When it comes to making a successful linocut illustration there are quite a few things to consider. I am still learning the right way through various bits of project, the latter on the theme of ‘nonsense’, as part of my course.
I find nonsense to be quite a fascinating topic and so my little sketchbook filled up quite quickly with brainstorming ideas, from ones based on typography to more involved ideas, including one suggested by someone else (tip: talking about your project with others outside your usual group can spark new ideas which have the potential to be quite interesting). However, generating ideas and roughs is not the problem I am up against. Most of the time I get so excited by new projects that the actual problem comes from choosing the right image to complete.
I won't pretend that I am not a walking contradiction - I am that as much as any other person. Notwithstanding my last post here, I want to share a poem (?) I wrote not in jest but because something tugged at my heart so strongly I simply could not stop the words from flowing out. It was a scary and extremely intimate experience where I found myself looking straight into another's soul, feeling their palette of emotions and responding. This isn't something I experience every day, nor do I write any kind of poetry (I remain firmly discouraged after my 9th grade experience) - this was a strange one-off compulsion I am yet to understand. For you:
Letter to a broken heart
I read you like a book
- cover to cover -
and went through your seasons with you;
In their mismatch, you jumped
from summer to winter.
If I were a poet, which I most emphatically am not, not since the day back in high-school my ode to Paris was dismissed by some trainee French teacher... I would try using images for each line. Imagery can be so very effective at evoking mood, feeling, emotion, memory. It tells the story for the author without a sound being required, using its own unique magic. Add sound (music) or word and the story takes you elsewhere....
Do you remember your first day at school? Or, for that matter, do you remember your first day in any new environment where you knew no one and it felt like you were on show all the time? Were you afraid that you will somehow fail to fit in? What if you made a mistake? What if they disliked you? What if...? If you happen to be the risk taking, outgoing, extrovert type with no worries in the world then you won't know what I am talking about so you'll find it hard to connect with the 'first time' feelings I am hinting at.
For some of us, every new situation and new environment are a source of anxiety and self-doubt. I am in the category where putting myself out there takes a bit of effort. I see it as taking a (calculated) risk. Sometimes I win and come away with great new friends or connections; sometimes I walk away with a battered ego and loads more self-doubt...
If I have been quiet all over again it is because this summer has been pretty busy for me. No news is usually good news and mine is pretty much the summer standard. Summer holidays primarily mean entertaining my boys, so only shreds of my time are actually spent on artistic pursuits (photography excluded seeing as this is so portable).
So that I don't bore you with the full account, here are some notable moments as recorded in sketchbook or camera:
- a visit to Longleat left me in awe of the estate. I am yet to write a blog about it for my husband's tourist guiding website but the photo opportunities were marvellous. This is a collage I added to his instgram feed back in July.
It’s been a while since my last post and if you think I lost interest you are quite likely right. Not everything that goes on is worth sharing and on balance I’d classify most days as mundane (boring, even) and very few sufficiently exciting to want to shout about.
Excitement for something new is what brings me to my blog today – my friend Sarah and I went to see The Sculpture Park nr Farnham today, a place we’d both heard of and had on our lists and which we happened to experience for the first time together. The park hosts in excess of 600 sculptures (for a list of exhibiting artists see https://www.thesculpturepark.com/artists) set along a 4- routes trail which total a modest length of about 2 miles. To ensure that you see everything and walk the full 2 miles you are encouraged to follow the yellow route, then the red, then the blue and finally the green. There is no café at the site which is a shame, but there is a lovely picnic spot where you can enjoy your food and well-behaved dogs on leads are also allowed in.
Everyone’s work process is different. I like reading other people’s ‘how to’ pieces and today I am going to share one of my methods of developing an image.
