Expressive Textile Printing with Dawn Dupree

Last week I was back at West Dean for another module of my Foundation Diploma, I had an absolute ball screen-printing on plant based fabrics (cottons, linen etc), guided by Dawn Dupree. We had a fantastic group and everyone was happy but exhausted by the end of our magical 3 days together. These are some of the pieces I made:

These first few prints were painted onto the screen and then print paste was squeegeed through to transfer the image to the cloth, it opens up lots of opportunity for different mark making and generally produced nice bright colours but is limited in that it is essentially a mono-print technique.

These next two prints were made using the same method but the muslin (cheesecloth) was under the cotton scrim during the printing so that the excess dye was caught by the muslin. This produced a feint print on the muslin that I added to by painting dyes directly onto the cloth.

Cotton scrim

I am planning to felt these 2 pieces to make nuno felt hangings.

Cotton muslin

This little chap from Costa Rica was printed from a line drawing that I transferred to the screen using photo emulsion. I wasn’t happy with the colour intensity of the initial print so again hand painted with the dyes directly onto the cloth, I am planning to add at least one more layer of colour to add some more depth as it still looks a bit flat.

This print also used the spider-monkey screen but also used some direct dyes and paper stencils for the leaf and discharge paste with splashes of yellow pigment for the off-white background.

 

This print was onto some commercially dyed (blue) cotton, the fish were screen printed with discharge paste mixed with some red pigment and the ripples were discharge paste painted on with a paint brush. The white highlights are silver foil.

 

These last 3 pieces used a combination of the techniques, mono-printing, direct dye (printed and painted directly onto the cloth), discharge paste and pigments suspended in binder. I even  managed to use the gecko and hibiscus stencils I made in Ruth Lane’s screen-printing on felt class. Click here for more information on that class.

 

 

Now the million dollar question… what to do with all these new pieces of fabric?

Adventurous Drawing and Colour with Mark Cazalet

I feel blessed to have spent the bank holiday weekend drawing in the beautiful landscapes around West Dean in  glorious sunshine. Mark Cazalet was an excellent tutor, I signed up for this course hoping to come away using colour in a more considered way and he did not disappoint. He set us a number of exercises over the 3 days including using cool colours on warm grounds (papers) and vice versa, exploring the effects of black versus cream grounds and seeing the colours around us in a much less literal way.

The first drawing was made in the gardens, Mark suggested I redraw it from my original drawing without looking at the source.

 

It is interesting how the colours are so much more vibrant…

 

This one was a 10 minute sketch, playing with different colours to give and impression of depth, light and shade:

 

This drawing was exploring the combination of warm and cool colours together on a neutral ground:

 

I had 10 minutes before we were expected to pack up and return to the studio so I did this one just for fun:

We were asked to create some sketches of abstract forms  from what we saw in the gardens, from those I repeated the same design several times on different coloured grounds, it is curious how the colour of the paper has such a an impact on the feel and tone of the drawing.

 

 

These last two drawings are my least favourite but it was an interesting exercise, the first was warm colours on a cool ground:

And cool colours on a warm ground:

 

Now it is back to work for me! Enrolment for the new online felted bag class closes on the 22nd and the class starts in earnest on the 25th, I am still doing the final edits on the tutorials while trying to prepare for the Surrey Open Studios event beginning on June 2nd it is going to be a busy few weeks but both are projects I am really excited to be taking part in, if you would like to join in the fun please follow these links:

Felted bags online class: link

Surrey Open Studios: link

 

Landmarks with Cas Holmes

Last weekend I attended the third module of my Diploma course at West Dean, this was by far the workshop where I felt most in my element and even got to use up some of my extensive scrap felt and fabrics collection. Win-win! 🙂

Cas Holmes is an amazing tutor, her years of teaching experience were clearly evident in how she catered to each individual student’s interests and level of experience. In just 3 days she had the measure of each of us and was supporting us individually. If you get the opportunity to work with her I would definitely take it, and go along with an open mind, she has a lot to offer and is very generous with her advice.

The weekend was spent creating stamped and painted fabrics before assembling them into a collage with no predefined idea of what they would look like when finished. Working on a composition without an end in mind was really liberating and, for me, a totally different way of working, although I did have a moment of panic when I looked at this piece and had no idea where to take it.

This is where it is currently. The other students tell me it is their favourite but I still feel it needs more work.

For the next piece Cas let us select a piece of fabric / paper from a pile in the middle of the room (I pounced on the sheet music) and then she gave each of us another piece that she thought we would find challenging (mine was the dark grey paper  arranged in vertical strips in the bottom half of the composition). I think Cas has me pegged a bright colour enthusiast – can’t imagine where she got that idea from 🙂

This is what it looked like after the initial arrangement.

And after some machine embroidery and couching on some more felt scraps:

What do you think, should I add the orange triangle on the left? Or something else? Perhaps some machine embroidery to the right of the orange triangle?

I liked this piece right from the start,

but I’m not sure about the flower at the bottom – should I stitch over it to make it looks less like a flower?

