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.

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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.

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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………..

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.