art is everywhere…


…but you knew that, right?

I’ve been looking at some of my old sketchbooks. Back in 2011 I did a textile art workshop. The topic for our designs was grids.

The week before I’d been to the Kniting & Stitching Show at Ally Pally – I came home with bags of new goodies to play with, and a camera full of ideas.

I was really struck by these images of the frondy leaves against the metal framework of the glass roof. Grids!! These were the grids I focussed on at the workshop…

…which quickly evolved into these…

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You can see the real frondiness of the cut out pages come to life here…

The magic of this sketchbook, even 5 years on, I still get new ideas rush at me as I flick through the pages.

Do you look back through old art journals and sketchbooks? Do they keep sparking new ideas even years later? Next time you’ve got a few minutes spare and they’re ready to hand, open one up somewhere in the middle and see if it stirs some long forgotten inspiration. Seeds of thoughts you planted way-back-when. They might yet grow into something beautiful!

 


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Altered Thinking


I’m away from home and away from this blog for a few weeks… I’m missing my studio but I know in my absence the ideas are bottling up and there will be opportunity for outpouring before too long. Meanwhile I’ve had time to ponder on where I’m at, and how I got here. From here I can figure out where to go next!

 

In all my experiments and adventures with mixed media art, there’s usually something that takes me by surprise.

Something amid this endless opportunities to combine, dismantle, re-imagine, reconstruct, with new permutations of media, materials, techniques and style – way more than any  one person could exhaust in one lifetime. Sometimes I forget this though. Then I forage around online for ideas, and something amazing happens.

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Take, for instance, the concept of an altered book.

I grew up in a home full of books, maybe the last generation for whom this primary source of information, books hold a sense of reverence. Over the years I sought sanctuary in books, a hiding place, a wonder world of mysteries, of dreams and spirits, of characters too colourful to exist outside. A key that unlocks the worlds within another’s imagination, in the words of Stephen King, ‘books are uniquely portable magic’.

I can honestly say, some of my best friends have been books.

So then, altering books…. Although I’ve seen some truly exquisite sculptural paper-folding from books, and some ingenious creations, something still felt uncomfortable. Something made me wince just a little bit. And I know I’m not alone in this.

It was when I saw Brian Dettmer’s TED Talk that my thoughts became altered too. He describes the art of book altering as reinvention, as comparable to a DJ remixing music. He compares books to bodies – living creatures –  with a capability to evolve, and as a parallel to the expansion of painting and drawing beyond simple reproduction after the invention of the printing press and the camera, now perhaps books have a freedom to be more than what they were before.

What I did here is nothing like the art that Dettmer makes, his talk opened my mind to more possibility. It liberated my thoughts.

In the resonance of his words I felt my thinking shift from ‘…but why?’ through stages of creeping curiosity, a crescendo of allure to the new level of possibility. These thoughts were gathering momentum to the level of irresistible fascination. Fuelled by online tutorials and videos, with a tatty orphaned volume of short stories I set out to see what would happen with paint, pens and collage cuttings…

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After just a short time I found the spirit of the exercise had taken hold: part drawn, part collaged, pieces fell into place alongside doodles and paint splatters. My eye would catch a fleeting glimpse before the sentences were lost under colour. Patterns and ideas formed organically

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All of my habitual ways were finding their place in this new sanctuary for busy thoughts. With no expectations I set about seeing what serendipity would surprise me with, and I watched the layers build up. It was becoming an illustrated stream of consciousness. The book was developing a character all of its own.

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I worked on this book over the course of a few months, skipping back and forth through the pages with paint or pastels, doodles and drawing. This is where I went when my ideas ran dry – there was always a space to fill and patterns to follow. Ideas fed on ideas.

So the lesson I learnt from this project is that the spirit of a book isn’t just caught up in the meaning behind its text, a book is much greater than its story.

