Find your secret starting point

Almost a decade ago I was a frustrated artist. At home with two small children I just never had the time to pursue what I wanted, and I couldn’t see anyway I could make it possible. It was simply beyond the realm of my possibilities; no time for life drawing classes or location drawing for inspiration.

I had never even heard of Prunella Clough, but I found myself absorbed in her sketchbooks in her first retrospective at the Tate gallery in 2007. It is a rare and treasured insight into an artist’s world to see their sketchbooks and development of ideas. What was unusual about her way of working was that she didn’t do location drawings either. Instead she wrote; descriptions of colours and sounds, using words to build a picture and tell a story of the details of the scene before her. In combination with photographs and tourist postcards, these descriptions of colour and atmosphere were her starting points once she returned to her studio.

Looking back, I can find no record of her family life. In my mind this was her way of dealing with time restrictions, but her personal life was discreetly private. Perhaps she just hated sitting in the cold.

I remember a distinct sense of release in recognising that there was no one ‘right’ way to gather your ideas, or visual reference.

It didn’t matter if I didn’t have time to sit and do drawings in the field. Any way that I could think of could be a starting point. No one else needed to know or approve my process. That was something I could work out however suited me best.

Prunella Clough, ‘Cooling Tower II’ 1958

Cooling Tower II 1958

2 replies
  1. Tara Leaver
    Tara Leaver says:

    I love those kinds of realisations! It’s like a release of pressure, and then suddenly many more possibilities come to the fore. I don’t really have a process in this sense but I am also inspired by this idea of not confining it to images, but including descriptions. It’s giving me new ideas! Interesting post, thank you. 🙂

    • Alice
      Alice says:

      Exactly! I think I was always taught to ‘draw what you see’ and was kind of frustrated that wasn’t doing it for me in terms of having a creative input. To suddenly be shown that there was an alternative way of recording your seeing was just wonderful. Funny that you should comment on this today – I’ve just ordered a new book on Prunella Clough which was recommended by @DavidMankinArt on Instagram. Looking forward to it arriving!

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!