Tag Archives: sketchbook

Cutting and sticking

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Yesterday I spent a very happy afternoon sifting through a huge pile of discarded watercolours to see if there was anything in them that could be of use.  I have a box in the studio where I throw ‘stuff’ that doesn’t quite work – little drawings (and big ones as well), stitched pieces, maquettes …… I have been meaning to go through the drawings/watercolours in particular for months.

The rejected drawings were all shapes and sizes and had come from several different projects. Some had been folded up in disgust and others not. The intention was to crop out the interesting bits and glue them into sketchbooks so that they would become a readily available resource for possible new work (most probably stitched cloth collages).

These bits came from a series of long drawings that had been folded to form concertina books. I simply cut out the bits I liked.

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Other bits were whole drawings (quite small) that although they had been discarded I still thought had something interesting about them. So I stuck the whole thing in.

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And some I collaged together or extended to make something new altogether.

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And then there was a whole slew of bits, mainly from quite large, boring drawings, that nevertheless had interesting marks or shapes that gave the possibility of being reinterpreted in cloth and stitch. So first I selected, and then cut out those sections and stuck them in.

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I love watercolour; it is such a fluid and spontaneous medium. The drawings are wonderful in their own right but can also be a source of inspiration when they don’t quite turn out the way you hoped and now I have two sketchbooks full of ideas ……. a good afternoons work!

Words

I’ve been thinking about how I record and document the experience of my surroundings.

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Of course I use my eyes, and at first looking appears to be the dominant sense.  As I walk I’m mindful of what is going on around me  – I literally have to look where I’m going – but it is only when I sit still that I really begin to pay attention.  Stillness allows me to take time to search out detail and choose what is worthy of recording. I look, but I also listen and feel and smell (I don’t taste very often!). My senses shift from listening, to looking, to feeling as I become aware of the change and movement around me. It seems that one sense always dominates and the other senses back it up. If I hear a sound I look for it. If I see a movement I listen for evidence of it. If I stub my toe I look for the cause. Nothing happens in isolation and I need all senses to fully comprehend.

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‘wind in the reeds sets them waving and shifting – red/green movement – a huge continuous rushing and swooshing’.

So how do I record these sensory noticings? Drawing? Photograph? Sound recording? I do all of these things. Although texture is visually referred to in drawing and photographs and a visual picture jumps into your mind of what is being listened to in a sound recording, I like to complement these documentations with words and my sketchbook has as many pages of writing as it has drawings.

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‘the tide has moved the mud into ridges along the sides of the meandering rivulet. The sun catches them and casts deep shadows. A curlew calls’.

Sometimes I write down simple facts: the weather, the sounds I hear, colour and changes of light. I have a great fondness for lists: lists of birds I’ve seen (if I know their names), lists of objects found and just lists of words. I love a Thesaurus and I frequently write a list of synonyms for one word  (I find it can spark new ideas) and I love it when I discover a new word. Often I write a single sentence noting a change of light or how a bird calls as it takes off from the marsh. Finally I write pages of noticings that are a stream of consciousness – observations (not great works of literature) that I scribble down as they occur.

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‘Sea Roar – white noise

Higher sssssh – continuous – slightly wavering

You can’t hear the waves breaking.

There is no rhythm.

There is no source – it is enveloping.

The higher and lower sounds come forward and recede so that neither is more prominent that the other.’

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Words are a complement to my drawing and although I seldom make work that comes directly from either of these activities, the discipline of recording ensures that I stop, take notice and fully document each phenomenological observation. I am always searching for something new and the knowledge I gain through the process of documentation widens my scope and gives me a greater understanding and thus more possibility as I start creating.

Looking round

This morning I went to Stiffkey for a mosey around. Boots, hat and gloves were needed as there was a sharp wind and it was cold, even though the sun was bright and its faint warmth occasionally managed to penetrate my waxed jacket. I had a backpack with a sketchbook and drawing stuff.

Picking my way along a path straight out towards the marsh the mud sucked at my boots. I had to scan the ground in front of my feet to find the driest, least slippery route – the slick, wetness of the mud would have had me over in a trice without concentration.  Although looking intently at the ground I was still aware of what was going on around me. A skylark hovered just above, its wings barely visible, flickering up and down as it rose higher into the sky, its song becoming fainter. My clumsy footsteps disturbed a flock of brent geese that rose, chattering, into the air and the wind ruffled the dry grasses either side of the path.

Out on the marsh I faced north, looked towards the sea and drew.

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My tendency is always to look north – here on the North Norfolk coast the sea always draws me. The mutability of this edgeland is endlessly fascinating – nothing is ever the same as the tide washes in and out twice a day. But today I turned around and looked back towards where I had come from. The sun shone through a stand of trees on the edge of the marsh, their winter bones, lace, as they stood silhouetted against the fields beyond.

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Sometimes it’s good to look round.

Sketchbooks

I love sketchbooks. I always have several on the go at any one time and at the moment I am using three.

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I always have an A4 workbook in which to record ideas (both drawn and written). I also put things I’ve read that are interesting or relevant to my thinking in there  – it’s a dumping ground for all concepts and ideas.

I have a smaller A5 sketchbook that I slip in my pocket and take out on walks. These drawings are quick, rough and would probably mean nothing to others. They are my own personal hieroglyphics.

At the moment I also have a rather lovely moleskin watercolour sketchbook (the drawings you see here come from it). It is landscape in format and opens out into a really wide spread that is perfect for Norfolk drawings. I am enjoying the process of filling it up with rather splodgy, wet paintings. They are done from memory – I think myself into a place and see where the paint leads me.

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Working in sketchbooks is all well and good – I do a lot of it. But recently I have been wondering whether it is just prevarication. These are quick sketches, rather carelessly done. I’m a great one for splashing paint around so naturally everything ends up blotchy and a bit messy. What, I ask myself, are these sketches for?

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Well – all thinking, drawing and making has to be relevant to my practice. Every time I make something or draw something leads me onto the next thing. Progression can’t happen without doing and at the moment I am feeling a great need to put these rather scrappy drawings onto a firmer footing – to recognise that drawing is a very big part of what I do.

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It was Terry Frost who said that thinking happened before and after making a picture but that painting was all about putting paint on canvas. I want to explore paint on paper or even paint on canvas – to get to know these materials more intimately and to turn my sketchbook drawings into artworks in their own right.

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I’m starting by re-doing these drawings on a nice, big piece of watercolour paper – with no creases, splashes or smudges ….. I’ll let you know how I get on.