Biro Colour Palette and New Work in Progress…

Detail of colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

Detail photograph of colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

The following photographic images detail small fragments of a new colour Biro drawing in progress.  The drawing is part of a new body of work exploring the meaning of the word ‘War’.  This particular piece has been months in the making.

Detail of white horse, new colour Biro drawing

Detail of white horse, new colour Biro drawing

The colours in my drawings are mixed one on top of the other using 8 – 10 different colour Biro’s from a pack of 20 pens, in order to create the exact colours required. When painting in the past I would create a spectrum of colours using Red, Yellow, Cobalt, White, Paynes Grey and Yellow Ochre but with the pack of colour Biros I use this is impossible as the colours are geared towards children and include fluorescent hues.  You have to be inventive when mixing the colours within the drawing!  However Biro ink is a beautiful gelatinous ink which when applied to a surface achieves a vibrancy and volume rather like print pigments – one of the reasons I love Biro!

Detail of Roxy, colour Biro drawing

Detail of Roxy, colour Biro drawing

When painting, colours can be ready mixed on the palette so they can be reused within the canvas.  When using colour Biro each colour has to be created or recreated within the drawing by layering different colour pens on top of one another.   It takes a day to achieve 1/2 – 1 inch of a colour composition because you are often quadrupling the amount of pen layers as opposed to the fewer layers required to create the shades of a one colour drawing.

'Pilgrim', small detail of colour Biro drawing

‘Pilgrim’, small detail of colour Biro drawing

Within my work I like to use images of people, animals and objects that play a part in my life and this particular drawing memorialises a yearling and a mare who belonged to friends and sadly are no longer with us.

Still some way to go…

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Where Wolves and Bears Dare!

'TV Screen II - "Where Wolves and Bears Dare", 2009, colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘TV Screen II – “Where Wolves and Bears Dare”, 2009, colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 people were evacuated from the disaster zone. With humans gone from the countryside, wildlife began to take over the homes of the previous occupants, finally realising the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears!  Taking my own photographs of the Discovery Channel’s documentary ‘Chernobyl: Life in The Dead Zone’, 2007, I drew layers of images from five stills weaving together a wolf, a bear, a kitten and toys of the former occupants into a new interior setting ‘where wolves and bears dare’ to roam.  The title also suggests a link to my favourite war film “Where Eagles Dare” and the war between nature and man.  This piece represents the harmony nature re-encounters without human disruption as well as Nature’s infallibility to human destruction.  Has nature won this war?  Only time will tell, but it appears to be thriving in the most radioactively contaminated area in the world.  With people refused access to live there, other than some 100 or so elderly inhabitants of 11 villages, it is to be hoped this Involuntary Park where rare Lynx along with Brown Bears who had disappeared from the area over 100 years ago and have returned again, is left to flourish.

This drawing took some 3 months to complete, working on a square inch per day as colours are mixed directly on the paper and the complexity of deciding as I draw what should be layered over what to produce a projected, abstract effect makes for painstaking work in its entirety.

Luxury Archival Pigment Prints of ‘TV Screen II – “Where Wolves and Bears Dare!”‘ made by the marvellous Jack Lowe studio are available to order from my website

'TV Screen II - "Where Wolves and Bears Dare", 2009, colour Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘TV Screen II – “Where Wolves and Bears Dare”, 2009, Archival Pigment Print

To War…

'TV Screen III - "East Meets West, Forests Memories"', colour Biro drawing, 2010 by Jane Lee McCracken

‘TV Screen III – “East Meets West, Forests’ Memories”‘, colour Biro drawing, 2010 by Jane Lee McCracken

With nights drawing darker and the days colder and thoughts of when will it snow again ever present, reflections of winter and watching war films as a wee girl with my father, having just returned from a foreign land on business, are rekindled.  Whether it was the colours of epic explosions or the excitement of machine gun fire, war was a romantic notion and my father’s passion for war films passed to the next generation.

My beloved Grandmother on her wedding day to my Grandfather, 1st April 1939

My beloved Grandmother on her wedding day to my wonderful Grandfather, April 1939, Elie

My grandmother often talked about ‘The War’ unsurprisingly as WWII ended only 23 years before I was born and memories of rationing were still in their mere infancy at 14 years.  She mostly talked about how my Grandfather who died when I was four, was ‘never the same after The War’ – he was ground crew on Lancaster Bombers in Lincolnshire, badly injured when hit by the wing of a Lysander aircraft and I guess waited in vain for friends to return from bombing missions – how could he be the same, was anyone?

N.B. 10th December 2013 – “Two Years after retiring, my Dad died of kidney cancer.  He spent his last few moments, my mum at his side counting in the lancs from some hellish raid or other; F Fox, V Victor, B Baker and so on. I guess it troubled him whether a lanc was lost with all its crew…”  Extract about my Grandfather from my uncle’s newly published wonderful book ‘Wrapped in Rugby’, Douglas S. Bruce http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wrapped-Rugby-Douglas-Scott-Bruce/dp/1492154326

'Where Eagles Dare' quilt square detail from 'The Woodcutter's Quilt' made by Jane Lee McCracken for 'The Woodcutter's Cottage' Exhibition 2012 http://www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/photo_10019238.html

‘Where Eagles Dare’ quilt square detail from ‘The Woodcutter’s Quilt’ made by Jane Lee McCracken for ‘The Woodcutter’s Cottage’ Exhibition 2012 http://www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/photo_10019238.html

'The Woodcutter's Cottage' Exhibition at the Mercer Art Gallery, 2013. Installation includes 'The Woodcutter's Quilt', 'Woodcutter's Giant Pillow', 'British Moth Throw', my Grandmother's Scottish Queen size bed and dressing table circa 1950, British Moth prints entomology case in drawer of dressing table and 'Red Riding Hood's Cloak' suspended.

