Thursday, 5 March 2015

Sketchbook Making Workshop for Tullie House's Anselm Kiefer Exhibition

Making an envelope sketchbook

Another day another workshop, another workshop connected to Tullie House's current Anselm Kiefer exhibition. It really is a fantastic exhibition and I'm really pleased to be involved in so many of the engagement projects. I find Kiefer's work very inspiring and am intrigued by a lot of his ideas and the issues he addresses so it's great to be able to share that interest and explore it with other people. Today I was working with secondary school students on a mixed media sketchbook making session.

Two of my sample accordion sketchbooks

One of my sample envelope sketchbooks

This workshop, like the one I ran for Art Educators North West and the session I ran before Christmas, focused on using reclaimed and recycled papers to make interesting sketchbooks. Kiefer has made books throughout his career and also uses the book as a motif in his work. I like the idea of a book as a container (of stories, thoughts, memories, ideas, information and so on) which is one of the reasons I designed the workshop around books. Also, sketchbooks are always useful and are very personal items, a handmade sketchbook even more so.

Making envelopes

Preparing and selecting papers and making envelopes

During the workshop we focused on two types of sketchbook, envelope sketchbooks and accordion sketchbooks. Both are quite simple and relatively easy to master but they have a great deal of potential in terms of personalisation and development. Both can also be transformed into 3D pieces and I think would be really interesting avenue to explore. The use of reclaimed and recycled materials references Kiefer's multi media approach but also allows for the use of materials that are personal or have a meaning in themselves to be used, such as old exhibition guides or old letters.

Mixing different papers

Getting stuck in

The students were very enthusiastic and worked really hard all session, they got really involved in the process which was great and they came up with some great ideas and created some lovely sketchbooks. Almost all the students chose to make envelope books, which I was quite surprised about as I expected the accordion books to be more popular. One of the nice things about a sketchbook making session is that at the end the students all had a book to take away with them and work into as they were spending the afternoon in the gallery.

Some of the finished sketchbooks

Finished envelope sketchbook

A selection of finished sketchbooks

I think this was a very successful workshop as it allowed plenty of room for individual expression but was also accessible to a wide range of abilities. Having a useful and beautiful finished product was also a positive. I also think another reason it worked well was because the students could easily see ways to develop the ideas and use them in their own work. It was also a lot of fun!

Thursday, 26 February 2015


Thread Wrapped Branch, 2015
One of the great things about the work I do is the way that ideas and techniques cross over from my personal practice into my work with people and vice versa. For example, when I began my Applied Textiles sessions with the No Borders Art Group in November last year one of the first activities we did was thread wraps as I thought it would be a good way to start having a play with colours and textures. In my first year at Uni we did a lot of thread wraps (which I didn't really enjoy at the time) and they are a good way of exploring how colours work together.

Thread Wrapped branch made by No Borders participant, 2014

Thread Wrapped branch made by No Borders participant, 2014

Thread Wrapped branch made by No Borders participant, 2014

One member of the group really got into the thread wrapping and her main project for the sessions was a thread wrapped branch. Inspired by her enthusiasm for the technique I did a thread wrapped piece of driftwood as a sample and really enjoyed it. It's a very therapeutic technique, quite slow and methodical which allows the mind to wander and explore different ideas.

'Scotland' thread wrapped branch, 2014

'Scotland' thread wrapped branch, 2014

'Scotland' thread wrapped branch, 2014

As well as enjoying the process I like the look of the wrapped branches and the ideas it stirs, it feeds back to my interest in dichotomies such as the hidden/revealed and exposed/protected. So, I decided to explore a bit further.

'Scotland' thread wrapped branch, in my studio

'Scotland' thread wrapped branch, 2014

'Scotland' thread wrapped branch, 2014

The sample piece I'd made was inspired by our holidays in Scotland; the soft, rain washed blues and greys of the sea and sky and the bright purples and pinks of the heathers. I also used a lot of threads I'd collected on holiday so for me this piece really has a strong connection with place and memory. In my further explorations I was more interested in looking at the ideas mentioned before rather than creating something specific to a time and place.

At work

In progress

Wrapped and dyed sample

This led me to work in neutral colours and I chose mostly natural fibres as I was thinking about dying the finished piece. I did a small sample to start off with, which I floated in a dye bath for a while before I began on a larger piece. As can be seen in the small sample different fibres absorb dye differently so when I was wrapping I used different threads in different sections but also did a lot of overlapping, to build up different tonal and textural effects.

Wrapping with different threads

Wrapped and ready to dye

Dip dyeing

As I was working one of the ends of thread worked itself loose. I was about to re-wrap it but looking at the work I decided not to and then deliberately left other threads hanging, I like the way they reach out from the piece, connecting to the space around it.