I always start with a sketch. I love working from life but sometimes a photograph is just as exciting. For this sketch I worked from a photo of an urn in the Italian garden at Hever Castle. I confess my fascination with Instagram photos to which I often respond with a quick sketchbook drawing. Here, I was particularly interested in perspective and I responded to the photograph as I recently discovered Hever Castle and fell in love with its beautiful grounds. In fact, I photographed this urn myself on a couple of occasions so I suspect the image was latent in my brain.
The next thing that fascinates me in a new image is its ability to morph into something new every time you change something about it digitally. I will therefore often photograph my work and post-process either in a phone app or in an Adobe package. Here I used PicsArt for a quick play. I wanted to add to the image while also holding on to the initial contour drawing in blue (I used a blue Frixion ball pen) – change without changing too much. Eventually I settled for this effect which defines the lights and shadows and therefore enhances the depth in the image.
I had the opportunity over the last few days to consider how very little we actually know about the people near us and how much importance we give to external influences when making our snap judgments. I stand corrected twice – first, I gained huge respect for a well-known artist who I never coveted much (boy, was I wrong?!?) and last, I learnt that someone I spent 4 years with in university (not on an Art degree programme) is a most amazing fashion designer. I want to show you her recent work, the eye opener that I had so many years after our graduation. Well done Cristina!
And now for the reason of my writing today – to show you the first in a series of birthday card designs that I will be working on. One image is showing some brainstorming (I wanted something very simple, almost sketchy, with watercolour finish) and another shows the finished A6 piece that will go to a little boy at the end of this week.
I am planning to extend this work to a small series of 4 or 5 designs that will be on sale once my research into effective mass-production, pricing and promotion is complete. Hopefully by then I will also have a small Christmas range ready. I know! Only June and already thinking about Christmas! However, merchandisers out there know that I’ve actually left it rather late for this year. After all, consider also that the big fashion houses are already showing their Spring 2018 collections!
I think therefore I am ... this phrase coined by Descartes still haunts us centuries later.
Today I wrote the first ever blog for my husband's business and now that I am getting the hang of blogging, something inside prompted me to think 'I blog therefore I am'. What does that mean then? Do a few words thrown to the ether define who I am? Or is it maybe that the comfortable feeling I am developing for a new activity is prompting me to feel good in my skin and therefore accept myself as a blogger? I prefer the latter....
Beyond the superficial level, the question remains: Who am I? I've been battling this question for a little while now while indulging the transition from academic / corporate me to.....well, just ME. The only compulsion I have, the thing that has to happen to appease my soul is drawing. I draw therefore I am. I draw for me, for my mind and soul, for sanity. Along the way I learnt to stop drawing for 'likes' (but if you have a sure way of converting likes to commissions please give me a shout) and simply draw, like I breathe - no questions asked, no agenda, just me and the tools of my craft. It feels like I found myself.
On this note, I leave you with a question - Who are you? and a piece of news - I just accepted my place on a coveted MA Illustration starting this September.
A friend of mine called me ‘miss self-deprecating’ the other day and, you know what?!, emotion aside, she is right. I wish I could pinpoint the moment in my life when I decided that I cannot do things as well as everyone else, that I am not good enough. Even now, as I write, past spills into present and I read back those sentences written not in the past tense, but in the present. ‘I cannot do’ …. ‘I am not good enough’….. I wish I could go back in time to that moment and that version of me and give her a stern talking to about the domino effect she was / still is creating on my life. Instead, I reach to me now and to you reading this to say that I did something amazing, something I walked into a room thinking I wouldn’t be able to do and walked out of the room grasping tightly and still trying to get my mind to absorb fully. Moments like this one, really big and special ones that can turn your life around or leave you crushed going back to the drawing board…. moments like this are rare. I sit here and contemplate the insanity of my inner rhetoric – how could I doubt my ability? I’ve been so amazingly fortunate in life to have a few moments like this one when I grabbed on to dreams I never thought would come true. I want to sit with that thought for a while and ask myself why I still doubt … As I do that, I leave you with a photo of a book closely related to my latest success and which I propose to tackle ahead of September.