Archive for the 'Sketchbook' Category


A snapshot of a moment – I want to remember how I got here.

Posted yesterday (21-Dec-2017) and in process began to remember a way of looking and thinking. Great conversation with Claire last night, with ideas to encourage and support and push each other. With mum to Pipilotti Rist exhibition at MCA today – immersive and stirring and beautiful (in an engaged way). Then watched a video – George Condo: The way I think and while not drawn to his art felt impelled to capture notes, ideas:
For a start Condo talks an awful lot about art history, artists, low and high forms, painting vs drawing etc. While I’m interested in learning about art history it seems artificial to be consciously combining influences in a work. Very “arty”, which is not directly a goal for me.
Emotions – I often can’t recognise emotions that people say are in a painting, unless they are simplified down to almost caricatures (which Condo’s own work seems to be). Though I loved his phrase about Rembrandt, about “see the world they lived through in their face”. Need to go to the AGNSW exhibition again and look with that in mind.
Loved the use of oil sticks, and then dragging the brush through for tone. Would need to relax and not think about cost, seeing the way he churned through them. Also liked the way the drawing changed as he worked on it – eg one of someone’s eyes became the eye of another head in profile.
Interesting the bit about fake news, that we don’t know what realism is. And the phrase “strange shadows” – could really explore that as a theme. But not sure about art being truthful – unless you say it is the viewer’s interpretation so their own truth.
It did have me wanting to jump up and draw, and think I might need to do that straight away. Strike while the iron’s hot.

Jumped up, grabbed some A3 cartridge paper, some oil pastels, a figure from sculpting class with Kassandra Bossell (breaking off arm and foot in the process), sat on the floor and started drawing. Colour didn’t move with brush so pushed with fingers. And here I am, breathless and excited and blood coursing. Alive and creating.

“Result” is not the point, but included for completeness. The point is in my mind and body and emotion.

Indigo sketchbook

20150104a20150104bThis sketchbook was first seen 9-Jan-2015, freshly made and ready to go. Most days since I’ve been working in it, trying different media to see what results I can get.
Some general lessons:

  • The paper (110 gsm cartridge paper dipped into an indigo vat) was very absorbent. Thin colours like inks and most felt-tip pens just soaked in leaving little trace.
  • The surface was very fragile. If the paint on a stamp was too tacky the paper’s surface would lift away with the stamp, leaving white paper, rather than the paint being deposited on the surface.
  • The surface would also lift if the book was closed while something was still tacky, with the paint adhering to the baking paper between each page.
  • It was hard to find the right media in the right colours to stand out against the busy patterning of the surface.
  • It was easy to lose the beauty of the indigo patterned surface by covering too much with opaque media.

indigo_sketch_32A couple of sketchbook pages didn’t make it in. Some were basically repeats. One was overstamped in indigo, which was awkward to do into the book format. The separate A3 page on the left was much better. I really like the effect of the layers of indigo – the initial full dip, then dips of various found things as stamps.
indigo_sketch_34indigo_sketch_31Another extra followed a suggestion from Nola to use coloured crayons as a resist before dipping into indigo. The results from my quick test were unexciting and I haven’t done a followup. I think more solid areas of colouring would work better, as well as sticking to the lighter colours like yellow and orange.



Issett, R. (2007)  Print Pattern & Colour for paper and fabric London: Batsford


This morning I’ve been playing with ArahPaint, free software designed as “a drawing tool, which helps textile designers in editing pictures in repeat” (from the User Manual). It’s intended to support the first step in designing jacquard woven fabrics, but I was thinking of stamping and printing.

First some links: The AVL blog which alerted me to the software. It has direct links to the software download, user manual etc. Arahne website. Their main product is weaving software for jacquard and dobby looms, and there’s also a draping or texture mapping program which looks complicated but fun (there are demos for both, but I don’t think they’re open source). Gimp is my preferred image manipulation software (also free). I found myself swapping between gimp (to adjust my basic image) and arahpaint (to produce pattern repeats) and it worked pretty smoothly. The windows snipping tool came in handy too.

p4s4_02I used a design based on a shell, from A Creative Approach (sketchbook here and blog post 11-Feb-2012). A few of this morning’s new patterns are in the slideshow below.

I didn’t get into the details of ArahPaint, just tried the things that worked without too much trouble. A few times either the program or I got confused, which was generally solved by starting a new image, closing and reopening the software, or getting a cup of tea. With my gimp experience most things worked pretty much as I expected, and the User Manual helped out.

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Overall a very useful tool which I will explore further when a project suggests itself.

Sketchbook: Indigo

Tuesday 30th
As part of the indigo dye day (see 3-Jan-2015 and Claire’s post here) we experimented with dipping paper into the vat.

