Thursday, October 22, 2020



Here is a sketch I did on my phone using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and PIXLR.  It’s a reinterpretation of Escher’s “Drawing Hands” … updated for the digital era.

Back in July I did a post about physical modeling and drawing.  The pandemic has given me the opportunity and the stimulus to balance my virtual work with some traditional work.

This work continues.  I did some plasticine modeling of a gargoyle.  This is very loosely based on the “dragon-spouts” of Notre Dame.  I was intending to use photogrammetry to convert this to a mesh and insert it into a family.  But that part never happened. 

Armature   It’s all a bit haphazard but it was fun to do a bit of practical problem-solving in the real world.  Note the creative use of a microphone stand to suspend the gargoyle in it’s normal horizontal position, with the ability to rotate, raise & lower without touching the plasticine itself.

Around the same time I did a couple of quick sketches on my phone.  Some use of layers and post-processing here, but trying hard to remain fast and intuitive.

On the left is “forest scene” it’s loosely based on a couple of pictures by my dad that made an impression on me as a teenager.  The idea is to work very quickly and without much planning, laying down marks that give the illusion of distance and depth.  A forest that recedes in a tangle of overlapping lines.  Vertical trees and horizontal grown.  Interwoven stripes.

On the right the scene that greets me at the end of my 6am walk each morning.  Again it’s about the illusion of depth, and about abstraction.  Repetition and rhythm also.  Part of the allure is the vanishing point drifting around the corner as your eye is drawn into the space.

The next image is an attempt to repeat my water colour efforts in that previous post but within the virtual world “through the iPad glass”.  There is some back and forth between iPad and laptop here.  Playing with filters, transparency, and polygon fill to frame the composition.  Once again nothing is planned out.  Just start loose strokes of blue and green to define sky and ground, then insert bits of building in the accidental gaps.  Pause a moment to reflect, then dive in again. 


One more take on the same theme.  Again purely digital.  This time the viewpoint is higher and the perspective is distorted.  David Hockney might call it “reverse perspective”.  Working with contrasts here: areas that are very loose, areas kept completely blank, and areas of intense texture and detail. 


Back to modelling.  My dad was a potter and dabbled in clay sculpture also.  Well he was an art teacher, but a couple of times he created clay models of a bull which graced the shelves of our home and made quite an impression on me as a teenage boy.  So I thought I would have a quick go myself.

In retrospect I could have done with a bit of an armature to stop the legs from sagging ever downwards.  Maybe I need to get some wire.  As I remember, we used to use “pipe cleaners”: lengths of wired with a furry covering.  I had forgotten about that. 


But I got to thinking about classical ornament again and the kind of freize that alternates a bull’s head and a festoon, draped from horn to horn.  Sir John Soane used this device at the Bank of England on Tivoli Corner.  I was inspired to create a highly abstracted version for Project Soane using the intersection of solid and void extrusions.

Picasso was also fond of the bull motif, famously combining bicycle seat and handlebars to evoke this symbolic form which has featured on the walls of buildings since the earliest towns and cities thousands of years ago


So I decided to model a head.  Once again just following my instincts.  No reference material, just work from memory & imagination.  I quite like the roughness of the early snapshots, but I was aiming for a more consistent finish.  Setting myself a goal.  Minimize the undercutting, aim for a simple, regular form with flowing lines.  I used the rounded end of a pencil to tap the surface for an orange peel effect.


The shop didn’t have silicone rubber for the moulds, so I settled for Latex.  Works fine but required multiple coats to build up a decent thickness.  To keep the mould in shape while casting you need a plaster backing.  I did all that for the cornucopia I had modelled before and ran off a couple of plaster castings


I went on to model a swag/festoon/garland, once again training myself by challenging my ability to improvise a form on-the-fly.  The whole point of these exercises is not so much the end products, but the activities themselves.  Engaging hand, eye & brain in an integrated way, focusing my attention on a physical object in the making like these miniature garlands.


So I’ve had a lot of fun playing at being an ‘ornamental plaster guy’.  Setting myself practical challenges with an artistic component.  Mixing up little bowls of plaster.  Sniffing the latex fumes.

Cast 3 heads, two swags, four little hanging garlands.  Line them up on a carboard backing and enjoy the surge of achievement.  My apartment is a workshop.  Proper little hobby.


Photos of MY hand and MY eye, carefully processed for maximum effect.  A cartoon-style drawing of a brain that I sketched on my iPad.  Put them together with a recycling symbol to represent what I’m doing with these exercises. 

That’s what they are.  Exercises for the hand-eye-brain feedback loop.  Training my inner artist/artisan.

By the way, my left hand has an unusual feature … a continuous line that goes right across the palm.  The right hand is more conventional with two lines that miss each other and overlap in the middle. 


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