Margate postcard drawing

margate postcard drawing, Roy Eastland, 2011

“…will be seeing you soon”. 2011. graphite, acrylic gesso, varnish on board (8.5cm x 13.5cm)

This is a drawing from 2011. It’s one of a number of drawings based on one particular postcard sent from Margate about a year after the end of The Second World War. It’s party a sort of portrait of a wave but it’s also a portrait of a postcard.

The image on the original postcard shows waves colliding at the foot of the cliffs near Walpole Bay, in Cliftonville, Margate. The hand-written message on the card is letting someone know that that the weather was bad and that “the air here soon makes you feel a lot better”; the postmark says: “DON’T WASTE BREAD, OTHERS NEED IT”; and ‘Rita’ and ‘Eileen’ send their love.

Small, unimportant, things have the habit of hinting at the presence of bigger things. The postmark, for example, reminds us of the continued effects of the recently ended war on everyday life; the hand-written message gives us a glimpse of someone’s lived moments and lets us know that they were here; the image (a photograph taken in the 1920s) records a little moment of time when two waves collided and merged with each other against the foot of the chalk cliff.

This drawing (as is the case with most of my work) came into being through processes of repeated revision and redrawing. My hand-written transcriptions of the hand-written message and the words and lettering of the postmark were repeatedly scratched into the surface and then repeated drawn over. The piece evolved in its own, unpredictable, way as the drawing’s emphasis shifted between drawing the waves and cliff and drawing lines of words.

Nothing stays the same. The Jetty, seen in the distance, has long since been lost to the elements; the seemingly permanent chalk cliff-face is slowly being taken by the sea and the people whose names appear on the postcard are most likely dead by now. The one thing that remains the same is the habit that waves have of repeatedly doing what waves do.

This drawing is partly a portrait of a wave and partly a kind of meditation on the presence and the passing of time, of people, loss and change. But then again it’s just a drawing – a carefully made little thing that might, perhaps, create the effect of bringing to mind the presence of more important things.

I’ve worked on a lot of versions of this drawing but very few of them have reached a point where I’m happy to show them as works of art.  This one was shown at The Hastings Museum and Art Gallery as part of ‘Telling Stories: Hastings’ (2012). The exhibition was organised by the writer Cathryn Kemp with the purpose of bringing together artists from Margate and Hastings (both southern English seaside towns experiencing ‘cultural regeneration/gentrification’ – change).

Powell-Cotton Museum drawings from 2011

 

powell cotton museum, birchington, A4, sketchbook, drawing EASTLAND, 2011powell cotton museum, EASTLAND, SKETCHBOOK DRAWING, 2011powell cotton museum, quex park, EASTLAND, 2011, A4 sketchbook drawingHere are some old drawings from 2011. They were done in the Powell-Cotton Museum (a marvellous old museum at Quex Park, Birchington, on the Isle of Thanet).

I love this museum. The Powell-Cotton is almost a museum of a museum in the way it displays its treasures. Objects are arranged in groups according to type (weapons, a wall of Abyssinian Christian religious paintings, walls lined with skulls of horned animals, collections of ceramic objects, local historical finds, and the museum’s famous dioramas of animals). It has the feel of a museum from a hundred years ago and its old-fashioned-ness is part of its charm. It’s the kind of museum which doesn’t tell you how to think about the things on display; you are free to discover wonderful things for your self. These particular drawings are of a couple of the exhibits displayed in the big primate diorama (a chimpanzee and a gorilla mother and child).

These drawings are from a page (from 2011) which I’ve since deleted.

Sketchbooks exhibited in The Drawing Room at The Beaney in Canterbury

The Drawing Room gallerySketchbooks on show in The Drawing Room galleryThe Drawing Room at The Beaney

I’ve installed an exhibition of my drawings and sketchbooks in The Drawing Room of The Beaney in Canterbury (the full name for the museum is: ‘The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge’ but that’s a bit of a mouth full and so everyone calls it ‘The Beaney’).  It’s on until 5th January 2014.  http://www.canterbury.co.uk/Beaney/explore/Armchair-Residency-Roy-Eastland.aspx

Here is a draft of the fourth blog for my Artist Residency at The Beaney:

The Beaney House of Knowledge and Art: The Front Room ‘Armchair Artist Residency’ blog.

