This Week

This week has been another busy one; I finished my regular job so I can concentrate more fully on our Social Enterprise organization. I’m signed on with an education agency so I can get flexible work as I need it for cash flow, but essentially I am now a freelancer. I have a nervous knot in my stomach, wondering if I am going to be able to survive and pay the rent; at the same time I know I have to at least give it a shot.

I seem to have been exploring lots of different media recently; last weekend I made clay houses with the 4MAT UK artist teacher group on the Birmingham canal; and this week I had the opportunity to participate in workshops and an interview for a CPD opportunity with a regional arts and health organization. Sadly I wasn’t selected to take part, but it gave me the opportunity to meet and work with some really interesting people working in lots of different media; drawing, ceramics, photography, performance; sculpture, weaving, collage. I used to do a lot of collage work, and have books filled with it (my own work) on my shelves in my studio corner; however, my practice at the moment seems to revolve around drawing and mark-making. I love to draw; I have spent hours drawing things – portraits, objects, and more recently I have begun to draw in a much more abstract way, inspired by such artists as Cy Twombly, and by books such as Steven Aimone’s excellent Expressive Drawing. I love water-soluble media, particularly graphite, which responds in such intense yet delicate ways to different ways of applying water.

Today I have worked on some old packing card, combining gesso, water and soluble graphite. I like the freedom that keeping the work wet gives me; I can move the paint and graphite around until it pleases me, block out parts I don’t like so much and do something else. Assertion and obliteration. I also like the idea that a piece of work is an organic, living thing, and that it’s OK for it to change. I never have a fixed idea of what I’m trying to achieve in mind; I find that if I do, I feel tense and I am rarely pleased with the outcome. I prefer to work in a more process-oriented way, and leave the outcome to be what it is.

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I have also been adding bits and pieces to Ben’s sketchbook ready to return to him this week; my contributions have largely arisen from a continuation of his circle theme, which happily fit in with my own work as I was cutting circles out of my drawings prior to making them into tubes. I’ve also added in some interesting bits of masking tape, rescued from the edges of some larger pieces I am working on at the moment to further explore 3D drawing, and spotted by my eagle-eyed daughter.

My emergency blanket piece, made for and through the Sketchbook Circle, was featured in this month’s newsletter, which you can view here. I made a post about it too, which you can visit here. I await Louise’s responses to my sketchbook with anticipation; in the meantime, I will continue to write, and draw, and think, and find new ways to share my inner thoughts and ideas about what it means to be me.

Clay Houses

Yesterday I went out on an art teacher’s CPD event organised through the Birmingham Artist Educator network, 4MAT UK. We took a trip on the Ikon Gallery’s barge to make clay houses, part of the Black Country Voyages art programme. The lead artist on this project this year is Mahtab Hussain and his project is called The Auspicious Journey. He has used the barge as a vehicle for exploring ideas about the displacement of people from his homeland in Kashmir in the 1960’s resulting from the construction of the Mangla Dam. Many of the affected people did not move on to the nearest settlement in Kashmir, but came to the UK to find work around the Black Country canals. You can find more information about the project here.

The day was a great opportunity to relax and spend some time making – it’s a long time since I last used clay; it was very therapeutic, especially throwing it at the start to get rid of the air bubbles. It was also a great chance to chat and network in relaxing surroundings with other artist educators from the region; Emma, a fellow sketchbook circler; Lisa and Karen from last year’s Artist Teacher Scheme; Emma from the Ikon Gallery; Philip, part-time skipper and art therapist.

The workshop started me thinking about my own work in new ways too; where to go with my tubes made out of drawings and written extracts; new ways of making my mark on paper and on the world; new materials to try. I am pondering ideas about making my tubes out of clay, and the interactive, inclusive element of asking members of the public to make pieces for a project.

Next week I finish my job and take a step out into the unknown; I will be a freelance artist educator. I am scared and excited but am looking forward to the challenges and the changes, and seeing how these manifest themselves in my art practice. I will certainly have lots to write about in my notebook, lots of thoughts to illuminate, lots of ideas to make into tangible objects.

