20 February 2017

The search for the perfect coffee table

At Christmas, when the living room got clear of toolboxes and cutting tables, we cobbled together a coffee table from some leftover toolboxes and a convenient bit of manky mdf -
It sat there quite happily till The Carpenter came back from holiday and needed the toolboxes. And threatened to throw out the manky (but useful) bit of mdf. 

Here and there in the flat are bits of cut wood and various wooden objects under construction or no longer needed. With a bit of juggling, some colourful cubes became the base, and a plain cloth replaced our "Christmas tablecloth" (made by my mother 30 or so years ago). 
At sofa-seat height, and even though the size was determined by what happened to be on hand, it works perfectly for holding pre-dinner nibbles and unread sections of the paper, not to mention fruit bowls, flower vases, and candles. But is it permanent? The Carpenter say he can make one, but I'd rather he started the bookshelves...

Our street has two "vintage furniture" shops and I'm keeping my eyes open for a large, square coffee table. So far, the tables on offer have been too small and too high -
This one isn't square and much too high ... but isn't it amazing? Four tables in one! -

19 February 2017

Arting about

Strange goings-on at Jerwood Space (till 26 Feb) -
A "stunning 2 bed sewer conversion" by Ben Burgis & Ksenia Pedan;
"imaginative resonances" by Anna Bunting-Branch
Passing Beaux Arts and nipping in to see the careful charcoal work of Sarah Gillespie (till 4 March), then downstairs to encounter "my" boar, the one with the goring tail - he and the horse are by Anthony Scott, and in the foreground the work is by Anna Gillespie -
In the House Work show at Victoria Miro (till 18 March), my unexpected favourite was this large work by John Korner -
"First floor museum"
 Gagosian Grosvenor Hill has an extensive survey of Michael Andrews' work (till 25 March) -
We were intrigued by the "bubbles" that left the canvas bare ... how did he do that? -
Among Andrews' subjects was Uluru and the Olgas -

Ephemeral "street art" ... soon to become the core of another huge building, somewhere south of Oxford Street -



18 February 2017

Sorting old artwork

You make the drawings, the maquettes, the quilts, the pots;  you put them away ... and then one day you realise you can't hang on to them forever.

Clea (my stepdaughter) was at art college some decades ago, and when she left home she left her artwork behind. Like so much, it was stored in the loft. The loft needs clearing, and she's been going through the portfolios, sifting and sorting and letting go -
"We did so much life drawing!" Now, it's mostly the colourful abstracts that interest her, and she's keeping some of those -
The rest is for recycling - it's simply not needed any more, its job is done -
Compare this process with what we need to do with material that is less emotional. The receipts etc that we need for tax returns need to be kept for a certain span of years, is it seven? But this limitation doesn't apply to our artwork, whether preliminary or finished - and so much can pile up, even in a year or a few intense months. After some years, some of the work is ready for discarding - it simply won't be taken forward, and if you need to look back on it, looking at a photo will do as well. 

Yet it seems "such a waste" to discard these products of our creativity, of our searching for ... something we may not yet have found ...

Like Clea, I have many loose drawings from classes and courses in my portfolios; most are quite recent. I'm not ready to look at them yet, never mind get rid of them. As for work in sketchbooks - this is not a problem at all - it's tidily tucked away in books, is easy to access, and gets looked at relatively frequently; also I love to know the books are there, waiting, and that I can revisit inspirations and possibilities. 

Loose work, like tax receipts, can be discarded bit by bit ... gather what's past its keep-till date and now not neededor wanted: throw it on the fire, and enjoy the brief flame. To have a sketchbook burn, though - that's alarming. 

17 February 2017

Drawing at "Embroidered Dreams"

After Tuesday's drawing at the Brunei Gallery [check back next Tuesday for a full report], I returned this morning with coloured pencils for more. The exhibition finishes on 25 March.