Blog number four, December 2013:

I’ve installed an exhibition of my drawings and sketchbooks in The Drawing Room at The Beaney.  I managed to squeeze everything that is in the exhibition into a couple of large shoulder bags and lug the whole lot over to Canterbury on the number 8 bus.  The journey from Margate takes the best part of an hour and I’ve been doing this trip a lot since becoming the ‘Front Room Artist Armchair Resident’.  This journey has become an important aspect of my ‘Residency’ at The Beaney.  The bus takes me along a line in the landscape which has been there for centuries.  Upstairs at the front of the bus is a good place to sit and notice things and to let my mind wander and to notice myself noticing.

My exhibition consists of twenty sketchbooks and sixteen loose drawings (I’ve posted a video tour of it on my youtube channel to give you an idea of it).  The loose drawings were done in The Beaney as part of the ‘Front Room Artist Armchair residency’ and the sketchbooks are all recent ones containing drawings of people.  When I installed the work I made the decision to place drawings so that they might subtly relate to each other or direct the gaze in certain ways.  There is no hidden message or overarching theme here.  I simply thought that their placing might bring something extra into play in the mind of the viewer – it is whimsical.  I offer my drawings as things to look at and it’s up to the viewer to look at the drawings and notice things and let the mind wander.

None of these drawings were done for the purpose of being exhibited.  They weren’t designed as ‘Works of Art’ or with an exhibition in mind.  Each drawing was done separately and for its own sake.  If they share a theme, it is that they are all drawings that pay attention to the physical presence of things.  There are drawings of inanimate objects (made of marble, bronze and silver) that were made to look like people and there are drawings of real people being still.  It’s a wonderful thing when someone is happy to be still and let you draw them.  If I did nothing else with my life, drawing people would be a good use of a lifetime.  I wish I could do it more often.

We change our minds when we draw.  ‘Objective Drawing’ is a process of continual revision (a good rule-of-thumb is that if your drawing isn’t going wrong then you’re just not trying hard enough!).  Drawings are the trace-evidence of a mind making sense of things.  They show us that someone was here and that they were interested in the presence of someone or of something outside of themselves.

Across the room from my drawings is a small oblong-shaped piece of vellum covered in neat pen-and-ink hand-writing: The Godwine Charter.  A thousand years ago it had a practical function as a legal document but now it has an afterlife as an object of contemplation in a museum.  We can appreciate it as a kind of drawing.  Hand-writing and the kind of lines you find in drawings are similar things.  Both of them are products of human touch and of the time it took to draw them.  That particular human presence and that particular moment of time are subtly replayed every time another person sees it.  It is both trivial and wonderful.  A similar effect can be felt in places too.  My bus journey to Canterbury draws me along a line in the landscape which was already old when that scribe’s pen was forming those letters on that piece of vellum which sits across the room from my drawings.

Museums are full of things that have survived to hint at what was here and what took place.  They put us in company with people separated from us by a distance of time.  I wonder how long my sketchbooks will last.  I wonder what will become of them.  I wonder who my drawings are for.

My second Drawing blog for The Beaney, Canterbury.

Roy Eastland 2013 silverpoint drawing on gesso  Tuesday 22nd Nov 1983

This was origianlly posted on The Beaney’s website.  You can also find it here: https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/i-draw

You can find more drawings there and also my going to my facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/#!/roy.eastlanddrawing

 

 

The Beaney House of Knowledge and Art: The Front Room ‘Armchair Artist Residency’ blog.

Blog number two, October 2013:

I continue drawing objects in The Beaney.

The Epstein portrait of Hewlett Johnson (The Red Dean of Canterbury) continues to draw me to it.  Stylistically, it is a typical Epstein portrait with all his signature mannerisms (you’ll see a ‘family resemblance’ about the eyes and lips in all of his portraits).  And yet, this work is believable as a portrait of a particular person with a personality.  It feels alive.  Perhaps part of its aliveness comes from the way in which the viewer is made to complete its form in the mind’s eye.  Its surface is made up of scored lines, clumps of material and deep hollows that catch the light and create shadows so that the sense of the form is partly a figment of sight as well as the presence of the actual physical form.  The slightly fragmented character of the surface generates a sense of unsettledness and movement.  We have to make a little effort to reconcile the various layers of depth and surface details to see its completeness and this makes looking at this portrait an intimate experience full of subtle and surprising moments of recognition and sense of completion.  I like this sculpture and I feel that I like the person it portrays.

A different kind of portrait bust can be found in the ‘Materials and Masters’ room.  I spent far too long trying to draw this, Neo-Classical style, marble portrait of a man from the early nineteenth century whose identity is not known to us today.  I wondered if I could conjure a sense of what he might have been like in life from spending time drawing his marble portrait.

