In November last year I did a weekend course in photopolymer etching at Edinburgh Printmakers and now I'm properly hooked!
I've been back regularly to practise, putting my new knowledge to the test and diligently checking the notes every time I move through the process. I've loved the whole atmosphere of the place - it manages to be both highly professional and very friendly, with a sort of background hum of intense but enjoyable creative activity. The other printmakers I've met are generous with their knowledge whilst being humble about the challenges of being a printmaker. I've also really enjoyed the physicality of the processes in the efficiently designed workshop - reminds me of my days at Manchester Polytechnic in the ceramic studio or the metal workshop, the smell of wet and dry, oiled machinery and funny coloured chemicals.
I know it's early days in my learning, but I set myself the goal of having some prints to show in my next exhibition, 'Figured wood', in April, so I've been working like a mad thing to find what works for my images - you'll need to visit the exhibition to see whether I've succeeded, but here's a few process pictures to get you started...
'Bart' the historic printing press
Lined up and ready to print
Proofs fresh off the press!
See here for more information about this printmaking technique and that course I attended.
Solo exhibition featuring charcoal, pastel and line drawings inspired by trees and influenced by the figure.
Opening event Saturday 5th April, 11am - 1pm at Dawyck Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre.
The exhibition runs from 5th April - 3rd August 2014.
More information about all my exhibitions can be found here»
Which to frame, what kind of frame, how many to hang, which to hang where? so many decisions...and then so much maths once you've decided. They never taught me this at art college!
It may be only a 50th of the actual size but this is the best planning tool I've used yet!
Having two solo shows booked for 2014, I thought I really needed to make myself a plan to guide my work and preparations. However, the two dimensional methods I'd used before just weren't up to the job, particularly for the Meffan Gallery show which has a flexible panel system for hanging work. So, it may have been my three-dimensional design training or perhaps my childhood love of doll's houses that prompted me to find some foamboard offcuts, some dressmaking pins and a calculator to translate a 2D floor plan into a proper 3D model. I can't lie - it was fun and I did spend longer than strictly necessary viewing it from all angles at eye level. Even made a wee person too.
Once I'd printed images of the potential works to scale it was a doddle to hang and rehang, play one piece off against another and generally visualise the exhibition as a whole. It was also obvious where the gaps might be and where I should focus my efforts with new work - it's so easy to get carried away with exciting new experiments but I also have to make sure I have work to put on these walls.
There's no substitute for seeing the actual exhibition space if it's possible, so I spent an afternoon at Dawyck Botanic Garden, measuring the gallery and meeting the lovely staff. They'd just finished hanging the current show, Remarkable Trees, which is on until the end of March. My show 'Figured wood' follows it, opening on the 5th April.
Now I have two little scale models to reassure me when I think I don't have enough work, don't know what I'm going to do, think it'll all go wrong - those creative insecurities don't ever go away but some practical planning really helps me to ignore them!
Like most artists I know I'd prefer to be behind the camera than in front of it - I'd rather let the work speak for itself, but there are times when a decent photo of the artst in their studio is required. So I was lucky to have the chance last weekend of getting some professional images made by Mark K Jackson, a local partrait and documentary photographer currently working on a project to photograph artists and makers in St Margaret's House. I confess to being totally bamboozled by the technical aspects of photography: thankfully Mark knows his subject well and has some impressive kit too. I dutifully donned my dusty drawing shirt, held my drawing materials still and tried really hard not to blink. Some of the resulting images will probably sneak onto the internet fairly soon!
A very different (and more comfortable) kind of publicity opportunity presented itself recently, in the form of Wolfstar Pictures and their 'Art Drone'. As part of our Open Week/Open Studios event my fellow tenants set out to make a short film giving a taste of the creativity in the building. I was so pleased to have my studio chosen to feature in their fantastic film - see for yourself here »
Make yourself @ home - it was great! Here's the exhibition blog to tell you all about it.
It's been a weird day in studio 6.20 today - my charcoal coated creative sanctuary was invaded by shopping trolleys, power tools and flying techno drones.
I have to be honest and say that there's been no drawing done there for over a month now, other than doodles over photographs of empty gallery spaces and graph paper plans of exhibition layouts. I've really missed getting into my 'grey zone', immersing myself in the pure joy of line, tone, proportion and light. However, I have set myself the goal of curating a sizeable group show with an adventurous concept and that won't organise itself now will it. So, with twenty other artists taking part and only four days to build it in the gallery, I've been putting all my time and effort into preparations and publicity for Make yourself @ home.
I began today by transferring most of the useful and interesting things from the shed to my car, then into a shopping trolley to take them up in the lift to my studio, which meant that the trolley was cluttering up my space. A happy hour or so was spent wielding my power tools, making shelves and brackets and other fixings for the show - very satisfying also because everything was made from materials collected and retrieved over the years or 'buckshee' as the Scots say.