‘The Woodcutter’s Cottage’ Exhibition at the Mercer Art Gallery, 2013. Installation includes ‘The Woodcutter’s Quilt’, ‘Woodcutter’s Giant Pillow’, ‘British Moth Throw’, my Grandmother’s Scottish Queen size bed and dressing table circa 1950, British Moth prints entomology case in drawer of dressing table and ‘Red Riding Hood’s Cloak’ suspended.

To this day ‘Where Eagles Dare’, MGM, 1968 remains one of my favourite films.  The wind howling round the Bavarian Alps, the beautiful glare and hardship of the inexorably falling snow, hues of blue from azure to midnight, brilliant orange explosions, brilliant Richard Burton; cool Clint Eastwood a ‘second rate punk’, the fairy tale ‘Schloss Adler’ with its warren of hallways and monumental fireplace, a secret aspiration to be Mary Ure’s MI6 agent ‘Mary Ellison’ and that cable car!  From beginning to end with its dramatic score and the faint rat-a-tat drum beat crescendo in the opening seconds it is still one of the most exciting and gripping films I have seen.  (My family recently discovered a forgotten memory that my father had once shared a lift in the Inter-Continental Hotel, Budapest, with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1970s not long after ‘Where Eagles Dare’ was made – in our excitement that such movie royalty had briefly entered life’s theatre we foolishly asked “was she really beautiful?” and in his concise, ‘Meldrew-esque’ way he replied “yes” and swiftly moved on to mention how charming they both were while sharing a lift conversation with him – through his simple affirmation we knew she was truly beautiful!)

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor during the filming of 'Where Eagles Dare', 1968

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor during the filming of ‘Where Eagles Dare’, 1968

As I grew older the romantic excitement of war increasingly paled and was replaced by horror after spending many years viewing the reality of war through documentaries.  What most prevails is the individual suffering of so many caught up in the decisions and actions of so few.  Over 60 million dead during WWII, the holocaust, the painful displacement of people and their loss of everything they once knew, the horror that their eyes transmitted, not to mention the incalculable loss of wildlife, livestock and pets, in many of our present cosy bubbles how can we truly understand what war and such loss is like?  We can’t.

'Russian Man, "Ivan's Childhood", Andrei Tarkovsky, 1957', detail of quilt square from 'The Woodcutter's Quilt', 2012

‘Russian Man, “Ivan’s Childhood”, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1957’, detail of quilt square from ‘The Woodcutter’s Quilt’, 2012

'The Sideboard II' red Biro drawing, 2008 by Jane Lee McCracken, inspired by the girl in the red coat, 'Schindler's List', 1993, Steven Spielberg http://www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/photo_4657718.html

‘The Sideboard II’ red Biro drawing, 2008 by Jane Lee McCracken, inspired by the girl in the red coat, ‘Schindler’s List’, 1993, Steven Spielberg http://www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/photo_4657718.html

'Sindy and the Troika', black Biro drawing , 2008, by Jane Lee McCracken symbolises possessions left behind when people flee their homes during war or disaster.

‘Sindy and the Troika’, black Biro drawing , 2008, by Jane Lee McCracken symbolises possessions left behind when people flee their homes during war or disaster.

I began to try representing individual suffering through my work and create memorials to lives lived and ways of life lost, both human and animal not just through war but disasters, environmental destruction, to empathise with reality and not the Siberia of statistics.   Some years ago I had watched an English soldier relating a particular experience in a WWII documentary.  Towards the end of the war, in battle he had shot a German soldier dead on a road.  When he went over to check the body, he saw it was just a young boy and placed in the buttonhole of the boy’s uniform was Edelweiss still blooming.  Edelweiss does not last more than a couple of hours when picked fresh off the mountains so he knew that the boy had come down from his mountain home that morning to war.  Tears of futility fell down the old man’s cheeks.

'TV Screen III - "East Meets West, Forests Memories"', detail, colour Biros, 2010

‘TV Screen III – “East Meets West, Forests Memories”‘, detail, colour Biros, 2010

This memory was the catalyst for creating ‘TV screen III – East Meets West, Forests’ Memories’, that and a passion for forests.  Drawn in colour Biro, this piece took five months to produce and was inspired from stills of films such as ‘Band of Brothers’, 2001, HBO,  ‘The Red and the White’, 1967, Miklós Jancsó, ‘Come and See’, 1985, Elem Klimov and of course Lily in a starring role as the white wolf or the faithful dog.  This drawing was made to symbolise and consider that both good and bad people exist within all sides of a conflict and to imagine the conflicts as well as the facets of ‘life’ witnessed by mighty forests across Europe.  It ultimately represents how nature fights back and survives no matter what human destruction is plied on it and in the end how futile war is and how little we learn from our mistakes.  Viva nature!

For more information on this piece and its symbolism please visit my website via this link:

http://www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/photo_5698743.html

Luxury Archival Pigment Prints of this piece crafted by prestigious photographer and print-maker http://mrjacklowe.com/ are available to buy from my website via this link:

http://www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/photo_7578872.html