Thursday, September 20, 2018

Percolating, part 2: An old fence as muse

As I wrote last time, the New Mexico sky has been one muse for me here.  I'm about to find out how good a muse--or rather how good an observer/interpreter I am--as I warp up a small PVC loom and start a little wedge weave in DMC cotton floss.  Stay tuned on that.

Meanwhile I've been fascinated by the lines of an old fence I walk past every morning here on the path by the old railroad.  Our neighborhood used to be a cattle ranch, and I imagine the fence is left over from that.  I love how the posts are leaning and the barbed wire is making all kinds of cool lines and swirls and loops and is falling into disrepair on the ground.  These days, I like the idea of an open, permeable barrier much better than a solid barrier.

So I was telling a friend about this obsession and he gave me a sketchbook in a very cool format, 6" tall and 18" wide (!) and challenged me to fill it with sketches of the fence in the next month. Luckily there are only 12 pages--very nice watercolor paper pages that my rudimentary sketches don't do justice to--so this is a doable challenge.

I've been really enjoying taking this notebook and a few pencils and maybe some watercolor crayons out every morning and spending no more than 15-20 minutes messing around sketching sections of the fence.  Though I have put in a few trees and cholla cacti and wildflowers, I'm not really interested in capturing much of the landscape.  I really just want those posts and that crazy wire.

I am not a natural draughtswoman.  Collage is often my preferred design medium.  I have had no formal instruction in drawing at all. So I am learning, slowly, some pretty basic skills here.  But I'm also discovering some unexpected things with this experiment:

  • When I have to draw something I slow down and observe it much more carefully.  It could be that one of the chief benefits of drawing is learning how to really look.  (Duh.)  It's yet another meditative experience. 
  • The mark-making tools you use make a tremendous difference in the feeling of the final piece.  For me, pencils are too tentative and I'm prone to hesitate and try to erase.  I do better, freer work with pens or watercolor crayons I can't erase.  (Face-palm.)  
  • As I approach each day's sketch I consider yet another, better way to render the subject.  I understand now why so many artists sketch the same thing multiple times.  (Again, duh.)
  • The long narrow sketchbook format is surprisingly freeing, perhaps because it's such a good match for the subject.  It makes one decision, dimensions, for me.  I'm going to keep my eyes out for other unusual sizes and shapes.  
It remains to be seen whether these fences will make it into a tapestry.  Meanwhile I'm having a lot of fun.  

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