Then Costas and the film crew from Wolfstar Pictures came in to have a look around and see if it was suitable for the wee film they are making to promote our Open Week at St Margaret's House. We had a good chat, they said a lot of technical things I couldn't understand to each other, then we agreed how I should set it up for the filming. Here's a quick snippet introducing their idea, which involves an 'Artdrone' snooping round the studios after hours - slightly creepy but in a good way I think! Other studios are being filmed over the next few days, then we shall see the secret life of St Margaret's House.
Want to know what an Art drone is? Have a look here »
My newest challenge has been consuming all my time lately, hence the long absence from my blog. I've ventured into the realms of curating for the 'Make yourself @ home' exhibition which will be part of the St Margaret's House Open week programme of exhibitions, open studios, workshops and events, launching on Friday 11th October.
The idea has been brewing for quite some time and is largely based on my experience of running my own shows, combined with my years working to develop creative approaches to community engagement, the rationale being:
- The conventional ‘white cube’ art gallery environment can sometimes be intimidating to those not used to it
- People want to buy art but aren’t always sure how to go about it or find it hard to imagine in their homes
- Potential buyers often like to know more about the artist as well as the work - we need ways to bring artists/makers and buyers together
- Create an environment which suggests the domestic, which makes visitors feel comfortable and ‘@home’
- Set the scene with furniture, props, lighting and sound throughout the gallery, evoking different parts of the home – e.g. a bed you can lie on to view a digital gallery projected on the wall, a sofa to sit on with a tv to show artists’ and makers’ images, a dining table where you can sit on handmade chairs, displaying ceramics, textiles etc., a desk with PC to view artist/makers websites, displaying handmade books, shelves etc.
- It’s not the intention to create a ‘showhome’ in the gallery, more to allow participants to show their work in an environment that hints of home but celebrates the original and the handmade
- Be open and clear about selling and buying, make it easy for visitors to buy, easy for artists/makers to connect with potential buyers
- To enable visitors to relate to fine and applied arts as something they would have in their homes
- To showcase the work of some of St Margaret's House tenants and to hopefully sell some artwork to people who will love it.
So those were the ideals I set out with and I now have a selection of works from over 20 artists and makers to feature in the show. I also have loan of a bed, a sofa and even the toilet, which I'm hoping will create some hilarity as visitors perch on the pan to admire the 'view from the loo'!
As I was putting away the last of my works from 'Wood nude tree limb' last night, it struck me that mounting your own exhibition has a lot in common with camping. Don't take me too literally on this - there were no barbeques or long walks to the toilet during our show, it's just that the 'temporaryness' felt the same.
With both it seems that what you need to do is find a space that you like, that you feel comfortable in, then you fill it with your things, spending ages arranging and rearranging till it feels just right. Then of course you invite people to come and enjoy it with you.
I realise this isn't the way everyone does camping but I like to have my camp in reasonable order so I know where to find the lighter or the teabags or the midge spray in a hurry. And I think most campers would be fairly careful in choosing their site before they pitch their tent - as the saying goes, "Pitch in haste, regret at leisure up to your ankles in water in a force 9 gale". These were good choices thankfully, at Blinkbonny Wood East Lothian and Big Sands, Gairloch.
I used to be a puppeteer many moons ago and performing in a small touring company demands many similar skills and tasks too - meticulous planning and packing balanced by a willingness to embrace the unforseen, gamely problem solving when the sets won't fit through the doorway for instance (despite being assured by the venue that they would!). There's a huge amount of effort that goes into setting up a touring show in a new venue, making sure that everything is where it should be onstage and that the audience sees what you intend them to see. Perhaps this is where my attention to the little details such as labels being straight stems from.
There's also the short periods of intense activity contrasting with the long periods of sitting around not doing much and possibly getting a bit bored. All that transporting, building, lifting, fixing, cleaning, fiddling about, then it's done and we can all have a glass of wine.
I like to sit in the gallery during the period of the show because I enjoy meeting people and talking about the work. Their feedback and comments help me reflect on my work - it's a rather lonely business making art so it's always interesting to me to hear other viewers thoughts. When it's quiet in the gallery it's nice just to contemplate, to look at it critically from a greater distance than usual and in a different context or light. I tend to generate lots of ideas for new work during these times and other artists I've spoken to agree that can be worth mounting a show for this reason alone.
Then the show has to come down and what has felt very much like home reverts back to being just a big empty echoey space. The newly filled holes in the wall are like the yellowed patch of grass where the footprint of the tent has been - the stage is cleared, the pitch is clean. One last check around to make sure there's nothing left behind and it's all in good order for the next traveller, then we're off.
Last night's preview was very busy despite the heat yesterday, giving the four of us a great buzz. In the calm of the morning after I've taken a few panaramic photos to give an idea of how the whole show looks...