Saturday, February 08, 2014


I'm the turtle in a race with the hare (whoever the hare may be) but gradually I'm crawling up to the goal and I only have a few more preparatory drawings to do before I can resume cutting the blocks. Below is a montage of tiny versions of some of the black & white drawings that are finished - the original single pages are 35cms wide x 33cms high. All blocks will be printed in two or three colours and will have textured surfaces so they will look very different from these roughs but the basic ideas are there.

I wish I was one of those artists who progress from A to Z in logical, orderly fashion and who can always see the end from the beginning. My way is the opposite. It consists in trying to extract an image from a formless chaos in which innumerable possibilities are hidden, like hacking away at a rock or clearing a forest. It is not fun. It's hard, demanding, frustrating but eventually satisfying if the images that emerge from the struggle look as if they've always been there.

An interesting BBC documentary last week on High Intensity Training shocked me into realising how much time I spend sitting on a chair every day. So I immediately got up and began surfing the net to find a modestly priced exercise bike and without further ado, ordered it. I'll have it next week and therefore will be able to get my 3-minute HIT with almost no interruption of the sitting down routine required for drawing and cutting the Trans-Siberian blocks. I'll report on the results of this new regime.


Roderick Robinson said...

"It is not fun. It's hard, demanding, frustrating but eventually satisfying if the images that emerge from the struggle look as if they've always been there."

Question 1. Is there any other activity you'd prefer?

Question 2. Suppose on this occasion those "ever-present" images don't emerge. Now take in Question 1.

Let me stress: Q2 is a hypothesis. A quick glance at the preparatory drawings suggests that is what it will remain.

Tom said...

Why would you wish to be like some other artist? All right, I guess I could answer my own question. But is it not the case that there may be others 'out there' who say, "I wish I could be the kind of artist that goes about my work like NdA?"

Is there not something, a source of wonder, that emerges when the form finally emerges? It must surely be new in a way a preplanned endpoint can never be. But you are the artist; you know this better than I.

What I do know is that there are times on my journey when I am surprised, even stunned on occasions, when that special 'something' emerges. For my part, I'll gladly stick with the Natalie, the honest-to-goodness Natalie, that produces (in some mystifying way) the wonderful work shown above.

Dominic Rivron said...

Are there artists who work from A to Z? I suppose there are. Are there any good ones?

Catalyst said...

Just yesterday I was listening to a radio program questioning how Vermeer made his amazing paintings and whether he used a mechanical contrivance of mirrors to project an image that he then reproduced.

All artists have their way of working, Natalie, and your art is stunningly beautiful.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Roderick, those are really interesting questions and I'm going to give them some thought before answering. Might even write the next blog post around them. So, thanks!

Tom, I don't really want to be anyone else but sometimes I do envy what appears to be a much more structured way of working. Still, I sometimes manage to produce stuff that I'm not at all ashamed of and, indeed those moments when a 'something special' emerges are what one is striving for. Your appreciation is hugely welcome.

Dominic, I have known some artists who practiced the A-to-Z approach and their work was good, if not genius. But the whole area of creativity is still largely uncharted territory, in spite of all the theories and scientific probing and prodding.

Bruce, David Hockney wrote a very interesting book on the subject of
Old Masters, including Vermeer, using optical devices to obtain quasi-photographic effects in their work - you'd be interested in reading it, I think. Many thanks for the compliment.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Roderick, I see that I'm going to procrastinate over writing my next blog post so I'll reply to your questions now.

1. "Question 1. Is there any other activity you'd prefer?"

Funny you should ask because it's something I often ask myself. The making of art can take many forms but the form I mainly use (painting and related graphic art) is one that I've always had an aptitude for but which I don't actually enjoy - it involves too much pain (psychological) and effort, which I tell myself are necessary. Creative forms I enjoy but have no expertise in -such as making videos, dancing, singing, building, and mucking about with software such as Garage Band are not "serious" art (yes I know they are, but not when I do them). So, the short reply to your first question is yes, I'd probably prefer making a video , but I know it wouldn't turn out as good as these illustrations will turn out.

"Question 2. Suppose on this occasion those "ever-present" images don't emerge. Now take in Question 1."

Same answer as above. And the ever-present images are emerging, even with all the attendant gnashing of teeth.

Adam said...

Absolutely smashing work, Natalie! I do love a beautiful page layout, and to have the pages flow and integrate like you have here reflects, to me, great inspiration and a lot of damn hard work! I think I have read that all great artists have a hell of a struggle to make their work emerge.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Thanks Adam. The final look of the book will of course have more to do with the wonderful design, typography and printing expertise of Nicolas McDowall (see The Old Stile Press website). The books hand-printed by him are never less than terrific, and all the artists'and writers work OSP has published is enhanced by such high production standards.

Dick said...

Looking good, Natalie. The day creeps closer!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Dick, glad to see you here. I wish I could speed up but creeping is the right word for my pace towards the goal. Lucky you that your part is all done....apart from possible final tweaks?

Dave said...

The illustrations look pretty amazing so far. Your process may or may not be ideal but it obviously works.

Natalie said...

Dave, I'm very glad you approve. The final result will, I hope and trust, be even better.