By Pat Harvey SGFA
At the private view for DRAW 14, the Society’s 93rd Annual Open Exhibition, we were signally honoured by the presence of one who, at first glance, is a stranger to the world of art: broadcaster, journalist and television presenter Andrew Marr. But, as became obvious from his short but pithy introduction to the exhibition, Mr Marr is no slouch when it comes to drawing. In fact he’s written a book about it, A Short Book about Drawing, which vanished like hotcakes at his signing session after he presented the prizes.
It is these that we are concerned with here, kindly sponsored by leading manufacturers of art and drawing materials, and selected for us by award-winning artist Jeanette Barnes. The Very Reverend Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark Cathedral, assisted by choosing the winners for our optional exhibition theme of Remembrance.
The Strathmore Artist Papers Award for the Best Work in the Exhibition went to Dr Susan Poole SGFA UKCPS for Prawn.
“Making a drawing has always retained a strong sense of magic for me. I see drawing as a mark-making dialogue between myself, the objects I am looking at and the visual ideas they inspire. My favourite medium is the humble pencil, because so much can be achieved with a couple of these, a sharpener and a bit of putty rubber. I also like working with coloured pencils because of the intensity of their colours. Animals have often been my inspiration. They offer an extraordinary variety of forms, surface textures and patterning. I have travelled widely to view animals in their native habitat”.
“Prawn combined my two directions of interest. It has a very personal meaning, and it is of an animal. I am profoundly deaf in one ear and moderately deaf in the other, as the result of a condition I’ve had since my thirties. Although I wear two powerful hearing aids, I frequently fail to fully hear, or I mis-hear, what is said. Deafness is not an attractive condition, but I wanted to make something visual from it. I experimented, first by making a drawing of a cochlear, the part of the inner ear that is the root of my problem. Then I made drawings of my hearing aids. Their shape and pinkish colour reminded me of prawns. So that’s how I came to make first drawings, and then an etching, of the prawn”.
Watercolourist Chris Forsey RI SGFA chalked up two prizes: the Derwent Award for a Highly Commended Work in the Exhibition for Blue Boat, Blue Sky, Port Isaac, and the Dr Ph Martin’s Award for a Work in Colour for Meet at the Slipway, Port “Isaac.
“I have drawn for as long as I can remember. My granddad encouraged me to draw on blood-spattered meat wrapping paper when I was a four year old! And any project at school would be an excuse to draw — even maps and diagrams filled me with excitement. I have a compulsion to draw in my sketchbook, capturing the world around me and translating it into a painting, but in recent years I have enjoyed the combination of drawn, spontaneous mark-making combined with a fluid, expressive painting approach.
“My sketchbooks have become a launch pad for exploring new approaches. Pencil is now combined with graphite stick and wash, felt-tip with water-soluble graphite, crayon and watercolour. My more painted work usually combines acrylic ink, oil pastel, watercolour, and possibly acrylic paint. This technique gives me the opportunity to create a fluid and expressive combination of media.
“I enjoy painting coastal scenes, buildings, dramatic compositions and atmospheric weather and light. I rarely work completely from a photo, usually combining this with a sketch and a lot of memory and imagination. My landscape subject matter however relies on a lot of imagination, but based on a memory of certain lighting, weather, and colour, often taken from another experience and added to the work in hand.
“I followed a coastal village theme in my DRAW14 work, and all was executed in the same media combination mentioned above. I wanted a strong colour palette and expressive line, and this work seemed to combine lively line, simple fluid or expressive paint and strong composition.
“The SGFA seems to me to have a very contemporary view of what a drawing can be, and my use of painting and drawing fits in with its broad scope. Quality of draughtsmanship is a prime consideration for me, and for the Society, while also promoting modern approaches, technique and vision. It gives me the ideal opportunity to follow a more ‘drawing- led’ approach in the work I submit for exhibitions.”
Angela Williams Hon. SGFA secured the Jakar Caran d’Ache Award for a Drawing with Summer Garden Afternoon.
“I have drawn for as long as I can remember, starting with wax crayons on greaseproof paper at infant’s school. It has always been a compulsion, a delight and a pleasure; sometimes a struggle and often a failure, but always fulfilling. I use any media to hand — I enjoy experimenting — but enduring favourites are charcoal and graphite. I am very interested in mark-making and losing the ‘edge’, and both media — soft and gentle, or strong and bold — lend themselves to this.
“Recently my garden as well as local fields and building sites have been my favourite subjects. I admire and am influenced by many artists, but Pierre Bonnard, Richard Diebenkorn, Joan Eardley and Sargy Mann are always there at the top of the list. In this drawing I wanted to explore the way light dissolves edges and to escape ‘outline’. I hope that it has energy and light.
“The SGFA has been a wonderfully supportive and encouraging group of friends and colleagues, all devoted to drawing in all of its forms. I was honoured to serve as a vice president before I took on full time work as a lecturer.”
