Sunday, 28 October 2012

Weariness of spirit leads to madness

click on the link below to read this
I have pages within my various illustrated journals and sketchbooks in need of attention; many tiny images to colour, but am weary; if I try to paint now, disaster would result. A really nasty cold has me sitting by the fire wrapped in a blanket trying (supposedly to work). Been like this for two days; my dear husband tells me to stay in bed, but if I sleep during the day, I will be awake all night. So instead, I attempt to play; the pen slides onto pieces of scrap paper and the fingers itch to tap the keyboard; nothing too onerous - no long stories or reports requiring research. I play, surrounded by books which fall on the floor; I dream of simper things, and this is what emerges: Dilemmas & Delights. Just an escape from the rigours of every day, whilst still sharing what is in my head and heart. It will expand for is a speedy thing.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Painting with wine

Concentrate on the left-hand bunch
The first time I used wine when colouring my sketches, it was a mistake. One glass of water (for painting), on of wine (for drinking) - and I dipped the brush in the wrong glass! I am usually creating sketches of an evening after work, either on the terrace in the garden, or by the fire; and I don't ALWAYS accompany these sessions by drinking! The second time was sitting in a field of long grass with the most spectacular meadow flowers and I was sketching whilst enjoying a picnic. My sketch kit that day did not include water, so the glass of wine was used of necessity - though I poured a drop into the top of the thermos flask having drunk all our coffee. The effect of wine on sketching pen, and aqua pencils was lovely, and I have continued experiments from time to time. The wine has the effect of sealing pen lines to a certain extent, and I keep one of those miniature wine sample bottles in my work space.

Trial 'painting with wine'
Of late, there has been no need for these experiments, because I usually now draw with a Uni-ball Signo Gel Grip pen; it isn't a permanent marker but if left to dry overnight, it is perfectly waterproof next day and you can paint over the lines with either a watercolour wash, or neat paint and it does not smudge. But yesterday evening, I wanted to capture the feel of the bunch of flowers I bought over a week ago in the Ludlow Food Centre. They were so fresh they had hardly faded, and the hydrangea petals were becoming quite papery with such subtle colouring. I had mislaid my Signo pen and only had a Pentel EnerGel which, although it dries is never waterproof - wet the paper with paint and it smudges badly, turning any applied watercolour to mud. I experimented with a drop of wine immediately over the watercolour - though I used Koh-i-Noor Hardmuth solid colour blocks (more like a dye than watercolour); the effect with a brush was too heavy - the lines almost washed off the paper, and I had to draw over the colour wash.

My finished painting
But I was determined to capture the flowers (similar to the left hand bunch in the top picture) and tried a totally different technique. I used Daler-Rowney Langton Not (Cold Pressed) fine grain 140lb 10in x 7in (254mm x 178mm) and quickly produced what I term a 'scribble drawing'. Then I dipped my fingers in the wine and slid them over the sketch, using the pad of my middle finger to blend the lines a little. I rather liked the way the ink spread over the paper - but the ink badly stained my fingers and had to be scrubbed off! I used a brush to wash on a little Koh-i-Noor colour for the hydrangeas and the blue vase, whilst the flowers were still damp, dipping the brush into the wine. Miraculously, the black lines seemed to be sealed by the finger-rubbing with the first application of wine. The result may be rubbish, but I will never now forget the beauty of the flowers and somehow, by painting them, they will forever remind me of the day I bought them. This is a technique I will pursue I think with landscape sketches.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Moving forwards ...

