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Wednesday 1st August 2001, West Yorkshire

pen and ink sketchAFTER A DAY working indoors, it's getting towards sunset by the by the time I get a chance to get out and sketch. As it's the time of evening when midges seem to be most active, I roll on some citronella oil before I start a quick drawing in ink.

I don't draw from nearly enough - most of the little sketches in this diary are drawn from memory, and professionally I'm often obliged to work from photographs or from some other reference.

But this evening I'm drawing to unwind so I choose what should be a simple subject; the seed-pods of a yellow iris growing in the pond.

Simple, eh?

iris seed-pods I start with one pod - let's call it 'pod a' - move on to draw 'pod b', then 'pod c', and so on. I feel some of the tension of the day ebbing away as I become less self-concious and stop trying to force, in a heavy-handed way, the drawing to look like the plant. Instead I start to become more relaxed as I begin to tune into the character of this individual plant. The shapes of the pods are a gift from that point of view. The forms are simple yet subtle, with so much chunky character that you might say that they are 'crying out' to be drawn. It's almost as if they somehow help with the process of the drawing.

I'd like to think that drawing could be a collabaritive process between me and whatever organic form I'm drawing. So tha the drawing didn't turn out as a slavish copy of the plant (or animal, rock or landscape) but that, equally, it didn't end up being merely a celebration of my ego as an artist.

However, even for this little sketch, I found that I couldn't rule my controlling self entirely out of the drawing process. I couldn't just switch to auto-pilot as I drew. Going from 'pod a' to 'pod b' just meant that the stems ended up out of proportion.

I started again, and this time let the drawing grow in the same way as the plant did; stems and structure first, with the pods growing naturally from page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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