My interview for the Whitley Bay Carnival Lockdown Art Market.
Tuesday was such a lovely day! My first public workshop of 2020 – held at the lovely Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.
I started out early so I could squeeze in my regular Tuesday swim before the workshop and managed a kilometre even though I forgot my goggles 🥽- tried swimming with my eyes shut NOT a good idea when you’re swimming in lanes !
The workshop was designed to share methods to help develop unique and personal approaches to creating art – in textiles or other media. First, a talk about how looking at other artists work can help us to make progress with our own work. Then some practical drawing exercises.
Working with a lovely group,I talked about what is ‘Critical for Creativity’ using a methodology I learnt in my first teaching post – last century!! We explored how to follow up when a piece of art catches our attention, using a bit of detective work to find out more about artwork and artist – no stalking! I used an example from my own experience – talking about how my love of Vincent van Gogh’s work influenced the creation of my piece ‘Shingle and Stars’
Having talked through how to analyse an artwork – and spend longer than 15 seconds looking at it! We went through to the gallery and everyone chose a piece of work that appealed to then to try the methodology themselves. I then talked a little more about how I continue to use this methodology and how it helps me to develop as an artist – stressing the importance of continuing to ‘feed’ ones creativity and imagination by learning from other artists. I shared the impact that more recent art ‘crushes’ have had on my own work such as Joan Eardley . The power and scale of her work has encouraged me to work bigger, and her use of collage encourages me in my choice of processes.
Then it was time to tackle drawing – now I know from my experience with students and workshop participants that those who stitch often say they can not draw! But I want to encourage drawing as a way of developing ideas, experimenting and… enjoying the process! So, I put together a series of tasks that would encourage the group to engage with their chosen subject matter and think about what exactly they needed to get from a drawing.
We started by working very quickly, with a range of media and NO Rubbers! When there is only a minute to draw, what do you focus on? The form, the texture? Mark making? Working on sketches for a minute or two can be surprising – it’s amazing how much information you can capture and, as you’ve only spent 60 seconds you don’t feel that pressure for it to be ‘good’ or look ‘right’. I encourage participants to make notes about the drawing experience as we go on …. what works, how it feels, what ideas pop into their heads whilst doing the drawing, the process of drawing can help to clarify the ideas of the artwork to come.
We finished the afternoon with a more extended piece – but drawing using collage – a process that really helps me in my applique and free motion embroidery work.
As with any workshop – I wouldn’t ask participants to do anything I haven’t done myself! So here is one of my 5 minute sketches – and the developing textile work. Once again, the magic of drawing has helped me extend the ideas I have for a piece of work and set me off down another creative pathway…lets see where this one leads to!
I think that I will do several fragments in this way to add further layers to my Urban Efflorescence pieces. I only hope the participants got as much out of the workshop as I did!
I will be running more workshops this year, at the Shipley and independantly, please get in touch if you’d be interested in booking a workshop for your group – and head over to my workshop page for upcoming events!
Joan Eardley -A Sense of Place
Joan Eardley has become a favourite artist of mine. An exhibition of the Glasgow Girls at the Kirkcudbright Art Gallery introduced me to her paintings of Glasgow children. I was drawn to the use of collage and lettering in the background, and the bold colours. Curious to find out more, I began online research and was struck by the energy Eardley captures in her land and seascapes. I tracked down an exhibition in the Clydebank Gallery a year later – and worked a visit into that summer’s holiday itinerary (!)
It was fantastic to be able to observe first hand the work that I had seen on line. The landscape paintings are around a metre square,the seascapes even bigger, as if she was trying to make life-size representations of the scene in front of her, so powerful. Imagine trying to manipulate a canvas or board that size outdoors in Scottish weather – Summer and Winter! The texture and colour were inspiring. As I stood in front of the work I tried to follow through the process; looking at underlying colours, often very strong and dark, the way thicker paint was applied in parts of the composition and, how in places real plant matter was embedded in thick layers of paint. There was a book supporting the exhibition. I bought it and took it home to study.
I started trying to build the ideas I gained from studying Joan Eardley’s work into my own textile art; stronger colours, more consideration of composition, thinking about how and where to build up texture. Learning from another artist is empowering, encouraging creativity. The biggest lesson is that reminder that in working in situ ideas and feelings flow into the work.
