"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

First chilly outdoor sketches of 2015.

Log Piles: Ordered disorder

In the pale almost warm winter sun I went for a morning cycle/walk. It’s quite a while since I have been so far; up through the wood and along to the spinney where in the summer the dainty little Dexter cattle graze. Someone has been clearing and chopping and small piles of logs are scattered around.

There is something very pleasing about a pile of logs. They are imperfectly neat. An attempt by man to make some sort of order out of twisty natural forms. I stopped to make some very speedy ink sketches.

logs-2 logs3

logs-3

Ink sketches in A5 Sketchbook. My fingers got cold very quickly.

The sketches are .. well, sketchy… but it was just good to be outside, looking at things properly, making a start, seeing wrens, robins, a million blackbirds , pheasants, partridge and many tiny birds dancing about in the brambles, and they are my first outdoor sketches for this year.. a bit of a late start but a start. The weather forecast for the next few days is awful so it may be a while before I do any more. I am a bit of a fair weather pleinair sketcher:)

I was struck by how the woods were full of greens, from the brilliant acid green of moss and lichen to the blue greens of old leaves and the oak tree bark, to the soft olive greens and brown greens of general undergrowth.

I’m going to investigate these some more tomorrow …

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Eels .. a start.

I am completely fascinated by these slippery, mysterious creatures and their extraordinary life cycle. They are one of the subjects in my very long, 2015, to-do list. I have drawn some eels before, long ago to illustrate Philip Gross’ poem “Sargasso”. I had been thinking about another interpretation of the poem for a small book.


eels Sargasso


But meanwhile I am playing with all sorts of printing methods and wanted to make a simple concertina book for a bit more simple bookbinding practice.

I started with some sketches

eels-2

eels-1

ell-head-sketch

They do have teeth… awesome! 

Then made a couple of simple plates cut from card. I had made some card plates for the moon project but they were not terribly successful. Now I have made up some of my own shellac which I think will help.

eel--plates

Sketch and plates

eels4-bg

Trials with different weights of ink

first-eel-bg

A first folded print

Then I made a small simple case for the book. I say simple but it is tricky to get everything square, to stop the ink smudging and to keep everything clean. I printed some foliage for a quick cover, wrestled with some old wood type for the title and printed the back of the eel to tidy that aspect up a bit before pasting the print to the front cover. 

 

cover

The case cover

 

back-bg 

The back

 
eel-book-1-bg

Opened book

There are a million things wrong with this but it is a small triumph for me and number two small book form for this year. I am trying to make one a week.

 

Last week I used an old frog print, folded it and made two separate boards.

 

frog booklet 1

The folded book

front and back 

The front and back boards

open frog

The opened out print.

 

I have to consider this an experiment .. but good practice. See more here.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Twigs

I trying to decide on my tree for Lucy’s Tree Following blog this year. I gathered some inspiring twigs and did a few sketches. I am also looking for a “good” twig as the basis for a set of prints. I like twigs very much….and their colours are lovely this time of year.   
I particularly liked this Hawthorn.

twig-hawthorn-bg

Sketchbook sketch, Hawthorn


twigs-desk

winter-twigs-bg
Hawthorn, Willow, Bramble and I think, Hazel…watercolour 11.5 inches square

Then in the Garden there is an annoying and vicious wild cherry of some kind. It has lethal thorns which embed themselves deep in your unsuspecting flesh and it throws up suckers everywhere… BUT it is a wonderful tree for the birds and bees and is so pretty in the spring and does have almost edible fruit. We hack it selectively every year.
I sketched it when we first moved here. 
bark-and-spines-bird-cherry

So all things considered I might just study this one this year. More knowledge should engender more understanding and affection. It’s not unlike the hawthorn in many ways but has a simpler leaf shape which will be good for the prints I am hoping to make.

More twigs next week.

Monday, 12 January 2015

2015 Hurrah!

I love a New Year, even if a really awful cold has delayed my start a bit.  There is so much to do so many plans…

A quick catch up with the Moon project which has now ended. Many fascinating ideas came along with many frustrations in tow.  I often have to learn things the hard way but it has increased my understanding of monoprinting and its possibilities and I did complete, if not really finish, a few ideas for small books.

I made a prototype embossed concertina book, loosely based on a tactile/Braille solution to depicting the moon’s phases.

braille book 2backlight

braille 1 braille 2 

braille 2_2braille 3 

Braille Book

It was very white, and very tricky to make with an awful lot of measuring, hole punching and trials before I got it to work, but I discovered a lovely translucent quality to the compressed paper, how to write the phases of the moon in Braille and that I need more patience.

