Sketch book: tone and Morandi

I should number these. Maybe.


After a tutorial and the advice about practicing tone, I’ve taken to an H grade pencil and a piece of conte. For this first exercise, I’ve made horizontal lines first then gone back and made vertical ones. The top two rows are H grade pencil and the bottom two, black conte. The texture of the paper comes through, which I like.


This one is just conte and capitalising on the support as a medium in its own right. The top is an attempt at a graded sweep across the page, and the middle a series of vertical sweeps which I’ve smudged horizontally (because conte just begs for that, in my eyes!) At the bottom, in recognition that tone isn’t confined to blocks, I tried the same variability of pressure with a couple of horizontal lines, and then one making circular motions. I’m beginning to notice how differently I hold the medium when I’m exerting different degrees of pressure. I already know I’ve a liking for ‘tickling’ a piece of work with medium on a brush that I hold right at the other end, twisting and turning it as I move it across the surface. This feels similar.


I’ve also been looking at the way Giorgio Morandi treats his subject matter (and will I ever be able to extract his name from the very similar Giorgio Moroder, ‘Father of Disco’ or even George Monbiot, the British activist. Good company though, I’d say).


Morandi was a contemporary artist whose lifetime spanned two world wars. When I saw the date on the bottom image – 1946 – I wondered if his very calculated stillness and ice cream colours were a kind of reaction to the destructive turmoil of WWII. Maybe not, maybe it’s more to do with the prevalence of art deco buildings that followed one war and survived the next. As a child, I remember freezing my feet off in an outdoor lido in Scarborough that, to my memory, seemed to be art deco. Sea front shops and ice cream parlours also seemed to be built in that style and to me, Morandi’s colours have a look of ice cream. The images are very smooth, more tone than line, and very carefully arranged – not regimented but definitely ordered and still. There’s no chaos here, no movement, everything is in its place. Realistic but not photo realistic.

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