I have never studied geology formally but I have been prompted to learn by living on the edge of a former volcanic region in which there are so many interesting rock formations. While quarrying in the local area has indisputably changed the landscape, it has also exposed rocks that otherwise would not have been visible and which have provided information about our geological history. I love the heft of rocks, their sense of power, that they diminish everything else; that despite their size, they move and continue to move at an imperceptible rate. This helps to emphasise our human insignificance in the overall scale of things and creates a sense of perspective.
Their strong three-dimensional structures ought to make them relatively easy subjects to draw and yet they are far from easy to represent convincingly on the page – at least, that it my experience. This becomes easier in low light when strong shadows appear on sections of rock but in the middle of a summer’s day when the sun is almost overhead, or on an overcast day when shadows are lost in diffuse light, they can be very challenging subjects.
Rock faces lend themselves to abstraction but I would also like to capture their strong lines in a more representational way. During the summer, I visited three quarries in the area with my sketchbook.
The Stenzelberg in the Siebengebirge is latite and quarz; feldspar and hornblende crystals can be found embedded in the rock. This quarry was in use until the 1930s. It is a particularly interesting structure on account of the „Umläufer“, large stacks of inferior quality and very hard rock, which the quarry workers worked around. This has left an unusual rock structure to wander up and around. There are good views from the top. In the sketch, I wanted to capture the colour and textural differences in the rock face. This was the first time I had attempted to capture a rock face up close and I found it tricky to follow one crack or slab as it joined multiple others. This is not an accurate sketch but when I look back at it it does convey my feelings about sitting in front of this structure that has been standing for millions of years although this rock face has been exposed much more recently.
This sketch focuses on the relationships between fault lines in a small section of the rock.
One of my favourite quarries lies over a hill east of Bad Münstereifel, south west of Bonn, just below the village of Eschweiler. I like this quarry because of the way in which, as one walks over the brow of the hill, the red rock of this quarry suddenly appears directly ahead and slightly below eye level. As one wanders down the hill, and approaches the quarry, it looms larger and next at eye level until one is standing below it looking up, every crevice clearly visible. I love this experience of approaching this rock from different distances, levels and angles. Here it is when first seen – a wide gash in the landscape.
Here is a section from closer to:
It is difficult to capture a sense of three-dimensional structure in diffuse light. I tried squinting to identify the areas out of direct light and then drew these as areas of tone, leaving everything else around as white space.
Finally, for now, I visited the Rockeskyller Kopf near Gerolstein. This is the best preserved former volcano in the Eifel. It is a wonderful structure. The rock strata are a joy – beautiful, clearly defined layers, which I have yet to clearly depict. I will be going back. This first sketch is in a quarry around the west side of the hill. The tree lies strewn across the entrance.
The second sketch was made from above the main quarry area – this is the section that would have been inside the volcano. This was a quick sketch – I intend to go back and make some more careful studies.