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Close to the Heart


Close to the Heart
58 cm (w) x 74.5 cm (h), natural charcoal on acid-free drawing paper.
Date produced: May 2006

This was drawn entirely on-site. Close to the heart, the main vessels are large, and flow with energy. Being close to the centre of the tree means close to its ‘heart’. Even though a tree may not have an organ called a heart (as animals have), which acts as a circulatory pump, trees also have circulatory systems. Trees need to bring water and nutrients up from the ground out to all of their leaves for generating energy from photosynthesis, for keeping their cells alive. And they need to distribute the results of all the photosynthesis back to all of its cells, including those in its roots. One might consider the important section of trunk just above the roots to be the tree’s heart. All major circulation passes through this region of the tree. Some trees can pump water silently more than 100 metres above the ground to their leaves. How do they do this, especially when a vacuum can only hold a column of water about 10 metres high?

The subject is also close to my heart. I know this tree from spending much time at it back in 1984. It is a huge organism with marvellous forms and a very strong ‘presence’ (a thrill from just being near the tree) that speak to my heart.

I am pleased with the composition of this drawing, which was worked out with smaller biro sketches before I started this study.

I am standing close to the centre of the tree. The large forms flowing closely past me make me feel as though I am confronting the ‘presence’ of the tree itself. It is a rich position to do a drawing from and I enjoyed the challenge of it. The angle of view is very wide, which provides enough challenge in itself.

I am pleased with the choice of natural charcoal for this drawing, allowing me to build up and rework areas of soft grey tone. Using sticks of natural charcoal forces me to work fairly broadly, because they don’t really allow for consistent crisp thin line work. Even so, much of the contour line work has to be extremely accurate to convey an accurate sense of the forms, and provide the ‘right’ rhythms. Many contour lines were removed and attempted 3 or 4 times to get them as I wanted them.

I am pleased with the discipline and control shown throughout this drawing. To do this drawing, I had to stand and mainly hold the large drawing board, which proved to be physically demanding and tiring. After a couple of weeks of working this way, I worked out a way of setting the board up on an easel perched precariously on top of the buttress roots. This was much more comfortable for me, but proved to be a pretty fragile arrangement in even a moderate wind, and I often had to revert to holding the board.

I am particularly happy with the sense of ‘contemplative poetry’ I feel from this drawing.

 

 

 

Detail 1:

Close to the Heart - Detail 1

 

 

 

 

Detail 2:

Close to the Heart - Detail 2

 

 

 

 

Detail 3:

Close to the Heart - Detail 3

 

 

 

 

Detail 4:

Close to the Heart - Detail 4

 

 


 

Another related artwork:

 

Study of Forms Like Flowing Lava


Study of Forms Like Flowing Lava
73 cm (w) x 55 cm (h), charcoal on paper.
Date produced: 2006

This was drawn completely on-site, directly from the subject. I wanted to produce a very detailed study of the tree’s forms from one particular angle, which shows several characteristic sections of the tree.

I have used overcast lighting, to show the forms without misleading patches of bright sunlight. With some sections of the drawing, I have needed to wait for overcast light to be sure of the final tonal relationships that I’ve developed. The meshes drawn over the forms are extremely important for the accurate expression of the forms and orientation of the surfaces.

I have gone through about 4 pencil sharpeners in keeping good points on the charcoal pencils used for this fine development work. Most of this drawing has been done using sharply-pointed charcoal pencils. Unfortunately, a lot of time was required for just keeping the points of the charcoal pencils sharp. I worked almost exclusively on just this one drawing over September, October and November 2005. The closer I looked at the subject, the more I wanted to try to capture the rich variety of detail enjoyed.

One could argue that the energy and time spent on this one drawing is extravagant, and that I’d be better served putting that time into producing more drawings of a simpler nature. That may prove to be the better course of action - I just know that I wanted to try to keep developing this drawing to a satisfactory level of finish. I believe that the ’finish’ achievable in such a charcoal drawing is an important aspect of the artwork, and that I am learning much that will help my future drawings.

This drawing has been taking a lot of time to develop, because:

1) I’ve been enjoying trying to capture the subtleties within the forms and surfaces experienced - the finer the level of detail desired, the greater the amount of work required;

2) It has been taking a while to develop the ’finished’ lines used to express the cross-sectional shapes and surface orientation of the various forms, along with the tonal rendering - these lines, to be highly successful, require considerable precision;

3) The media have been difficult to manage - the paper is good for pastel (and lots of reworking), but seems to have too much tooth for the level of finish I’m trying to achieve with charcoal - also, the charcoal pencils have been producing a different type of mark on the paper to natural charcoal, and have been blunting the pencil sharpeners quite quickly;

4) The weather has been generally very windy and wet, making it difficult to get fine control or continuity.

Even though this drawing is not finished, it clearly shows that forms can be expressed well using a combination of carefully observed tones with an overlay of grids and/or repeated ‘felt’ cross-sectional lines. I am very happy with the results I achieved.

 

 

 

Detail 1:

Study of Forms Like Flowing Lava - Detail 1

 

 

 

 

Detail 2:

Study of Forms Like Flowing Lava - Detail 2

 

 

 

 

Detail 3:

Study of Forms Like Flowing Lava - Detail 3

 

 

 

 

Detail 4:

Study of Forms Like Flowing Lava - Detail 4

 

 

 

 

Detail 5:

Study of Forms Like Flowing Lava - Detail 5

 

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