Not content with nailing the Award for a Highly Commended Drawing sponsored by Cult Pens for Sun Boots – City on my Table, Claire Sparkes ASGFA also carried off The Associate’s Award sponsored by Jacksons Art for Neil – in addition, of course, to being one of last year’s prizewinners.
“Drawing is fundamental to my artistic practice. I love the smell of graphite, the feel of good quality paper, and, if it is a large piece, the scale. For me drawing is an intuitive process which, as it often requires a great deal of time, also becomes a meditative focus. It is a process of recording my surroundings, relationships and experiences. The drawings are uplifted moments.
My favourite drawing material is graphite. I like the simplicity of working with it on paper, my focus being the subject, the material, and the poetry of mark-making. However, I also enjoy using coloured pencil, inks and mixed media. I also paint with watercolour or oils. For me, drawing and painting are very closely related. I have experimented with various media over the years, but ultimately my choice of media is dictated by the subject. My work is about people, and the experience of living in the world.”
“Neil is a portrait of my brother. I was trying to describe something of the many aspects of a particular person, and how people in general are in a state of continual movement. The inspiration for Sun Boots – City on My Table was contemplating notions of Britain today. This directed my attention to my yellow Dr. Marten boots with iconic images of London. In contrast to the robustness and vibrancy of the boots, I chose the delicacy of the tea cup and saucer (carefully borrowed from my mum!). The image is a celebration of two great traditions.”
“The focus upon drawing led me to the Society of Graphic Fine Art. I had admired the drawings of SGFA members in the Rye Art Gallery, and then read an article in The Art of England magazine about the Society’s 2012 annual exhibition. I was delighted to be selected for membership in May 2013.”
The Award for a Highly Commended Work in Colour, sponsored by Dr Ph Martin, went to Sally Wilson for Sheffield Remembers.
“Drawing is the foundation of all that I create,” Sally says. “I always keep a sketchpad or notepad close at hand, as ideas and concepts often emerge as I work on other pieces, and it is essential to capture thoughts as they occur. First-hand findings are the most fruitful, and I visit a multitude of locations, from urban to natural environments, and the wildlife
that lives there. My work is two- and three-dimensional and mixed media based: graphite, ink, textiles, free machine embroidery, watercolours, acrylic and welded steel, to name a few media”.
“Sheffield Remembers was produced after a visit to Sheffield on a miserable rainy day in April. The fountain water had been dyed lime-green-yellow to celebrate the forthcoming Tour de France, and looked incredible against the contrasting red of the architectural structures and the poppy wreaths surrounding the war memorial. This effect was heightened by the reflections on the wet surfaces and glass structures of the buildings.” Sally discovered the SGFA through a National Event website. “It was refreshing to find an organisation which promotes such high standards and versatile work. I felt that membership of this prestigious organisation would challenge my own practice and skills, and feel very honoured to have been accepted as an Associate member.”
Editor’s note: Sally’s Sheffield Remembers was our October 2014 Image of the Month. To read her story please click here
When she was asked, “Why drawing?”, Dr Sumi Perera RE FSDC SGFA, whose London Bridge is Not Falling Down (v) earned her the Award for a Print sponsored by Arqadia and Intaglio Printmakers shared her thoughts.
“Drawing is an integral part of my daily routine. It helps me to think and re-evaluate what I see. I use pencil, ink, monoprint and stitch. I use free-hand stitch to complement drawings, as it offers a certain degree of distance and makes it possible to draw more random trajectories. Monoprints are often generated as a whole-body gestural exercise, allowing greater freedom in mark-making. I am interested in the way the human mind designs, and how the body occupies and navigates through the built environment.
“London Bridge has had several previous incarnations, from Roman timber bridges to a nineteenth-century stone structure. While the attacks on the Bridge and the shambolic attempts to fix it have been well documented (most notably in the eponymous nursery rhyme), the current box girder structure is exceptionally strong. My artwork contains various human viewpoints from the Bridge, including a worm’s eye view of No.1 London Bridge, and a distorted panoramic view”.
Rye artist/printmaker Will Taylor SGFA won the Award for a Highly Commended Print sponsored by Great Art for Jagdish Chowk Udaipur.
Asked why he draws, Will replies, “It’s an illness. I can’t help myself. Andrew Marr’s excellent book on drawing strongly resonates. We should all get back to making.” Defending his chosen medium, printmaking, and particularly etching, he says, “Using a needle on metal constrains one to use pure line.” In 2014 a painting trip to India broadened his horizons. “It forced me into different media and was an extraordinary way of looking intently at this amazing place.”
Editor’s note: Read about Will’s painting trip to India in our Sketchbook Series story here
Wendy Winfield ASGFA, winner of the Award for a Work in Monochrome sponsored by Stabilo International for Lavender Field, Provence.
