Themed Sketchbook for Final Project

The brief for the final project is to produce a series of four prints, of at least A3 size including the borders, based on a theme. I have chosen butterflies, inspired by my local area. I have a hut on Portland Bill close to a butterfly and moth conservation area, and we are getting to the time of year when my eyes will be constantly on the lookout as I walk. A friend has also given me a collection of ephemera used by an entomologist in the 1950s, together with a couple of beautiful lunar moths.

As a starting point, my preferred approach is to start with a themed sketchbook. I start by researching the work of other artists, and general sketches based loosely around the theme before formulating my ideas into more of a plan. A few pages of my little book are dedicated to Warhol, Hirst, Escher and Whistler. Damien Hirst is well known for using butterflies in a number of works, and he has also collaborated with Alexander McQueen on a redesign of his skull scarves as anniversary limited editions. I won’t go too much into the details of my research here, as I have already written in my sketchbook, and don’t want to duplicate work. I have also looked at vintage cocktail trays, which were decorated with real butterfly wings arranged under glass.

Having looked at lots of images of tessellated butterflies by Hirst and Escher, I started arranging diecut butterflies on coloured paper. I tried a less rigid design using colours from a Hirst piece.

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The waste paper was looking just as interesting as the butterfly shapes, which led to this page arranged with tissue paper. It has started to look like a woven fabric – a design that I may wish to develop in another module.

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A church in the nearby village of Moreton has etched glass windows by Whistler. One is a memorial to a war pilot, and has butterflies prominent in the design.  This is a sketch of detail from that window.

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Having drawn this negative image in pencil, I then drew a positive pencil image, and a number of other sketches in various media.

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I took inspiration from various sources including the aforementioned collection, stamps and grocers collectors cards.

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Thinking more about butterfly collecting, I made this sketch.

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Amongst the grocers cards, I found a picture of a ‘map’ butterfly. I had an idea incorporating the map of the fields where my hut is situated. It is quite often that you see artworks with butterflies cut from maps. Perhaps an unusual paper for chine colle or a base paper?

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This page was thinking more about chine colle possibilities. It is a pleasing looking page in itself, with echoes back to Warhol.

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I saw a blouse with a heavily patterned design of overlapping butterflies that inspired this page.

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There are lots of ideas here that could take me in a number of different directions.

India Themed Sketchbook

A moleskine watercolour sketchbook accompanied me on my recent travels to Jaipur. I spent some time prepping pages before I went, had chance to do a few sketches in the evenings whilst I was away, and have continued to work in it since my return, inspired by the many photographs and samples that I brought home. Here are a selection of pages from the sketchbook. I am finally feeling more confident in my drawing, although the odd mistake is still creeping in (such as the windows on the perspective sketch of the factory floor). I am pleased with the varied techniques and subject matter, from textures and colour to illustration and simply recording blocks from the block factory. I particularly enjoyed using the natural dyes at the woodblock factory to colour a couple of pages. The colours are so rich.

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Clothing factory

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Another day, another factory. We visited another printing factory, which was a contrast to the others demonstrating the difference between Sanganer and Bagru styles of block print designs. I was excited by the bright and bold colour combinations, and the very fashionable motif designs. I bought a lovely print with a small motif repeat, and contrasting kantha stitching in diamonds between the motifs. Fabric was available to buy in bundles sufficient to make up a tunic, trousers and a matching crepe scarf. The fabric for the tunics had a trim machine sewn for the neckline, and any extra detailing such as the kantha stitching was in the shape of the front and back pieces.

One thing that was particularly interesting was the block printing of a garment part way through construction, using newsprint as a mask. This avoided awkward placement of designs on the torso, and allowed complex construction with fluidity of pattern across the garment.

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The pattern cutting was clever, keeping the arms and body as a single piece to avoid the tricky balancing of the shoulders.

This machinist was sewing edgings freehand in a number of ornate designs. I thought the padding and covering of the machine arm with the needle poking through was a good idea, protecting the work.

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During our trip, as a group we decided to make a book for Jamie, who organised the holiday. We each had a page to work with. Below is my contribution, a sketch based on our experiences so far. I used some blocks bought in Sanganer, and a base of torn local newspaper layered with white acrylic paint. Colour was added with watercolour washes and Inktense pencils. I titled it ‘The Spirit of Recycling” which seemed appropriate given our visit to the paper factory. I was also reminded of the layers of torn posters on the walls of the streets visible in most places around the city.

