100 Days of Learning

Some of you might remember that earlier this year I signed up for the 100 Day Project. I was intending to write about the experience and interestingly it’s taken me a while to get around to it. Some of the delay is due to being busy over the summer, but I also think that it has taken me a while to consolidate on my learning because there was so much to take from the experience.

I signed up in a fit of enthusiasm. Well, during the course of the 100 days or so that enthusiasm waxed and waned. What I can say for sure is how much I have learnt from the process.

Initially I was using some of the principles learnt from the online workshop I have been involved in, run by Nicholas Wilton from Art2life, that took place at the beginning of this year. My focus was mainly on what Nick calls design, or composition, and value. He highlights how important differences are in composition. Differences in size of mark, shape and value.

Abstract Collage

The project I decided on was to do a small abstract collage in my sketchbook. I was hoping to develop my art practice in two ways from deciding to make this my project. Firstly to use all my learning from the course and secondly to learn about using collage.

Day 1

Part of the process I found particularly helpful was to go back through my sketchbook and make notes as I was going along. Some were very just short, just a line of two, others much longer as I found my reflections led me deeper into thinking about my work.

Looking back over the sketchbook there was a clear development in the collages. I began with small pieces on individual sheets. This was the first day, a very simple collage. My notes were about needing more differences in the size of shape and value.

Bolder shapes

Some of my main learning was about how to use larger shapes, to be bolder in my compositions and through the daily practice I developed a range of shapes that were more random and unusual.

I also discovered how much l like to layer collage onto collage. I particularly like little bits peeking through giving a sense of surprise or mystery as to what lies beneath. In the image to the right you can see the use of layering along the bolder shapes. In this piece I was also making use of handmade collage papers along with bought in materials. I enjoyed the contrast.

Going over the edges.

Another technique I became interested in was to go outside the edges. To use a separate sheet for one part of the collage, to then mount that on a plain piece of paper and then to continue to develop the piece. Here’s an example. Looking closely, the lines are drawn over a central piece and extend to the page it is mounted on. The red shape also extends over the edge.

New Materials.

I was able to experiment with using new materials – large graphite sticks and fabric for example. I also made use of found objects. Some more successful than others. A paper post it note from the floor – not so successful. The ticket stub from a dinner and dance I attended – more successful.

What became obvious during the process has been the importance of continuing experimentation and play. I noticed that there is a part of me that had a secret fear that my creativity might dry up. That there is a finite well of ideas. However I can confidently say that just the opposite has proven to be the case. For example the collages where have collaged over the edges feels like it might be a new sort of format. I’m now thinking of how to translate this into a multiple layered larger piece. I’m not sure when this will happen in my larger work, but I think it will find a place.

During the 100 days I also did some slightly larger pieces of collaging as small complete pictures. These are now for sale in my Etsy Shop.

Meanwhile what next? Something of a rest I think. Will I do it again? As an intense period of learning that boosted my art it was invaluable so, yes, I probably will.

Did you take part? What was your experience? What was the biggest learning?

Interested in bringing some collage into your work? Then book onto my Colour, Collage and Texture in Abstract Painting Workshop.

Please leave a comment below.

Watercolours!!

Anyone who has read my blog may have picked up that I’m don’t really paint much using watercolours. I paint in oils and acrylic and I’ve been using pastels recently, but satisfaction with watercolours has so far eluded me.  I was thinking about this recently and it dates back to school.  I was using oils and acrylics when I took my A levels and I only began using watercolours about two or three years ago. Which makes sense as to why I’ve found them a bit challenging.

I am very much drawn to other artists’ work in the medium,  I love the quality of the light that is conveyed and the beautiful lightness of touch and impression of spontaneity. So having recently decided that I wanted to improve my work in this area and spurred on by a couple of book purchases (see Doodling) I’ve been spending all my painting time this week either reading or using watercolours, beginning with some doodling earlier in the week, and finishing up with a couple of small paintings.

The process has been very interesting. I’ve resisted a lot of planning in the past. I’m a “lets get in there and start painting” person.  This does not work with watercolour. I’ve proved it several times. Two or three minutes in, one unthought through, brush stroke later and the paper is in the bin/ drying for scrap and I’m sitting feeling grumpy. So I’ve planned. I’ve done quick sketches, followed by tonal sketches in pencil. Then tonal sketches in watercolour. Then planned out the palette. And taken my time. Planned which colour to use and when.  And had some pretty happy results. A good start and not feeling grumpy.

Doodling

I was in Sheffield this week and found a second hand book shop on Sharrow Vale Road.  I bought three lovely art book bargains, one on drawing for beginners that I thought might have some useful exercises for my upcoming workshops, one on painting outside as, although I sketch outside, I tend to work mainly in my studio, and one on watercolours.

There are some very talented watercolourists out there whose work I love,  spontaneous, unusual and fresh work.   I think because I came late to watercolours it has been, so far, the medium I find the  most challenging.  The work so often ends up muddy, or overworked.   I aim for spontaneity and brightness and am often dissatisfied with the results.

So, when my bargain book, Fresh Watercolours by Ray Campbell Smith suggested doodling as a way to play with the effects of watercolour I decided to experiment.

The learning has been very interesting and I have discovered quite a few things:

I have been adapting (doing as told without evaluating or thinking about my own ideas) to an artist whose workshop I attended quite a while ago who said that round brushes are “the best to use.”  In my other work I mostly use flats, I like the definite marks that result and they are flexible enough to make quite a range of different marks too.  So a change of brush to test this out for while.

Because I work mainly with oils and acrylics I tend to work quite quickly and I think I have a habit of getting lost in the work and not standing back often enough to evaluate what I am doing. This does not work well with watercolour when something I am working on can go from fresh to muddy in a couple of brush strokes.  I need to slow down and pause.

Planning in advance. I do sketch out my ideas before painting and test out colours using thumbnails.  However I have to own that for most of my acrylic and oils I mostly have a broad idea of where I am heading at best and the rest evolves as I am painting.  I think this can be a problem with watercolour as an unplanned colour or brush mark cannot be changed.  So, I need to spend more time planning and working through ideas.  I do find this quite a challenge as often want to get in there and get painting  and it sometimes feels like I might lose the spontaneity by too much planning in advance.  Although maybe that is the challenge – to find a balance between planning and spontaneity.

Finally less is definitely more.  Simpler palettes, simple compositions seem to work most effectively with watercolour.  A doorway rather than a complex street scene, a tree rather than a whole wood etc etc.

To all those dedicated watercolourists out there, what do you think?  What have been your greatest challenges?  I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

Tips, Techniques and How To’s

I’m exhibiting at the Horsforth Walk of Art this year on the 4th and 5th of July.  I like these type of open arts events, they attract a lot of people who like to paint, draw and craft themselves.  I get to meet people who want to find out about the work and who are often interested in trying the techniques for themselves. So, I thought in the run up I’ll do a weekly post where I will share one of the techniques I use, a tip about how to make use of a material, something I find useful in my painting or possibly a resource that I’ve found interesting or inspiring.

Centre outside
Come and see me at The Horsforth Centre, Low Lane.

If you want to be sure to receive each weekly post then make sure you sign up either to my blog, and if you have a technique or tip that you’d like to share then post a comment.

Happy Painting!