Then, in December 2016, I found out that there was to be another, more comprehensive exhibition of Joan Eardley’s work at the Scottish Museum of Modern Art in Edinburgh – it took me til’ the February Half Term break to persuade my family that they really wanted a weekend in Edinburgh! We compromised – I took them to the Camera Obscura, they accompanied me to the gallery. We met up with friends there, it was good to be able to discuss the work with a great pal – and ex art teaching colleague (Hello Linda!)
This exhibition includes work from throughout Eardley’s all too short career. Completed paintings are supported with sketches and studies, photographs and artefacts and a wonderful film of the artist at work. The work is divided into five rooms, themed through chronology and subject matter. Again, I was entranced by process, the use of media, expensive paints used sparingly then splurged or padded out with filler to create texture. Sketchbook pages stuck together to make a big enough surface to draw on. Collage worked into paintings and sketches. Again, I was struck by the sense of life and energy in the work. And there was another book…
I got the chance to return to this exhibition on Saturday. It was a very short follow up visit- only an hour to go through the five rooms. I was on a weekend trip with the 12 year old, ostensibly to visit the Knitting and Stitching Show and hit the shops with her left over Christmas money. So, we negotiated and an hour was what I got! Focus and determination was the plan. In each room, I studied the pieces that most grabbed my interest, standing in front and typing notes directly on my phone (must get faster at touch typing!) So what follows is the transcript of those notes, with images from the books I bought to remind me. Even reading through them now I get that rush of adrenaline and excitement – it is so important to continue to study other artists’ work. It gives me enthusiasm and ideas, a sense of determination to continue with my work so I get to what I want to achieve. The exhibition is on until the 21st May 2017. I don’t think I’ll get another chance to see it but I have my memories – and I hope there’ll be another one soon….
Be bold bright blue and orange ochre in with greens and charcoal
Obvious layers thick rough texture
Brush marks long embroidery stitch
Field with wild flowers 1960-2
What happens if I add larger pieces (organza) over small?
Marks go in & out of focus
Turquoise lime green salmon pink
July Fields 1959
Patchwork raw edges
Thick thread stitching in texture
That blue again
Summer Fields 1961
Colours layer and smudge together
Small clear details catch the eye
Real plant matter smothered in dripping paint
One side blurred – yellow ochre
Just fabric- minimal stitch
Centre -green/ochre heavy texture
Right- greens clearer bold marks over thinner paint
Fields under Snow 1958
Charcoal & burnt umber on top
Brush marks unravel like frayed yarn
Beehives Storm Approaching 1961
Green jade under grey umber
Black black house
Rough tweed tea texture field
Aggressive wind whipped marks
Stitch collage on top
So much energy
Winter Day Catterline 1957-60
Gable end of tenement 1955
Big flat fabric patches
Two Glasgow Lassies
Flame over blue grey
Is it torn, faded, dirty?
Stained glass colours
Child before a tenement window 1958-60
Illuminated window- lace curtain?
Glasgow Corner shop
Sketchbook collages of local shops
New series collage raw edges mounted on stained white
Children playing in a street 1960
Pen n ink drawings – become machine stitch sketches?
Girl and Chalked Wall 1955-60
Lettering (for Julia)
Texture on dress French knots
Such a Chagall blue
Summer Sea 1962
So big bold and wild
Paint drips and slashes across the wide sea
Shore is dark as peat
Surf crashes desperately on to it
Short thick vertical marks become wide dripping horizontals
Taste the salt spray
Winter Sea III 1958
What was it like to paint in that storm?
Everything crashing rapid direction changes
Difficult to see through pouring rain?
Fishing Nets Catterline 1962
Ochre n khaki beach thin brush texture visible
Cross hatch netting
Sunset fire colours in the waves
Sun thick like butter on burnt toast cliffs
Drowning in a sea of bubblewrap as I get everything wrapped up ready to take down to Harrogate on Saturday! I’ve spent an enjoyable day deciding on just how I want to display everything. Pleasantly surprised to discover that I do have enough work to fill my 2 x 1 m shell space. I know this because I mocked up the show in my, almost, 2 x 1 m bay window !!
There’ll be some jiggling and adjusting but I’ve got an idea now, and in the shell space I’ll have a bit more height so things will have a bit of breathing space. I’m glad I didn’t go for the additional storage unit – there’s no room!!