“Drawing has always (well, since I was four) been a natural form of expression for me. It is the most direct hand-eye descriptor I know. I love using ink, Indian, with nib, bamboo, hogshair brush or any old stick or twig I find when working out of doors. Charcoal, too. Big screen painters’ sticks, so long as they make really black marks and shatter under pressure. If I need to make quick colour notes I use soft pastels — not practical, but delicious. I draw from the observed image, be it life, landscape, whatever. I could be out looking for a landscape, I may entice someone who looks interesting to be drawn in the studio, I might find something domestic in the house. It could even be a car, bus or train journey, when I draw at speed the passing scene. With Lavender Field I was in France with a chum, it had been raining all day, and we were obliged to draw from the car, which is frightfully inhibiting. I walked down the lane and saw the lavender. When I returned the next afternoon, light shimmered on the grey-green bushes not yet in bloom, and the contrast between the light-flooded orderly rows and the shaded bushes and woods behind was great, and perfect for ink.
“I was invited by Les Williams SGFA, who knew my drawings, to apply for Society membership and, aware of the prestige and professionalism of the Society, was delighted to be accepted. And so I look forward to working with the SGFA in the future.”
The Award for a Highly Commended Work in Monochrome sponsored by Stabilo International was won by Vincent Matthews ASGFA for Rye Harbour Pill Box.
“I have loved drawing from a very young age,” says Vincent. “It is a major factor in getting me through life. Being profoundly deaf since birth, and tongue-tied until I was five years old, I was drawing before I could talk.”
“Etching and aquatint suit my style of work. I enjoy using simple lines and the abstract, velvety tones of aquatint. I often add intaglio engraving lines, a 14th century technique.” His principal theme and inspiration is “the stark, barren landscape and vast sky in and around Dungeness and Rye, near where I live. Dilapidated sheds, skeletons of old boats and the thought of what must have been fascinate me. I love the way drawing can make the mundane interesting. I was inspired by the Rye Harbour Pill Box as a subject when I saw it with strong cast shadows. The sense of it being abandoned added to the interest. ”
As for the Society of Graphic Fine Art, Vincent feels he has found his spiritual home. “I love our members’ Drawing Days, and never fail to be amazed by the range and breadth of media my colleagues use. I have been criticised at times for drawing in an obsessively digital world of throw-away ideas, so it’s great to be part of an organisation that promotes drawing.”
Sally Friend’s Despair won her the John Purcell Paper Award for a Work on the Exhibition Theme of Remembrance.
“All my work begins in a sketchbook. I draw with sticks, feathers, pens, carbon, whatever will bring my ideas to life. The inspiration for Despair came during a visit to the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition of World War 1 portraits, when I discovered the powerful prints and drawings of Käthe Kollwitz. When researching images of soldiers in the trenches, I was struck by the despair in their eyes, and how much mud they had to contend with. It was as though they were made of mud. I began my drawing with an acrylic wash on Bockingford paper, drew initial marks in graphite then layered another muddy wash, then charcoal, then another wash, building the image and finishing with highlights in Conté crayon. I tried to put all the emphasis into the emotion, and to avoid making any extraneous marks. I was very pleased to have been selected for DRAW14 because I had enjoyed the experience of taking part in DRAW13, and had met some lovely members while stewarding.”
Glenn Fitzpatrick MA ASGFA won the Award for a Highly Commended Work on the Exhibition Theme of Remembrance, sponsored by Rosemary & Co Brushes, with a highly original piece, Noli Me Oblivisci.
“I drew on a serviette because I had run out of paper, and I used a gel pen and a pointillist technique so as not to tear the fragile surface. I felt compelled to draw an eye which bore an uncanny resemblance to that of an old friend. I brought up a picture of her on my mobile phone, and for an hour and a half I drew the rest of her profile. Held up to the light, the image showed on both sides, and I realised I could sandwich the drawing between two panes of glass. And
when the sun shone through it I was reminded of a fire guard. For me the fireguard is a metaphor for our vulnerability. When we are exposed to heat — or danger — we endeavour to find solace and comfort in something like this ghostly presence. The spiritual quality of the image reminded me of friends past. It seemed to me to belong to all generations, a reminder that we are not infallible, and for me it resonated as ‘remembrance’.
“I constantly feel inspired by the Society, and am always learning something new from my colleagues. I consider them to be the perfect mentors and peers”.
Finally, the President’s Choice Award, sponsored by the Society of Graphic Fine Art, went to Annie Ridd SGFA for Goodnight, Sleep Tight, Mind the Bugs… In Annie’s words, “I use drawing as a tool to make visible my thoughts, to invite the viewer to get up close and really look, and discover the interwoven layers of intimate detail that convey the themes of my work. The work is autobiographical; my moods are reflected in the absence of colour, black and white works that combine the abject and grotesque.”
“I use the most basic of tools, applying pencil to paper. I consider drawing to be a way of exploring the past which in turn enables discovery of the inner self. The act of drawing directly from personal objects which some people may regard as junk, for me holds magical qualities. Just as objects of the past retain their memories — imprints of the body, a sense of ‘havingbeenthereness’ — so do my drawings. With each piece I have the ability to recall the circumstances of its making. They become my diary. “
DRAW 15, the Society’s 94th Annual Open Exhibition, will take place 5 – 17 October 2015. For details please visit our web site www.sgfa.org.uk