One of those strange conundrums – the older I get, the slower I become, but the faster time passes. That makes a net loss multiplied by two, according to my flawed logic.
There is no rush, of course, and everything takes as long as it takes. There just never seems to be enough time to do all the things I want to do.
So I am still on paper and got distracted by noticing I was running low on collage paper, so had to stop and paint some more. Actually this is one of my favourite activities. I use inks, paints and mark-making tools of various kinds to liven up old book pages, envelopes, junk mail etc. Loosening up and splashing some colour around makes for a very happy (slightly messy) afternoon.
The sketchbooks I made for the shop last week disappeared in about an hour, so I’ve made a few more – these are the last of them, for now at least.
And finally, in what’s turning out to be more of a news roundup than any kind of meaningful post, I’m really happy to have had my work featured by My Modern Met. You can read the article here.
Settle down with a cup of tea or something because there are lots of pictures today.
You might recall I enrolled on the Heart of Soil online workshop last month – you can see my earlier post about it here. I collected all the lessons into a little sketchbook, and it’s been a lot of fun to revisit some techniques I haven’t used for a while. I particularly liked the limited colour palette – just blues and yellows – and the pages in the resulting book are nicely coordinated.
I went a bit off-piste with some of these and added some lines from a vintage poetry anthology to some of the pages, and I added a teabag pocket to this one too. I made a stencil from Tyvek for the background leaf and flower images.
The lines of poetry on the page below are from a Rupert Brooke poem, mixed up to create a found poem.
Of course the sketchbook itself is based on the one-page sketchbook technique (you fold a single sheet of paper, cut it strategically and fold it into an eight-page booklet) but I thought it would be fun to make a tiny sketchbook to tuck inside the bigger one. The smaller version is made from a sheet of A4 paper; just me enjoying myself, really.
I thought it might be fun to include a little video run-through but then I noticed the colour of my hands and thought I ought to explain. I did some dyeing this morning and – I do it every time – forgot to put the gloves back on when rinsing. My hands are not normally purple, just in case anyone is worried.
A very happy collection of classes and I enjoyed them immensely. Next up, I’m doing the Traveller Blanket course with the lovely Dijanne Cevaal and am looking forward to that. Next year I hope to be teaching online classes myself, and I’ve figured that the best way to see what works is to sign up for a few myself. And of course there is always something new to learn.
Still having lots of creative fun with paint and paper in the Heart of Soil class – it’s a lovely course and for an excellent cause – there is still time to sign up, which you can do here.
Accidental discovery of the day is that you can very easily make your own stencils from Tyvek. Apparently Tyvek is used for making envelopes in the US but you’re more likely to find it in a DIY shop in the UK – I think it’s used in building/construction and in PPE, but it’s also been used in mixed media art for several years now for its propensity to shrink and bubble when heated. It’s about as thick as copy paper but is much more durable, and very easy to cut with a craft knife.
This page is based on a technique taught by Michelle Schratz (if you’re an Instagram person you can find her here.)
I found a couple of lines of poetry (Rupert Brooke, from a vintage anthology) and used an old teabag as the pocket for the cut-out flowers.
The yellow ribbon, saved from something many years ago, is exactly the right colour, which is proof that you should Keep All Your Collage Supplies For Ever. One of these days I will need a bigger house.
I am really enjoying the limited palette and am already thinking way ahead with ideas to try this in various other colours and media. Also it’s immensely enjoyable to make something just for the fun of it, without any pressure for it to turn out ‘right’, whatever that is. Wishing everyone a happy week.
I have given myself too many things to do: no surprises there. I have signed up for three online courses, all running at the same time, while continuing to work three days a week at the desk job. I did know what I was doing, and all of it seemed like a really good idea at the time, and I’m already slightly behind. But then I get lifetime access to all three courses, and you can do them all at your own pace, so there is no rush really.
One of the classes I signed up for is a delightful mixed media watercolour course called He(art) of Soil, organised by Leaca Young (you can find her on Instagram here). It’s very accessible, with ten mixed media artists each contributing a simple project, and there’s still time to sign up if you’re interested – go to Leaca’s website in the link above for more information. All the proceeds go to World Central Kitchen, in aid of the conflict in Ukraine. The projects in this course are based on a very limited palette: just three shades of blue, and three shades of yellow, for the Ukrainian flag. The paints are made from soil and pigment and look really beautiful. You can see more about how they’re made here. I didn’t purchase the paints – it would have been very expensive to have them shipped from the USA to the UK, and I don’t need more watercolour paints, so I’m adapting what I’ve already got. You can see my substitute palette below.
I don’t need much of an excuse to splash some paint around, so I had a very happy hour or so this afternoon painting some collage papers in these colours.
