January 2015 sending…

When a sketchbook circle starts one of the big decisions to make is what shall the sketchbook be like? The only constraint is that it should fit through a letterbox so that the circle can work by post. I could see some of the choices being made during January and as I looked through my box of sketchbooks that I could use none seemed quite right. Eventually I decided on a portrait 8 x 4 inch sketchbook but I had left it too late to order one from Pink Pig. Then I remembered the workshop I had been on when the #sketchbookcircle14 began – techniques for making your own book!

2015-01-24 16.08.11So last weekend I made my own hardback sketchbook with sewn in pages. I went a bit wild with the pages as I realised they could be made from any paper and be non-standard sizes, so that might affect the way Linda, my sketchbook partner, and I work in the sketchbook over the year.

2015-01-24 16.11.09The cover is made from an old map. Its only since I took part in the sketchbook circle that I’ve realised the potential of using different sorts of paper and at Christmas I came across a bag of old maps amongst some bric a brac for sale.

At the same time I was thinking about what I would put into the sketchbook. At the beginning of January I had been to Tate Britain to see the Late Turner exhibition. I had time to wander round Tate Britain and I came across Tony Cragg’s sculpture ‘Stack’ from 1975. Its so huge and the more I looked at the more I found to see. I settled down on the floor of the gallery and drew one side of it.

2015-01-25 11.41.01As I drew it, drawn by the shapes and natural colours I realised that it was very hard to do it justice with just the black pen I had with me. There were some splashes of bright colour amongst the browns, greys and blacks. There were so many textures as well – trying to show fabric, brick, wood and plaster. Drawing made me look so much more carefully, as usual. I only had time to draw one side of the 2015-01-25 11.40.31cube. I photographed the other sides – but one side is too close to the wall to get far enough back. I’ve tried to recreate the cube in my sketchbook using the photos. I’ve also found someone who videoed the sculpture which is a great reminder – you can see this below. I plan to go back and draw the other three sides over the next few months (or years).

Later at home I began to think about exploring my drawing and the memory of the sculpture more and I made a representation using collage.

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As i made this I found that I should have approached it in a different way – from the inside out. If I was doing this again (and I might) I would make a ‘behind’ layer to work on top of, which would get rid of much of the whiteness. I might make this using wax resist and ink and then work on top with collage. As I write about it the more I want to do it! I’d also like to recreate it as a collagraph plate and print it.

Here’s a link to Tony Cragg’s websitewhere you can see more of his work and here’s a Pinterest board I have begun to make.

I deliberately waited until my sketchbook circle partner had received the sketchbook before writing this post – so that I did not spoil the surprise. I’m looking forward to receiving Mary’s sketchbook and responding to her art!


Final pages of my sketchbook with Karen, December 2014

When Karen sent me the sketchbook she had started for the last time she had continued to develop her theme of abstract colour collages

2015-01-05 11.50.172015-01-05 11.50.24I love these explorations of shape and colour and they’ve a real impact on the printmaking that I do.

2015-01-05 11.50.322015-01-05 11.50.39I especially like the way the shapes and colours are layered and overlapped. Each image has a name which reminds me of printmaking – when I had to choose a name forr my first abstract print this summer I found this a real challenge and for many weeks the name was red and yellow blobs, until, eventually I had to come up with something more appropriate – which turned out to be ‘red and yellow, yellow and red’ – still too literal perhaps!

2015 - 1I had continued to work on some of the ideas that I had begun to develop from Karen’s last pages. I had photocopied and cut up some of her printing to use to inspire drawing and over the next few weeks I made some these the basis of my daily drawings. I used a cut or torn patch of the photocopy placed in the middle of page to work out from using Tombow pens in various greys and a black fineline pen. As I worked markmaking became an aspect of the drawing, as did an almost aerial view of an imaginary landscape.

2015-01-06 15.48.22Later in the sequence of drawings I manipulated one in the app ‘Fragment’ and drew from this pushing the markmaking further and leaving any sense of a representative image behind.