Upstairs were ikat costumes and embroideries from central Asia, wonderfully colourful -

Some details -


I sat down on the floor in front of the luscious green silk with its strange shapes -
 My greens weren't as luscious as the original; one option was to add a wash, at home. Another was to be bolder ... I did try, but couldn't commit to Complete Boldness. Merging the two greens with a white made it look a bit better, and there's the possibility of adding more colour on top of that -
On a closer look, it turned out that different panels had been sewn together before embroidery, hence the different shades in the background -
Not only that, but what I thought was black turned out to be purple; what I thought was orange turned out to be pink; and all the embroidery was chain stitch, including the alternating red-yellow outlining -
 Next subject, a bit of the 19th century suzani from Samarkand, on which the silk embroidery looked like twill weave -
Rather than matching colours, I settled for a close approximation, and left some areas undone to look for better colours at home -
Anyway, it was time for lunch. Crude as it may be - and unfinished - it was such a pleasure to do. Through looking closely at the stitching, and the arrangement of the pattern, I felt connected to the person who made it. 

16 February 2017

Poetry Thursday - Every Creeping Thing by Jacob Polley


Every Creeping Thing
by Jacob Polley

By leech, by water mite
by the snail on its slick of light
by the mercury wires
of the spiders’ lyres
and the great sound-hole of the night
By the wet socket of a levered stone
by a dog-licked ice cream cone
by spores, mildew
by the green atchoo
by the yellow split pea and the bacon bone
All the doors must have their way
and every break of day its day
instead of a soul
Jackself has a coal
and the High Fireman to pay
By head-lice powder, Paraquat
snapdragon’s snap and rat-tat-tat
who’s at the door
of the door of the door
it’s Jackself in his toadskin hat
(via; hear it read by the poet here. Image via)

The poem is from Jackself (Picador), a book built from old spells and children's rhymes, with which Jacob Polley won the 2016 TS Eliot prize - "the world's most prestigious poetry prize".

Jacob Polley was born in Carlisle, Cumbria, in 1975 and has published four poetry collections. A 2015 interview (with invisible, silent interviewer!) is on youtube; printed interviews are here (2005) and here (2013).

14 February 2017

Drawing Tuesday - Wallace Collection

This was the 11th Drawing Tuesday at the Wallace Collection, since October 2014. Mostly we've been drawing in the armour galleries. They are also visited by schoolchildren (en masse) and by enthusiasts, and it's a pleasure to overhear curators giving select tours.

I settled in between a case of helmets and another of these knives, which I'd tackled in an early visit -
But it was this case in the distance that, behind its reflections and at some distance, caught my eye -

 In it, I later found, one of the long swords had an inscription along the blade -
... on both sides ...
The catalogues of armour and weapons were published in 1962; very little information on the exhibits is given in the cases, just a number, and you must consult the books to find out anything about them. And then the information is peppered with arcane words like quillions and gadroons, not to mention the writhen knobs.

What next? a change of scene - mailoica with grotesques -
Made in Gubbio, Italy, early 16th century
Having used "dark" pencils for the swords, I tried using a fine felt pen for the plate - and it was utterly the wrong medium, or perhaps the wrong scale. Changing to an HB pencil for the right side was such a relief. Ideally a fluid medium would have been best. I loved figuring out how the grotesque shapes fit together and look forward to drawing more of this crazy stuff.

Janet K caught the gesture -
 Carol caught the tones, and showed the rider's gesture from another perspective -
 Judith overlaid various sword hilts -
 Sue's page shows the development of the drawing in watersoluble pencil into a tonal study -


13 February 2017

Blasts from the past - Feb 2014

1. A project that never happened - I was gathering an alphabet from street signs near me, thinking to "cut out" details of the letters, for a concertina book that would include a map of the locations. There's a Quex Road somewhere quite nearby, which would have taken care of those two difficult letters, Q and X. 



Some of the lettering is "old style"; Univers Bold Condensed, designed by Adrian Frutiger, is used on most London street signs.

(Everything you could possibly want to know about UK roads and road signs is here; is there a similar site for London street signs? I've been searching for a while and haven't found one ...but this is fun.)

2. My gung-ho project three years ago was making the Binders Keepers and the Sewing Companions ... and wasn't the sewing room in a deliciously creative state!
It's in a different sort of state now, and I've rather lost  interest in making these lovely things, but the various fabrics gathered for them are still in the back of a cupboard, waiting ... reproaching me?

Sometimes projects fade away, and sometimes you want to get going on them again ... something comes along and gives them new life, makes them relevant and compelling, changes them from UFOs to WIPs. (Or vice versa.)