I also made a piece using Cas’ technique but with a predefined image in my mind. I have been working on a new body of work focussing on animals (more on that in another post) and thought these fish would translate well. These images are from my sketchbook, I was thinking of creating screen prints from them but I have already wandered back to felt and textiles 🙂

This is the piece I made at West Dean, I had intended to remove the tissue paper entirely but rather liked the textured surface and how it resembles splashing water.

However, the paper is very delicate and not very practical so I have started a similar piece using heavy weight silk instead, this is the back, getting ready to start stitching.

Drawing with 5 (6) Tutors

The end of November saw the second module of my FDAD course at West Dean College, this time it was drawing with 5 tutors but being a sucker for punishment I also tagged a FDAD drawing day onto the start. The drawing days are all about exploring creativity and generally seem to involve a large still life and a series of exercises. Our still life was a set of 5 manikins covered in printed and torn /crumpled pieces of paper.

I tried drawing the manikins, really I did! 🙂 But kept being drawn back to a couple of pieces of crumpled up paper with a black and white stripey print. I most liked the collage pieces I made from looking at those:

 

I think some of these have potential for interpretation in felt, I was sorting through my bag of felted off-cuts today and thinking some could be used for this…

Drawing with a different tutor each day turned out to be quite challenging, largely because they all disagreed on the best approach. It felt like we were continually unlearning what we had discovered the previous day! That said, it was great to be exposed to so many differing points of view 🙂

Day 1 of the course was Accuracy and Observation with Andrew Fitchet. Andrew provided some useful techniques for planning out where each element will sit on the page and maintaining scale and proportion but I confess I found his delicate, controlled approach quite hard work, I was quite relieved when we were encouraged to use charcoal instead of pencil:

experimenting with different blending / shading techniques

In the afternoon we decamped to the house to look at perspective (I think Andrew may have wandered into Maxine’s territory here) and then back to the studio for another still life:

 

Day 2 was spent with John T Freeman, for life drawing. While I gathered useful information and tips from all the tutors, I think this was the session that I have used most so far. John taught us his approach to figure drawing, to him drawing should be like writing and his method for drawing figures has really loosened up my approach to life drawing and made it possible to sketch figures very quickly or from imagination, something I really struggled with before.

Initially he had us sketching sportsmen in unusual poses from the sports section of a newspaper:

Then we had a life model to draw from:

Since the day with John I have been sketching dancing figures from imagination:

Day 3 was led by Maxine Relton, she taught scale and perspective, there was quite a lot of theory and not so much drawing on this day:

Day 4 was spent with Veronique Maria, “drawing with the senses” this was a somewhat New-Age blend of mindfulness, drawing and sculpting with your eyes closed,  and drawing to music. While I enjoy drawing to music I’m not sure drawing blindfolded was all that helpful, I’m sure a toddler with a pack of crayons could produce something more interesting to look at. They were such a dreadful mess I’m not going to post them here.

This piece was drawn to music in near darkness and was inspired by a glimpse into a box of squash just before we started:

This is one of the squash I drew for fun in between taught sessions:

This next piece involved drawing an object you could not see but only feel (it was hidden in a bag that you put your hand into), this was interesting and I enjoyed it. The object turned out to be a shell and here it is drawn “blind” from several different angles:

Day 5 was with Freya Pocklington, drawing from imagination, this was the shortest of the days but we packed a lot in, covering some approaches to surrealism and charcoal reduction. One of the first exercises she gave us was to create a drawing in less than 10 min that encompasses the words; storm, room, jealous and dancer. Looking at this now I realise “room” could have been interpreted as space to move.

Charcoal reduction, drawn from a stuffed head in the main house:

Finally, applying some principles of surrealism to objects found in the house:

Scale: Cats teeth witnessed through and open door / Texture: fur on an eyeball

Parts: Piano keys replaced with cat paws / Place: diving bell on a can-can dancer

All in all, a very good but thoroughly exhausting week. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to expand their drawing skills and the good news is you don’t need to be a FDAD student to attend the West Dean short courses.

I probably will not be able to post next week but hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and find some time to be creative in between tending to your families’ needs.

One Small Step…

While I might not be flying to the moon or changing the World, on Friday I took another step towards my dream of achieving a Bachelor of Arts degree. I have been accepted onto the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (FDAD) at West Dean College starting in September 🙂

Putting the portfolio together was quite a challenge for me, partly because my non-felt pieces are few and far between, making it difficult to select pieces that I thought were either good enough or had a story to tell, and then there were the decisions about order and layout…

While there are plenty of sites offering an opinion on how to create a portfolio for interview there aren’t many examples of actual portfolios so I thought I would share mine in case it is useful to other wanna-be students, not that my portfolio is a beacon to be followed but it was good enough to gain entry to a foundation diploma.

Drawing with non-dominant hand
Drawing with both hands

The most useful piece of advice I was given prior to my interview was to only include pieces in your portfolio that you feel comfortable talking about, i.e. why did you include it?