At the same time I made a collagraph plate using textured wallpapers, cutting with a craft knife and painting with PVA glue based on the drawings. I printed this in one colour and in several colours to experiment with the print. I also printed several times without re-inking, resulting in some paler versions. When I received the the sketchbook back from Karen for the last time I added a coloured and single colour version of the print to the sketchbook.

You can see below that the coloured version looks very much like a landscape from above.

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I also used some more pieces of Karen’s prints to spark off another abstract drawing across the two pages. I had intended to add the six drawings above (or copies of them) but forgot before I returned the sketchbook – but they can be seen here. I also had a go using the vibrant colours Karen often uses to make a collage and draw into it – for some reason this became very pink and lost the brilliance and contrast of the primary and secondary colours that Karen tends to choose.

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Working with Karen in this sketchbook has had a lasting impact on the way I work as a printmaker and in my drawing every day series. I had often wanted to work in a more abstract way but hadn’t ever quite managed to find a way into this. This year I have extended the way I use collage, drawing and printing by responding to Karen’s art – I;m really very grateful to her for helping me do this.

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September (receiving and returning)

2014-10-04 12.49.59There was a lull over the summer and then in September I received Karen’s sketchbook. Over the summer she had completed some more reduction lino cuts- I love the way she uses such bright and vibrant colours and the way the shapes are placed – in these there is more of a sense of overlapping and looking through shapes to other shapes.

2014-10-04 12.49.17There were also some pages where Karen experimented with making collagraphs from various materials such as bubble wrap, card and fabric. I think these were relief printed (applying ink to the surface of the plate with a roller then printing) in black and some colours. Although I have often explored relief printing with children, in my own printmaking I usually print intaglio (rubbing ink into the recesses of the plate, polishing off, 2014-10-04 12.49.17then printing). The sections of black printing onto white were striking and made me think of aerial views looking down onto the landscape. It looks like Karen made larger sheets of printing then cut them up and that is something I have been doing lately with collagraphs with flaws – cutting them into smaller sections and making them into cards. Sometimes this reveals something different about the image and often makes it more abstract.

2014-10-04 12.49.09Karen had also printed some of these collagraphs in coloured inks which gives them a different feel altogether.

When I received the sketchbook this time I was keen to respond immediately and quickly so I could return the sketchbook for October and get the exchange back into its sequence. After taking with other artists and teachers who are part of the circle I had realised that some partnerships were working onto each others’ work – a big step to take I felt, so I photocopied Karen’s printed pages so I could add and develop then without losing her original work. This led me to two responses.Firstly I made some relief printing tiles of my own using 2014-10-04 12.48.51textured wallpaper, string and card. Here they are before I printed with them. A friend of mine made the wonderful suggestion that to make a string printing tile if you use double-sided sticky tape its easier to attach the string in the shapes and patterns you want. Having 2014-10-04 15.08.52made the tiles, I printed each of them on white to see what they looked like. Its always hard to predict the effect the ink and printing process 2014-10-04 15.10.01will have on the tile. After this I started printing onto the photocopies of Karen’s prints – the coloured ones. I also collaged the black prints together to make a larger piece of paper to print onto. Just fitting the copies of the prints together was an enjoyable process and it led to an irregularly shaped piece to use. In the future I might copy again and add colour washes. This also reminded me of an exercise I did at a drawing workshop led by another member of the sketchbook circle (Minnie Teckman) 2014-10-04 14.46.29where she got us to make lots of rubbings, rip and cut them up and stick them down and then draw the result to explore making marks.

I also rolled some spare printing ink onto white paper and printed onto this as well. often when I’m printing ideas about how to develop the prints come as I work – its important to remember this when setting up printing with children. They need to be taught and to refine the 2014-10-04 14.27.39technical aspects, but they also need time to explore freely. Experimenting with how the surface they are printing onto affects what they are printing with is a part of this.

2014-10-04 16.33.55When I cleared up after printing I found some accidental prints from when I had cleaned roller between colours. The roller had retained some of the patterns from my tiles and then these were printed onto the paper. Printmaking can be chain of discovery from beginning to end!

