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.
Focusing on the Big Plan is taking most of my time and energy at the moment, but it’s utterly absorbing and much more immersive than I had expected. At the moment it feels like a good use of my time. I’m seeing things more clearly as a result of taking the time to work on these visual representations of where I go next on the journey, and it’s so much more effective than writing words in a box with a biro. It turns out I had completely underestimated the power of creative journalling.
The concertina sketchbook turns out to be perfect for this (it’s the Seawhite Octopus sketchbook, with eight 4-page foldouts). I’ve never used one extensively before, and I’m really liking the format. Ideas can spread across the page, ideas and pages unfolding together. I think the subconscious mind enjoys these metaphors.
A little digression here: it’s also a really fun way to explore some mixed media techniques. I made my own acrylic ink spray.
You can buy ink sprays, of course, but most of them are not colourfast when dry. I wanted something that would allow for using watercolour over the top without it rediluting. There is nothing complicated about this – it’s just a fine mist spray bottle with one part acrylic ink and three parts water. You could probably dilute it more or less according to your needs. Of course I’m now making a mental note to try this on fabric as well – I’m fairly confident (or maybe just hopeful) that it will work.
The Right Brain Business Plan has a section called ‘painting your business landscape’. I grew up by the seaside on the east coast of the UK and this page has ended up looking a bit like the cliff top walks I used to enjoy as a teenager. I remember the feeling of freedom, the wildness of the wind blowing in from the sea, and the sense of space and perspective you get from a high vantage point. Interesting how your mind shows you these meaningful images once you turn your attention away from the left brain and all its fretting.
I’ve been asking myself this question most of my life:
I guess it’s about identifying the values that you want to live by. Life is short, and living my best life is becoming more important the older I get.
This is definitely giving me time for reflection, and the format makes it really easy to connect ideas and see the bigger picture. Sometimes on paper is the most useful place to be.
I’ve been trying to write a business plan, because I know I will need one if I ever get to give up the day job, but haven’t made much progress.
It’s all boxes and straight lines and charts and columns. I have no idea what to write. I don’t even understand some of the questions. Key findings from desk research, marketing strategy, financial forecasts… how are you supposed to know all that when you haven’t started yet?
And then I found this:
I’ve had it in my hands for about three hours and already it has changed my life. It comes with a handy checklist:
I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself, but there we are. It’s much easier to think ‘what’s wrong with me?’ rather than ‘what is it about this format that isn’t working for me?’ My left-brained husband wouldn’t dream of hanging a picture without a spirit level. I would bang a nail in and eyeball it. It wouldn’t bother me if it wasn’t even straight.
Almost every sentence in the first chapter has me jumping up and down in my chair. This particularly:
“The challenge is when left-brain thinking comes too early in the visioning and planning process and kills the party with its questioning, judgement, and need for every single piece of the puzzle to make absolute sense before taking that first step. This limits your thinking: good ideas are quashed before they’ve even had a chance to form.”
So now I know a business plan can be pictures and colours and shapes, there is nothing stopping me and I find I know exactly what I want and where I’m wanting to go.
The Business Plan book says ‘let it unfold’. I’ve had this accordion-style sketch book since Christmas and have been waiting for it to tell me what it wants. Of course, all this time it’s just been waiting for me.
I’ve gone from constantly putting it off because it’s dull to actually wanting to get started on it.
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.
I experienced a proper state of what psychologists call flow this morning – utterly absorbed and focused on making these little samples, I somehow lost two hours. I quite like it when that happens. You literally lose yourself in something while time rolls on without you. You come back to reality slightly dazed, feeling a bit like Rip Van Winkle.
I really like this Klee painting, ‘Oceanic Landscape’ (1929) and have been drawing tree shapes with watercolour. I love the simplicity of these shapes – just a few very easy lines that nevertheless unmistakably say ‘tree’
Of course I wanted to see how these would work in fabric and thread. The first sample is layered sheers and silk net on a scrap of very soft brushed cotton.
The second is a scrap of vintage linen/cotton sheet, painted with watercolours and then stitched. You can see the imprint of the embroidery frame which kept the fabric taut just while the paint was drying. I will soak and stretch the creases out at some point.
This sketchbook (so far) is just for me, and just for fun. I’m not sure it’s leading anywhere, although really everything is good practice for something.
I’m having a few days away from the day job next week and am looking forward to a break. I have a strong need to paint – who knows where these directives come from? I think it’s probably important to listen, in any case – so will be on paper for a while. Just to see what happens.
The sketchbook cover is finished – despite all the careful measuring and re-measuring along the way, I am always really surprised when it fits.
I have sketchbooks in various sizes, mostly made from papers that I collate and bind myself. This one is a bought spiral bound 12” square one, which is a good size for exploring mark-making and for holding samples of stitched work.
‘Coming to bloom’ is a pastel drawing made by Klee in 1934, on black paper. I made a quick sketch with pastels, also on black paper – the fixative has dulled the colours a little, so I made a duplicate sketch in watercolour on a white background.
Then the fun really started. I made a little stitched sample on a scrap of black cotton fabric, only about 4” square or so, exploring ways of creating stitched blocks.
I really like the woven blocks. The satin stitch blocks have floats that are too long to be practical, but I also quite like the irregular sketchy effect of the straight stitch sample on the right. I worked the samples from right to left, so the weaving was the last thing I did.
Not quite sure where all this is going, but then some journeys are about exploration and discovery rather than arrival.
Firstly, thank you so much to everyone who has purchased fabric and thread – it’s now all on its way to you. I hope it arrives soon and that you can do something lovely with it.
I’m back in the day job from tomorrow so I’m having a little me time today, working (playing) in the second of two sketchbooks I have on the go at the moment. The first sketchbook is about ancient marks, standing stones, and lines on the land. The second is a study of work by Paul Klee, one of my favourite artists. I have often registered the affinity that Klee’s work seems to have with textiles. One of the first textile wall hangings I ever made was an interpretation of Klee’s ‘Fire at Evening’. Many of his paintings are basically patchwork, and many of his drawn lines look very like stitched marks.
This painting looks exactly like a stitch sampler to me, and reminds me of my own stitch journal.
The marks on Klee’s painting ‘Clarification’ also look exactly like running stitch or kantha stitching.
What particularly interests me about Klee is his work linking painting with music. He thought of music as having similar principles to painting, particularly in terms of composition – and of course we use the same word to describe an arrangement of musical notes and an arrangement of painted or drawn shapes on a page. I like the layering in his polyphonic works, which are usually a series of regular painted marks over a patchwork-like background. To me this is very like a quilt – the patchwork ground tells one story, and the quilted lines on the surface tell another story, like two voices singing in harmony.
The stitched sample is an exploration of how tiny bits of fabric would look if applied to a textile surface. I’ve used felt in this first foray, simply because it’s easy to cut up into small pieces and it doesn’t fray. I’ve experimented with different ways of attaching the little tiles (for scale, the bits of felt are about a quarter of an inch square).
Probably my favourite is the invisible method (top right), but I’m not confident that it would be stable enough. I took the needle and thread horizontally through the centre of the felt, like threading a bead, and then down into the base fabric. I suspect over time it might split the layers, in which case the top layer could peel off.
Whether any of it works or not is immaterial today, really. It’s just nice to have some time to think about the possibilities.
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?