Sunday 31 August 2008
I searched for images on the web , thinking originally I would use the one above to tie in with the colour scheme but decided on the labelled b&w one below from the medical text book which looked like some exotic sea creature.
I printed out the image on cotton poplin and also on silk organza and then overlaid them , slightly offset, so the images didn't line up properly, giving a slightly blurred image.
I wanted a rough quality to the stitching in keeping with my feelings of becoming unravelled. Outlining the shapes on the top layer only became quite disorientating as I found I was following the wrong line, becoming sidetracked. The large tacking stitches along the labelling lines were more successful, holding things together.
Not a pretty or even very satisfying piece but thought provoking and very much about the process of matching stitch with intention. While I was sewing the long tacks, I was thinking how much I liked the mark they made and about doing more on future pieces. It's actually quite difficult to make such large stitches regular and I was questioning whether I actually wanted them to be regular and if not, how I could sustain that irregular look as I became more practiced in that stitch? I used to make quilts with very fine 12 stitches to the inch quilting then moved to using heavier threads for a bolder effect. How can I sew in a crude, random way when all my programming is to achieve a small, neat stitch?
Monday 25 August 2008
Also on the way to the Turners was an exhibition of drawings from the Tate collections. I've always tended to leap straight to paint after only cursary attention to drawing ,(probably because I love colour so much). However since my recent course I've been drawn back to line after experimenting with acrylic inks used very freely. The display of drawings was very diverse from finely detailed traditional pencil sketches to contemporary animation and monoprints.
One of the first drawings in the landscape section that caught my eye was this preparatory sketch by James Ward for his large painting of Gordale Scar. There's always a shivery sense of connection when you realise you've been trying to capture the grandeur that other artists in past have struggled with (Turner also painted here)
I like the subtle simplicity of the piece above - something to aspire to. The lines are softly blurred in places (the medium is chalk).
This charcoal ( and chalk) vigorous drawing of Peterbough Cathedral (below) was placed next to a very intricate drawing by Turner of Ely Cathedral. What I love about this is that it speaks of space and hints at delicate stonework and tracery yet is achieved with bold line and subtle rubbing out. It lets the viewer fill in the rest.
( Dennis Creffield : Peterborough Approaching the West Front )
Chalk and rubbing out of marks were also used by Tacita Dean on her huge blackboard drawings. The use of multiple images give a wonderful sense of motion and although mainly drawn in outline, there's a hint of volume given by a small amount of chalk left after erasure. Quite wonderful.
I came away buzzing. Besides some notes in my sketchbook to jog my mind I was excited to find on the Tate's website that all their collections have been digitised and you can search its database in many ways (including every page of Turners sketchbooks) - I could browse for hours. I've also just signed up for their online course which looks at a variety of artists' methods with excercises to try these techniques for yourself. A great follow up to the Studio Journal Course and a bargain at £20.
Friday 22 August 2008
I went to the talk by Susan Brandeis on 'Living the Creative Life'. Not too many people first thing Sunday morning which was a pity. I've heard/read most of the suggestions before but reinforcement is always good. The importance of taking risks and working through quantity toward quality resonated for me, also the need to work at your own pace and avoid comparing yourself negatively to others. I looked at Susan's quilts afterwards- some of them I thought a bit 'busy' but I liked her recent work particularly (me being a botanist!) those with a botanical theme. I know from experience how difficult it is to capture the essence of plants without getting overloaded in the detail. Her quilt of equisetums showed this quality admirably ( and anyone who is using digital prints in such a subtle and imaginative way get my vote)
But as many people have said in their blogs already ( do read Olga's thoughts) once you'd seen Dorothy Caldwells work, nothing else compares.
I looked at her pieces again and again, talked to her, and tried to make sense of them by sketching them. Her work is equally mesmerising on a small and monumental scale, and the real magic is that you can't tell where the marks made by resist/ discharge and stitch start and finish. Mind blowing.
I was relatively modest on the purchasing front, sticking (mainly) to my shopping list of wadding, silk organzas and variagated thread ( machine and cotton perle) But I succumbed ( as I often have before) at John Gillows stand. After making him laugh with my adventures in Iran ( (he'd advised on textile possibilities, some of which I'd managed to follow up), he showed me a bandhini (shibori) turban length that I was unable to resist. It has many different patterns on it (flowers, stripes, checks, triangles, paisley and even a Persian style tree) The challenge now is to work out how I can display its 14m length to best advantage.
Wednesday 20 August 2008
I had 3 quilts on display so now they've been exhibited I can reveal them in their full glory. This one (Sky, Sea, Fire, Stone) was my entry for the Guild Challenge 'Elemental' and was started in an Angie Hughes workshop on using lettering at last years CQ summer school. It's built up of layers of organza, muslim and scrim (including some digital images) overprinted with words from printblocks ( so there is some acrylic paint in it!) It was hung in rather a dismal corner with a wooden bench in front next to a very bright quilt so it looked even more subdued. The judges comments were mainly complimentary apart from it could have done with more quilting which I agree with.
