Sunday, 21 February 2016


Symmetry is the last of the five principles of composition identified by Arthur Wesley Dow in Chapter 3 of Composition.

The other principles are:

Dow defines symmetry as:
The most common and obvious way of satisfying the desire for order is to place two equal lines or shapes in exact balance, as in a gable, windows each side of a door, or objects on a shelf.
He goes on to damn symmetry with faint praise by saying:
Symmetry, like Repetition has come to be used in cheap and mean design when no regard is paid to beauty of form.
He also says:
Japanese art, when influenced by Zen philosophy, as Okakura Kakuzo tells us in “The Book of Tea”, avoids symmetry as an interesting.
He then adds insult to injury by failing to provide any exercises and suggesting:
Exercises can be easily devised following the steps suggested under other principles.
I started by creating exercises based upon my drawings from repetition, but I got bogged down in trying to achieve perfection.

I eventually realised repeatedly retracing the same illustrations was self-defeating. I was trying to create expressive lines, but my drawings were becoming more and more stilted. I read ahead to the next chapter in which Dow’s advice is:
Avoid hard wiry lines and all that savors of rule and compass or laborious pains-taking. 
I finally realised it was time to stop, move on and embrace my imperfections.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

January 2016 Sketches

Tree near Springdale Lane
10 January 2016
Daler Rowney A6 Ebony Sketchbook
10.5cm x 14.9cm (4.1" x 5.9")

In 2016, I plan to spend more time drawing and painting outside. So far the weather has not been sympathetic to this goal. The tree sketch is my only completed outdoor sketch of 2016 – I've had a couple of false starts when I've given up due to wind, rain or cold or some combination of the three.

The tree is one of my favourites and it has appeared on this blog before in its summer finery (see August 2015 Sketches). Unfortunately, I don’t know what type of tree it is. I suspect it is some kind of oak, but my handbook of British trees relies on leaves to give a definitive identification and so far I've not been close enough to collect one.

New Crockery
18 January 2016
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
14.0cm x 20.3cm (5.5" x 8.0")

These are Elaine’s new plates and bowls - shortly after she excitedly unwrapped them and put them away for the first time. They are a mixture of patterns from Emma Bridgewater. I suppose they’re our new plates and bowls, but I didn't have much to do with their selection or purchase.

Reed Diffuser
25 January 2016
Ink and Watercolour
Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook
14.0cm x 20.3cm (5.5" x 8.0")

The reed diffuser is also courtesy of Emma Bridgewater. I'm not sure whether it arrived in the same box as the crockery, but it was about the same time.

Buddha's Head
28 January 2016
Ink and Watercolour
Winsor & Newton A6 Heavy Weight Sketch Book
14.8cm x 21.0cm (5.9" x 8.25" )

This Buddha’s head is one of my recurring challenges. The face is difficult enough, but the headdress adds an extra dimension. It has appeared twice before (see Outlines and Blind Contour Drawings and Another Modelled Drawing in Ink) and I'm surprised it has not appeared more often.