Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Seven Stories: Exhibition

Seven Stories Exhibition: Carlisle Library

Since January Prism Arts's artists, including myself, have been working in schools and with various community groups on a big project called 'The Seven Stories.' The project is a collaboration between Prism Arts and Cumbria Library Service and stems from a project we ran a couple of years ago.

Installing the work on the hanging grid

Last week we were in Carlisle Library installing the exhibition from their hanging grid. It was a challenging and tiring day but well worth it as the finished exhibition looks great. Later in the week we had an official opening ceremony attended by various dignitaries and, most importantly, many of the participants. Seeing how pleased the participants were with the finished work made all the hours of preparation and sewing worth while!

Flags by St. Bede's students

Flags by St. Bede's students

Flags by St. Bede's students

For this project I worked with a Year 4 class at St. Bede's Primary School and an art group at Carleton Day Centre. I really enjoyed working with both groups and the work they produced is fantastic. I've also really enjoyed seeing the work from the other groups. I particularly like the exploding seed packets made by the group of stroke survivors and the birds and bird cage made by the Creative Conversations group.

The Book of Carlisle by Carleton Day Centre art group

The Book of Carlisle by Carleton Day Centre art group

The school children I worked with produced a series of flags inspired by a 700 year old book held in Carlisle Library. The flags weave in and out of the other exhibits, representing the idea of journeys and the twists of a tale and tying all the pieces together.

Looking up from the ground floor

Looking up from the ground floor

The group from Carleton originally wanted to make a time capsule but as we worked their ideas evolved and we created 'The Book of Carlisle.' This is a large book with each page exploring something the group members liked about Carlisle, including the dragon from the city arms, socialising with friends and the wildlife of the area.

Seen from the balcony

Seen from the balcony

The work will be hanging in the library until March at which point more work, made in response to the exhibition, will be on show. Like all good stories there's always a little bit more to come...

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Life Drawing 17.11.15

Charcoal pencil

It always surprises me how quickly these sessions come round! I wasn't expecting a great turn out as the weather was a bit wild but the hardy artists of Cumbria turned out in force. I find that there tends to be a better atmosphere if there are a few more of us although I'm not sure exactly why.

Pen, continuous line

Pen, 'blind' drawing

Following the lines of the pose

November is often a slightly odd month for me, it always looks like it's going to be quite quiet and then suddenly it gets very busy. This year has followed this pattern and I was not at my most alert and awake for this session, couple this with coming down with a cold and it wasn't the best combination for a productive evening. However, I bravely soldiered on and as always enjoyed the time to focus on just drawing.

Pen, continuous line

Adding a bit more detail than ususal

Hand studies

I'm not really pleased with any of the drawings from this session, my proportions are all out and I struggled to capture the poses but it was good to have the time to just sit and observe and draw. Part of the reason my drawings aren't so good is that I've once again fallen out of my daily drawing habit so that's something to try and pick up again.

Permanent marker

Permanent marker

Red pen

We had some interesting poses and good angles but I just wasn't in the right frame of mind this session but I don't mind because for me the main point of Life Drawing is just to draw. To not worry about the outcome but to observe and try to capture these observations. The process is the important part rather than the outcome, although it is always a bonus if you can produce an outcome you're pleased with too! So, back to the drawing I must go and get my eye 'in' for next month's session!


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

More Bird Portraits...

Curlew. Machine embroidery on linen 2015

Back in September I wrote a post about the work I'd been making to sell in Gallery Artemis in Cockermouth. One of my bird portraits was then featured in Cumbria Life's Christmas gift guide and I was happy to learn that I had sold several of the pieces I'd made and the gallery owner asked me for more.

Bluetit. Machine embroidery on linen 2015

Nuthatch. Machine embroidery on linen 2015

Blackbird. Machine embroidery on linen 2015

I really enjoy making these pieces, it is like drawing with the sewing machine and I love the quality of line it produces. Because of this I had been continuing to make these portraits and so when I was asked for more pieces I already had several ready. In this post I thought I'd share a bit about the inspiration and stories behind the pieces.

Young hooded crow on the beach, Oban 2015

Hare in the grass, Islay 2015
Female Blackbird, Lake Carda, Italy 2015

The starting point is observing the birds, I've been interested in birds since I was a child and it's something that I've really started to get back into in the last few years. I am fascinated by them, their movement, their patterns, their characters. I do try and draw them 'from life' but because they are almost always on the move this is often difficult so the next step is to collect photographs and images and draw from these.

Sketching from life


Work stretched in an embroidery hoop

To create the embroidered pieces I first sketch out a rough outline on the linen using a fabric marker that disappears in air (usually after a few hours, depending on the fabric.) This helps me get the proportions correct because I only work on a section of the bird at a time as I need to keep the fabric stretched out in a frame to prevent it distorting too much.

Young Hooded Crow. Machine embroidery on linen 2015

Robin. Machine embroidery on linen 2015

Once I've drawn my rough outline I stretch the fabric in an embroidery hoop and start stitching, using a darning foot on the machine and with the feed dog lowered. It's a bit like drawing by moving your paper rather than your pencil. It's a bit odd at first but good once you get the hang of it. I like the fluidity of line this process can create (it's similar to my continuous line drawings) and for me the challenge is to capture the character of the bird without over working the piece. I often cut sections of stitching out and rework them until I am happy. One of the things I love about sewing is that if you don't like it you can just unpick it and start again! When the pieces are finished I press them and then mount them on cardboard mounts, ready for display.

Hare in the Grass. Machine embroidery on linen 2015

Hare detail

Several of the pieces I've created this time were inspired by our holiday on Islay. As well as lots of birds we saw lots of hares so I decided to branch out and have a go at a hare this time as well as birds. We'd seen a hare crouching in the grass just behind our cottage and I'd managed to get a quick photograph before he spotted us and bounded off and I used this as the starting point for my embroidery.

My piece featured in Cumbria Life's Gift Guide

My piece featured in Cumbria Life's Gift Guide

So, if my choice of birds sometimes seems a little odd it is usually just that I like to work with birds that I have seen and am familiar with. The nuthatch, for instance, we saw on a lovely walk in Gelt woods a few weeks ago. If you'd like to see these pieces 'in real life' then Gallery Artemis is a lovely place to visit. Yvette is very friendly and the gallery has a wide range of work by lots of talented artists and crafts people and there's always something new to see.