Memories of Dad (or who invented Father’s Day anyway?)

My inbox is currently inundated with companies trying to sell me stuff for Father’s Day (19 June). This has prompted me to share with you some drawings and memories of my wonderful Dad who has encouraged and inspired me in so many aspects of my creative and sporting life and who I sadly lost at the beginning of this month (and who adamantly refused to believe in Father’s Day on the basis that it was an invented celebration purely created for commercial purposes while still appreciating the card that I would send him anyway!).

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Dad on his wedding day in 1965 aged 27

 

A genetic predisposition to making stuff

Dad made stuff and while my art and textile interests are thought to come from my creative and talented Mum, I think Dad also played more than his part. Dad spent weekends in the garage creating amazing things such as the dolls house I was given for Christmas and which I treasured for many years, the go kart made out of pram wheels with a foot and string steering mechanism and a sibling powered motor, and the stilts on which the children of our cul-de-sac competed and broke records for number of widths, lengths and how many times you could go up and down the kerb.  My dining room table at home is referred to as the table of doom by my better half in reference to the vast quantity of drawing and painting materials, sketchbooks, needles and wool which cover its surface. It made me laugh the last time I visited my brother’s house to see his dining room table covered in bits of motorbike motor and bicycle. We can’t help it. Making stuff is in the genes!

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Dad, 1980 something (although he never was quite as robust as this picture suggests)

An athlete was born……

Dad taught me how to ride a bike (a skill which through the encouragement of my husband I later learned I was good at when I started competing locally and nationally in cycle time trialling). All three of us children went through the rite of passage progressing from trike, to stabilisers on a hand me down bike which was usually slightly too big for us (we’d grow into it) and then to Dad holding the saddle and running down the road behind us. Or was he?! When it was my turn, I remember getting to the bottom of the road, putting my feet down and turning around to see that Dad hadn’t moved and was standing grinning at me from outside number 3 where we had started from. From then on I could ride a bike and as the saying goes, I never forgot it.  Bicycles have played a major role in our lives both socially and practically from the hours spent cycling up and down outside the house with the other children on our road, to being our main source of transport and our ticket to independence as teenagers.  For me, cycling also became a competitive sport.  A similar thing happened with swimming. I remember running out to meet Dad who was bobbing up and down in the Devon waves one camping holiday and being told to “swim to me Nicky”. And I did, completely forgetting that I hadn’t put my arm bands on.

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Dad, 2011

Shine on you crazy diamond

Dad instilled in me very early on a passion for music. I was encouraged to play the piano for five years but never really got on with my teacher’s choice of music (classical or nothing) so fulfilled Dad’s prediction of “you’ll regret it if you give it up”. I continue to return to the piano from time to time and still dream of playing jazz. He went halves with me when I bought my first album, “Purple Rain” by Prince, another of my teenage heroes who sadly passed away this year. Dad had a really wide taste in music, with no genre excluded, and which thankfully I have inherited due to early exposure to jazz, classical, rock and blues. He told me I couldn’t sing but it never put me off. I can still sing whole albums that I haven’t heard since I was 15 (if only I could remember where I left my car keys or why I walked into a room) and as I have mentioned to you in previous posts, singing is a mood enhancing therapy that I have always resorted to in times of need and still use to this day. One of my greatest pleasures is attending live music and I am lucky to have a number of excellent venues within a three mile radius of my house which I frequent on a regular basis.  The music I associate most with my childhood and my Dad is that of Bowie, Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Kate Bush.

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Dad the last time I saw him

Always in my heart

During his final year of life Dad would often ask me when I telephoned if I was happy. He also told me regularly during these calls how much he enjoyed hearing my cheerful voice and to “keep cheerful”. The happiness of his children was so important to him and I think he needed to know that he had done a good job.  I was lucky enough to visit him in the last few days of his life and while he wasn’t aware I was there I was grateful to be able to spend some time drawing him as he slept.  Dad told us that you make your own luck in this world through hard work and perseverance. I agree with him up to one very important point. You have no control or say in who you are born to and we certainly lucked out on that one. Rest in peace Dad.  I couldn’t have asked for a better male role model in my life and I thank you for your unconditional love and support which have encouraged and inspired me to become the person I am today.

A new drawing language

I usually love the springtime, particularly April, and I think it has something to do with the preponderance of my favourite colour blue in all that is growing around me.

