Sunday, 28 February 2016

Fabulous Frottage and Beautiful Birds

This post was written late last year, I was hoping to get some pictures of the finished display but haven't been able to yet and I want to move this out of my 'drafts' list!

Beautiful collaged birds

It's always nice to be asked back to places and so I was very pleased when Stoneraise School contacted me to ask if I would come and work with them again. Last year I did a felt making session with some of Key Stage 1 which was a lot of fun. This year I was asked if I could work with all the KS1 children to create a display in the school. I worked with Years 1 and 2 in the morning and Reception in the afternoon. The difference between the two groups was very noticeable, although both groups produced some fabulous work the level of concentration and dexterity was quite marked.

Experimenting with frottage

Experimenting with frottage

Experimenting with frottage

After some thinking and plotting I decided that a display of birds would be good, probably largely influenced by my own obsession! I wanted to give the children the chance to experiment with media and techniques in ways they maybe wouldn't usually and I wanted to produce a project that all the students could participate in and create something they would be proud of. This lead me to create quite a simple frottage and collage project that would allow the children to explore colour and texture using familiar materials in a different way. Using basic materials (sugar paper, card and wax crayons) the aim was to create an exciting display the children would enjoy making.

Creating feathers from our frottage

Creating feathers from our frottage

Creating feathers from our frottage

In an ideal world where budgets are not so tight I would have liked to work with the children to create their own drawings of birds to collage but as time and resources were limited I decided to create a couple of bird templates for the children to use. The first step was to look at texture, I introduced the students to the idea of creating texture on paper using frottage and set them off to explore their classroom and find different surfaces to take rubbings from. I asked the children to create at least two sugar paper sheets full of rubbings and to think about what colour crayon to use on their chosen colour of paper. After some initial hesitation the class was soon full of children taking rubbings from every available surface and proudly sharing their findings.

Collaging the feathers on

Collaging the feathers on

Collaging the feathers on

The next part of the project involved making a bit of a mess and so was one of my favourite bits! I asked the students to rip their pieces of frottaged paper into small pieces to make feathers for their birds. For some of the children this was really difficult. They didn't, understandably, want to destroy what they'd spent time and energy making. With a bit of reassurance and encouragement, however, all the children created a pile of 'feathers' ready for the next stage.


Collaging the feathers on

Collaging the feathers on

Having created the 'feathers' for their birds I next asked them to choose a template, I'd prepared a sitting bird and a flying bird expecting that  most of them would go for the flying bird. I was surprised how many went for the sitting bird but pleased as I thought it would help balance the finished display. I then demonstrated how we could use our bits of paper to build up layers of feathers, just like on a real bird, and set them to work covering their templates.

My samples

Sitting bird sample

For almost all my workshops I make and show samples and usually demonstrate as I go along, I've found it to be really helpful as often it is a lot easier to understand something if you can see it and hopefully participants find it quite inspiring.  Some practitioners prefer not to prepare examples as they do not want to overly influence the work of their participants and in certain settings I think this is a wise approach. However, I find in most cases participants respond better if they have something tangible as an example of what they might be aiming for and I find that with the right support and encouragement 'copying' is fairly limited.

Finished birds from the morning

Finished birds from the morning

Finished birds from the morning

Finished birds from the morning

Having covered their birds with their paper feathers I then unleashed the wiggly eyes and dyed feathers for the children to finish off their birds with. I was so impressed with some of the finished birds and the concentration and effort some of the children put in was great to see. I always think it's a good sign when they all ask if they can take their work them home with them!

Finished birds from the afternoon

Finished birds from the afternoon

Another aspect of working in schools that I'm starting to develop more and more is giving the students the chance to see how being an artist works 'in real life.' I explained a little bit about my work both in terms of running workshops and the work I produce and it was a nice ego boost that when I went back into Years 1 and 2 to say goodbye at the end of the day they were looking at my website and talking about my work. There was also a very funny discussion with reception about whether I was a dead artist, like Van Gogh who they'd been studying, or an alive artist. Thank fully they did eventually decide I was alive! I really enjoyed this project, the staff were all very supportive and the children very enthusiastic so the day flew by (pun fully intended) and I think the finished work is a great reflection of the hard work that the students put in.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Life Drawing 9.6.16

Pen and scribbles

This session seemed to come around even quicker than usual, which in fact it did because rather than being the third Tuesday of the month it was the second. But even so, the weeks do seem to fly by! It was a very different session to last time, much quieter and slower (in a good way; relaxed slower not boring slower.)

