Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Life Drawing: 14.11.17

Sketchy Faces

After a few months off it was really good to get back to Life Drawing. I haven't been running the sessions since June for various reasons too boring to explain and I didn't realise how much I'd missed them. For the first couple of months it was nice to not have to rush around getting everything organised and ready and after that I mostly forgot about it. However, being back I realised how much I missed the challenge and also how nice it was to see all my regular artists.

Continuous line

Continuous line

Blind drawing

Continuous line

I've been keeping up with my daily drawing pretty well recently, I've only missed a couple of days in the past few weeks but even so I felt really out of practice at this session. I'm always telling people how good for their drawing Life Drawing is and it really is different to other types of drawing. I think it's a lot to do with the fact that your drawing a real live human rather than an object, which is obviously a very different relationship.

Left handed drawing

Continuous line

Blind drawings

I wanted to try something a little bit different this evening so I took a roll of paper to work on. My idea was that it would last me the whole session and I could just unroll a fresh section as I needed it. That plan didn't work out quite as I'd anticipated, I'd filled the roll within about twenty minutes but I did really enjoy working, quite literally, on a roll and I like the way the drawings from different poses flow into one another. I think my problem is that however much paper is in front of me I feel the need to fill it, bigger paper doesn't mean I can fit more drawings on it just means I draw bigger! However, I think I will try this again as it's quite satisfying rolling the paper along as you draw and the resulting narrative of the drawings I found very interesting.


I also did lots of blind drawings (drawing without looking at the paper) in this session, particularly for the poses I was struggling to capture. I find this a very fun and liberating way to work, the results can be quite comical but I have found that it helps me improve my proportion in my drawings as it really forces you to properly look at what you're drawing and observe how different sections relate to one another. I often find that if I'm struggling a couple of quick blind drawings will usually help me see where I'm going wrong.

Continuous line


Continuous line

Continuous line

I'm now looking forward to the next session in December!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Time to Play

My Stitched Collage Box from a workshop with Anne Brooke

As usual I've been busy with all sorts of different projects including workshops, an exhibition and a new and expanded role at Prism Arts. All this activity has left me feeling stretched a little thin and in need of a bit of a pick me up. Like many creative people it can be difficult to find the balance between your personal practice, the work you really want to do and the work that pays the bills (not to mention having time for a personal life.) I like the variety of my work and enjoy all the different aspects but inevitably there are times when the balance swings too far in one direction and this can be quite stressful.

Anne demonstrating and a selection of her boxes

Making the basic net for the box

Stitching the net together

Because I've had so many deadlines recently it's felt a bit stressful and like I didn't have much freedom in my work, I've had to work on particular projects in order to meet these deadlines even if it wasn't what I really wanted to be working on at that point. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, I find a deadline helps focus the mind and can make me more productive but sometimes it can be a bit too much. Hopefully I'm now entering a slightly quieter period so can focus a bit more on what I want to do rather than what I have to do.

Cutting and sticking

Cutting and stitcking

Stitching

This also means a bit of time to play. Artists in particular often talk about play and it can seem like an unimportant, frivolous activity but actually play is really important. Children learn the skills they'll need in later life through playing; as adults we tend to neglect this side of our lives but it's important to keep playing as it helps you to keep learning. Of course the type of play changes, now play for me means trying different techniques and ideas in my art rather than hanging off the monkey bars (not that I was ever very good at that!)

Stitching

Main box and lining ready to be joined

A really good way to make sure you get your creative 'playtime' is to go on a workshop. One of the reasons I enjoy being part of my local branch of the Embroiderers Guild is that it gives me the opportunity to take part in lots of different workshops with lots of different tutors. I try to do as many of the workshops as I can because you never know what you'll learn and it's good to challenge yourself to try something different. It's also a good way to pick up teaching tips for when I'm running my own workshops! I've been programme secretary for the past two years at the branch which has given me a chance to book some really interesting and exciting workshops.

My box (front)

My box (top)

My box (side)

For our October workshop I'd booked Anne Brooke, a very talented textile artist based in West Yorkshire, to run her 'Stitched Collage Boxes' workshop for us. I was really looking forward to the workshop and it was even better than I expected. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, a chance to try something a bit different without the pressure of making a piece for anything in particular; just for fun. I felt so relaxed making my box, Anne is a really good tutor and shared lots of hints and tips but also left plenty of room for us to do things our own way. Everyone's piece is different, reflecting our own tastes and interests.

My box (side)

My box (side)

My box (open)

One of my favourite things about this workshop was that involved several of my favourite activities; first one being cutting and sticking. I love collage and really enjoyed playing around with different materials and layouts before moving on to another of my favourite activities; stitching. I also enjoyed the challenge of thinking about how a flat piece would look when it was made up into a 3D piece. I'm really pleased with my finished box and it's given me some new ideas of things to try as well as being a very enjoyable activity in itself. After my playtime I feel enthused and excited about getting back into my studio and creating new work.

All the boxes made on the workshop, ready to be finished

Saturday, 28 October 2017

More Sketchbook Making shenanigans...

