Making ghosts

life drawing Sidney Cooper Gallery Drawing Studios Christ Church Canterbury University ROY EASTLANDThis drawing is an A4 pencil drawing.  This is from my ‘I Draw’ blog (https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/i-draw). “…They are drawings done for drawing’s sake (drawing as a way of thinking about drawing).  They are drawings of people who were still (or fairly still) for maybe ten or twenty minutes.  They are drawings of people but drawings of people are never just hand-made pictures of people.  Drawings trace moments in time. 

Hand-drawn lines take time and the moment of their making is subtly replayed each time someone spends time to notice them.  There are heavy lines, sharp lines, long lines, feathery lines… the variety is endless and each of them implies the presence of a thought.  We change our minds as we draw and our lines capture those moments of change.  We look and we notice something and we try to track the gist of it on the paper.  The time taken to draw even the shortest line is there to see in its entirety all at once (like seeing a tiny life-span played out on the page). 

We pay attention to the simple presence of things whenever we draw.   The drawing is always wrong.  We look again and we make another line.  Each time it is wrong in a different way but sometimes the mark is good in spite of its wrongness.  Sometimes the line feels true or it does something interesting (something we couldn’t have predicted but which is more interesting than anything we could have predicted).  It’s enough that just a small part of a drawing is interesting for it to feel good.  As we make our mark we are bringing into play all our momentary perceptions, all our skill and memories of all the other drawings we have ever seen. 

Eventually the time is up and the pose ends and all that remains of the moment, and of the protagonists, is the drawing.  One day the drawing will be the only thing left of that moment.  Perhaps we make ghosts when we draw.

I don’t get to draw people as much as I’d like to.  These drawings were done quickly in Life Drawing groups of at odd moments while teaching Life Drawing (in Margate and Canterbury).  I have about a hundred and sixty filled-up sketchbooks to date (filled up with drawings like these ones) and the drawings will remain in those books and one day, if they survive longer than I do, they will be in the hands of someone else.  I wonder what will become of them.

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a sketchbook drawing

A4 sketchbook drawing Margate Life Drawing classThis is just a quick A4 sketchbook drawing of someone.  It’s nothing special but some of its lines have their moments.  The model moved quite a lot but that isn’t necessarily such a bad thing.  If a person repeatedly shifts their position I might work on more than one drawing and flit between them.  A drawing is a sort of playing-field on which lines gather and trace the drawer’s changes-of-mind.  The attention is repeatedly focused on what is momentarily present in the line of sight.  The drawing is what remains of moments spent paying attention to the presence of someone else.  I have about a hundred and sixty filled-up sketchbooks and this drawing is in one of the recent ones.  I wonder what will become of all these drawings.

Anyway, posting this image also gives me an excuse to let you know that I now have a twitter account and that I’ll use it occasionally and you can follow it if you like. Here’s the link: #royeastlanddraw https://twitter.com/royeastlanddraw

 

I’m thinking about tidying up…

Roy Eastland A4 Moleskine sketchbook Margate 2015I think I’m going to tidy up this blog a wee bit.

I’m going to delete most of the old static pages (see the list to the right of this post) and simplify things so that this blog has a ‘home/archive page’ (here), an ‘about me’ page and one or two other pages. I’ve already deleted a couple of the old static pages. I’ll repost some of their content on this ‘home/archive page’ as and when I find the time to do it.

The drawing, by the way, is from an A4 ‘Moleskine’ sketchbook (sketchbook number 160, July-October 2015). I number my sketchbooks once they are full. Some take years to fill up and others take days or weeks.  Most of these sketchbook drawings are of people and the drawings are mostly done for the sake of drawing and for the sake of thinking about drawing.

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.

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.