Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Without Within

We officially started our 'Image and observation' module last week, and I've already mentioned that I'm probably doing something based on the local 'stitch'n'bitch. This week though, to prepare us for the longer project, we did two short one-day versions. On Monday we had turned up for a workshop at which we talked about working on/from a location and then creating our response to it. We talked about collecting information about the place/event (or even the journey to/from it) by drawing, sketching, photography, collecting ephemera at/from the scene, doing background research, taping sounds, making videos, smelling (!), talking to people there, setting up interviews, listening in on conversations, getting involved in (ie doing) whatever is happening at the place, etc etc. The point being there's more to a place than just your drawings of what it looks like - its a full sensory experience, and then what is your response to that experience? We also talked about all the different ways we could do the work as a 'collaboration'.

We were split into groups of three/four (I teamed up with Charlie and Sara), and threw a dart on a map of central Bristol that the tutor put up on the wall. We ended up at the St Michael Archangel on the Mount Without, on St Michael's Hill. It's a disused church and it was all locked up and surrounded by overgrown ivy. It was a very overcast day and we all felt a bit spooked by it. We wondered what was within?

Each of us happened to be inspired by some piece of the architecture; me the stained glass windows, Charlie the windows on the other side of the church and Sara by the numerous doors all around the church. It started raining to we headed to a cafe and talked through our sketches and photographs and decided what we wanted to do as a group - and spent the rest of the day finishing off the pieces. At the top is the finished hanging sculpture/mobile/thing, and below is a closeup my response:

LOTS more photos (from every angle possible) here.

I had the top of the tower. While I was taking photos of it I noticed how it was full of plants and wildlife; especially this squirrel that kept watching me and making loud rasping noises. I felt really uncomfortable and kept imagining that it was rabid and was going to jump off the tree and bite me! ... so anyways, my take was that within, it was taken over by nature. So that's what I did - birds, squirrel and plants behind the stained glass window (all the creature photos were taken at the church).

Charlie had the middle window, and she did the all encompassing ivy (again photos taken at the location which she printed out and collaged). Her window is shut because she thought what was within was scary and should be kept locked up! Lots more photos here.

Sara noticed the inordinate amount (7!) of doors around the bottom of the church (including a really small almost child sized one). So she did several layers of doors within doors within doors. More pictures of her layers here.

Then we strung the whole thing together with the word 'WITHOUT' running through it ... its called 'Without' because when it was build, it was not within, but outside the Bristol city walls ... So there you have it ... "What Is Within Is Without"

Tuesday we swapped location with another random group (the aim being then we could see how different groups responded to the same location). Unfortunately now we only had till 3 pm that day to finish everything and present it. We ended up on a bit of tarmac by the Bristol harbourside, which was quite uninspiring really. But what we thought was that although there was nothing of interest at the location; if you stood there, there was a lot to be seen FROM the location. So we three stood back-to-back in a triangle, and drew our impression of what we saw. Again we assembled it as a hanging sculpture:

The top photo is all of us looking at the spot we stood on; the bottom photo is of our feet pointing to this spot; the three photos on the third layer are of each of us looking out to our individual views, and the drawings on the second layer are our actual drawings.

This is my version of my view. I'm not happy with how it came out as we had so little time and I found it very hard to work in the studio with so much noise (I need my time and quiet space) but I'm pleased with the concept we came up with together, and also the concept I had for my picture which was to do a layered collage of drawings and photographs (its just not excecuted very well) ...

So there you have it - two days of location work .... now we can get back to our longer project ... and don't forget to look at the photos here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Sunshine

A birthday present for Sunshine .... "Us"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The SS Great Big Blue

Phew, I've finally managed to get my act together and take those photos I've been meaning to. So here you go, an expanded version of the book project (otherwise known as the "narrative and sequence" module).

Book-ship? Ship-book? How does that work? Well, right at the start of the module our tutor, who is a bookmaker by trade, brought us lots of artists books to look at. A lot of them didn't look like 'books' in the traditional sense. The concept of 'book' that we were asked to explore was a collection of' 'spaces' (pages; in my case the sails), within a 'context' (the cover; in my case the ship). So you see now how my book-ship-book works ...

I was going to do something based on wood and bark, but that didn't really come together. Then, hugely influenced by Ann Wood's ships, I decided to go down that road. I took her basic premise, and made it my own.

Some details - this is what the ship looks like 'naked':

I used hooks-loops to make the sails easily attachable, detachable and swappable.

I made up three sets of sails, each giving a very different feeling to the book. Each set of sails also had its own main flag (very proud of my paper mache crow's nest!) ...

... and own set of little bunting flags on a string. I wrapped the string round the top hooks to keep all the masts and the ship under tension.

The first set of sails is based on the a children's nursery rhyme to help them learn to count.

The lyrics are done by machine embroidery and read:
When I was one, I had just begun, the day I went to sea
I climbed aboard a pirate ship, and the captain said to me
We're going this way, that way, forwards, backwards,
Over the deep blue sea
A bottle of rum to warm my tum
thats the life for me!

The flags on this set of sails had numbers on as the verses then repeat with "When I was two" etc, with the child doing something rhyming with that number.

Next was a set of sails of an Irish sea shanty called "Haul Away Joe" (for which I must thank this man for bringing it to my attention!). Colours and fabrics obviously a bit more adult.

