Green Men in coloured pencil (1)


I wanted to take the green man idea a little further than my series of small (10x15cm) lino cuts allowed. Green men, in the form of foliate heads, are found as carvings in stone or wood in some medieval churches, so I decided to draw imaginary stone carvings. I started with a sheet of substantial grey paper and two Derwent Drawing pencils: one black, one white. It didn’t take long before I had succumbed to the temptation of adding more colours – all from the muted Drawing palette.

The first drawing was loosely based on oak (the Quercus family), hence its name: Quirkus. After that I abandoned the single tree idea and started adding a bit more colour – mainly greens, a colour that the Drawing range is a little short of.

The second drawing, Kingfisher, made use of the greens I already had, mainly from the Derwent Coloursoft range.

By the time that I started the third one, Herne, I had aquired a number of new greens from the Caran D’Ache’s Luminance range and things were getting quite vivid.

For number four, Clematis vitalba, I decided to change tack and look at climbing plants native to the UK. The inspiration for this came from decorative coils or spirals, reminiscent of the way in which some climbers do their climbing. Clematis vitalba is the botanical name for the plant commonly called Old Man’s Beard, or Traveller’s Joy. The former name was irresistable as a prompt for the character (who didn’t turn out to be especially joyous, but I think that he passes muster as an old man with a beard).

Clematis vitalba, a member of the buttercup family, climbs by twining its leaf stalks, and so my spirals were largely decorative. Next up was a climber that does use spiralling tendrils: White Bryony. The Bryonies are a little bit confusing. In the UK, we have white bryony and black byrony. Both are toxic, both have roughly similar white or whitish green flowers that turn into red berries, but they are not related. Black byrony is the UK’s only native member of the yam family, has a heart shaped leaf and doesn’t have tendrils. White byrony’s leaves are five-lobed and look a little like those of the grape vine. To add to the confusion, white bryony is sometimes called red bryony.

I deliberately made more use of the grey paper for White Bryony, but by now almost all of the pencil work was in bright colours and the Drawing pencils were scarcely used at all. I also made this a female face, because Bryony is, of course, a girl’s name.

All five of these drawings are 50 x 50 cm before framing.

Left to right: Quirkus, Kingfisher, Herne, Clematis Vitalba, White Bryony