I made another rough book idea based on the views that Galileo had of the moon through his small telescope. He could only see sections of the moon one at a time which, they say, is why his early moon maps were inaccurate.
The round telescope views reveal a section of the larger moon map piece by piece. ( in this case Cassini’s very beautiful moon map of 1679).

Galileos section

Galileo’s Section

The monoprint series continued and I eventually chose 30 to form a small 36 page, single section, saddle stitched, self ending book called: “29 d 12 h 44 min 2.8016 s  29.530587981” (which is the length of a synodic month. Hence the half page image at the end)

pages

Pagination worked out for printing.

I made a very simple, soft back, slip cover and printed some moon words on the endpapers

Cover   spread 1

spread 2 spread 3

end page

“29 d 12 h 44 min 2.8016 s  29.530587981” book 6 x 8 inches

This small book illustrates just some of my research avenues.
It was all completely fascinating, absorbing and wonderful. I find myself reluctant to leave the moon, so many more possibilities and half finished and unexplored ideas, but there may be time over the next year to realise a few more.

Meanwhile it’s on with the game.. Growth, Eels and Rivers plus more pigs and bees to come.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Turn of the Year.. and yes, more Moons.

Today must be one of my very favourite days, because I know that tomorrow, albeit falteringly, it will start to get lighter. Hope, spring, warmth and sun cannot be far away.

Meanwhile my first, fascinating, full-on, MA project is drawing to a close. Not so much about finishing things this one, more about cranking up the thinking processes. And for another two weeks I will remain deeply in thrall to the lovely Moon, lost in the wonder of its science, myths, facts, fallacies, hopes and dreams.  There will be a last little sliver of a waning moon tonight before a new moon for Christmas.

I have learnt enormous amounts of stuff; about book forms, monoprinting and the moon. I have made some strange images, played with many maquettes, knitted a Clanger, read some extraordinary fiction and finally worked on a set of monoprints which, in a way, relate the story of my research. I am now just assembling them into a rather haphazard book. The learning curves have been steep but the skills will be useful.

So here,  for the winter solstice, are a few of the monoprints. Out of over 60 plus I  have to whittle it down to 29 ish.  I will post the full set when I have made those tricky final decisions and also will explain a little about how and why I got there.  

hands f_resize     man in moonf_resize mothsf_resize     panther f_resize[4] rabbit f _resize     running moon f_resize snake 1 f_resize     thingf_resize        tree f_resize      toadf _resize copy

Ten of the monoprints, some with relief printed additions: image size 4 x 6 inches

Somehow they seem appropriate for Christmas.

I will, yes really, be back to the blogs with a bit more regularity in the New Year and I might just get one more post in before Christmas but, if not, a very Happy Christmas to all my faithful blog readers…

Monday, 27 October 2014

Many Moons

I am just 3 weeks into the MA course and I am working in a great big mess of ideas, thoughts and experiments. “Process and Practice as Research” is what it’s all about this term.
Part of what I hope to achieve through following this course is the ability to actually-get-something-finished before spaghetti brain here drifts away to something more enticing.
This current project may not help with that aim directly but it does give me the chance to develop an idea by really examining ( *A.B.  “interrogating” see footnote* ) it over and over again until something emerges, which might be a long way from where I started. But what to do?
Phases of the Moon
Sometimes, luckily, ideas just present themselves. On the 7th October, one week after the start of the course I happened to go out into the garden. It was about 8.30pm and hanging in the sky, just overhead was a fabulous moon. It was big, bright and very beautiful.
 
Grafham moon 7th oct 2014 desat
7th Oct moon, Grafham back garden. hand held Nikon

I took a hand held photo with Chris’ fairly modest Nikon and was astonished by the result. With the contrast bumped up in Photoshop it shows craters, the exquisite “rays”, and the dark “seas” figuring either a rabbit or a face or whatever your belief system might suggest. And that was it really, project decision made. My first terms work would be looking at The Depiction of the Phases of the Moon.
At the time I knew absolutely nothing about the moon, now nearly three weeks on I know much, much, more. What  I know, in particular, is that it is a huge subject and presents a gigantic number of research avenues.
Here are a few I’m considering; science, myth, discovery, emotional and psychological connotations, photographs, educational and instructional images,  associated words and meanings; moon planting, science fiction and geological structure.
Each of these could be a rich source of imagery and possibility.
Where to start?
JFDI: Advice I often give my students and sometimes take myself is the very best advice for procrastinators like me and as the course is “Book arts and Illustration” and I am interested in exploring book forms, I made lots … and lots.. of small maquettes, from map folds, squash books, concertinas, crown books, round books, fans, origami folds and more.  A day of nice therapy playing with paper.

