Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Opened Books

Touched with Poetry, opened book, pastel on prepared book pages

I'm not sure what drives me to glue the pages of books together and then to draw on them but for the past few years that has been something that I have loved to do. Mostly I use the title as a theme and the glue pages together, gesso them and use a tinted ground so I can use it as a sketchbook.  I think doing this narrows the parameters of what I am looking at, and I love having an artifact that says something more than the pieces. Lately I have been trying to make pieces on the book pages that stand alone.

The most interesting part of this project may be that in some cases I have worked from drawings instead of from life which is something I find problematic.  Maybe it's the playful nature of the book surface, even if it takes a long time to create,  that helps me to 'let go?' 

The top pages are what I might do in an altered sketchbook, two drawings side by side that are related and work together (for me). The bottom image is a vista, a drawing made from drawings and photos taken while climbing a mountain in the lake district. 

I am trying to decide what to submit for the pastel society annual show.  I am feeling poor so will only choose a couple this year, entry is £18 per item! I can't make my mind up about whether to choose what  I do or the other thing I do… I will find it hard to sleep tonight even though whatever I do is bound to be not quite the right thing for the group of people in the room who select.

Fairfield and her Friends, opened book, pastel on prepared book pages

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

One More Summer

One More Summer, altered book pages with pastel, 19 x 27 cm
As I've kept reading Contemporary Drawing, I have been preparing surfaces to work on. I prepared about twenty panels with rabbit skin glue and gesso. I prepared book pages. I have worked bigger, smaller, roughe,r smoother. I love reading alongside working as I think a little more about choices I make in light of the text. 

In this, I glued pages together in a book I began altering ten years ago. It was no longer relevant and I didn't feel I needed to preserve the pages any longer.  I could imagine the name and some of the words on the page in a double page spread - it could be something relevant now, something intentional that would use the surface to say something more. I went through my sketchbooks and found a drawing that felt like the title then I found some photos from the area to change the composition and choose some specifics from.   The original drawing is vertical. I know this scene.  It is a windy day and the summer is ebbing so I was looking at the pastel and making choices from my memory mostly.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Using the Colour of Autumn for Seasons' Greetings

Fried Green Tomatoes, pastel on paper, 16.5 x 16.5 cm,October 2018
It's that time of year again when I need to send an image off for a christmas card. I had an idea to use red foliage but on walking around the property, discovered that we don't really have any.  I toyed with the idea of buying one of those bushes that turns flame red at this time of year...  I could plant it, I thought (after I gave it a haircut), but that seemed silly.  I  wondered about knocking on a neighbours door with my pruning shears at the ready, but that felt like procrastination. Instead  I gathered what we had and thought about how the shapes could create a different kind of arrangement. In the end I couldn't resist picking one of my roses, a daisy and a dahlia too. It was a confusing mish mash  that took more focus than ever to untangle.

I made a few changes to this image but it was too dark to photograph the final product, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Materials and surface

pastel on board 54 x 34 cm, Category Four, October 10, 2018

After what felt like a busy week, making Pauline's book cover, going to London twice and having a friend (and her mother) who I haven't seen in 30 years visit, everything was a bit on top of me.  To avoid feeling hysterical, or paralysed I started a weekly habit of thinking about what I need to do over the week and spent my first free evening making a book to put those lists in. Ah, the art of distraction!

After Charles' class, one of the things on my list was to read ( or probably re-read) a book on contemporary drawing my mother bought for me or our daughter. 

Much of what Charles said or hinted at or  maybe what I was thinking about as I went through his exercises is the focus of the book. I began taking notes…

Contemporary drawing:
Margaret Davidson, 2011

1.    ‘What the surface is determines the nature of the mark. Furthermore, a focus on both the surface and the mark and the relationship between the two is one of the hallmarks of contemporary drawing, and one of the most fundamental abstract issues drawing artists deal with.’ p 10
2.    ‘One distinguishing feature of contemporary drawing is the choice being made by some artists of the source of the mark-making.  Some artists let natural forces produce, or help produce their drawing marks.  Others look for cultural influences to map out or even control their mark-making. Many combine those two factors into a third realm of mark-making wherein they set up the parameters but cannot foresee the outcome… (these) contemporary choices add a significant layer of meaning to the drawings.’ P 10
3.    ‘The relationship between space and surface is a key thing, as well as the artists’ intentions with illusion and reality.’ P 10
4.    ‘Composition is a structure of one kind or another within which artists present their imagery and clarify their ideas.’  P. 10
5.    Scale – 3 points of view:‘how the scale relates to the artist, how the scale relates to the mark (which has to be quite different, depending on the size of the drawing), and how the scale relates to the viewer of the art, upon whom the impact is, maybe, the greatest.’ P. 11
6.    ‘the concept of materials (and tools)’ p. 11
7.    ‘some artists today are crossing media boundaries, making drawings that are also sculptures… if you find that following the direction the art is taking you means going outside the boundaries, well do it.  In the end, the boundaries don’t matter.’ P. 11
8.    Intentionality:  ‘must be learned, and then practiced on one’s own art, and when looking at other art.’ P. 11

So today when I began drawing, all of that was in my mind. I went through the usual stages of feeling overwhelmed, sick, disgusted and then slowly found my bearings. I think the image here is a little greyer than it is in the flesh. 

At one point when I thought it was garish and all was lost, I looked at Matisse for answers.  Seeing his riot of colour helped calm my nerves…

Below is my experiment using pigment mixed with pva and methyl cellulose in an altered book. I liked the freshness and it feels like the pigment will stick to the page!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Outcomes from Charles Williams' Workshop

The Human Stain I

Charles Williams' class was about drawing and thinking about drawing.  Why have people made the art they have and what role does drawing play in the paintings they make?  As you will recall, this is my biggest question! 

Charles went at the issue by showing us slides of artists who have different sets of values when they make their art. Charles described his own training and compared that with other artists and how that context can be a lens through which to look at their work.  

At the Royal Academy, Charles was taught to draw tonally. Our first exercise was to use only tone (no lines at all) to hone our perception of two or three ping pong balls on a surface.  My surface was a folded paper box on top of a stand. We had quite a long time, about 45 minutes, for this. I was working in an A4 sketchbook. I masked the edges and worked right up to them.  Although I was told not to focus on the composition I just couldn't help myself! This was not meant to be expressive.  It was meant to be objective.  Of course I was most interested in the expressive moments but I worked to refine and reassess the shapes. I love working tonally.  I find it almost therapeutic.
tonal drawing - no line

Next we made quick drawings responding to words.  This was not meant to be an illustration of the words but something else.  I found there was a lot of talking going on in my head as I worked on this.  Although it was intuitive I was curious how you make something feel riotous, or hidden without a gimmick. I was exploring ways of making marks to say something without reproducing an image... We could use any material and I introduced colour with the word 'lover'. 



The next reductive task was to use only dots to respond to the subsequent set of words. Drawing is always thoughtful but I found these exercises even more so. I don't like rules and I kept thinking that using recognisable forms might enhance the work because in using one strategy I felt as if one hand was tied behind my back, but I followed Charles' rules


The Human Stain II - A1

'The Human Stain' was the final exercise and I made two drawings in the 45 minutes.  The first was small and in my book (at top).  Charles wanted me to make something bigger next. I interpreted this task as a working and re-working that left a trace of my journey, across the paper and through the day. I was thinking more about the vocabulary of mark making and how to exploit it to create interest.  I kept turning the paper around and I'm not sure which way it goes, probably in the bin.