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7. 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.

I produced this drawing entirely on-site in the Adelaide Park Lands. It was produced as part of an art project called "Microcosm", where I spent two years (2005 and 2006) working on pieces directly from one Moreton Bay Fig tree growing in the Adelaide Park Lands.

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, and again for a later two-year project (late 2004, then 2005 and 2006). It is a huge organism with marvellous forms and a very strong ‘presence’ (it is a thrill just being near this fascinating living organism).



Location of the subject tree (just north of Adelaide City):


Location of the subject tree

 



Direction of the view used for the drawing:


Location of the subject tree

 

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.

This drawing was transported to and from the site, without protection - I normally protect my drawings during transportation with cover sheets of paper, but I found that the charcoal was too easily smudged and damaged even by putting a protective sheet of large tissue paper over it. To carry the drawing without a protective cover sheet, I needed to glue a piece of wood on the back of the drawing board to act as a handle, and I would hold the drawing board in either my left or right hand with the back of the drawing board facing away from me and the unprotected drawing facing inwards. Obviously, I would need to make sure that that drawing did not touch any part of me as I walked, or that would damage the drawing. As I walked the drawing to the site, I would also need to make sure that the drawing itself was not being damaged by being in direct sunlight. I needed to work out for each angle of my walk to and from the tree, which side of my body I needed to carry the drawing to avoid having direct sunlight shine on my drawing. I would need to carry all of the other equipment required (including easel, folding chair, drawing equipment, water, etc.) using my other hand. Any reasonable wind could make carrying the drawing tricky as well, because the drawing on the drawing board had a considerable area and would always get buffeted in the wind. All of these aspects required considerable management and discipline, and were required for every moment during every trip to the tree from my home, or to my home from the tree, or every trip I needed to make to the toilet while I was trying to work at the tree. I am confident that other people would not be able to maintain such discipline to do such a drawing on-site.

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

 

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