I did spend/waste quite a lot of time finding the fishing line that I use to find work – why did it take so long to find? Because it was in my exhibition tool kit/vanity case – where it was meant to be but obviously the LAST place I looked for it!
The wholesale price lists, labels and bio are typed up, printed off and mounted on foam board. I’ve still got a whole day to finalise things so I’m feeling quite calm – which feels quite odd!
I’m very grateful to Heaton Baptist Church for the loan of one third of the ‘My Journey’ triptych, and to St Bede’s Palliative Care Unit for the loan of one third of their triptych. I wanted to show community projects alongside my fine art textiles work, and that Heaton Map is just too darn big! (All of these pieces can be found in earlier blog posts).
The rest of the show will be made of recent work and a few old favourites, as I want to give a flavour of everything that I do.
So now its time to pack the tool kit, the step ladders and my trusty flask, and some smart clothes!
I’ll try and do an update whilst I’m at the show..see you in a few days!
The last few days have been taken up with setting up and previewing the Fusion Textile Artists Network exhibition at Gallery45 in Felton.
The first of almost monthly events I’m involved in this year, the Fusion show is called Connections. Ten artists are exhibiting new textile artwork developed in response to that one word title.
As with any exhibition, there are little hiccoughs…getting everyone and everything to the gallery on the right day and at the same time, working out the hanging system, finding all the labels and stock sheets…if you’ve ever had to do it you’ll know what I mean!
Unwrapping and sorting the work is always pleasing, seeing what my talented colleagues have created. Underneath the protective layers of cloth and bubble wrap lie examples of hand and machine stitch, beading, dyeing and more.
With only a few hours to get the job done, we clear the space and put the work out around the room.
Then it’s time for the serious step work out – up and down the step ladders hanging and adjusting pieces, using the spirit level to check things are straight and grouping by ‘eye’. Up the ladder, adjust, down the ladder, step back and review…back up the ladder- no wonder my legs feel like they’ve climbed a mountain!
I headed off to do school run duties and print out the labels on card, leaving the others to do final tweaks. I think, we were all pretty pleased with the end result.
The opening event was on Saturday, we got there early to put up the labels and sort out last minute bits and pieces. Then it was time to celebrate with tea and cake 😊. It was lovely to meet and greet people and share the ideas behind the work.
The exhibition shows great variety, demonstrating the versatility of textile media. Fabric, thread and mixed media are used to create abstract, representational, 2D and 3D pieces.
‘Connections’ is on until the 5th May. If you get to see it please leave a comment in the visitors book- we look forward to reading your views!
Gallery 45 is a gorgeous venue in Felton, Northumberland. From Saturday, the gallery will be holding the latest exhibition of Textile Art made by members of the Fusion Textile Artists Network. The exhibition is called ‘Connections’. The theme has been freely interpreted by the members of the network, so there will be a wide range of subject matter and textile processes to view.
We spent a weekend working with Textile Artist Shelley Rhodes in the Long Room at the gallery last Autumn. Some of the pieces in this new exhibition have developed from that workshop.
The work will be exhibited in the main gallery and in the Long Room and will be on display from March 4th until May 5th. There will be an opening event where you will be able to meet some of the artists this Saturday, 4th March, from 11am – 1pm – refreshments will be available!
The gallery itself is open from 10 – 5 Tuesday to Saturday and 11-4 on Sunday.
For my part, I’ve been exploring the connection one feels with the landscape; how that natural space can be healing and soothing. I love the feeling of being somewhere that is so open, beautiful and powerful. The landscape precedes us and will continue long after we are gone. There is much research to show that connecting with nature is beneficial to our health and well being. I have been visiting and recording the landscapes of Northumberland and Scotland and it is this work that I will be including in the exhibition.
All the pieces are created using hand coloured fabrics and free machine embroidery. It is quite a slow process but it encourages contemplation and I like the painterly effect it achieves.
As part of the exhibition programme, I will be running my Tin Can Metamorphis Workshop on Saturday 25th March. If you’d like to come along to this please contact the gallery direct!
Tomorrow is delivery day for the Great North Art Show!! So my bank holiday is being spent adding mirror plates and searching for bubble wrap!
