Friday, 17 November 2017

Contemporary Painting Studio Week 6

Rather than 'train stitching' , on the way  to class at City Lit I was updating my sketchbook/notebook and had prepared a 'to do' list  of what I wanted to achieve. This  meant I was already prepared for filling in the mid-course progress review form for the second half of the course. 

After putting a coat of white acrylic  over the newspaper collage I did last week. I put some  transparent colour glazes( with W&N paints and Golden soft gel)  over the collages I'd primed with PVA . I used raw sienna , burnt umber and a grey mixed with burnt umber and ultramarine. I could have done with using less of the gel, they're a bit shiny but then so are the bits of magazine and I'm loving the retention of brushmarks with this technique.  

Another task I'd listed  was to look at the marks and colours in the collages and see if I could replicate those effects in paint ( a lot harder than it looks!)
Over coffee there was discussions about  pro's /cons of doing a practice based MA .  During  my mentoring  session Christine had suggested I   would benefit from this in tackling larger projects , lateral thinking and networking but I wasn't sure I was ready  for  such a big commitment , particularly that would  I put myself under too much stress  with my tendency towards   unachievable high standards! 
Gave me food for thought though. 
After lunch we had a look at  a selection  of the artists that  we'd  each  identified  as being of interest/influence/ inspiration in our work ( some of whom were new to me) 
Henrietta Hoyer -Millar ( at Lang and Ryle) 
Basquiat ( Barbican ) for fluidity, composition , text as part of image
Erik Foss - brushstrokes 
Pierre Soulages  ( my choice) black , colour showing through brushmarks ( led onto comparison with Robert Motherwell
Kaye Donachie ( Maureen Paley Gallery) Led onto discussion about visiting galleries - search for what's on using 'Art Rabbit'
Jasper Johns ( Royal Academy) I  still haven't got to this  exhibition despite it being  one of the reasons I became a  member as I was so inspired by his work at the  BM print exhibition 

I'd  primed several section of old quilts with gesso during the week , and had bought a couple in  with me to  use as backgrounds in paintings. 
However reviewing progress with Lucinda and looking at results from the mornings work including the  now dry painted newspaper collage ( below) I was going to work on , once  composition format proportions were taken into account, I really wouldn't be working much bigger than  my original  paintings! 

So she  brought  me  a roll of 150cm width paper  and with some help ( it kept curling up) taped a large piece to the  screen easel .
A stepladder , a copy of the Metro and a lot of PVA   were required.
I was  last to pack up but thanks to a borrowed hairdryer , it was dry enough to roll up again ready for painting next week! 

Afterwards  I headed to Westminster Reference Library to pick up my copy of 'What is Art', catch up with some friends I hadn't seen for a long time  and hear a fascinating talk  from the book's author Robert Good on how it came into being.
I was chortling to myself  reading it on the train coming home but that might have been the wine at the reception not to mention the mulled wine at Cass Arts where I stocked up with  2 inch masking tape in their Xmas sale.... 

Monday, 13 November 2017

Contemporary Painting Studio Week 5

Week 5 of Contemporary Painting Studio  started  with  a  structured peer review session   looking at each others work : project  development  and experimentation processes;  paint application methods.  
I was paired up with someone   with a very different  style  to mine ( process driven,  painting in oils,  responding to the surface ,  diving straight in without a great deal of preliminary planning). Quite a contrast to my 4 weeks  of developing ideas - she couldn't comment on my painting methods as I hadn't really done any!
I'd already written on my  review sheet ' halfway through, get painting!!'  so I did.
I started by  having a go at the techniques that Amanda had demonstrated the previous week : priming a sheet of paper with diluted PVA and layering  glazes of transparent  paint mixed with various acrylic media. I brought my own Winsor and Newton professional paints in as  they were truly transparent  and some unopened Golden  mediums  I got in a set years ago. I  began quite systematically  but then when some accidents  started to happen  ( dribbles and bubbles - perhaps due to a brush not being properly washed?)  I got a bit carried away seeing how far I could push the layering.  I confess I got a bit giddy using colour after so  many weeks of  monochromes and neutrals.

After lunch I returned to working with a more sombre palette,  mixing greys to match the colours in the collages I'd chosen to work with ( without using black).
In this case I'd printed a copy of the collage onto t shirt transfer paper and ironed it onto some primed canvas  and   worked outwards  trying to replicate the marks.