You can see this completed book in three parts, here

A Treasure Hunt


Yesterpost I shared an exploration into the evolution of an abstract photo. If you liked that, you might like this too: My regular post on Dirty Footprints Studio  gives a bit of insight into the process of gathering these images.

Happy idea-gathering, folks 🙂

wandering mind


Cooking dinner one evening last week, waiting for the pot to boil:

The condensation forming on the lid was developing into this fabulous leopardskin effect. Too good to miss. I love the ephemeral beauty in the everyday. It’s everywhere, once you start to look.

So I took this photo and shared it on social media in the circles who see abstract art more than the crazed doings of some weirdo who takes photos of her dinner before it’s even made 😉

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And it made me think. 

How far can I chase this one idea?
Where could it go?
How far can it evolve?

So today (following the theme – waiting for dinner to cook) I tweaked the colour a bit and printed it out.

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And then I began to play: Doodles, re-photographed… leopard spots are evolving into seashells…

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more doodles, different camera angle, slight colour tweaks…

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more doodles, new camera angle, colours inverted…. I love the way the pen lines seem to sit on top of the photo, they’re in a different dimension of contrast.

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Or shape shift: add dimension with concertina folds and photographed from every which way.

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I’m sure given more time I could play with light and shadows for more drama. You get the idea, the possibilities go on… I hope this might spark some ideas for you too.

 

Chapter Next: Mirage


Some the pages in my altered book are already conveniently titled. The book began as an orphaned volume of short stories, and some of the tales’ titles just appealed too much to cover up.

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Doesn’t Mirage just conjure such magic?

I haven’t embarked on any of these pages with a plan. Planning just isn’t in my spirit. I didn’t get that gene.

So to begin I just do something, and let that define where it wanders next. The first something that happened on this page took the form of sprinkles of Brusho swept about in circles with a wet brush. IMG_41541

Oh my how I love how these dusty crystals explode with colour. This stuff is the definition of less is more. More than a wee bit makes for a super rich gravy of an ink, which is gorgeous, but when you use an imperceptibly itsy amount each tiny trace of this magic erupts into zingy pigment on contact with moisture.

It is more than gorgeous. It is actual magic.

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Another early layer was gesso scraped through a stencil, then extra messy gesso scraped haphazardly. If you’re a fellow scraper of gesso you’ll recognise those characteristic windshield wiper patterns of clearing excess off the scraper 😉

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In the years preceding this project I accumulated a shed load of design magazines, rich full of the most gorgeous graphics and illustration.  Just lately I embarked on transforming the knee high heap into 4 boxes of delicious collage ingredients, and a small mountain of recycling.

Thing is, I don’t know who this half a face belonged to, and as an artist I’d like to credit the creator. Any reference to the inventor got lost in the snippings. If it was you – thank you  and I hope that you like the new other half I made. In the spirit of self-portraiture I’ve mismatched the eyes for a familiar wonkiness!

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Hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip through the putting together stages. Here’s how the page developed as a whole………

Here We Go … 16/52


This week, and how it took shape, began with these elephants who dropped through my letterbox on a leaflet for the zoo.

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Amongst all the hoarded nonsense and clutter that accumulates our lives  …. This week I found a box of old sheet music, and a bunch of books, all way too tatty and damaged to donate, but too much like art materials to discard.

But….Y’know, unless its actually contaminated with something that can’t be cleaned off  or can make me ill / kill me, it’s almost always got a future as art materials. And if it’s paper, it’s collagable.

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Still on the collage buzz (that’s here for a while. I reduced a knee high pile of magazines to 4 boxes of awe inspiring faces, backgrounds, patterns, colours and words recently. There’s a LOAD more of this to come!)

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The elephants’ environment mainly consists the scraps on my table leftover from another little doing I’m working on in parallel. I’ll show you how that’s coming on soon. I like how fate and synchronicity get to choose the ingredients sometimes. It lets me off the hook, and they usually do a fine job.

