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written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

I enjoy Diane Wright’s landscapes, and this is one of my very favourites. I always have the feeling when I look at it of cool restful shadows leading to a sunny, welcoming field.

Agnew Meadows

Agnew Meadows

The fact that I find the shadows cool is just one of the features that intrigues me about this drawing. Brightness and darkness belong to value, but temperature tends to be the prerogative of colour: we speak of cool blues and greens, warm reds and yellows. But here the shadows themselves look cool to me, while the sunlit field seems warm and inviting. This is partly, I think, because of the strong contrast of values. The shadows and trees nearest us are rich and dark. Wright uses them to frame the distant lighter values, and dapples the foreground with darker and medium tones, drawing us into the trees and beyond.

I also find this work interesting because of its severity in terms of shape and line. Compositionally this is an extremely vertical piece: the two clumps of trees on both sides of the work are strongly vertical, plus the trees we see in the distance. Limitations like this can be a real challenge, but Wright is careful to vary things so nothing gets monotonous or boring. Every tree is slightly different. We can see changes in the trees’ positions, thickness and in the placement of their branches. (I love the little trees at the bottom, with their “expect the unexpected” touch.) The vertical design has several strong horizontals to balance it as well: the field, the line of distant trees, the branches and the fallen log in the foreground.

Wright has a very distinctive technique, one that I find particularly effective for this subject. Often in realistic graphite work we find fine gradations where the individual pencil marks blend seamlessly together. But I haven’t often seen a rougher technique like this on finished works. Wright’s technique is “scribbley” – you can see the vigorous hatching she’s used. It suggests perfectly the textures of trees and bark, whether distant or close, while at the same time reminding us that this is a drawing.

An approach like this can be risky. We all want our drawings to look fresh and spontaneous, but while a “sketchy” technique is great for sketches, it can leave finished drawings looking UNfinished. It isn’t easy, but if you can bring it off as Wright has done here, it has a unique kind of honesty that is very appealing. An inviting landscape and a confident drawing – the artist gives us the best of both worlds!