Tuesday, January 31, 2012

...Plus One

Today the opposite of tomato is the meaning of life, the universe & everything...

Despite the previous reservations expressed about the potential & purpose of pursuing the drawing of blanks again, a recent find of a small sheet of paper, retrieved last Friday evening from a restaurant floor, proved too enticing not to consider as suitable subject-object matter &, consequently, for active contemplation through the drawing process over the course of the weekend.

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

Again, the folding & crumpling to which the paper has been subjected transform it into more of a three-dimensional object than it presents in its ‘pure’, unadulterated state, its creased, undulating surface catching the play of the natural daylight passing across it, creating highlights & falling into shadow.
The printed number 43 - which compromises the integrity of the page’s ‘blankness’, of course - suggests the sheet formerly formed part of a pad, from which is has been torn, & might also provide something of a correspondence with examples of visual art employing numerals as nothing more significant than a formal device, not least those of our old friend Jasper Johns, particularly in the unassuming, impersonal nature of the font used.


Belle & Sebastian 'Write About Love'
Moon Wiring Club 'Somewhere a Fox is Getting Married'
K-Punk 'The Metaphysics of Crackle'

A return too for another of TOoT’s old favourite features & a corking little soundtrack to boot – finally catching up, belatedly in the (mostly) habitual fashion (although there’s late & there’s absurdly so), with ‘Write About Love’, which proved most entertaining &, on first listen at least, provided the usual Belle & Sebastian tingle during ‘The Ghost of Rockschool’; being drawn ever more deeply into the dark & brooding recesses of the Moon Wiring Club’s commemorative ‘celebrations’, & experiencing some more metaphysical interference via K-Punk’s mixtape.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


A rather splendid find at the conclusion of a pleasant Sunday afternoon, with this intact pear, atmospherically illuminated by the surrounding streetlighting, laying at rest in the roadside before the kerb, thus succinctly conflating a pair of the abiding formal & environmental visual interests here at TOoT, & forming a most aesthetic scene (not unlike the Spanish still life tradition of fruit/objects observed against black background voids), with the ground in this instance exhibiting strong formal structure & subtle modulations of both tone & texture…

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Drawing a Blank Again

Something of a ‘return to yesterday’ over the last couple of weeks, at least in terms of the production of the drawing presented here & the subject-object matter it represents: such revisitations, of varying degrees of fleetingness, seem of course to have constituted a significant part of the norm over the last year or so here at TOoT, in the ongoing search for a project of suitable definition & rigour with which to become productively engaged.

graphite & putty eraser/30x20cm

This object as actively contemplated & represented through the drawing process, then, harks back to October-November 2010 & the drawings of ‘blanks’, those folded & lightly crumpled sheets of paper devoid of any added surface content in the way of imagery or written or printed text, white monochrome low relief 3D objects subject to the play of natural light in the manner of any other.

This particular small piece of paper (which is serving as a bookmark as the reading of the Jasper Johns ‘Gray’ volume proceeds, with great interest & not without a certain relevance to this particular object & the drawing of), represented at a life-size scale, displays the traditional grid pattern as a consequence of the folding, creasing & unfolding to which it has been subjected, & a range of subtly-modulated tones across its surface, but also has a significance other than its object-quality, having a handwritten personal dedication on its verso, hints of which are visible through the surface as light passes fugitively through as well as across it, these being recorded accordingly as subtle-ish marks upon the surface.

