Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Narrative letterforms

This week's workshop was on narrative letterforms - basically, things like illuminated letters and the like. We went through several different forms such as letters made out of pictures, letter shapes filled with pictures, letters with lots of decoration around it, letters formed by the negative space, etc. Several of the examples were from the "Alphabet" exhibition.

We were then given a brief - which is also a competition. "Island 2000", an Isle of Wight organisation are doing a building project for which our brief was to make an "illuminated letter" on the theme of the Isle of Wight (or basically seaside/nautical). We each pulled a letter out of a hat, and I got the letter "N". All the finished illustrated letters were then going to get scanned/photographed and then sent off to this organisation for an exhibition; and also the two best entries (as chosen by them) would then get taken out there and be allowed to re-create their letter on the wall of a building.

The obvious N words were 'nautical' and 'naval' and variations on those so I decided to do a bit more research into my 'client' -
Island 2000 turns out to be a a community, conservation, arts and tourism trust; so I started to think about the environment of the Isle of Wight. I've been there once before and I remember it being quite cliff-y. That got me on to the idea of making the shape of the letter N out of the cliff sides.

As I was looking up pictures of the cliffs there, I came across a place called 'The Needles', on the western coast of the Isle of Wight. Perfect! A cliffside picture with the letter N! That's how I eventually ended up with my entry which is above. I kept it quite bold and simple as I was aware that it might have to go on a wall - so I wanted a design that would work on a large flat surface. Can you see the letter 'N' in the 'negative' shape of the water? I was concerned that it was too subtle - so thats why I've added the 'THE' and '-EEDLE' in the same colour as the water to make it a bit more obvious ...

Fingers crossed I get to go to the Isle of Wight for a painting holiday!

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Last week I decided that I was going to do my 'four words' brief on the theme of birds. Basically we have the whole term to come up with 4 pieces of work representing the words 'support', 'enclose', 'balance' and 'disperse'. We were also told to try and think of a theme rather than have 4 disparate things for the 4 words. Somehow I had initially ended up working on dance and movement as my theme - but I'm already doing a lot of that with my pastiche project; and so doing more of it was feeling like a drag. Last week I decided to change to birds - and MAN have I been much happier since then! I love them little sweeties!

So I've been doing bird-research in my sketchbook (which you see above), but my favourite thing is below. There's two layers cut (one with just the plants, and one with the magpie). Then there's a piece of tracing paper at the back. The whole thing looks very different depending on what colour paper is at the back. The scanned image has a pale gray sheet behind. It's based on this photo I took in January of a magpie at dusk.

It's pretty obvious from our flickr account how much I like birds - see the 'Birdiecam' and zoo photos :D

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pay it forward

All over the arty/crafty blog world, people seem to be playing the 'pay-it-forward' game. I've followed lots of links but haven't managed to find out where this originates from - but it sounds fun anyways so I'm playing with Milla and here's your chance to play it too. The promise:

"I will send a handmade gift to the first 5 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog."

So leave a comment, and see what you get!

Edit- Recipients so far :
1. Milla
2. Kerstin

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Narrative and Sequence

Yesterday we started a 2 day workshop on 'narrative and sequence'. After a brief overview of narratives, which included showing us these two books by Istvan Banyai, we were set with a task. Each of us was given two random pictures, from which we had to build a visual narrative - ideally from one picture to the other, and no words. We then had to produce 12 panels (of any description) to illustrate this narrative. On the right are my two starting pictures.

"Think laterally, not literally" said the tutor. After a quick brainstorming of ideas of themes based on the two pictures; and then a couple of failed narratives, I caught on to the prevalence of circles in my images, and went with that. Once I'd OK-ed my plan with the tutor, off I went with my little story of sharing pie with friends. What follows are my 12 panels - they've in a concertina book form. I'm not going to explain the story to you - I hope the pictures do the talking ...

This is what they look like all spread out:

I presented the book as a pie, with the book hidden inside the dish.

