Helen and Jean October 2017

This month when I received the sketchbook Helen had made some great Gelli plate prints!

She had add some line drawing to this one which I continued.

The natural detail and colour on these prints is lovely. I’d like to try this myself soon. My additions were also based around Gelli plate printmaking, onto tissue dress patterns and maps. I like the way the text on dressmaking patterns can be part of the image. Printing onto tissue also allows for drawing onto and onto the print using the quality of the paper.

I’ve been experimenting with small (A6) monoprints onto maps lately and above is a trial of a larger version for this sketchbook. I’ve been mainly blocking out using cut and turn shapes, looking for parts of the map to allow to show through, and later in the process, looking for parts of the print to show through. Drawing onto the prints often then turns them into a more pictorial form.

On the final page I included some map cutting. Initially I was going to use this to print throughout seeing it on the black paper page I was struck by the colour and detail of the map against the dark of the page.



Helen and Jean August 2017


When I received the sketchbook from Helen I had good intentions about what I would add. There’s some much to respond to in the pages – the detail and pattern in the drawing, the pale and interesting collage and the natural forms.

IMG_6994IMG_6995IMG_6996As usual I am both satisfied and dissatisfied with my pages. The one I like least is the yellow, green and blue page with collage lines running down it. The facing page is the one I like best – made from leaf prints onto a Gelli plate onto a piece of map and then drawn onto. i’m a bit obsessed with colours and patterns of some maps I was recently given after a clear out at work. I haven’t quite settled on how to use them yet.

Helen had been using her linocuts in the pages of recent months and at the last minute I remembered to add a recent collagraph experiment. This coming academic year I want to reignite my interest in collagraph printmaking by learning new techniques and experimenting with different ways of marking the plate. In this one I printed with PVA and bubble wrap (white spots) and added carborundum to another PVA print (draw circles).

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.

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.


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!

March (receiving and sending)

In March I received the sketchbook I had started back from Mary. It was great to see what she had made of my pages – since it was the first time I had passed on a sketchbook I was conscious of doing enough and doing something that someone else could respond to!

20140405-182906.jpgMary had picked up on the lettering and typography of the Mira Schendel art I had been looking at, using letters from newspapers, printing with letters and combining them.

I really liked the way Mary had included some windows from window envelopes – I had never realised what fantastic view finders these could make. I’ve been saving envelopes with windows in ever since!


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Mary had also used and included some lettering and typography on different surfaces and I loved the way they overlapped and became marks and patterns – it sent me to garage to look for letter stamps that I had used with my class when I was a primary teacher. After some rooting through boxes I found my set of sponge letters and a stamp pad.

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For some reason I used the lower case ‘z’ and began experimenting with printing it onto tissue. photocopying the print, drawing round the letter and decorating the inside and outside of it.

I also started looking at the spaces around the letter but drawing them and cutting them out.

And inevitably I overlapped the layers I had created as well as placing them over Mary’s layers.

Processed with MoldivAlthough these panels are around 10 cm x 10cm I like the way they can be made to seem bigger when photographed, and I’d love to have a go at something like this on a much larger scale and hung up as I saw in Tate Modern – maybe in the holidays.

The other idea of Mary’s I picked up was using letters cut from newspapers. I took the local newspaper and began cutting, homing in on letters with straight lines and also looking for colour. After I’d made one collage I photocopied it and extended the page. Using Mary’s view finder I homed in on combinations of letters looking at the patterns they made.

Processed with MoldivThe more I explored these letter combinations, the more they become like patterns – their orientation no longer matters.

In late March I also began to take part in more TEA MailArt#7 project. The first envelope I received had my name and address in letters and words cut from newspapers and additional lettering here and there too!

All the time I was working in this sketchbook I was thinking about what Karen made of the one I had sent back to her. I’ve just received it and I’ve been waiting til the weekend to open it, so I have time to really look at it.

January (sending)

January was the first month of the sketchbook circle. The first challenge was to choose the right sketchbook – the only constraint was that it must fit through a letterbox. The next, and more challenging, was to have an idea and make some art to go in the sketchbook – something interesting to another artist!

On a visit to Tate Modern I found the perfect sketchbook – landscape, A5, spiral bound and containing what seemed to be the right amount and right quality of paper.

Picture1On that visit to Tate Modern I accidentally visited the Mira Schendel exhibition – getting the ticket along with one for the Paul Klee exhibition I had gone to see. As soon as I set foot in the gallery and saw Mira Schendel’s work I knew it would be this that I used as inspiration for the art in the sketchbook. I did some drawing on in the galleries and continued when I got home.

Mira Schendel (1918 – 1988) was born in Zurich, but lived and worked in Latin America. There’s more information about her life on a time line here Tate Modern Mira Schendel timeline


imagesI was struck by her use of marks, text and numbers as part of her work. I liked the way she drew onto different surfaces, many of which were transparent or translucent, and then hung the drawings in sets encouraging the viewer to look from both sides. The way the light shone through was significant, as was the way the panels overlapped.

Another set of drawings I liked very much were a set of seventeen tall, thin panels displayed along one wall showing a landscape that continued from one piece to the next. She made this set in 1978 using tempera on paper.

Mira-Schendel-Untitled-N_D-Oil-Stick-on-Paper-7.5-x-5.5...-309x415The other set of work that caught my eye was a wall of small abstract drawings, each using shape and colour. There were four sets of four – sixteen different drawings. She made these as designs for greeting cards in the 1960s using oil stick and gouache on paper. The sets were unified by size, shape and orientation as well as colour. The positions of various coloured shapes and outlines in one or two colours on a plain coloured background made the entire wall very striking – I like sets of images displayed together.

I drew extensively and took notes in my sketchpad. Some of the drawings can be seen in Drawing a Day blog post for 11th January 2014.

2014-01-12 15.36.09During the next few weeks I experimented with mark making on transparent and translucent surfaces and overlapping these. I made some small panels of cellophane, tissue paper, was paper and tracing paper and use black pen and black ink.

These are the separate panels I made.

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I then overlapped the panels in different combinations and photographed against natural light and a lamp, exploring the differences moving the layers around made.

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Although the panels are small – about 10 x 10 cm I liked the effects I could create by changing their position and the kind of light used to shine through.



Later  I made  marks and lines to ones more reminiscent of trees and leaves onto a zig zag of different surfaces.

2014-01-18 12.06.11I folded this and photographed to explore the views through the trucks, branches and foliage – this is something I have long sought to explore through drawing and printmaking.

Picture9All of these panels and experiments were stuck into the sketchbook, with notes and links to a Pinterest board of images of Mira Schendel’s work.

At the end of January I used this experience along with others to give a presentation at the Wellingborough #TeachMeet exploring how social media could support drawing in schools. I later wrote this up as a post on the The Big Draw blog.

I also sent my sketchbook to Mary and waited to receive a sketchbook from Karen.



In February I used the idea of overlapping surfaces with some colleagues at a Northampton Inspire network meeting for teachers. We made surfaces and photographed them but went a step further by manipulating the images digitally using various apps. More about it here on the Northampton Inspire site.