30 April 2013

Drawing class, week 2

At the start of the class, the still life (paraphernalia of an art room) was surrounded by our work from the previous week - and sure enough, I didn't recognise my own drawing.
This week's theme was space - flat space and deep space, with a bit of confusion about shallow space and the role of objects in among the planes. I'm sure I learnt something, and it will all become clear before long.

First we were to draw flat space on one side of our paper, and deep space on the other. Plunge in...
 That looked more like deep space to me, so I tried to find something that was "flatter" -
A feeble attempt but I did enjoy the pattern of the wheels on the folded-up screen. And was told that the first one was flat space after all. But the second wasn't deep space.

My simplistic concept is that flat space is about parallel planes, and deep space is about converging planes, ie angles. So I used some empty space to get closer to "deep space" from where my easel was - that's at the bottom -
At the top is yet another kind of space, "ambiguous space" - where it's hard to figure out what the objects might be. It was suggested to add the outlines of the dark areas (such as shadows) as well as shapes of objects. And to zoom in.

Ambiguous space might be used as another way of looking at objects that are all too familiar. The artist is deliberately being "confusing" so that the viewer can see first the drawing and then realise what the objects are.

Fortunately those exercises were scrubbed out (the joy of charcoal) and became background "interest" in a longer drawing of whichever type of space we chose, with the emphasis on working by eye rather than measuring. I looked and drew and scrubbed and looked and drew and ... finally Teacher came along and did some measuring with the handle of a paintbrush, which he handed to me, having connected points with lines to show where the measuring took place -
I definitely need to do some of this checking-with-measuring. Again it goes back to "draw what's there, not what you already know about the object" - and this became clearer when, after a brief talk about perspective, we added perspective lines to the drawing - yet another little trick that, eventually, helps you to see 3D in 2D shapes -
Seeing the drawing a day later, I have a strong desire to lower the top corner of the box ... and who knows where that might lead ...

No class next week, it's May Day bank holiday.

29 April 2013


The tulips planted last year did come up after all, and last week looked like this, ready to open. I keep checking every day, but they still look exactly like this ... and I'm impatient for them to open and to see what colour they'll be ... surely not green? (can't remember what colour I bought...).

Concomitantly I'm reading Anna Pavord's account of the tulip in history, or rather, dipping into it here and there. Fascinating to see how crazes come and go - after the tulipmania of the 17th century, hyacinths were the next big thing, with over 500 varieties listed in a nurseryman's catalogue in 1739. By then tulips were costing a mere 8 guilders per bulb for the top varieties, and you could get 100 offsets (which take a year or more to flower) for 4 guilders. (Grown from seed, tulips take 5-8 years to flower.) The last big sale of tulip bulbs was in 1885 - but by then, no-one wanted them, and they didn't reach their reserve price.

Moan on Monday - added charges

It's crept up on us ... not just the escalating admission charge for exhibitions* but this matter of adding a "voluntary donation" on top of the charge. There may be some confusion about whether this is Gift Aid - no, Gift Aid applies only if you're a taxpayer and sign up for it. The voluntary donation - is only about 10%, a mere trifle, why be so churlish as to opt out of paying it? After all, it's quite usual to pay a service charge at a restaurant, however mediocre the meal, and surely Culture is more "worthy" than a meal? Yes, those hard-working waiters/servers may well deserve a reward for providing pleasant, prompt service, indeed may depend on tips to achieve a living wage ... and museums are hard-pressed for cash, indeed some are threatened with closure.

[*Hallelujah, entry to most UK museums, after a brief fling with charging (and consequent fall in visitor numbers), is free again - thanks largely to funding by the National Lottery.]

On balance, I've decided to try to be gracious about voluntary donations, and save my ire for something more pervasive....

Which is ... finding, at the last minute, that the ticket you're buying on line has a booking fee - £1.50 is usual. Surely this practice aggravates, annoys, and alienates a huge sector of the purchasing public, even though by now we know this will happen. Even so, it continues to rankle. Why not simply include the amount in the price of the ticket? (Perhaps it's part of "creative accounting", eg ticket prices taxed, booking fees not taxed...) Or, is this disclosure justified as being in the interests of "transparency" to the purchaser? How much more pleasant it would be to get a discount when you went to the box office and booked in person. That's basic psychology.

28 April 2013

Binders Keepers in action

This Binders Keeper went out for road testing. Karen reports that the scissors pocket is a bit loose, and that deeper pockets would make things more secure.
She tried folding it flat but preferred it rolled up -
As mentioned, I've sorted out a boxful of suitable fabrics, and now I've drawn out a "new, improved" version of the pattern. It's time to make some more samples...

