Mossy Logs

26C 4.45 p.m.

THIS PILE of moss-covered Buddleia logs and darker crab apple branches looks rather autumnal and I expect that a month from today we really will be seeing summer fading away fast. During the 3 or 4 hours that I’ve been drawing, a male Gatekeeper butterfly has been patrolling this north-facing side of the hedge. I’m surrounded by House Sparrows; it sounds as if there are dozens of them continuously calling and chattering to each other.

After a week when we’ve been doing a lot of work on the house and the garden, I felt the need to settle into a proper drawing. What could be more inviting to draw than a pile of mossy logs? – They don’t move about and, as it is an overcast afternoon, the light is steady. What could be easier to draw?

It proves to be an absorbing subject (I won’t say a ‘difficult subject’ because whenever I get into a drawing everything seems difficult to some extent!) –  because of all those interlocking shapes and criss-crossing stems. Drawing something like this, looking into its details, is like getting lost in the jungle; you find yourself repeatedly losing your way.

I might be drawing ‘just’ a pile of logs, but it doesn’t feel like that. There are elements of landscape, botany too of course, but I also I find myself half-thinking of the shape of a crocodile’s head, or of fishlike shapes as I draw.

Adding watercolour to my pen and ink drawing isn’t as simple as ‘colouring in’. To get a sense of depth I need to establish a tone for every detail. It’s only when almost every scrap of white paper has disappeared that the tonal arrangement of the log pile becomes apparent in the drawing.

I started adding a wash of neutral tint to most of the darker areas but this has resulted in a colour key which is noticeably cooler when I compare it with the log pile itself. I’ve added wash of yellow ochre with a touch of scarlet lake to try and correct this but I should have started with a brownish, rather than a greyish, tonal wash.

It feels good to have the time – a whole afternoon – to get involved in drawing again.

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