Although this drawing was processed in nothing like as laborious a technique as the late-2010 examples (which also involved many a subtle wash of watercolour over the initial graphite foundations), still the difficulty of producing much work in the available daylight at this dark, gloomy, compromised time of year presented itself - progress was frustratingly slow & fragmentary, providing a reminder as to why the original series-as-potential-project was abandoned as being temporally untenable, however much one might be inclined towards & wish to subscribe to the concept & practice of the ‘slow life’: a caution, perhaps, against considerations of continuing such an endeavour now, when the imperative should be to draw as often & long as possible.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Affairs of Style & Sound

A fashionable digression today, in response to an article in yesterday’s Guardian on the subject of an admiration for & inspiration by the sartorial style of David Hockney, otherwise in the news for his current exhibition of landscapes, ‘A Bigger Picture’, at the Royal Academy.
As regards what he might be wearing rather than painting, however, in a related incident late last year Hockney appeared pictured in the November issue of ‘Artists & Illustrators’, resplendent in a knitted tie, thus following the style lead of TOoT as premiered earlier in the year & sported rather fetchingly since, in the contexts of both business & pleasure/leisure: something that perhaps, should be the preferred choice of artists & aesthetes, debonair yet with a certain bohemian air. The estimable Lord Whimsy too has been known to affect ‘the look’, or at least his own idiosyncratic take on it.

Hockney, indeed, has obviously had a thing for horizontally-striped ties (although not necessarily of the knitted variety, for all that the straight end of this illustrated example suggests it might be) since way back, if the drawing 'My Suit and Tie' from 1971 & which image graces the cover of the hardback edition of his 'Drawing Retrospective' volume is any sort of guide.

By one of those serendipitous coincidences that have occurred in these parts on previous occasions, I had only yesterday morning taken delivery of a fresh consignment of knitted ties, thus:

Also pictured is one of the ties as worn, without further ado, with shirt, at ‘wirk’ (note also the Duchampian object in the background – one has to find art where one can!): in such an affronting environment, one has to try & rise above the circumstances & the hoi polloi, not least through one’s apparel & devotion to one’s style…

Finally on the general subject of ties & art, some examples of Fabian Peake's painting from the early-to-mid 1980s featuring just such iconography can be found here, here & here.

Further to yesterday’s cultural matters, A & I were later privileged to attend a performance of Sounds Affairs’ musical accompaniment to 'Salomé' (a fabulously-designed treasure of early arthouse silent cinematic history), a compelling combination of live percussion (with four black-attired musicians arranged within a pair of two-tiered metal-framed open tower structures flanking either side of the screen) & recorded voices, the sonic & visual elements of the event mutually enhancing each other, an exhilarating experience indeed.

We also had the opportunity to peruse an extensive exhibition of the paintings, mostly large scale with some of smaller format also included, of Emrys Williams, of, one might say, imaginative spaces, interior & exterior, the imagery familiar in its details yet strange in their conjunctions & juxtapositions - indeed, depicting forms of both exterior & interior reality, 'topographies of the mind', to paraphrase the intriguing artist's own words, with a pleasing aesthetic dialogue between the structure of the drawing & looseness of painterly technique.

Also on view was an exhibition of photographic work by the members of North Wales-based collective Photernative: particularly enjoyable was a grid-format multiple-image piece by Ewart Hulse entitled 'Urban Forest', which can be seen in the photograph below (in the lower left corner), illustrating another exhibition context, featuring various examples of telegraph poles & pylons & the cables strung between, observed against the sky, very much up TOoT's formal & aesthetic street.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Revealing Detail...

Presenting today not the full scope of a drawing but, rather, a still-life detail of, specifically the customary late evening unwinding glass of wine (that one could get through the day without, but why would one want to?) – not usually an accompaniment to the drawing process, what with the emphasis being on the maintenance of keenness of faculties, rigour of focus & all, & perhaps there’s a certain looseness in the representation of, but, for once, that might not necessarily be a bad thing (& it’s more the consequence of observing & mark making in subdued ‘mood’ lighting conditions, anyway): whatever, this small corner of the drawing appears the most satisfying in the context of the whole.

graphite & putty eraser/(detail) 9x6cm

The ‘bigger picture’, as it were (v topical re. the Hockney exhibition at the RA), is still in the process of being considered for full revelation.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Another Technical Hitch

Another drawing made with the digital pen, on this occasion an original creation after the sequence of tracings of existing artists' drawings, &, alas, another technical hitch resulting in the failure to record the drawing in anything other than its physical form: not user error this time, in forgetting to switch the receiver on, but rather, for whatever reason, the process wasn’t registered by the device.