book-forms

They are scrappy little things but so full of possibilities and ideas. Each could be taken and developed in many ways.
My notebooks are full of ideas, so far I have 18 pages like this:

skb1
skb2


I am making watercolours like this:

  w-col

I have started making some unexpectedly lovely prints:

 more trials


and am thinking about 3D possibilities and the wonderfully evocative words connected with the moon; waxing, waning, gibbous, crescent etc. And there is much more going on. It’s a big messy muddle of stuff and I am that pig in muck.. :)
At some point I do have to collate all this research into a coherent project report..(Yeah.. good luck with that Val..) so may be able to present it here in a neat concise form later in the year. Meanwhile it will be just sporadic and jumbled posts like this.
By the way, big thanks to all of your who sent me such lovely supportive messages and emails, encouraging me to keep blogging this stuff! I hope you are not regretting it.
* One down side of doing an MA is the necessity to return to Art Speak.. more affectionately known as Art Bollocks. The internet, provider of all things wonderful has a neat site where the struggling fine artist can generate their very own . See: http://www.artybollocks.com/  Hmmm…might prove to be very handy. Me, I just like to stick to that plain old motto: “eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation".

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Moths…and an M.A.

The last few weeks have been extra, extra busy.. with another excellent sun drenched trip to Amsterdam, our last Easton meeting for this year and the consequences of my decision return to study.

Study ?…Yes! I need more.
Learning stuff is, without doubt, my drug of choice. It can be almost anything and I am never happier than when deeply immersed in reading, research and visual experimentation.
Over the last few years I have been on just a maintenance dose, a bit of a drip feed of new ideas and practice. But earlier in the summer I decided to give in and go for the full shot.
So I am studying for an M.A. in Book Arts and Illustration at Anglia Ruskin University, just for the sheer delightful delight of doing it.  My art practice is going to get a good shake out and possibly a good kicking. Just two weeks in now and the brain is beginning to crank into life again.  “Go brain!”….

I will post something of my progress as things develop.

_________________________________________________________

Moths and the blogging dilemma
Printmaking will play a central role in my study and the printmaking experiments are continuing, so with the set of Fenland images in mind  I’ve been posting intermittently about some experimental Moth prints over on Beautiful Beasts.

To blog or not to blog?

Blogging about things often presents me with a dilemma. Recently I have been experimenting and reading, so the images, such as they are, are not that special and I am often reluctant to post experiments lest the casual viewer, who has not read the text, thinks that:-

a:They are finished images (unlikely) or,

b: That I love the images and am super proud of them.(even less likely)

At the moment it’s not so much the images as the experiments that I’m interested in. Some images are just marks on paper or cut shapes which don’t make for good blogging, but to get back into sharing my thoughts which I have to do over the next two years and to also plug the yawning gap in the blog, here are a few stages of the moth trials…..

_________________________________________________________

Although not part of the M.A. directly, I have been looking at Fenland moths in connection with Willow trees and started off with a few sketches of general moth shapes..an amazing variety I find! These are locally recorded moths so encompass the Great Fen area as well as our small hilly plateau.

manymoths_thumb1 

Many Moths …pencil on A4 sketchbook.

and a couple of colour note sketches….

2moths_thumb1 

Some pattern sketches

mothpatternsbg_thumb6 patterns2bg_thumb2

And more drawing development:

mothsbwbg_thumb1

mothsbw2bg_thumb1

And a couple of plates, cut and proofed once:

mothprint1_thumb1

 Plate One and proofs.

moth2ndplate2_thumb1 

Plate Two

moth2platebg_thumb1

Plate Two proof

plates2_thumb2

I cut a mask for the first plate, but unfortunately I can’t remember why…I guess it will come back to me or something else will suggest itself along the way.

The intention is to combine the plates with other images or just with each other and see what happens. “Play”, “Serendipity”  and “Chaos” are going to be my constant companions over the next couple of years… :)…It’s the endless possibilities that are so thrilling..

More exciting moth images to come.