Decorative darning

 Blogging on the grrrripad is, I find, uncongenial. For  start, typing on the smooth screen isn't as automatic as on a conventional keyboard (thanks to good training and lots of practice, I'm a fast touch-typist) -but the main problem is getting photos onto the blog. The choice seems to be of those already on the blog.... which is kinda ingesting [automatic spelling, don'tcha love it] interesting because it brings up things you've already forgotten about. So, here's a blast from the past, the recent past... a sample from the hand embroidery course a couple of months ago, darning stitch.

This stitch is so intense and time-consuming! Some artists, like Hilary Hollingsworth [sorry, no link - toooo difficult on the grrripad], use a lot of darning stitch, and my admiration goes out to them. There are wonderful things we see  in others' work that arouse no desire to emulate them, and for me, darning stitch is just such a thing.
When it comes to practical darning, however ... that's a different story. A well-darned heel, a rescued sock - or foiling the moths by filling in the holes they have made - gives me great pleasure, trivial though it may seem in this throw-away age. Or maybe these times are not so disposable after all. It's good to know how to darn, whether decoratively or practically; there is pleasure to be had from it.

27 April 2013

Art I like - Joe Cunningham's quilts

Via the useful SAQA Art Quilt News, which comes to my inbox on Fridays, I found the work of Joe Cunningham -
Patchwork Quilt, 2012, is part of Northern Star Quilters' "A World of Quilts XXXIV" exhibition,
Somers, New York, 4-5 May
I was struck by the exuberant confidence of this quilt - using colours and combinations of patterns I'd never dreamt of combining, myself - it not only opened my eyes but sent me scurrying to find out more.

On his website (joethequilter.com) Joe has a slide show and gallery of his quilts, of which these are a few -
See them all, and see them larger, at joethequilter.com
After watching the slideshow several times, getting a sense of the body of work, I nominate these as my current favourites, though it was hard to choose. The quilts seem to have such stories in them, or behind them. Perhaps I've been reading too much Tim Ingold lately, but they seem to me to be "places" where various journeys cross - and as Ingold says, "every place, as a gathering of things, is a knot of stories." Part of the craft (or art) of the storyteller is knowing what to leave out, and these quilts embody that - leaving in just what is necessary to give the viewer enough "information" for speculation, drawing their own conclusions, and perhaps coming back to rethink their interpretation.
Reminds me of my "journey lines"; and in the first video here
Joe describes the technicalities of making this kind of quilt
This one has the viewer making up a story about the islands
If the title brings to mind the story of Rumpelstiltzken, the viewer's job is
to match up the visual components with elements of the story
A professional quilt artist since 1979, Joe is also a travelling lecturer - with a musical presentation, “Joe, the Quilter,” a true story about English quilter Joe Hedley (1750-1830), which inspired Joe Cunningham to become a quilter.

26 April 2013

CQ's "AGM"

It's not really an AGM - "annual meeting" or "general meeting" is a better description. It's usually held in London, as being fairly easy for most people to get to; some people take a long train-ride or fly in and make a weekend of it. Of 700 members in the UK, about 80 attended.

Discussion was lively, both in the business meeting, and before and after -
 Members brought delicious baked goods -
 As well as a display of journal quilts, contributions of Bookwraps for the tombola at FOQ poured in -
The afternoon speaker was Sue Stone, whose embroidery reflects her family history in Grimsby. Her website is womanwithafish.com and indeed a woman with a fish appears in some of her work.
Loaves and Fishes; image from here. The portrait of her grandparents
appears in Textiles: The Art of Mankind by Mary Schoeser
Sue started out in fashion design but life had other plans and she eventually found herself at Goldsmiths studying under Constance Howard, Christine Risley and Eirann Short - and she's been a member of the 62 Group for some time. You can see her recent solo show here - this detail is from the sidebar of that page -
"I like fillling in the clothes the best," she said. (She lists her five favourite stitches as: running stitch; arrowhead stitch; cross stitch; darning stitch; couching.)

We had a good chance to look at the work and sketchbooks she'd brought along - impressive! Again, her focus on her own history bears out the old adage of "look to what you know" in terms of finding what will make you unique as an artist.

Turn the Page book fair, Norwich, 3-4 May

If you're near Norwich, do come to the fair. It's in a venue - the atrium of the Forum - that has lots of people passing through, expecting to see "something different" going on, and last year they weren't disappointed. For many visitors, artists' books were something quite new to them, and I overheard many interesting conversations (and had some myself). A lot of talking goes on at book fairs!

Certainly the organisers are doing a super job of promoting the fair - read more about it on the website, turnthepage.org.uk.

Books..but not as you know them 
Limited editions, sculptural books, altered books, multiples,
book art installations and more
all this will be on display to browse, wonder at and buy...
We have an exciting programme of events including Poetry Readings, Demonstrations, Storytelling, Drop-in Workshops,
and the fabulous 1950's French Citreon van 'Dolores' which has been beautifully converted into a mobile artists library by book artist
Lucy-May Schofield

Currently I'm considering and reconsidering what to take along. Something to catch people's eye, something they might want to buy - these need not necessarily be the same thing. 

