This Week’s Project

So here’s what I’m currently working on… I have been sent an emergency blanket from Sketchbook Circle and asked to make a piece of art with it. 

The smooth, shiny, reflective surface initially reminded me of the Dragon Warrior’s scroll in Kung Fu Panda (stay with me here); when Po unrolled it he saw his own face reflected back at him. Eventually he realises that there is no secret ingredient – only yourself and what lies within. 

I have been considering this idea of self-reflection, and the self-reliance suggested by the emergency blanket as an object. I am thinking about distorted and fragmented memories as I alter, cut and crumple it. These are themes, I am realising, that I am exploring on through the Artist Teacher Scheme; themes which I return to again and again.

I am working with textile elements on a long, thin piece of neutral coloured fabric, doing my usual trick of placing things, taking them out, moving things, stitching and then unpicking… ebb and flow, addition and subtraction, assertion and obliteration.

I have no idea where I’m going with this one; it’s very much a work in progress.

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Personal and Professional Development

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The experimental mark-making continues, with the continued absorption in the physical aspects of the process; pushing away, pulling towards, heavy marks, lighter marks, the sounds of the graphite and my hand moving across the paper. As I upload these images, they seem to me to echo the patterns and textures of the wood offcuts with their intensely tactile qualities.

I am considering now how to record my own movement by holding pen to paper as I am out walking; this inspired by a piece of work found as I browsed one of the Campaign for Drawing’s Power Drawing books looking for ideas for our Big Draw event. Everything seems to return to the same point.

So the 100 pieces of work are progressing. I am considering how my obsession with longhand writing and my love of abstract mark-making are going to marry up – or indeed if they are going to marry up… there are sure to be more twists to the tale, more changes of direction, like Alice chasing the White Rabbit; after all, it’s still early days.

Meanwhile, there is Sketchbook Circle, a new Art Therapy course, workshops and training events, community projects…. and a brand new joint business venture to work on and look forward to. Exciting times, busy times, with huge changes and huge amounts of growth. I am petrified and exhilarated in equal measure.

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Decisions and Diversions

“Sometimes just the act of writing down the problems straightens out your head as to what they really are.”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Chapter 9

I have decided to make writing a regular and more integral part of my practice. I am quite a compulsive longhand writer anyway; I find the repetitive rhythm of writing by hand soothing and almost hypnotic, and it is an activity which helps me to slip into a state of ‘flow’ easily, like doodling. I am also irresistibly drawn to the shapes made by words, fonts and handwriting, and I am a compulsive list-maker, sometimes writing, re-writing, editing and copying several times over.

Today I started my day by drinking a bottle of water and sitting in the quiet early morning writing in my notebook; it was quite intense. I sometimes experience what I call ‘sensory overload’, when everything seems magnified; often I experience stronger visual contrast between light and dark, and background noises come forward and I can almost hear the surrounding silence. I am trying to be more present in the moment, limiting time spent on social media and computers and connecting with my surroundings more deeply. I am becoming more interested in background noise, the noises we don’t usually notice like the noise of the pencil on the paper, our footsteps, distant traffic. I think this somehow ties in with my interest in discarded, forgotten objects, disused spaces, graffitti, urban decay.

I am trying new things within my own artistic practice, exploring new avenues, using different materials, moving out of my sketchbook. I found some old offcuts of wood on my allotment a few weeks ago; yesterday I brushed them down, painted them (not too carefully) and photographed them against a coloured background. I enjoy manipulating my images with photo editing software; it fascinates me that one image has infinite variations.

Today I have continued with my large-scale, gestural paintings. These are changing and evolving, too; I am using layers of paint and pastel, adding and rubbing back, using my non-dominant hand to make the outcome more unpredictable, enjoying relinquishing control. I have been photographing my paintings in parts and editing the images to make new ones – almost like shards of a fragmented whole.

Counting my paintings, notebook and photographs, I am making a fair attempt at producing 100 pieces of work before going back to Uni in September.

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Community Connections and the ATS

The past few weeks have been rather manic, to say the least. I have completed the summer intensive part of the Artist Teacher Scheme, an experience I found intensely liberating and also intensely emotional; I wanted to cry for several days on returning to work and had an in-depth discussion with my manager. Having coffee with my friend, soul sister and partner in crime Claire this morning, she pointed out that there is no going back – I can’t un-know this amazing experience. It is now settling and I have begun to process it, and I now need to find the way forward.

So Claire and I have been planning; just some small community events to start with, which will hopefully lead into some longer-running projects which will begin to build my profile as an artist, and Claire’s community play initiative, Your Turn.

As well as my plans for community art initiatives, I also have to produce 100 pieces of work by Saturday 3rd September, when we return to uni to start the second phase of the ATS, continue working on my TEA Sketchbook Circle books, go to work, and be a single mum.

I have cleared my dining table so I can work on the large gestural drawings which are my current interest, and which I started exploring in Sarah Goudie’s Drawing in Space workshops on the ATS. I am also exploring ideas about adding and taking away, asserting and obliterating, ebb and flow, a reflection of life on a piece of paper. I have been using pastels, charcoal and graphite, enjoying the physical involvement in the drawing process, the gestures and the tactile drawing materials, the sound of the drawing. I am fascinated by the rhythmic, hypnotic sounds of the materials on the paper, and have made a recording.

I’m not sure where I’m heading with this yet, so I am having to trust in the process and not worry about what the outcome will be.

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More Physical Drawing

Today I have been doing some more large scale physical drawing on lining paper. This time I used well watered down acrylic paint as I wanted to be able to continue exploring large, sweeping, gestural marks. I really enjoyed the physical extension that the paintbrushes gave to my arms (I used both hands again), allowing me to stand back and use my whole body. I had to move the table and the furniture to get right around the painting! I had to submit to happenstance, as the watered down paint and the sweeping nature of the mark making meant quite alot of splashes and unpredictability – I found it both exciting and liberating to relinquish control of the outcome; I particularly enjoy working in this fluid and intuitive way.