Today I thought I would show you some research drawings I did for an art piece that sits in the heart of my family. It is a framed felt picture made mostly from felt I hand-worked myself and a lot of embroidery. I will share more about the background of it when I show you photographs of the actual finished piece.
On Monday, I had one drawing that accompanied the post I had written. It is some of the design work I did for this picture. I used this image because the concept behind this work is about strong family ties.
These drawings are the work I did before starting the “real” work. I have discussed here before about the importance of notebooks and acquainting myself with my subject matter before beginning a piece in earnest.
I had a strong image in my head of a singular tree standing right in the centre of my composition. So the next step was to go on a tree hunt to find the perfect specimen to match the imaginings in my head. Gary and I have garnered quite a collection of photographic resource books over the years to help with this exact process.
The three main books I used in this instance are; “Meetings with Remarkable Trees” by Thomas Pakenham, published by Cassell Paperbacks, “Remarkable Trees of the World” also by Thomas Pakenham, first published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and lastly, “Mythic Woods, the worlds most remarkable forests” by Jonathan Roberts, also published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
I scoured these books for hours, absorbing all the different images and all the different possibilities. I got out my sketchpad and pencils and started drawing the images that most appealed to me. I know it might seem odd to spend so much time drawing when in the end I will be using fabrics and threads to make the final piece of art. But for me, I find it very helpful to observe the subject matter, in this case trees, to get to know the lines and the curves in great detail. I find it allows me to have confidence when it comes to making the first cut in the fabric, to sew the first line of stitches or indeed how to sew the marks that are to represent the bark of a tree. I know what I am looking to achieve because my hand has already traced the familiar lines before.
From drawing in detail, you can find out how you think in your own mind about drawing trees and then the difference in how you actually draw a tree. The forms can often be different to how you imagine them and it challenges your technical skill to get beyond what you think you see and to then draw what you actually see.
As you can perceive, I favour a high contrast style of tonal work. I like dense dark tones and light white tones at the other end of the spectrum. I was actually talking with my uncle at the weekend about our mutual love of 5B pencils. They are soft and dark and beautiful to work with.
I always like seeing the behind-the-scene work of different artists so I hope you enjoy these early process drawings and that they will give you some insight into the finished piece when I post it.