sketch

Alice Fox badger drawing 2

I’ve just posted off my entry to this year’s Sketchbook Project. My book is called Contemplating the Badger and is made up of drawings of a dead badger that I met last September. Encounters with wildlife in this way provide a closeness that we are never afforded when they are alive. It may seem morbid to want to study an animal that has met with an end like this but I see it as an opportunity to understand more about them. It was particularly moving to find this young badger freshly killed (by a car) within days of the badger cull being re-started in the area of the country I was visiting, something I strongly disagree with. Very sad. One of my all time favourite books is a collection of drawings from wildlife by Keith Brockie. Many of his studies are made from dead animals: the model stays still! I have had his books since childhood and I go back to them again and again.

Alice Fox Badger drawing

In order to fit my badger into the small format of the standard Sketchbook Project book I took the book apart and laid the pages out together so that I could work on a larger scale. I drew from a series of photos I had taken. The pages were then re-constructed back into their book form. The drawings are therefore broken up and somewhat abstracted. I have also included on my pages words from a poem of the same title as my book by Nigel Morgan:

I stopped the car I was alone,
I snapped it three times
with my phone and now
it lies here on his desk,
three shots of this dead thing,
its dark blue pool of blood
that spills half on the road
half on the grass, from deep
inside its side it’s dead,
and really still,
and still
it has a such beauty,
still.

This weekend there was a magpie dead on the road near my house. My daughter told me it was there so we went to look. It was laid out in the middle of the road. I removed it from its undignified position and spent a couple of hours drawing it.

Alice Fox magpie drawing

Contemplating the Badger will eventually be able to view either as part of the Sketchbook Project tour or via the digital library, once it has arrived and been processed. Previous contributions to the project can be seen here and here.

within sight of the sea

Within Sight Of The Sea cover

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was preparing drawings for a publication. The publication is now live and is available as an e-book. This collaboration brings together poetry by Nigel Morgan (if you have my book Tide Marks you will have come across his beautiful poems already) with my illustrations taken from various sketchbooks. Many of these drawings were done en plain air, attempting to capture something of the experience of these places, although they weren’t done in the knowledge that they would later be publicly viewed – this kind of sketchbook is a very personal record of place.

These images and words blend together as evidence of such visits in each other’s company, and occasionally alone. Some of what you see or read has come into being in situ, others as dream memories. Together they form a record of time spent unconfined, in the opened air and the pressing wind, sighting distance, or observing the close confusion of what lies at the feet, or near at hand.

Having had the very rewarding experience of publishing a small number of books so far, initially with help and then as my own publisher, the concept of the e-book is one I am very interested in. It has to be the ultimate in sustainable publications – no actual materials being used etc. But, being a hands-on craft-orientated artist, the fact that I can’t hold this thing in my hands, turn the pages and feel the surface of the paper is something I have to put aside and accept: this is a different experience. Collaboration pushes you in directions that you might not have taken on your own, provides new possibilities and opportunities to learn as a result.

Alice Fox Llyn sketch 2

 

>frederick

>In a week’s time I’ll be back at college and the next 9 or 10 months will whizz by in a blur. I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the summer sorting things out at home, getting the house straight, clearing and re-arranging. I’ve had some pretty big life changes to deal with over the last few months so it has been important to spend some time getting things in order before term starts.

The start of a new academic year (kids going back to school, new starts) coupled with a change in season (it’s definitely autumn today) tends to get one a bit melancholy… looking back and forwards.

There is a story I often think about and at this time of year, with all the harvesting of things from the garden and making jam and chutney etc, it’s really appropriate. It’s a children’s story, that I had as a child, with simple collaged illustrations called


by Leo Lionni.

Frederick is a mouse who lives with his family in a wall on the edge of a meadow. The mice get busy in the autumn collecting grain and nuts and so on to store for the winter. Frederick doesn’t help them and none of the other mice can understand why – they think he’s lazy but he’s actually busy doing his own special work.


The winter comes and the mice eat the food they had stored and then the food runs out and they’re all sad and cold.

Then Frederick uses his stores, the things he gathered during the summer.


He tells them all about the colours and the sights and smells of summer and their minds are full of beautiful things and the warmth of the sun and poems. And then they’re all happy and they value what Frederick has done.


Frederick is an artist who is mis-understood for much of the time. But it is heartening to get to the end and find that his work is really valued eventually.

So when I’m immersed in the colours of the world, taking it all in, enjoying the sights, smells and sounds, committing it all to memory (or sketchbook, or camera) I often think of Frederick and his collecting of colours.