Archive | February, 2012

An Exploding Corpse In Charcoal

27 Feb

Charcoal and pastel drawing.


Today I was forced right out of my comfort zone. I normally scribble away in tiny ink pens into tiny sketchbooks but this morning I enrolled onto a creative drawing workshop led by Keith Bayliss, whose exhibition, The Enclosed Garden is at Mission Gallery in Swansea. After some warm-up exercises on A1 paper using nothing but charcoal and our hands, Keith set us the task of drawing one of his beautiful, ethereal sculptures, using charcoal and chalky pastels, again onto A1 paper [it’s actually bigger than that as I added another half a sheet to complete it]. About as far from my comfort zone as it’s possible to be.

I really got into the challenge, although after an hour I realised that opting to sprawl on the floor to draw was not a good idea with my aged arthritic knees – serve my own right for tearing round on motorbikes in a miniskirt in my wild youth. It’ll get you in the end. Or in the knees in my case lol.

I like the result, although it looks like an exploding corpse, not at all like Keith’s  delicate gentle soul. It says a lot about me. That’s a bit worrying 😉


Freezing In Berlin: Dots On Film

26 Feb

.”].A couple of years ago I visited Berlin during one of the worst winters we’ve had in a long time. Of course, while Britain more or less shut down at the sight of snow, the German’s just threw more clothes on, gritted the roads and pavements and carried on. The temperature was awful – the coldest I’ve ever been, -15C at lunchtime and -20C at night. We wandered up Potsdam to look at the Memorial in  to the Murdered Jews of Europe in the deep snow. It was even more breathtaking than usual, under a deep layer of muffled ethereal snow that formed deep white pathways between the granite stelae. The brilliant sunshine threw the most incredible shadows across the whiteness, setting up a vibrating monochrommatic shimmer.

It was too cold to draw [although I tried] so when I came back I worked from photographs to produce this drawing. Although it looks quite abstract, it is based on life. The challenge was in what to use to draw it. I don’t particularly like graphite and I found charcoal too clumsy for what I wanted to do, so I used my FCP pen, size S and F and constructed the drawing out of marks that represented half-tone dots. It took me ages. It’s size A3 on Mark Resist film [Mylar].

The Artist Speaks And Wales Wins

25 Feb

Ink sketches: heads at the gallery.Above: Scribbled heads and notes on installing artworks in a three dimensional space and how it alters them.

Husb and I visited the Keith Bayliss exhibition at the Mission Gallery again today for a talk by the artist. It was a good opportunity to scribble plenty of faces as well as to listen to a very experienced artist explaining his work and his art practice. Keith is a warm, practical and very dedicated artist who has moved away from his usual practice as a painter to create a site-specific installation combining painting with sculpture and sound collage.

The interviewer sits in front of one of Keith’s wall-mounted sculptures.

I often find installations very hit or miss, but Keith’s expertise and artistry have created a work of beauty, serenity and exceptional craftsmanship. He spoke with humour and humility about the exhibition and the experience of being an artist, emphasising the need to draw every day, because drawing is the artist’s ‘writing’, it’s how we express ourselves. He also cautioned against becoming complacent, “When you think your pencil drawing looks really good, stop and switch to charcoal.” I find it’s too easy to stay in my comfort zone when I’m drawing and book onto drawing courses because other artist / teachers force me to try out different drawing methods and it always benefits me.

 A Bayliss sculpture in the foreground, some avid listeners and a Bayliss painting behind.

There were several large moustaches in the audience. More than you’d normally see at any one time. Then we came back for the Wales vs England rugby match. Very tight game and England played very well, but Wales won in a nailbiting finish. Husb is a happy man!

Cat Goddess At The Old Museum

24 Feb

Ink sketch: Head of Bastet.

Babysitting again today so took my young nephew to Swansea Museum, the one that the poet Dylan Thomas described as ‘the museum that should be in a museum’ because it’s such a quintessentially Victorian museum, so very typical of its era. We went up to the Egyptology exhibit, because small children seem to be fascinated by mummies – I can remember feeling the same when we had primary school trips to visit the museum. While the young sprog drew the massive sarcophagus, I scribbled away at a small head of the cat goddess Bastet, dating from about 400 BCE. When you look at it, the unassuming little sculpture seems very simple but when you try to draw it, you realise just how complicated and beautifully made it is. It’s a lovely example of craft in art and the craft of art. I’m a big fan of Grayson Perry and this little sculpture reminded me of his exhibition at the British Museum, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, which venerates all those long-dead craftsmen who made great, wonderful art. My quick little scribble doesn’t do it justice.

Silent Heads And A Silent Movie

23 Feb

Ink sketch: heads.


Didn’t get a chance to blog yesterday because after the studio, I went with Husb to Cardiff for a seminar on social networking research. Interesting data, surprising how YouTube is far more popular than Twitter in Wales. Seminars and conferences are great places for head studies, because people tend to be very still and quiet, listening rather than chatting as they are at the theatre, cinema or gigs. I like these two men’s heads, they’re full of character. Drawn with my favourite new pen, a Pilot V5 Hi-Techpoint 0.5 into my A6 cat-themed sketchbook.

