In a previous post I spoke of the problems I have been having with ‘Artists Block’ which has been preventing me from creating artwork that is fully realised and that I am happy with. As a last ditch attempt to overcome this debilitating condition, I enrolled myself on an online short course to go back to basics and build a sketchbook.
We all know what a sketchbook is don’t we….. or do we? For some it is a book filled with beautifully executed drawings, a scrapbook of ideas and cuttings, for me it should be my brain on a page, but it hasn’t been for ages. The course I chose is run by the textile artist Dionne Swift .
Dionne runs everything very efficiently by email, the first one a couple of weeks before the start date to advise you of what materials will be required and then from the start date a further 7 emails drop into your inbox over the course of a week. Each email gives you a link and password to access instructions on Dionnes website for each section of the course. The written instructions are accompanied by a short video of Dionne talking about and demonstrating each activity.
We started with deconstructing our sketchbooks, colouring pages, a theme of ‘Circles’ and some random drawing of circular images. This was followed up with brain storming the theme of circles and some research into artists who use or have used circles in their work.
Ink and felt tip pen on brown paper Ink wash, bottle top stamp (ink) and felt pen
Water soluble wax crayon and chalk pastel Drawing Ink on brown paper
The above images show some of the pages I created at the first stage of the course. What I discovered is that I am automatically drawn towards making a concise and controlled pattern-like image. This was quite a revelation, as I had thought I would have produced more random images. However, the pieces are still spontaneous in the sense that they were not preconceived or thought about deliberately before the marks were made.
The next stage involves drawing over the images, or just drawing on blank sheets a still life composed of circular objects. The idea is to draw randomly using the hand you don’t normally use, or by keeping the pencil on the page without taking it off, or by the ‘blind drawing’ method which is done by drawing the image, keeping the pencil on the page but not looking at the page and only looking at the objects. This way of ‘seeing’ enables you to really understand the objects in front of you.
Three pages created using the ‘blind drawing’ and left hand drawing methods
The next stage was the most interesting, and we were asked to find images from a magazine, cut them up into different size circles, stick these onto a piece of paper and then to cut the paper up face down using one of the sketchbook pages as a template. When the new page is turned over there is a completely random new image – wonderful, it’s like alchemy! These new pages are then to be drawn over using pens of varying thicknesses to create new layers.
collaged images with felt pen
The course encourages you to be experimental, to consider the negative space as well as the positive image, to create new images and ideas from these considerations. Dionne is a tremendous tutor and asks participants to upload images on to a Flickr stream dedicated to the course. Students are then encouraged to look at each others work and make positive comments and discussion about each others work and there are opportunities to join in with online discussions about the course and the work being produced. Dionne herself also makes interesting comments on student work uploaded on to the Flickr group.
By far my favourite part of the course was the making of rubber stamps from small plastic rubbers. This is such a brilliant idea, so simple and effective and really good fun to do. The tiny printed images have so much more immediacy and vibrancy than those made by commercial companies.
Three images embellished using my mini rubber stamps
All in all I really enjoyed this course. It takes a week for all the information to be sent out and there is a further week when the various ‘private’ pages on Dionnes website are available for access; but you are able to work at your own pace and the overall time required is equivalent to spending a day with Dionne in her workshop.
I found out about Dionne after reading an article about her work in the Embroiderers Guild “Embroidery” magazine and I am really glad that I followed up on it and took this course. I am now looking forward to the next one, which is about Screen Printing using a home studio. To find out more about Dionne check out her website, Facebook and blogspot links to all can be found at www.dionneswift.co.uk.