 Still a work in progress, trying hard to work slowly to retain the freshness of the collage.

This collage again was printed on t-shirt transfer paper but applied to a painted canvas.

 I can see I've already overdone it  but have made some copies I'm trying different things with  to see if I can rectify it.
 I discussed with Lucinda some of the outcomes from my mentoring session with   Christine that were relevant to  painting particularly use of collage, moving into abstraction  and scaling up. The painting above is only A3 and I've currently only  worked up to A2 in size.
Lucinda  suggested I build up to at least 1m ( they have paper on a roll) , taking advantage of  the large screen easel I have. 
Our 'tea break' in the afternoon consisted of Prosecco and cake ( it was several peoples birthdays)  and looking at our preliminary work hung in the corridor of floor 3 (it's on for another week)  
I finished off making up another sheet of collaged newspapers  as backgrounds for the following week - A1  this time!

Friday, 10 November 2017

On Being Mentored

2 weeks ago I was heading down to Eastbourne ( along with  thousands  of  of runners taking part in the Beachy Head Marathon/ 10K !)  for my mentoring session with Christine Chester at Studio 11.
I'd discussed  the possibility when I'd been there  for the excellent course with Alice Fox in June.
But after winning Fine Art Quilt Masters, booking onto the programme was the first thing I did when I got home , to help  me work out what to do next.

There was a lot of preparatory work:  a detailed questionnaire  on  ambitions, barriers to success , strengths and weaknesses, time available and  other relevant information;  'Pinterest' pinboards of an 'e-portfolio'   showcasing representative examples of my  work and of inspirations ( I did separate ones for art and textiles). This ' homework' in itself was a very useful process, to clarify  what was most important to me, what direction I wanted to pursue  and sadly what I was beginning to  acknowledge I had to let go in order to realise these.

In order to fit me in her  packed teaching schedule, we'd agreed that the tutorial session would be on the Saturday evening  after the 'Wild about Colour' course  had finished for the day before Strictly (  we're both fans, have to get priorities right!)

As I was free during the day, I  went to Worthing , about an hour by train,  to see the first exhibition by ' Curious Threads' , an interesting show in a lovely bright venue,  and then found some wonderfully weathered wooden breakwaters on the beach afterwards. A perfect day out ! 

I turned up at  Studio 11 as the class was packing up  to lay out the quilts I'd brought with me which along with the e-portfolio provided the basis of our initial discussions. 
Aside  from 'Birchington Breakwaters' and ' Eroding Margins' ( which I couldn't bring as they're currently on tour) , the pieces I like most  and represent the direction I wish to explore further are 'Red Flotsam' and 'Red Remnants'.  Red Flotsam in particular with its move towards abstraction ( I had help from the 'Quilt Doctors'!) , it's combination of direct painting  with acrylics and  monoprints  , repurposing an  old quilt  and the use of handstitch sum up all that I love best. 
I had a bit of an epiphany while doing the paper collage for Contemporary Painting Studio, that many of my textile pieces involve collaging fabrics. One of  Christine's suggestions was to  use this technique more as a design tool  for helping with abstraction and scaling up along with  mind-mapping to assist in developing more  abstract concepts.  

The mentoring programme  includes 2 days access to a print bench  and all materials and  equipment  so I  came prepared for monoprinting on acetate sheet using acrylics . I also brought my Gelli plate which I hadn't used since Rydal 2015 (  Christine also  had one available  but I didn't use it as it was the same size as mine) . Although I  have my painting easel in the 'kitchen studio' ,  I don't  have such good facilities  for wet work/printing as the conservatory in our previous house.

On the Sunday , the second session of ' Wild about Colour' was going on   so I was able to  watch  and hear  about what the participants were up to as well as getting on with some printing, mainly using blacks. It was useful to compare the acetate sheet with the Gelli Plate. Although you get very fine  subtle marks with the Gelli, particularly  in the 'ghost prints' of threads and feathers, and the build -up of paints and marks, its' much more of a  pain to clean and the size is limiting. 

