23 April 2014


I learned only today that the word obsession comes from the latin obsidere - to besiege.

from ob (before) and sedeo (I sit)

Working on a big drawing like this, for months on end, I am not sure which of us is under siege - who sits before whom?

Perhaps the poet Li Bai understood:

'We sit together, the mountain and I, until only the mountain remains.'
Li Bai

"In your absence"  
Charcoal and Watercolour on Saunders Waterford 600gsm paper
©Sarah Gillespie 2014


  1. Love the work. It is incredible what you do with water and ash...

  2. My beginner's brain is having trouble even starting to appreciate how you can keep a painting on track over such a long period of time. How do you do it? I would think that my feelings about the scene under construction would have evolved so much in that time period that the end result would in no way resemble the initial concept. How on earth do you keep control over all the subtle values? Do you work the whole? or complete a small section before moving on to the next one? Your protracted meditations in charcoal are truly amazing! When I get visually clogged with too much color, I come here to hit the reset button. It is my conviction that, in the end, everything we perceive and attempt to describe through line and shadow can be better expressed in shades of grey. But then, I am a beginner. So what do I know? Not a lot!

    Despite the myriad rich and colorful temptations out there (watercolor, pastel, etc.), I want you to know that I have taken your advice to heart: I draw daily, in graphite or ink; sometimes charcoal. It is my intent to keep drawing as the primary focus until I feel that I have some level of mastery over accurately rendering form in space. Oh, I have succumbed to temptation and begun to play with watercolor a bit, but with a focus on maintaining a strong value structure, and developing expressive brushstrokes. This is the period where the most patience and perseverance is required. I now know that I can draw (however inexpertly), and I have a fairly clear idea of the type of work I want to do, but have not yet developed the skill set to reliably produce the results I want.

    Congratulations on having won through the siege!

  3. Thank you Nona, and thank you Suzanne.
    Suzanne, I work in layers. So, first 'mapping out' then gradually working all over the whole piece at first very faintly and then gradually increasing the contrast with each successive pass. Don't take my advice too seriously! I would work in colour if I could but it is lost to me for now. With very best wishes for your work - Sarah.

    1. Thank you, Sarah, for the reply. That was how I supposed that you worked the piece. I still marvel that you can keep the 'vision' over a period of months 'besieged'; and that you do not go cross-eyed as you follow the route of all the intersecting branches and twigs. I think that the sheer complexity of the subject matter would reduce me to a sobbing heap in a fairly short period of time. That, or I would be whipping out the loppers and pruning shears, to simplify the web! I have an ancient orchard of dramatically twisted, bear-pruned, apple and plum trees that are long overdue for trimming up; that I simply cannot bring myself to draw because of the fact that so doing would force me to focus on the fact that they need pruning. Perhaps it is easier to deal with 'wild' branches....

      I'm sorry to hear that colour is lost to you for now. I particularly love the soft subtlety of your colour choices in earlier work.

      Looking forward to your next 'postcard'.


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