I’m collecting and completing all the lessons in a little folded A6 sketchbook made with three sheets of A3 paper, folded and cut to make a little zine-type booklet. If you’re not familiar with the technique, you can find instructions for making a one-page booklet here. One of the tutorials in this class includes instructions for making this kind of booklet, which will be perfect for keeping everything together.
The projects are very simple and suitable for all abilities, and I guess you could make them as quick or as complicated as you like.
It’s really interesting to work with such a limited palette, and surprising to see just how many shades of blue, green, and yellow you can actually make. A lot of the artists remark on the texture of the watercolours that they’re using, describing them as quite gritty. My paints are all very smooth, so I might try using some watercolour texture medium for some of the classes, just to see how it turns out.
Regardless of how long you might have been making art, in whatever medium, I love the fact that there is always something more to learn, something more to practice, and plenty more ways to grow. I really like the fact that this online class supports a great cause, and that the artists have given their time and skills so freely. I’m looking forward to completing more of the classes in this course.
I’ve been revisiting my Lines on the Land sketchbook this week. It’s a collection of sketches and designs based on ancient landscape features like standing stones and rock art, just to explore some of the patterns.
I made this sketchbook myself, using signatures of cartridge paper, and then collaged and painted the pages before assembly. I prefer to make my own sketchbooks because I have more control over the size, shape, and proportions. I don’t always like the proportions of standard A4.
I usually cut off part of the page when making a sketchbook if I know I’m going to include fabric or stitched samples, as with this one below which is waiting for me to do something with it:
When I get round to doing something in it, I will be able to attach a stitched sample to the short tab which will form a new page that will be separate from the paper pages.
I didn’t do that with the current sketchbook; there are some pull-out pages, but no partial pages. While trying to figure out a way of sticking stitched samples in it without covering a finished page, I accidentally discovered that you can add pages sideways:
You can lift up the stitched sample to reveal the completed page underneath. I like it. Necessity, invention, etc.
Of course I made a cover for it. I do like a well-dressed sketchbook.
I’ve found spaces for some stitched samples I made a while ago:
I don’t always think of a sketchbook as preparatory work for something bigger or better, though it often is that. This may or may not lead to some larger textile work. Part of the adventure is the not knowing, the voyage in the dark, and true of any creative venture I think. Having a go, never knowing whether what you’re making is any good or not. And then realising that it doesn’t really matter, if you’ve enjoyed doing it.
Still working on paper, thinking things through. I don’t have a lot to say about this today. Not in words, at least. Colour, shape and composition have their own language that is universal and goes far beyond the limits of words.
I have started to draw what might become stitches.
I really like paper. I especially like painting sheets of paper and then tearing them up to make collages for sketchbook pages – I find this much easier than drawing on a blank page with a pen or pencil. I like the accidental shadings that occur, and the blocks of colour. It’s like patchwork, really.
I’m in the process of making two sketchbooks: one that explores the marks on ancient rocks and stones, and one that explores the marks on ancient landscapes. I find land particularly fascinating because it holds so much time and has witnessed millions of years of life. Land and ground can be synonyms, and grounding is what happens when we connect to the land.
While I’ve been working on these pages, some thoughts about the fiction I’ve read recently have been weaving themselves together. A couple of months ago I read All Passion Spent, by Vita Sackville West (first published in 1931), which is about an elderly woman who, when widowed, decides to live where she chooses and on her own terms. There is a passage at the beginning of Part Two, where Lady Slane finds that for once she has time to reflect:
‘She had plenty of leisure now, day in, day out, to survey her life as a tract of country traversed, and at last become a landscape instead of separate fields or separate years and days, so that it became a unity and she could see the whole view, and could even pick out a particular field and wander around it again in spirit, though seeing it all the while as it were from a height, fallen into its proper place, with the exact pattern drawn round it by the hedge, and the next field into which the gap in the hedge would lead. So, she thought, could she at last put circles around her life.’
I recall seeing a fascinating interview with the actor Liz Smith a few months ago, and she said it’s only when you get older that you can look back at your life and begin to see the recurring patterns that have always been there. You don’t notice the patterns at the time because you’re too close to recognise them.
In another novel I’ve read recently, Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood (1996), one of the characters, Reverend Verringer, speaks this line:
“What becomes of the soul? We cannot be mere patchworks!” (p. 471, ‘Pandora’s Box’)
All these thoughts and patterns are coming together, like paths converging, and it feels as if I am going somewhere. I am still drawing the map, but I have a compass and a vague sense of direction. I am travelling slowly, on foot. Step by step, or stitch by stitch, or piece by piece, it will come together somehow, in its own time.
And *of course* we are all patchworks. What else could we possibly be?