20141230aFollowing Claire’s lead I dipped some small cards, then stamped, clipped, brushed, flicked…
20141230bI folded some A3 cartridge paper into a nice little package and dipped that. The indigo didn’t penetrate into the folds, so it was back to flicking and dripping.

Wednesday 31st
20141231aAn uninspiring day. Larger samples of mark making on both cartridge and kraft paper didn’t excite.

20141231bA “fishbone” fold from “Folding Architecture: Spatial, Structural and Organizational Diagrams” by Sophia Vyzoviti looked good plain, but after dipping the folds were muddled rather than enhanced and when flattened – boring. Other folding attempts were even less interesting.

Thursday 1st20150101a
I did a repeat of the fishbone sculptural folds – this time remembering to take a “before” picture, plus dipping on one side only and being more careful of drips, wanting to make the indigo highlight the shaping of the paper. A much better outcome than the previous day.

20150101eAnother type of folding also came from Vyzoviti’s book. This is like the folded paper game we did as children, where you wrote little saying under the flaps – but it’s a double version. I found it very challenging to fold (there’s a small cut you have to make which is critical), and the results are under-whelming.

20150101bA new experiment looked at using various white oil/wax drawing implements as resists – sennelier oil pastel, two kinds of children’s crayons, and a candle. The oil pastel was the least effective in resisting the indigo, but produced an interesting texture in the line where it worked. The candle wax was the most effective. I dipped twice to get the A3 cartridge paper covered, and the area of overlap overwhelmed most of the marks. Not much to show, except for some of the lovely, complex marking produced by a simple dip into indigo of basically flat paper.

Friday 2nd
20150101cI continued the “history of folds on the page” line of inquiry with a fold based on Ralph Matthew’s origami butterfly (link). I added some extra folds in an attempt to complicate the final patterning, and tied with string. I think the result is finally getting somewhere. Note importance of complex folds, with a large part of the surface of one side of paper either fully exposed or in a simple tuck rather than folded in.

20150101dFor the drawn resist inquiry I chose candle on A3 cartridge paper, and did a quick sketch of myself – challenging in white on white! The drawn resist gave a ghost face emerging from the indigo.
Saturday 3rd
20150102aReturning to yesterday’s drawn resist I thought it was a bit too indistinct, and found I could easily scrape the indigo off the wax areas using my nail or paper clip (it was nearby) – but the result was too white, too sharp edged. A gentle rub with a toothbrush was better, although I think I should have stopped sooner. Could I cover a page with rubbed candle wax, dip into indigo, then “sketch” by removing indigo selectively?

20150102bThis led to two more experiments.
First a candle wax sketch of my husband. The basic process used was the same, but I was very gentle and more selective about rubbing over waxed areas to remove indigo. I think this is my best result to date, although that ear is a real problem.

20150102cThat’s fortunate because the second idea was a failure. I rubbed candle wax over the “full” surface of an A3 sheet of cartridge paper (110gsm – the same used in most of the experiments). After dipping into indigo and drying I tried a number of tools to draw into the blue. Would you believe there is a face in there? The surface was just too inconsistent and too fragile, I couldn’t draw a line or shape effectively.

Having found that simple (non-waxed) indigo-dipped paper made a very nice base for drawing with conte crayons I decided to make a small sketchbook. Potentially it could contain:

  • “plain” dipped paper
  • wax rubbed then dipped paper
  • paper edged with an indigo treatment
  • separation pages of baking paper (to stop the crayon transferring), possibly with a decorative indigo treatment
  • Sunday 4th – Monday 5th
    20150104aIt took a couple of days to dye and make, but here is my latest sketching journal. The cover is a creamy rice paper behind mulberry bark (indigo dyed of course). It’s roughly A5 in size. The binding is coptic stitch in a natural coloured waxed linen thread. The stitching is uneven – there are only 3 sections, so not enough to build up a rhythm – but I really like the patterning given by the mulberry bark. It seems very appropriate for this book.

    20150104bIn the end I kept it simple – each section effectively has 12 A5 pages of indio-dipped cartridge paper, with all pages separated by baking paper which is mostly just indigo dipped at the edges with more patterning at the start and end of each section.

    I’ve started using the journal, but it will probably be a couple of weeks before I can show results now holidays are over and I’m back at work.

    Sketchbook – bracken

    I decided to start last week with drawing. A drainage grate I was clearing had some bracken in it, which gave me a subject.

    20141221Sunday 21st. Pencil sketch on tone gray 118 gsm sketching paper, a little less than A3.
    Tried to focus on observation. Always difficult. I also tried to give at least a little connection around it – some shadows, a sense of the wrinkled white cloth the frond was lying on.
    One issue is that I get tired and rush. Perhaps I should try a run of smaller attempts, quick impressions.

