Jean and Carys July 2016

This month Carys had created some lovely pages which could be read as mark making, or abstraction but also as landscape. I seem to see elements of landscape everywhere at the moment!

This led me to create a collage based abstract landscape using various tools and materials I had to hand. These are very much in a strand of ongoing collages that I’m making at the moment.

In the same way that aspects of landscape can be glimpsed in Carys’s latest pages these pages use landscape features with mixed up view points, moving from aerial view to distance and back in the same page space.

This was the only contribution I made to the sketchbook this month as I’m away in the last week of July and I wanted to do something and post it on time.


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…

March 2015 receiving and responding

2015-03-29 15.14.33In March the sketchbook I had started came back to me from Linda. Linda had made some rubbings as part of her next few pages, as well as drawing and folding the pages to alter them.

I liked her continuation of my drawing of ‘Stack’ – I seem to have become distracted from how interested I was in the layers and relationships between objects so it was good to be reminded.

2015-03-29 15.14.49Linda had also made an intricate page of small colourful marks and lines – I really want to get some find brightly coloured pens and have a go at this, it almost looks like very find sewing at first glance.

2015-03-29 15.15.02Linda had also added collage to some pages and I especially liked the blue layered collage made with printmaking, and then drawn through on  a page made from tracing paper.

2015-03-29 15.15.15The facing page to the tracing paper was made from brown paper and had become wrinkled and soft – I’m not sure if it was already like this or if Linda made it this way. I was struck by how it now seemed so more flexible and decided to take advantage of this by weaving with it. I’ve recently been given some old books and one is a book of music – the colour and texture of this paper seemed to fit with the brown paper.

2015-03-29 15.15.34Over the last few months I have been very taken with an old childhood toy – Spirograph. I tried it out with black and brown pens to continue the subdued colours of the previous page. Wanting to continue the changing of pages that Linda had begun I also cut out and around the shapes. This is something I’d like to continue with – I can’t quite believe that I had had the fine motor skills to use this as a child and I’m not very keen on the pin holes left when the rings have been. I just read last night that on the latest Spirographs blutac is now used so I must try that.

2015-03-29 15.32.12I also tried some textures and drawing to return to Linda’s earlier pages.

Overall I’m enjoying the various ideas for markmaking, collage and texture that the exchange has developed so far. It gives me a chance to work in a completely different way and often leads me to use some of these approaches in my art. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes back to me in May.


Sketchbook Circle 14 exhibition at the Gerald Moore Gallery

On Saturday February 21st the exhibition and workshop for the Sketchbook Circle 14 took place at the Gerald Moore Gallery. It was a creative day of exploring new techniques and materials, reflecting upon the importance of art and meeting friends usually only encountered in the digital in real life.

In the morning I had a go at using a Gelli Plate to print with. I’ve seen this online many times and wondered what it was like – its a monoprinting surface that is smooth and somewhat like gelatin. It says on the website that its a ‘hypoallergenic polymer material’. Ever since I’ve been looking out for common materials with a similar texture but today I couldn’t help myself – I ordered one. At the workshop Georgia and Louise demonstrated some approaches to try and I’m looking forward to continuing with these on a plate all of my own.

2015-02-21 12.00.02I also had a go at something I’ve never heard of before shared with us by Elle – we used cotton as a painting surface. We painted diluted milk powder onto this and then used chalk pastels to draw with. Using them on the damp surface allowed for spreading and blending in a completely different and very satisfying way. I can imagine that having worked in this way we could go on working onto this with pen or thread perhaps.

In the middle of the day the exhibition of the sketchbook circle14 sketchbooks took place. It was great to hear from Sue Grayson Ford from the Campaign for Drawing, Lesley Butterworth from NSEAD and BobandRoberta Smith, prospective MP, who opened the exhibition with a wonderful speech. An edited transcript of the speech is here and its well worth a read – in a week where The Warwick Commission reported and the BBC launched Get Creative all our attention is on how to make sure the arts and creativity are part of every child’s (and every adult’s?) life.

It was wonderful to see a selection of the sketchbooks n their own plinths and lots of images from the pages on the walls.

2015-02-21 14.14.30I went to the Sketchbook Circle 13 day last year. At the time I was only just beginning to take part in a sketchbook circle and now, having completed a whole year I feel that I understand the process from the inside so much more fully and this time one of my sketchbooks was a part of the exhibition. The variety of ideas and approaches was interesting to see. Some partners had collaborated so closely that it was impossible to identify where the change of artists happened. Other sketchbooks developed in such unexpected directions over the year. Even though we were all working within the constraint of a smaller than letterbox sized book not two were the same – tiny zig zags, loose leaved notebooks, landscape, portrait, square, pages joined together that developed month by month. The range of techniques was huge and often three dimensional.

2015-02-21 15.43.13In the afternoon we were challenged further by Susan’s Drawing Machine workshop. We worked in groups to design and make groups machines that could make a mark without any human hand holding the pencil or pen. The process was great fun, leading us to improvise, test, refine and co-operate. Somehow I ended up having to be the person in our ‘machine’ – not sure how that happened, but it did and there’s a picture on Twitter…

We get a real sense of teachers everywhere working away in their sketchbooks during the year from the Facebook group but this day, where many of us meet and work together, is such a great feature of the sketchbook circle experience. Its also a chance to look back at one complete revolution of the circle and say thanks to our artist teacher partners and the group of people who have put so much time into organising the circle and the day. I can see its continuing impact from the posts this week – how many of us have succumbed to the urge to buy a Gelli plate?

