Research point: Masters of detailed drawing ~ Part 1~ John Hurford

Find out about two artists who exemplify mastery of detailed drawing, and make notes about their work.  Choose a modern artist and one working in the nineteenth century or earlier.

John Hurford

John Hurford

My choice of modern artist is John Hurford.  Born on a North Devon farm in 1948, he was self-taught as an artist, and is perhaps best known for his early illustrative work with the three main underground publications of the British psychedelic art movement in the 1960’s – OZ Magazine, International Times, and Gandalf’s Garden.

Midsummer Night's Dream, acrylic

Midsummer Night’s Dream, acrylic

In 2007, the V&A acquired a large collection of his early work for their psychedelia and counter-culture art archive.  He went on to illustrate children’s books, continuing to work as a farmer all the while.

Angel

Angel

However, the reason I chose to look at John Hurford was because of his more recent work.  It evolved from his earlier highly-detailed illustrative style, which focused predominantly on ‘fantasy landscapes, people and mythical beings ‘ (Hurford, 2013).

Trees at Georgeham, ink on paper, 2011

Trees at Georgeham, ink on paper, 2011

In the past decade, Hurford has become a full-time painter, citing the ‘flora, fauna and landscape of the North Devon area’ as his main influence (Hurford, 2013).  He draws from life wherever possible, but works from photographs when necessary.

Nuthatch, 2013

Nuthatch, 2013

His subject matter delights me, as the Devon landscape is close to my heart and so familiar to me.  It seems that he has captured each blade of grass and every knot in the wood.  I am keen to learn more about this approach, as I imagine it’s not quite as all-inclusive as it appears.  There must still be decisions to be made about what to include and what to leave out.  Looking ahead to the landscape part of this course, such drawings are both intimidating and inspiring.

 

Down on the farm, 2003, sepia ink

Down on the farm, 2003, sepia ink

The degree of detail in his work is quite incredible.  I’m not sure I could hope to emulate it, but it is a style that appeals to me, strongly.  One aspect that stands out for me is that, despite the high degree of detail, there are always areas of space, allowing the eye to rest momentarily. This strikes me as an intelligent use of negative space.

Flowers at Greencombe, acrylic

Flowers at Greencombe, acrylic

Hurford began working in coloured inks in the late 60’s, going on to explore oils, watercolours, acrylics, coloured pencils, pen and ink, and pencil. Now he works mostly in acrylics on canvas, linen, paper or wood.

Hare and wren, pen and coloured pencil, 2010

Hare and wren, pen and coloured pencil, 2010

In Hare and wren, I like the sensitive way he has used coloured pencils. Previously, I have seen the often muted palette they offer as a drawback. However, here, Hurford has used it as a strength, the subdued colours serving to emphasise the detail of the drawing. I hope to try this technique in Part 2 of the course.

References:

Hurford, J (2013), John Hurford [Online], Available at http://www.johnhurford.co.uk/ (Accessed 11 May 2013).

Hurford, J (2013), North Devon Arts [Online], Available at http://www.northdevonarts.co.uk/member_428.html (Accessed 11 May 2013).

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