'Tideline -after the storm' was entered in 'Contemporary Small ' category. It is densely hand and machine quilted then overpainted with acrylic paints. It seemed to generate quite a lot of interest and the judges comments were mainly excellent or good. I was thrilled to find that it had been awarded 'Judges Choice' by Steve Lockie as favourite in the whole show! And finally there was the opportunity to display my 'Thin Blue Line' quilt 'Gythion Glow' just returned from exhibition at Dudley Art Gallery and Museum on the Contemporary Quilt group stand. While I think it is a well balanced and executed quilt and I enjoyed making it , I'm too close to it to appreciate it objectively. I've therefore been surprised at the amount of admiration it has gathered, to the extent that someone is buying it! It will however go on display in any further exhibitions, not least because it features as one of the postcards. I'm in a bit of a glow myself.
Monday 18 August 2008
Our first outing was near Keasdon looking out either to the 3 Peaks or Vale of Bowland. You could see the rain clouds advancing but even so were freqently caught out by sudden downpours. I concentrated on quick sketches which weren't so badly effected by a thorough drench.
Back at the studio I fairly quickly got back into using acrylics on paper (used mainly 1/2 imperial size sheets of Saunders Waterford 300lb paper which is almost like card )
On the course I did 3 years ago, I did a drawing of the 'dry valley' above Malham Cove so already had my painting spot chosen this time. We were literally on the Pennine Way, with lots comments from walkers from 'Why don't you take photos , it would be much easier' to ' I'd like to take up painting, it must be so relaxing'.
Probably the most inspiring place we went to was Gordale Scar ( and the most satisfying painting, carried out mainly on site). Initially as it was pouring with rain, we set off just with sketching gear but found it was completely dry under the rock overhang. After coffee and a look round Katherines studio in Malham ( her more abstract canvases are stunning) several of us headed back with more serious amounts of kit.
I've really enjoyed using acrylic inks ( especially white)and now have a large shopping list for other colours ( and a new palette knife ). Maybe not the fishing shelter,I'm not sure I'll retain my intrepidness in Brentford although I'm inspired to tackle the river and boatyard here.
Tuesday 5 August 2008
Elements of this are interesting, I enjoyed the combination of torn paper collage and pastels and working larger at 1/2 imperial was less constraining.
These 2 details of an 1/2 imperial painting of the rockface at Gordale Scar are the most interesting . I started the painting in situ - nothing beats direct observation. The left hand side of the painting (not shown) doesn't work that well - I think I was probably trying too hard to do a 'landscape' painting when what I was drawn to was the abstract shapes and colours. I think over the last 3 years through working with acrylics on fabric I've got better at abstraction - perhaps as there is less emphasis on making a picture.
In a way, this drawing is probably the best thing I did. I normally skim over the drawing stage to dive into colour but something about working with an ink brush pen on watercolour paper and drawing what was just in front of me absorbed me. I was sitting on the edge of a path drawing the other side of the valley and only gave up when rain stopped play!
Painting equipment 2005 (including the kitchen sink or equivalent)
Sunday 3 August 2008
Ian is in charge of the 'Great Compost Experiment' which consists of :2 large 200L black compost bins( one full and left to rot down, one 'active' being added to); 1 dustbin of sieved compost; 2 small green containers for veggie peelings etc ( one indoors, 1 outdoors); 1 bag of paper shreddings; 2 sacks of clippings /green waste from garden. So pushing this analagy, my equivalent of the containers for kitchen waste, garden clippings and paper shreddings (the 'gathering ' stage) are my current selection of sketchbooks pictured above. These are: 2 x A5 (1 portrait, 1 landscape format); 1x A6; 1 x A4 cartridge paper excercise book; 1 x A5 watercolour paper sketchbook. My most frequently used is the A6 which I keep as an illustrated diary when travelling, notes from exhibitions , lectures etc. The A5 sketchbooks tend to have a more traditional function eg I'll be taking these for drawing in situ on my painting holiday later this week. It's useful having 2 on the go so that when doing quick sketches,you don't have to wait for the page to dry before doing another. I've fairly recently discovered the very cheap but good quality A4 excercise books which I use as scribble pads taking notes on courses, sketching out ideas , ripping out pages for other purposes. Doesn't matter if it gets dribbled on when taking notes for dyeing for instance
Last year, I started keeping an A4 spiral sketchbook as a 'lab book', recording what I'd done for particular projects AFTER I'd completed them eg July Take it Further challenge on Persian Archers (above), notes on screenprinting course( below). It's a useful process to review what worked, what didn't and to distil and summarise. Although not an 'art journal' , I'm happy to show it to people and it acts as a compact portfolio of my current work. This, using the compost principle, is the equivalent of the dustbin of sieved compost.
I started a new A4 casebound sketchbook for the Studio Journal course. I have used it for the exercises and am beginning to realise that although I won't use it quite as intended, it could have a role to play for capturing ideas. Currently I have photos stored on the computer in an 'ideas' folder and inspirational articles and pictures from magazines stored in looseleaf binders . In one of the colour excercises we did, I combined photos with scanned copies from my A5 sketchbook and found matching swatchs of fabric (below)
Of course in the compost scheme of things, this is the black compost bin where the breakdown and transformation of materials takes place, the core of the process. As up until now this process has mainly taken place in my head , it will be interesting to see how useful I find committing ideas to a journal.