A little more from me, this time about the Hammersmith cover.
This is one of the first of Kate's photos I ever saw. The title, Live at Hammersmith Odeon, intrigued me even before I knew what the performance was like - that must have been around 1986. Then in 1991, I think, I got the video and was awed by the stunning originality of the show. Doing this picture now is my tribute to what must have been an amazing experience for all those lucky (and old!) enough to be there.
Again, I'm reasonably satisfied with it, I believe it has a lot of 'Kateness' in it without being a photographic copy. Anyway, the photo I used was a 200% version of a scan from the tape, which means many details were suggested rather than seen. But I think in the end it achieves the right impression.
This one proved easier than I had anticipated and more or less came out right first time. The jacket was a bit of a trouble as I had never done a black outfit before. I decided the best way to go about it probably was to give it all a uniform black shade, then use an eraser to bring out the highlights and darken the rest. That's what I did and it was straightforward enough.
It is difficult for me to get a decent photo to post because, first, some angles of view tend to distort proportion (but I don't know which, so it's very much hit-and-miss), and second, it is impossible to get the whole image in focus, although it is all on one plane. That's a shame really, as there is a lot of detail that ultimately gets lost. I focus on the face each time which unfortunately means that the feet will always be blurred, and there's good detail in the shoes, and the hands, too. I took about 20 pics to get a decent one to post, and even that one is half-decent.
There was some physical discomfort with this one as well: I always fix the paper on a plywood board with clips and do most of the work sitting by a window. The height of this one, though, meant that when doing the top half I could not reach that far out whilst sitting, and had to put the board on a table and lean on it or kneel on the chair and bend over. Try doing that for ten hours as I did last Sunday and you are guaranteed to need an osteopath, as I felt I did. But it was all for Kate, so that's not so bad.
I don't have any plans for a new project right now. Unless, of course, I happen to come across the right (Kate) picture…
More ramblings from me, this time about the picture called 'TWS-Experiment IV', as it was taken around the time of the release of that single.
True to myself, I couldn't leave it alone. As the picture description says, it was first done according to a printed image on regular A4 paper that was pretty flat in tone. Then I had it properly printed and there was a huge difference (I should have done that from the start but didn't think it would matter, I guess). The drawing had to be retouched to show the correct tone. I did this over the weekend. Then another problem appeared.
Those of you who are really observant might have noticed that the uploaded image of the retouched drawing in the gallery has changed four times in three days… The reason is that the camera tends to exaggerate the contrast and the face looked rather smudged, although in reality the retouched drawing looks better than its first version. I tried (and uploaded) various tweaks but none looked good enough – then today I took about ten shots at different angles to the light and quite by chance I got a good one. Ironically, this was not corrected at all, just cropped.
So now I have an improvement over the initial drawing. Of course, the search for the best result is ultimately futile, because all works will contain mistakes or less-than-perfect elements, no matter how much effort I will put into them. But what is feasible is a happy (?) compromise at what is close to that level. A work is also compromised by practical considerations. Unlike with music, where you can always go back to your first idea if your second idea isn't better, with drawing every change is final, it negates any previous versions and stares at you with indisputable authority. It feels almost like a living thing, changing ever so slightly with each stroke, until the sum of so many infinitesimal changes is one big change. But the better a drawing is, the less likely it is to be improved, because there are very few ways to improve it and many ways to ruin it, sometimes irreparably. Do you dare to erase, not knowing what the next attempt will look like? I sometimes don't. The important thing is to know when good is good enough, but it is easy to lose sense of proportion and pay a lot of attention to what probably are invisible details and faults.
I have said elsewhere that I don't get much enjoyment out of this process. I liken it to walking along a low, narrow corridor – the going is uncomfortable, but what keeps me going is the knowledge that at the end of it is a large, nice room. When you lie down on its soft sofa and stretch your arms you tend to forget about the discomfort and how you got there. My large room is the moment that a drawing is ready, I forget about the worry and the stress and it is worth everything it took.
I would like to say a few things about the Kate-on-the-kite drawing, probably very boring stuff but I don't mind even if no-one reads it…
I am (reasonably) pleased with this one. I am never completely happy with any of this stuff, and even when they are 'officially' finished I keep going back to them and adding a line here and some tone there. One reason I have them framed is to leave them alone, although I have been known to open frames, or use a pencil on the glass! But one has to know when to leave alone even if something is not as good as it might optimally be, and I'm not so good at this. Equally, if I don't leave them I'll never do another, so there's another reason.
Perhaps my approach is wrong to start with – I'm always striving for what's the best result within what's possible for me, but 'the best' is a very elusive concept. Difficult, too, because there's one way to achieve the best but many to be not-so-good. Perhaps I should be happy with whatever comes out, but that would feel like cheating and not a very honest thing to myself.
It actually took me less time than I had originally thought because I tend to become obsessive when I start something. This is limited by my daily schedule of course but I make up at the weekends.
I will spare you the tales of worry, I will only mention that the parts that looked challenging were not so difficult after all (like the wheel patterns) and others that looked innocent were quite difficult (the dots or 'cherry' shapes) because although they look like they are in lines, these are actually curves both horizontally and vertically as the fabric stretches or hangs loose. It took the better part of a day, and a lot of erasing, just to get these done (more or less) correctly so that they go with the tension. Likewise for the cherry 'stems'.
I would have preferred it to be larger and easier to work on, but it was compromised by the width of the kite. As it is, it's 36 cm (about 14'') square, the kite fitting the width of the paper with little to spare on either side. This means that, in proportion, Kate's figure isn't much longer than a tablespoon. Fitting all the detail in was a bit of a task. The original is smaller still, and to see some of the detail in the pattern and the face I resorted to a magnifying glass.
You can't expect a lot of resemblance at this size (the whole face is less than an inch high) but there is at least enough of a suggestion of Kate, I hope.
Red and black are very different colours but in greyscale they are similar, so I used some artistic licence as regards the tones. Same about the dragon, it's more subdued than in reality because if it was darker it would compete with Kate's figure for attention. I feel it already does this to a small degree but if it was fainter it would not stand out against the background at all and Kate would be too prominent.
A problem with this type of paper is that one must be somewhat sparing with erasing (i.e. think before you draw) because repeated erasing over the same area makes the paper rough and 'furry'; as a result even if you get it right eventually it won't look good. I use very soft lines and tones to start with, so if they are wrong they just disappear (blend in) with the correct and darker tones. Even so, some furry paper is unavoidable.
All this thinking and distress just for a drawing? you might say. Well, it's not about a drawing, it's ultimately about doubt. Can I pull this one off? Every drawing is a test. Some people will climb a mountain. I do this. I go to such lengths because I want to see the finished image and because I would like people to say they like it. This is probably selfish but most art is.