Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tools of the trade: artist sketchbook

Tools of the trade, the artist's best friend: the sketchbook. Aside from my pencils my true daily best friend for art is my sketchbook.

Each artist has their own preference for the right size, style, colour, fabric.

Over the years I've worked in everything from sewn books of handmade paper to the common black-cover sketchbooks. Every artist knows the black covers. The sort of industry "standard" with heavy cartridge paper inside and a black hardcover. I used to love the hardcovers. On my artist residency in Newfoundland I brought an A3 one and it was great to work in at the studio table. Ring bound sketchbooks have their place, to lie flat on a table for example.

Now I like to hold my sketchbook in one hand and sometimes fold the other side of the book over. So hardcover sits well on the shelf, but not in my hands.

My favourites are a range of leatherbound not-quite-A5 books. When I was working part time as a orders and packing minion for Immortal Longings - run by illustrator Elizabeth Schuch who started as my boss-lady but has now become a very good friend. (We've even done art installations together! Paintings for a corporate office and an installation for Essex Wildlife Trust.) Her small Shakespeare journals were just so nice to hold, with Italian ivory paper inside. When she was placing an order I decided to try a few journals with my drawings printed on the front. Just a small selection of about 8 images, one journal each.



They never really sold well. So I used them!

And was hooked. The size is perfect for my rucksack or a large pocket. It takes pencil, graphitone and even a bit of paint well. The cover is soft and supple and I can bend the sketchbook this way and that. It is chunky with 120 leaves so feels more substantial than a lot of the smaller commercial sketchbooks.

Video sketching of a Wave Drawing in the sketchbook, on Vimeo.

So now all my sketchbooks are special ordered. Since I don't need an image on them I can just order the plain leather. (Though I am tempted to do some Sharpie marker drawings on them!) Make in England by Whitehide so I feel I'm supporting a fellow small business.

Sometimes I consider ones with Shakespeare on them... especially Richard III. Because... skulls.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Art in sub-zero

Coastival is over! yay! It was good fun - met loads of people from the Scarborough Arts Forum and other local interesing bods. (sorry if I don't remember all your names next time, slightly overwhelming)

We could see our breath, but how often do you get the chance to have coffee and cake while wrapped up in a zillion warm layers to look at art in a cool listed building with no heat or lighting? Plus Joy (click to see her website) and I got extra fun out of it because we got to do walks together and make giant drawings!



Speaking of which, we still want to do Ravenscar too. My geology peeps keep telling me how interesting it is over by the "town that never way". Another friend (Brian) has offered to take me over there and show me some of the hidden bits he knows from childhood.

(suddenly distracted by watching my dragon attack her salad bowl...)

So hopefully Joy and I can continue this project a bit. There are certainly enough locations to go walk on the coast.

Thanks everyone for visiting the Old Parcels Office and having a look at our drawings.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Door drawings - or weird old big panel size

Having bought a giant 150cm x 1000cm (yes 1.5 meter by 10 meters!) roll of lovely Fabriano drawing paper it was time to get down to cutting it to size. This is for the "door" drawings Joy Green and I will be doing for Coastival in February.

I say "door" merely as a sensible metaphor. You see, in the Old Parcels Office there is a large pile of very grubby panel fittings. Giant boards that slot together, either for a floor or walls I'm not sure which. I used them as a floor for my little area there in the autumn. Joy propped them up against the wall and used them to pin up paper for drawing.

The panels as a makeshift floor in the Old Parcels Office.

About a month ago we had a coffee meeting to chat about Coastival and what work we both would like to do for our chosen theme - the geology. We needed something that would give a nice consistent show, despite our very different styles. So we decided drawings were something we both were interested in and could produce by February. (While Joy creates a lot of art, I'm much slower. Plus I'm away in the USA for a few weeks before the show.)

The Old Parcels Office doesn't have any practical way to display art, just to make it more challenging! The walls are part of the listed building so we can't attach anything with blu-tac even, let alone screws or nails. We'll have a few easels but how to display enough work for a proper exhibition? Our minds went to the old slotted boards. They're taller than us, and about three feet wide. A bit larger than a door. Big drawings would be an impressive display. And, sorry to break the illusion of creative mania, easier to complete in the timeframe than a lot of smaller pieces. Plus, it's fun to work large! I think we both were sold on the idea as soon as we realised we could make really big drawings.

So "door" drawings is what I've nicknamed them in my notes. It's an easier description than "weird old big panels".