In the evening I took one of the spare pieces of photocopied print and expanded with drawing as one of my daily drawings. You can see it here Jean’s drawing a day

I’ve worked quite intensively over a concentrated period of time this time as I’m aiming to send the sketchbook back today – but in writing it up I’ve found that its led to a lot of different ideas – I hope Karen can make something of them!

June (receiving and sending)

At the beginning of June I received the sketchbook back from Karen – she had continued with her vibrantly coloured lino cuts.

2014-06-28 17.39.48As sometimes happens the ink had taken an impossibly long time to dry so she had protected each print with tracing paper. The contrast of looking through the tracing paper which muted the colours and then peeling it up to reveal the bright colours below magnified the impact of the prints.

2014-06-28 17.40.44 This one is presented going across both pages – perhaps we’re both beginning to think about the constrictions of the size of the sketchbook now, after a few months of working in it!

I love the blue, turquoise and green colours of this print – my favourite group of colours.


Having seen Karen’s work I also had continued working on my abstract collagraph prints in yellow, brown and red.

2014-06-28 17.41.06As well as printing them in different colours, positions and overlaps, this time I began to experiment with using ‘chine colle’. This is a process where you add some paper between the printing paper and the plate and then the image prints onto the inserted paper as well as the printing paper – its a good way of experimenting with colour, text and collage materials in printmaking.

2013-03-26 18.52.05Here I’ve just used coloured tissue blobs. In the past I’ve used chine colle to create background colours as here with the elephants.


2014-06-28 17.41.33This month I also began drawing onto the prints when they were dry.

As I tidied away after printing I cam across the tissue paper I had used to protect the blankets on the press. There were various random prints on these and I have collaged them using PVA glue to make a translucent sheet. It reminds me of some earlier work in the other sketchbook!

2014-06-21 16.45.28This month I used some of the these red and yellow abstract prints to make cards for sale at a craft fair – they are completely different to my usual art but I came home without them, as every one sold. I’ve recently had this version framed and it will be in a group exhibition that I’m part of from Wednesday 2nd July.

Its great that this participation in the sketchbook circle is having such an impact on my art and sending me in new¬† and unexpected directions – I’m looking forward to receiving the other sketchbook from Mary soon.







April (receiving and sending)

In April Karen sent me her sketchbook – she had continued to develop the small abstracts using brightly coloured paper. I liked the way these have titles and that’s something I’ve begun to think more about especially since I’ve been experimenting with more abstract work.

Processed with MoldivDuring April the NN Contemporary Gallery, here in Northampton, had an exhibition called Pip and Pop, an installation on the floors of the gallery using fine sand, sugar, origami, plastic figures, glitter, lights and found objects put together to make fantasy worlds. The gallery has windows that open to the street and walking past the injection of light and colour that the exhibition provided on a dull day was immense. Visiting the exhibition reinforced for me (along with seeing Karen’s work) the possibility of using more colour in the art I make.

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When I got home from seeing the exhibition I immediately made a tissue collage to help me remember what I had seen.

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As well the collages, Karen had also developed her work with shape and colour into two reduction lino cuts. She had mentioned this possibility in February and I had begun to think about trying out shapes and colours in my own practice, which is making collagraph prints. Usually my prints are representational and it was liberating to try something different.

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The use of different sized shapes and the positioning  of shapes on top each other was something I wanted to try with collagraphs. I made a few separate shapes from mountboard; cutting it into a knife, painting on PVA and sticking textured wallpaper onto the plates. I also cut holes in some of them. I used a reddish brown, red and yellow to print the tiles Рfirstly with no overlapping to get a sense of what each looked like when printed.

2014-05-09 11.40.41In the next few experiments I printed two or three shapes onto paper, took those off, replaced them with two or three more and reprinted to create random overlapping.

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I am appreciating the way the exchange of ideas and visual material in the sketchbook circle is having an influence on my own art – I have built on these several plate two print collagraphs by making a series of two plate collagraphs using the sky and winter trees.

I look forward to receiving the next boost of ideas from Mary soon – she gave a tantalising preview on Facebook yesterday!