Quick study

Sparse lines

Hand study

I find it very interesting how much the atmosphere depends on the people present. There were fewer of us and we did not have the students this time so the whole pace seemed more laid back. We did have another new face which was great, it helps keep us regulars a bit more on the ball when we have new people and therefore new approaches.

Multiple drawings of a pose

Multiple drawings of a pose

Multiple drawings of a pose

I felt really comfortable and confident with my drawing in this session. I think this was largely because I've been keeping up my daily drawing and trying to make a little time each day to do something creative and partly because our model is one of the models who has been with us from the very start. Working with people you know means there's less need to worry about their needs; I know that Nick will shout up if anything needs changing so I don't need to monitor things and anticipate things so much so can focus more on my drawing.

Working on getting the head right

Hand study

Hand study

Hand study

As well as my usual continuous line and 'blind' drawings I spent  bit of time this session focusing on using tone a bit more. I still worked with my trusty pens and a scribbly loose approach but I wanted to experiment with making my drawings a bit more solid. I enjoyed working this way although as I'm not as practised at it I felt less confident and clear about what I was doing. I quite like the results but I'm not sure they're as effective as my line drawings. Sometimes less is more!

Focusing on the face

Head study

Head study

I also continued my efforts to get better at heads and faces, I really do think I am making progress with this and am feeling more confident. I still prefer hands and feet but I feel more able to have a go at faces now without worrying that it's going to totally ruin the rest of my drawing!

'Blind' drawing

Continuous line

Page of sketches

The next session is Tuesday 15th March and I'm looking forward to it being a little bit different again...

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Bits and Pieces

In Circles, 2015. Currently on show at Upfront

We have made it through the first month of the year! Wind, snow and gale force winds have made it an interesting start but each day takes us closer to spring. I've had a good start to the new year with several new projects starting off, a piece of my work on show in the Upfront Gallery Open exhibition and a large textile piece finished. I've also been to two workshops and have been busy making, drawing and creating. I thought I'd do a little round up of some of the bits and pieces I've been up to...

My new spinning wheel!

Spinning (with helper)

Getting used to a different system

Having developed a new interest/obsession over the Christmas holidays I have spent the past few weeks trawling the interweb and ebay for a second hand spinning wheel. Having been outbid on several wheels I did eventually get one and it arrived this week. It's quite different to the wheel I learnt on as it is a double drive but I'm having fun figuring out how it all works. The spinning wheel was made by Haldane (who now make staircases, apparently) and is a lovely dark wood. I'm trying hard to get all my prep and planning work done quickly so I can get back to spinning!

My hand-spun, hand knitted cushion (front)


My hand-spun, hand knitted cushion (back)

My hand-spun, hand knitted cushion (detail)

I have also knitted up my first lot of hand-spun yarn. I've made a big cushion cover using plain old stocking stitch to show off the character of the yarn. I used all six skeins that I'd spun and it was interesting as I knitted them in order so that I could see the progression of my spinning. The first skein was very irregular with lots of odd lumps and bumps but by the time I reached the last skein it was much more even. It's lovely and squishy and it is very satisfying knowing that it's something I've not only knitted but have created the yarn for.

Daily Drawing

Daily Drawing

Daily Drawing

Most years one of my resolutions is to draw more and to keep up my daily drawing practice. I'm feeling quite pleased that, so far, I have actually managed to do that this year. I've been trying to spend a little bit of time in the studio each day. Even if it is only five or ten minutes I feel like it's a good habit to get into. I've also managed to finish a big textile piece that I'd been ignoring for some time, I'm now quite pleased with it and it's good to have it off my 'I really should work on that' list.

Circle scarf

Circle Scarf

Another of my resolutions is to use up some of my fabric stash before buying more. I'm doing less well with this as I went to a local fabric shop and ended up buying more fabric because they had such lovely prints. On the plus side I did then use this fabric plus some from my stash to make a couple of big circle scarves. They're made from fat quarters and are a nice way of mixing and matching prints. Plus, you can never have too many scarves...

Silk Painting

Silk Painting

Silk Painting

I've also had a go at weaving a hare from willow and silk painting (not at the same time.) But, I think that's enough for one post so I'm off to play with my spinning wheel...