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Between Destinations

abstract automatic drawing daily sketching drawing figures pen and ink sketchbook sketchbook story time the artist's journey Jun 18, 2024

June 18, 2024

Jill and I returned from Skiathos a few days ago.  In a few days we pack our bags again and head to Tuscany.  We'll be attending a workshop taught by Liz Hough. Liz is an abstract painter lives in Cornwall.  Her work is inspired by landscape. She's a tutor at St Ive's School of Painting in St. Ives and has been teaching yearly workshops in Tuscany for many years. I'm curious to see what parts of Liz Hough's creative process will weave its way into my own ever-evolving process.

Autumn Landscape, Zennor by Liz Hough

I find myself at another crossroad, more of a roundabout than a crossroad. The four roads leading into the roundabout are representational art, abstract art, landscape and figurative art. As much as I love narrow, winding roads that lead off toward the unknown, I'm also wanting to find myself on a four-lane highway where the four roads can merge and head toward a common destination.

When I set out across the ocean two months ago, I wasn't expecting figurative art to step so boldly back into my work.  I also didn't expect to resist it as much as I did when faces suddenly appeared in my morning automatic sketches transforming them into montages of patterns and faces.  This new, intuitive process is reminiscent of the tiny cardboard and chain Shake-a-Face toy found in Cracker Jack boxes in the 1950's. I spent hours as a child tapping on the cardboard and watching the chain shift from the illusion of one facial profile to another.

Why the resistance? The automatic drawing process that begins with a single line drawn with pen loosely held by either my dominant or non-dominant hand and eyes closed, is meant to dive into my subconscious and release me from the act of making art.  It is meant to strengthen my heart/hand connection rather than my eye/hand coordination.  Once the line has ended and I've opened my eyes, I proceed to play with the shapes created by the line overlapping itself.  Sometimes adding colour, sometimes parallel lines or contour lines to create value and movement.

I was startled one early morning in late May, sitting in bed propped up by pillows with pen in hand. I opened my eyes and saw the suggestion of shoes and patterned skirts blowing in a gusty wind. I knew the shoes and skirts belonged to an old woman standing on the edge of a cliff looking out over the sea. The unconsciously drawn line had triggered the image just as the layers of thrown, splashed, dripped and splattered watercolour on large sheets of paper had triggered abstract figures twenty years ago.


I felt compelled to use contour lines and patterns to more clearly define what I was seeing and to discover for myself the personality of the figure whose skirts continued to move in the wind. I thought this experience was an anomaly, that the next morning my morning sketching would return to normal. I was wrong.

Several days passed before I was comfortable allowing the cartoon characters to invade my automatic sketches.  Why did I want to push these faces back to where they had been hiding for so many decades?  Why did I feel that they didn't belong in my current work?  I don't know.  It isn't important.  What definitely is important is to allow whatever comes up out of my subconscious or unconscious to appear on the paper or canvas and to see how I can weave it into a fine fabric of expression, exposing the multifaceted human that I have grown to be ... embracing and expressing the good and bad, beautiful and ugly as well as the young me and the old me.

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