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iPad Sketching

After a discussion on a Facebook group page for OCA students to share their sketch work, I decided to look some more at drawing apps for the iPad. I have had Paper 53 for a while, which is good for watercolour effects. I invested a whole 69p in ArtSet, and have been pleasantly surprised with the results.  There are a choice of colour and texture papers, and materials including oil pastel, oils, marker, and pencil. There are also various blending options. I hae a Wacom Bamboo stylus, but have had some good results using my finger alone. In the art world, the iPad has had exposure as a drawing and painting tool, particularly thanks to David Hockney.

Here are a couple of quick sketch studies I have made of my cats. As I hope is obvious, they have very different characters, and was pleased with the feeling of each sketch. The first cat is black, which based the decision to make most of the marks in the negative space.

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Blind Contour Sketching

To improve my drawing, I have invested in Mack Maslen’s book on Experimental Drawing, which includes a number of exercises as well as examples of artists work. A number of the exercises are variations on the theme of blind contour drawing, where the drawing is made without looking at what you are drawing, but rather the subject you are looking at or feeling. I have done a few of these, and moved onto to starting the sketch in this manner, and refining or highlighting details at the end. Below is a sketch I made in the pub (hence it is on the back of a quiz sheet with other doodles infringing on the border!) and another of a dressmaking model in my basement. I like the free quality of the drawings, and think the portrait worked particularly well. I struggle with noses, and approaching the nose as a contour map was effective. I was also particularly pleased with the ears and hair, that were all drawn blind.

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Final Textured Monoprint

I have continued to work in my little sketchbook, which has taken on a rather nautical theme, with most of my work based on Chatham Dockyard and my weekly walks on Portland.

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For this final print, I thought I would work from an idea based on HMS Gannet at Chatham. I had started looking at the patterns caused by oxidisation of copper on the hull, and in later sketches combined this with silhouettes of windows and fixtures in other parts of the dockyard.

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I come up with an idea for a composition, and did a couple of goauche sketches to make final decisions on placement and proportion of the elements. I then made a couple of small test prints of the techniques I hoped to use to see how it looked. Here they are posted onto my pinboard.

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I am using a textured heavy watercolour paper with deckled edge for this print, as I felt the added texture would be interesting, and convey a feeling of rust and weathering. The turquoise and a lighter shade were brushed onto the glass plate with the brushstrokes all in the same direction mirroring the watermarks on the boat. This was then overprinted with a layer of burnt sienna, which was rolled thinly onto the glass and manipulated with a credit card-type piece of plastic. The texture of the paper meant that parts of the print were more sparsely printed in turqouise, allowing the red tones of the burnt sienna shine through. I enjoyed the contrast of turqouise with it’s near-opposite reddish-brown, and the interaction between the two when layered.

The black circles were printed onto the glass plate with a jam jar lid, and transferred onto the paper. I then inked up the plate in a very thin triangle of black, and used backdrawing for the chains.

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Overall, I am pleased with this piece and think that the composition works well. It felt quite brave leaving such a large area white, but I think it balances with the heavily coloured and textured element. The high contrast between the colours also works against the black and white, with few grey tones. I can’t decide whether I was disappointed with the turquoise ink bleeding to the left of the print. Part of me likes to embrace it as part of the fun of monoprinting as opposed to more precise disciplines like block printing.

Sketchbook

I made a start on some landscape sketches from some of my photo collection in my usual way on loose leaves of A5. I was pretty disappointed with the results, and not really happy with any of them enough to post pictures here. My way of working has been to sketch and rework sketches multiple times, and collect loose leaf sketches together to bind them in broadly themed sketchbooks later. Part of the reason I have always done this is a fear of working directly in a book and ruining it as an object with less successful work. I feel that now is the time to take some risks and enliven my work. My other problem haas been that the sketches lacked depth, and I felt that my use of light and shadow was very limited.

I have been contributing to a small group of OCA students on a closed Facebook group for sharing multimedia sketchbook ideas. Via this group, I was directed to some useful resources and ideas on starting a sketchbook. I also had some sage advice from my mother that a less successful page can always be painted over in white or collaged over. I have made a small A6 hardback sketchbook with 40 pages. I started to alter some of the pages by a variety of techniques including collage with thin paint over the top, pasting in pages of various textures, and washes with diluted inks.

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I also read “Keys to Painting Light and Shadow” edited by Rachel Rubin Wolf (1999 North Light Books, Ohio USA) which focussed on principles of reflected light, frontlighting versus backlighting, and how to approach a sketch by simplifying the light and dark families in the composition and connecting areas of similar tone. This has the effect of creating a more organised and flowing piece. The suggested approach is to do a block sketch of light and dark areas, arrange elements with sketch lines, fill in the lights and refine the details.

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