The latest pages from my 'illustrated morning pages'
(double-click on the image so you can read the text)
Taking a few days to recuperate from non-stop writing and editing; working on creative projects - moving forwards. This morning I am putting together an Activity Box - items for a sketchbook trail that will become 'something' made from fabric, photos, sketches, paper and stitch. Not sure what yet ... this is the moving forwards part; such bliss.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The strangeness of the mind

What does this say of my mixed-up state? 
Please click on the image to view it at a larger size
I find it impossible to believe that I created this page in my Artist Journal notebook only a week ago, and how when I came to colour the tiny sketches last night, I could not remember what I had been planning to do or why. I know it was a lovely leap forward from after the Open Studio event in our caravan (back in June), but nothing really made sense. And in a way it still doesn't, because I seem to have been brain-dead to other than work, and have become increasingly frustrated that work consumes all available time and I feel as if I will never escape. I haven't posted my 'Creative Morning Pages' since I can't remember when, and I even reached the point where I couldn't write them. So much for good intentions! And why bother to set down all the ideas that flow into my head if, when I look at my notes, I have absolutely no recollection of what I had planned. All too convoluted. So I made a decision, and have acted upon it, and that is a post for my more personal 'Wild Somerset Child' blog.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A glass of red wine

Wineglass of red wine
with watch at side (to remind
me that work is pending)
Lest you should think I have abandoned Creative Morning Pages and my page-a-day, I haven't. I've been covering a different as-I-wake topic each day, have been sketching in odd moments, taking photos and moving forward with one project and another, and a leap into something else as well. But overall, this takes a back seat at the moment; I just have not been able to make the time to scan the 'cmp' nor assemble and manipulate the accompanying photos. Still working flat out and taking far more time than I would usually do over breakfast, coffee, lunch and tea so that R. rests himself. Very necessary, but frustrating as I like to work in 3 hr uninterrupted stretches, So this last weeks 'cmp' will be scanned and will appear. Eventually.

Monday, 27 August 2012

In times of stress

It has been a fraught week - too much to do (deadlines and computer glitches which became worse rather than better), husband still not really recovered and I don't think he ever will be. In times of stress, writing and creating art in many forms always calms me. And so tomorrow (Tuesday 28th August, 2012), I move into the third week of my creative diary. Which began fourteen days ago as 'Artist's Morning Pages' - all shown in last week's post on this blog - and became 'Creative Morning Pages' a week ago, because that better describes what they are. I have hardly had time to truly create, just a little sketching. For somehow when a big project is ongoing (editing 'Discover Touring' magazine at the moment, as well as writing articles) my mind becomes numb and I dare not involve myself in big stitching projects. So my waking creative thoughts each morning are set on the page, and for the moment that is all I can manage. I hope they may spur others to keep such a journal - morning, daytime or night, it doesn't matter; it's a record of achievement and failure, and, for me for the moment, of fragility. Click on any page to see it at a readable size.

Do you keep a creative journal (as opposed to a working sketchbook)? I'd love to know. This one engages my waking thoughts, before I fall into the business of the day; it sustains me. And for those who haven't already seen the 'Poppy Page' elsewhere, as mentioned on page 13 above, here it is - lest you should think that all I do is write!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Creative Process

Sketching in Ireland, July 2012
With so many changes occurring in my life right now - inevitable as one grows older - I find I am less able to cope with all that is required of me. Or perhaps, to be more truthful, all the self-set goals I feel behoven to achieve. I do not do less; my workload increases exponentially and I create lists of lists of lists (ever the diarist!) until I drop. And as clarity emerges, and I become aware of what is needed - husband, house, garden, family, work, voluntary activities - I realise just how important to me is my creativity. And so, seven days ago, I embarked of my own volition upon a new daily journal: 'Artist Morning Pages' - actually, it would have been better had I titled it 'Creative Morning Pages' and maybe the title will change as I progress. But not the purpose - to set down each morning as I wake  creative thoughts that spill onto the page. I know they will, for it was just such a daily exercise that 12 years ago actually jump-started my professional personal writing career (after my husband and I retired and abandoned our publishing business begun in 1967). They are not intimate pages, but the thought processes that are continually running through my mind. Chaotic at times, as is my crazy life. So here for what they are worth are the pages from WEEK ONE. No explantations; it's all on the page.