The drawing as it exists, then, in its state of splendid isolation, is a biro interpretation based loosely on a general combination of aspects of that collection of photographs taken of the instance of ‘double black lines’ road markings found amongst the back streets of Chester in September of last year (already), using the tool to employ a broad & intensive mark-making approach to the familiar subject matter, constructing an active & substantial (although not necessarily as satisfactorily a subtly-modulated) tonal surface with & from such means.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Early One Morning, Revisited

Another view of the field, with goalposts, beyond the perimeter of the back garden fence, previously photographed on an occasion during the latter part of last year when shrouded in mist, this morning to be seen, in the pale early daylight, displaying the effects of a couple of days’ & nights’ hard frost, settled upon the surface of all, quiet & still, both romantic & melancholy at the same time, again evoking reminders of the paintings of George Shaw, the goalposts providing signifiers of human life & activity that remains absent from the picture.

It has subsequently occurred to me that perhaps the photographs should be taken from the opposite end of the field, thus looking towards the rear of the short terrace of houses, incorporating evidence of such standard domestic architecture into the composition, for a more authentically ‘Shavian’ scene, although the picture as it exists certainly carries echoes of the artist's work.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Drawing Inspiration...

Today brought the rather exciting discovery, via a roundabout internet route, of the drawings of Jim Savage, or at least a couple of examples of, which prove to be not nearly enough but so much better than none at all.

As can be observed from the two landscape studies below, the whole surface of Savage’s drawings are scored with & activated by an all-over network of lines that then come to coalesce in details of the topography of the specific locations represented, establishing a continuous dialogue between recessional pictorial space & the material fact of the picture plane, which one is returned to by virtue of the mesh that covers it. There’s a wonderful luminosity present too, glowing lambently from the notional horizon through the surface haze.

Jim Savage 'Rough Ground' 1998
Pencil on paper/82 x 116 cm
[image from The Occasional Press]

Jim Savage 'Rough Ground'
[image from Limerick City Gallery of Art]

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

(Not) Going Digital...

Continuing the nascent project of drawing with the new digital pen, the method thus far being the tracing of existing drawings, being guided by the mark-making process of a selection of the enduring favourite artists, & on this occasion using Van Gogh & his distinctive style as the template for such endeavour.

As one follows in the mark-makings of the artist, one is struck by the intensity of the realisation of his vision before & amidst the motif, the obsessive recording of sensations as enshrined in the drawing, with its dynamic all-over surface, so vividly communicated, &, in turn, just how mechanical & removed a process is the tracing, for all the degree of concentrated looking & physical activity required.

Furthermore, the biro inevitably lacks the variety & subtlety of mark-making potential of the range of tools & media used by Van Gogh, his ink pens & pencils, for all that one attempts to be sympathetic to & empathetic with the source image: involved in the drawing process, viewing the reproduction from which one is working, one is unaware, through the accumulating haze of marks made upon the surface of the not-wholly-transparent tracing paper, through which one struggles to see, just how far distanced one is & increasingly becomes until a comparison is made.

Vincent Van Gogh 'Cottage' 1888
pencil, reed pen & pen, with brown & black ink on paper/61x49cm

copy after Van Gogh 'Cottage Garden'
biro on tracing paper/30x20cm

At this point in proceedings, it’s customary to present the digital version of the drawing (process) as recorded by the clip-on receiver & uploaded to the computer: alas, on this occasion, someone forgot to remember to switch the receiver on, thus no record was made/saved of the drawing as it happened, & thus there’s no digital drawing to subsequently convert into text, so we’re left with just the handmade biro tracing of the process.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Going Digital #4

Today the opposite of tomato is In Pursuit of Your Happiness

Another in the sequence of digital pen tracings, exploring the mark-making potential of the new instrument, on this occasion using Jasper Johns & one of his ‘Flag’ drawings as a guide, as inevitable a circumstance as it might be possible to imagine around these parts, given my abiding attachment to the artist.

