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Sliced Onions

Monday, 18th August 2003
Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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I decide to do a quick sketch of our onions to illustrate yesterday's diary but the subject appeals to me so much that I spend most of the afternoon on it. If the sketchbook page had been wider I would probably have continued to the end of the row.

With all the distractions of everyday life it's rare for me to spend so long on a drawing but I think it's worth doing. I'm reminded of a comment Ruskin made about the art students of his day who travelled to Rome to study the way Raphael painted. Ruskin thought they'd do better studying the things that Raphael himself studied; that is, doing stacks of drawing from nature.

onionsonionsThe onions, gently illuminated against a dark background, remind me of a Rembrandt subject, or of Leonardo's advice that you should sketch people standing in doorways against the dark background of the interior in the soft evening light.

Thinking of Rembrandt, this strikes me as the sort of subject which would make a good etching. But I don't have any interest in the technical side of etching - or should say the creative side of etching? - so I'll stick to just plain drawing.

There's something about the way they're hanging along a rope that reminds me of going back stage at a theatre. In this case it could be a puppet theatre, with the strings of onions appearing as vegetable marionettes.

Since I did this drawing I've heard from an art college contemporary of mine who now, after 20 odd years in the graphic design business, runs a Punch and Judy show (see link below).

The theatrical connection that comes into my mind is the onion speech from Ibsen's Peer Gynt: Peer strips off the layers and layers of the onion and in doing so peels back his multiple personalities but concludes that when you get to the heart of the matter there's nothing there:

Life is a terrible price to pay for birth

But he also concludes:

What ought a man to be? Well, my short answer is 'himself'

Slices of Life

onionsThe technically minded might be interested to learn that after five years of preparing my sketches for the web this is the first time I've succeeded in putting a real sliced image (one that needs its own table) onto a web page. It's really quite easy to do in Photoshop 7.

This drawing looks better in a full size version - you can see the hatching more clearly. The page is 121 kilobytes but it should download in a little over 30 seconds on an average connection. Worth the wait, honestly:

Link to Larger Image of Onions

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Related Link Les Clarke's Punch and Judy site.


Richard Bell

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