And so you have my first week of journaling about my creative process - in one book and not on scraps of paper or penned higgledy-piggledy in other notebooks. Click on any image to view it at larger size. APOLOGIES to those kind friends and acquaintances who read more than one of my blogs or follow me on Facebook (my personal timeline and groups). I write and post across so many genres and media that I am certain at times to duplicate an image you have seen elsewhere. Put it down to bad organisation and a failing memory. It's happened already in this new 'amp' - two days running, my first creative thoughts on waking were on the same topic. re-enforcing what was in my mind, though I wasn't aware of this when I wrote. (And one of the things about unselfconscious morning pages is that you do not look back at what you have written; at least for a while. Well I did! But then I was always the wild rule-breaker if it served my purpose and it did not hurt others). I hope you enjoy this adventure into my creative process and that it just might encourage others to document their own journey. Just fifteen  minutes on waking is all it takes. Truly.

Garden Journaling

Remember what this cartouche signifies? That a topic I would normally write about here appears on one of my other blogs. Well this week, my subject for the weekly post I write for Dobies of Devon (the UK seed and plant company) is on creating garden journals and sketchbooks; with the aim of giving inspiration to others (children included). Please click this link to visit the other blog. I hope you enjoy what you read, and the images.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Something of a Sea Change

Bookcase behind my writing desk (there's
another smaller one to the left,  
the windowsill, with art boxes as well)
I've spent the week since returning home from Ireland in some sort of mental limbo - working during the day but then sorting paperwork and rubbish on a grand scale. I know in my heart that I need to make changes in my life; not the togetherness I share with my dear husband, but in what I still want to achieve. I was overwhelmed by the response to my open studio adventure and know I can now spread my wings, and am proud of what I have managed in 'spare' time. I am thinking this through and, regardless of what needs sorting and discarding in the rest of this rambling old house, I am first reorganising my office into an integral work-space. For the last twelve years, since we 'retired' and I started to write free-lance, this small bedroom overlooking the village green has had computer and office at one end. Gradually, in my madder moments when I thought I could maybe try to sketch and create collaged junk-journals, I introduced a few art supplies and books. Work overtook everything however as commissions grew and art has taken a back seat. Not any more! 

'Welsh Idyll' - a piece created for a magazine article
From now onwards, the two will be interwoven. I won't go into details, but my 'writing' desk is now also where I now work at my laptop, I can see the trees and the sky, feel the sunshine on my face, and have my favourite reference books on the subjects about which I write, and some of my working notebooks, in front and to the side of me. It's not yet completed, but the vacated space where the 'big' computer stands and where I piled reference material and heavens know what, will become somewhere to lay out sketches to dry - and I can bring upstairs my second printer which will also copy in colour when I want to reproduce images for cut-and-paste. 

A mixed-media stitched fabric 'herbal', in progress (though it was actually finished!)
I am fortunate to have a workroom / sewing room also that doubles as a laundry room but that is underground and has no daylight, and little actual space - it's mostly storage and laundry. It will take me a while to change everything around: a twelve-year itch, if you like, but something that I feel is vital to keeping my spirit young, even as my body fades. I have been trying to catalogue the TYPE of things I love to create; to analyse not so much processes (though actually those as well) but also subjects. Top of the list is that I must work in fabric AND paper, use images - my own wherever possible - incorporate threads, perhaps knitted and crocheted, and certain types of ephemera. Not bling, but what I can only describe as organic, rooted in the earth. And no matter what, I just MUST gave words - my own word-whispers and poem-spills. Topics include landscape, gardens and natural history, travel trails, and history. 

A single page from a map-trail
(there were eight in all, backed
with calico, and decorated with
napkins and my own sketches
My ongoing projects (many started and waiting to be finished) comprise the following: a) handmade paper-scrapbook type creations, b) ditto in fabric, c) ditto in paper-AND-fabric (oh dear, how boring and repetitive that sounds), but all using a twist on various techniques that, whilst learned from tutors or gleaned from books, magazines and other people, nevertheless are never copies but my own twist on things. To that I would now add my illustrated sketchbooks and notebooks where I try to think images before words, and my attempts at creating from, say, perhaps a single word or artefact and jumping in whether it be junk-journaling or a collage or ... 

