A few days in Eastbourne

Last week I did a second course with Debbie Lyddon.  I have long admired Debbie’s work and when I spotted a course with her, I jumped at the chance – twice!  I blogged earlier about the Winchester course so here is a little more about the course at Studio 11 (an excellent place run by Christine Chester right near the railway station in the town.  I would heartily recommend all concerned – Debbie was very generous in sharing her knowledge and Christine provided excellent lunches and all day drinks and biscuits and the studio has just about everything there for you to make use of if you have not managed to bring the kitchen sink with you to the course!

The first thing we did was to take a trip to Birling Gap.

Chalk two ways
Birling Gap chalk

We took 10 minutes just to sit and take in the view, the atmosphere, and to look around at the cliffs, the shore and the sea.  We then spent an hour walking and collecting things that caught our interest.  I am always one for found man-made objects so was delighted to find a “rock-hopper” on the shore, and a special one at that!  I also collected an Evian rubber stopper and a couple of stones of particular merit, together with some dried seaweed, a piece of twine, a piece of fossilised wood and a lump of chalk.  These items were to form the basis of the course.

Back at the studio, we made sketchbooks and drew our chosen items first thinking about texture and then form. From our drawings, we then made a paper model of our favourite drawing.

 

The next step was to render the model in fabric.  I have yet to complete my Rock Hopper work but watch this space.

Debbie also taught us how to make vessels from fabric, rendering them firm enough to stand alone using home made gesso (from the chalk we had collected) and wax.  On the last afternoon, we returned to Birling Gap to photograph our makes in the place of their birth!

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My gesso vessel
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My three wax vessels
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Vessels in situ

Abstract

The word “abstract” is generally thought of having several meanings. The most well known might be:

  • “relating to or denoting art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but rather seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, colours, and textures.”   but, used as a verb rather than an adjective,  another is:

 

  • “to extract or remove (something).

Both uses of the word cropped up for me yesterday at a day’s workshop with the excellent Ronnie Ireland.  A couple of weeks ago Ronnie visited Chichester Art Society and gave a talk “Catching The Image” – Where do ideas come from – how can we develop them?”  It was a very interesting evening – Ronnie was obviously hugely knowledgeable about the history of art and passionate about his subject.  The workshop encouraged us to consider working in a new way by selecting two or three images (maybe photographs or text, our own or from magazines) that meant something to us or spoke to us in some way.

The first task was to draw a series of thumbnail sketches to compare and contrast different ideas for composition.  As I always seem to find my work ends up as landscape or seascape I decided to make a concerted effort to be “abstract”. I had chosen three  images to work with:  seaweed swirling in a circular motion in the sea; a black and white image of an abacus and a black and white photocopy of some textile work that I had done on a workshop with Cas Holmes.  Here are the six thumbnails:

I chose the last image to recreate larger and in colour:

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I didn’t like it …. and nor did Ronnie!  He then asked if this was how I normally worked.  It isn’t – I like to work spontaneously, working with the paint or paper and letting the work evolve as I go.  He told me to carry on as I normally did!  I had brought a collection of papers with me – leftovers from past workshops and “play days” as I had decided to work with collage during this day (typical me – of course everyone else worked in paint)!

Here are my outcomes:

I was pleased to have managed to keep away from horizons!  Ronnie felt that the first had most promise but that the others were too busy.  He asked me to take away and take away until I thought I had gone too far and then to put one thing back.  This made me simplify the work.  I then went back and cropped the images to simplify them still further – the word “abstract” occurred again:

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so my next step is to consider what I have learned and take the work further.  I may work in collage or I may work on paper to create the whole image in paint.  Either way what I have here expresses my love of texture and mark making and I shall enjoy creating new surfaces.  Next time, instead of using whatever paper I have to hand, I will create surfaces which directly relate to my running theme of found objects and re-create the distressed surfaces of the metal, wood, fibreglass and so on that I collect.  Ronnie was keep to impress the importance of making work that matters to you and that you are passionate about.  I can also see how this would translate to fabric with the exciting option of adding stitch to create thin lines which would relate back to my initial thumbnail sketches (Cas Holmes will be pleased!).  To be continued …

N.B.  In case you hadn’t gathered I would highly recommend spending time with Ronnie – he is based in Farnham, Surrey and runs workshops and classes, gives talks and offers one-to-one to tuition.  I have a feeling I will be seeing him again!

