Emergency Blanket Art

As part of my contribution to Sketchbook Circle 2016, I was asked by the organisers to make a piece of art out of the contents of a mystery envelope.


This piece of work has come about as a result of some ideas which I have been exploring and attempting to express whilst locating my artistic practice on the Artist Teacher Scheme at Birmingham School of Art. I have become very interested in making large scale drawings which express movement and energy, and which also seem to me to embody somehow the internal thought processes my mind goes through as I make them – process made visible. Elena, the course tutor, remarked that I am a ‘taker-awayer’, meaning that I put things into a piece and then move them around, or remove them, until I am satisfied. Addition and subtraction, ebb and flow, assertion and obliteration. I am now conscious of this as a valid part of my creative process, and actively embrace it in my work. This finished piece has gone through several versions and modifications as I thought my ideas through and came up with what seems to me to be a satisfactory way to express them.

The emergency blanket I received through the post from the admin team at Sketchbook Circle was smooth, shiny and reflective when I opened it and it reflected fairly clear images; however, as I worked with it, it became crumpled, torn and fragmented. These opposing qualities took on many meanings for me; fragmented memories, stories, narratives; self-reliance and self-reflection; my own image and my own environment mirrored back at me, alongside my own inner landscape. A reminder that what I need is right here, and all I have to do is look for it.

I felt the need to cut and shred the blanket, which seemed to be about the many shards and fragments of existence and experience which make me who I am; as I did so, the sunlight and the warm red of the curtains was reflected back at me.

I didn’t really know at any point where I was headed with this idea, and it’s only a stage on the internal journey. I’ve continued to pull bits off it (addition and subtraction), and I’ve photographed it and manipulated it with the (many) photo editing apps on my phone; will it ever be finished? When is a piece of work finished? I’ve put it aside for a while now, but I’m sure I will revisit it and change it again, as this seems to be an enduring part of my artistic practice.

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July Book

My sketchbook has returned from Louise, giving me some new directions to follow. Memory seems to be an enduring theme in our shared book, an open-ended theme with almost limitless possibilities.

On the theme of memory, I have The Song of Wandering Aengus by W B Yeats bashing around in my brain, looking for a way out onto my sketchbook pages;

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

Copies and Colours



This weekend I have been continuing work in Ben’s sketchbook.

Ben reproduced one of my images in black and white; the reproduction is also slightly textured. He has, I think, used the same or similar technique elsewhere in the book and scraped marks into it. I am curious to know how he has achieved this tactile effect, and have included a note asking him to explain.

Anyway, I like the black and white reproduction of my own image, so I have been developing this idea, making other versions of it using tracing paper, carbon paper, inks, oil pastels, pen – a colourful extravaganza. I will perhaps continue to extract shapes and parts of the original image to play around with some more before returning it to Ben at the end of the week.

I have been pondering this idea of infinite reproductions and variations on a single theme recently; I have been using the photo editing software on my phone to manipulate images of my signature squares doodle, as well as drawing it in different mediums and colour combinations. I remember discussing the need to repeatedly return to a single image at Sarah Goudie’s drawing workshop at the Practice Imperfect event at BCU earlier this year; the idea fascinates me. I am a compulsive doodler; it helps my brain to slip into a flow state, which is useful when I am working on something specific and want to loosen up mental muscles; I also find it a good way to relax and let my mind ebb and flow at the end of the day.


Carbon Paper Fishes


This week Ben’s book has arrived back with me. Sadly he has not had the opportunity to add to it; it’s a busy time of year for everyone in education – I’m feeling the pressure and I only work part time.

Today is the first time I’ve had chance to sit down and explore some ideas myself; I have decided to continue with the fish theme which I started in response to a printed image of Ben’s. This image of a fish inspired me to explore printing myself with varying degrees of success, and following an activity which I found in Paula Briggs’ excellent book Drawing Projects for Children I have been using carbon paper to combine and reproduce drawn  images. This has brought back memories of first discovering the joys of carbon paper prints as a child; I’ve also discovered that you can get carbon paper in several colours – including yellow! so am exploring layers and colours. I wonder what other colours I can find…