The images shown here are representative of what I exhibited recently; and to all this, I would now add the burning desire to experiment with new techniques and materials; in fact to move myself upwards and onwards, never forgetting that we only have a limited time on this earth, and I never know when mine will reach the point of no-return. 

Friday, 27 July 2012

New ways of journaling

Photo frames have many uses ...
We are on the ferry returning from Ireland (Rosslare to Fishguard) where we have been travelling for the last ten days. It seems a world away from Warwickshire Open Studios and  my excitement at greeting so many visitors into my caravan studio. Days in which I have hardly had time to think of the mixed-media journal I was to create whilst away - but that's work for you; it takes over, though I have notes (pages of them) and sketches a-plenty. When I have had time to think creatively, it has been of new directions - decisions on what I want to do; new style journals using techniques and materials that are as yet unknown to me.; and completing all those projects-in-progress. I haven't yet set down my plan, but just before we went away, I bought these two little photo frames (can't recall where, which is a nuisance, because I may want more!) Wood, with space for a back and front cover image of some sort, on fabric most likely, and inside - individual pages or concertina book - I am not sure, but the subject will again be TREES (wood is turned into paper, and the frame is wood, so what better subject could there be to fill this book-with-a-difference? The plaster hearts will grace some other project. More details will follow at some later date, when I drag myself back from the magic of Ireland, and when I have better WiFi access than 'internet@sea' - very slow.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Notebooks and thoughts

Work table in my caravan studio today
It's been another marvellous studio day - another eleven dear visitors and only one day to go. The sun shone, and my dear husband (recovered from his trauma of yesterday's visit to the dentist) brings us tea on the terrace - actually the table alongside the caravan in the yard; herbs alongside however. I should be in the upstairs office catching up with work, but am denied access as R. is lying on the floor! Not another scare (see my Wild Somerset Child blogpost of last night); no, he's taken two of his computers apart and hasn't sufficient room on the desk for all the tools and components. So I go back to the caravan and pull out some of my current notebooks. I seem to be working in four at the moment; they overlap and to a certain extent duplication occurs.

In progress - begun when I was ill in bed in January and the pen I used
was not waterproof - the page looks as though I had accidentally
dripped tea onto it; the ink has smudged.
 (more painting tomorrow)
Not all pages were written today; I went back to those that needed painting. This is how I usually work - I always write with a Uni-ball Signo 0.7 gel pen which is waterproof once dry and so perfect for then infilling with watercolour paint or Neocolor II water-soluble crayons. Except that I prefer with the latter to blend them with a cotton-bud and matte gel medium (Golden).

So the pages jump back a bit as I had forgotten that some had not been finished. This page was prepared before we went to Germany a month ago, and described the supplies I think are needed when travelling light. I had forgotten to paint the page - and in actuality never did do what I had planned; the trip was just too jam-packed with press activities. Though I did sketch people which is something I have never done and was so absorbed I forgot to be afraid of doing so! Mind you, I was also half-listening to what we were being told by our German tour guide hosts and I should have been paying more attention to what they were saying.

I have plenty of material to complete my German Travelogue, but it won't be for a while yet as we are off to Ireland in a couple of days - and thus another travelogue.

I turn the page and there is the next 'Random Jottings' to be completed. This from only a week ago and actually written in the Caravan Studio between visitors. I sketch what I see - one of the box-containers covered with furnishing fabric, in which I am exhibiting some of my Notebooks. I know when anyone has looked at them, because they are not in the same order. Interesting to see which books have been opened. They date back to the 1960s (words only, then).

