Monday 26 October 2009

I still hate pastels

The latest session in my drawing evening classes was on drawing with soft pastels. There were a number of still lifes set up with fruit, pottery and vividly patterned fabrics - I chose the quinces set against a wild paisley African fabric ( I was SO tempted to take it home afterwards) . The inspiration was to draw in the style of Matisse ( I really enjoyed the exhibition a few years ago at the Royal Academy of Matisse and textiles (great accompanying book too)
As usual, I got a lot out of the session- quickly and directly in less than an hour ( we also spent some time on samples to see what pastels could do) , I made me realise that despite my love of patterned fabrics,, this is the first time I've observed and drawn it! Definately something to go back to. I'd brought along some good quality soft pastels I've had a long time and barely used. I don't like the mess and the fact that you have to have loads of them to get the colour you want or mix on the paper. And spraying with fixitive alters the colour and the quality of the pastels anyway! So I'm still not enamoured with pastels but I enjoyed the exercise - working so quickly and without it being 'precious' results in far more dymanic and lively work for all its imperfections and gets me wanting to keep observing and sketching. I'm starting to think about what art materials I want to take with me at Xmas to Tunisia.

Friday 23 October 2009

Sunday Outing

Last Sunday we had a leisurely stroll around Kew Gardens - I may work there but I never get the chance to explore during the week. We'd booked to see 'Creation' at the Watermans cinema and had a couple of hours to kill after an excellent, great value Indian buffet ,overlooking the tide turn in the Thames. Some great subjects here for sketching (I'd even packed some drawing kit) but a bit too chilly to hang about. A brisk walk was in order to work off those bhajis and Cobra!
As it was sunny and bright, the gardens were very busy but heading towards the wilder parts near the Lion gate, it soon thinned out. I hadn't noticed the unused Unicorn gate before ( splendid beast on top)

There was hardly anyone in the conservation area and we had a sit down on this wonderful bench carved from a log ( it even had fungi growing out of it).

The peace and quiet was disturbed by flocks of green -necked parakeets being more than usually raucous. They were flocking around this feeding station and didn't scare off easily - there were loads of smaller birds hovering hoping to get their share

This week I've been fighting off a cold ( not suprising seeing so many of the conference delegates last week coughed over me!) and haven't made the progress I'd wished on my 'breakthrough' quilt, sleep being more attractive. Hopefully this weekend....

Monday 19 October 2009


Last week was manic, working very long hours for Kew's 250th Anniversary Scientific Conference. Exhilarating though, and we've had very positive feedback. I debated on Thursday night whether I would go to my drawing class as I was exhausted but so glad I did - we were doing monotypes ( just like Tracey Emin!) Well perhaps not the subject matter. Drawing the large cheeseplant resident in the classroom reminded me of doing so at A' level. Are they obligatory for school art I wonder?
Although I've done monoprints ( paint or ink on glass or plastic, laying leaves or making patterns then laying paper or fabric on top), this was a different process and one that excites me.

First of all we inked up a perspex sheet then carefully laid a piece of cartridge paper on top of it. Used a pencil to draw on the sheet of paper and then peeled back to reveal the print where I'd drawn. The magic was the smudginess of where my hand had touched the paper, transferring some of the ink
The plate meanwhile had white lines where the ink had been removed

Repeating the process using the same perpex sheet and adding another drawing (pencil above) gave ghostly white outlines as well as the transferred black ones in the resulting print below

The monotype at the top is the combination of these 3 drawings - I love the liveliness and complexity. I don't know how well this method would work with fabric but there's one way to find out....

I couldn't resist bringing home the waste sheet of paper on which we'd inked up our perspex sheets!
Critics comment on the childish writing in Tracey Emins' drawings but as many of these are monotypes I'm wondering whether they are a result of having to do it in reverse?

Monday 12 October 2009

Knit and Stitch and Autumn Colour

It's obviously obligatory to document purchases from Knit and Stitch. I had my spending money budget and I stuck to it despite the purchase of a wonderful African basket which wasn't on my list but is both beautiful AND functional! Apart from that I bought sari thread; fabric paints;Jae Maries book ;'Art of the stitch' Catalogue; Valdini threads; cotton organza; African batik 1/2 metres.
And a brief opportunity to document the 'red time' in our garden - even had lunch outside on Sunday between showers. I have a running battle with Virginia Creeper but I must admit it looks wonderful at this time of year.
Meanwhile, after first day of conference spent on registration desk ( sods law, the first person to register , from Brazil, wasn't on our list....) it seems a world away . Good to catch up with people from other countries, continents and times. And the red medicine helps. Time to set the alarm for 5.30am..

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Drawing Breath

What with a sulky computer, a weekend away learning about moss identification and manic final preparations for Kew's 250th Anniversary Scientific Conference next week, there's not been a lot of opportunities to blog. I'm only doing it now while waiting for 3 different people to return my calls It felt rather odd being back at Flatford Mill - I used to go for watercolour courses but haven't been back in several years. 'Willy Lotts Cottage' above is almost unchanged since Constable painted the 'Haywain' and features on many tours and walks in the area. Whenever I lifted my head from the microscope there would be someone passing by, staring in. I now prefer more rugged terrain as inspiration for my artwork but I took lots of photos of the reflections in the mill race The fun contines in my drawing class - this time using pen and ink, experimenting first with different inks and effects before spending some time doing observational drawings
I chose the shell I drew in pencil the week before - it may be difficult but its absorbing and I'm getting the hang of it now. Unfortunately I found out the effect of bleach on quink the hard way when my work was displayed under someones wet work that dribbled onto mine! I had some bamboo pens but they didn't give the variation in line I was expecting - scribbling with a school dip pen was much more effective.

I ran out of time to try out further experiments with different pens and acrylic inks so Sandra let me take the shell home with me! I tried some watercolour washes too as that's a technique I use a lot when travelling. The quick sketch in the upper left was done with a Pentel brush pen - I'd forgotten how satisfying the variation in line could be. I'd like to say it's less messy with a cartridge than dipping a pen into a pot of ink but.... This weeks lesson is with charcoal. I've used the opportunity of having the shell at home to take some photos in better light - I'll be reluctant to give it back.
I managed one day to work on my 'breakthrough' piece and I'm looking forward to taking a few days off after the conference is over to work on it (nothing like a deadline!) I'm treating myself to a day out at the Knit and Stitch show at Ally Pally on Saturday - well I NEED some more supplies, especially textiles paints so I can get stuck into some lino-cutting and printing.