This week I shall show you why it is best to use a knife, not a sharpener for your drawing pencils. I shall use our native pōhutukawa tree for my first example, as they grow in abundance here in Devonport. They love living by the coast (who doesn’t?). But seeing it is too early for their famed scarlet flowers, I’ll show you the branches and bark instead. I went walking yesterday, and took close-up images of some lengthy limbs, as thought these would be great for me to sketch, and show you what I mean by the nuance of line created by one pencil.
I love sharpening pencils, as it reminds me of sitting on the back step as a child, and watching how my father sharpened pencils – always using a knife. He was never without a pencil, which he kept behind one ear, whether for jotting down sales in his bookshop, or sketching a scene for painting. ‘A sharpener doesn’t give nuance to the lead’, he told me, and I only discovered the value of this statement when I became an artist much later in my life.
Recently I struggled to finish a newly published book of short stories, which surprised me, as it had received reasonable reviews. The storylines were okay, but weren’t dynamic, and the characters didn’t draw me in. I just didn’t like all twenty of the stories, apart from one.
I was bewailing my dislike of this book to a writing friend, who told me I’d love Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories, and lent it to me.
I wrote recently of being in a slump, where I wasn’t feeling like writing or sketching. Weeks of Covid Lockdown have done that to me, to some degree. Then one day I felt like continuing the novel I’d deserted, just a few pages in. With any genre of writing, but especially with a longer piece, it is necessary to write then leave it alone for a while, returning with fresh eyes, as one can become too close to the work. I read through those pages, adding something here, and removing something elsewhere. I was happy to be writing again.
Whenever I read a regular post by someone from Brittany, I am immediately taken back several years, when I met two men from that region. I had been staying with a friend in the fabulous Villefranche-sur-mer, on the southern French Coast, when she suggested we visit some nearby gardens she had spotted in a tourist magazine. Hanbury Gardens. Old, and of historic interest. The images looked beautiful, so I said “why not?” and we planned our trip for the next day, Saturday.
Me on left, all ready to go.