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Forget me not

I am lucky to live on a road where parking the car(s) is not given priority over the health and appearance of grass verges and front gardens and so we have a fabulous growing season including a couple of purposefully “wild” sections given over to bluebells, primroses, forget me nots and other wonderful splashes of colour. This combined with the abundance of blossom adorning the cherry trees that line the road makes this the prettiest time of year.

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The blossom isn’t blue but just look at that sky

However, this spring I have had sudden and unexpected sadness thrown at me during this usually happy and productive time of year and my senses, energy and Mojo have taken a hit as a consequence. Not usually one for deep analysis of my behavioural traits (for therein madness lies?) I am self aware enough to notice and do find it interesting that I tend to revert back to childhood hobbies and interests at times of unhappiness, namely singing loudly while dancing madly around the living room, and drawing, drawing, drawing.  While the first of these has its own benefits (and potential embarrassment if the neighbours are in at the time), the second has resulted in an unexpected positive as I may have accidentally stumbled on a drawing language that finally allows me to express my self in way that I am happy to identify with. So I thought it about time that I publicly declare my intentions and share with you, dear readers, my latest scribbles.

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Him indoors

Of course the long suffering husband was one of the first to experience my modified blind drawing approach over brunch in our favourite coffee shop one Saturday morning. A wonderful man with few vices he does have the annoying habit of being attached to his i phone (like so many others these days I fear) and often finds “checking his life” more entertaining than holding a conversation with his nearest and dearest whilst out. So left to entertain myself I decided to teach him a lesson on this occasion by sneaking out the sketchbook.  I rather liked the result.

Encouraged by these beginnings it didn’t take long to subject my other regular muses to similar treatment.

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Little Nelly Bell

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Wonky Sas

Various family members have also been immortalised in pen and watercolour pencil this month and this weekend I was brave enough to try out my new way of working in a life drawing session.

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Xanthe 

I am finding working in pen so liberating. No rubbing out and no sweating the small stuff. Put it on the paper and run with it. So what if you get a wonky picture. I am finding using a blind drawing technique is such a great way of getting totally absorbed in the subject without the distraction of looking at the paper and without the worry of whether I have got it right. I think I may be experimenting with this way of observing and recording for some time to come but for now I’ll leave you with a picture of a dear friend. Until next time……

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Southampton’s Ironman

 

 

 

Exhibition news and other stuff

Oops, it’s been a while. Spring has sprung, stuff is a-growing and those without lady dogs have probably already mown their lawn a few times (our back lawn doesn’t have much grass left on it these days due to the muddy craters created by piddling pooches).

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Spring has sprung

Last time I blogged I told you about the Canine Partners textile challenge and exhibition. I am delighted to report that both of my pieces sold, along with lots of other lovely work, making the event enough of a success for the charity that they are looking to hold another one. I’ll keep you posted…..

I also mentioned a rather exciting course I was doing throughout February with talented artist Este Macleod . Every day at 9am we logged in to a class room portal where we were given a creative task to do, based on the letters of the alphabet. I found some of these quite testing, which was my main reason for undertaking the course as I am usually more inclined to draw a literal representation of what is in front of me rather than exercise my imagination, but great fun and rather liberating.

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Faces created from letters of the alphabet

I particularly enjoyed the relief printing exercises using cardboard tubes (toilet roll innards but don’t tell the Health and Safety police ;-)), cosmetic sponges (never had any use for these before!) and Golden’s high flow acrylic ink.

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Relief print, acrylic ink on paper

And, as it happens one of the looming deadlines for me last month was the annual Printmakers Exhibition held at the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester so my experimentation with relief prints during this course was definitely time well spent and inspired the work I ended up submitting to the exhibition. It finishes on 3 April so if you are in the Chichester area there is still time to have a look.

I also spent much of February working on my submission to the Embroiderer’s Guild celebration of the 300th anniversary of Capability Brown. This was a new challenge for me as you will probably be aware that landscapes and gardens are not my usual subject matter. After a few false starts and a couple of knitting tangents (why is it that whenever I have an embroidery deadline I get a knitting itch and vice versa?) I created a piece of work based on Hydrangea Walk at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens where it will be on display in the exhibition room of Jermyn’s House at Hilliers with work from members of the Solent, Andover and Salisbury branches of the Guild from 11 April. It will also be at the Knitting and Stitching shows later in the year.

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“Hydrangea Walk” hand stitch, acrylic, pastel and fabric crayon on calico and vintage lace

And, the final exhibition I am excited to tell you about is taking place at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham, Hampshire from 10 to 30 April where I will be exhibiting my knitted life paintings and doggy heads. Talented textile artist Caroline Bell will also be exhibiting her work during this time. On the 10 April the centre is hosting a “Fabrics” celebration with workshops, stalls and demos from local textile artists and makers. I will be teaching a knitted jewellery workshop and also doing a demo of my work processes in the morning. It would be lovely to see you there.

