Collaborating across the world

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Minnesota, Oregon, Stockholm, Melbourne and Sydney – five artists who have never met are collaborating across the world on a set of handmade books. In 2015 four of us collaborated on handmade books, and we overcame distance, trepidation and time to have a hugely successful result, and forged firm friendships in the process. So, we have decided to do it again, and this time invited one more artist, Rebecca from Stockholm to join us.

To make it a little different, this time each of us is making a concertina book, with a double page for each person, encased in a cover of our choice. The image on each spread will spill just a little on to the following one, for the next person to incorporate into their drawing or painting. The closed books will be approximately A5 in size, 210 x 150 mm, and the paper weight around 300 gsm, heavy enough to take whatever medium we apply. After a couple of initial hiccups, where we found some papers simply collapsed on the fold when watercolour was applied, we have all taken different approaches to solving this, reinforcing the back of the folds, or changing paper. I have decided to join the pages at the end when the book finally comes back to me, so have supplied the other artists with sheets of unfolded paper to work on.

We each chose our own theme for our book, but agreed to keep the themes within the realm of plants or animals (I think dogs will feature largely as I am the only non-dog owner among us, but I like to draw dogs so that will not be a problem!) My title is ‘Eat Me!’, and will be portraying any kind of edible plants, in any way that works! The title from Cathe in Minnesota is ‘A Dog’s Life’, Gale from Oregon has chosen ‘Yard Friends’, Rebecca from Stockholm is taking us on ‘A Walk in the Woods with a Friend’ and Karen in Melbourne is featuring ‘Garden Life’. All these titles conjure up so many ideas, I’m looking forward to them all. Karen’s book is with me, ready and waiting for the first mark. We each start our own books, then post them on to the next person, who will do her page, then send them on again, until they finally return to the instigator.

The cover of my book is made from a monotype print that I made just recently, it felt as though the imagery spoke to the idea of edible plants. The drawing was inspired by the display on a stall at London’s Borough Market, a treasure trove of interesting food, I loved the different shapes of the mushroom varieties, with the big red chili on top. It is mainly graphite pencil, but highlights of coloured pencil were added to enhance certain areas.

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To see the works as they progress, all of us (except Gale) are on Instagram: karenbaileystudio, cathejacobi, rebeccacaryandersonart, and me anna_warren_portfolio, Gale is at sticksstonesnpaperstew here on WordPress.

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Odds and ends at the end of the year

Over the last few weeks I have been working on a range of different artworks, in a somewhat disjointed way. I have had the (totally delightful) distraction of the unexpectedly early arrival of my first grandchild, a little girl called Lumi. She was tiny, but is thriving, clearly a determined individual! And now the lead-up to Christmas provides other distractions.

On one day last week I heard that I had made two sales, very different artworks in different places. One was a painting, sold through Bluethumb, an online gallery. I have had work there for about a year and a half and had previously sold two paintings to the same buyer, but that was all, so this was a nice surprise. The other sale was one of my miniature hand-made books which was in an end of year group show, this too was quite unexpected. Neither work is new, but I had faith in them both, so it is good to know people liked them! The painting is called ‘Enigma’ and is oil on board and the book is called ‘Sleeping Beauty in Short, a book in a box’.

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Etching is a print medium I have always loved, but have done little of in recent years. It is time-consuming and heavy on equipment, so when a printmaker friend who is also a magnificent teacher said she was going to conduct two mentor workshops in using aluminium plates (as opposed to copper or zinc which I have used in the past) I seized the opportunity. We had a small group of wonderful artists, it was an enormously pleasurable experience and I was reminded of the scope within etching, and how much I enjoy it. There are a few fundamental differences with using aluminium – the acid for etching is very gentle, and easily accessible from any hardware store, and there is no need to go through the complexities of applying aquatint in order to create tones, as when areas of the aluminium are left exposed in the acid, it bites leaving a texture on the plate. The darkness of the tone can be controlled by how long the plate is left in the acid – it can be pulled out and blockout applied to the areas to be kept lighter. The downside is that it can be unpredictable, and it is more difficult to obtain the clear, fine lines that are possible on copper or zinc, but this unpredictability is what I am hoping to exploit when I make more plates next year. The first image below was comparatively controlled, the second one is the same size (10 x 15 cm) and was more experimental in the way I blocked out areas, then wiped off bits of the blockout in an almost random way.

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Drawing into my monoprints is continuing – a never-ending source of surprise and pleasure! The image below is a small part (about 20 x 20 cm) of a larger piece, with a ghost mono print underneath, worked into with coloured pencils. I am now thinking of simply taking the elements that work from these larger pieces and treating them as small finished works. I haven’t come up with a title for this one, so any suggestions welcomed!

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I am so grateful for the continuing support from the people who visit this blog, and who follow me on Instagram and Facebook. So many developments and new directions have come from the intelligent and thoughtful comments that you go to the trouble to make. I am constantly inspired by seeing the work of artists I follow too, so thank you, have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas, and looking forward to an inspired and productive New Year!