This object was carved more than a hundred years before the Epstein portrait was modelled and cast.  The light on its smooth, and hard-to-like, shiny surface made it difficult to see its form and its style, with its ‘classicised’ treatment of surface and detail, made it hard to get beneath the surface to feel the presence of a personality.  As I spent more and more time making drawings of it I found myself liking it less and less.  The ‘Classical’ stylisation of the eyes made them especially unrewarding to draw.  Given more time, and if I had the will to make the effort, I’m sure I could make something of this.

I look at my drawings and I can see hints of ideas to come.  Drawing works like that; the things we learn when we draw can’t always be recognised at the time but we get a slight sense of something interesting coming into play.  In the case of my drawings of this object I can see that there is something about the use of fine contour lines that might bare fruit in some future drawing.

As you draw in museums you can’t help but over-hear the things people say.  At one point a couple approached this sculpture and I heard one of them say something like: “Oh look at this, it’s a Roman Emperor” and then, as they got nearer: “Oh, no, it says here that it’s an ‘unknown’ man.” and then they walked away without looking at it.  If the person who paid for this portrait wanted future people to look at it and have nice thoughts about him, he was diddled.

The Latham Centrepiece continues to intrigue me.  I remember seeing this when it was part of The Buffs Regimental Museum (my mum would sometimes take me to Canterbury on the bus and we might go to The Cathedral, The Westgate Tower, The Pilgrim’s Hospital or The Buffs Museum).  The Latham Centrepiece isn’t a fine work of Art but it is dramatic and its purpose was to pass on a story of Lt Matthew Latham’s bravery and self-sacrifice at The Battle of Albuera in 1811.  It succeeds in this perfectly.  It shows Latham, having already lost an arm, grappling with a cavalryman for possession of a ragged flag.  We might quibble at the inaccuracy of the uniforms but a more telling inaccuracy is the way in which the true gruesomeness of his injuries has been left out in order to tell the story.  The reality of the event was that, even before he received the wound to his arm, Latham had been slashed in the face and had lost part of his face and his nose.  He was left for dead on the battle field but managed to survive and in 1815 the Prince Regent paid for him to have reconstructive surgery to restore his nose.  A medal was especially designed for him as a tribute to his loyal bravery and he continued to serve in The British Army and eventually retired and moved to France.  In a letter, published in The United Service Gazette of 25th April 1840, it was noted that he “lives at this moment in a secluded part of France, where for years he has remained, unnoticed and unknown.”

These objects were made to tell us about people and perhaps to transmit feelings about them.  As I continue to draw in The Beaney I also continue to work at my other artwork.  All of my drawings feed into to each other in ways that can’t be predicted.  A recent piece is a small (less than half A5 in scale) portrait of my mum (drawn in silver on gesso).  It is based on an unused photo booth image from a strip of three that is dated on the back (in her hand-writing which I have copied on the drawing): Tuesday 22nd November 1983.  It’s part of a projected series of small silverpoint portrait drawings based on unused photo booth images.  In this drawing, as with a lot of my work, I have included text as well as drawing.  It’s an object that, like the ones I’ve been drawing in The Beaney, will go into the future and might or might not mean something to people there.

Here’s the link to the blog: http://www.canterbury.co.uk/Beaney/explore/Armchair-Residency-Roy-Eastland.aspx

 

Drawing blog for ‘The Beaney’ in Canterbury

Drawing of Jacob Epstein portrait of The Red Dean of Canterbury, Hewlett Johnson

I’ve written my first blog for The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge ‘Front Room Armchair Residency’.  I’m not a writer and so it isn’t a Great Work of Literature but it does touch on Drawing, the importance of broken things and whether or not angels would approve of objective drawing.

 

(I’ve re-posted all six blog posts in the January 2017 section of this ‘a-n’ drawing blog: https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/i-draw)

This is what I wrote:

I’ve made a start with the Beaney’s Front Room ‘Armchair Residency’ by drawing some of the objects there.  I’ve always loved wandering around museums on my own.  Museums are the places where the nation’s collection of souvenirs, bric-a-brac and broken things are carefully preserved and displayed.  They show us the evidence of ourselves as cultured beings.  Our museums are purpose-built for the business of noticing things and for letting the mind wander.  Objects arrayed in museum cabinets overlap in our line of sight and likewise our lives and the lives of others past and present overlap in the company of these things that had a place in other people’s lives.  We pay careful and open-minded attention to the presence of things when we draw and Drawing is what I expect to spend most of my ‘Armchair Residency’ doing.

As you walk up the stairs to the main museum area you can’t help but notice two big leaded windows made up of scores of carefully arranged fragments of 17th and 18th century Dutch stained glass windows.  These fragments hint at the loss of bigger pictures and of other places.  It is a joy to look at them.  Picture-windows compel us to take pleasure in the act of looking and of noticing.  If it could speak this object would say: “Look!”