And I love the paper in these Random Jotting books, and whenever I see them on the shelves at WHSmith, I have to buy more. The paper is cream and smooth and not art paper at all, but accepts ink readily from my pen (no wonder I write so much!) and watercolour too. Using my tiny travel paint box (Winsor & Newton) - I've drawn it in the page above. Not artist quality, so the colours tend to be somewhat muddy, but I use them dry-ish, and deliberately mix on the palette and let the colours meld. This is NOT watercolour technique and would no doubt be frowned upon by real artists, but I don't care, and love my flawed pages as they are.

Working in my notebook today in the caravan
(I didn't know my husband had taken this!)
Although I have been working in FOUR notebooks today, these are only two of them, for the ink is still wet in the others and today's pages are only half completed. And oh, I am in such a turmoil! For I cannot quite decide how to handle the trip to the Island of Ireland, our 'Celtic C' tour (the article for which is already entitled 'Magic in the Air', or similar. What do I take? What might be the format of a finished travel journal? Thoughts are on the page in progress; and - following on from all the amazing comments I have received on Warwickshire Open Studios and our cosy caravan as an exhibition space - well, I feel as if I have been propelled into space and back again, and all that I have done, and been, will re-emerge in some new fashion. First I must re-focus my office space, then my underground workroom and that under the eaves in the roof. Then there's the house, the garden, and just that little thing called WORK. Though that predominates, as it must, for without that, nothing else could exist.

P.S. Click on any image and it should re-appear at enlarged size.

Friday, 6 July 2012

It's really happening!

I cannot believe the kind comments and support I have had already from visitors to my little caravan studio, whilst I am participating in the Warwickshire Open Studio event. Despite the torrential rain - and not just from locally - I have had people drive to the southern tip of the county from Birmingham and Banbury and today, from Stratford and Alcester. And the two lovely ladies I met today were totally unknown and 'picked' me out from the brochure - 51 pages listing artists and their work. And of the nine who gave so far visited, six have asked if I will share my techniques in some sort of workshop. Oh! So at this point I have to acknowledge all the people over many years who have inspired me; all the books I have read and the people whose blogs I follow. Meeting fellow creators is such a release from the busy world of publishing and writing; sparking ideas off each other, always learning, always something new that encourages me to say "what if?" Then there is my dearest husband who, whilst he is bemused by what I so love doing, tolerates it most of the time. (Dearest in the sense that he could not be more dear, not that I have more than one for comparison: dear, dearer, dearest!)

And so I will share two other things today: first the latest spreads in my 'Moving On' journal that rarely sees the light of day. (Begun in early December 2011, I only reached page 13 this afternoon, and even then the words run away with me before I remind myself that this is a journal to document my creative work; so a few hasty sketch-scribbles fall onto the page, and I keep almost dipping my paintbrush into my tea mug. I'll let them speak for themselves.

And now to my latest project which I am using to demonstrate one or two processes in the caravan to anyone who asks. It's a rescued project - playing card sized 'pages' made from an old dictionary and OS map, that was to have been a tiny travel journal. But the flooding washing machine soaked them which separated the surface from the cards. I  fused the pages instead to calico and they will become a concertina napkin Florilegium'; the napkins provide the motifs (look how they merge with the page background when affixed with acrylic wax, and how any white tissue around the edge just disappears); machine-stitching will embellish the finished project. In my usual fashion, I have written what I plan to do, how I will achieve it, and a diary of the process so far. The images below show planning layout with snipped napkins on the actual pages (not in my sketchbook, though that exists too), and then 

Please click on any image to view it at larger, more readable size. Want to see it all for real? I know it is too far and out of the question for so many friends and acquaintances, but - wearing my marketing hat - the caravan is open tomorrow from mid-day until 16.30hrs, and again next week; same hours on Friday 13th, Sat 14th and Sunday 15th. If you need directions please check my 'About Me' profile. Everyone will be so very welcome, and thank you again to everyone who has believed in me and supported my 'exhibition' already.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

In the Caravan!

Just to announce my participation at this year's Warwickshire Open Studios. I will be exhibiting in my 'caravan studio' and extend a warm welcome to anyone who can get over here. It's a cosy little space but with plenty to look at: my latest mixed media work (completed and in progress), my sketchbooks, my notebooks and my various journals going back over the years - well some of them at least! 