I’m taking five pieces to the show – but I think one of them is still in Edinburgh so there may have to be a last minute substitution….
I’m hoping to take Glimpses of Summer
(I’ve just had this one re-framed and added in some sneaky extra details! Can you spot the difference?
There’ll be some more images soon of the show itself, I’m so looking forward to it!
What to do on a cold, grey Bank Holiday? I know – Start preparing for a new community project!
I’ve been commissioned to produce a banner with the children of a primary school. The banner will be in the style of a Miners Banner as the village is celebrating 50 years since the closure of the village pit – the main mine having been open for 50 years from 1906 to 1966. The banner must be of a size that the children can manage to carry and the idea is to celebrate life in a pit village, rather than the work of the pit itself.
So the dyes are ready, the fixing solutions are mixed and the fabric squares are prepared. The youngest children in the school are going to colour the fabrics that we’ll be using, then I’m aiming to use different print processes with the older children.
Each group will have a different decade as the theme for their work – 1906, 1916,1926,1936,1946,1956 and 1966. They’ll look at the culture of each decade and let that influence their ideas. So, I’m busy sourcing music, fashion and art from each era to get them thinking!
Its not all work though! Yesterday we took some time out to visit Cheeseburn Sculpture Garden. It is a beautiful place. Originally a farm linked to Hexham Priory it now has gorgeous gardens with sculpures placed throughout. Wandering through flower gardens, walled gardens and woodland gardens you come across stunning sculptures and sound installations.
These two can be found on the edge of the woodland garden. Some of our party found novel ways of viewing the sculptures…
I was overcome with Wisteria envy…
Maybe one day my wisteria will achieve such profusion!
Alongside the sculptures and beautiful gardens there are lots of curious and intriguing objects to discover in ancient outhouses and dusty corners…
Rusted metal and moss strewn surfaces all setting creative ideas going…just look at these rusty old bellows…
I love the colour and those strong circles contrasting with that crumbling wood. Think I may have to return with a sketchbook – do check the website though because the Sculpture Garden is only open for a few weekends each year – and yes they do a lovely cup of tea and slice of cake!
Today saw the first unveiling of the triptych. It was such a lovely event. As the work was unveiled a very strong ‘Ooh’ echoed around the room. Everyone seemed to be delighted with how the work had developed and it was great to be able to talk with people about their responses to the work – and to share in person the ideas and processes behind its development.
So now I have to think about what to do next! I have plans (of course!) and I’m itching to start some new work. After the glories of the morning, the afternoon has been spent doing admin’. I’ve applied to the Great North Art Show that takes place in Ripon Cathedral in September. Four and a half months away – but seeing how fast the first few months of 2016 have slipped by…I’d better get motoring on that machine again!
I’m going to be doing a short talk about the importance of colour in my work later this week too – Jesmond Library is the venue, this Thursday from 6pm. I’ll be joined by two lovely talented artists Ailsa Miller and Cath Hodson. The evening will be hosted by the fabulous Lesley McNish the mastermind behind the Loveartnortheast Art Markets. So pop along if you would like to find out more about colour in art!
Time to dig out those sketchbooks now!
What a lovely way to spend the day! We started with a trip to the lovely Gallery 45 in Felton, Northumberland, so I could drop off some of my work for the ‘Coast’ exhibition that starts tomorrow. There are several artists taking part – Fiona Carvell , Sarah O’Dowd, Peter Davidson , Linda Mumba , Deirdre Foster so there’s a wide range of media (and prices!), go along and take a look!
After that, we just had to go and try out the menu at the Running Fox Bakery just down the road on the edge of the Coquet River. It was a breakfast brunchy delight and kept us fuelled all day! (I’d recommend the Foxless Scone – eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes on a cheese scone – yum!)
So, then we thought we’d go and seek inspiration – and burn off some calories – with a walk on the beach. There was a glimmer of light and a sliver of blue in the sky and we hit lucky – I’m beginning to believe that the sun always shines on Alnmouth!
I love the way the long grasses frame the views on Northumbrian beaches. It was a bit too breezy to hang about, or paddle (!) but a brisk walk on a Northern beach in a Northerly wind does clear the head!
We only saw a few other folks, along with a lot of oyster catchers, a beautiful sight on a fabulous Friday.