I’ll leave you with my latest knitted life painting created for the exhibition at the Ashcroft Centre. Until next time…..

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“Private Dancer” hand knitted painting

Reflections (or blimey is that where I’ve come from!?)

Happy New Year blogland. It is pouring down outside (the poor Amazon delivery man just had to swim to our front door) and the rest of the household has gone back to bed leaving me with a bit of peace and quiet to compose. With the prospect of rejoining the real world tomorrow morning after two weeks of enjoying being a full time artist (albeit one full of traditional Christmas lurgy), I felt today should be one of contemplation and planning and what better way to engage in a bit of naval gazing than through a blog post.

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Hurrah For Gin sum up the Christmas cycle perfectly 

For many people the Christmas and New Year rituals include a cycle of overindulgence followed by confusion and an often unrealistic therefore short lived abstinence, promoted by various companies selling diet plans and gym memberships. However, as I have mentioned before I’ve given up trying to give up something (why would I try to stop doing something that is obviously giving me some form of comfort and pleasure otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it in the first place, right?) and instead use it as an opportunity for planning and review.

Now please don’t panic, I’m not going to subject you to the whole process but I thought it might be interesting to share with you something that has come out of it which you may find useful to do yourself (that’s if you don’t already do this, after all I’m always a bit late to the party with these things!)

Firstly, as you will be aware, 2015 was a year of going solo for me, a dip into the world of putting on my own exhibitions. So many learning points came out of these experiences and some I have already mentioned in previous posts, so I shan’t linger again. However, something relevant for this time of year did occur to me when I remembered the words of two people who both know me well and were brave enough to tell me after seeing my work up close and personal at the Open Studio how much my art work had come on in recent years.

Now for an obsessive creator who is continually striving to improve their work I am used to looking at my output with a critical eye asking such questions as what didn’t work? what should I have done differently? why is my work not as exciting as that of someone else I admire? etc etc. I am always looking forward and never consider where I have come from. It reminds me of a time when I was serious about running and I remember a particular coastal run where I felt useless and slow and came to a sobbing stop part way through. A male friend who was with me at the time physically turned me around to show me where I had just come from. It turned out that we had been running continuously up a very steep hill which the walkers on the trail behind us were struggling to do without taking numerous breaks on their way up. Needless to say I saw my endeavours that day from a different perspective.

As life drawing has been a continuous artistic discipline for me over the past few years it makes sense for me to use it as a measure of progress.

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Pencil on paper June 2013

At the time this picture of Elise was one of my better drawings from 2013. I might look at it in horror now but I still have a fondness for it as it inspired the first of my knitted paintings.

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Pencil on paper March 2014

I was definitely getting better a year later as this picture of Gilly shows, after a number of courses at West Dean College, a few terms at an Atelier and a particularly enlightening discussion with one tutor in particular about quality of line.

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White pencil on black paper October 2015

This drawing of Stone is my favourite from 2015. At last, after a few terms of weekly classes at a local college I feel that as well as developing the accuracy that the discipline requires I am now also starting to develop a style of drawing that I am happy with and reflects my identity.

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Pencil on paper January 2016

And after a couple of months off this was yesterday’s 25min drawing of Hilary which I am rather pleased with, particularly as it was done small scale in a sketchbook on my lap rather than with the luxury of an easel and board.

So, onwards and upwards dear reader. I am planning for 2016 to be another fun year of arty endeavours for me. However, while it is exciting and healthy to push forwards and strive for improvement in our work, I’ll leave you with the thought that sometimes we also need to step back and reflect on where we have come from. Here’s to a healthy, happy and creative new year for us all.

Flying Solo: Diary of an Open Studios Virgin

Saturday 22 August (day1): 

5am: OK, five hours sleep is probably enough and I still have so much to do. Where did I put that list of last minute labels I need to make and stuff I need to bring? I hope our do it yourself exhibition panels are still standing and I don’t arrive to a floor covered in expensive art glass. At least the weather looks good.

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It’s all still up!

10am: Thank goodness, the only things on the floor are the Please do not Touch notices. So much for removable sticky dots. Shouldn’t the removable bit come into its own after use, not during.  Good job I have a huge wad of Blue Tack as back up. “I’ll be fine darling, thank you. See you later”.