Drawing table surface on top of the air hockey table - for 2m long drawings!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ending the year in colour with Yorkshire greys

I had promised some new art in colour for the January newsletter and voila, I have done some little postcard sized work! In my head I'm thinking of them as "colours of Yorkshire" because I'm putting down the impressions I've seen so far here on the coast.

The chalk with it's varying pink or blue tinge. The darkness of the shadows in cliff looking south because the winter sun doesn't raise high enough to shine on them. The sharp lines of white in the sea from foam tip of the incoming tides. And that overall strange green or violet grey that is everyday here.

Skipsea, acrylic on canvas, 100x100cm


I first saw that colour, where I consciously was away of the colour of the grey, on my very first trip to the Yorkshire coast in September 2008. It struck me as I stook on the beach at Skipsea and watched rainclouds roll in like a low wall. The mixture of purple and blue greys almost literally in stripes of cloud. After staring for a while I went for shelter in a cafe on the seafront when the rain began. (again, this was the trip where I was basically soaking wet for days straight) I sketched some of the sea over a cup of coffee.

And later turned those colourful greys into the painting "Skipsea".

You can see the new postcard paintings in my January newsletter.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Drawing

Every year at Christmas I make a small artwork on the day (or eve) just to share. This year I walked the foreshore from Scarborough to Cornelian Bay on Christmas Eve morning and found a large (10") sparkly pale sandstone (guessing quartz with about 50% near-white matrix) with large chunks of coal in it, and smaller piece of brown ordinary sandstone but with a lovely solid vein of white calcite. The dark in light vs light in dark contrast appealed to me for this year's holiday artwork.

Merry Christmas from Scarborough!




Thursday, October 23, 2014

Drawing to Print

In the drawing studio I've also been preparing some images for screenprinting. Screenprinting is a way for me to produce a limited edition handcreated version of the images.

One of my favourite drawings - Memories of Alum - has mark-making in it that I keep wanting to revisit, to recreate again in new ways.

The inspiration for Memories of Alum came from the very fine layers of shale and the red of the burnt mudstone from when they mined and processed the alum in the cliffs.





The original drawing has hints of red in the very top lines of the cliff in the drawing. My painting Alum Strata of the same cliff exaggerates this wonderful colour that can clearly be seen on the top of Saltwick Nab. I wanted the screenprint to express this bold colour even more strongly than the first drawing.






So using two screens - one for the alum red and one for the grey of the shale layers - I experimented with colours and layering. The deep red of alum was done using a watercolour-like drawing with Derwent Graphitone on true-grain transparency. The lines were done with regular dark pencil on the same material. Both were exposed to light to create the screen image, and then ink drawn through by hand (and squeegee!). I actually created both of the screens some time ago, but it took some time to decide how to combine them so the edition was only pulled this month.





Because of the fragile nature of the screen for the grey lines, only 10 good prints were created before the screen started to deteriorate. So Alum Dreams is a very very small edition! Soon to be added to the Art Prints page here on the website, where you can see other screenprints in the collection.









Thursday, October 16, 2014

The other drawing studio

In my new home space I’m confusing people with my rooms. You see, I have what should be a two bedroom flat with a living room and dining room. But for me, the living room is the studio, the dining room is the living room (sometimes drawing or fossil space), and the second bedroom is the office. But I’m still interchanging the names because when I say “living room” friends ask if I mean my living room or the real living room? (aka the studio)



To confuse matters more, I have a second studio. So if I say I’m spending the day in the studio - which studio? The main studio at home? Or the “other” studio at the Old Parcels building?

Do I need another space? Not really. The house studio is almost more space than I know what to do with. But it’s a way, as a newbie to Scarborough, to get involved with other artists and people in the art community. It’s a social and networking choice as much as a creative one.

The “other” studio building is a long-term complicated project to convert a building on the railway station property into studios. Very long term. (at least five years to get to this point) Complicated, as you can imagine, by several organisations being involved including the railway heritage group, English Heritage, the Arts Council and the fact that it’s a listed building.

A mere month after moving to town, I got a message from a fellow artist that she was actually in the Old Parcels Office! So a handful of us have laid our claims to square footage in the big empty space. Bare bones. No walls, no lights, no heat, lots of old dirt.

I put down some old wall boarding and made a floor and have set up a space just for drawing. After a walk along the clifftop next to the sea, I can go straight to the paper and pencils with ideas from the walk. With no wifi it’s a break from the world just to draw until the daylight starts to fade from the skylights.




So if I’m working there, I say the “other” studio.




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