We only had till 2pm today to do it, so I was in bed late and also up at 7 this morning to try and finish my little pie-book. I feel it still needs work (so don't be surprised if this re-appears in a more finished version on this blog in the future), but the tutors were happy with where I got to, and I was actually a lot more 'finished' then most of the others. Most people went for the 12-pieces-of-rectangular-paper option, but one of my favourites, for the sheer ingenuity of it, was Christian who had painted her story about birds and rebirth on 12 eggs! Genius! The stories that people came up with were quite entertaining too - definitely gave me an insight into some of their personalities...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Life in watercolour

Another life-drawing Thursday. As these sessions are free to join and not assessed, I'm using them to experiment. Today I was looking at breaking away from my usual 'lines' and doing a bit more form.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

King of the farmyard

No, this is not for anything per se, and No I have no idea why I've decided to paint a cockerel. Was looking through a book about birds and it called out to me.

Perhaps I'm just avoiding doing some real homework ...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Painting workshop

Yesterday and today were supposed to be painting workshops with yesterday being 'opaque' ie acrylics and guache, and today 'transparent' ie watercolours. Yesterday turned out to be a bit frustrating and I felt I didn't really learn much apart from maybe some color mixing tips. Today on the other hand was much better (partly also because only about half the class turned up so the tutor had less people to deal with and could actually spend time with each of us). I felt I learnt lots and feel I'm ready to do more experimenting of my own accord.

On the TOP is a monochrome painting done with diluted black Indian ink in several washes. In the MIDDLE is a colour wheel seeing the effect of overlaying washes of primary colour; and a painting done using a set of complementary colours - in my case yellow and purple. And at the BOTTOM is a portrait of my fellow coursemate, Luke (we were in pairs and whenever I was looking at him, he was looking at his painting and 'squinting' his lips, so I've drawn him that way - Luke's (very good) version of me made me look quite stern - I guess that what I look like when I'm concentrating!).

Monday, October 15, 2007


... collection of drawings done whilst bored.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dancing delights

One of the major briefs for this term is to do a pastiche of an artist of our choice. I've decided to go with the French poster artist Paul Colin. His work is quite big within the swing dance community, with pretty much every woman dancer (including me!) having this famous poster of Josephine Baker on their wall. He did many a poster in his lifetime and even taught the art of poster design, but he is most well known for the Josephine Baker piece and his portfolio of "Le Tumulte Noir", inspired by Josephine and her fellow dancers. I've got hold of a copy of a modern reproduction of the portfolio and have been practicing drawing dancing figures in the style of Paul Colin. They're all based on photographs of me or my friends - I'm hoping to do a whole set of dancers that know and inspire me. Its been really nice to reconnect to my dancing after being away for so long ...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Figure study

Otherwise known as 'life drawing' - which I think is just SUCH the wrong word to describe it.

There hasn't been much update on college work since last week as it's been spent mostly on research around the two briefs I'm about to embark on. Somehow it's transpired that I'm going to be doing quite a lot of figurative work - dancers - with both briefs. It's good as I'm very immersed in the subject matter, but it is also very 'bad' because drawing people, especially conveying movement, is something I feel I can't do and am incredibly scared of. Having talked through my ideas for the briefs with the tutors during our first ever tutorial this week, we decided that tackling this fear head on and getting used to it now would be the best thing to do. As an in-road to this I've started doing some life drawing.

The college has an on-going life drawing session on Thursdays with two models - turn up with whatever media you like, and just get on with it! It's not a taught class, just a facility for use by the art students. So off I went this morning - and spent 2 hours there.

Two things I noticed - I'm a line drawer. That's what I love and am good at. I really struggled when I tried to do form and shade. Obviously something I'm going to have to work on. The other thing was this feeling of "what am I doing drawing? I should be doing some real work!", and it's been like this all the while. I'm still finding it hard adjusting to the fact that I'm doing a degree where I'm supposed to draw all day. Blimey! How did I manage to end up here?!?!

