One of the perks that comes with working at a university is free access to an academic library, and last week I found this:

Paul Klee Notebooks Vol. 1

You can read it free online, actually, but I prefer books to be on paper. I like leafing through pages and don’t like scrolling up and down a screen. It was good exercise carrying it home too, so twice the benefit.

I’ve had a completely free weekend so have been immersing myself in Klee and his life and works.


Having started to read his words, I feel I am beginning to understand him and his work better. Weirdly, I understand myself better too. I periodically berate myself for not drawing more often (what kind of artist doesn’t draw?) but then I read Klee and feel more validated about valuing process over object and trying to explore the intangible. I admire people who can draw with photographic realism but learning how to do that doesn’t really interest me. I don’t want to draw what I can already see. Klee famously said, ‘art does not reproduce the visible but makes visible’. And I guess I draw with a needle and thread instead of a pencil.

Klee’s writing is, as you would expect, pretty dense, so in between nibbles of philosophical art theory I’m working on a sketchbook cover. I accidentally deleted the photo I took of it in progress, so this is just a screenshot:

Watercolour on loom state cotton, inspired by Klee’s painting ‘Clarification’ (1932)

It’s just regular watercolour on fabric. It won’t ever be washed so it doesn’t matter about fixing the colour. The fabric I’m using is loom state cotton, and it’s a really good surface for sewing on. It’s not quite as thick as furnishing fabric, but a bit more substantial than heavyweight calico, and a nicer weave than cotton canvas – it’s quite a fine twill weave, similar to impossibly lightweight denim, if there could be such a thing. I’ve started to add rows of running stitch in threads similar to one strand of DMC floss.

The colour seems to be fading slightly already, but that’s ok. I thought it was a bit too bright to begin with anyway. You can see how I’ve had to draw lines on it to keep me on the straight and narrow and not go wandering off on a tangent. I’m not keen on the way the yellow square has ended up being more or less right in the middle, but it’s never going to end up on show anywhere so I can overlook that I think.

Front cover of sketchbook in progress

Author: Karen

Textile and mixed media artist

9 thoughts on “Immersion”

  1. I have always loved Kandinsky. Our small Island Library has an excellent art book collection. I think I will “visit” it. I am always about process–trying to crank out a lot of stitchery isn’t interesting to me. My friend Carole and I a re going to do some sun printing this week–cut it up and see how we can stitch it. I love your blog and look forward to all of your listings. Janet

    1. I’m not that familiar with a lot of Kandinsky’s work though I probably should be. Interesting to see what speaks to us and where we find meaning, I think. Thanks so much Janet and enjoy your library foraging 🙂

  2. I own all his books, the only books I have mostly.
    The Thinking Eye, my favorite. My love of symbols sprang from that.

    1. I’ve always liked his work but have only just got round to properly studying it. The Notebooks are I think out of print now and difficult to find (and predictably very expensive) so this is a real treat.

  3. That seems to be full of interesting thoughts!
    I know what you mean about berating yourself for not drawing, because I do the same. Even when I set myself up with the idea of drawing or painting practice, I find it hard to find something I want to draw and even harder to Just Draw. But I’ve done more drawing in the past four years, and where one of the reasons the panel I wrote about on my blog today was put aside 10 years ago was because I was scared of reinstating the horses, this time I barely turned a hair.
    So there’s something in favour of at least trying!

    1. I think drawing something is probably the best way to observe and understand it, and I guess practice is always a good thing. Interesting also how we put these things off out of fear and then find it was nowhere near as bad as we imagined.

  4. Many years ago, my local library borrowed The Thinking Eye for me from a library in England…it cost me £5 and I could only have it for a limited time, but it was worth it.
    As usual, I love your work here.

    1. Thanks so much Helen. It’s a truly wonderful book, treasure on every page.

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