Finding us is easy as we face the village green: look for the large red milk churn standing on the garden wall. The caravan is at the back of the house, down the drive. Out of courtesy to other residents, we would ask you to park alongside the village green. Hope to say 'hello' to anyone who can make the journey.

Click on the image so you can read it properly - and the dates and times of when the studio will be open.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Continental Sketchbook Pages

prelude to creativity
We are already over half-way through our 'Continental Journey' and my planned altered-book page-layouts have yet to see the light of day! The schedule on this press familiarisation tour simply does not allow sufficient time for 'incidentals' such as creating journals - but then, there is no reason that it should; each one of us on this trip has individual needs and reasons for being here. So as we undertake our guided tours, I have had three things to consider: a) that to be creative, you need time; b) when on guided tours you cannot take the images you may need later; and c) you need to be able to capture the atmosphere of any place almost instantaneously; first impressions are critical.

tentative experimenting
Therefore I have had to adapt. It's hard to write my usual 'word whispers' - or even the sort of notes that will be meaningful - when you are listening to a tour guide, so I found myself instead taking speedy reference photos for location, shape and colour, and to act as a trigger when back at home for the sort of pages that are in my mind. We are here to work, of course, so I always have my 6" x 8" (A5) leather-bound travel notebook open in my hand, and my waterproof gel pen. The book is not heavy and is sufficiently sturdy to lay open unsupported against my arm. I can make notes whilst I listen (which may not be about what the guide is actually talking about!) - and then I found myself making marks that were not words.

My sketchbook had begun. Actually not true sketching, but marks that are meaningful to me. I have never done anything like this before; never tried to sketch without thinking, as quickly as I would write. Always been fearful of what to include and where to start, and afraid of looking silly whilst doing it, and stupid when the results were not as they should be. 

And NEVER, EVER do I draw people! But my confidence grew - and this became a daily activity, and I cannot now imagine being without it. Of course, this is all mixed up with my travel-work notes, so I what I actually drew cannot be used in its present form.

To transfer them from notebook to pages involves photographing and manipulating them, and then printing on very fine tissue paper, or possibly lens tissue conservation paper. I'm not sure, but whatever paper I select, it has to be sufficiently transparent when applied with matte medium for the 'altered-page' background to still be visible. And it will have to be printed or photocopied using toner and not inkjet inks. For the latter smudge when watercolour paint is applied - and I will want to colour the images; my gel pen does not bleed if I allow the ink to dry. I've also been buying napkins (much cheaper over here, but then they are actually made in Germany) and I have also bought a string of wooden beads for embellishing the fabric backing. So quite what will materialise I do not now know.

sketching near the top of a mountain
(height seems to have affected ink)
So the whole project may well metamorphasize into something quite different to what I had visualised. I want to keep the original idea of my altered page backgrounds (see last post) but add collage, layers, and now these sketches. I want to meld each and every surface with acrylic wax and bind them into covers cut from stiff bags we have been given by various tourist organisations. The pages need to be interleaved to make them stiff, so pellet-vilene and stitching will probably be a part of the finished journal.

And now I am sitting writing this on a magnificent campsite near Augsburg, Bavaria. We have been looked after superbly at Lech Camping. The owner speaks perfect English which has been helpful for me as I do not speak German. Facilities are excellent: today I washed and dried clothes (instructions in English), showered - cubicles put the English equivalent to shame, attended to other chores, watched a red squirrel, collected seeds from a sycamore, walked to the local supermarket, have eaten breakfast and lunch also. And just to be sitting in the open air catching up on what I have been waiting to post for over a week is all the more special. I should have been on a motorhome factory visit!

P.S. WiFi is struggling to cope with long posts, so I won't add the rest of the sketches. I think that if you double-click on any image you will see it at a larger size and will be able to read the text. Apologies for poor photography - and I don't know if the system will present the blog page as it should.