Click on the picture to enlarge and see more of what I drew today. This is about half the work as I got bored after scanning this half in!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Watch the birdie

This gorgeous little number, a Kodak Brownie Starflex, was amongst our random haul from the retro fair we went to this morning. It was £1! We also got a couple of other dinky camera bits and a mini suitcase and small illustrated children's book for me. Now all I need is a showcase to display all my lovelies :)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Painting Olympics

Another wet and gloomy day in Bristol town .... fortunately it was a bit drier today, but it was still quite gray ... We met up again in front of Bristol Council House, but this time with paints and scissors and glue. Everything I 'll describe today has been done free-hand, ie without drawing it out in pencil or anything first. Quite a challenge for anal-me, but also quite liberating to not give a damn about how it was going to look and to just go with the flow ...

1. Along the front of the Council House is a shallow pool/fountain thing. The tutor made us sit along the edge of it and told us to make a 5 minute impression of the water using collage. The weather was so gray though you couldn't really see much detail of ripples or reflections in the water so instead I concentrated on the small circular ripples being formed by the rain droplets.

2. We then turned round to look at College Green, in front of Bristol Cathedral. Our first task was to look at the scene and make up a colour pallete for what we saw. I did the trees and and the brickwork of the Cathedral itself. Once we were done, the next task was to look away from the scene and paint from memory using just the colour pallete we had made. I gave up on the Cathedral and concentrated on a tree and a lamppost. After we were done we were asked to note down next to our colour palletes the rough percentage of each colour in the scene (thats the penciled numbers you can see next to the boxes).

3. Off we went after that to the harbourside where we were asked to pair up and choose a scene to paint - but only tonally. This is what mine looked like after I was done with my part (excuse the bad photo quality - taken using my phone):

We were then asked to swap tonal paintings with our partner and add detail and colour to their painting. This is what mine looked like after Kirsty had done her thing with it:

4. We then had a little 5 minute exercise where we had to do an abstract piece using the colours and percentages from the colour palette exercise.

5. After lunch we reconvened in Millennium Square and spent 10 minutes cutting out shapes from a piece of dark paper to describe the scene we could see. The big globe like thing is the Silver Globe belonging to Explore At Bristol; its being obscured by a pillar on my right; and I thought if I'm going to do the pillar, I'll also do the rubbish bin next to it. The wiggly things are the bit of shallow pool by the globe; and in the middle is one of Bristol's resident seagulls.

6. Back to the harbourside and our last exercise for the day was to draw a 2 inch by 2 inch box and paint in it a bit of the scenery using the widest brush we had. Once we had done that we were asked to paint the surrounding bit outside of the box using the thinnest brush we had. Can't say this was my favourite piece, but I've included the brushes I used so you can get a sense of the scale.

So that was today - I found it more difficult than yesterday as I hardly do any painting myself. I think I was happiest with my tonal paining - its made me think I might try and do a bit more of that. The interesting thing to note was that the majority of the students seemed to have preferred yesterday's drawing exercises rather than today's painting ones - really shows where our strengths lie - and therefore what areas we all need to work on!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Drawing Olympics

Finally, the first proper day as an illustration student - and what a blast! (despite the rain...). We were told last week to meet in the morning at the bottom of Cabot Tower on Monday. I hadn't quite appreciated how much of a climb this was going to be. Huffing and puffing up the hill in the rain I realised how unfit I had become. Fortunately I was not the only wet and confused person there.

Once we'd all collected and the tutor had turned up and done the school-masterly 'taking-of-attendance', we started on our "Drawing Olympics" - basically we spent the day wondering around Bristol city drawing (yes, IN the rain), doing a series of exercises. I've scanned in some of my better pieces, and I'll try and explain each of the exercises as I go along ...

