Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Second Course at West Dean - Creative Journals

I spent a long weekend at West Dean on a course run by Cas Holmes on creative journals. Cas is known for her textile-paper works using nature as themes for her foldable work. She uses observational drawing as a starting point, and that was one of the approaches she walked us through. I will not show every single thing we did on this course, there was just so much to do and we all worked very hard.

As preparation I had brought photographs of hazy, foggy landscapes, but in the end I went with the flow of the course and made other things. I did plan to make something that would be more or less complete and am happy to say, the 'book' I made has come out well considering the time constraints and the ambition of the work (I overstretched myself rather, and worked very hard on the last day to try to get everythign done before going home).

The first day and half concentrated on creating materials, preparing papers, manipulating sketchbooks and drawing. We scrunched paper, dabbed and jabbed paint onto sheets of paper and gathered things together for the following two days of assembling and forming art work.

Here's an example of some of this work:

This is using re-cycled photocopies of previous OCA work, and some relief work on scrunched paper. I liked the piece on the left which suggested bark-like textures.

Another set of pages: The blue section on the left is some nuno felt I attached to the page using running stitch and to the right a collage using a print of a close-up image of some bubble wrap with droplets and bubbles of condensation. I was trying to make the two pages echo each other by using the running stitch to suggest spiky ice bergs or cold icy landscapes.

Here's some work in progress. After creating all these pages of coloured and collaged papers we started to sew bit together. We had done some drawing and some people used these to start off their work. I had brought some photographs of hydrangeas, a photograph of a drawing I made during the last FDAD course (Foundation course at West Dean) I did and other more abstrated images, which I mounted onto a japanese postal bag that had been chopped into section:

I used vintage threads, some of which were very fragile and would not sew properly - they broke easily, new threads, papers, including a faded paper bag, cellofane packaging plastic, tea bags and tissue dyed with tea.

 Here (above) is a piece using the faded pinkish paper bag and a some tissue used to wipe up left-over paints. This was just a practice-piece and I used machine stitch in shapes that I would probably have used in quilt-making (I am not a quilter though). This course was the first time I properly used paper as a background for sewing and collage.

On the reverse of the larger book sections I left the back of the stitching uncovered, painted gesso over some of it and splattered ink on some section. Every paper section was then sewn together using a narrow strip of linen. This was helpful as it enable a sort of hinge between the pages to enable the book to be folded together, I then painted some of it with gesso and tried to make all the sections meld into a whole by using the rhythm and repetition of colour, materials and surface finishes. I was quite happy with the use of gesso, the thinner spreads enhanced the relief of the paper which I think can be seen in the above.

This is the back of the book and a few examples of the better sections from the back. The one below is the pattern created by stitching around the photograph of the walnut that was attached to the other side. 

Another example of a section from the back:

And an end section using white heavy-weight paper onto which I attached a tracing from a hydrangea picture, a bit of commercial lacy machine embroidered cotton, tea bags and japanese paper painted with gesso and frayed. All sewn over in  a flowery design in pale violet.

Here's the final think suspended for display for the final crit/show and tell:

I was quite interested in this way of working, of not being confined to a book necessarily, but using loose sheets of paper as a foundation. The idea of working fairly big in different media and using different techniques on individual sheets which can be assembled later may be useful in creating workbooks when planning tapestry and felt projects. You can't be fiddly with felt samples, and tapestry may also lend itself to be put together with other things to think about how it could be developed differently from conventional ways of thinking about this old technique. 

So far I have learnt a lot from these courses at West Dean. It is very useful to be able to fully immerse oneself in the work, just eat, breathe and talk art, and get handy tips and constructive contact wih practicing artists. It means that I can leave with lots of ideas and skills that I can take with me into my own work for further digestion and synthesis into something that will be part of my own language. This sketchbook course was in particular improtant for letting me work on a 'book' that would be complete piece that I 'own'. I have really only developed sketchbooks as part of submissions to external bodies and I wanted  to work out how to keep a sketchbook that is for me alone, not for communicating with other people. I think I will work on this a bit more and work on book alongside projects or in preparation for projects to be made some time in the future. Just an ongoing ticking-over sort of activity to help build visual confidence.



  1. Lovely to see your work develop over the course and the reflective process you brought to the work

  2. Lovely to see your work develop over the course and the reflective process you brought to the work