On  the Monday , it was just me and Christine  and we spent the morning companionably , Christine making up dyes while I expanded over 5 print benches(!!!)  with monoprints  , colour matched with the red in 'Birchington Breakwaters'

I used the time profitably in a 'what if' session , observing marks made , exploring possibilities of  different fabrics and layering them, taking one idea and seeing how far I could push it.
In the afternoon  , we reviewed what I'd produced ( 65 monoprints!)  and talked about how I  could use them , making copies in paper  at quarter scale to work out compositions to generate ideas that could be scaled  up,  and the importance of  having bolder larger scale marks. 
  Appropriately ,I'd seen some giant scale mark-making on the beach that morning made by several large yellow earth-movers working on the sea defences! 

Most of the afternoon  however was spent in ' full and frank debate' about my work practices:   developing a professional approach , ideas about building a supportive network, reviewing and rebuilding my website as part of capitalising  on my 'brand' . This week I received  a detailed   summary and action plan based on our discussions and have a much clearer idea of  how to move forward. There will be a follow-up Skype discussion  about my progress in March. 

I enjoyed working with Christine very much. It was tough at times but  because I was prepared to be honest and open to ideas and a fresh approach I really benefited from the mentoring process. I appreciated Christine's insight  and felt privileged that she shared examples from her own experience and practice in response to my questions. Now it's up to me.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Contemporary Painting Studio Week 4

Last week in Contemporary Painting Studio, Amanda Knight  was the tutor in the morning and gave us a fascinating and informative whistlestop tour through  acrylic and oil mediums , particularly for glazing.   Most of the group paint in oils  so that is what she concentrated on  but she gave an interesting  demonstration of the luminosity of using glazes of transparent colour in acrylics  rather than mixing colours ( a bit like watercolour but more so! ) . She  mentioned the work of Mali Morris ( examples above)  who currently has an exhibition at the Fold Gallery -  definately one I hope to see before it closes, her work looks so joyful.  

 There  wasn't much time  left to do much before lunch - I'd made some B&W copies of my collages  and stuck them on a piece of paper and started to work into them with white, already looking interesting  as they are more integrated with the background.  In the afternoon we were choosing preliminary work and sketches  to  go in the display cases on the 3rd floor   so this with some of the original collages  is what went in.

I've got into using up leftover paint on  a sheet of paper, working with a credit card, I've now got quite a stash of  painted papers for backgrounds or to tear up for collage. This time I did an monoprint as well ( above) . I'd  spent my benchtime while at Studio 11 in Eastbourne doing monoprints on fabric ( 65 of them!) so I was still in the ' what if' zone. 

These are a taster of what I produced there  using acrylics and an acetate sheet ( above) and a Gelli plate (below) . I spent my coffee break photocopying some of the  better ones for  use in collage and after talking to Michelle Dow yesterday am going to do some more , varying the scale. 

 In preparation for tomorrow's class  I've been playing with images of some of  the sketches, paintings and collages in Photoshop
This is the top of the painting I did in week 2 ( above)    and with 'invert' filter below. I like how the newspaper text beneath the paint shows through

 Last Friday I  did some printing on fabric  and t-shirt transfer   sheets and today I bondawebbed the fabric ones onto pieces of old linen tablecloth ( I'll stitch into these for Journal Quilts) and conscious that  I've yet to do much painting (!), ironed  photo transfers onto primed  and painted canvas
(I had good success with this technique on Advanced Painting course last year)

 While waiting for the BT telephone engineer ( we've had no incoming calls since Saturday although outgoing and broadband were fine ) , I started to look through some of my art books for examples of collaged work .
The acrylic collage pieces by Anthony Whishaw struck a chord  - his work has often been my favourites at the RA Summer Exhibition ( which is why I requested his monograph as a Xmas present )

And coming full circle in this post, his  painting ' Espot' of transparent acrylic glazes !

UPDATE on 'The Big Draw  Selfie' , the animation has now been posted on the City Lit Blog . My drawing is  the glasses towards the end !

Drawing Tuesday: Ancient Cyprus gallery at British Museum

Sketching Tuesday at the British Museum  was in Room 72 ( Ancient Cyprus) . I  started by drawing the curvy terracotta votive figures ( 'Goddesses or Mortals?')  but then was fascinated by the backs of the statues   seen through the cabinet. At the end of the session I went to have a closer look .  I loved the chisel marks of the rough backs contrasted with the smooth, more finely worked fronts and the negative space between.  You could also see the reflections of their faces in the glass, very eerie but I know my limitations!  I did try to put into practice  what I'd learnt about drawing sculptures from the excellent British museum drawing course I went on last year( examples conveniently  at the front of my sketchbook!)

