I’ve been drawing frogs again. I have a bit of a history of drawing and painting dried frogs.
You can ask me why if you like, but I don’t much know an answer beyond that the shape of them fascinates me. That they are so frog-like and yet so not-frog. They preserve so well, and look as if frozen in the midst of some activity or other.
In their non-frogginess they make me think of scribbles; a letter form from an alien hand, Sanskrit, a new language not on the Rosetta Stone, doctor’s handwriting – indecipherable, full of some unfathomable wisdom.
Or it could simply be that I like drawing scrawny spiky things (I also have many drawings of tomato tops). But then why? Sometimes it’s just best not to think about these things too much and just get drawing….
More to be posted here because a few years ago I had an exhibition at Colchester Hospital, and the only thing that sold were three dried-frog paintings. I also have been commissioned to paint them by a friend – when I find the photos of these I’ll upload them here. I ought to say that I am not the only one who collects dried frogs – two of the four that I own were given to me by the same friend who commissioned the painting – (I got to keep them after, thanks Duncan – great gift!). Another was found over twenty years ago under the sofa of friend. I do not recall how I came about the other… so, if anyone happens to have a dried frog, or find one soon, I’ll joyfully receive it to expand my collection of four. E-mail me for a postal address (and possibly a frog drawing as a means of payment for your trouble). They need to be relatively intact, by the way.
Drawing as a means to calm the mind. When I’m wandering aimlessly through my house, overwhelmed, I know there’s loads to do. I know I have things I ‘should’ do. The ironing pile is massive. I’ve got work to prepare for college but I don’t want to do it. The duvets need changing, the floor could use a mop. I need to go shopping, cook dinner or order that thing. I’ve got ideas for a poster, a book, world domination. I need to clear all that stuff away. I want to draw that dead beetle I’ve left on top of the microwave, those dried seed pods, next door’s window with it’s dead flowers, my stuffed rat, Alex’s latest soft toy. That skirting board needs repairing, this wall needs a paint. I have that picture to hang, the bookshelf to tidy and I haven’t cut the grass in three weeks. The flowers need watering and the veg patch weeding. I have to call my friend, sort the calendar, pay some bills and the school dinner account and arrange a babysitter for next Thursday night.
What do you do with all those thoughts, all at once, cramming through the doorway of your mind? Draw something complicated and detailed. And do it as scientifically as possible. That’s what you do.
It doesn’t get the washing-up done or the guinea pigs cleaned out, but it does make me feel a lot, lot better.
I love to draw in cafes. It can be quite relaxing, a way to ‘get out of yourself’ and focus on other. A way to sit back as an impartial observer, give the imagination free range as the ‘drawing’ part of your brain concentrates on the marks, shapes and tones that make up the scene.
I say it’s relaxing and it is, mostly. Unless you happen to be drawing a big burly bloke who looks like he’d have no problem walking into a crowded MacDonalds with a sawn-off shotgun. And, you’re convinced he’s clocked you drawing him and is now wrestling with an internal demon telling him to go over and thump you one in the head. Either that or he’s wishing he had a bodyguard who will go over and do it for him, snatch the pencil from me and snap it in half dramatically shouting “Do you know who you are drawing? Do you girl? That ain’t just some burly bloke you know! Universal Pictures own all the image rights – and you’ve drawn him ugly. I see you near him again and it ain’t just your pencil that’s getting snapped!”
Well, maybe that’s just a little too imaginative… mostly people just come over and have a little peek, or ask to see what you’re drawing. I guess they’re usually thinking ‘poor girl, she obviously THINKS she can draw’ and saying things like, “er lovely, interesting…”
But the real reason I like drawing in cafes is because I can draw all sorts of people and draw them without really being noticed (I’ve not been accosted by angry subjects yet). It’s like a life class with varying degrees of difficulty and constantly moving subjects, changing expressions and poses (all clothed though – I suppose I could request attendance at a naturist cafe). It’s character practice for the cost of a coffee. And I like people; I enjoy their conversations (mostly), and guessing at relationships and back stories.
A couple have just collected the woman’s younger sister from the bus station, they have with them, one weekend bag with wheels. The younger sister is the ‘black sheep’ of the family and doesn’t like the man. They are meant to be trying on the bridesmaid’s dress tomorrow, but the bridesmaid doesn’t want her sister to marry this man she feels is an oaf. She loathes him, or does she fancy him? Was there a secret kiss at a university party way back in the distant past on a drunken night? A hidden jealousy….? Or maybe they’re just siblings just out shopping for their mother’s birthday present.
Oh, I suppose I should tell you something about the ‘Ristretto’ man (in picture with the grey raincoat – see if you can spot the first drawing of him). I drew him in the Costa coffee at WHSmith in Chelmsford. I noticed him because when he was at the counter he asked for a ‘ristretto’. He didn’t look like the sort of man that would know what one was, so I liked the idea of him being this older bloke that you’d expect to be a stereotypical member of the older generation, mostly out of touch with modern life and it’s tyrannies of consumer choice, yet he loves a coffee and he knows the lot,
“A skinny latte with a vanilla shot to go, and a nice slice of cake” (said in a Yorkshire accent, of course).
I liked the idea of the contrast in that sentence, the ‘what-you’d-expect’ and the ‘surprise’. I think it says something about being human. We have expectations, yet people can and do surprise us – don’t you think it’s important to always remain open to that surprise?