When deciding on a subject matter for this assignment I thought about the things I am interested in so that there would be a personal connection; these include wildlife-watching, music, cooking and, of course, art. Since school I have always been interested in music and started playing the french horn in the school and a local orchestra. However, the french horn was never my first choice for an instrument but it was the case of playing the instrument which was needed to fill a place in the school orchestra; I had always wanted to play the clarinet. So a couple of years ago in my mid-50s I finally started to learn the clarinet. I decided this would be the subject for my assignment.
I collected a few things together (clarinet, reeds, cork grease, metronome, reed case, cleaning rag, etc) and tried a few quick small sketches to look at the composition.
The trouble with the clarinet was its length compared with the other objects made the composition unbalanced so I preferred the close-up cropped composition. I also thought this would give a more abstract quality to the drawing. Drawing objects close-up and detailed was quite difficult so I used a transparent picture finder with a grid inscribed to focus in on a small area and ensure I always came back to the same position when viewing the objects. I completed a small A4 study using various grades of pencil to see if I liked the composition in a slightly larger format.
I did like the resultant image and although the perspective on some of the keys is slightly out and some of the white tones could have been whiter, I thought the drawing itself was fairly successful. However, it did not have that abstract quality I was seeking and after experimenting during the unit I knew I had fallen back into the safe option for the assignment and produced a drawing showing the visual appearance of the objects. I thought about repeating the drawing using more free and gestural marks but I felt this still meant I was not taking enough risks. I began to think about Ernst and the Surrealists and wondered if I should try a Surrealist drawing.
I decided to have a go at an automatic technique as a basis for a final drawing and settled on the oscillation technique used by Ernst (see Ernst post below) as this seemed to fit in well with the rhythm and beat of music. I set up a cage (an old cloth wardrobe frame) and hang a small bottle with the hole in the bottom from string and then swung it is a pendulum motion.
At first the ink just dripped rather than flowing freely so I had a number of attempts before getting an effect I liked which showed both drips and lines.
I now started to look at the result and used my imagination to see what images emerged from the lines. I could see an orchestra pit, a clarinet player, footprints, etc but each time I tried to develop the image it just did not work. I then decided to take time out and let the image emerge but the more I looked, the more confused I became. After about two weeks of doing not much, just staring at the page and getting depressed at my lack of imagination, I abandoned this experiment and decided I would come back to it another time.
I still wanted to try a surrealist type drawing so began some thumbnail sketches to make a ‘clarinet landscape’. I thought about the important elements of playing a clarinet – embouchure, fingering, timing, listening, reed and incorporating these into the landscape. I finally found a composition I liked with a cityscape at the top of a hill (it now reminds me of a visit to San Francisco earlier this year and a view from the harbour front).
I then started to produce the final drawing (A3 size). The music I had heard as a child which made me want to play the clarinet was Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto so I decided to use the music score as both a background collage and to form some of the buildings and trees.
I wanted to keep the drawing quite free and used an old metronome arm to print the foreground plants marching across the front of the drawing.
I think the drawing is quite successful and includes a lot about my quest to learn the clarinet and play the Clarinet Concerto (a work still in progress). The composition does not quite work, as originally I wanted the eye to flow up the drawing from lower left to right in a zigzag motion until the top is reached; however, the inclusion of the building at the bottom right means the eye is drawn more to the right side and moves in a vertical motion up to the top buildings. I think the collaged music score text and the use of the staves for the buildings and some of the trees is quite successful.