Developing larger scale work

Until now, I have worked extensively with graphite on 90 gsm pergamenata paper. I work with this surface predominantly for its translucent quality, making it good for layering drawings. Layering enables the drawings to interact with each other in response to natural light, changing character throughout the day, and aligns with ideas that built environments reveal themselves to us over time through light and shadow.

I have good material knowledge of the capacities and limitations of this paper. It is surprisingly strong and accepts repetitive addition and removal of graphite marks really well. It doesn’t, however, respond well to wet materials or moisture. As a result, large scale installation methods have not yet enabled installation over long periods of time as the paper prefers the protection of glass, as tested with smaller scale framed works.

One of the aims for this studio residency is to address this issue, with initial ideas to test fabric as drawing surface. To approach this problem, I proposed working on paper on a smaller scale at my home studio, alongside working on a larger scale at AHH Studio Collective. The intention was that results from each may inform the other and this has proven to be a good way forward.

Firstly, I chose to explore working with charcoal instead of graphite, as initial exploratory tests worked better on sheer fabric, and began by seeking to develop ways to manipulate charcoal on pergamenata paper, my preferred choice. Previous attempts have been problematic as the surface held charcoal too well for removal or manipulation. Building on ideas introduced in Kate Boucher’s brilliant book on the subject, I developed ways to work with masks that are now working well with this paper. Results bring a more tonal shadow-like, even ‘painterly’, quality to the drawings, producing outcomes that feel elusive.

Secondly, with more space and light at AHH, I began testing new configurations of my existing steel frame, as well as new, more reliable, ways to hang the surface, starting with pergamenata as this was to hand. Documenting tests to think about between visits proved helpful and revealed possible ways to install the larger scale layers of charcoal drawings on pergamenata that produced more stable outcomes. Testing this approach not only enabled a more active, bodily experience of the drawings but also brought flexibility to adjust scale and composition according to the space. Current stability tests (on 205 x 107.5 x 55 cm frame) are so far proving successful and may enable continued use of my preferred paper material, rather than moving to fabric.

Having the time and space for research and experimentation, problem solving, testing methods and analysing results, has uncovered unexpected ways to think about impacts of exterior light on interior spaces. In addition, new installation approaches have introduced ideas around the exterior and interior of the drawing.


Boucher, K (2021). Drawing with Charcoal. The Crowood Press Ltd.