zig zag

Jean and Carys – the complete sketchbook 2016

Here’s our sketchbook in its entirety!

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Amanda and Jean August 

This month the monster came – our sketch book is getting out of hand, spilling out from the expanded envelope! Amanda had tied it up to hold it together and I’ve mainly kept the pages on the same order, inserting some extras here and there where they seem to fit.


It’s different to all the other sketchbooks I’ve worked in so far in that there’s only traces of a chronological order left, perhaps in our own photographs and blog posts. As I leaf through I come across pages that seem new, but I’m never sure whether they are new or I’m just noticing them this time as I’m seeing in a different way to last time I looked. I’ve found it hard to make any worthwhile prints this summer, making me feel that I’ve wasted my most important creating time. Daily drawing has continued since it’s such an established habit and hard to stop after nearly 1500 continuous posts.


This drawing from imagination was created for our sketchbook and posted as daily drawing. Made in the evening after an unproductive day I was surprised to get some positive comments from social media about it that encouraged me. This long thin form a feature of Amanda’s sketchbook that has interested me in itself, quite apart from what is on the pages themselves.


When it came time to put the piece of paper into the sketchbook as a page I found that it needed a ‘back’. I’ve enjoyed seeing and reading about Tilly Mack’s 100 marks drawing and decided I would impose a rule for this drawing. The rule was to pick up a pencil and start at the left and continue without stopping until I got the the right. This began with continuous line and then developed into repeated marks later. In the sketchbook the two pages spill over a little as the concertina is too long for our sketchbook. Here’s a link to Tilly’s blog Tilly Mack


Over the last few weeks I have come across the art of art of Jean McEwan – you can see it here: Jean McEwan

I love the way she is taking postcards and adding collage to change them. This afternoon I decided to have a go – I haven’t achieved anything as sophisticated as hers and in having a go I realise how hard it is to achieve the simplicity of her work.


These early attempts also relate to the pages made by Amanda below. In common  with the images made Jean McEwan these don’t include text and maybe that leaves them more open to the viewer’s interpretation.


As well the pages I’ve made and added some other pages caught my eye but I haven’t time to do anything with them now. I’ve taken a photo to remind me though.


I’ll be sending the monster back tomorrow to see if Amanda can tame it during September! Here it is, temporarily tamed for a journey back to Amanda.

Jean and Carys – sending January 2016

2016-01-27 10.42.23This is my third year of taking part in the sketchbook circle so I thought I might find getting started a bit easier – but no! It took me nearly all of January to decide what sort of sketchbook to use. As I photographed the sketchbook Mary had started with me last year I remembered how much I enjoyed the zig zag format so I decide to try to make one. I began to make a prototype with old envelopes and then realised the windows in the envelopes could be an interesting part of the pages so the prototype transformed into the sketchbook. I was helped enormously by some encouraging 2016-01-27 10.42.38comments in the Facebook group when I was wavering about whether the sketchbook was too unconventional! I did worry that it might be off putting to receive something like this, but as I worked in it I grew to like it and I hope my partner, Carys, does to.

I was very influenced by the blue of the envelope pages as I worked and found lots of blue bits and pieces to use on the pages. Lots of circles too – maybe a nod to the sketchbook 2016-01-27 10.43.13circle itself. As I worked I found that the windows appearing here and there led me to work on both sides of the first part of the zig zag. This was something I explored only a little this month but I feel it has lots of potential in the coming months.

2016-01-27 10.43.46As I worked I also used some Gelliplate monoprinting that I made using book pages (from damaged books, I promise!). These had a bluish colouring too but introduced some red too. This is something I originally encountered through the sketchbook circle too – at the February 2015 workshop. Looking forward to this February’s day on the 20th.

This month I’ve also been both completing last year’s circle by photographing the sketchbooks and writing final blog posts. It’s made me think about the connections between last year 2016-01-27 10.48.01and this new sketchbook and look forward to the new experiences I’ll have this year.

All month snippets and fragments of the sketchbooks that the circlers are working on have been appearing in the Facebook group. Its been so exciting to see all the different approaches and the excitement from everyone as they found their partners and began their sketchbooks.

