7 March 2014

Squares, and Circles, and Lines, oh my! (a long post about drawing)


I had attended a drawing systems short course, learning how to draw perspectives using various drawing systems: Orthographic Projection, Isometric Projection & Perspective Projection. What I took from this course was the doodling in the practice exercises, I seemed to find this a fun aspect of the class:

So I worked them out in sketchbooks which filled with pages of these exercises and I really wanted to do something with them. I could see patterns and sculptural planes emerging:

So I cut a Linocut of one of the patterns that emerged during these exercises and printed it up:


I had started doing some sketching as a response after reading Bataille's Story of The Eye:

Which morphed in to sketches of dots with three circles centred around them (similar to Greek / Turkish Magic Eye symbols):

This then became a motif I could work with best in watercolour inks, a coloured background also became important within experimentations:


I then became interested in varying the size of the circles and also looking to try and create patterns within the piece to create a kind of texture:

I also brought both these motifs, square and circle, to one particular piece:


I had seen some work of Robert Horvitz at the 'Reflections From Damaged Life' show at Raven Row (and also attended his artist talk there). 
The use of lines in his work painstakingly drawn for ten hours a day at a time using pen really intrigued me, it made me want to experiment with mark making myself using a cartridge pen and simple basic marks. My drawing up to then had consisted of abstracted shapes with a border around them, something similar to the counterculture poster artists of the Sixties. Horvitz' work simplified the line down to a basic mark which when repeated made astounding pieces.

After seeing Horvitz' work I simplified it down and experimented using directional lines:

I hope to continue using these motifs in my abstract drawing practice. Here is one particular directional lines piece:

I do also feel that life drawing classes, even though I mainly draw abstract pieces, does bring my drawing practice full circle. Drawing is a draughting skill which needs to be practiced fully and from all angles whether it be representational drawing, abstracts, or doodles. I wouldn't say I have an exceptional skill where drawing is concerned, in fact it means I have to practice it more to get results.


15 January 2014

A New Hope..

I've been going through a process of reclaiming my general sense of creativity over these past few months, especially since I started taking art courses during the Summer of last year.
This has been in part an attempt by myself to use my natural creative skills to get myself not only interested again in to other areas of art and creativity (from having heavily devoted four years of my life at university to only time-based media, video and film work as my degree entailed) but also so that I could use them in part as a recovery process and distraction away from the depression I had been suffering from.

Back in 2011 - 2012 as I was coming to the tail end of my art degree I had something akin to a nervous breakdown. Not to get in to the small details but it was a period in which certain personal issues and stresses I was facing in different areas of my life were combining together to create this black suffocating miasmic cloud which was beginning to suck the enjoyment out for me of creating art, and out of life.

Last summer, a full year after finishing my arts degree and slipping in to this depressive funk, I decided that it was perhaps the right time for me to embark on a few arts courses which would be challenging, enjoyable and also which maybe could distract me away from the overkill of the effects of only having studied one particular discipline of the creative arts for so long and which would touch on certain other areas that I hadn't participated in for a while: drawing, sculpture, printmaking..

After my experience midway through my last year of university I felt I wasn't really up to making any more film or video pieces as the effect of being depressed had sucked out any kind of impetus to create or enjoy the process of making film or video and I wanted badly to distance myself away from that area for a while. I felt that doing art courses would keep me busy creatively whilst perhaps helping me to work around the creative block that depression brought with it. Dark times indeed. I'm happy to say that after all that darkness I'm still creating work albeit not in my genre of film & video but in painting, drawing, and printing. So for me it has worked somewhat.  

Last November I came across an online piece in the Guardian about some kind of controversy to do with an upcoming art show. Doing those art courses had begun to increase my level of confidence in a practical way as a hands on artist but now I was looking for something different to look at. I had been to some major gallery shows but I felt the urge to start going gallery hunting again to see more modern contemporary work, to see if there was anyway I could contextualise the stuff I was getting up to now and find out if there were other artists out there I could relate to and not just the old ones.

At work one morning (I work in a library) I was sitting on the issues counter at a slow period just surfing the web and after a few clicks through art related websites along comes this article about a new Jake & Dinos Chapman show at the new Serpentine- Sackler Gallery in Kensington. Then I clicked through to an online chat with the Chapman Brothers in the Guardian which I read through, (it had made me laugh in a mischevious manner because it didn't seem so pretentious like some artist interviews can seem to be) http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/nov/26/the-chapman-brothers-answer-your-questions-live and I made the decision then and there to go along and have a look. At college and university I had been so inwardly introverted about artists film and video that I was only concerning myself with that sector of the art world. This had meant I had heard of the Chapman Brothers (mostly the media view of the controversy surrounding their work to be honest) but had not gone out of my way to see any of their shows or study their work in more detail. I Googled their website to have a look and came across some video pieces of theirs and the idea of this excited me because I never knew any of their work in that area existed: http://jakeanddinoschapman.com/everything/films/

So the day after it opened on the 29th November, I visited the show and got my mind blown.

