Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Life Drawing Session at CABAS April 2016

Continuous line

A few years ago I taught a Life Drawing session for Carlisle and Border Art Society. It was an interesting experience, with some of the participants keen to try new things and others less so! We also had a lot of people crammed into a very small room which made it very hard to get around. I was recently invited back to run another session which I was a little nervous about but also excited.

Working multiple sketches on a page

Working multiple sketches on a page

Working multiple sketches on a page

It was a much smaller group this time which made things a lot easier and everyone was willing to have a try at the exercises I suggested. I focused my session around the way I draw and the things that I think are important in life drawing; capturing the essence or 'spirit' of a pose or model, spontaneity and relaxation. As the group are all artists and some of them are excellent draughtspeople I didn't want to focus on the technical aspects of drawing the human body as this is not something I am particularly skilled in or knowledgeable about.

Drawing with my non dominant hand

Drawing with my non dominant hand

Drawing with my non dominant hand

I think my strengths lie in capturing what is in front of me by observing and recording quickly the shapes and forms of the model. I aim to capture the idea of the pose and hopefully something of the model themselves rather than to render an exact likeness. Drawing is a primal means of expression and a great way of making you properly look at things and those are for me the important elements of Life Drawing.

Blind Drawing

Blind Drawing

With this in mind I focused the session around lots of short poses. Working on shorter poses frees people up and takes off a lot of the pressure. There is physically only so much you can do in 2 or even 5 minutes so the pressure of producing a 'good' finished drawing is removed. The focus is on capturing the basics, which is of course always the best place to start!

Continuous line

Continuous line

Continuous line

I also asked the participants to challenge themselves to draw in different ways, including working without looking at the page (I call this blind drawing,) working with a continuous line and working with the non dominant hand. All of these exercises are designed to free people's drawing up, to take away the pressure of producing something 'perfect' and accurate (because who can do that with their non dominant hand or without looking?) and to to allow them to just draw and really look at what they're drawing. The focus shifts onto observation and allows us to bypass that nagging voice inside our heads that says "that's not right, that's rubbish, you can't draw." I found it was really interesting that several of the participants found they preferred their drawings done with their non dominant hand, the drawings were more free and gave a better idea of the pose even if they were less technically accurate.

Left handed drawings

Continuous line

Continuous line

I really enjoyed the session, I am a lot more confident in my own work and in running sessions than I was last time I ran a session for this group. That helped me run a better session and hopefully gave people something to take away and develop in their own practices. Credit is also due to my model who had really thought about which poses would be good and created some interesting and challenging poses for us to work from.

Continuous line

Continuous line

Continuous line

Continuous line

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Banner Making Workshop

One of my sample pieces for the workshop

This weekend I ran another textile workshop at Tullie House. This one was entitled 'Textile Banners, and it was a really lovely session. Most of the participants had done one or more of my workshops in the past which was great because it meant I already knew a little bit about most of them so could more easily offer suggestions suited to them and it also is a very nice confidence boost; I must be doing something right if people want to come back for more!

Choosing fabrics

Choosing fabrics

Choosing fabrics

I love running workshops, I find them a really satisfying and enjoyable part of my work. I get to do something I love and to share my interest and skills with other people. I think my favourite thing about running workshops is when I'm able to inspire people and help them achieve those mini eureka moments, whether it's mastering a certain stitch, completing something or finding the perfect technique or material for a piece. I was very gratified today as one of the participants bought a beautiful owl piece in she'd made inspired by my 'Embellishing Printed Textiles' workshop, I was also pleased to hear that other participants from that workshop had been really inspired to keep working with some of the techniques I'd shown them.

Adding stitch and developing designs

Adding stitch and developing designs

Adding stitch and developing designs

I sometimes (often) worry that I  don't 'do' enough during some of my workshops but with certain things, particularly hand stitch, I think it's really important to just have time to work on things without being constantly bombarded with information. I try to strike a balance between showing new techniques and giving people the opportunity, time and space to be creative and find their own path. I'm sure I don't always get it spot on but I think in our busy lives it's important to take time to work slowly, with our hands and to just try things and see what happens. As one of my participants today said "I'm just here to play, I'm too old to take it too seriously." Whilst I contest the too old part I think the part about not taking it too seriously and allowing ourselves to play is very important.

