31 January 2009

Friday late at V&A

The theme was "Chinese new year - year of the ox". Lots of activities - including an "ox" being led round the museum. I managed to leave my camera at home, and didn't have my sketchbook either. "Crafted in food", exploring Chinese New Year traditions of food sculpture, came up with wonderful creatures made with potatoes, peppers, etc. Somehow we missed Lu Chunsheng's "simultaneously magical and hyper-real" video-films "contemplating the morphing symbols of our layered global imagination, constructing idiosyncratic narratives amidst the unstable remnants of shifting ideologies."

But making "fortune boats" with the designer-in-residence was fun - There are possibilities for lampshades with these shapes.

Art heros - Chris Drury

Recent work, from his "antarctic" show last year in London - this is "Cloud Igloo" - I stood there and drew it, and am delighted to have found the photo, indeed the whole show, here
The book I found in the library recently -
He's a land artist who uses tiny handwriting in his works on paper. Lots more images are here. And he has a website. Enjoy!

Danger signs - 24627

30 January 2009

Drawing class, week 4

Another day of "mixed media" - but with the starting point of "a state of mind" (angry, confused, content, wistful, frustrated - etc etc etc - hard to choose!). And we were given the task of representing, in different drawings, all sorts of things - line, mark, tone, colour, space, weight, volume, form, shape, time...etc.

My "word for 2009" -- intent -- fit the "state of mind" part of the brief. For example, being intent on soaking up the excess ink (a technique I'll keep in mind for making "electrophoresis" patterns) --
And a lot of stabbing (intently) at the paper with an almost-dry bristly brush made this feathery edge - another technique that might come in handy later -
People brought bagsful of media to mix -
I tried to keep it simple and ended up with this display (and a few rejects). Left to right, the top row represents form (the white shapes are on a transparent overlay), quantity (one!), line, and mark; 2nd row sound (echo), tone, substance, light;
3rd row: weight, movement, time, gravity.

"Time" uses a bit of intensive stitching (prepared earlier) - there's lots of time inherent in that.

Discovered in a magazine in the library at lunchtime - Barnet Newman's 1968 "Lace Curtain for Mayor Daley" (of Chicago).


Off to Tate Modern to see the Rothko show - in its last week.
His late works - all reds, browns, greys. The roomful of black and grey paintings at the end was my favourite - the different proportions exploring weight...(By the way, these paintings were up for auction last year - expected prices in the range of $10 million to $18 million each.)

The exhibition must have made an impression, because to use up my paints in class the next day, I quickly produced the dense painting on the right - and to get it dry enough to take home, blotted it on the sheet on the left -

29 January 2009

Sculpture class, week 4

The day was spent making a self-portrait head in clay - while blindfolded. When we weren't wearing the blindfold, the clay head was covered by a (bin) bag. It was very intense; unable to see each other, we didn't chat.
With clay-ey hands we felt our skull and facial bones and measured relative distances, and those of us with any knowledge of anatomy had bone names etc coming into mind unbidden, and always (for me) the look of an actual skull, stripped of flesh -- with all its resonances -- was very near.
We were building up the clay from the centre out, first of all "getting volume" then adding detail. All unseen; just by feel. The clay was cold and smooth, malleable but not docile. The "lump" grew and grew. I was aware of the mouth as a space, and left it as a space, building up the lips around it.The ears were another problem - gosh they're complicated! I made them separately and then tried to fix them symmetrically. Hmph, no such luck - when all was revealed, my alter ego was distressingly lopsided, not just the ears but the eyes - enormous eyes -- and oh that dark little mouth.
I wasn't the only one to find this "difficult", and several of us were very tired the next day!
For those who didn't have a scarf handy, the blindfolds came in blue (paper towel roll) and white (toilet roll). People looked very fetching in them.

27 January 2009

Notebooks and memory

My notebooks go back more than two decades - nearly three. The red&black ones used to cost about 60p. There was always one in my bag, for those odd moments.
As well as a bit of agony over the years, they record a lot of pleasurable experiences - things read, things heard, things experienced. At first it was all writing, but in 1989 I started to draw. It didn't matter that the pages had lines on them - I was putting in the 150 hours of effort that they say you need to put in if you want to get to a basic level of competence.
Such faint pencil ... on the left, an ivory carving from the 11th century, probably in the British Museum (I would go there at lunchtime, back in the days when there still were such things as lunch hours); in pen, someone playing some Beethoven, at the Conway Hall ... strange, how things fade from the memory!; and below that, a fancy room, who knows where ... you do forget, so write everything down....

26 January 2009

Year of the Ox

The ox symbolises "prosperity through fortitude and hard work".

Altered book - first stage complete

The hole is complete - it obliterates much of the Chinese-to-English text of the dictionary. The seal looks rather lost in it.
The radical index, which comes at the start of the Chinese-to-English section of dictionaries, has been removed ... there are limits to what an ex-librarian can do to a book, even in the name of Art Homework. (And consider the way books, writing, learning are traditionally venerated in China. This alteration is ... desecration.)
Now, what to do with the English-to-Chinese part of the dictionary?
And with the tongue-shaped papers that came out of the hole?