Since then I've read Jake Chapman's darkly dystopian romance novel parody: The Marriage of Reason & Squalor, and its almost follow up: Introspastic: From The Blackened Beyond in which Chlamydia Love - the main female character from the first book - 'interviews' Jake Chapman (except she doesn't really get any where because Chapman proves an elusive and as mis-directioned an interviewee as a Derren Brown mind trick). I also read Chapman's book Memoirs of My Writers Block in which Chapman poses as Christabel Ludd an amateurish writer seeking advice from various ghost writers on how to write her first novel using the story of a character she embarks upon from a news article on the BBC news website. This one was the first one I read as the idea of someone overcoming writers block intrigued me in relation to my own creative block I was having with my film & video work. I wasn't disappointed, found them all entertainingly humorous, daringly shocking (in a good way), dark and intriguing. I would certainly recommend anyone to look them up. Not only did I find that their show was life affirming to me and with an abject dark humour to it (people were looking worried at me as I walked around the gallery chuckling away with my companion and discussing the work enthusiastically as if I was the only one in on some kind of joke - some people often think conceptual art is a bad joke they've been left out of I've found) but the books led me on to other reading such as The Story of The Eye by Georges Bataille, To Hell with Culture & The Meaning of Art both by Herbert Read. All this in the space of a month and a half since visiting their show at the end of November.

I can honestly say both the art classes and the experience of seeing the Chapman Brothers show has invigorated my creative spirit and its up and running again which is very pleasing!

There's an irony to all this though, and you know what that is?

At university we were directed away and discouraged from studying anything to do with the Chapman Brothers by our art school tutors for whatever reasons I don't know. Maybe its true when they say that "when the student is ready the teacher(s) will appear".

Devotchik @ Wordpress - my film & video work over the years

Just to let folk know I have uploaded the majority of all of my film & video work (since 2005!) to a new Wordpress blog site where they can all be viewed and which will only be devoted to my film & video work.

If interested then you can find it here: http://devotchik.wordpress.com/

Thanks for reading! :-)


29 October 2013

Paul Klee @ Tate Modern

Die Zwitscher-Maschine (Twittering Machine)
1922 Paul Klee

Back from the Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern, he's one of my favourite artists at the mo.. So, what can I take from his work for myself and what appeals to me about it?

Well to start with, the line execution in his drawings: he came from a draughtsman background. One of his familiar quotes is “Drawing is taking a line for a walk” and his delicate fine-lined style of drawings in pen and ink are great. The gradation of colours and layers used in his paintings, drawings and lithographs and the way he colourised the backgrounds of his works adds not only atmosphere and / or depth but also you feel he spent just as much time getting those blends right because that was just as important as the main element on the page / canvas.

Also how he kept back some of his work from being sold because he felt they were too special which I think was rather brave in itself especially since certain well-known contemporary artists are being referred to as 'conveyor line artists' because they sell nearly everything they do flooding the market not because they need to or are in any way wanting for much more in the way of the material wealth they have already accumulated. Klee held back and only released for sale what he wanted to sell. Control. I get it.

In all honesty I'm not a fan of his 'magic square' pieces but I do love his lithographs and I have the one of the 'Twittering Machine' (see attached photo) blown up to A3 size on my bedroom wall which serves as creative inspiration (upon waking its one of the first things I see and thats deliberate on my part). His work has several themes and styles over the years spread out over 17 rooms in the Tate exhibition so to recognise him for those more familiar pieces would be too simplistic for me, his work speaks of deeper meanings and more interesting experiments - you get the feeling he tried to reconcile something in his work but wasn't afraid of the varying outcomes produced. The fact he taught at the Bauhaus too (Josef Albers being another of my favourite abstract colour experimenting artists who also taught at the Bauhaus before moving on to the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina - check out the history / teachers / students from that place!) and had resisted using the new mechanised methods that other artist teachers at the Bauhaus were discovering and using, preferring to do it his own way and relishing the outcomes. Now there was a craftsman if ever.

I'm going again, soon!


6 September 2013

DIY home lino printing..

So to follow on from the last post, what good is learning new skills if you aren't going to use them? Sooooooo I've been busy.. drawing designs, cutting them out on Lino and printing them out using materials I acquired from ATLANTIS art shop (cheaper than CASS ART FACT!!) just off Brick Lane in East London: http://www.atlantisart.co.uk

Here's the design being cut in to the Lino (same photos as prev post I know but easier to see what I'm talking about if I put them here too)

And here they are in Vermillion (my fav red shade) and Black. Water soluble block printing colours on lining paper (as these are just proofs more or less I can wait to print them up on better quality paper later on..)

