I’ve always been fascinated by drawing. I’m delighted by the absurdity of it, a few scratchy scribble marks and we fit an illusion to it, read it as a place, a gesture, an object.
Drawing is the art of hollowing out a piece of paper, suggesting something legible in there. I’m always trying to get better at it, to develop language, to work on the reading.
Many of these drawings are done with colour, not representational colour but used as a way of giving more liveliness to the image. Just as the Impressionists with their pointillism painted light by describing depth with colour, minutely adjusted dot by dot until the reading of space became lucid, I like to use sequences of colour to develop the forms and spaces of an image. After years of teaching life drawing and in medical student days studying anatomy, I find the human figure to be enough of a subject to explore all this.
Colours read at different depths in an image. Dark areas recede and light ones come forward, but as well, the way vision works results in the colour and the surface of an object being perceived separately, we pull red forward and push the blue end of the spectrum back to coincide with the object, and when we look at colours on a flat surface we compensate and read this as varying depth in the paper.
By keeping the marks thinly spread out I can use very bright colours which act quite precisely to produce an illusion of depth, like the Impressionist’s dots. Paint makes dots, pencils or pastels make scribbles which can be animated in themselves, and where the tendency with paint is to spread it which can obscure the sketchier underpainting, drawing marks all remain visible: a drawing keeps its innards on show. The marks tend to be diagrammatic rather than descriptive of surface appearance (such as with use of light and shade), and the challenge is to arrive at a totally convincing illusion through this accumulation of hints and suggestions. For the figure, movement or gesture is essential, and I love trying to get this right using colour.
In a way, drawing is for me a form of sculpture. The spaces and objects of the illusion emerge from the cloud of directions for how to interpret the scribble and as they come more distinct they become virtual sculptures that I needn’t get up and actually make. (Perversely when carving I use the light and shade to read the appearance and refine the carving marks to clarify the shading as if it’s a drawing. Some people make sculpture by form, this is more by light.)