In 1790 Xavier de Maistre took a journey around his bedroom, during which he locked his door, put on some pyjamas and examined his room in detail. Last week, without the pyjamas, I traveled to a house in a nearby suburb where, along with 11 other people, I undertook a big journey into a range of ideas about making art. We made our journey through reading and discussion and we even made some art!
One of the most interesting aspects of the week was the shared library. Everyone attending was asked to bring several books that were favourites. We ended up with two bookcases just about full. Those who couldn’t bring books from their own library borrowed books from the local public and university libraries. This allowed us to be inspired by a range of artists and writers who we may not have encountered before. Ruth Hadlow, the workshop convenor also suggested ways in which we could use these books for inspiration, and to help develop new ideas to use in our work.
One artist whose book of sketches is one I’ll be tracking down to add to my library is Kevin Connor. Connor says “when you are up against a brick wall or in doubt, draw!” – he also suggests that the best place to draw from is with your back to a wall, preferably in a friendly coffee shop or bar, so no one can look over your shoulder! Inspired by the intense lines in Connor’s drawings I took up my own pen to make this quick sketch of my coffee mug.
I used a small piece of Japanese writing paper, which I’d already used to blot some other pieces of work. To make the marks I held the shafts of two feathers together and worked directly from my bottle of ink.
A few days later I decided to draw a piece of clothing, one of the items we’d been asked to bring to the workshop. To get a piece of paper large enough to work on I roughly glued two long narrow sheets together. Without giving it too much thought I grabbed a sheet of newspaper I’d been using to catch spills and tore it roughly into the shape of my garment. I slapped the newspaper onto the backing paper with a mix of PVA glue thinned with water. I didn’t know whether this would work or not, but I knew I had nothing to lose. Once again I took my feathers and started drawing. It was interesting to see the difference between the areas of paper that had glue on it and that without glue. I also used the soft end of one feather to make larger marks.
The completed work was really lively and suggests some interesting strategies for making future work.
It is difficult to describe just exactly what I did during the past week. It was mentally exhausting, but I produced useful ideas for new work and had a ball making new drawings. What could be better than that!
What a lovely textured piece you’ve made. The bits of random red works really well too. I have a copy of Kevin’s sketchbook and remembering that it was the energy, almost frenetic nature of his lines that I liked. I’ll look up Maistre – not heard of him before.
The easiest way to read about Maistre is to get a copy of Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel. He has a chapter which talks about him. It’s a great book to read about why we should make art and lots of other things.
That is a wonderful drawing you finished up with Leonie – the ‘thoughtlessness’ (in a good way!) has given great energy and movement.
Thanks Anna. It’s always exciting to try something and find out that it ‘speaks’ to you.
BTW your shared sketch book project looks like a fantastic idea. I’ll be looking forward to see the outcome.
I’m glad you’re enjoying the sketchbook collaboration, I am too! Only one of the artists so far has added her bit, but I can’t wait to see how it all pans out. If it goes well I want to do some more.