Monday, 6 November 2017

The Sleep Quilt: Fine Cell Work and Tracy Chevalier

 The Sleep Quilt , published by Pallas Athene  books  on 31 October 2017  is a collaboration between author Tracy Chevalier and charity 'Fine Cell Work' .    All royalties from the book will go to Fine Cell Work.    Until 16 November 2017, it is being crowdfunded through Kickstarter,  with additional benefits available 

One of my favourite quilts at the Festival of Quilts this year was 'Two Man Cell'  by HMP Bullingdon Boys. An amazing structure, all hand stitched with attention to detail and interesting perspective, it was  incredibly moving being a collaboration between Fine Cell Work tutors  and prisoners,  making an accurate , life size depiction of a 2 man cell in a modern British prison.

Fine Cell Work enables prisoners to build fulfilling and crime-free lives by training them to do high quality , skilled , creative needlework  undertaken in the long hours spent in their cells to foster hope, discipline and self esteem. The aim is to allow them to finish their sentences with work skills, money earned and saved, and the self-belief to not re-offend.

Currently working in 32 British prisons, and engaging with over 500 prisoners each year, Fine Cell Work addresses key issues affecting prisoners’ offending behaviours: establishment and reinforcement of work skills, building relationships, and mental resilience.
Prisoners are taught by experienced volunteers and staff to work in their cells and in prison workshops. Having the opportunity to work independently helps them to regain control of their lives and allows them to maintain dignity. It also helps them establish a work ethic, and allows them to send money to their families or save for their release.

In 2010 inmates at HMP Wandsworth  made a  moving quilt about life inside for 'Quilts 1700- 2010 Hidden Histories, Untold Stories"  at the  V&A acquired for their collections with support  from Friends of V&A 

The  Sleep Quilt was commissioned by Tracy Chevalier  for exhibition 'Things we do in bed'   at Danson House  in 2014. 
It consists of 63 panels, each one designed and made by a prisoner and expressing feelings and emotions about sleep – a difficult issue in prison. The panels were then sewn together and hand quilted, also by prisoners. It was not only a rare chance for inmates to express something of their lives, but also a chance for them to work collectively.

In the book each panel is featured full-page, and there are also many close-ups of the wonderful stitching  and details. Some of the prisoners have added written explanations of their designs.
The introduction is by Tracy Chevalier  and explains how the quilt came about and the feelings it arouses. Katy Emck, the director of Fine Cell Work contributes an essay on the charity and what it does, and there are quotations from prisoners explaining what Fine Cell Work has meant to them and how their lives have been turned around by learning the skills of stitching and quilting.  

One of the 63 panels: Dreams, My Only Escape

I've been carrying around  an advance copy for several weeks now  (it's a nice size  to fit in the sewing bag I take on the train)  and have found reading it a very moving experience. Sleep  is   a universal need  but it  was a real eye-opener realising   how difficult it was for  most of them, the contrast between those who could escape through dreams  and those  couldn't sleep and who succumbed to  despair, feelings of shame . Their interpretations in stitch  were varied but expressive. 

Tracy in her introduction talks  of the unseen layers of  a quilt : the physical and emotional layers of the quilt , the history of the maker absorbed in the making, particularly with hand-made quilts which may take a long time to complete. 
I do a lot of hand stitching myself  ,I find the process calming and therapeutic  as I'm sure many of the prisoners involved do too .  In repurposing old quilts,  I  respect and try to work with the marks of  the original  , unknown, sewer. In many of the squares beautifully illustrated in this book, I get  a strong sense of the  maker, not just   the subject  but the decisions about  colour choices, techniques, how it was stitched, the time involved. A collaborative  project but very much  about individual stories.

A panel and its story: another spread from the book

Two of the Sleep Quilt panels: a double page spread from the book

Fine Cell Work’s mission is to train prisoners in creative, commercial craftwork so they re-enter society with the self-belief and independence to lead fulfilling and crime-free lives. I encourage you to buy this book ( and for your friends)   to help support the running of the  Fine Cell Work Hub , the charity’s London-based crafts training studio for ex-offenders, to meet workers’ needs for post-prison support in order to translate their textile skills into real employment.