Mixed Media Messing

As alluded to in a previous post, I have recently been forced into a clear up/out of nearly 20 years worth of stuff. While this might sound like it would have a negative impact on creativity due to diversion of time and energy (and during the most intensive week that was probably true), it has since led to a surge of productivity due to the distraction caused by reacquaintance with my ever expanding library of inspirational reading.

Two books in particular have driven me to obsessional making over the past week. The first is “Creative Illustration Workshop for mixed media artists” by Katherine Dunn, one of those wonderful spiral bound books full of fabulous photographs of this illustrator’s quirky work.


Apart from thoroughly enjoying drooling over her inspirational illustrations, the most helpful thing I picked up from her hints and tips is to “honor your muses” (page 48).  I find I can from time to time lose direction, caused by concern with what I think other people would value as suitable subject matter in my work (sometimes driven by an observer’s throw away comment and sometimes totally made up by my inner Critic). This never works well for me, as without full involvement and engagement in a subject matter, the resulting output is lacking.  While not everyone likes dogs, cats and life studies, if an abstract landscape (for example) doesn’t do it for me I’m hardly likely to do it justice am I? So with Ms Dunn’s permission I have for the time being put aside concerns that my art isn’t pleasing other people and am indulging in some work purely for my own amusement, entertainment and satisfaction. 

So, the first of this weekend’s finished outputs is this mixed media piece called “Hebe Dreaming”.  During the Summer months my Weimaraner can be found in the garden either flat out bathing in her sun puddle by the garage, or she can barely be seen as she stands with her head in our overgrown hebe, quite literally a hive of activity with bees, bugs and butterflies, just watching the activity around her.  When people ask me what type of dogs I have, they often don’t know what a Weimaraner is and I am forced to attempt a description of her colour using words such as grey, green, pink, purple, brown……. Basically, Weimaraners adopt the colour of the vegetation around them and this camouflage effect of her colouring was the inspiration behind the picture.

"mixed media weimaraner picture on water colour paper"

“Hebe dreaming” mixed media on watercolour paper

The second book that has grabbed my attention this weekend is “Playing with Sketches” by Whitney Sherman, another talented illustrator.


Whereas the previous book inspired me visually, this one has inspired me intellectually (?) having me working methodically through the exercises.  One task was to create a “tile” for repeat purposes by cutting up a simple drawing into four pieces and rearranging it to form a frame for another drawing. This is what I came up with using a fish as the original sketch, and creating a physical tile using a combination of ink, pen and collage, then digitally arranging and repeating by scanning the original into Photoshop.

"Something's Fishy repeat pattern"

“Something’s fishy” digital reproduction of mixed media on watercolour paper

I am rather taken with this technique, not least as for each exercise you get two pieces of work, one being the original tile for framing purposes etc and the other a digital piece where the applications are endless (at the moment I’m thinking the creation of a custom fabric via Spoonflower.com) so, dear reader, I will stop here as I have another “tile” to create before close of play today involving a chopped up and rearranged bunch of flowers and a poodle. Au revoir.

Pooch Portrait, hoighty toighty style

Forced into a major clear out over the past few weeks, I have had to throw away my collection of arty magazines.  This, as some of you will appreciate, has resulted in much distraction leafing through said treasures prior to deciding which should be saved and which should be thrown.  Whilst embarking on this long winded filing process, I came upon a picture of William Larkin’s “Portrait of Lady Anne Clifford” (1618) and inspiration struck!  All I could see in place of the non smiling, slightly smug face gazing at me with unblinking eyes was my Weimaraner’s snooty stare and I just had to pay homage to it with a hoighty toighty, mixed media pooch portrait.

"mixed media Weimaraner portrait"

Portrait of Lady Saskia: stitched water colour and mixed media on cotton rag paper

I now can’t wait to get going on an homage to Cornelis Johnson’s “Portrait of an Unknown Gentleman” (1631) featuring Alf the ridiculous Cocker Spaniel in place of the ginger bearded man in his lace collared jacket.  First things first though, where did I “file” the rest of my vintage lace………..

