison SGFA carried off The Great Art Award for Drawing, sponsored by Great Art/Gerstaecker UK Ltd for The Blind Navigator. He says, “The motivation of artists in the past was obscured by the need to eat. You honed your skills so that you could make works that people would buy. But there was more to it. This ‘more’ — probably a mild (sometimes not so mild) obsessive compulsive disorder – forces artists to make art, even if their works fill the house and they become frustrated when they are prevented from doing so. Even as I write, I keep telling myself to hurry up and get on with a drawing.
And what is a drawing? Another image from the electro-chemical compost of the brain that appears from a waking dream and is then mutated onto paper. And as for graphite pencil — well, it is simple, but demanding, given that you have to think as much about the marks you don’t make as those you do. However, that’s not the reason I use it. I just found that pencil gave the results I wanted so I keep on using it. For me, other mediums are dabbling. Pencil is my real work.”
Charles Burns SGFA won The Award for a Highly Commended Drawing sponsored by Dr Ph Martin’s for Antoinetta at the LSC No.2. “As a shy and awkward teenager in the 1970s, I found that drawing was the one thing that seemed to connect me with others. It allowed me to communicate my feelings about them, my fascination with who they were and my relationship to them. From an early age my ability to draw enabled me to make friends and define my sense of self. It still does.
Drawing can take many forms. My favourite — the way I was taught at school — is to use a 3B pencil on paper, which is the medium I chose for this piece. Today, after many years spent cutting silhouette portraits, this is followed as a close second by a pair of scissors! Whether drawing or cutting, I always begin by looking, then I allow my hands to respond naturally to what I see. I always aim to reflect an aspect of the person before me, to say something about their mood and the way they are feeling, rather than simply capture a physcial likeness.
The Western tradition of drawing the nude has long been important to me. I use it to experiment with a wide variety of styles and materials, but in the end always come back to drawing with a pencil. This is why the aims of the SGFA appeal to me, with their emphasis on excellence in drawing as the foundation of all art”.
The Artist Papers Award for a Work in Colour sponsored by artistpapers.co.uk, UK Distributors for Strathmore Papers, went to Julia by Susan Relph ASGFA. “The demonstration sketch of Julia, a crucial resolution after many hours over many years studying this particular model, was greatly influenced by her music choice, the time limitation and the atmosphere in the Life Room on that day. Intensive observation of the natural world has always been my major motivation. The subsequent risks ensure uncertainty, where results are unpredictable and any “failures” make possible an alternative abstract pathway.”
Cynthia Barlow Marrs SGFA netted no fewer than two awards. An enthusiastic proponent of the Society’s principles, she glides smoothly beween graphite, paint and mixed media, saying, “I joined the SGFA in 2009 because I felt I wasn’t drawing enough. Now I can’t stop.”
Of Philharmonia Orchestra 14th October 2012, winner of The Arqadia Award for a Highly Commended Work on the Exhibition Theme for 2013, ‘Music’, sponsored by Arqadia Limited, Cynthia says, “I carry a sketchbook everywhere. I don’t look for perfect scenes, I just draw what’s in front of me in cafes, hospitals, theatres and trains and at performances of all kinds. At 5ft 2in tall, I’ve become very good at drawing shoulders, backs of heads and partially obscured views. But in Row G at the Royal Festival Hall I had the perfect vantage point and drew the Philharmonia Orchestra with my Moleskine sketchbook in my lap.”
Of The Pocket Forest, which won her The Rosemary & Co Award for a Highly Commended Work in Colour, sponsored by Rosemary & Co Artists Brushes Ltd, Cynthia writes: “I admire the scaled-up cut paper art of Matisse. I create highly coloured multi-part murals on canvases almost as tall as I am — the largest of these is five metres long. This painting, however, is just 50 centimetres square. It was part of my solo exhibition The Portable Forest, an installation inspired in part by Windsor Great Park and a German forest in which I once surprised a lone deer”.
Asked what are the influences on his work, and what ideas drive it, Will Taylor SGFA, winner of The Dr Ph Martin’s Award for a Print, sponsored by Dr Ph Martin’s, for Archimedes Hare, replies, “An obvious starting point is Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks. His mirror writing can easily be achieved with an intaglio etching plate which prints in reverse. More broadly I am drawn to the works of John Singer Sargent, Rex Whistler and the artists of the etching revival. I also draw on old notes and papers from my Engineering education. There is always a strong element of line in my work, whether in watercolour, charcoal, pen and ink or printmaking. Hardground etching is a very strong and traditional way of using line by means of drawing with a needle”.
The Award for a Highly Commended Print, sponsored by Stabilo International GmbH, went to Sally Friend for The Bathers, who writes, “The inspiration came from a 1920s postcard I have of Hampton Court Lido. I live near Hampton Court and found the glamorous 1920s scene facinating. I loved how some of the bathers were wet and their once modest knitted costumes had become sensual heavy folds. Initially this was a dry point etching, then I added spit-bite and other etching techniques for texture and movement in the water and, after inking the plate up in sepia, rollered a very thin glaze of phthalo blue over 3/4 of the image before finally flicking tiny amouts of talc to create ‘bubbles’. I’ve noticed that water is a recurrent theme in my work. I’ve always lived beside it, and one way or another it seems to seep into everything I do. My studio overlooks the Thames and I did my BA (Hons) Graphic Design at Brighton College of Art. It was a good course, but I think I wanted to be by the sea!”