DIY in my kitchen.. even took a print off the paint trays before I cleaned it all up..

I've signed up for a woodblock printing course to push myself further..

26 August 2013

Printmaking: Etching, Monoprints, & Linocuts..

As you can see, printmaking can be a dirty business!! :-)

I took a few classes this summer whilst on summer break from work, one of which was an Introduction to Printmaking week long workshop at City Lit (in Holborn) featuring Etching, Monoprinting, and Linocut processes. I really loved this class, have previous experience of processes such as Linocut, Screen Printing and Monoprints through my Graphic Design studies so saw this as a chance to catch up and refresh my knowledge of printmaking (some very good friends of mine are printmakers and either work in printhouses or have studied it at university level so I'm lucky to be surrounded by these guys and having a chance to see their pieces take shape and talk about the different processes involved).

We were taught by a very experienced and lovely lady printmaker / artist called Anne-Marie Foster. Because there were differing levels of people taking the course, beginner through to advanced, the teacher was very patient and took care to explain things carefully for those who didn't have the experience whilst giving those who had the experience a gentle form of guidance. We were all made aware of the health and safety risks to do with the different forms of printmaking we would be experimenting with over the week long course and how to conduct ourselves in the dry and wet areas of the printmaking studio. Cit Lit is good that way, you get taught by very experienced teachers who know their art practice inside out but the fees are very reasonable; professionals get taught alongside those out of work or suffering financial hardship.

Anyway, back to the practical stuff..

First up, Etching. We etched a design on to a zinc plate which had been first covered by a wax called 'hard ground'. Then the plate was put in to an acid bath which dissolves the etched pattern in to the zinc plate - thats how it works. The acid is resisted by the 'hard ground' covering and only dissolves the exposed part of the plate. The photos below show some of the process.

This is the resulting 'proof' - a first print of the etched plate. From this you can decide if it needs more texture or other processes added to it.

Then I decided that I also wanted to try to add texture to the piece with the 'Aquatint' process. The etched plate is placed inside an Aquatint box in which fine particles of resin are stirred up and then settle on to the plate. A flame is passed gently underneath it (not touching the plate or the resin could bubble up or burn then you'd have to start over again) so that the resin melts on to the plate, then you would block out the parts of the plate that you don't want textured with the Aquatint with a stop out varnish and then place the plate again in to an acid bath so the texture is etched on to your design.

Through artists like William Hogarth I had become familiar with etching but as I had never done etching before and was always curious about the process I did find the whole thing fascinating. I would like to experiment further with etching and maybe try photo-etching next.

Hogarth's Gin Lane etching / engraving (British Museum): http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pd/w/william_hogarth,_gin_lane.aspx

Next up, Monoprinting. Basically, inks are rolled out on to a plastic tile or plate and a sheet of paper is placed over the tile / plate and you would draw your design directly on to the paper. When lifted off the paper has a reverse inked design of what you have drawn on it. You can also place another piece of paper over the plate after you have done your initial monoprint and using a roller take a different kind of imprint that has been left on the tile / plate. Its a simple sounding process but quite an effective one. You can also make multicoloured monoprints as well as single colour ones.

Example of an inked up tile before the monoprint has been taken:

A different tile (after the monoprint has been taken):

First monoprint (design drawn on back of paper):

Imprint taken of monoprint tile (totally different effect than the first monoprint):

The next two images are the same as those above but using a single colour instead:

Lastly, Lino cut / Lino print. A design is carved or cut in to a piece or block of hessian backed lino material using various cutters for different textures or lines, then the block is inked over and a relief print can be taken from this either using a printing press or a Baren (a flat hand tool which presses the paper on to the lino, used instead of a printing press).

I found that, for my particular style of drawing, Lino printing was the most effective and gave it a good look and finish.

The linocuts I designed and used in the class:

The prints made from the linocuts. I had fun trying out different papers like Southbank, Newspaper, and Japanese paper:

I really enjoyed this part of the workshop and became quite prolific with it! :-)

And now here is a design I'm currently working on at home which isn't really finished yet. I also did a sculpture workshop and a perspective / drawing system class this summer (also at City Lit) and I really think some of those influences have crept in on this piece!! I find Linocuts to be quite sculptural and theres a certain satisfaction to be had several hours later after working on carving or cutting out a design. I'm hoping to also try Woodblock printing some time in the future.

If you ever get a chance to try any art workshops, do it. No matter what level you think you are with art, beginner or advanced, you never know where they may lead you creatively. I really enjoyed the ones I took this summer and feel they all came together perfectly in the printmaking workshop.