12pm: Right, I’ve been around the room a few times straightening, polishing, rearranging. The door is open, the signs are up, the newsletter has been sent, the leaflets and booklets distributed. So come on people, where are you? At least my sister and nephew are coming today. Oh, missed that E mail: “The weather is too nice and I am too lazy”. Guess they’re not coming after all.

2pm: Yay, a car! Oh, it’s just the wonderful husband bearing coffee. “It’s dead out there” he says. “The motorway is a car park, guess everyone is off to the coast to make the most of this last day of summer weather.  It’s going to pee down for the rest of the week”.

Oh great!

2.30pm: Yay, another car.  It’s Tim and Em. You lovely people come on in. Have a wander. Tim, stop chatting to Marc about sport, this is supposed to be all about ME! Look again, don’t stop at once around the room. Ask ME questions, not him. You can talk bicycles anytime.

4.45pm: Can’t imagine anyone is coming now. Perhaps I’ll call it a day and go home. Oh, hang on, that’s the landlord crossing the road. Yikes, hope he’s OK with what I’ve done to his office. “Looks great in here!” “Your life drawing has come on a bit hasn’t it?”.

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“Little Lost Pup” illustrations, off to a new home.

45 minutes later, my first sale is done and I’m ready for a G&T.

Sunday 23 August (day 2): 

Can’t imagine anyone venturing out in this weather. They’ll all be tucked up at home having a PJ day. Oh well, gives me a bit of time to work out this 1940s fairisle pattern (I wonder when charts came in?). It really doesn’t look right. It doesn’t help that there are bits missing and, b*ll*cks (!) I think I know what is going on here. The pattern repeat in each row isn’t over the same stitches as the repeat above and below. Let’s start again. Where did I put those felt tip pens?

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Reinventing a 1940s fairisle pattern. We got there in the end!

Lunchtime: Young people are hovering around the Studentnofee sign outside.  They don’t look like Open Studios followers. They’re coming in. “Hi, are you here for Open Studios?” “Yes” (great, just goes to show one shouldn’t make snap judgements based on appearance then, although the accent suggests English isn’t their first language). They are looking somewhat confused at the stuff on the walls and realisation dawns. “Are you looking for accommodation?” “Yes!” they exclaim. “OK so it may say that this is a letting agent on the signs outside and etched into the glass on the door, and printed onto the blinds, but actually I’m an art exhibition”. More confused looks. “No houses” I say. “OK” they say. Off they go still looking confused.

Mid afternoon: Ooh, actual strangers who don’t look like students pulling up onto the forecourt. In they come.  “Hello, are you here for Open Studios?”. “Yes”. Result! A b line is made for the knitted dog heads. “These are great. I’m pleased we bothered coming. I’d give you more than a one star review”. Excuse me!?! What review? “On the Open Studios website you’ve had a one star review, so we nearly didn’t bother coming”. WHAT! I didn’t even know there was a review process and hang on a minute, I’ve only had friends and acquaintances in so far. Who would do such a nasty thing to me after they’ve seen all the hard work I’ve put into this? Ah, hang on a minute, maybe it was the Twirler I had in briefly at lunchtime. She seemed very pleasant but I did get the impression I wasn’t what she expected when she stood in the middle of the room and did a quick spin. “We’ll give you a good review” they say as they leave. “That’s if we can work out how to do it”.

An E mail comes in from my landlord. “Sorry, I tried to review you on the Open Studios website and only gave you 4 out of 5 by mistake. I thought you click on the stars and light them up until you get to your intended rating (like rating stuff on Amazon). However, it turns out that once you’ve clicked on a star, that star is the review done and you can’t change it”. That actually makes me feel better. Perhaps the one star review was a mistake. Let’s keep thinking that……….

The sun comes out. A couple walk by and come in. “What’s this?” they ask, looking interested. I explain the concept. “And is this all you?” she asks. “You’re brave!”. What does she mean, BRAVE? OK, let’s just suppress that angst. I’m sure she means it as a complement. They did write a very nice comment in the book after all!

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The “life” wall

Monday, Tuesday: A pattern has emerged. More students looking lost and desperate for somewhere to live. Starting to think the words “Open Studios” might be a bit confusing in context with the words “letting agent”.  Starting to think that instead of turning them away I should drag them in. Perhaps I could sell them a picture to hang on that wall that they don’t yet have, or a scarf to keep them warm while they trudge the streets looking.

