Archive for the 'Sketchbook' Category

Mind the Gap

Plan versus Reality.

A watercolour by Bela Ivanyi, Boab at El Questro (Kimberleys WA), a finalist in the Wynne Prize 2018 currently being exhibited at AGNSW. So much energy, exciting marks, texture and layering!

Bela Ivanyi
Boab at El Questro (Kimberleys WA)

Bela Ivanyi
Boab at El Questro (Kimberleys WA)

Bela Ivanyi
Boab at El Questro (Kimberleys WA)

Bela Ivanyi
Boab at El Questro (Kimberleys WA)

The build | draw response cycle, recommended by Matt Bromhead and as I was trained in the OCA classes. Matt displays his drawings together with the sculptures. I was more interested in really focusing on my samples as part of the selection process for further development.

The Gap
Oh dear. I had some ideas about how to create texture with watercolour and wax crayons. Not good.
So I tried again, just trying to create texture. Meh. Watched a youtube video by Jean Lurssen on creating texture in watercolour using acrylic ink. I quite liked the results – perhaps I’ll make some background pages to get things moving.
Went to charcoal and pencil, more directly what Matt taught. I managed a limited range of different textures, but they don’t add up to anything in this attempt.

Why would I show and keep such weak work?

  • it’s my process. Writing this helps me think about what I’m doing.
  • I live in hope – maybe one day I’ll look back and see how I’ve improved.
  • I achieved my objective. I’ve spent time looking closely at my samples. I know that slanted grid from Marion Gaemer’s workshop is pulling me. I know the resin platform is important to me. I know the gentle lines and folds of the plaster warm me.
  • Next
    I can’t remember if I clearly articulated the component approach in an earlier post. I want to embrace chance, intuition, and thoughtful play. Processes I like, particularly at the moment looping, take time. So I’ve been spending time making components which are then available to incorporate quickly while I’m building.

    A mini conversation with Kath in the comments of my last post (4-Aug-2018) started a train of thought. Spending some quality time looking at and attempting to draw the samples has given focus. I’ve got some questions and ideas around combining looping and resin shards.

    Book making

    For her recent birthday (2-Jul-2018) my mother was given beautiful cards, some hand-made, many with personal comments and wishes. I’ve now bound the cards together so that she can easily display them and re-read all those lovely thoughts.

    It turned out pretty well, the trickiest part being figuring out how to handle all the different sizes of card.

    Class notes

    To stitch the binding I referred back to my notes from a class with Adele Outteridge in 2014 (25-Jul-2014). I tend to make copious notes in classes. For Adele’s workshop I actually made a book of the notes, a variety of papers, an invoice for some threads I bought…

    Over the years I’ve tried lots of different book formats for storing workshop notes, visual diaries, exhibition leaflets… Some of it’s by date, some by subject.

    Cannibalizing from a draft blog post for a project that hasn’t quite taken off yet: Recently a son asked me for the name of a glass maker we had been interested in a while back. I was able to identify John Ditchfield from a photo of a glass frog in my very first visual diary – 2003, just after I drew a line under my professional studies. That’s 15 years of sometimes obsessive making, learning and experimenting. And flipping through my diaries, looking for this frog photo I had in my head, was a revelation. Some of that stuff was really interesting. I was impressed by myself. Instead of constantly reaching for the next glittery thing that catches my attention, I think it’s time to go deeper, to look around me in my workroom-formerly-known-as-the-dining-room.

    Unfortunately in some ways my notes are a bit of a mess. This blog acts as an index to find the date of a workshop, but then it’s a hunt to find the actual notes. I haven’t always worked steadily, filling up one notebook before starting the next. A visual diary is too heavy to carry around. I’ve wanted a mix of papers. There are a couple of handmade books on the shelves with paper mixes, there are lots of loose pages bundled together with string that I was planning to bind – but that’s slow and I haven’t got around to it…

    So I’ve identified value, the resource I’m continuing to build, and I’ve identified a number of problems with the way I create, store and access that value. Seeing the benefit, I’m now experimenting with a system I’ve always rejected in the past as just too ugly. A4 spiral binding with plastic combs. How is that more ugly, more office-drab, more bland uniformity than lever arch folders? Don’t know, it just is.

    Now I have a thin book with a variety of papers, light enough to live in my backpack. Roughly weekly I take out whatever pages I’ve used and refill with blanks. The used pages go into a larger consolidation folder. There are receipts and postcards and all sorts of oddments going in. At the moment it definitely isn’t beautiful, but at some stage I might play with putting more “arty” stuff in. So far it seems to working – useful. That’s enough.


    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.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    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.

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