Small worlds

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One of the monotypes that I made back in May has moved into its next stage of development. It started as an abstract image in cool, soft colours. Then I started to work into it with coloured pencils, developing some areas, adding form and tone, creating depth and texture. This stage was quite pleasing, but I knew it couldn’t stand alone as a framed image, so I put it aside till inspiration struck for its further development, which it did last week.

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The monotype in its original state
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After coloured pencil was added, and turned 90 degrees

One form of social media I am very fond of is Instagram, I only follow artists and find it endlessly inspiring, sometimes scrolling through images something will stop me, and an idea will come from it. One thing I saw recently was work from artists in the Middle East and a small image of a mass of circles joined in a curtain-like arrangement gave me the ‘Ah ha’ moment I needed. I knew the answer to the future of this particular image was circles. I have a small tool that can be set to cut circles of different sizes, so I set it to a diameter of 6 cm and started cutting, completely randomly, deliberately not choosing what fell within each circle. Eventually I ended up with 25 circles. One of the friends that I create art with every Friday offered me some concertina-folded paper, just to see how the circles looked on either grey or white. Serendipity again – I think they look beautiful just on these concertinas! However, there are still 15 left, and these may be joined together with jump rings to make a hanging artwork, or perhaps arranged in a panel like small portholes, or they may stay solitary – the next stage will answer that question!

I have  called them Small Worlds, as that seems to me to be what they are.

Before and After

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This is the result of drawing into one of my monoprints – the top image is the untouched monoprint and the lower is the enhanced version. In some areas I have added a lot of detail, in others I have left the original marks almost untouched. Overall, I have tried to bring the image together, to create a unified whole that tells a story. Its the kind of thing where I could keep working in to it, maybe I will, but for now I think it is done. Using coloured pencils in a limited range of tertiary colours leaves the monoprint colours intact below. However, it may end up being divided into smaller pieces, so that the eye can focus on more contained areas.

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Detail.

The overall image is about 43 x 34 cm.

Miniature portraits

 

Recently I had an interesting discussion with a friend when I talked about miniature portraits – his response was ‘Isn’t that a tautology, surely ALL miniatures are portraits?’ So, the simple answer was no, modern miniatures can be any kind of subject matter and any medium – landscape, still life, abstract and sculpture to name a few.

The annual awards exhibition for the miniature society is coming up in June, so I have been thinking in miniature. Every year as well as prizes for each media section there is a special prize for a themed artwork. This time it is Australian Icon. I have to admit my heart sank when I heard this – I can imagine a mass of Sydney Harbour Bridges, Opera Houses, cockatoos, Dame Edna Everage, Don Bradman. The idea did not inspire me. So I decided to think laterally, to  people who maybe should be an icon but are not so well-known, and it seemed obvious to choose an Aboriginal person. The two above are long dead, and the likenesses extracted from old photos. I have not been too fussy about copying photos exactly, it was more about getting the essence of the person.

On the left is Truganini, reputed to be the last female full-blood Aborigine from Tasmania, who died in 1876, and on the right is William Lanne, died in 1869, said to be the last male full-blood from Tasmania. His original name has been lost. For both of them, their stories are tragic, of exploitation, harsh treatment and ultimately the deep humiliation after death, for William at least, of having his head stolen for ‘scientific purposes’. Truganini’s skeleton was put on view in a museum for nearly 100 years until finally it was removed and cremated according to her wishes in 1976.

Truganini is drawn with coloured pencils on drafting film, and William is on white scratchboard. The form was drawn with black ink, then the detail scratched away.

When matted and framed, Truganini will be 6.5 x 8 cm and William will be 8 x 9 cm.

Scottish flowers

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Two more drawings inspired by flowers found in Scotland. The top one was based on hollyhocks, old-fashioned flowers that are not often seen these days. The plants grow very tall, with elaborate ruffled flowers arranged along the length of the flower spike.

The one below was growing in the garden of Dunvegan Castle, on the Isle of Skye. I haven’t been able to identify it – the plant was a creeper, covered with pink/purple bell-shaped flowers, many of which had a long pendulous part hanging down, unusual and exotic.

As before (see my previous post here), the flowers were initially drawn in water-soluble graphite then coloured with watercolour pencils.

Adding colour

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The experiment with water soluble pencils continues, but a little differently, as I have decided to add colour. Having the tonal drawing beneath gives a useful structure for the colour to go on top. I decided to leave some parts in graphite for contrast, and highlight the main parts of the flowers/berries with colour. The colour is simple, almost monochrome in each case, with no real attempt to create botanical reality, it is there more to enhance the shape and form, and maybe take the images away from their plant origins into another kind of object.

I used Faber Castell watercolour pencils (Albrecht Durer), so that I could continue to draw, but adding water gives more of a painterly feel, and some unexpected results.

The above image was inspired by a double begonia flower, below the inspiration came from spindle berries, crocuses and sweet peas.

All are 23 cm x 25 cm. Some of the drawings without colour can be seen here.

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