Mid week: Where did all these people come from? I haven’t had a moment’s rest. I’ve got knitting to do you know! Look at all of those lovely comments in my book. I’m going to have to restock the greeting cards.  This is actually fun! One lovely lady brought me coffee and muffins, and then bought two pictures! I must be an artist! Go me!

Friday: More chats with worried parents looking for student accommodation. Right, you sir are going to have to walk around my exhibition before you are allowed to leave. It’s your fault for turning up in a car with a dog in the back. I am crazy dog lady and much of my work confirms this so you WILL look at it. There, that wasn’t so hard was it! Now you can go and find a home for your progeny.

The final straight: Weekends are definitely quieter than weeks. Who’d have figured? An arty friend pops in and chills out with me for a bit on the red sofa. “It’s probably because there is no one else around here exhibiting. People like to make use of their weekends with a densely populated area so travel time is limited, or visit group exhibitions where lots of different styles and subjects are accessible in one place”. Yep, that’s how I’d do it too!

Monday 31 August (day 10): Last day but no time to reflect. Much to my surprise I’m busy. A lovely morning spent with three lots of people I had invited and had assumed couldn’t make it. Lots of smiles while looking around and then time with me on the sofa fascinated by my workbooks and sketchbooks.  Then my neighbours turn up. How lovely!

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The view from the red sofa

3pm: Starting to wind down now. I should probably think about how I’m going to pack all this up. A bike turns up and another friend pops in. I am chuffed to think she has ridden her bike here to show her support and tell her so. “It helps that it stopped raining” she says.

5pm: It’s over except for the packing and the slight issue of where are we going to put all this stuff when we get it home. I enjoyed this. I got to meet some lovely people who left encouraging comments, I sold some stuff and I got to spend a week, knitting, surrounded by my art work. What’s not to like? I guess it was a brave thing to do after all, but worth it on a number of levels.

Back to the normal routine tomorrow and I know a certain Weimaraner who will be pleased that dog jogs are back on the agenda. I suppose I should also do a bit of the housework that has been put on hold for the past ten days. But then again I am halfway through an exhibition piece with a September deadline so perhaps it can wait a little longer……………

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I shall report you for Weimaraner cruelty if you don’t get those running shoes out!

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……….

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!

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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!

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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.

Renewing my Lust for Life

The last few months of 2014 got a little crazy what with the Knit and Stitch Shows and Christmas doggy head commissions and as a result the drawing side of my art practice took a back seat. So, New Year = Renewed Commitment and following an internet search to check what the local colleges were offering, I found a space in a weekly class at Peter Symonds in nearby Winchester. Just two sessions later I am already reaping the benefits of a structured class format, an excellent teacher (Michelle Buhl-Nielsen) and a welcoming and supportive group. The result: my love of Life Drawing has been well and truly re-ignited.

Each week, rather than trying to create the perfect drawing, we have been concentrating on one aspect at a time. This approach I have found to be both liberating and great fun and at last I have found a suitable and satisfying approach to tackling those frustrating 5 and 10 sec warm up poses which tend to be the start of every session.

Week one was all about gesture and here are a couple of my favourites from this session.

"10 second gesture drawings"

10 second gesture drawings (six superimposed)

I love how gesture drawings can be so full of energy (possibly because the model is able to hold more dynamic poses for this short period of time?).

"15 minute gesture drawing"

Gesture drawing (15mins)

This seated pose was an example of how a slightly longer gesture drawing could be pretty accurate from a proportions point of view despite no measuring being involved. The tutor handed out rectangular grids at the end of the session for us to check this and I was pleasantly surprised at the result.

So on to week two and “mass”. The brief was to create form rather like we would a sculpture, working from the inside out, keeping it solid, no lines allowed and ignoring light and shadow. Having spent much of last year working in 3’d’ and having recently visited and been inspired by a Henry Moore print exhibition at the Winchester Discovery Centre, I found this technique particularly satisfying and loved the outputs.

"creating solid mass in drawing"

Creating solid mass using a back and forth technique

"creating mass by lifting charcoal in a drawing"

Creating “mass” by lifting away charcoal

This is definitely right up my street and I am already excited about experimenting more with this approach.

Next week is about contour and I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime here are my attempts at putting a few of these techniques together in an untutored session last weekend at the Art House in Southampton. It’s early days yet but I am already feeling a new (playful) Me coming out of these pictures and I kinda like her 🙂

"10 min warm up drawings of a clothed model"

10 min warm up poses, clothed model

"reclining clothed female figure drawing"

30 min pose, pencil on paper

"pencil drawing of seated female"

30 minute seated pose, pencil on paper