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.
I 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.
I 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.
In 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?