Drip drying

Wrapped and dyed branch


I thought about how I would dye the piece as I was wrapping and decided to dip dye it. I'm really pleased with the result, I like the changes but after discussion with some of my fellow artists I'm inclined to agree with them that the gradation needs to be a bit more subtle. So, next time I will be using a bucket to dye the piece so I can dip more into the dye at once!

Thread Wrapped Branch, 2015



This has been an interesting piece to work on and I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops in the future, I'm not quite sure where it's going but I've got a feeling it could be interesting and is worth exploring further...

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Making Sketchbooks: AENW Workshop

Making folded square sketchbooks from recycled papers

Recently I was asked to run a short workshop at Tullie House for Art Educators North West, a group of teachers and others involved in art education who meet regularly to share ideas, experiences and skills. The workshop was to tie in with the Anselm Kiefer exhibition currently on show at Tullie and the programme of workshops being offered to schools.

Some of my sample sketchbooks

Folded Square Sketchbooks

Folded Square Sketchbooks-Opened out

The workshop I've designed for the schools in connection with the exhibition is a mixed media book making workshop so for this session I adapted that idea. I wanted to run a workshop that would be both enjoyable and useful so I was aiming for something that the educators would be able to take back and use with their students but that would also be fun to do.

Me showing one of my books

Folded square sketchbooks made from prints taken from painted fabric

One of my envelope sketchbooks

I always feel very nervous before I run a session for teachers, it's very scary teaching a teacher! However, everyone was really friendly and the atmosphere was relaxed and positive. I also got lots of positive comments so that's always a good confidence boost. I really hope the session was useful.

Envelope sketchbook seen from above

Envelope sketchbook

Envelope sketchbook

The workshop focused on three different ways of making sketchbooks; a folded square book, an envelope book and a variation on book maker Hedi Kyle's blizzard book. The other focus of the session was what paper to use, I wanted to look at using a range of recycled and discarded papers (rejected prints, junk mail, old maps, unneeded photocopies and so on.)

Preparing squares

Putting the squares together

Preparing squares

I had a range of books that I'd made to show the group and once we'd looked at those we got stuck in to the making. What I like about all three of these books is that they're basically very simple but there is a lot of potential to do quite exciting things with them. My favourite is probably the folded square book, it is just made of squares of paper but the way it is folded means that as well as being a flat sketchbook it can also be manipulated into more of a 3D form. It is a very tactile form and interesting to play about with.

Selecting and preparing papers

Preparing pages

A finished sketchbook

I also really like the envelope sketchbook, using an existing envelope as a template a range of envelopes are made from different papers and then joined together to form a book. The envelopes can be used to store things as well as being drawn on or written on as sketchbook pages. Like the folded square books they can also be made into more 3D forms. I think it would be great to work with a group making these and then use everyone's finished books to make an installation.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Life Drawing 10.2.15

Pen, continuous line

Sometimes I like to write my posts straight after the event I'm writing about, whilst everything is fresh in my mind. Sometimes, however, I need to sit and stew for a bit before I put finger to keyboard (that really doesn't have the same ring as pen to paper, does it?) Last week was fairly horrible for various reasons which, like most things, fade with time to become significantly less horrible. So, I am writing about last week's life drawing session in a more positive frame of mind, as I'm having a much better week this week.

Mixed sketches


Foreshortened leg

The session itself was, as usual, very enjoyable. I am lucky to have a roster of talented, reliable models who I know will always do a good job. Jude, our model for the evening, had some excellent poses and created some really interesting shapes. As I mentioned in my last life drawing post I'd been thinking about props and such like so I took a few bits along that Jude used to great effect.

Two coloured line drawing

Two coloured line drawing

Two coloured line drawing

Permanent marker

It's been good leaving it a while before writing about this session, even though I'd enjoyed the drawing and talking to the rest of the group when I came away at the end I wasn't at all happy with my drawings. I didn't think there was much good in there. However, looking back over the drawings to photograph them there are actually quite a few that I'm pleased with, including some from the longer pose that I had really struggled with.

30 seconds, blind

Red pen

Semi blind drawing

I did my usual mix of pen drawings; mostly fine ink pens and then a bit of permanent marker for a change. I experimented a little bit this week with using different pens for different parts of the drawing. For example, when Jude had the gloves on I used a different colour for the gloves and the body. I'm really pleased with how some of these have turned out because at the time it didn't feel like it was working very well.

Continuous line

I also did quite a bit of 'blind' drawing and some 'semi blind' drawing-where I give myself the freedom to not really worry about the results or whether it's a proper not looking at the page drawing but just try and capture the pose quickly and simply. I'm very pleased with the red line drawing (although it does look a bit like a murder scene) because I think the red makes it quite startling. For me it suggests there's a story behind the drawing.