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!
Autumn is creeping in, with September gone after soaring temperatures followed by torrential rainfalls. The season change has caused us to pause and reflect on changes in our lives here in Newcastle. Dealing with loss of loved ones leads to recallibration of priorities and needs, and so my partner has cut down his hours and I have altered mine leaving us both free to spend Mondays walking in the beautiful North East landscape. If you get the opportunity, I can recommend walking for wellbeing.
Each week we have picked a route of around 10km, in different locations; coastal, moorland, riversides and woodland. Incredibly, all the routes so far have also included remarkably good cafes! (More on that later!) I haven’t stopped to get out my sketchbook yet but have been busy with my camera and collecting bag.
The walks have provided thinking time to mull over project ideas and the landscape is certainly proving inspirational.
Week 1: From Craster to Low Newton and back, via Dunstanburgh Castle
We started this walk with tea and toast at the Shoreline Cafe in Craster, truly excellent toast!
We found this spider hanging outside one of the little cottages on the dunes near Low Newton- beautiful markings
On our return the temperature seemed to have warmed up enough to get these little frogs hopping- we had to be very careful where we put our feet!
Dunstanburgh Castle looking dramatic against the sky line,
Lunch at the Ship Inn, Low Newton. It had to be crab sandwiches and kipper fish cakes!
A mad dash back to Newcastle saw us reach Grey Street in time to catch the end of stage 3 of the Gour of Britain bike race – think we overtook them when the riders got stuck at the level crossing in Widdrington!
Week 2: Allendale around Stobbs Cross
This walk started with a visit to an art gallery…and cafe- can you see a routine forming 🤣
I found this walk quite hard, the landscape seemed bleak to me and the wind was fierce
Lower down the route, hedgerows were covered with rose hips, hawthorn berries and the last few blackberries.
We saw several beautiful brown butterflies whilst we were on the moor – I need to check if this caterpillar was related to them!
Week 3: Derwent Valley from Swalwell to Thornley Woods
We couldn’t go too far from home today- kid taxi duty later – but this gorgeous walk is only 9 miles away- so lucky to live where we do.
We walked a whole mile from the car park before ‘accidentally’ finding Land of Oak and Iron a heritage centre that just happens to have a lovely cafe attached 🤣 more toast and tea tested- 👍👍👍
We walked across the viaduct and then went down to follow the river.
Wasn’t quite so impressed to find this-almost as big as my foot!
Thornley Woods has an accessible sculpture trail- and another cafe! These walks are all easy to reach by bus from Newcastle too!
Week 4 Alnmouth to Lesbury,Bilton and Hipsburn and back
Heading up the A1 this week, calling at Swarland for…yes, tea and toast – you really need to try Nelsons in the Park 4 slices!!
I love Alnmouth, a village full of art and cafes right on the coast- this time though it was all about the river. So after a short walk along the beach we turned inland to find the Aln.
This little hut features in one of my miniature scenes
We walked through the golf course and across a field warning of bulls – luckily they seemed to be elsewhere.
This little robin was quite fierce- he flew right up to my face twice as we tried to pass him- surely it’s the wrong time of year for nesting?
Another viaduct- this trainspotter just missed the 1 o’clock to Edinburgh going overhead!
And after all those steps? A vegan spicy cauliflower pie fromScott’s of Alnmouth
I hope we can continue these walks as the weather turns, we’ve been lucky so far but if it does get grim, we might switch to urban walks with (more) cafes and cinemas!
New work is my focus, I’m applying for several, larger shows so I’ll need work to display (& sell!) I’ll let you know which shows if I get accepte!
I would like to make larger pieces but these are obviously time consuming, and more difficult to transport. So, I’ve decided to focus on 40×40 landscapes for a while- my plan is to get 4 done in the next 6 weeks 😱 that’ll keep me out of mischief (but p’raps not too busy for school and national politics 😉)
Our family week in Wales was fantastic- why did none of you tell me sooner how gorgeous West Wales is??
In between sea swimming and ice creams there were cliff walks on the beautiful Pembroke Coastal Path and visits to Tenby and St David’s. My sketchbook didn’t get quite as much use as I’d hoped but my mind is full of experiences and my photo album is full to bursting.
So this week I’m sketching out the four images that I’m hoping to develop. I’m drawing them to the chosen scale and taking a quick tracing of the main composition to help with building up the appliqué.
Then I get the paints out. I’m using watercolour, water based dyes, inktense and some acrylic. When I paint, it is never the final stage- it is very definitely part of my process; painting allows me to assess how I am going to construct a piece. I can think about colour, texture and composition.
When I’m mark making with brush or pencil I’m thinking about how to transfer it to cloth and stitch. When I apply colour I’m thinking about what fabric and threads I’ll need (thanks Oliver Twists for the threads 😉) The process of painting and drawing helps me to develop my composition ideas into textiles and work through any issues.
I’m pleased with the two images I’ve developed so far, now I’m deciding whether to crack on with these in fabric, or to focus on getting the other two designs developed to paint stage. I’m tempted to start the textiles but I think it would be interesting to get the 4 designs done and then work on the four pieces.
What would you do?
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
Its half term here, no school for a week, the clocks have gone back so the evenings come quickly, giving time for reflection on what I am making and why I am doing it.
Two new sources are infiltrating my ideas this week, firstly Boro textiles. Wonderful recycled cloth from Japan. My initial research shows that these fabrics were made of necessity from worn out fabrics and garments by peasants in Northern Japan. More details on the wonderful Sri Threads website.
I love the texture and layers of these fabrics, they seem to encapsulate time passing, weathering, the effects of nature.
A step further on from my appliqué and stitch perhaps. It’s certainly giving me ideas; new influences slosh around in my mind like ingredients stirred up in a cauldron. These fabrics are bumping up against those Joan Eardley landscapes I’ve become so attached to, sketchbook experiments are developing.
In the post today, I received a lovely book by Alice Fox. I’m taking part in a workshop weekend with her in a couple of weeks, so I thought I’d do some homework beforehand.
I was reading the first few chapters with a good cup of tea, when I discovered that I shouldn’t be drinking the tea but using it as a mordant! So now I have a baking tray full of tea soaked rusty objects in the front room!
I KNEW there’d be a use for all those rusty items I’ve collected! The book also mentions lots more textile artists, some new, some familiar, all further cause for research.
I’m collating boards on some of these themes on Pinterest, it’s a great way to store ideas and themes. So long as I don’t spend too long searching and too little time making….