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  • Writer's pictureSarah McCartney

Collecting, drawing dead birds and swimmers...

So what is the link between drawings of dead birds, drawings of swimmers and one hundred small things in resin?

I work in sketchbooks, maybe I should call them journals. The sketchbook for me is a wild place to wander but it's also home. It's a place to tell stories and sing poems. It's a living thing that changes over time. It is a collection of moments, a continuous narrative of lived through experiences, real or imagined. The sketchbook is the place where all my encounters with the world gather.

There are drawings of the place I am physically in at the moment, drawings of remembered swims and how my body feels in the water, drawings of remembered encounters with animals and birds, diary notes and descriptions of walks, the weather, plants and birds, drawings of imagined encounters and spaces, detailed observational drawings of dead animals and objects, drawings as I try to express my disconnection with 'normal'. Wonderings and wanderings of the ordinary and extraordinary. Sometimes a word for no reason other than I like the sound in my head and the look on the paper and the way it comes from my hand like a spell. Sometime a splash of colour and a wobbly line just to play and practice.

Are these all separate because some are real life technical observations, some are wild ramblings from my head and some are abstract paintings for paintings sake?

For me there is no conflict between the activity of drawing a physical object by looking at it and trying to 'illustrate' a feeling or memory. All drawing for me, is a way of seeing and exploring what it means to be human.

I also collect natural objects.The physical shadows of living things, seed cases, bones, shells, feathers, bird wings, skulls, seaweed pieces, butterflies, bees, beetles, flowers, skin, nests, egg cases. If I don't draw theses things I store them in draws and boxes and often I preserve them in small resin blocks. They become little resin tiles that can be layered and shuffled about to make visual poems. Waiting to be sanded down and polished or combine with other resins to make larger pieces. They are sketches too and the draws and boxes full of resin tiles, are the pages of a sketchbook full of gathered experiences, memories and poems.

The drawings in my sketchbooks and the resins my workshop are from the same place and concerned with the same thing. It's all about seeing, either in the field with the subject before me, or days later, remembered, recreated or invented. With line colour or word. I don't feel they are different.

Putting a feather or a whole wing in resin then photographing it on a lightbox or putting a light behind it and hanging it on the wall, is also an exploration of what it means to be human and my relationship to the no-human.

This then is the work and it is a whole, honest and continuous journey. But they are parts of something bigger and it's not enough to leave them in the sketchbooks and drawers. A drawing in my sketchbook is a lovely image, the little resin in my hand is a beautiful object but they are unfinished. The whole story is hard to see. I am looking at ways now to connect everything. How do I curate all the fragments. That is what the MA is all about.

All is story telling, song and poetry.


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