    20141222Monday 22nd. Printing using the bracken as a stamp, onto A3 kraft paper that I had pre-coloured with watercolours prior to the journal making workshop with Adele Outteridge but not used (25-July-2014).
    20141222bPartway through I followed an impulse to add some text, for texture and interest. The text is from NSW government information on bracken (link) – an attractive native plant that is a weed and toxic to livestock.
    I was happy with the actual printing – acrylic paint colour mixing, the prints really showing up the texture of the plant (I rollered the paint onto the bracken, placed it on the paper with some paper towel on top, then gently pressed by hand). The layering is pleasant. The base covering of the paper is not really evident, but the fan-folding left ridges in the paper which in some lights creates an interesting contrast and a little structure to the page.
    The text (nib pen and ink) gets lost, too spidery. Possibly a change of scale would help. Also it’s another overall pattern. I need to push myself on composition.
    20141223Tuesday 23rd. The base A3 cartridge paper was also prepared for the journal workshop. There was not a lot of colour, but the paper had become soft and floppy. I decided to explore text a little more. My first attempt was to create a font on the computer, with text outlines filled with images of the stamped texture from the previous day. The result was uninteresting, with a bad balance between the image texture and letter clarity. The second attempt was on a much larger scale, using parts of the actual bracken to form the letters.
    Wanting to avoid the gloss of mod podge, I used a thin base of acrylic structure medium spread on with a palette knife and pressed the bracken into that. The surface left by the knife was too smooth, so I created texture around the text by repeated pressing in bracken fronds and lifting them. The medium didn’t actually take the shape of the bracken, but became much more “organic” in appearance. On a whim I rollered an iridescent medium over everything. This made the text too indistinct, so I added some dark green metallic rub to the leaves, which at the detail level really brings out the texture of the plant.
    Overall it doesn’t work – the placement on the page, the jarring (rather than intriguing) contrast between organic letters and polished page.
    Pluses: the feel and finish of the paper. It is still soft and pliable, I think it could be stitched into by hand or machine, it has an interesting texture and a lovely soft metallic glow. I wonder if the structure gel and iridescent combo would work on fabric without changing the hand too much.
    20141224Wednesday 24th. Experimenting with simplified shapes, using charcoal pencils and a number of different black pens.
    20141225Thursday 25th. Scanned the previous day’s page, and selected one shape for further pattern development. All of the versions on the right were created using gimp. I like the sense of movement in the individual shape, and think it works quite well in the different repeats.
    20141226Friday 26th. I had an indigo dye day coming up (more on that in a later post). I wanted to create a design that combined a shibori effect and the mottling of indigo with another level of patterning. The image on the left was a simulation of the design.
    Plan A was to print the bracken on silk, direct from the computer on silk ironed on to freezer paper. I’ve done this years ago, on a different printer. This time I jumped straight in to A3 size on my quite new printer (which has a rear feed, so no rollers to go around). I didn’t get good adhesion on the freezer paper, tried to print anyway and the silk got caught part way through. After some anxious moments I cleared everything and the printer seems to have survived – but it was time for Plan B.
    20141227aSaturday 27th. Plan B: carving a stamp in ezy carve. The A4 page on the left shows the simplified pencil tracing I made of the bracken shape, and some proofs as I refined the carving of the stamp.
    20141227I tested the stamp (in red) over a printout of the original shape from the computer. The registration is off semi-deliberately – it’s hard at any time, and I think the movement is more interesting.
    I chose some white linen and used black textile ink to stamp on my design.
    20141228_29Sunday 28th and Monday 29th. Around A3 size, this was a new combination of techniques used over the past couple of weeks. I used the carved stamp with acrylic paints onto tissue paper. The colour mixing was similar to the previous Monday. The leaves were torn out by hand – I wanted to stay with an organic feel, and liked a variable boundary around the shape. The individual pieces were stuck onto a tissue paper base using mod podge – rollered on for a light uniform coverage. When that was dry I used some structure medium over the top to integrate the surface, stamping into it with the carved stamp to create more texture.
    20141228_29bI like the back-lit photo. A nice glow, and some interest from overlapping colours and pattern. It could be useful to have something that is equally interesting in both back and front lighting. It’s light and soft and pliable, but there’s a plasticy feel to the surface – I think you’d need a sharp needle to punch through. Even after a couple of days the surface is still a bit sticky which could cause challenges in use.
    On Monday I also prepared fabrics ready for indigo the next day.
    20141230Tuesday 30th. This shows the stamped linen, now dyed with indigo. The section shown is around A3 size – there is some plain border around it. The patterning was a whip stitch over single folds the length of the fabric. Some refinement is needed, scales and spacing aren’t quite right. Just a bit more space between stitching and the stamps would help. The stamping might show up a bit better with a minute or two less in the vat. However I regard it as a successful experiment in showing that shibori patterns can work in combination with other elements in a design.