Clive Riggs SGFA, whose Summer won the The Stabilo Award for a Work in Monochrome sponsored by Stabilo International Gmbh, says: “Drawing for me is fundamental. I always carry a small notebook. I joined the SGFA very soon after graduating from college, and actually thought it was a bigger achievement to be elected than it was to obtain my degree.
I am influenced by Albrecht Durer in his description of the natural world, and by JMW Turner, especially the Liber Studiorum [a series of landscape and seascape compositions by Turner published as prints in etching and mezzo-tint] which I studied in detail at art college. I don’t think Turner gets enough credit for his extraordinary draughtsmanship. I think I’ve been influenced by him the most. Both of these blokes could really draw. Summer was inspired by John James Audubon. I like to use animals, especially hares because of their pagan associations, as a metaphor or narrative vehicle. Working with mezzo-tint means you can work hard on a surface — copper in my case — etch it, cut it, scrape it, burnish it, overdo it and then undo what you’ve done and re-do it. The work shows on the plate, but the ink on the paper determines what happens on the plate and is the ultimate destination. I like all of the ‘process’ stuff.”
Bernard Fleming, creator of On Govert Flinkstraat, Ams. 1073, which won The Award for a Highly Commended Work in Monochrome, sponsored by Stabilo International GmbH offers the following commentary: “A young girl’s diary emblematically links the city of the title with Occupation and Oppression. On the left-hand side of the drawing, a clouded city (the right-hand section of Vermeer’s painting View of Delft) appears on a TV screen, and the upper half of a twisted metal vase towers against the sky. If the foreground mannequin’s left arm extends toward this aspect of the drawing in what might appear to be a Roman salute, then perhaps its right hand might seem to be ushering a passing dove out of the picture — and one might wonder what extreme circumstance would move the occupant of the house opposite to raise their wooden shopping trolley up to their attic. The drawing has both imagined and observed elements. The television, the glass shelf, the wallpaper and the setting itself have been imagined, and there is a Google Street View-assisted estimation of the view from the window of this real and as yet unvisited address.”
Glenn Fitzpatrick’s Double Bass in Harmony won The Derwent Award for a Work on our Theme for 2013 ‘Music’, sponsored by Derwent at the Cumberland Pencil Company Ltd. According to Glenn, “The ideas behind my work stem from the time when I was in the Army. I used to draw pictures on the sides of tanks and heavy armour in exchange for cigarettes and chocolates, as there was no value in currency during the 1991 Gulf War that I was stuck in.
I am inspired by life itself. If I had to choose three artists I would say Leonardo Da Vinci, MC Escher and a contemporary called Steven Wiltshire. I tend to work with gel pens, pencils, acrylic ink and water colour paper. I love the range of marks this combination allows, however I am always on the hunt for new products and techniques, the potential to create something different. The inspiration for the musical theme comes from working while music plays. This helps to fill the lonely silence. The picture was an extension of what I was playing at the time; the range from classical to street allowed a whole range of musical elements within the work. Drawing and painting are as one as far as I am concerned, one cannot live without the other.
I am so inspired by the SGFA, a wonderful collective of craftsmen and draughtsmen rich in diversity and experience. I can only learn from such a prestigious and well respected society. It has been a privilege to exhibit alongside artists who make me raise my bar. As long as this group is around I will always be encouraged to make great work and not become complacent.”
The Jackie Devereux Sketch Award, Sponsored by Jackie Devereux SGFA, was given to Pete Monaghan SGFA for Ganzuernen. Pete writes: “My work is informed by the ‘wabi-sabi’ effect — decay — and I am influenced by the American abstract expressionists, Robert Rauschenberg, the Romantics — especially John Ruskin — graffiti and urban art. In this case I have used ink, though I usually work in acrylic/mixed media because of its versatility. I was inspired by the architecture of old farm buildings which are no longer in use. This place would have been farmed for generations. Times are changing. Drawing is my basis. Why not draw with paint? It challenges in different ways.”
The winner of The Associates Prize, sponsored by Great Art and Stabilo International GmbH for Navigation Chart for the Shalford Water Meadows was Stephen Baker ASGFA. “I work in all linear-based media”, says Stephen, “including sgraffito and graphite. My strong preference is dip pen –’Griffelkunst’ – the art of the stylus. I work mainly on paper prepared with size and gesso. My biggest influence is Paul Klee and, more immediately, the work of outsider artists. This picture does not look realistic but is a representation, in my terms, of an actual landscape in particular weather conditions. The content is two meadows adjacent to the River Wey in Guildford. These meadows are subject to controlled flooding via a series of sluice gates. The disturbed landscape is one of my major themes.”
“I don’t understand why many English art societies are organised by medium: The Pastel Society, The Royal Watercolour Society and others. Why should it matter which medium is used? Thankfully, the SGFA is broadly based, albeit under the umbrella of drawing. On a personal level, the SGFA was the first national art organisation to recognise the validity of my idiosyncratic approach, so I remain loyal.”
John Hurford, winner of The President’s Choice Award sponsored by the Society of Graphic Fine Art for Jane writes: “I live on my farm in the middle of the Devon countryside, and all my ideas originate from there. I use the flora and fauna from aound my home, and my portraits are usually of me or my wife (such as this one) or people I know very well. I paint in acrylic, and also use pencil and coloured pencils now that they produce more lightfast versions. I sometimes use acrylic inks on paper.
For me painting is drawing with paint. The SGFA is important to me. I was impressed by the work of David Brookes PPSGFA, and when I got into the exhibition at the Menier I realised there was a lot of great work around.”
Editor’s note: We are pleased to announce that, since DRAW 13, Bernard Fleming has been elected to Associate Membership in the Society.