Yesterday I received my February sketchbook, made and sent by my other Sketchbook Circle partner, Ben. It’s a hand-made A5 book, bound on the shorter side (is there a technical term for this??), and filled with different types and weights of paper; graph paper (I love maths papers), cartridge paper, what looks like the type of paper used to make those gorgeous bags found in gift shops. I wonder if it is meant to be used portrait or landscape orientation; however when I open it and look through it, Ben’s images suggest he has used it in a landscape format. I also wonder, after some reflection, if the finer, gift-shop-bag paper is meant to be the tissue paper between the pages to protect the images. Does it matter? Maybe I should stop over-thinking this.
How can I describe the contents of this lovely book? It is serene, minimal, reflective, understated. The simplicity is awesome. It makes me realise that a few simple marks on the paper, or a photograph of an empty landscape can portray a message just as eloquently as my layers, textures and colours. I throw myself into art and life with wild enthusiasm and sometimes (often) end up in a big muddy mess. This book reminds me that less can be more. It’s like a mindfulness retreat in between yellow patterned covers. Yoga in a sketchbook. It’s telling me to slow down and count my breaths. There’s no rush.
It has been a really interesting week on the Sketchbook Circle Facebook group; lots of sneak peeks at the amazing work that people are being inspired to make, and also lots of insights into other artists’ work and practise that people are sharing though their blogs and pages. I have seen much which has made me stop and think, and that’s got to be the point, right?
This week, whilst waiting for the sketchbook to arrive from my second Sketchbook Circle partner, I have been working on some personal pieces. I started off by playing with wire, making plant shapes and covering them with iron-on interfacing. I then dyed them with inks and embellished them with glitter and iridescent paint. I have photographed them and manipulated the images in my photo editing software to obtain these images.
I have only recently started to play with and become aware of the range of effects I can achieve with the software on my phone; this is something I intend to explore further with other images over the coming weeks. Watch this space!
This week I will be sending my sketchbook to Louise, the first swap of the new year. I’m feeling really excited to be working with new partners, facing new challenges, and participating in the making of two new books.
I’m also turning a thought to personal work in my own books whilst I wait for my other partner’s book to arrive; I recently found two lovely spiral bound scrapbooks in the sale in Hobbycraft, one with brown pages and the other in black. The paper is lovely and sturdy, and I’m keen to keep exploring some of the themes I have used in my Sketchbook Circle book – circles, layers, transparent and opaque, shiny and dull. I’ve made a start putting some backgrounds down in acrylic paint, and I intend to collage on the top. I chose not to use these for Sketchbook Circle as they only have about 40 leaves, due to the thickness of the paper.
It’s been a busy week on the Sketchbook Circle Facebook group; I’ve enjoyed seeing glimpses of what people are up to in their books, and there has been some really thought-provoking work shared. It looks like it’s going to be an interesting year!
Well. This week I have made a complete about turn with my choice of sketchbook for this year’s circle. I started off with a recycled cardboard cover, with loose leaves, thinking it would give me the freedom to choose my paper type, size etc. I duly made a start, and even got so far as to complete some work and put it into the book. However, I wasn’t satisfied with the feel of the book, and thought that it would get too bulky too quickly. To be truthful, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the work I’d put into it either.
I therefore started to work in new, purchased book to see if I could get my artistic mojo flowing better. To begin with I found that I was carrying some of the ideas I had started in the first book through into my new one, which I didn’t want; I wanted to get the flow going in a new direction and then review both books to see which I liked best. I have had to make a conscious effort to change tack, and also to enjoy and experiment. I have had to stop myself having a fixed outcome in mind, as I find that this impedes my progress. I am now making headway, and the flow is once again flowing!
I have also had the pleasure of receiving back the book which I started this time last year, and looking back through the pages at the successes and frustrations of the past year. I think that’s what makes a sketchbook such an invaluable tool in the artist’s arsenal; it is a tangible visual record of processes and materials, of what worked and what didn’t, and because you are directly, physically and emotionally involved in the process of making it, it’s much easier to remember why this page worked or that one didn’t. And the pages that didn’t work so well become part of the larger learning curve that you plot throughout the book.
It was interesting to reflect on how the work I did in one book had an influence on what I did in the other. One inspired piece made of layered ovals of paper that I did in Jane’s A6 book, which was actually born of a mistake, had nowhere near the same impact in my own A4 book which I shared with Christian. I felt that it didn’t work on the larger scale; or perhaps it simply didn’t fit into the conversation we were having in that particular book. However, I successfully made use of my favourite squares doodle in various guises in both books. You can find examples of this doodle on my Instagram feed (@tilly.mack) or on my Facebook page (Tilly Mack Draws).
So this week I have had my letter telling me who I am collaborating with this year. I am excited and enthusiastic to start the conversation anew, trying new things, going in new directions, and am looking forward to another year of growth and inspiration, and participating in the making of two new sketchbooks.
So this week I have started working in my new (home-made) book. I’ve sent Jane’s book back for the last time, and am waiting for the book I’ve shared with Christian to arrive back with me. I’ve been enjoying the lively, chatty vibe on the Facebook page with partners sharing their work from last year’s circle, and new members asking questions. January is that odd time of year when we still have the old year fresh in our minds, and the new year is still young and full of possibilities – appropriately named after the Roman god Janus with his two faces looking backwards and forwards.
Circles have been uppermost in my mind and I have been exploring textures and mediums, and folded and concealed elements; I have also been enjoying the freedom to work on papers of varying size and weights. My mum likened my book so far to Alice in Wonderland – she said it was full of hidden surprises – which sparked my imagination and has now got me onto thinking about how I can develop this idea further. Curiouser and curiouser…
The best thing about Christmas being over is that I get my table top/home studio back. I’m back at work tomorrow so I’m taking some time today to work on my new Sketchbook Circle book, listen to the radio, and drink good coffee. Feeling positive and looking forward to new creative challenges in 2016!