Adding stitch and developing designs

Adding stitch and developing designs

Adding stitch and developing designs

With this in mind I worked on a mini banner of my own today which I used for demonstrating techniques but also as an opportunity to play. I used fabrics and threads that I might not use in my 'proper' work but one of the things I am learning is that everything is connected. So, whilst I might not count this as a 'proper' piece of work there will be something in it that will feed into another piece. Often these play pieces allow me to make discoveries, sometimes big sometimes small, that will allow me to take my practice forward. They also offer me an opportunity to do something I love and that in itself, I believe, is very important.

Adding stitch and developing designs
My example/play piece


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Somme 100: Poppy Patterns

Work in progress on patterns

I love the diversity of my work, I love the different opportunities that come my way and the chance to work with lots of different organisations on different projects. I have just finished designing two patterns for Cumbria's Museum of Military Life, which records the history of Cumbria's County Infantry Regiment. The patterns I have designed are a knitted poppy and a crocheted poppy.

Working on the train: Trying different shapes

The patterns are available on the museums website and are part of a larger project commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. The aim of this part of the project is to create a knitted or crocheted poppy for each soldier of the Border Regiment who died during the Somme. The poppies will be displayed from the windows of the museum building, each month more poppies will be added to the display, corresponding with the number of men who died that month in the Somme 100 years ago.

Knitted Poppy

Detail

In total the museum are aiming to make 1700 poppies. It is very difficult to know exactly how many people died and when they died. A soldier may have been injured during the battle and died from his wounds many weeks or even months later. There were also of course other Cumbrian's not in the Border regiment who died in the Somme but in order for the project to work there has to be some parameters. I hope that rather than getting caught up in agonising over exact numbers people will recognise that a huge number of individuals lost their lives and each of those lives was significant and this project commemorates them all.

Crocheted Poppy

Creating these patterns was surprisingly challenging, not because they were difficult to make but because part of the brief was to make the patterns accessible to beginners. I spent a lot of time stitching and un-stitching trying to get a shape that worked but that would be easy to re-create. Hopefully I've managed that but we will see! As part of my efforts to keep the pattern simple I chose to use the stylised shape of the poppy used by the British Legion.

If you'd like to get involved with the project please contact the museum, there are a lot of poppies to make!

Friday, 1 April 2016

The Seven Stories: Response Work

Wild Carlisle by Carleton Day Centre Art Group, 2016

One of the big projects I was involved with for Prism Arts last year was the Seven Stories project. We hung the main exhibition in Carlisle Library in November last year and then at the beginning of this year we went back to the groups we'd worked with to create response work to the exhibition. I went back to the Carleton Art Group and had a great time working with them to create their response piece. 

Design

Felt making

Felt making

I've worked with this group for nearly five years now and we know each other well and this means that there is a lot of trust and understanding. My role has developed from more of a teaching role to more of a mentoring role. Through the work myself and other artists have done with the group they have developed in both confidence and skill and are able to lead their own projects much more. Seeing this development is really exciting and it's great to be part of. When I go in to work with this group I'm always excited to hear their ideas and see how far they've come. 

Felt making

Felt making

Felt making

Having created 'The Book of Carlisle' for the Seven Stories project the group were keen to carry on exploring some of the ideas they'd been looking at. Seeing the work alongside that of the other participants at Carlisle Library helped the group realise how important environment, place and nature is to them.

3D Felt making

3D Felt making

3D Felt making

3D Felt making

This led the group to decide to further explore felt making, a technique we have worked with on several projects, and to work with a theme of animals in the environment. The group created a collection of 3D felt animals and a series of flat felt environments for the animals to live in. These elements were then brought together in a form that echoed the shape of the book they'd created. The new work has been added in to the exhibition in the library and will be on display until the end of April.

Making rabbits

Making rabbits

Making rabbits

As a group they are becoming skilled at creating individual elements that they then combine together to create a unified single installation. I really like this way of working as it means each individual is able to develop their particular interests and skills but are also still part of something bigger. I love seeing all the different elements come together and seeing how they inspire and support each other. The group are at a really interesting stage because although I still feed in ideas and make suggestions the main drive comes from them and they have the confidence and experience now to say what they want to do and how. 

Exhibition View

Exhibition View

Exhibition View

Exhibition View
One member of the group in particular has come on in leaps and bounds and being part of this is very rewarding. For this project she had a very clear idea of what she wanted to make (rabbits!) and with minimal guidance and help from me she worked really hard to create a beautiful and quirky set of characters that I would really like to kidnap. I'm working with the group again later in the year and am really excited about what they'll choose to explore.

Rabbits!

Rabbits!

Rabbits!

Rabbits!