Jasper Johns 'Flag' 1958
Pencil and graphite wash on paper/30x22cm

The example chosen from which to work is drawn more loosely & displays much less dense mark-making than others of Johns’ flags, consequently being lighter in tone & feel, seeming more appropriate to the purposes of the particular exercise (although, for future reference, it might also be worth considering one of the more densely-processed drawings as a template). The image displays a suitable range of mark-making to explore the versatility of the digital pen, although of course, again, the biro lacks the subtlety of the pencil(s) used by Johns, in conjunction with washes of graphite, an additional ‘textural’ feature I felt it might be possible to replicate with recourse to certain functions of the software program accompanying the pen & its digital receiver, in the interests of developing the drawing at the computer stage in this particular instance, given that such possibility exists.

The initial biro drawing, then, is a tracing of a reproduction (in the essential ‘Gray’ volume) of Johns’ drawing, this copy’s exactitude being compromised by the less-than-complete-transparency of the tracing paper & then the further obscurity created by the accumulation of marks made upon its surface in the transcription process – all things taken into account, significant loss & difference occurs in translation, which process is then extended & intensified in the uploading to the computer & digitizing of the pen drawing, as can be observed.

copy after Jasper Johns 'Flag'
biro on tracing paper/30x20cm

The brush feature of the software program, although extending the range of mark-making, offer little in the way of subtlety, of transparency of application, in addition to its tendency to regularize the difference of the marks (that might be) made by the biro, & bears all the appearance of a drawing made with a fibre-tipped pen without necessarily replicating even the flow of such an instrument: it all adds up to a pretty crude approximation, although not without its own distinctive qualities, & it’s interesting to observe the manner in which the receiver reads the handmade marks of the pen, which is an impressive enough concept in itself.

digital translation of biro drawing after Jasper Johns 'Flag'

Bringing proceedings to a close in the now usual manner, as the final stage of the process, the digital image is then converted to a text document, the software program making its own sense of the marks made & recorded. Although beginning with the now familiar flurry of uppercase Es amongst other stock characters, on this occasion more recognizable words occur than has previously been the case, perhaps because the marks made more closely approximate the flow & rhythms of handwriting. Whatever, it’s possible to isolate the random selection of words ‘pains’, ‘thistledown’, ’trespass’, ‘annatto’, ‘Wheaten’ & ‘Eastward’, in addition to the rather grand name 'Rathfarnham' & what appear to be the formats of URLs & email addresses: one wonders if, in particular, ‘trespass’ is some form of comment upon & coded warning against the appropriation of the work of artists for one’s own exploratory ends, as has been the nature of this project thus far..!

hhnhynnatiaaatdntesefwsawaaddfaodomaaae@hffemate.hm pains
trespass'nIi*t¥ginn→*aiohagh thistledown Rathfarnham. paawehasaataefkfohytegaefaiitmoeggdddaadha@tmmb.ad
Ahtr*estn*fefFEfaeEmhp•*EAetwTATT*nEp# Wheaten. t*d*e*a m*E*a*t=A*a*a-805777ttmz@Hotmail.org ataman t*#dthAErn*kxMfhtMMAtahEEhAE Eastward ftagfthaxan-aaaantnaaaananttt@tak.th
ihhaahhhfkehkuadtoseaatadwma@apptottmfhd.ax and

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Going Digital #3

Continuing the experiment of drawing with the new digital pen, & returning to Cézanne as the source from which to trace an image for the purposes of mark-making, on this occasion one of the artist’s landscape studies, in his recognizable technique of exploratory lines & tonal ‘hatching’.
Again, as (noted) with the two previous examples, degrees of loss (of detail & subtlety) & difference are clearly discernible between the reproduction of the original Cézanne pencil drawing, the biro tracing & the digital reading/processing of the tracing, each media displaying their own distinct(ive) qualities.

