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An artist`s working sketches revealed.
on 5 August 2011
Those of you who are familiar with Barbara Rae`s work will not be surprised to discover that her "throw everything you need to at the canvas" paintings derive from "throw everything you need to at the paper" sketches. The preface to the book informs us that Rae uses acrylics for her sketches, but I think its likely that she adds some chalks or oil pastels and a dip or sketching pen to her armoury as well.
This book is likely to come as a shock to those who think sketchbooks are those little ring-bound things that should be filled with neat, detailed pencil doodles; Rae`s sketches are - as you'd expect - direct, quickly established compositions with specific elements picked out, colour ranges and passages of interest explored; they are bold, splashy, trickly, worked-over pieces and although these are just working material for something bigger, most of them could be pleasingly framed as they are - they have a resolved completeness about them, taking on a poetic quality. Almost all are landscape-derived, coming close to abstract in appearance just like her paintings. The closest comparison I could make in describing them would be, perhaps, similar sketches by John Piper - but that's a ball-park comparison at best, Rae has her own visual language and range of mark-making.
This handsome volume contains around 130 full-page, full-colour illustrations; an interesting and inspiring book to look through, there are only a few brief pages of text. The only thing missing is any listing of dimensions, but that's not crucial given that the presence of written notes on most of the sketchbook pages can help determine the likely scale.
I bought this book for myself - its always interesting to see other artist's sketch-work - but I'll be showing it to my painting students - it is an excellent example of how a working artist collects material on the spot without getting tangled-up in detail.