A Visit to the Trinity Buoy Wharf drawing prize exhibition

The Trinity Buoy Wharf drawing competition is perhaps the most prestigious annual drawing competition in Britain (the Derwent one being biennial). Being a country bumkin, travelling to London is both unpleasant and expensive, so I was very excited when I found out the exhibition was visiting Salisbury for a little while. I had no choice but to visit, and visit I did, on Monday.

Part of the exhibition at the Salisbury Museum

There are sixty-eight pictures and the competition judges have done a good job of putting together a diverse exhibition. It’s diverse in terms of style and subject, from photo realistic to abstract, video to pencil to charcoal to watercolour and everything between and beyond.

I’m not putting any pictures from it here, apart from the one above, because I’m not sure about posting someone’s work without their permission, but the Trinity Buoy Wharf website has a good selection of pictures and links to their Instagram and Twitter feeds.

Wandering around this exhibition helped me understand better what it is I admire in drawing. I do appreciate technique – photorealism, for example, is very impressive and the drawings in this style in the exhibition were incredible. But other than admiring the skill, this style of drawing doesn’t do much for me. It doesn’t do anything for me a photo can’t do. Then there are pictures that seem to be clever or controversial just for the sake of it. (Fortunately, there weren’t too many like this here. I went to see an exhibition of drawings at the British Museum before Christmas and, really, that’s all it was at that one.)

What I really admire are pictures that capture something: a mood, a feeling, an idea or a thought. I like representational drawings – drawings that look like something – but I love drawings that look like something without being an exact copy. (In painting, for example, Van Gogh and, taking it even further, Picasso: you generally know what they’ve painted but you’d worry if you started seeing that in the world around you.) This is something I find difficult but made a little progress during 2019.

The exhibition was inspiring. There is so much talent and creativity in this world. It’s made me really think about what I want to do with my drawing. It struck me, looking around, that the majority of the pictures had either a strong idea or incredible technique. Some had both of course but, in general, the weaker the idea behind the picture the stronger the technique; while some pictures with really strong and interesting concepts were able to get away with a fairly haphazard technique. I think my technique is okay and I have no intention of trying to create photorealistic drawings (they’re not for me, at all) but my ideas need to be stronger. I need to learn more about composition and think more deeply about what it is I want each drawing to say.

Making Waves

I live in the south of Dorset, right by the sea. I’m lucky enough to be able to open my front door every morning as see the sun rising over the water. It is wonderful, every single day.

Many of my drawings are of local landmarks but the sea has never been anything more than background. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to draw the sea as the subject itself – how to capture the movement and light of the waves. The sea is always there but it’s always changing. I’d like to draw that but I’ve not found it easy.

This picture, provisionally titled “Splash” (I continue to struggle with titles) is a step towards this goal.

Splash. Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencils on St Cuthbert’s Mill CP (Not) Bockingford paper, A4

It’s on St Cuthbert’s Mill Bockingford CP (Not) watercolour paper, which is just beautiful to draw on. It’s got a wonderful texture which forces you to be a lot looser with your pencil marks. I think the sense of waves crashing against the rock comes through, although the drawing it hasn’t photographed very well. (This is my way of saying it looks better in real life…)

I have a lot of pictures I want to draw but this subject and technique is, I hope, going to become an ongoing theme.

Tess

Here’s a commission I finished recently.

Tess. Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencils on Derwent heavyweight cartridge paper, A4

Lots of fur! The trick with hair and fur, if you don’t want to drive yourself mad, is to set the general depth of shade with pencil marks perpendicular to the direction of the hairs. Throw in some random lines and then draw in enough of the fur to create the illusion of having drawn it all. The interplay of these cross-hatched lines gives the fur a sense of movement and vivacity. You can then pick out particular areas, even particular hairs, to draw in more detail. Don’t be afraid to lighten areas with an eraser so you can draw in a lighter piece of fur or hair. Some people say you should never rub anything out but that seems like making a rod for your own back. However, paper never shines as brilliantly once it’s had pencil on it, no matter how good your eraser is, so be careful not to touch areas you want to become your brightest highlights.

If you like what I do then you can follow me on Instagram, buy prints of my Dorset series over on Etsy, or contact me to discuss a commission.