Three things that make a difference

We were talking about lists. My friend has a notebook on her desk, a page for each day, and the day’s list of tasks on it. She claims she got the idea from me. I do use a "per day" list at the office – and make the next day's list the night before. But now I also have a little lined notebook that goes everywhere with me - an endless list. With a little discipline, you teach yourself to write things down immediately – and they don’t get lost. Of course you have to remember to check the list regularly.

Another thing that makes life easier is putting out clothes for the next day at bedtime. In the morning, there’s no big decision to make, first thing.

The third thing that has helped remove stress is having a timer handy, in case there's something I don't want to get started on ... setting the timer for "just 15 minutes" really works for me. Setting the timer is a signal that I’m really going to do this thing, instead of thinking about it; and when it goes PING or BRRRrrrr, that’s the signal that I can stop for now. And by then the dreaded task has lost its dread.

Altered book - first stage

This is a project for my drawing course - to find a book and "do things to the pages". I have a spare Chinese dictionary, the print too small to read comfortably, and lovely thin pages - it will become a home for the seal that Min brought me from Xi'an. It takes a lot of cutting to make holes in books.

25 January 2009

Old posters

The work to renovate King's Cross tube station is uncovering old posters -
These are about to be hidden under plaster -

The new "advertising slots" are all-singing, all-dancing lightboxes, a continual assault on the eye. And with the constant announcements assaulting the ear, no wonder people are stressed by travelling to work (quite apart from "delays" on the system).

24 January 2009

Little Gems

The Little Gems website has gone live at http://littlegemquilts.wordpress.com - so let's all get busy making little quiltlets! They have to be A4 size (approx. 8 1/2" x 11 1/2"), three layers joined by stitch - but can be any materials, any method. They are for a tombola at the Festival of Quilts - raising funds to support Europe's only quilt museum, in York. These are my journal quilts made over the past 2 years. About half the A4 quilts at the top are destined for the tombola.

Also, I've made a decision not to enter a big quilt into Festival of Quilts this year. That takes off a bit of pressure! (I don't have any bigger quilts under construction.) All my quilting energies will be going into Little Gems.

Another potter

Probably the correct term is "ceramicist". I found the work of Martin Mohwald in a magazine; haven't found out much about him, but these pieces speak to me:

Wednesday class, week 3

We brought "mixed media" in to class, but instead of collaging etc I decided to bite the bullet and start with messy paint -- doing simple things to, um, "explore the nature of the material".

A heap of painted papers grew on the floor under the table. At the bottom of the heap, streaks of paint for working into later.

The dots were a matter of finding out how to make dots with a straight and an pointy brush - how much paint to put on, how to make small dots and big dots and what happened as the brush got drier. And some cross-hatching (weaving?) with felt tips.

Lines and dots in various media on cartridge paper -
for example, graphite on tracing paper -
And here's what happens when you lay down heavy lines of white paint with a thin brush, then blot it with tracing paper, lay that aside to dry, and go across the original lines with a dry wider brush of black paint, and put the paper under the tracing paper -
Another transparent effect. I drew on the tracing paper with the pointy end of the brush, then tried out what it would look like over a strong dotty pattern -At the end of the day everyone's work goes up on the wall, and we all look around. Out of my hasty heap I tried to select those that go together. My favourite is the graphite on black paint, top right -
Here's some of what the others did -- much variety! The thin lines are sand sprinkled on fine lines of glue. Must try that...
One point made throughout the day was to consider presentation - sometimes things look fine close together, sometimes they need to be on their own and have space around them.

23 January 2009

Speaker's eye view

Here are London Quilters, before the meeting got underway. I was a bit worried about the slideshow behaving itself.
It did. Afterward, a chance for a closer look at the real thing -

22 January 2009

Tuesday class, week 3

The Natural History Museum was full of classes of students of all ages, from 5-year-olds up -
We went to look at structures that allow movement - bones - and spent the day drawing. We were told the snake skeleton was mere repetition and "too simple" -
So, why not draw a whale? -
I found myself in a dim corner of the Birds section, where there are still some delightfully old-fashioned cases. They explained things thoroughly in those days - Did you know that birds can have spurs and claws on their wings?
The raven wingbones I drew had neither claws nor spurs -
And after a close look at an emu's foot, I wandered off to find the sabre-tooth cat (now extinct) -
Next week we'll be making a structure that can move in a predetermined way.

18 January 2009

Wednesday class, week 2

It's about tone - first, a demo of how to build up tone -
We'd all brought an object to draw, but didn't realise we'd be spending the entire day making the one drawing, in our choice of colour(s).
My bowl of rocks might not have been the best choice. I got confused between the pattern on the rocks and shells (and bowl) and using tone to make them look like 3D objects. And the shape of the bowl was somewhat challenging ... but carefully carefully it proceeded -
By afternoon tea break I was ready to try again, to start all over again from scratch, and to more boldly go -
Half an hour later we put our work up on the wall - what variety!
Next week we bring in all sorts of "materials". Something surprising is bound to happen.