Summer school

During every summer and winter break the National Art School in Sydney puts on a range of courses – drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, and more. This provides a week of immersion in a particular area, and this year I decided to plunge in! The course I chose was Contemporary Drawing, and turned out to be not just conventional drawing with pen or pencil but including a range of different techniques – rubbings, overlays, collage – in order to develop an abstract idea. The course was at times challenging, inspirational, overwhelming and ultimately satisfying. There were some areas I struggled with, but, as is so often the case, these were the things that yielded the greatest area for future development. By the end of the week I was exhausted, but came home walking on air. There were several things that I got from the course – one was that I remembered how much I like to develop a process, starting from one point, and after a series of steps (often not consecutive) end at a completely new place. Another was to go BIG!

Below are three pieces, the first two are finished and the third is still a work in progress. The first came about after a series of steps. The tutor set up a small still life of jugs, a bottle, an old toaster and a few other objects, then tied them all up with multiple wraps of narrow yellow tape. We drew this is a number of ways, from different angles, using a variety of techniques and textures. Next step was to choose one drawing, put a sheet of tracing paper over it and draw one small element of the drawing, using colour or texture. Then another sheet of tracing, and draw another area. This continued for about 5 layers, or till we were satisfied with the emerging drawing, which we then redrew, taking into account the effect of the tracing paper. The original still life completely disappeared and the image took on a new character.

The next one is charcoal rubbed thickly into a sheet of printmaking paper, but with a random geometric shape masked off. I then used an eraser to remove areas, drawing what I could see in the room. I started by looking up at the light fittings and beams of the room, then let the shapes suggest further rubbing to create the structure. Finally the masking was removed from the geometric shape, and that was made solid red.

The final drawing took the longest, and is still not finished. We began by going around the campus making rubbings of anything that threw up interesting textures. I did some on cartridge paper and some on tracing. It took a while to work out how I was going to use these, and eventually (cutting a long story very short!) I cut the pieces into strips, overlaid them and wove them into a topographic map that I had brought with me to use for collage. I then started drawing into the rubbed pieces and the map, using marks on the map and on the rubbings, melding them together, using Inktense water-soluble pencils, wetting some of the lines to soften them. I intend to make the image very detailed, almost lose the map, but I will let it dictate to me what happens. There are a couple of details showing the sort of marks I am making.

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Paintings to pendants

A new experiment – using small photos of my paintings to make jewellery. After coating digital images of some of my small paintings with two-part epoxy (liquid glass), I placed them in small silver-coloured pendant frames to make necklaces. In those few words it sounds so simple, but there was a lot of fiddling around and mess, so I have learned valuable lessons for the process next time. Firstly, I would glue the images into the frames first, then flood them with the liquid glass. This would give them a much cleaner finish – these had already been pasted on to foam core board which was far too thick for the frames so had to be cut back. The images were too large as well, so had to be trimmed, very tricky to do neatly! But all up, it has been a good experience and given me lots of ideas for different approaches another time.

The frames are 2.5 cm (1 in) square.