Friday, 29 December 2017

Reviews and Resolutions

Mull of Galloway, my birthday weekend away this year

It's that time again to reflect and think about the year that's been and the one that's to come. I've just re-read my post from last year and it's interesting reading how I felt then compared to now and also what I remembered writing compared to what I did write. It was a positive post and after looking back on it I think that overall I've carried that positivity through 2017 and more or less stuck to my aims/resolutions.

Drawings from Inktober 2017

Drawings from Inktober 2017

Drawings from Inktober 2017

One of my aims was to prioritise my personal creativity and I think I've done that pretty well this year. I've taken part in several creative challenges over on Instagram including a 100 Days challenge (do a creative thing each day for 100 days), Inktober (an ink drawing everyday in October, following a series of prompts) and Make it Christmas (a different creative textile challenge each day in November.) These challenges help keep the focus on creativity, offer new perspectives (sometimes I hated the prompts but they made me think!) and give a good reason to do something everyday. I also found they encouraged me to try new things and helped me not to get stuck in a creative rut. Although I found it hard to keep going through the challenges I also found I missed them when I'd finished and it's very satisfying looking back and seeing the project as a whole. Yet another benefit is that it brings you into contact with other creative people and can spark some really interesting exchanges. I'm going to start off 2018 with another challenge, the 64 Million Artists creative challenge for January. Why not join me?

Felted vessel, made as a birthday present for a friend

Feathers collected on holiday

Beautiful big skies on Westray

I also had a good creative year with my personal practice, showing my work in an exhibition with Daniel Cooper entitled 'Sky High' at Farfiled Mill this autumn and being selected for the 'Draw the Line' exhibition at Surface Gallery, Nottigham in April. I've been experimenting with different media and developing ideas and techniques, including natural dyeing and paper making (inspired by running some paper making workshops for Prism Arts.) My exhibition 'As the Crow Flies' at RSPB Geltsdale which ended in the early part of this year was an important 'kickstarter' for me and helped give me the confidence I needed to move my work forward. I've also been writing about my work more here on my blog as I've got more confident and I've found that very satisfying and useful for reflection. I'm going to be exhibiting at RSPB Geltsdale again in 2018, this time with my partner Nick Robinson who'll be sharing some of his poems. I'm really looking forward to our show 'Wingspan' which will open on 25th February. I've started a newsletter too this year so if you want to keep up to date with my news and exhibitions the subscription link is just under my profile.

Natural Dyeing: Solar Dye jars

Exhibition poster

Work in progress

Like all years 2017 has had it's highs and lows; the last three months have been quite stressful and even more busy than usual. I've taken on a new role as Lead Visual Artist at Prism Arts which is really exciting and I'm enjoying it but it is also quite challenging and different, it's taking me a while to adjust! It also means that I'm 'properly' employed 4 days a week now, squeezing my already limited personal practice time even further. However, as with all things it's a question of balance and I'm confident that in 2018 I'll manage to tweak the balance a bit more effectively. I've run lots of interesting workshops this year including sessions at RSPB Geltsdale and the lovely Eden Workshop in Plumpton. I really love running workshops so part of my balancing act is ensuring I have time to run them and enjoy them.

Bird portraits workshop at RSPB Geltsdale

Machine Embroidery workshop at The Eden Workshop

Paper making workshop for Prism Arts Studio Theatre West Coast group

In last years post I wrote about the increasing importance of the natural world to my personal and professional life. This is something I've continued to recognise, embrace and enjoy. We had a great week up in the Orkney Isles in May which resulted in several pieces of work and which is still inspiring me, along with our other holidays and days out in the wilds. My garden has been a riot of colour this year and using the plants I've grown to dye with has been a very rewarding experience and something I want to continue to work with.

The river Caldew, near our house

Tufted ducks at Talkin Tarn

Beautiful moss at the Wood of Cree

My second aim for 2017 was to live a more local, kinder life. After the madness of 2016 politics I felt I had to withdraw from that world as it made me feel so useless, ineffective and upset. I decided to focus my energies on the things that I could change and on making sure my actions were positive. I haven't done anything especially amazing but I've tried to support local businesses, be conscious about what I'm buying and where/how it was produced and to above all be kind and considerate to everyone I've dealt with (I've definitely not managed that every time but I'm trying!) This is something I believe in very strongly and will continue to pursue; if we all make an effort to be thoughtful, considerate and kind we can create truly caring and inspiring communities. With that thought, I'd like to wish you all a very happy, peaceful, kind and productive New Year!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Life Drawing (sort of) 12.12.17

Continuous line drawing

I've had a bit of a rough week so when Life Drawing came around it was somewhere near the bottom of the list of things I wanted to do (curl up and go to sleep being near the top!) However, as the organiser and person with access to the building I thought I probably ought to show up and I knew from experience that once I got there and got going I'd enjoy it.

Blind drawing

Blind drawing

Continuous line drawing

I was expecting it to be a quieter session than normal as several people had contacted me to let me know they couldn't make it, which I always expect at this time of year. Once I got to the venue and had got set up and a few people had arrived I realised we had a bit of a problem, due to unforeseen circumstances the model couldn't make it so I had a Life Drawing session but no model. After a quick debate with those who'd arrived we agreed that we might as well stay and draw. We took it in turns to sit (fully clothed) and be drawn by each other. 

Continuous line drawing

Continuous line drawing

Continuous line drawing

It ended up being quite an entertaining session and as it was different to the usual set up it was interesting and threw up some different challenges. One thing I found really interesting was that I was particularly drawn to people's faces. Usually when I'm Life Drawing I focus on the body, especially the hands and feet but it was interesting that when drawing a clothed model I was more interested in the faces. 

Continuous line drawing

Blind drawing

Continuous line drawing

I'm not good at sitting still at the best of times so for me it was really hard to hold still when it was my turn to pose. I also found it very weird everyone looking at me, I'm used to being in front of people and talking and demonstrating but just sitting and people watching me I found quite uncomfortable. I'm glad I had my sketchbook and could do a bit of sketching too as I modelled! I've always been impressed with my models ability to hold poses and their professionalism but I think this session gave all of us an extra level of appreciation for them. I'm looking forward to January's session when things will be back to more or less normal!

Layers of sketches


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