Wednesday 28 June 2017

Printing the Coast and Ravilious and Co

  It's over a week now since I was 'Printing the Coast' with Alice Fox at Studio 11 in Eastbourne.  I had a fabulous inspiring time , with lots of ideas to take forward.
 On my arrival I was lucky enough to catch a talk by curator Andy Friend of the 'Ravilious and Co' exhibition at the Towner Art Gallery . The accompanying book is lovely  with  prints on high quality paper and an interesting, lively read. The exhibition by Becky Beasley based on one of Ravilous's interiors included some large painted vintage fabrics!

 It's a huge exhibition and I only had time to skim the surface, I was particularly struck by how Ravilious captured sound in ' Cross Channel Shelling'  

Our first day in the studio  we constructed some simple folded 8 page pamphlets of  thick cartridge paper  then headed to the beach , spending an hour ( which went very quickly ) making drawings and beachcombing

Rusty bits of metal were a particular focus ,immovable  larger pieces  on the breakwaters used for making rubbings . For collecting  we hit  the jackpot   under the pier where there was some old  scaffolding parts , Alice had already been out foraging for nails at a place  further along the beach where they burn pallets.
In the afternoon we were setting up rust prints on paper and fabric using tea  ( a process I'd already done with Alice a few years ago at CQ winter school ) . I loved the results on paper, some interesting ones on fabric too but I still have mixed feelings on it as is difficult to stitch.

 5 of us staying  in accommodation  met up for  dinner at 'Harry Ramsdens' . I think I'm done for fish and chips for the year now! Afterwards I spent a while walking along the front to the sounds of the 'Jersey Boys' playing at the bandstand to a packed enthusiastic crowd.

The  second day we headed off at 9.30 ( already very hot) to Cuckmere Haven - definitely a candidate for my list of favourite places.  I didn't get very far along the path  when seeking out shade I came across this windblown hawthorn with a secret path underneath. I took rubbings and attempted to capture the negative spaces between the branches

Then , the  bright violet of thyme in the turf on top of the chalk bank caught my eye  and I managed to find a path to the top, rewarded by the best chalk grassland I've seen since my survey days of Salisbury Plain Training Area 30 years ago. I was in botanical heaven , sitting amongst the smell of thyme watching the bees and butterflies. Not much drawing went on, I was reminded of being on Prawle Point  when  all the six-spot burnet moths were emerging, not much painting got done then either!

The views of the river were spectacular too, little changed since Ravilious painted it.

Sitting in an overgrown bank among longer grasses, I found my favourite , 'quaking grass'  and remembering sketching on Box Hill,  drew the shadows cast on the paper

I never did make it to the beach and the view of 'Seven Sisters'.
I lost track of time and was late back to the car so hadn't collected much in the way of plant material for ecoprinting which was the focus of the afternoon . I have mixed feelings about picking plants, even though I took only what I knew to be very common or weeds.  

For ecoprinting, rather than using mordants, we were wrapping fabrics with rusty bits of metal. Mine weren't very successful but it worked better on paper where we inserted flat bit of metal along with the leaves into our books and these were clamped with rusty bull dog clips!

There were a few issues with the steam not penetrating the pages,  the softer , more absorbent khadi papers  worked better. Alice uses an electric steamer - its' on my list , they're not very expensive.

Our tables and boards were beginning to look very interesting and varied now!

Our 3rd day, even hotter, we headed back to Seven Sisters climbing down the staircase at Birling Gap. Besides drawing on pamphlets , taking rubbings etc , our focus was collecting flat objects for monoprinting (eg feathers,  bits of rope)
It was a treat to use the etching press , the embossed details of the feather were lovely
 Most of the time I was just as happy with inking up a manky bit of  rope and using a roller.  Rather than doing one drawing over a whole opened up pamphlet, at Birling I'd drawn on it  folded and consequently had a wider range of marks and layers (above) . The printing made an interesting addition to my drawings of grass shadows (on  which I'd also carried out some rust printing ( below)
I missed the morning session of the 4th day as I was unwell ( reminder to wash hand thoroughly after handling beach finds!)  so only had time  for a quick catch-up on waxing papers with  soy wax and  different book construction methods before we packed up.
The 'Australian reverse piano hinge' was a revelation - no stitching or glueing involved and once back at the hotel (I was staying another night) I put together 2 books  which I'm very pleased with   

We did quite a few drawing on thick tracing  paper which interacted well with other pages in the book. I particularly liked the drawings below  of the cliff face at Birling where you can  catch glimpses of lines beneath the surface ( and note the anchoring 'pins' used in the binding)

The structures are quite springy  so I made some retaining bands of leftover strips of paper (below)

I'll definitely be  continuing with the idea of   taking out pamphlets out with me when I go sketching and exploring more ways of building up layers of marks. Also writing more ( one of the outcomes too from sketchbook course at City Lit). With  repeat course of ecoprinting with Brunhilde coming up at FoQ I'm  starting to think about collecting and pressing plants and using papers as well as fabrics .


In regard to fabrics , Alice asked me whether I would use them in my work. Probably not as I like to hand stitch and I don't like handling the  rusted fabrics. Photos of the lovely marks printed onto  fabrics are an option I've used before for journal quilts.
Having said that,  a lot of the marks reminded me of breakwaters  and along with some fabrics from  previous rust dyeing session  maybe  a piece will come out of it.

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Back to Birchington

We revisited Birchington on -Sea  on Sunday and had a lovely walk and delicious Sunday roast at the Minnis Bay. We haven't been since last year and I wanted to gather further photos and sketches of the breakwaters which have provided a rich source of inspiration for my recent series of artworks.

Also  an appropriate place to celebrate   my quilt being selected for Fine Art Quilt Masters at the Festival of Quilts. Being one of only 20 shortlisted from entries all over the world is a real honour! I'm not sure of the etiquette in showing you the quilt yet as is still has to be judged so I'm erring on the side of caution.

 As a change from breakwaters, I've also been studying the layers of the cliffs, I'm thinking of a tryptich.

Drawing Tuesday: 'Electricity' at Wellcome; Hokusai at British Museum

A week ago I made a brief visit to the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum - one of the advantages of being a member  is that   you don't need to book  ( although it's recommended at busy times) and  don't feel that you have to see absolutely everything in one go as can always come back another time!
I loved the 3D installation in the Great Court (top)  the result of family workshops  in painting and origami.

 I made some notes in my sketchbook of the work that caught my eye ( particularly the mark-making) and found  images online afterwards

An earlier version of the 'Great Wave' had a wonderful subtlety of line  and interesting composition  as did the one below  (the balance of dark and light especially).

The stylised  flow of  this waterfall reminds me of Gordale  Scar.

Towards the end of the exhibition there was a lovely black and red drawing of breakwaters ( a subject dear to my heart!) . I couldn't find the exact work on line but  the print below is based on it..
I loved seeing the drawings  and the stages  of the process involved in producing such finely executed and lively woodcuts, a shame that most of the items for sale in the shop are so crude and tacky!
In the morning , the location for drawing Tuesday was the Wellcome Collection . I was pleased to revisit the 'Spark of Life'  exhibition on electricity which had been the focus of the Contemporary
Drawing Sketchbook course and draw some items I'd missed!
I concentrated on the early voltaic cells ( battery) and Edison's first lightbulb.
And after the museums I  did some shopping for art supplies in Cornelissens, getting the assistants whizzing up their ladders to find items in the numbered  wooden drawers. It might seem a rather large bag just for a few tubes of watercolour  but I did buy paper as well!!