As I had worked through this unit I had kept a sheet in my sketch pages and jotted down ideas for the assignment. I now looked though this sheet in order to decide if any inspired me to make a drawing that would fit the assignment brief.
I kept coming back to my still-life theme of man’s impact on the environment. However, I wanted to be more positive in my drawing for this assignment and document that in spite of man’s impact, nature is able to fight back and overcome our presence. I suddenly had a flash of inspiration and thought about an old Hoverport I often visit that was closed in the late 70s or early 80s, most of the structures removed and has been left to nature to recolonize, with part of the site designated as a National Nature Reserve.
I therefore visited the site and wandered around looking for inspiration. I knew that this assignment was about a still-life or interior so kept this in mind as I looked around the site. I made some sketches and returned to the site after a couple of days to focus on a steel footbridge that had ivy and brambles growing up through the stair gaps and had been surrounded by other vegetation.
Once home I played with the images to try to get a good composition for a still-life of the stairway and vegetation. I decided that a close-up view would be best to avoid the image becoming a landscape.
I decided to take a mixed media approach to the drawing and wanted a slightly smooth finish to the steel of the bridge (apart from the rust patches) and a more expressive, free feel to the marks of the vegetation, to echo the notion that nature was moving to take back the structure.
I had also recently been on a visit to the British Museum Drawing Study Room and seen a drawing by John Napper – Dried Plants, 1958. In this drawing he had defined the shape of some of the flowers and leaves in some parts of his drawing and had been much freer in other parts, giving a vitality to his drawing which really caught by attention. I wanted to echo this in my drawing of the vegetation in some way.
I tried out the background first, applying a wax resist to parts of the walkway structure and then adding ink with a brush. I then added ink for the vegetation, dropping in different colours wet-on-wet. I liked the effect so decided to push on with my final drawing.
I initially made a pencil outline for the drawing to establish the various areas and ensure I got the perspective correct. Although I thought it was correct at this stage , I subsequently had to make corrects to the perspective as the drawing progressed.
I then added the wax resist and the ink under colours.
Once these were dry I used soft pastels for the vegetation in the background between the handrail uprights and coloured pencil for the walkway details and rust patches. I also ued pastel pencils for some areas of the walkway and free leaf shapes within the patched of ivy and brambles. There were gaps between the stairs where you could see the dark shapes of twigs and some leaves and I used graphite pencils for these elements. Finally. I added pen and ink lines fairly freely to both define the shapes of the leaves in the vegetation on the stairs and to create that sense of the vegetation gradually moving along the stairs.
I am happy with the result of the approach I have taken. I feel the drawing does portray the hard, smother steel structure against the more loose, random shapes of the vegetation. The drawing is also much larger, more colourful and has more layers than I would normally work with so I feel I have stretched that element in myself.
I could have been more daring in my approach and moved more away from the visual appearance but with this drawing I wanted the finish drawing to communicate my idea that nature will gradually erase man’s presence and that whilst our impact might seem great now, eventually nature will prevail and take back the environment.
Response to Tutor Feedback
Overall the tutor comments on this work were very positive. She suggested I let the fine lines used on the leaves bleed into the colours beneath. Whilst I can see what she is indicating I wanted the outline of the lines to be more precise and defined to contrast with the looser nature of the background. However, I will try this effect in the future.
Her other main comment was that I did not have enough tonal variations with the greens in the background, particular in between the stair railings. I revoked at this area and do agree with her comments. I therefore re-worked these areas and introduced a greater range, particularly dark and light values. This has improved the final image.