Stacked Folded Sketchbooks

Earlier in the year I had a lovely evening running my 'Embellishing Printed Fabric' workshop for Brampton Arts and Crafts Club. It was such a relaxed and pleasant evening with a really lovely group of people. They obviously enjoyed it too as they invited me back so in September I ran my 'Simple Sketchbooks' workshop for the group.

Folding, cutting and sticking

Folding, cutting and sticking

Folding, cutting and sticking

I had a bigger group to work with this time as none of the gentlemen of the group came to the previous workshops but they clearly felt happier with sketchbooks rather than stitch so had come along this time. Once again it was a lovely evening, very relaxed and lots of chatting! I demonstrated my techniques for making envelope sketchbooks and my favourite folded sketchbooks. I then let the group loose on my stash of papers. One of my favourite parts of this workshop is choosing the papers and I love seeing people having a good ratch through and selecting the bits they want to use.

Folding, cutting and sticking

Folding, cutting and sticking

Folding, cutting and sticking

It was really interesting seeing how differently people approached the workshop and the amazing range of sketchbooks created, each a reflection of the individual. I'm always intrigued by how even in a large group and working with the same materials everyone will produce something different. I'm sometimes asked why I'm so willing to share my techniques and 'secrets' and this is why; no one will do it quite how I do as each person has their own unique quirks and characteristics and this will come through in any creative work.

Folding, cutting and sticking

Folding, cutting and sticking

Playing with folding sketchbooks

In a similar vein I don't worry about sharing my techniques and tips as I believe that to create 'good' art you need to believe in what you're doing, it has to be authentic. The word authentic is bandied around a lot at the moment but I really believe that a piece of work that is truly authentic has a bit of the makers head, heart and hand in it and will always stand out over a copy or something. One of my tutors once asked me "if you don't believe in your work how can you expect other people to?" This really struck a chord with me and since then I've tried to always make work I believe in, that I am proud to claim as my own. So, the moral of this post is go and be creative and do it your own way proudly!

Finished sketchbooks

Finished sketchbooks

Finished sketchbooks

Finished sketchbooks

Finished sketchbooks

Finished sketchbooks



Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Machine Embroidery and Applique Workshops at The Eden Workshop

Puffin with Sand Eels, 2017
Machine embroidery and Applique on linen

As you will know if you read this blog regularly or have met me 'in real life' I love running workshops. I really enjoy sharing my technical skills and experience and seeing other people take it in a new direction. I find it so satisfying when I can show someone something and see them understand it and make it their own. I'm really passionate about what I do and I want to share that with people; my workshops aren't necessarily highly technical but I hope that I can give people the encouragement and confidence to have a go, enjoy themselves and hopefully create something they're proud of.

Sewing machines set up and some of my pieces 

Practising machine embroidery

Choosing fabrics

Using bondaweb to make pattern pieces

Recently I've run two Machine Embroidery and Applique workshops at The Eden Workshop in Plumpton. This is fast becoming one of my favourite workshops to run, although I think I say that about all my workshops! It's a real pleasure running workshops at The Eden Workshop; Jane is a great hostess and keeps everyone well supplied with tea and biscuits and always produces a lovely lunch. She is friendly and welcoming and has a great fabric stash too! She has recently renovated the workshop space and it is a lovely place to work, light and airy with views out over the countryside. The groups are small too so that everyone gets plenty of attention and support. Jane hosts a whole range of workshops so do have a look at her website; I'll be doing some more sessions there next year, including running this workshop again.

Fabrics applied ready for stitching

Stitching!

Stitching!

Stitching!

I love machine embroidery. Since I first tried it as a teenager it's something I've come back to again and again. It's like drawing with the sewing machine and I love the quality of line that can be achieved and how quick and expressive it is. I also love the fact that it's very accessible, almost any sewing machine can be used and often the less fancy the machine the better it is for this type of work. Machine embroidery is adaptable to all levels of experience; complete beginners can achieve great results just with a few lines and more confident embroiderers can try out different techniques such as using thicker threads in the bobbin. On the second workshop one of the participants had only one hours previous sewing machine experience but still produced a beautiful finished puffin portrait.

Results from the first workshop

Results from the first workshop

Results from the first workshop

Results from the first workshop

Results from the first workshop

Results from the first workshop

Results from the first workshop

I chose to combine applique with machine embroidery for this workshop as it's a way of working I've been experimenting with myself and also because, particularly for beginners, it makes it easy to build up a picture quickly and effectively. I produced some templates for the workshops as one of the things most people struggle with is a lack of confidence in their drawing and design skills. Using templates still allows for plenty of experimentation with colour and fabric choice whilst allowing people to get stuck in and learn the skills without worrying. Almost everyone chose to use one of my templates and what I love is that in spite of this each finished piece is unique and has it's own character.

Stitching!

Stitching!

Stitching!

In my workshops I want to encourage people to be creative and make their pieces their own. I want to be able to give people the skills and confidence to create something that they can be proud of and that is unique. I also hope that it's an enjoyable experience and that they'll want to carry on experimenting with the skills they've learnt. I do warn everyone at the start of this workshop that this a highly addictive process...

Results from the second workshop

Results from the second workshop

Results from the second workshop

Results from the second workshop

Results from the second workshop

Results from the second workshop

Results from the second workshop