Of Unfixed Boundaries - Work in progress 2021


Moonlit walk at Burncrooks, 30th December 2020 with Les, Angus and Jim

I have recently begun making drawings at reservoir near Glasgow; through observational drawings made there and continued in the studio from photographs, I am drawing the water’s surface and some of the Willow that is semi-submerged at certain points in the year due to the changing water levels. There is an unsettling strangeness to this relationship of water and Willow and it is one that I have been keen to further explore at night. Towards this end, I am about to begin making night visits to the site. I want to make some sketches, under the darkness of this changed night environment that is so different to the darkness of Skye.

I had already been thinking about our relationship to darkness through my experience of living through the Skye nights of the winter and the not quite day or night state of the summer skies there. There is a state of loss in darkness; a disorientation with where the edges of one’s body stop and the world external to it begins. Indeed, perhaps the exposure to darkness has the potential to yield a different experience of space and of self; the possible experience of an overlapping and cyclical world, where everything is transitory.  


the ego does not affirm itself in relation to darkness *

Physically, too much light hinders our vision (it’s a fact!) due to the way our eyes work. But, in spiritual terms, in most world belief systems, a period of darkness often features as the precursor to some degree of enlightenment.

* Eugene Minkowski quoted in Cataldi, S.L. (1993) Emotion, Depth and Flesh: A Study in Sensitive Space; Reflections on Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy of Embodiment, p50.

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Willow and water drawing,

daytime - work in progress.

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14th October_edited.jpg

Sunday 10th October, 7.00 - 7.25pm

Cloudy; First Quarter Moon

Eileen's paper, 4B pencil.

Thursday 14th October, 7.00 - 7.30pm

Cloudy; First Quarter Moon

Eileen's paper, 4B pencil

I am really delighted with this sketch, the first of my 'darkness' drawings. Just sitting out in the back garden drawing from the Privet as the darkness gathered. I did not sit until it was completely dark, rather I think that I drew during the transition. I had aimed to draw for just 20 minutes as I was afraid of being unhappy with the results and then feeling discouraged. In fact I am so pleased. Having to work so quickly in the fading light was really good for me. Lots to think about here.

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Friday 15th October, 9.00 - 9.25pm

A few clouds; First Quarter Moon

Eileen's paper, 4B pencil

A different experience again tonight - this one felt a bit daft. I was focused on the Brussel's sprouts under their draped cover and it really brought home the thought that I need a initial tone over the paper before I begin these drawings. Of course I was out after the transition, in as much full darkness as there was with this amount of moonlight - quite considerable light at points bouncing off the sprouts cover. However, as my eyes 'dark adapted' to the scene, they had to re-adjust again every time I looked back at the white paper! This problem could be avoided by starting with a layer of tone on the paper first but also....it would save drawing material (I scrubbed away half a 4B pencil last night!) The main drawing happened via subtraction with a putty rubber and this didn't really work. Keen to get out of the garden now as I need the contrast of what is above the hedge with the darkness of the hedge itself....it's a bit like sitting in a container with no lid - can only draw around the rim. I took the photo of the drawing from the 10th under electric light when I came in from the garden and thought it was a bit yellow, so retook all images today in daylight....but they were too blue. So have adjusted the latter two in Preview to match the cast caused by the electric light.....which is fittingly rather similar to that of streetlight reflected off cloud!


Friday 22nd October, 1.15 - 1.40 pm

A bright, dry day, a few clouds.

First Quarter Moon

A5 Cartridge paper, Charcoal ground, 4B pencil

A completely different experience tonight, at the other side of the garden. I still feel pleased with the sketch but I aimed to get such a lot in and didn't notice the extent to which I was doing this compared to sketch one. I've tried to take in an area about 6 times larger than the last sketch and because I started with the telegraph pole - and indeed was quite fixated upon it, I rather lost where I was! The fact that the neighbours on that side have a lot of lights in the garden that were twinkling through the hedge, just made things more complicated! Getting lost caused me to start to worry about what i was doing and I could feel this then getting in the way of the drawing.....and not wanting, or having set out, to draw garden chairs etc. I feel a bit like a child in charge of a pencil who has not quite worked out how to control marks yet!


Undated - sometime between 16th - 18th October. Full darkness

Clear sky: First Quarter Moon

A5 Cartridge paper, charcoal ground, 4B pencil

I haven't noted how long this sketch took and forgetting what happened as I'm uploading images retrospectively. I remember feeling really hesitant here and frustrated, wanting to put in detail that I couldn't see and felt I wouldn't be able to draw even if I could! The charcoal ground made a really big difference though. I had been looking at the drawings of a Pacific Northwestern artist called Lolly Shera and was clearly thinking about these while I was sketching away in a garden on the outskirts of Glasgow!

Friday 22nd October, 6.30 - 6.50pm

First Quarter Moon

A5 Cartridge paper, 4B pencil