A History of my Archive in 10 Objects. No.2: The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson, 1975
Number 2 in the discoveries made at my dad’s house from long hidden archives of my work. In my wildest dreams I never thought I’d ever see this picture again, but there it was, in my dad’s loft, warts and all, the very first drawing I ever attempted in pen and ink, from 1975, aged 16.
Prior to this drawing I’d worked steadily but unassumedly at school on assigned projects. It was acknowledged that I was “good at art”, but this was post modernist, late hippy mid 1970’s, most of the art classes were light on drawing skills, heavy on texture and tactility, I found little to inspire me and positively hated that year’s art teacher. Batik tshirts? Organic bio-plant patterns? Yeuk! No, I wanted to draw! Draw people! Things!
Away from school however I’d long since discovered the joy of the BIC biro, and filled old unused school exercise books with drawings, copied or inspired by WW2 Commando comics. After my dad bought me a couple of Adrian Hill guides to drawing and sketching I’d taken a sketchbook with me everywhere I went, and on every holiday over the previous year filled it with directly observed sketches from life in biro. This was all entirely independant from school. Then one day a confrontation with a school bully ended up with the contents of my school bag scattered across the classroom floor, and my sketchbooks were discovered by my form tutor (and head of Art Dept) Al Sayers.
Everything changed from then on. My next wonderful art teacher Jackie Asbury (where is she now?) introduced me to a dip pen and a bottle of indian ink for the first time, and told me to draw something challenging. A 19th century engraving of Collier’s The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson seemed to fit the bill. I knew absolutely nothing about Henry Hudson or John Collier, or for that matter pen and ink drawing, but I set to and produced this clumsy, tentative piece, little knowing that pen and ink was to become my chief medium for the next 40 years.
Well, this is what I wanted it to look like….
It’s embarassing – those terribly badly drawn hands… it bears little resemblance to the source image, how could I hope to reproduce an engraving with a dip-pen? I had a lot to learn, but it was a start, and I never looked back.