Magpies

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I’m working on a new drawing: Magpies. This is the stage I’m up to, I’ve done the birds, the sky and the lamp post, now I’ll put a city scape underneath. It’s a composition partly based on my own photography: hanging off car park roof tops and part research. I find getting good bird photos to be very difficult and I’m going to have to sharpen my photography skills if I am going to keep this theme going.
Why crows? I’ve begun to see Crows as a metaphor for modern society, my own emotional state and they are at once so beautiful and menacing.
My drawings usually begin in my head and I gather a strong visual image of what I want. Next comes a few thumbnails to focus my thoughts, then it’s getting the photos taken. Lighting is paramount so I need to shoot at the right time of day etc. from there I’ll compose in photoshop, playing with it until I’m perfectly happy. I’ve learned over the years that I can’t rush straight into things, so I leave it for a couple of days and come back to it with fresh eyes. If I’m still happy I’ll begin.
Magpies is about four feet high, I work on cartridge paper fixed to a smooth plastered wall, drawing the whole composition freehand. I don’t need or use projectors. I then use graphite powder and cloths to lay down large areas of tone. Tones have major and minor relationships. An object will be made solid by major tones and the minor tones bring detail and clarification.
I use solid graphite pencils that I actually buy for two quid a box from a stationers. I haven’t come across them in any art suppliers but they are great because I can cut sections up and draw with shapes of solid graphite rather than just a tip. My rubber is used as much as my pencil and I draw with that as much as anything.
won’t draw many outlines of a birds feathers, just the key structure of the birds shape, then I build the feathers using a 2B blunt, soft pencil. Building tones patiently is the key. I’ll move into 6B pencil next, sometimes going over much of what I’ve already drawn, but you get a density of tone like this. I’ll finish with an 8B for the true blacks but I’m currently looking at other options for this as the 8B doesn’t lie on the 6B surface very well. The 8B is a real WOW moment, because it is only then that the drawing comes to life.
When I’m drawing I can be miles away, not even thinking of what I’m doing, I draw almost on auto-pilot. I’m alone with my thoughts and as I get older I find that I like it like that. Music is my companion, that and my two cats!

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