Life in Layers

Firstly apologies for the prolonged silence here this month. Lots going on in the background both in life generally and on the art making front resulting in time running away with me somewhat and before I knew it July was looming and no posts had materialised. Anyway, to make up for it here are three pictures of a new series I have been working on inspired by the techniques and generous teachings of talented artist Emily Jo Gibbs at a recent West Dean College short course.

"hand stitched life drawing on silk organza"

“Catherine” layered silk organza and hand stitch

"hand stitched life drawing on layered silk organza"

“Georgie (2)” layered silk organza and hand stitch

"hand stitched life drawing on layered silk organza"

“Chris” hand stitch on layered silk organza

I will be dropping Georgie off at Eastleigh College later this week where she will be on display at the end of year show as work of past graduates.  Inviting back past students is a new thing for this annual event and I am really looking forward to seeing how the work of the three years worth of Stitched Textile Degree graduates has progressed since their degree shows.  Do have a look if you are in the area.

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Eastleigh College end of year show

So, lots of stuff going on here, mainly involving stitched life drawings of which I have more planned (there is a bit of a stick and prop theme coming through!). But for now it is back to the knitting needles and a commissioned fairisle sweater (“sweat” being the operative word in this summer weather).  Back soon……….

Warp Speed Ahead!

I couldn’t believe my luck when I noticed early this year that a Tapestry Weaving course with the lovely Caron Penney had been scheduled at West Dean College for my birthday week.  Well, it would have been rude not to so off I trundled armed with tapestry frames and images from recent life drawing sessions hoping to use Caron’s expertise to find a satisfactory way of interpreting the latter into the former in a way that made good use of the uniqueness and sensitivity that this particular medium has to offer.

"charcoal gesture drawing"

Charcoal gesture drawing

This warm up gesture drawing has been haunting me for a few weeks now but I hadn’t quite worked out what I was going to do with it.  I had considered knitting it but would have had to change the character of the image away from line to form.  Embroidery would have worked well but that would probably have been too close to the actual drawing so what would be the point? So weaving it had to be, but due to the enormity of the scale required to achieve the sensitivity of the line in a woven form for the whole image Caron suggested that I used a view finder over sections to see if anything took my fancy.  The result: a whole new body (no pun intended) of work is now planned!

"woven tapestry"

Woven tapestry

I managed to finish this first piece during the workshop and was pleased with how it came out. However, I think I will probably do another version, perhaps with a bit more blending to soften the lines a little. I also have some appropriately coloured mohair in my stash somewhere which might prove useful (but don’t tell Caron as I am sure this is probably cheating!). Frustratingly though, after warping up and starting the next image in the series, I have had to put the weaving on the back burner while I attend to more immediate commission and exhibition entry deadlines (oh and the small matter of the day job) but I am itching to get back to it. If only there were more hours in the day!

"Charcoal drawing enlarged on a photocopier"

Charcoal drawing enlarged on a photocopier

An unexpected positive to come out of this workshop for me was a realisation of the design potential of the good old fashioned photocopier. Not having used one of these beasts for more than 15 years and having only bad memories of paper tray jams and toner issues I think I might now be a regular at the local Rymans after discovering how wonderful charcoal lines on sugar paper look blown up. I am starting a coin collection as we speak for that very purpose.

What Valentines Day?

Despite my star sign (and for fear of being controversial, possibly my XX chromosomes!?) suggesting otherwise, I’m not the romantic in my marriage so February 14th didn’t really ring a bell when I booked a Saturday life drawing workshop at Peter Symonds college. Luckily, despite the long suffering husband having previously been diagnosed as “Romantic” during a style and image consultation, he also had some bike maintenance to do so was not terribly miffed at a Saturday home alone (actually alone would have been preferable to the reality of being left in charge of a hyperactive Weimaraner and a noisy Jack Russell but hey ho we can’t all get what we want for Valentines Day!)

Anyway over-commercialisation of folk traditions aside, I thought it would be really worthwhile to have a whole day to practice some of the skills and techniques we had been learning in our weekly class.  So, along with a friendly group of mixed life drawing experience, Andrea our lovely and hardworking model, and under the expert guidance of Michelle Buhl-Nielsen, a really indulgent and productive day was had.

The morning was spent limbering up using exercises to isolate gesture, mass and contour, giving me another opportunity to revisit our weekly sessions.  I rather liked this superimposed seated pose.

"seated life drawing"

Chalk mass drawing then graphite contour on top following a repeat of the pose

The afternoon was then spent on a long pose (probably three hours in total) so we could really meditate on our drawing. Michelle has been encouraging us to move out of our comfort zones and practice a way of working that perhaps isn’t instinctive for us.  So with this in mind, and after mapping out in pencil, I put down the graphite and picked up the dreaded watercolour tubes and much to my amazement thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was even pleased with the end result. Next time I might even commit at the outset and use watercolour paper!

"water colour supine nude"

Water colour on cartridge paper

I came away from the day thoroughly inspired and most excitingly with a few gesture drawings that are just shouting at me to be translated into textiles.  I have a few exhibitions to prep for and had been getting a little anxious as my usual habit of immersing myself in drawing until something jumped out at me hadn’t been forthcoming.  Now, with a sigh of relief, I can relax and start playing (once the current knitting commission is finished that is!).

"1 minute charcoal gesture drawings"

1 min charcoal gesture drawings

"1 min charcoal gesture drawings"

1 min charcoal gesture drawings

And the life drawing journey continues…….

A couple of posts ago I blogged about how much I was enjoying my new weekly Life Drawing class with fab tutor Michelle Buhl-Nielsen at Peter Symonds college in Winchester. After looking at gesture and form in the first few classes (see previous post) two weeks ago we started to look at contour, kicking off with my favourite exercise the blind contour drawing. Do give this a go if you’ve never tried it, you’ll love it!

"blind contour drawings"

Blind contour drawings (and no he wasn’t wearing a santa hat, not sure where that came from!)

I love the way these drawings confuse the human form but we can still clearly make out elements such as nose, feet, knees etc. When asked to draw the same pose again but this time looking at the paper, I was disappointed with the result and much preferred the energetic and playful blind version (although one lady in the class couldn’t work out which was which when she looked at my output!).

The next exercise saw us highlighting change in external contour using straight lines only.

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Luckily we had a mesomorphic male modelling for us during this session which really helped. I’m guessing a curvaceous female model would have been very difficult to interpret in this way!

Finally we started to look at cross contour.  This I found quite difficult and was pleased we revisited it during last week’s session where one of my colleagues had helpfully created an LED gadget which projected lines across the model.  I need one of these!

"cross contour in life drawing"

Beginning to explore cross contour

During the last class we also began to combine some of these elements by creating a watercolour form first (no line allowed) and then adding contour during a repeat of the pose.  Of course the model was unable to exactly replicate the position which resulted in a lovely displacement of the layers. This reminded me very much of how I approach my knitted life “paintings”, creating an intarsia form first and then adding embroidered and couched linear elements on top. I have also since used this idea with mono-printing (more of this in another post).

"seated life drawing in watercolour"

Watercolour layers: form and contour

This week’s class equipment list has now arrived in the inbox and it looks like it could be more development of this type of layered drawing as watercolours are again required.  So, I’m off to Hobbycraft to purchase some more watercolour paper and perhaps have a cheeky little coffee and cake while I’m there (well it would be rude not to!) Anyway, watch this space as I’m sure another update will be forthcoming in due course.