1. We're at Cabot tower, so we're asked to spread ourselves around it and draw what we see - anything, wholething, detail, whatever we chose really. We do this 3 times (5 minutes or so each time), moving around the tower so we're facing a different face each time.
My first drawing is a detail of a bit of column and some tiles. I'm using an ink pen so everything smudges in the rain. I'm not the only one! Some people make better use of this smudging effect than others ;)
My second drawing is of what I can see from the tower rather than the tower itself. I've moved on to a non-smudging biro.
My third involves leaning up against a wall and looking up to draw the bottom of a curved window on the tower. Very stupid thing to do (looking up that is) when it is raining! Fun nontheless ...

2. We move on from Cabot Tower and head down to the Bristol City Museum - finally out of the rain! First stop is to the paleontological section where we sit ourselves down next to our favourite extinct creature and have 20 minutes to draw the fossil without taking our pen off the paper. Continuous line drawing. Here's my Ichtyasaur (and foetus):

3. Next on to the more modern animals. We're asked to draw a roughly 2 inch by 2 inch square, and then focus on a cm square of animal and enlarge it to fit our box. Then we were asked to draw another box of the same size and try and fit the whole animal in it. I did this twice as I wasn't having much joy with the woodpecker due to lack of light.

4. We then moved back out into the rain :( and wondered down to the Bristol Council House. The council house has some sheltered areas, but they're still fairly wet and cold. Anyways, off we go with our next exercise which is to draw with our non-usual hand; for me my left. Strangely, I really enjoyed this - there was a sense of freedom with this exercise which makes me think I might try it again on my own. I decided to draw one of the lamppost-cum-flowerbasket holders dotted around the Council House.

5. Now we're asked to pair up. One person holds the drawing implement steady, while the other moves the paper around underneath it to try and draw their chosen view of the Council House (then swap half way). I drew one of the doors as it had some quite simple geometrical shapes. I must say this was one of the worst pictures of the day. Controlling the paper is not so much an issue, but the fact that you can't quite get the right pressure from the pen, and the person holding the pen is not a robot, so there's always a bit of give. I'd like to try this again with the pen being held by something quite a lot more rigid.

6. Next up something altogether more challenging: Still in our pairs, BOTH hold the pen and draw on one sheet of paper. So you've got to somehow negotiate who draws what when. I found my training as a partner dancer came in handy. I was quite good at just following but at the same time nudging things just enough so that I was happy with what was being drawn. Here's our drawing of the trees on College Green in front of the Council House.

7. After lunch we reconvene at Millennium Square. First off we're made to all line up looking out from under rain shade at the building opposite. We're then given 3 minutes to write down as many words as we can think of to describe what we see. Shapes, architectural details, textures, anything that describes the building opposite us. Then we're told to turn our backs to the building and draw it from memory using as many of those words that we'd used to describe it. This was a challenge for me as I'm very much an 'observational drawer', as in I need to see what I'm drawing. The words helped me remember where windows went and the fact that one of the doors was locked up with a chain and padlock, but my drawing looked very much like something done by a 5 year-old!

8. Off to another corner of the square where we all settle down to draw another piece of scenery with buildings - this time though, we have to draw it upside down! Most people just about manage mirror images - but with my training in crystallography, I attempted a proper 'upside down', ie things at the bottom right were appearing on the top left. Mighty difficult, but incredibly rewarding. This is my drawing turned upside down (so the building is now right side up).

9. For our last exercise, we are again in pairs. We're still looking at the same scene as in exercise 8, but we're all just drawing the verticals. We have to draw as many of them as possible that will give our partner as much information as possible, as after we're done, we swap drawings and each partner puts in all the horizontals, curves etc to finish the other's drawing. I actually really liked my drawing with all the horizontals - wish I'd taken a picture before I passed it on. I must say I didn't understand my partner's information as well as she did mine - but that just means I gave her better info to deal with!

And that was the end of a very wet and cold but very entertaining drawing day ...

Tomorrow, the Painting Olympics (please let the sun be out!)