Found art Friday

25 April 2013

Nothing doing

... is not the same a doing nothing! For the past few days I've been rummaging in cupboards and sorting out drawers, on the pretext of finding fabric for the Binders Keepers that I'm planning to take to the Turn the Page book fair at Norwich next weekend.

I fear this is a displacement activity, as the "perfect" design for the Binders Keepers continues to elude me. And time is starting to run out....
With all the forgotten fabric I've gathered, "wasting" some on unsuccessful prototypes shouldn't be a problem. First, though, some thought... about the tools you might want to carry to a workshop -
which determines the size of the tool roll. For me, the essentials are a bone folder, scalpel, bookbinding awl, needles, thread, a mechanical pencil, and my favourite flat paintbrush for gluing. Scissors and a ruler would be nice too.

Realistically, how would these tools fit - and stay - in the rolls I've made already? The flap keeps the tools from sliding out when it's rolled up; the side pocket is for thread, clips, etc (and is a leftover idea from the sewing kits).

The small pockets definitely need to be deeper. Perhaps the pocket for the scissors doesn't need to be reinforced (as does the pocket for sharp-pointed embroidery scissors). Perhaps the tie closure could make loops into which the tools are also put, before the tie is used for wrapping the bundle. Perhaps the big pocket isn't needed... Perhaps the fabrics should be less of a jumble ...

Years back, I made myself a bookbinding tool roll - but never use it, even though it carries 12" rulers - it's too big -
Not before time, I look online for versions of and ideas for bookbinding tool rolls.
by Sophia Kramer (seen here)
can carry various assemblages of tools
simple and useful (thanks, Karen)
Back to mulling... and turfing out a few more cupboards.

Though if this capacious "student tool roll" is available for a mere £10.65 (from here), why am I bothering?

Poetry Thursday - Little Ice Age by Kathy Nilsson

"Outrun by a horse from another century" -Viani, Sun God Driving His Chariot (from here)

Little Ice Age - by Kathy Nilsson

I have one good memory—a total

Eclipse of the sun—when out of brilliance

Dusk came swiftly and on the whole

At seven years it felt good on a summer afternoon

To be outrun by a horse from another century—

The next morning I washed up

On land like a pod of seals

Struck with a longing for dark at noon—

If the cessation of feeling is temporary

It resembles sleep—if permanent, it resembles

A little ice age—and the end of some

Crewelwork by a mother who put honey

Into my hands so the bees would love me.

From Poetry magazine, April 2012. (Take a minute to hear it read here.)

24 April 2013

White dog in a foamy fountain

He was after a tennis ball, gradually getting bolder about moving between the jets of water. It was the first real day of spring and Russell Square was full of young&old soaking up the sunshine. That's Hotel Russell in the background -

Ice Age art

The Ice Age Art exhibition at the British Museum is on till 26 May. Now that the Pompei show is siphoning off the visitors in droves, Ice Age was relatively uncrowded - not quite like this pic from the internet, but empty enough to allow for some drawing -
In the photo you can see how modern works were mixed in, here and there. The "Self Portrait While Pregnant" by Ghislaine Howard was in the section with figurines of "mother goddesses"; elsewhere were etchings of bison by George Hecht, sculptures of very simplied female forms by Brassai, "Abstraction" by Henry Moore, one of Mondrian's trees, a nude by Matisse -
Venus of Dolni Vestonice and  Grand Nu (image from here)
Near the end you pass through a dark room with a video, the source of the dripping and other cave-like noises that made an unobtrusive sound background. As well as showing cave paintings on a large scale, the video was enlivened with flashes of some patterns and symbols derived from the art of the time, meant perhaps to simulate the "art experience" in non-literate, shamanistic societies.

The bookshop had its temptations, based on the idea of early man, traditional societies, the beginnings of art.
The book with the white cover is  The Origin of Stories: evolution, cognition and fiction, by Brian Boyd.

On the way out the back door of the museum there are some seal-gut parkas, another example of the survival skills of people living in resource-limited places -

23 April 2013

Sunday outing

unfortunate sight at a crossroads on the way to Lower Heyford
"land art" along the canal, made while the boat was undergoing a small repair
found art - close view of a duck feather
old dollhouse furniture at the car boot sale (we got there just as everyone was packing up)
Morgan car club outing to Upton House - toot toot!
Madam's aluminium-leaf encrusted bathroom (with just one small radiator, brr)
Shell art exhibit in an upstairs room - the house was built by oil money, after all
grand lawn for a grand facade
beyond the ha-ha, hidden gardens and the mirror pool


sorting the bead drawer
and the thread drawers
There comes a point when a drawer won't close, and something needs doing about it! Fortunately the sun is shining - "make order while the sun shines".