Portrait collaborations

Towards the end of 2016 a friend, Sue Rawlinson, and I agreed to start collaborating on artworks together. There are two elements to the collaboration, one is portraits, the other is small concertina books, which I will document in another post. We agreed on a size – 15 x 15 cm – and on the paper we would use, Arches 300 gsm smooth, and beyond that it was up to each of us to decide what medium, style or technique to use. We would each draw a portrait – it could be a real person or an invention, then pass it to the other to enhance.

To start with we each had some apprehension about what damage we might do to one another’s work, but confidence grew and we both happily added and altered the portraits as they came to us. As we were both involved in other projects sometimes weeks passed between bursts of energy. By now we have each completed about 15 drawings, but some are still works in progress. Below you will see 18, nine from each of us, that have been worked on.

Next year we are hoping to have an exhibition together and the portraits and the concertina books will be a big feature – we won’t necessarily use all the portraits, but choose those that we feel work best, but ideally have a large display. To see more of Sue’s work go to http://suerawlinson.blogspot.com.au


Small worlds


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.

The monotype in its original state
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.

Connections – a concertina book


Time to reflect, absorb, think – this is a key ingredient in developing ideas. The drawings that I have been working on over the last few months based on blots made from Liquid Pencil are moving into the next stage of development. From the beginning I had an instinct that they wouldn’t feel finished as framed artworks. I have framed one and realise that it is something that should be examined closely, if looked at from across a room it says nothing at all, the delicacy of marks are lost.

The artwork demands an intimacy that largeness of scale cannot provide, so I decided to take elements of the drawings to concentrate on. First I started with the drawing I called ‘Blot Series No 4’, see here for details. I made a 10 x 10 cm mask to choose elements from the drawing that had an integrity of their own. I found 5 pieces, cut them out and, once I had chosen the arrangement and rotation of them, glued them lightly to a length of heavy watercolour paper which I had folded into a concertina. The next step was extrapolating some of the marks at the edges of each piece, extending and developing them across the support to link the individual pieces. I may extend this piece with more panels.

The concertina is 14 cm high and 70 cm long, each panel being 14 x 14 cm.



Back to basics


Every now and then it’s good to remind yourself about the basics of what you do – about 10 days ago I attended a one-day drawing workshop. The teacher had set up a series of still-life objects along a long table, and gave us various techniques for getting the form, using charcoal, graphite, ink in various degrees of dilution, water-soluble pastels, regular pastels. The techniques weren’t new to me, I have used them many times before, but haven’t used them for quite some time, and this was a good brain refresher. It was about being quite loose, building the forms and working back into them. For most of the morning I couldn’t find my pace and felt fairly lost, but once I gave up trying too hard and just let go, interesting marks emerged.

A large bust of Julius Caesar was the catalyst for me getting into it – by the fourth drawing I had regained my confidence and enthusiasm to do more. I wasn’t looking to get a good likeness, just interesting marks. I’ve realised it takes me a while to settle into a new way of working – when I have done workshops in the past, it’s been only right at the end that I get going, and have the ‘Ah-ha’ moment, so I probably need to do more and really get myself moving more quickly.

Below are four of the drawings I did of the bust, in chronological order. I find it interesting to see how they became less tentative.

This Friday I decided to continue working with these techniques, but using better paper, and have come out with work I find interesting. I’m not sure how much more of this kind of work I will do – in some ways it feels quite foreign, but in others very exciting. Maybe I need to persist a bit more!

Collaboration book 4 – No fear of flying


This is the fourth book in the series – today this one will head down to Melbourne, another will come back to me from Canberra this week, one came from Melbourne and will go to Canberra today. The fourth one is still in the US, having gone from Minnesota to Colorado. A new development is already underway with four of us – two from Australia, two from the US – each making a book which will then be passed from one to another to work a pair of pages.

From a small idea a wonderful and enriching joint project has developed. The mystery of what each artist will do enhances each step – I am loving the experience more than I can say. As soon as the first one is completed, I will do a post about it.

The idea for the imagery in this one came from when I was making my really tiny book (see here). I was doing little drawings inspired by the objects on my desk and around me, and one came from the small wooden mannequin which stands in front of me, and made me want to use it further. I often play with it, putting it into different poses, seeing how far I can manipulate it before it falls over. When I had done the initial drawing I could see it was flying, in a relaxed and uncontrolled way, so gave it clouds to add to its enjoyment of its journey, and brought in the legs of a companion. It has no fear of flying … memories of the 1970s book Fear of Flying by Erica Jong maybe were lurking around too.

Below are the bits of drawing I have placed on the first and last pages. Karen and Kylie, my collaborators will add to these.

Collab4_Flying2_1web Collab4_Flying2_2web

To see other parts of the collaborations see my posts here, here and here, and Karen’s (Occasional Artist) here, Kylie Fogarty here and Cathe (Amaryllis Log) here. Such inspiring people to work with!

Encaustic orchid


More experimenting with encaustic – this painting has been in the works for a while, and has been subjected to other experimentation.

It is on board, and after preparing the board with gesso I did a loose drawing on it inspired by an enlarged photo I took of tiny Western Australian native orchids, in their natural habitat. Next, I took to the board with my Dremel (an electric tool that has small interchangeable heads for engraving, drilling and making other marks). I carved out some of the pencil lines and some texture, such as in the centre of the flower. As the board is quite hard, it was not easy to control the resultant marks so they became fairly random and not particularly smooth. The next step was applying some oil paint, before adding encaustic wax, then more scraping back, scratching and layering paint and wax.

I’m still not sure if it is finished – it has quite a rough quality to it and I think it will take time for me to decide how I feel about it. It belongs with the other paintings in the 30 x 30 cm series (see here, here, here and here).

Oil and encaustic on mdf board, 30 x 30 cm

Collaboration – next step


The collaboration I tentatively suggested is under way! In response to my post about the Moleskine booklet I had three responses from artists keen to be involved. The first booklet (see here) has gone to Kylie Fogarty, an artist in Canberra, see here for her website, and the booklet above has gone to Karen Bailey in Melbourne. Karen has been busy with an exhibition (see here on Karen’s blog about it) but will now be ready to add some pages. Karen’s will then go to Kylie and vice versa, and we will all collaborate on the first and last pages. There will be a third one in this set, yet to come.

The fourth one which I am still working on will go to Cathe (see here for her beautiful blog, Amaryllis Log) in Minnesota in the US and we will do this one between the two of us.

I am so looking forward to what happens with each of these books – the three artists are all very different and all very good, I respect and am inspired by what they each do, but the intention of these books is not to create great art but to experiment and have fun. For each booklet there will be a loose theme, in that each artist will use what the previous artist has done to inspire their page, whether by the mark making or subject matter or other more abstract concepts.

The image above is identifiably inspired by seaweed, and the one for Cathe will have a similar marine/natural history basis. This one is drawn with pen and water-based ink, some of the lines have been made to bleed with a wet paintbrush, then colour added with coloured pencil.

Here’s to some surprises!