Fragments

It’s been a patchy week in terms of making time for my own work; business appointments and writing applications to register our company, parenting and the day job. I feel unsettled and uneasy; I need the mental downtime that writing and making give me. 
I have managed to make some drawings using soluble graphite on wet paper. I have snatched half-an-hour here and there to relax with some jazz music and sit on my living room floor drawing and spraying, letting my mind unravel, watching the graphite bleed and run.

I’m intending to use some of these drawings to make more tubes with; I like the written thoughts on them, the combination of fragments of drawings, and the inner lighting; lanterns shedding a light onto my thoughts.

I’ve been experimenting with hanging the tubes on a string of fairy lights (a safer alternative to using candles inside paper structures, I felt!), and although I wasn’t overwhelmed by the overall effect, I liked each individual ‘lantern’ and I managed to achieve some quite painterly effects by increasing the contrast in the photos.

This idea is still rattling around in my brain amidst the rest of the clutter, and I know that I want to continue to explore it through a combination of making and writing. My thoughts now are directed towards how to present it. I’m pleased to be moving my ideas out of a sketchbook and making them occupy a physical space, drawing in 3D, shedding some light on what it means to be me.

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Drawing in 3D

On Saturday I visited the Eva Rothschild exhibition at New Art Gallery Walsall with the Artist Teacher crew. We then visited the gallery studio for a workshop with the current artist in residence, Chloe Ashley, whose work you can see here. Chloe is an analogue photographer who presents her work in sculptural ways rather than in a  traditional framed format.

Chloe’s work also reminded me of a body of work called The Last Silence by Sandra Meech, and represents the artist’s experience of the silence, the cracks in the ice and sound ‘marks’ whilst walking on Baker Lake in Canada. You can visit her website here

I felt drawn to both of these artists’ work; Chloe’s because I am interested in photography, and altering, overlaying and colouring images of my own work and ideas; Sandra’s because of her representation of sound and physicality, and her limited use of colour – something I have been exploring in my own search for my own practice. Both artists interest me because of their 3D, sculptural presentation of 2D pieces.

So today I have spent the afternoon sitting on my living room floor surrounded by strips and pieces of my torn up intuitive mark-making pieces, making them into tubes of varying sizes. (Don’t ask me why tubes; I followed my intuition). Some of them are made from two seperate pieces of work; some of them are tubes within tubes; one of them doesn’t stand up very well by itself. I tried different ways of securing them into tube shapes, but after a couple of setbacks I settled for stapling them or pinning them using dressmaker’s pins. I’ve written in them, cut holes in them, lit them from inside with candles.

And that’s where I am now. Another twist to the tale. I’m still not sure where this journey is headed; I’m trying things out, following my impulses and seeing where it takes me.

What does it mean to be me?

So today I have been busy painting and mark-making in my artist books, and listening to a podcast on Radio 4 entitled ‘What does it mean to be me?’.

Yesterday, browsing in the Oxfam bookshop, I found a copy of my first undergraduate philosophy text book, ‘An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis’ by John Hospers. I came home and ordered copies of  Jean Paul Sartre’s Roads to Freedom trilogy. I have been dipping in and out of ‘Western Philosophy: An Anthology’, which arrived from Amazon last week, and I am continuing to read T S Eliot. I seem to have come full circle and be revisiting my undergraduate university education. Strange (or not?) that I didn’t appreciate it at the time, didn’t bother to read too deeply or think too hard; I wanted a lifestyle experience, and now, having had lots of lifestyle experiences, one of which nearly ended in disaster, I am back at the books and on my personal road to freedom.
The artists’ books seem to be a good place to try and explore what I’m trying to say; I’m still feverishly scribbling away in my notebook – ideas, quotes, thoughts, and the intuitive, gestural marks I have made in my hand-made books seem to echo some kind of written script. Interestingly, although I love to write in pencil in my notebook, the writing I did in my artist book felt more comfortable in ink. The use of the dip pen and india ink seemed to mirror the loose, intuitive style of the paint marks I had put down previously, embracing the relinquishing of control. The fragments of ideas, thoughts and quotes sit alongside the fragments of paintings and drawings. 

Fragments, half-forgotten thoughts, ideas, quotes, the fleeting nature of personal experience, personal identity, memory, making thought visible. All (some) of the detruitus which makes up the unique experience of what it means to be me.