Sticky Fingers

Somedays I just find drawing harder than others. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m tired, bored or just hard to please but I know I’m not the only person who suffers from these “Creative Off Days”. Today’s Life Drawing session at the Southampton City Art Gallery was just such a day with most of my output from the morning ending up in the recycling bin. I almost gave up and flounced out at lunchtime but the sensible part of my brain urged me to make the most of having a lovely life model in front of me and after a superb veggie lunch at the fabulous Art House I got out the scissors and Pritt Stick and decided to seek solace in collage. A couple of therapeutic hours later time was called and while this depiction of the beautiful Jilly is nowhere near finished, I kinda like it!

"collaged life drawing"

“Jilly”: paper collage

Becoming a Loose(r) Woman

A fabulous long weekend spent at West Dean College on Dynamic Life Drawing with the wonderfully energetic Christopher Gilvan-Cartwright.  My aim was to re-ignite my love of Life Drawing, having become increasingly frustrated with this discipline in recent months.  Previous tutors have told me that I  need to “loosen up” so having read the wacky agenda for this course, I was hoping it would be the answer to making me a Loose(r) Woman!  I wasn’t disappointed.

The first evening was spent in the dark, drawing the delightful Frankie who was painted in neon paint and under a UV light.  Sadly, without a UV light, the output is not nearly as exciting but I still liked the use of pattern to create the illusion of a human body.

"neon pattern on life model"

Drawn in the dark. The picture really comes to life under UV.


After a morning of warming up with various exercises (continuous line, non dominant hand) and short poses, the second day was taken with a Frida Kahlo scene.  Funny how drawing fabric seems so much harder than the unclothed human body.  We used some pre-made backgrounds for these drawings.

"charcoal drawing of a seated, clothed female"

Frida Kahlo scene


Day three got messy with wet on wet techniques, painting ink over acrylic then blasting it off with a water sprayer, and using a long bamboo stick and ink to draw on the floor (while hoping not to draw on the ceiling) at a distance.  I really like the potential of the acrylic and ink layering technique but sadly without a large sink unit and a studio, practically I can’t see this happening in my dining room.

"layered acrylic and ink painting"

Messy but effective partial removal of ink from acrylic using water spray

The final day was using collage to depict a clothed scene.  Funnily enough despite my usual love of collage, this was probably my least successful day.  However, as is usually the case, I’ll put the work away and then will probably be more excited by it when I revisit in a few weeks time.

"seated figure in collage and drawing"

Paper collage (what to do with the drawings that don’t work!) and pastel pencil drawing

I now have a huge A1 folder full of stuff to inspire some follow on work and while “the leopard can’t change his shorts” (yes, I am a massive Terry Pratchett fan), I am definitely feeling much looser than I was last weekend 😉



Tempus Fugit

On a recent West Dean College course we were tasked with considering a subject that was of current personal concern or relevance and were sent into the grounds to gather natural debris that could metaphorically illustrate this topic.  This collage of drawings, magazine tear sheets and digital manipulations was the result of my explorations.

"Tempus Fugit"

Paper collage

Surrealism at West Dean College with London Drawing Theatre

OK, so I had a vague idea of what to expect today at West Dean College’s London Drawing Theatre workshop as I accidentally walked through it last year.  However, it still proved to be an unusual, and (intentionally to go with the college’s atmosphere/decor) surreal drawing experience, with the two hardworking life models (mostly wearing masks, headdresses, and painted blue!) blending into the fabulous and weird surroundings of the college.

The day was divided into three scenes/poses.  During the first we were encouraged to use collage to depict a mostly stationery scene.

"life drawing collage"

paper collage and felt tip pen on cartridge paper

During the second we moved between two corridor scenes (one shown below):

"seated nude wearing zebra mask"

felt pen on cartridge paper

and during the last, the models were moving around the college’s Oak Lounge and we mostly stayed still:

"pen life drawing of theatrical scene"

felt pen on cartridge paper

Extending a Life Drawing session

Another great Life Drawing session at Southampton City Art Gallery today, led by the lovely Brian Reynolds and modelled by the energetic and dynamic Pav.  I spent the morning sketching, and still excited by my recent visit to the Kurt Schwitters exhibition at Tate Britain, the afternoon translating my work into collage.  One of the sketches and its inspired collage are shown below.  I think I might get the lino and printing ink out next.  Watch this space…..

"seated male nude"

graphite stick sketch on paper

"paper collage of life drawing"

Paper collage on paper