Friday, 3 February 2012

Lily Blatherwick

Just found this artist when going on The Potteries Museum website (

Her name is Lily Blatherwick. I love how expressive her mark making is here, I think it's done with graphite powder or charcoal, and then scratched into and rubbed away in places. The play of light is amazing as well; if I remember correctly, this is a renaissance technique called chiaroscuro, where there is a large contrast between light and dark areas. Often, chiaroscuro pictures used light to pick out the composition from a very dark background, making them very dramatic and mysterious looking, with the total amount of detail often quite subtly left to be discovered after the first glance. There is a roughness here that somehow seems to emphasise the delicacy of the subjects, as well as a great deal of energy that gives the image life, just like with Japanese sumi e (black ink painting).

It reminds me of when my A level art teacher got obsessed with mark making, and got everyone to study a kind of crash course on artists, drawing and painting techniques! It was the first time I felt I was properly taught art. He was really into experimentation, and he showed us artists where they'd worked into images over and over again until maybe the paper ripped. They'd then patch the hole with more paper and carry on layering up the marks and shades. He used to say that you shouldn't be afraid of going wrong, because then you get to work back into the image to fix it and make it amazing. Some of those images weren't of anything remarkable, but their depth and texture always made them so striking it didn't matter. They'd have used all sorts to create them - ink, paint, graphite powder, wax, knives to scrape back the surface, rubbers, rags....

Back then I could never get on with the graphite powder we were supposed to be using (it tended to get everywhere and stick to everything BUT the paper) but maybe it's time I had another go?

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