Pick a pocket

I recently attended a course with Debbie Lyddon, an artist I greatly admire.  She shares a love of the coast, earthy colours and textures and I just love her work.  During the course, I made a couple of pockets in which I housed items that I had made and found during the course of the workshop.  Some time was spent each day walking around the local area looking at, listening to and touching the environment and we recorded our findings in our sketchbooks.  Those objects that were appropriate were brought back to the studio for further consideration.

The first pocket was formed in response to some burnt bonfire paper that I found on the walk.  I always love charred objects and Debbie encouraged me to try burning some silk that I had.  I then housed some found rusty wire inside and loved the result.

The second pocket was made from paper and I added a roll of painted paper and a piece of found metal.

Continue reading “Pick a pocket”

From Trash to Treasure

Well I think so anyway!  I fully appreciate that these pieces will appeal to a minority audience but I have enjoyed using my found pieces in a way that pleases me.  Here are two of the three final objects in their original state – an anorak cuff and a rolled up piece of rubber, original purpose unknown:

I knew that I could see potential in both of these items – lots of lovely texture – but knew also that they needed more.  I decided to construct a third piece using some found black plastic, made interesting by the sea.  I then played about with different additions until I found what I wanted, and added stitch.

I wanted to make each piece interesting on the outside and the inside and felt that they worked best as a trio.  I plan to sit them on a piece of found wood (yet to be retrieved from my stash in a nearby garage!) and hope to source something like a vintage taxidermist glass dome to go over the top.  Here are the three pieces now:

Black cream and rust trio

These images do not show what is going inside the three vessels – you’ll just have to come along and see them during the Chichester Art Trail to see the full effect – Chichester Art Trail 2018

 

Fire and Rust or “The remains of the day”

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Rusty Staples from the bonfire

 

I have long been fascinated by decay, distress and general wear and tear in surfaces.  My eyes are drawn over and over again to rock, stone, wood, paper or any material where the worn and battered winks at me and asks for further inspection.  I love torn edges and scruffiness.

Taking up more and more room in the house, I have an embarrassingly large collection of found objects that reflect my preferences and I am still struggling to find a clear way forward to use these within my art.  I am unable to pigeon hole myself as a “painter”, “printmaker”, “textile artist” or some other moniker – I like all manner of techniques and media. The saving grace is that there is a common need –  to make use of the found and to conform to my idea of what is aesthetically pleasing as outlined above.  I realise that to some/many my taste is bizarre and that anything I produce will have a limited market with the majority doubtless seeing only “rubbish.” I also need to distinguish myself from what I see as twee – sculptures and assemblages made from pieces of driftwood for example.  They are just not me – not dirty enough, not raw enough, not scuffed and damaged.

Some of what I produce will be fragile (I have some beautiful charred paper from an incinerator); some will have a shorter life than “traditional” art because it will continue to erode and spoil over time.  But I will persevere with my ideas that involve the found, the rusty and the burnt.  I have workshops coming up in 2018 with the inspiring Debbie Lyddon whose textile work I simply love and also with Elaine Bolt who I hope will take me down a new route considering ceramics and they can help me display my found objects.  I was delighted to discover her although a little sad to see that my ideas are not entirely new – ideas rarely are! – and that she is producing far lovelier work than I am sure I will manage.

I am currently thinking about my collection of found brushes (some are shown above) – I have already started to experiment with embossing and “printing” with the handles and would like to try making ceramic handles in the form of these found brushes.  I have a collection of “bristles” that can be fastened to the handles and yesterday rescued a whole pile of lovely rusty, “been through the bonfire” bendy metal from which I can form ferrules to adjoin the handles to the bristles.

Here are a collection of my other “from the fire” objects which I hope to use in future work.  I’d love to know if anyone else “get’s it”!!