Our dog, Buddy, isn’t one of those nice dogs that doesn’t like rain and delicately steps around puddles. He needs lots of exercise in every weather. On our daily walks, I often take my camera – and sometimes my Polaroid, too – with me. Buddy has got quite used to waiting for me to stop and take photographs, and sometimes even sketch, although if I take too long he will eventually whack me round the back of the knees with a stick and bark at me until I throw it (which I inevitably do. Being demanding works.). Having to walk the dog every day is valuable for my work. It’s on these walks that I see things, experience the countryside, record details, and dream up drawings. Here’s a little bit about the process that brings about a final drawing.
In December, there were a series of days with very hard frosts. The ground was solid, there was pretty white frost glittering on the grass and coating the leaves. The river was partially frozen and glowed pink in the late afternoon sun. One of our favourite walks is down to the Jubilee Bridge in Morebattle, the village we live in, across the river and along the fields on the far side. On this particular day, I had both my Polaroid and my camera. I took lots of snaps of the trees silhouetted against the pale pink sky, of the frozen puddles in the tractor tracks, and of the colours in the sky as the sun set.
Back in the studio, I sort through and edit the images, make little notes in my sketchbook, add elements, and plan drawings. From that day’s walk I have developed two drawings – A Hard Frost and At the Corner of the Field.
Once the drawing is laid out to my satisfaction, I am quite methodical. I start in the top left corner and work across the piece, taking care not to smudge the pencil work. I only use one pencil – a Pentel Sharplet with a 0.5 width HB lead – and with it I build up layers and layers of little lines. Some of the lines are neat and organised, others are scribbly and expressive. I build the lines up until I’m satisfied with that particular area and then I move on. I love watching the drawing emerge slowly from the page. I know if it is going well if it evokes the same feeling in me as seeing the landscapes did in reality. With these drawings, I wanted to feel the stillness and quietness of late afternoon in December. I wanted to capture the muted colours and sparseness. I added the geese to the sky in the larger piece to give the feel of life and movement despite the cold.