Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Australia Here I Come!

Golly, the time has come. Suddenly! We leave in the morning.

There are so many things to think about when you aren't going to be around for such a long time. We have even had to organise friends to come and live in our house, so it won't be empty.

I'm really hoping I won't get there and discover something important we forgot. I think it's all pretty sorted. The people I am working with at the research centre in Perth have helped with all the boring stuff, like my work visa and insurance requirements (don't you just hate all that side of things?), and they have organised some lovely accommodation too. Plus, so that I don't have to fill my luggage with paint and paper, all the art materials for my residency have been ordered in Australia and delivered direct to Perth.

I will post pictures of what I am up to on Facebook and Instagram, just as soon as I can, and will keep up the blog for the 2 months I'm in Perth, so do keep looking in. In the meantime, I thought you might like to see a few of the sketches I did at our most recent sketchcrawl, on Saturday. It was lovely to do it so close to me leaving, as it was a chance to say goodbye to my UK sketch-buddies. I'll be meeting up with Urban Sketchers Perth when I get there.

We spent our day in the centre of Sheffield, in the lovely Winter Gardens. I have had a few goes at this over the years and it is very tricky, as there is just so much going on. I think this is the first time I have felt that I have coped with it reasonably well.

That's a good omen I hope for my painting time in Oz, not just for my 2 month residency, but also the travelling time, when we'll be in Western Australia, and I hope to do lots of painting out and about, just like I did in Lanzarote.

Wish me luck!

Monday, 8 January 2018

Drawing Attention Interviews

A few weeks ago, I did a Skype interview for Urban Sketchers, the international sketching organisation, for whom I am a correspondent and instructor. They have a beautifully illustrated monthly newsletter, called Drawing Attention, which tells people about the exciting things that have been happening in the sketching world and gives details of events like workshops, which are coming up.

For 2018 though, they have gone a bit posh and are trying out an exciting new format, a sort of electronic booklet, which looks great! It also gives them a lot more space. Which is where my interview comes in (shame about the misspelt name though).

And it's not just me - there are interviews with the world-famous watercolourist, Liz Steel, from Sydney and the digital sketcher, Rob Sketcherman, in Hong Kong. I watched him in action when we were in Chicago together, and his speed and draughtsmanship are almost unbelievable.

There is also an interesting feature this month about a fellow Yorkshire sketcher, Deborah Rehmat, who talks about the challenges and benefits of sketching with ME. That's as well as pieces about the latest Urban Sketching chapters to be formed, in Syracuse and Hyderabad.

So, if you are at all into sketching, or would just like to see some beautiful paintings and drawings, take a look. You can also subscribe, completely free of charge, to future issues of Drawing Attention here.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Delivering 'Maps' to The Point

Today we have been battling with bubble-wrap, as two of my textile pieces, which were on show for the first time at Orchard Square, have been accepted into a new exhibition at The Point gallery in Doncaster. They are part of Rebel Daughters, which opens on January 18th, featuring the work of 60 different women artists.

I chose these particular two pieces, both based on local maps and walks, as they make a good pair. They were also my most recent pieces at the time I made the submission, given that the new Coffee House piece was already promised to The Cupola's Christmas 'Unique Beauty' exhibition (which closes on Jan 6th, if you wanted to visit).

The sad thing is that I won't get to see Rebel Daughters, as it opens the day after I fly to Australia to do my next residency, and comes down on April 7th, well before I get back. Which is a great shame, as it's a smashing gallery and I would have loved to have seen the rest of the work. Hey ho. I can't really complain, can I?

Both pieces had to be mirror-plated, cocooned in bubble-wrap, then driven to Doncaster. While we were there, we had a quick look round the exhibition which is about to come down to make way for Rebel Daughters and were lucky to catch a touring show of Matisse cut-outs: wonderfully up-lifting on a dreary, wet afternoon!

One thing you might like to know, if you are at all interested in buying my work: The Point does not add commission to the artist's price, as it is a publicly-funded gallery, so the work is less than half the price it would be in a private gallery.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Drawing Ideas: a Philosophy Collaboration

It is an exciting time of creative change for me right now, juggling lots of new things. As regular readers will know, in the middle of my surge of interest in embroidered textiles, I am also getting ready to leave for Australia,  for my UWA residency. But there is something else too, something completely different, which has come my way recently.