    Sketchbook – the indeterminate

    This week I wanted to explore some ideas following from my last experiment (14-Dec-2014). That involved dropping lengths of string. What else could I drop?

    2014121520141215b20141215cMonday. The initial idea was to suspend an “ink-dripping-device” over paper and set it swinging. First up – some handmade paper, slightly less than A4 (I made it in an ATASDA workshop at Primrose Park (29-May-2011). The dripper didn’t drip. A thick cotton cord dipped in ink didn’t drip. A wet brush got caught on the paper and wouldn’t move smoothly. A small plastic bag with a hole in the corner let some colour through, but in random drops rather than leaving a trail as I’d imagined. Some areas on the back are slightly more interesting. I’d included some small pieces torn from a dictionary in the original paper-making, so there are a couple of levels of randomness interacting.
    I attempted the same plastic bag delivery over A3 white cartridge paper. Blah bland. I would need an improved delivery system and to experiment with viscosity of my ink/paint to get random but fairly continuous lines.
    20141216Tuesday. I coated A3 kraft paper with mod podge, then dropped mixed torn papers – tissue, from books, bits of maps, … I’d shake loose bits off, then re-drop them until everything had stuck. A final brushed coating of mod podge was used to firm things up and integrate the surface.
    The result was too mixed. Could it work as a background? Be brought together in some way? I wasn’t keen on brushmarks in the mod podge, but did like the transparency of the tissue, especially with text underneath.
    2014121720141217bWednesday. This was very similar to Tuesday’s, but using only tissue paper, a more careful selection of colours, and with A3 white cartridge paper as a base. I also used a single lot of dropping, rather than repeating until everything stuck. I was interested in getting a more transparent effect.
    All the way through I couldn’t pin down a connection, then realised it was a variation on the woven tissue I’d done exploring Aztec themes (link). The new version was much more varied, and also had a lot of texture and irregularity of the surface which I like, was well as a rich/jewel/wet/transparent/sea-weedy effect.
    I’d like to try this with a tissue base, and then experiment with hand and machine stitch over.
    2014121820141218bThursday. Back to dropping thread – rayon machine-embroidery threads, in a similar colour palette to the tissue example, on to A3 white cartridge. I wanted to capture the fall of the threads, undisturbed by tracing or brushing over, so carefully laid plastic cling film on and pressed into the mod podge which had captured the threads.
    I pulled out each individual thread to its full length before dropping, but they all sprang back into curls. I didn’t get the coverage or the mixing of colours that I was hoping for. I like the sense of depth and general liveliness of the result. The shine of the cling film is distracting, and possibly unnecessary given the sheen of the threads themselves. I wonder what I could use instead.
    2014121920141219c20141219bFriday. A fresh attempt at Monday’s original idea. This time I used acrylic paint, which I could water down to get the right level of runniness. The base is A3 cartridge paper.
    The delivery device started life as a small toy plastic rolling pin, included in a container of plasticine. One end already had a hole from its manufacture. I cut off the other end so paint could be inserted, and suspended it all over the paper with string. A real step-up in sophistication from the original plastic bag!
    I love the movement and energy, and that even the dotted areas read as lines. I’m quite keen on the colour combination too – in keeping with the feel of freshness and energy.
    Leftover paint was used on the large paper I used to protect the work-surface. Being slightly more controlling over the direction of the swinging paint dispenser had quite an impact on the result. Still lively, but much more a sense of purpose, of representing something.
    20141220b20141220Saturday. I wondered if Friday’s paint effect would provide the unifying factor that Tuesday’s torn paper needed.
    First I experimented on the computer, using gimp to isolate the coloured swirls of paint, and overlaying them on the earlier photo. I tried the orange and blue separately and together, and decided on orange alone.
    The second image here shows the actual result of dripping paint on to the page. I think it provides the cohesion needed. It would be a good framing device, but I would want to control it more, to be less central. The swirls also give the eye a path around the page. It’s not clear in the photo, but the watered down paint allows underlying text and images to show through, which is interesting. The paint also has a matte surface, which contrasts with the brushed shine of the mod podge.
    Overall I’m pleased with the sequence of experiments. I tried to keep asking “what if…” and “what else…”. There are a number of things in the results which I might use in the future. It also fit well with the working week – in odd moments each day I could think about the previous results and come up with an idea for that night’s experiment.

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