edward adrian wilson

Sketching Tips from Bill Wilson

From his lecture on sketching, delivered at Cape Evans in May 1911

Reproduced in With Scott: The Silver Lining by T. Griffith Taylor

Sketching down here is very different from this class of work elsewhere. We are limited in our tools, being confined to pencil and chalks ; and even with these we can only finish a sketch on the field in mid-summer.

Accuracy rather than the making of pictures should be our aim in Antarctica, especially as our sketches are largely connected with scientific work. Nothing can be done with colour, though on the 1902 expedition I carried forty coloured crayons and tried to use them out of doors. Nansen, however, managed to do some useful crayon drawings in the Arctic.

My method is to make pencil drawings in as great detail as the temperature will allow, and to scribble over a sort of artist’s shorthand. I use very few colours, and can indicate Prussian blue, for instance, by pr. b., etc. Even in temperate regions you have to use somewhat similar shifts, for you can’t sit down to paint a brilliant sunset. This “shorthand” I practised largely in Norway in 1897. One gets into the habit of realizing quickly what colours will mix to give the required shade.  

In Antarctica every topic requires a different method of treatment, and all require accuracy. Now here are some tips that you may find useful.

Every line is to be criticised as a part of the whole lot, which means you mustn’t scribble haphazard. It is a good test if you can discover something in your sketch which you did not realize when you drew it. Always try to analyze the gradations and colours ; this power is largely a matter of habit. You can’t overdo the exercise of your power of “ seeing,” and down here the shades are so subtle that you get very good practice.

No coarse methods will reproduce snow, ice, or distant mountains.  All these take time, and I notice that surveyors and physiographers fail here!

Now I will try to point out why some sketches fail.

There is a promising art student present who drew an iceberg.  He had not attempted one before, and so did it carefully and successfully.  But beyond this are waves and sky, and he thinks he knows them. So we find him showing the berg reflected in waves !  He should have roughed in bits of the waves and sky and made notes. Here we see the necessity of a first sketch which shows you bits of every feature of the whole.

The pencil is the only thing to use here, though in other regions you would also make a rapid sketch to show colour contrasts. Don’t try to draw with a brush.

To reproduce your sketches, you use H and F pencils. It is very difficult to grade snow and sky with ink. It is best to use a hard pencil so that you don’t get into a smudging way, but make each line distinct.

Do your outlines in very faint lines so that they will disappear when shaded, and without the use of rubber. If you want a straight line or circle use a rule or a compass. Be careful to get the horizon level or you will spoil the whole sketch. Remember that nature relieves everything by shadow and colour, but not by lines. 

Principles of Sketching.

  1. You will find Ruskin’s book very helpful.  One should have them instinctively, as in the case of so many Japanese and all good artists.  The rest must acquire them.
  2. Accuracy, by attention to small details and differences.
  3. Methods. Pen and ink is difficult for snow and sky, and soft pencil is easier.
  4. Outlines are the edges of shadows.
  5. Perspective is not of much use in Antarctica.
  6. Use an empty picture frame to gauge size and position.
  7. Colours are mostly snow-white or blue-grey, but occasionally even shadows may be orange or the brightest blue.
  8. In shading, first practise with a square on white paper and hatch it. Be careful never to go over the edge.
  9. To test the inaccuracy of your eye carefully copy a maple leaf and then superpose it on the original.
  10. If using pen and ink outlines only, never thicken a line. Use even lines, and remember that it is imperfect because there are no outlines in nature.
  11. There is no royal way to do trees or clouds, etc. Be careful not to adopt mannerisms.
  12. Clouds are solids with a light side and a shaded side; and also with perspective.

We were joking in the boat as we rowed under these cliffs and saying it would be a short-lived amusement to see the overhanging cliff part company and fall over us.  So we were glad to find we were rowing back to the ship and already were two or three hundred yards from the place and in open water, when there was a noise like crackling thunder and a huge plunge into the sea, and a smother of rock dust like the smoke of an explosion, and we realized that the very thing has happened that we had just been talking of …

– E.A. Wilson, on scouting Cape Crozier as a possible place to establish a base, January 1911; quoted in Edward Wilson of the Antarctic, pg 213

Sunset, 7pm, March 30, 1911 - Hut Point, ski slope, a watercolor by Edward Adrian Wilson. Wilson was a polar explorer, physician, naturalist and painter. He took part in two British expeditions to Antarctica, both under the leadership of Robert Falcon Scott. Here is more information on Wilson and Hut Point.

anonymous asked:

New Royal Research Ship to be named! Since they asked The Internet what she should be called the leading suggestion is currently "RRS Boaty McBoatface". You, I think, should start the campaign for her to be named the RRS Apsley Cherry-Garrard since she is to be used in the Arctic and Antarctic

Well, the naming poll website was still down last I checked – as the news coverage has only increased I expect it will remain so for some time.  I’d be leading the charge to name it the RRS Edward Wilson, if I could; not only was he head of scientific staff but I can think of no other human being so deserving.  I think Cherry would agree.

At the stern are gathered most of the officers, dressed for the last time for many months in gold-laced uniforms, awaiting the arrival of the Bishop for the parting service.  Someone among them suddenly says ‘There’s Bill,’ and immediately a chorus of 'Come on, Uncle,’ 'You’re late, Bill,’ and 'Shake your long legs, Director,’ draws attention to a tall, grave-looking man coming through the crowd.  The chorus and the answering smile reveal more than many words could do the perfect understanding that already existed between the Chief of the Scientific Staff and his subordinates, an understanding that did more than anything else to promote and sustain the harmony which will always remain one of the chief features of Captain Scott’s Last Expedition.

– Frank Debenham, writing in The Caian, 1913; quoted in Edward Wilson of the Antarctic, pg 206

The photo is of the parting service onboard the Terra Nova in November, 1910.  Debenham is (probably) the man furthest left.  If anyone can spot Bill, they have keener eyes than me!

I doubt if a class of Ladies’ College girls could be more unselfish in looking after each other’s interests than we are on the ship, even if they were all preparing for confirmation.  The way in which every one fights for the worst jobs is really amusing.  The pump is really hard work four times a day, and the competition for it is ridiculous.

– E.A. Wilson, on the Terra Nova’s journey down the Atlantic, 1910
quoted in Edward Wilson of the Antarctic, pp 202-3

Westal, March 10, 1898

If there was one whom I could trust and love and be so bound up with that he or she could share with me and understand my joys and my love, and my passion for beauty, for colour, for form, for pure joy in nature,—if he or she could enter into my thoughts and feel with me,—if my sorrow, my pain, my doubts, my unspoken thoughts and hopes and fancies and longings—my life and my love—if only—

If I could find such a one, shouldn’t I bring every joy, every delight, every pain, every sorrow, every passion, every love to be shared and to open the whole before that one : I know that I should : but there exists not the person on earth with whom lies the power of even to a small extent feeling with me in one of the smallest of my joys.  Now and again one can truly say that one has felt with another, in joy or pain, in love or sorrow.  But it is only now and again, and for years the heart hungers in between.—Why hungers?

—E.A. Wilson
from Edward Wilson of the Antarctic, pg 46