Remember the Ideas Bazaar event run by Sheffield University, where I exhibited my reportage work? Well, I initially thought nothing had come of it but, although it has taken a little while to get it together, I have now connected up with the university's philosophy department: a completely new area for me. But it's also going to be a completely new kind of work...

I have been having meetings with a philosopher Phillip Nash and we are really excited at the opportunity to work together. We have these brilliant discussions about ideas, which just roll and roll and tease my brain into lots of places it hasn't been before. It is all fascinating new stuff for me but, what is really inspiring, is the unexpected common ground we have. We are both really interested in how creativity works, and the creative process in the visual arts is closely mirrored in creative-thinking practises.

We have put together an exciting new project, where we will use my visual communication skills to attempt to interpret a series of abstract ideas about knowledge and the pursuit of truth.

As usual, none of it is a done-deal, because it depends on funding, but we are going to apply to the Making Ways fund for research and development support, to test the process and hopefully create a series of interesting, innovative drawings. At the same time, we are being supported by a professor at Sheffield University and together we are putting in for some funding to make a presentation for the Festival of the Mind, in October next year. The idea is to build on the initial drawings, to develop them into artwork which hopefully can help communicate some of these philosophical ideas. We want to  put together an exhibition of all the work, but also run some workshops, to test how well the work communicates and to use the drawings to explore further the connections between visualisation and the understanding and retention of new ideas.

It feel weird to be getting so excited about this, when I have to leave it completely now and go to Australia. If it comes off though, I will be able to start on it the moment I get back. Ultimately, I want to use all this as the basis for an entirely new collection of textiles work, but that's even further off. One step at a time!

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

New Textile Artwork Inspired by Lanzarote

The piece I have been working on for a while now is another biggish one, similar in size to the church, which I did near the beginning of this textile adventure (and which I sold at my Orchard Square exhibition - hurrah!). 

I think this new one is finished. I have been very keen to get it to this point before going away to Australia, as I didn't want to lose momentum by having to leave it for ages. I keep going back and tinkering though. It has moved on quite a bit since I last showed it to you, although the changes get more subtle, the nearer I get to the end.

The piece was inspired by my trip to Lanzarote in February. I did a great deal of drawing and painting while I was there, but one thing which I didn't capture at the time, but which really impacted on me, was the vine farming. Anyone who has been to the island will know what I mean, and hopefully recognise it in this new piece of mine.

I believe the technique is unique to Lanzarote and is a response to the combination of heat and wind. Low, semi-circular walls are tiled like fish scales over the land. A conical depression is usually dug inside each, to create greater wind protection, and the ground is layered with black volcanic ash, which of course they have plenty of, to help keep in what moisture there is.

When the vine planted at the centre of each circle appears, the effect is a series of bright green dots. From a distance, they stand out in a surreal fashion against the matt black, and I think it is this which stuck a note with me.

I have been wanting to do something with the idea since I got back and finally I have got around to it. The piece is saying two different, but connected, things about the landscape at once, using background and foreground layers. 

With the warmer areas, I am attempting to reflect the volcanic evolution of the landscape and the source of the ash. The bottom of the piece, with multiple layers of stitching and organza shapes, represents the magma chamber which periodically comes to life in the heart of the mountain, leaking into the rocks and eventually throwing up new landscapes.

The cooler areas are my response to the unique appearance of the vine farms. I cut up a pair of old work trousers for the ash layer, which I tore into strips and reconstructed, as I often do with my base layers. I wanted the dramatic contrast of the dark fabric to suggest the almost solemn solidity of the landscape, and to give the green 'growth' the necessary visual punch. I have used my wools again to represent the walls and provide contrasting rhythms with the bolder marks.

I have also 'drawn' with couched crewel wool, for a smaller echo of the lovely wall shapes. I was inspired to get some couching in, after my trip to the Royal College of Arms.

I can't wait to see what inspiration I get in Australia! I don't expect to take much sewing kit with me but, once I am done with my residency work, I will have a month in WA's national parks and will certainly be doing lots of painting again, to gather ideas and capture the shapes and colours.