Cézanne 'Landscape with Trees' c.1885-87
pencil on paper/12x21cm

tracing after Cézanne 'Landscape with Trees'
biro on tracing paper/30x20cm

digital reading of tracing after Cézanne 'Landscape with Trees'

As has become the usual final stage of the process, we also present the digital image as converted to text, again the drawn marks intriguingly translated into a sequence of what has become the norm of uppercase Es, hash & Yen symbols with a scattering of asterisks thrown in & also, rather bizarrely, the words ‘feed’ &, rather bizarrely, ‘tonsillitis!’ (sic) – that exclamation mark is not necessarily a surprise under such circumstances…

r*e*E'€eET#Ei*EEEEIE*EF##*a*±h-g T t*p*p*H *¥EFFt€EE#r***Eh⇐EE±*wksie÷ph*F feed
- #EEaeayµµkie±E÷I¥£¥s±±¥¥fkedtfett do I f=a*m*j--714 I=I tonsillitis!ttttttttttf EEEEEEEEEEEIEEEIE.IEF±ttttte
-* rMMMn=I_Mmm+->. t*H

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Going Digital #2

A second drawing made with the new digital pen, again a tracing based upon an artist’s drawing acting as a guide in the interests of exploring the instrument’s mark-making potential. After beginning with Cezanne, we now draw upon Giacometti as the template, given his distinctive mode of mark-making, & his drawing transcribed from Cezanne’s portrait of Victor Choquet, an appropriate coincidence with a mind to continuity & dialogue: Giacometti, indeed, made a number of studies from Cezanne’s drawings & paintings, over the course of many years (dating from the 1920s onwards), exploring a range of styles in the process of doing so.

tracing after Giacometti, biro on tracing paper, 30x20cm

As with the previous example, the tracing necessarily loses something in translation, as the semi-transparency of the paper & the subsequent marks upon it serve to obscure some of the subtleties & details of the source image: this, of course, can be regarded as a good thing as it allows the new drawing to become a thing in & of itself, at a distance from the reproduction of the original (in the volume ‘Cezanne & Giacometti: Paths of Doubt’).
The physical fact of the use of different media – organic, responsive graphite pencil for the original, the machine of the less subtle & versatile biro for the tracing – also emphasizes such distance & difference, which the digital reading of the pen drawing, as processed digitally, then intensifies.

Again, it’s a fascinating process to trace an artist’s hand & moves, in this instance trying to replicate Giacometti’s explorations at arriving at some degree of resolution to the problem of achieving the form of the image he was studying & using as his model, charting a course through the labyrinth of gestures, the flow of constant revisions, the gradual honings & homings-in, as recorded by his pencil & evidenced below.

Alberto Giacometti 'After Cezanne: Portrait of Victor Choquet' c.1950
pencil on paper/30x31cm

As before, the digital version of the the biro pen drawing as read by the receiver & subsequently uploaded to the computer displays quite differently from the marks as made upon the sheet of tracing paper, appearing distinctively much in the manner of a drawing made with a fibre tipped pen, broader again in its communication of lack of variation of touch.

Finally, the digital image as converted into a text via a Word document, with perhaps not as many looped characters as might be expected to appear, apart from a smattering of lowercase t's, instead again favouring uppercase Es & Yen symbols: no meaning, of whats, hows or whys, seems to be discernible!


Monday, January 02, 2012

Going Digital

A new year &, with it, a new tool with which, amongst other things, to make marks & drawings; sourced, researched & then kindly presented by A during the course of the recent festivities.
The thing itself is Staedtler’s ‘Digital Pen’ which, essentially, functions in the manner of an ordinary ballpoint pen, allowing the user to make handwritten ink notes or sketches, but is also capable of saving such results in digital form via the device of a receiver & its related software program(s) which enables them to be uploaded to a computer for saving, further processing or even conversion to text in the form of a Word document. Even as one becomes more & more familiar with technology, still some developments can appear somewhat remarkable, & the existence of such an instrument & its functionality seems to fall into this category: the fact that the software can recognize one’s scrawl & endeavour to read it before then converting it to neat, legible, typefaced text is rather impressive.
Such is not necessarily the main purpose to which the pen has been applied thus far, however, & here TooT (re)presents evidence of the first purposeful drawing endeavour for which it has been used.

