Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Life Drawing 25.4.17

Continuous line

The weeks whizz buy with alarming alacrity and here we are again at Life Drawing time! It was a much smaller group than last month and as always I found it interesting how the number of people and the character of people affects the atmosphere. This session had quite a calm, relaxed feel about it, with everyone quietly absorbed in their drawings.

Continuous line

Continuous line

Continuous line

Before we began the session one of the topics of conversation was about drawing with your left hand (if you're right handed) and whether doing this allows you to connect on a spiritual level; we know that drawing with your non dominant hand requires different neural pathways to be accessed but is there a deeper (or higher) connection too? There was much scepticism but it was an interesting point and lead me down other avenues of thought. I often think that one of the advantages a drawing always has over a photograph is the very obvious physical human input, now of course that doesn't have to mean there is 'soul' in it but often that word comes up when describing drawings, particularly of people.

Continuous line

Continuous line, left hand

Continuous line, left hand

As I was drawing I was pondering this spiritual link and whether I believed it or not and I was reminded of an online article I read fairly recently (I can't remember where) in which the author was explaining how a particular portrait embodied the fears and worries of the time it was produced in. In the comments section below there was quite a vitriolic discussion between those who agreed with the author and those who, to put it mildly, thought that a picture is a picture and to ascribe these other meanings was pretentious art speak. I should add that it was, certainly at first glance, a fairly standard portrait.

Continuous line

Continuous line

Continuous line

I was reminded of this article particularly as I'd just done a rather shaky, uncertain drawing which was a bit unusual as normally my drawings of this sessions model tend to be quite bold and strong. The way I feel definitely impacts how I draw and I wondered whether the drawing was a reflection of something bigger than just my personal feelings as I din't feel particularly stressed or unhappy during the session. There is no doubt that we live in uncertain times and I began thinking about whether that was coming through in my drawing. Of course, it could just be that I was tired and so less sure in my drawing but I really do think that when you draw you put a bit of your inner self onto the page. You may not choose to call it soul but I do believe that a drawing, or any other piece of art, tells you not only about its subject but about its maker and consequently their life and times.

Hand studies

Blind drawing


Friday, 7 April 2017

Blackbirds and Revelations

View of the Fells, torn and layered tracing paper and silver paper
Following my show 'As the Crow Flies' at RSPB Geltsdale I've been reflecting on my practice and what I want to achieve in the short and long term. Having my exhibition at Geltsdale has been a really positive experience right the way through from being asked to exhibit to taking the work down. Everyone at the centre has been very helpful and supportive and I love the gallery space with all it's quirks and beautiful sunny window.

Feather drawing and collage

Handmade Sketchbooks

Hand dyed fabrics and threads

Knowing that I had a space to fill helped me to focus and get working, providing the proverbial kick up the rear to get into my studio and get making rather than just thinking about it! It provided me with an incentive to work on ideas I'd been making notes about for ages and I was able to create a body of work that I was mostly happy with and that worked together.

Sketch of one of the birds in my garden

I was really pleased when I hung the exhibition with how it all came together, seeing my work in the space I was able to see how all the elements of my work complemented each other and I felt a strong sense of achievement. It was also a huge confidence boost and this combined with the lovely comments that were left in the visitors book have led to a renewed sense of belief in my work and fuelled my desire to carry on making and showing my work. I was made up that when I went to take the work down they said it had been one of their most popular exhibitions and they'd like me to exhibit there again when I have some new work. Selling several pieces of work was also a very big confidence boost and has put me in contact with some very lovely people.

A walk near Ivegil

A walk near Ivegil

Treasures collected on a walk near Ivegil

Since I put the exhibition up it's fair to say that I haven't made a huge amount of new work, partly because I've had some very busy periods with lots of other projects to organise and deliver and partly because I've been taking time to reflect. I've been doing quite a lot of bits and pieces in the studio but I haven't got stuck into a new body of work yet.

Views of my garden

Views of my garden

Views of my garden

I don't necessarily view this as a bad thing as one of the things I've been reflecting on is how to keep a good balance in my life. One of the ways to do this is to not push too hard at things and to do what I feel like doing. With this in mind I've been spending a lot of time outside gardening and bird-watching recently which I've really enjoyed and which is inspiring me. I'm confident that this inspiration will start to come out in my work even though I might not be sure quite how yet. Walking and being out and about in the environment feels like the right thing to be doing at the moment and ideas are starting to grow in my mind (and sketchbooks.)

Solar Dyeing

Solar Dyeing

Solar Dyeing

Actually, the influence of these apparently unrelated activities is already coming through as I've been experimenting with solar dyeing and have a series of jars full of fabrics and plant stuff sitting on various sunny windowsills! Hopefully these jars will provide me with interestingly coloured fabrics after a month or so and I will be able to incorporate them into my work. Everything is connected and the more I relax and follow my instincts the happier I am with my work. Not forcing myself into a particular way of working allows me to see the connections and explore them, hopefully leading somewhere interesting...