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I’ve found a Feeding Fascination: Feed My Soul ~ Feed My Heart ~ Feed My Being.

I’m so nourished by my art, and as of this week I’m also on a literal nourishment adventure too, I’m on a keto kick. I’m gonna give it a month and see how it pans out – day 5 is too soon to comment! – so watch this space.

every last ounce of goodness


I’ve been dying fabric for the quilt lately. I’ve been dying fabric for years. It got me thinking: The only stage I don’t like is towards the end when the residue dye – as it’s no longer active – has to be poured away. Why? it’s mostly water. But something inside me winces, it’s beautifully colored water and I don’t want to waste a drop of color.

In my perpetual quest for ways to wring every last ounce of goodness out of every stage in a process, last week I had one of those why did I never think of this before epiphanies.

rolled paper in a jam jar of dye dregs It’s no good to dye fabric with now, but it will dye paper!

Decanting the dye dregs into jam jars, rolling up scrap paper and standing them in the jar.

Then just let science take over: the water soaks in and climbs up the dry paper bringing the remaining pigment in its wake.

When they’re soaked through, or the water in the jar has dried up, or when I just need to clear some space I empty the lot into a bucket to finish intermingling and eventually dry.


dye dreg paper dying

It’s satisfying on so many levels: using up color, repurposing scrap paper, creating patterns for future collages and art works. It does it’s own thing when left to its own devices. It’s messy and unpredictable (just like me) And it’s effectively better than free!

More variations on the theme:

  • Dry paper, water-splashed paper, soaked paper (hot & cold water)
  • Letting the liquid soak part way up, then up-ending the paper so it runs down and creeps up at the same time
  • Pouring more color down the inside of the paper rolls
  • Using paper that’s been part printed on the inkjet so the colors merge and dribble into each other
  • Coffee dregs instead of / mixed with colored water
  • Just water + inkjet printed paper (but not laser printed – that ink won’t run)
  • Scrumpled paper for a veiny effect
  • Glossy photo paper (make good use of those expensive printer mistakes!)

ink dribbles



Remember the watermarked dyed paper ?

This week I’ve been playing with ink (quite a lot!) So it followed that where water does one thing, ink should do similar but with more colorful results!

I used Pebeo Colorex ink (Chartreuse. My fav color de jour!) they have a real glowing transparency and mouth-wateringly rich color! On pre-scrumpled paper they run deliciously through the landscape of the paper’s surface.

The quilt-making (more on that later) is my current obsession, and the urge to stitch is cropping up everywhere!

for the love of paper


Isn’t there something irresistable about paper? this page is centred around play with handmade paper. Not made by me I hasten to add – that’s a game I haven’t played (yet)!

It lends itself so well to roughly torn edgery, and as I discovered this week, tearing it when wet makes for even fluffier edges. Now I don’t remember what this paper is made from, it’s (I beleive) Indian and has super-long fibres. I painted it with Koh-I-Noor dye paints then gently tore it while it was still soggy.

The contrast on the magenta page really ZINGS!

I did the cut-out thing with a scalpel, the out-cut-bits then glued on top making multi-levelled layered shape, surrounded by doodle. With some more of the hairy edged paper and dyed envelopes glued to the underside of the page to show through the cut out holes, the next page was starting to take shape too. But more of that later.

a day in a page, part 3


Here’s kinda where we left off earlier, the coffee has soaked in and the general consistency of the page is still damp and squodgy.


Time for paint! Inner Kid is impatient with all this waiting, drying, waiting, so we press on:

Paint and drippy ink. And more purple again!

More splatter! More messy!

More!!!

In a bid to tame the splattering we meditate a moment on the yellow ink and coffee-ness of tomorrow’s page. I love this a lot. Even if nothing else comes of this weekend, the ink + coffee thing is going to be replayed!

But it doesn’t do the trick, the splattering amps up…

…………………..can this page be saved??? It’s looking kinda out of control to me……………..