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June 2015 Receiving and responding

2015-06-28 16.06.27When the sketchbook arrived back from Mary this time it was interesting to see that she had gone back to the two pages I had added to top and bottom and added on to the other side of each. As you can see from the featured image our sketchbook is quite a three dimensional object as it is a zig zag – so any flap pages can be seen on each side.

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Mary had also added a detailed landscape with such a great sense of space and looking down from a high place. This reminds me of some of the drawings made by Urban Sketchers artists but this one had surreal elements of large plants beginning to invade the city. In my response on the next page I continued this theme but my page shows what happens when nature continued unchecked and took over the city! This was an addition to a page Mary had begun.

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On this page Mary had added the fine detailed flowers coming down from the top and I added the rest of the foliage. Some of these patterns and shapes were taken from Egyptian wall paintings. In the distance you might be able to see the last remnants of the city visible behind the leaves.

2015-07-02 19.28.24On the next page Mary had transformed the last accidental pink blotch into a flamingo.

I forgot to take a photo of this page before I worked on it – when I got it just the flamingo on the right and the pink and orange drawing on the left was visible.

I added the green jungle background and the large orange flower. These are made from mono printing using a Gelli plate. I first encountered this at the sketchbook circle 2014 exhibition and workshop. I’ve added drawing with gold and black pens.

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The last panel was completed with one of these postcard sized mono prints. This panel represents exactly half way through for the year, six months gone and six months to go, and exactly half way through the pages o2015-07-02 19.29.06f the sketchbook – now its time to work onto the back of all the pages.

The zig zag sketchbook is such a different format to work on – when I stood it up to take the photo I understood more fully how it had different possibilities as we can think of it as standing in space and being looked at almost like a sculpture or mini environment. It will be interesting to see what Mary does with it next…

February 2015 recieving and responding

2015-02-24 16.48.12At the end of January a little parcel arrived.

This time round Mary started off a sketchbook to send to me whereas last time I started a sketchbook for her. Mary had chosen a small Moleskine with zig zag pages inside. Its so small that it will fit through my unbelievably small letterbox in future exchanges!

Mary had used each panel to make an image but there’s also a sense of continuity from panel to panel.

2015-02-24 16.44.592015-02-24 16.45.03The challenge for me would be to maintain this continuity somehow – I had just seen that some artist teachers had achieved this last year. The last page that Mary had made reminded me of water – bubbles running up and down the page in watery colours. I opened the zigzag pages so I could see and work on the next four panels.

2015-02-24 16.46.53Taking inspiration from Mary’s panel I first of all used wax crayons to create some areas of resist and then used waterproof drawing inks to create watery leading to grassy effects across the panels. Whilst the washes dried I drew onto the damp pages with a dip pen and ink – some of these drawn marks spread out and some did not as the pages dried whilst I drew. I was able to work with accidental spreading of ink as well as deliberate drawn marks, going to back to overlap onto Mary’s last page.

I also picked up on Mary’s image of a grasshopper and found some images of fish and other insects in a damaged book that I had recently been given to use in collage and printmaking. Although I was looking for images I also came across some interesting sentences and added some of these to the pages as well:

2015-02-24 16.46.25‘Though very shy, they are said to be extremely sportive, darting with the utmost ease up the most rapid current.’

‘The darkness of the night increased the scaly brilliancy which the phosphoric properties of these beautiful fish produce.’

‘The Herring (C. harengus) is of great and even national importance.’

The pictures were taken from an old natural history book, but the descriptions are sometimes quite poetic.

2015-02-24 16.46.39Its too early to say what Mary and I are creating in this book – whether it is a continuous series of images or something else. One of the interesting things about the sketchbook circle swapping is that we can’t predict what another artists will make of our art.

2015-02-24 16.45.41 Last year I was quite hesitant about working onto the art of another artist – often clipping things in, photocopying and working onto the copy or going back and using empty pages. This year I worked back into Mary’s last page and I tried to leave some potential for continuity, spilling one of my images partially out onto the next page for Mary to use if she wants to.

2015-02-24 16.47.56As you can see, there are plenty of pages left for us to work on for the rest of this year…