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Life Drawing 21.3.17


Continuous line drawing

Life Drawing always seems to come around very quickly but this time it really did as it was only three weeks since the last session. It was a busy evening, I had 12 artists so a bit of a squeeze but enough room for everyone and a good atmosphere. I asked our model to pose in the centre of the room so we had more space to draw and this also meant a variety of different angles for each pose.

Blind Drawing

Blind Drawing

Blind Drawing

Our model for the evening is a professional life model, he modelled for us quite a bit when I first started running the sessions but this was the first time he's been to our new(ish) venue. We had a range of excellent poses with lots of interest in them, such as twists and crossed limbs. Particularly with experienced models I rarely give much direction for poses as the model generally has much better ideas and certainly has a better idea of what they can hold for the allotted time.

Blind Drawing

Blind Drawing

Blind Drawing

I've had a really busy couple of weeks and haven't been doing as much drawing as I'd like so my focus for this evening was getting back into the 'drawing zone.' Almost all my drawing this evening were blind drawings, meaning that I didn't look at the page at all whilst drawing. I love this way of drawing as it forces you to really focus on what you're looking at and notice things that you may otherwise miss.

Multiple drawings on a page

Blind Drawing

Shading and notes

As regular readers know I like to try and change something or try something new each session I do so this time I was slowing down my line drawing. I generally draw very quickly, especially when doing blind drawings, but for this session I made a real effort to take more time and try and consider my lines more. I'm quite pleased with some of my slower drawings, especially my heads. This has been something I've been working to improve for a long time and although I still have a way to go I've definitely got better!

Continuous line drawings

Drawing over drawings

Continuous line drawings

Last time I did a more traditional pencil drawing with actual shading. I tried that again this evening but fairly quickly abandoned it as I realised that actually I don't really like shading, I like drawing with line and the challenge of creating form without using tone. It did, however, give me some ideas for teaching life drawing so next time I'm asked to teach a life drawing session I've got a few ideas up my sleeve...

Continuous line drawing

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Precious Leaves: Exhibition

Work in progress at Carleton Day Centre

I've been working on projects with the Wednesday Art Group at Carleton Day Centre for a number of years now and they're one of my favourite groups to work with. This group (which is a partnership project between Prism Arts and Carlisle Day Services) is comprised of adults with profound disabilities and their support staff I'm always inspired by the enthusiasm and hard work of this group. Over time their confidence and skills have developed hugely so it's always exciting going in and hearing their ideas.

Using water soluble fabric and small pieces of sheer fabrics to make 'sandwiches'

Using water soluble fabric and small pieces of sheer fabrics to make 'sandwiches'

Using water soluble fabric and small pieces of sheer fabrics to make 'sandwiches'
Over the past year they've been working with another of Prism Arts artist on some clay work. They used leaves to make impressions on the clay and then used these leaves to make decorative plaques and bowls. The group is very inspired by the natural world and in particular the wildlife and landscape of Cumbria.

Adding machine embroidery

Machine embroidery 

Dissolving the water soluble fabric

I was particularly impressed with the bowls and for the block of textiles work I was running with the group asked if they'd like to develop this work using machine embroidery and water soluble fabric. They were keen on this idea so we worked with a combination of sheer fabrics, water soluble fabric and embroidery to create a series of delicate bowls. This gave the group a chance to develop their existing skills as well as trying something new. One of the things I love about the bowls is how they change depending on the light, the shadows they cast are almost as beautiful as the bowls themselves.

Forming the bowl shape

Finished bowls

Finished bowl

A couple of the group then wanted to develop the bowl idea in more substantial fabrics and using hand stitch. We used felt (one person used handmade felt from a previous project and another used commercial felt) as a base and experimented with applying sheer fabric over the top and using a simple cut and wrap technique to form the shape of the bowls. They were then embellished with hand stitching. The bowls clearly relate to the smaller bowls whilst having a different character.

Applique and hand embroidery on felt

Applique and hand embroidery on felt

Applique and hand embroidery on felt

The group have exhibited their work a number of times for various projects, for example they have been part of Prism Arts C-Art exhibitions, have had a show at Carleton Day Centre (where they are based) and were part of a project with Tullie House, The Wetlands Trust and Prism Arts. Way back last April when we were planning what the group would do for the year it was very clear that exhibiting their work was a very important aspect of the project. I looked at different venues and approached Carlisle Archives who were happy to work with us.

Clay work on display at Carlisle Archive Centre

Work on display at Carlisle Archive Centre

Textile work on display at Carlisle Archive Centre

Previously when the group have exhibited the artists working with them have installed the work but showing at the archives gave the group the opportunity to come down and install the work themselves, an important development for them. We have used two of the archives display cases as the work on show is mostly 3D. Having the work in proper glass cases draws attention to and shows the value of the work created. We called the exhibition 'Precious Leaves' as the work created has a jewel like, precious quality and was inspired by leaves! The work is on show until the end of March so if you're in Carlisle please do pop into the archive centre and have a look. The group are already busy planning their next project!

Textile work on display at Carlisle Archive Centre

Beautiful shadows