The lyrics (of which there are many verses) are quite funny - but I had to select a few choice ones to include on my sails. The original idea had been to stick on some fabric laser cut letters, but that plan failed badly, and so I ended up with plan B of the lyrics printed onto sticky-backed acetate. I'm not entirely happy with how this looks so if any of you have any ideas, give me a shout ... I'm still up for tweaking this.

Last but not least, SS Midnight Blue, which is based on the shipping forecast, that those of you who stay up late at night and listen to BBC radio 4 will instantly recognise.

It was Sunshine's brilliant idea actually, and the tutors loved it ... can you not just hear the sweet tunes of 'Sailing By' in the background? I had to do some funky CAD-based machine embroidery with this one.

The flags were of the shipping region names.

And the sails all had some of those really strange forecasts in their strange formats.

So there you have it... Lots more photos including work-in-progress ones, are in the flickr set for it.

At the presentation I had the SS Midnight Blue rigged up. Once I'd explained my book concept I asked for some audience participation - would they prefer the nursery rhyme, or the sea shanty? Unanimous vote for the sea shanty. So while I changed the sails, I taught everyone the chorus of "We'll haul away, we'll haul away Joe". Then I read my book to them (ie sang the verses) while the whole class (tutors included) sang the choruses ... it was WONDERFUL! Just after I finished, the fire alarm went off, and as we all walked down the stairs and out of the building, I could still here a bunch of my class mates singing away ;)

Painting in tone

Progression from last week: painting in tone:

As you can see, I'm really struggling with acrylics. Then we moved on to adding one tint (colour):

I missed the last bit of the session as I had been volunteered by the course director to go sit in a student consultation. During that time the rest of the class did a head and shoulders in tint of the life model. So I did a self portrait in the same technique once I got home.

Homework had been to do a tonal scene, not necessarily with figures, and we could choose what media to use - charcoals/conte or acrylics. Guess what I went for ...

I sat in the back garden and looked over the fence at the neighbours. Black cat kept jumping up onto the fence so I thought I'd draw him as well.

I'm still determined to get to grips with painting in acrylics ... will just take a little time, and more practice. Still getting to grips with tones. Being currently inspired by Lucien Freud and Euan Uglow.

Monday, April 21, 2008

More crafting hands...

Remember this? Well we've just started a module called "Image and observation" during which we have to do a sustained amount of drawing at a location or event of our choice. The tutor liked the drawings I did the last time and suggested I take them on further by visiting more stitch'n'bitches and doing more. So I've located not just my local stitch'n'bitch, but another three within the city that I can go and visit in the next month or so. Not sure where I'm going with these drawings, hopefully that'll suggest itself as I go along ...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Drawing in Tone

Amidst the panicking over the book/ship project, we've also started our 5 week life drawing module. It all happened last Thursday, but I've only just got my act together to take photos and post ... so here goes ...

First, some warm-up 5 minute poses

Then a couple of longer 15 minute ones (the two images are 90 degrees to each other - ie one the model is lying down, and the other he's sitting forward).

After this we had a break to have a look at everyone's drawings and talk about how most of us have our model out of context and usually done in line. So our first task was to put the model in context - ie put a frame round, and fill in a background. Also, to do the drawings in blocks of tone. The one below was 60 minutes.

After lunch more practice: A 45minute full body

And a 45minute head and shoulders.

Homework for the week (which I did today) was to do two more portraits, one in daylight if possible, and one in artificial light, ideally trying to make some kind of dramatic lighting setup. As it was a sunny day, I sat out in the garden with a mirror (which seemed to freak the neighbourhood cat out) and did a self-portrait. I took a 'before' photo, before putting in the tonal values.

And this is the final one (the arrow shows the direction of sunlight). No I'm not angry, just squinting because of the light and for not wearing my glasses ;)

Then after Sunshine came home I enlisted him to be my model. I knew he had work to do so I suggested he does his work and I do him lit by his screen ... quite pleased with this one actually. I drew under candle light and he also had his screen on full power and four little tealights for extra illumination and contrast.

Tomorrow there will be more tonal work, but we'll be using paints!

And fear not ... I WILL take lots of good photos of the ship soon and upload ;)


Monday, April 14, 2008

I am sailing ...

So this is why I've not posted the last week - has completely taken over my life ... its still got a few little details that I'm not done with but I just had to stop at 2 am last night and call it quits. I set them up this morning (same hull, 3 sets of interchangeable sails) so I could practice swapping them - and make sure everything was hunky-dory and take these photos. Its all packed up (dismantleable ... thank goodness!) and I'm off to college to present it in about 10 minutes. Individual crits tomorrow so you'll have to wait till a little after for more better pictures!

Edit: Oh yes... the state of my desk: And thats not even the half of it!

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Today's 365 post is also today's update on the book project .... ARRRRR!!!

Today is also the last day of Easter break - back in college tomorrow, and the 'book' due in early next week (AND I have a full week at college this week...). Still have SO much to do - slightly panicking ... EEEEEP! ... Arrrr?

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Sunshine's mum left us to go visit her other child, my sister-in-law-to-be, in London today. Before she went, I had to do a portrait ...

I think I managed to capture her eyes - not sure about anything else!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Sailing on a ship of Blue

Working every chance I get while my mother-in-law-to-be is here. The hull is coming together, but I have yet to think about, let alone start working on the sails ... have a lot of work to do still ... eeep!