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!

A new sketchbook circle for 2015

2015-01-17 12.43.35After enjoying and learning so much when I took part in #sketchbookcircle14 with Mary and Karen I was pleased to be able to sign up for #sketchbookcircle15.

It was great to receive a booklet full of advice and inspiration at the beginning of January to make it ‘official’.

As I began to decide on my sketchbook and first pages another surprise came in the post – an envelope with some interesting resources to use.


2015-01-24 16.42.10I know that these things will be useful and inspirational over the months – I love the pen. Its from Muji and draws with a lovely fine black line.

I can already see glimpses of other people’s sketchbooks popping up on Facebook and twitter. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with me sketchbook circle partners in 2015.


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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Getting my sketch book back for the last time (December)

In December I received the sketchbook I had started back from Mary with her last contributions. She had continued to work with text, collage and maps. She immediately followed by long image of a skyline made form newspaper collage with these pages of collage – the blue of the sea is made from the insides of envelopes that have lots of different blue line patterns.

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2015-01-05 11.40.48I like the combination and placing of the buildings, windows and bridge and I’m still making my mind up about whether this is two separate pictures or one continuous picture.

There’s also a page of Laurent Chehere’s Flying Houses series which is an interesting way to develop buildings in a more fantastical way – it would be great to explore these in three dimensions and write stories or poems to go with them! Maybe that is my primary school teacher side coming out…

2015-01-05 11.40.55Mary had also made this great layered collage page with all different sorts of paper including maps, magazine pictures, printing and drawing. There’s a lot to look at in this page and it provokes all sorts of questions about how it was constructed and how the pieces and layers fit together.

2015-01-05 11.41.40A further page used paper from maps even more.

Over this year I have become so much alert to the possibilities of using found and previously used papers to make art – At Christmas I was lucky enough to find a source of old maps that I hope to use in collage and in printmaking in 2015.

2015-01-05 11.41.14There was also this page of holes.I love the way that Mary has created this little windows into other worlds on this page using nothing more than paper and drawing tools. I’d really like to explore this further.

Mary and I have been exchanging this sketchbook over the year, working in it in response to each other’s art – and as well as this Mary has given birth to a daughter! I’ve so enjoyed the input of new ideas, ways of looking, artists whose work I did not know of, materials and how they are used that I have encountered in this exchange.

This is what our sketchbook looked like by the end! Mary has transformed the outside to reflect some of the themes we explored.

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February (receiving and responding)

At the beginning of February I received a sketchbook from Karen containing nine pages of vibrant and colourful abstracts.

2014-02-18 15.15.32They were made using drawing, paint, wax resist and collage. They vivid colours and small size made such an impact – all the more because my earlier work to send to Mary was in black and white! I liked the use of combinations of familiar techniques and the use of readily available materials. Some of the abstracts had a colour theme making their impact all the more striking – I love the blue / green panels as  this is a favourite colour combination of mine, and I loved the red / orange / yellow  panels – they reminded me of celebrating Diwali when I was teaching in a primary school.

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I began working directly from this panel, using the colour combinations and shapes. I used tissue paper and PVA glue as I am preoccupied with translucent surfaces at the moment. I also used waterproof inks on top of the tissue.

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I was attracted to the shapes in this panel – both the shapes themselves and their placement on top or next to each other. I wanted to use readily available materials and hit upon today’s newspaper. As I worked on this one I began to wonder how Karen made her art – did she collect the shapes and then place and replace them until she came to an arrangement she liked? Or did she work more randomly placing a shape then placing another in response until complete.

photo (2)Next I returned to my exploration of layers and translucent surfaces and black on white trying out abstract shapes and lines. I used black ink, black pens on tissue paper, and tracing paper. I worked on each page several times creating layers, overlaps and holes.

Some of this related to #linefebruary, a twitter art project I was taking part in where artists posted a daily piece of art using or exploring line.


I also explored shapes and their placement using textures rather than colour – using various wall papers and sand paper but keeping similar shapes. I then took a wax crayon rubbing of the texture pattern. Not quite as successful as I’d like as I couldn’t find a chunky crayon and the tissue paper was rather thin. I’d like to take this into collagraph printing next perhaps.

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My favourite page this month (above) came from a combination of several ideas and experiences. I had a large sheet with lines and marks painted onto it left over from last month’s layering activity. I had seen a lampshade somewhere with lots of small overlapping petals. I was taking part in #linefebruary and wanted to use lines I had already created rather than draw using lines. And finally I was thinking about abstract images because of seeing Karen’s art in the sketchbook. So one afternoon all of those ideas, materials, experiences and ambitions came together in the page above which is A5 in size and uses small squares of tissue glued along the top edges.

AT the end of the month I packaged up the sketchbook to send back to Karen and looked forward to receiving mine back from Mary in March.