By way of brief explanation, in the interests of embarking upon a mark-making exercise, whilst considering artists’ drawings & also coincidentally engaged in reading the essays contained with the Jasper Johns ‘Gray’ catalogue, with that book’s tracing paper dust jacket (photographically illustrated here), it was decided to make tracings of a few chosen drawings that offered particular mark-making potential in the copying of or ‘being guided by’, with the aim of an exploration of the digital pen’s capabilities.
In a sense, that ‘guiding’ actually is the case, as, once one begins the tracing process, the combination of the made marks upon the surface, & anyway the not-wholly-transparent nature, of the tracing paper, where some of the subtleties of what lies beneath might become somewhat compromised, interferes with & precludes a properly clear reading of the original image, thus one is drawing an approximation of a representation, all with an instrument of a different nature to that used to make the original drawing, should that prove not to have been a biro.

Accordingly, the first drawing chosen to serve a model for the digital pen experimentation was a Cezanne self-portrait from circa 1880, itself made with graphite on paper, as it appears reproduced in the book ‘Cezanne by Himself’: represented firstly is the original tracing/drawing of (an interesting & attractive double-sided object in itself).

copy of Cezanne 'Self-Portrait', biro on tracing paper, 30x20cm

As anyone who has have drawn with a biro might appreciate, the pen, whilst it offers a certain range of mark-making potential, in terms of weight of application, is by no means capable of the variety & subtleties of a pencil, thus the resulting physical drawing is quite different in nature to the source image for all that it is intended to be a reasonably faithful copy of the essential form & its constituent marks: a comparison with a reproduction of the original Cezanne drawing might illustrate this.

Cezanne 'Self-Portrait' c.1880

Then, the pen drawing in digital form, as read & stored by the receiver & uploaded to the computer. A certain difference of appearance is discernible, & slight loss of detail & subtlety might be observed as having been lost in translation from the original drawing, distancing us further from the Cezanne self-portrait from which the proceedings were sourced.

Finally, & taking us rather some distance from the original Cezanne drawing upon which this particular endeavour is based, we present the digital drawing as converted, experimentally, to text, its marks translated into letters & other symbolic characters: a curious reading, to be sure, & whatever could it mean, in the manner of ‘how’ it does, considering that the text is presented in a format that bears no formal relation to the composition of the drawn image...? It’s intriguing, for instance, that such a reading begins with the word ‘jammy’ (?!) but then chooses to offer nothing other than a flurry of information of which no linguistic sense can be made, other than, perhaps, something of a penchant for E’s & Yen, which we’re sorted for, obviously, in addition to hashes & asterixes, which symbolic transpositions from the original marks & hatchings might be regarded as being understandable.

#E### i*a*t
FEEK ***#FEE¥*t*
t*A*g*j tIE¥⇐**EEE*II¥y
y*x *EE#E**iIt#EI¥E¥k¥#¥*gn§t,

Snappy New Year

A New Years’ break in a favoured haunt in Conwy allowed the opportunity to wander around the town with A & this very lunchtime capture for posterity an image of a previously-encountered & favourite example of signage, with which it’s always a pleasure to be reacquainted, that hand-drawn effort advertising the premises where the Conwy Camera Club convenes.

There’s just something rather endearing about the exaggerated gap between the ‘m’ & the ‘e’ of the rendering of the word ‘camera’, created by the modular nature of the sign’s construction.

Also to be observed during the course of the perambulations, considering things modular, were a couple of fine examples of chequered design, the first, in relief, upon the cast iron dividers to be found between paving slabs, themselves displaying textural incident,

& then another, with added time-worn scratched detail upon its surface, forming a deep wooden windowsill at a barber’s shop.