I’ve been drawing numerous objects in the ‘Explorers and Collectors’ room (previously home to The Buffs regimental museum) and the ‘People and Places’ room.  Two objects in particular have attracted my attention.  These are: The Latham Centrepiece (the silver model depicting a moment of amazing heroism during the Peninsula War) and the Jacob Epstein bronze bust of Hewlett Johnson (1874-1966), otherwise known as ‘The Red Dean of Canterbury’ – so called because of his political beliefs.

Epstein’s Red Dean looks thoughtful, humorous and kind.  He could be just about to say something or laugh at something.  I put aside my inclination to learn about him and I avoid seeking out images of how he appeared in photographs; I want to look at this carefully formed lump of bronze and draw what is actually there and see what My Drawing makes of it.

When we draw we change our minds.  We look and we make our mark and hope that, at some point during the drawing process (a process of constant revision), a good resemblance takes shape on the paper.  I say ‘on the paper’ but I could also say ‘in the paper’ as when we draw an object we are trying to get to know its form (its presence as a thing in a relationship of proximity to us).  The paper becomes a virtual three dimensional space.  When we draw something, from direct observation, we realise that the visual world isn’t just a pre-existing and fixed picture which we simply have to ‘get right’ by copying it like a photograph; rather, the visual array is a world full of physically present objects, subtle movements and the spaces between things which we get to know and reconstruct through Drawing.

Whenever I draw I am hoping for something new and unforeseen to come into play.  There is an interesting description of Drawing, by Leon Kossoff, quoted in Robert Hughes’ book on Frank Auerbach in which Drawing is described as:

“…endless activity before the model or subject, rejecting time and time again ideas which are possible to preconceive …it is always beginning again, making new images, destroying images that lie, discarding images that are dead.  The only true guide in this search is the special relationship the artist has with the person or landscape from which he [sic] is working”.

People who are in the habit of drawing will know what is meant in the use the phrase, ‘images that lie’, and they will also intuitively know when a line or a mark is ‘good’ – often they’re the one’s that could not be preconceived.  There is a lovely moment in the Wim Wenders film, ‘Wings of Desire’, when the character played by Peter Faulk (a.k.a. ‘Columbo’) describes to an angel, who he cannot see but knows is somewhere close by, about the pleasures of simple things and he chooses to describe to the angel (trust me, it’ll make sense if you see the film) what it feels like to draw.  He explains that you “Draw!  You know, you can take a pencil and you make like a dark line, then you make a light line and together it’s a good line”.

If angels really existed I’m sure they would approve of Drawing because Drawing is a humble, careful and affectionate act of paying attention to something outside of your self and being open to the possibility of changing your mind about what you think you see and what you think you are in the presence of.

 

 

Sketchbooks on display at The Beaney in Canterbury

 

sketchbooksI’ve been selected to be the Artist for ‘The Front Room Armchair Residency’ at the ‘The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge’ in Canterbury.  Here’s how The Beaney describes the residency: “The Front Room Armchair residency was set up to create an opportunity for creative practioners to spend time exploring this fantastic newly refurbished building, being inspired by the collections, the people, the place and the stories.”  The idea is that I visit the museum at various times between September and December and write a series of blogs about my experience there.  I’m a bit nervous about having to write the blog but I hope the experience will be inspiring.  The blogs will be published on The Beaney’s website at: http://www.canterbury.co.uk/Beaney/explore/The-Front-Room.aspx

I’ve been to the museum a few times already and spent time there drawing.  It’s too early in the process to have much to show or say about it now but on Saturday 7th September I’ll be in the ‘Front Room’ of the museum with a lot of sketchbooks for people to look through.

It’s The Beaney’s first birthday on Saturday and so there are various things going on there on that day.  I’ll be there between eleven o’clock in the morning and two o’clock in the afternoon.

Museum Drawings

death mask of 'male insane'. Scottish National Portrait Gallery. William Ramsay Trust. drawing from sketchbook 129Colley Cibber. National Portrait Gallery. drawing from sketchbook 121

I’ve been asked to do the ‘Armchair Residency’ at the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge (formally The Royal Museum) in Canterbury at the end of the year.  It means I’ll be allowed access to the museum’s collection for inspiration for new artwork and I will be required to write a series of blogs about the experience once it gets underway in September.

Here are a couple of sketchbook drawings of objects from other museums.  One is of a bust of Colley Cibber, from the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the other is of a phrenological  death masks labelled as that of a ‘Male Insane’ which was on display in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.