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.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Continental Creative

Journaling in the motorhome

As we ready ourselves for our long continental press trip I have been refining my travel journal techniques, simplifying what can and can't be done when most of the itinerary is not under one's own control, and when 'luggage' space is at a minimum and weight must be controlled. Our recently acquired motor home works extremely well as a studio for work or play, but the check list of technical requirements when working away from home proliferates. (That's for another post, and on another blog, but more weight equals extra fuel!)

Pages from this book will form
the basis of my Continental
Travel Journal
But I knew I had to record our journey and time away somehow, not just in words which I am always scribbling in my latest little notebook, but in photos, sketches, stitch and napkin embellishments. I knew I wanted to use an old book as a base (I collect second-hand ones for just this purpose) and I knew that if I wanted to add stitch to the pages, they would have to be removed, worked upon, and then put back together. But what sort of book would best reflect a travel subject? Pages had to have a background text too which I could overlay my images, a surface on which to sketch, and that would accept the napping embellishments I love to use. And then, as if waiting for just this moment, my hand fell upon 'Imagined Corners' - a history of map-making which I had bought because of my fascination for maps; a remaindered book and very inexpensive. I bought three copies -and perfect for a travel project.

First thoughts
Once I get an idea swirling around in my head, something has to go down on paper; it's a start. I know that on this trip there will not be time to complete any finished artworks; but the techniques that I have been working upon over our last two away-from-home visits will be brought into play again. These involve no more than planning the layouts of what will then become a finished book. I use layout pads (very tough but lightweight paper) and tracing overlays, photos printed 'in the studio' (yes, we take a printer with us for the real work upon which we are engaged), napkins, crayons, etc - but nothing wet or messy so we can pack up and move at a moment's notice. Oh, and a small brand new notebook with waterproof covers that I can take around with me on the press tour days to record journaling thoughts. And camera.

Trying out techniques
I then make a trial page to check my ideas - a couple of sketches from photographs (not Germany actually but two I had took in Ludlow, and including people which is something I have never done, so a new challenge for me). I stupidly stripped away the blank margins from the page which makes it look cluttered and mean - but it is only a trial, not a finished page. So next, I prepare a template around which to outline the correct page size on the layout sheets, including 'type area' - i.e. it will still show the margins. Once back home, my layouts will be recreated on the pages stripped from 'Imagined Corners'; with stitching around the margins.  It came to me that these layouts, one they have served their turn as the catalyst for the finished 'book', could become a book in their own right, with text and notes and everything else thrown in. Stitched to heavy cream coloured furnishing fabric that I bought for next to nothing in a charity shop, a journaling portfolio. For all my work these days has to combine fabric and paper and stitch. This book-about-a-book will allow me to work with a joyous freedom, a release from my daily working life; and because all I will be doing will be layouts, I need not fret that there will be so little time. 

Title page for my rough layouts - and maybe for the actual altered book

But this extra book will need an introduction, and in a moment of madness after my day spent in hospital this last week, I created a title page. I am a wordsmith, not an artist, yet I vividly remember the day at school when we were all told to sketch two bare twigs - ash and horse-chestnut. Only seven at the time (1944), this taught me to open my eyes and really look at what is all around me, learning also to annotate what I drew. Since that day, I have kept journals and made books and ... well I think you can guess the rest. So I don't offer my work as 'art' but a sharing.

I will attempt to photograph the layouts and post them whilst we are away, but may not have adequate WiFi coverage; and of necessity, they may appear on my travel blog. Wherever, I will post a link on this blog, alongside my 'pages cartouche'. Do visit and share my journey; it would be lovely to think you were touring alongside of me.