Gallery of past work

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Drawing with the work of de Stael in mind

The other day, I met up with an artist friend. It's always a pleasure to see her. This time, we found ourselves discussing, among many other things, the work (and especially the drawings) of Nicolas de Stael, an artist I hadn't considered for sometime. Looking afresh, from my current perspectives, I was intrigued by many things. First of all, it was the economy of line in many of his drawings.

Nicolas de Stael, Dessins 1953/54 

Nicolas de Stael, Bateau à Martigues, 1953/4

In others, it was the simplicity of the mark making where he seemed to be focusing especially on intensity and scale of mark to make pattern. The calm and stillness of this image was very different from many others we looked at.

In yet others, I was interested to see the way he used pen and ink to give great depth and movement. Again, the mark varied in scale and intensity, to produce a purely abstract image.

*I'm afraid I'm unable to attribute these last two images fully. as they were obtained by googling or on Pinterest and no details were given

Needing a break from trees, I sat down this afternoon to do some mark making with his work in mind. I wanted to focus on simplicity and economy of mark and to work in monochrome. I did several small, quick, five minute pieces on cartridge paper, making myself stop at the end of the allotted time.

In the first two I used a black roller ball pen and played around with intensifying and spacing the marks.

Then I played with a wide, chubby graphite stick, using it on its point, on its end and on its side. Finally, I put the two together.

This mark making seems to have great relevance to my stitching, especially in the case of the small individual marks I made with the roller ball. The seeding and French knots that I frequently use mimic the pen marks very well. I'm not quite sure why I didn't realise this before, but I'm sure it will be useful for me when I'm drawing specifically with stitching in mind. 


  1. Isn't it odd how blind we can be to things that can be connected back to our textile work like certain kinds of stitching? As one of my drawing classes focused on hatching, I eventually had that aha moment of how it related to my quilting. Your first two exercises with that lovely stippling are wonderful.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Sheila. The drawings were fun to do - and therapeutic into the bargain. Like so much of what I do, they might trigger a quick response, just sit quietly in one of my many sketchbooks till their time is right, or not see the light of day at all. Who knows?

  2. What a sad but interesting short life! I love the Bateau drawing. I like your drawings - the one top right especially. xx

    1. The Bateau drawing was also one of my favourites. I was greatly drawn to the simplicity of it and the enormous confidence in the rightness of the pencil marks. It was one of many similar. Oh to have that assurance!

      My drawing that you commented on was taken from one of several recent photos of reflections in a window. I might just stitch it ...

  3. Margaret, thank you for returning my attention to Nicolas de Stael - I had not really looked at his drawings. I have always been a fan of his colour work - which is simply assured as his line is.
    Of your works above, I particularly like where you have combined different kinds of mark - the dynamic between the marks and the blank space.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Olga. I first came across the work of Nicolas de Stael in the late 1960s when I was studying graphic design as part of my teaching degree. It was suggested I should look at his colour work because it might inform some work I was doing at the time. Although I very much enjoyed what I saw, I didn't then look at his drawings. Like you, I was fascinated to see examples last week in a library book in the hands of my artist friend (sadly not available on Amazon and, as it was written entirely in French, probably not likely to be a big seller in the UK!). The book, however, contained a significant number of his drawings which, like his other work, showed not only his assurance but also the range of his work.


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