Then we went down to Cardiff Bay for a bite to eat and to the Odeon to finally see The Artist. What a fabulous film. I was totally immersed in it. A wonderful piece of cinema, funny, moving and beautifully filmed. I hope it gets some Oscars. We’ve seen quite a few good films recently – The Woman In Black [terrifying], Hugo [amazing], The Muppets – don’t knock it – Miss Piggy is AWESOME! And there’s a cameo appearance by Dave Grohl! Unfortunately, we also wasted money seeing the second of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies. Tripe IMHO.

Experiments On The Dark Side

21 Feb

Fragment of an experiment in oil on board.

I’m an unashamed printmaker and scribbler and I don’t paint. Don’t get it, don’t understand it, don’t like canvas and brushes. Give me squeegees and rollers and barens and presses any day. So I thought I’d enter an international painting competition. Yeah, I go looking for trouble. So I decided I’d try and construct a painting using printmaking tools, materials and techniques as much as possible.

I’ve been experimenting by coating smallish offcuts of thick mounting card with several layers of rabbit skin glue. When it dried, I used a squeegee to apply a layer of printing ink in Rhodamine Red, thinned down with linseed oil [Gerhard Richter often ‘painted’ with squeegees] and then I used the Direct Monotype technique to put drawings and text onto the surface and let it dry over several days. Today I applied a second layer of printer’s ink in Lemon Yellow, thinned with medium plate oil, again using a squeegee. I didn’t do it over the whole thing as I’m exploiting colour theory and I want to get different colour mixes by using transluscent glazes. While it was wet, I wrapped rags around my fingers and removed some of the yellow, exposing the pink below in areas of patterning.The Welsh painter Nicholas Evans used a similar technique, although he only worked in black and white [I think].

When the yellow area is dry, I will apply a coat of Pthalo Blue, again thinned out to make it easy to squeegee and so it’s translucent. I’m hoping for a similar effect to the 3 colour-separation monotypes I’ve been working on recently. Is it painting? Well, it’s not printmaking because a print is an image that has been taken indirectly from another surface, or matrix. This is being applied directly using pigment suspended in oil, which is the same as paint.

Watch this space ……….

Curry, Faggots And Mushy Peas

20 Feb

Ink drawing: at the curry house.


We have a regular babysitting slot looking after one of our great-nieces after school each Monday and this week she had a treat, dinner at The Vojon, our local curry-house [for fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, that’s just one letter away from the worst poets in the Universe]. I sketched us in the large mirrors at the end of the restaurant, reflecting the elaborate light fittings. It’s great the way that curry houses have democratised eating-out in Britain. When I was little, there were lots of Italian cafes in the city that served tea, coffee, ice-cream and steamed pies to working class people, but that was only in the daytime. Restaurants were few and far between and could only be afforded by the well-off.

If you didn’t want to cook in the evening, there was the fish and chip shop and, down the High Street, a faggot and pea shop. I can remember my Dad taking my hand and walking me down the street with a basin in his other hand. At the faggot and pea shop, they filled the basin with hot faggots in a savoury gravy and a pile of mushy peas and covered it with the teatowel Dad had brought. Then we carried it back and Mam had made some mashed potato to go with them. Delicious. Still one of my favourite meals, althought the faggot and pea shop has long gone and we buy our faggots in the local market. Then right at the end of the 1960’s the first curry house arrived in the city, serving cheap meals in the evening. It had velvet flock wallpaper, ever so posh.

Just so you know, the little Italian cafes used to heat up small round meat pies by jamming them onto the steam pipe on the coffee machine and giving them a blast of steam, making them lovely and soft and chewy, more like a suet pudding. And faggots are small savoury meatballs, considered quite a delicacy in Wales. There’s a lot of rivalry between Swansea and nearby Neath, over which has the best faggots. Swansea obviously 😉

A Jar A Cat And Tasmanian Sleep Balm

19 Feb

Ink sketch: still life.

I drew a still-life yesterday and I thought I’d continue the theme for a while. Almost all my work is based on the human form so it’s a bit of a challenge for me to do something else and the still-life genre is an historical one and it’s good to keep up traditions, in my opinion. It’s also a bit of a challenge choosing things to put together into a still-life. If you collect together a load of branded items, it can end up looking like an advert. On the other hand, putting together domestic objects can be a bit boring.  So I had an entertaining half an hour searching through the house trying out different things together, discovering all sorts of stuff I didn’t know I had in nooks and crannies [also some nooks and crannies I didn’t know I had!].  It’s tempting to choose timeless objects, emulating historical still-lifes, but I wanted to use things that are fairly new, that reflect modern life.

Here’s my Winsor and Newton jar, kindly bought for me by my inlaws, which doubles up as a toothbrush holder; and a little porcelain cat that used to be a light pull in the bathroom until it fell off and I put something else on the end of the string and put the cat on a bookshelf on the landing. Then there’s the tin of lavender Tasmanian sleep balm that my dear cousin Myriam sent from Australia to help with my insomnia. It does. I still get insomnia but I stroke some balm onto my temples and usually nod back off pretty quickly. It lives on the shelf next to my pillow with my stack of books that I mean to read and recent copies of New Scientist magazine and one of those word puzzle magazines [Codewords – I can’t get enough of them] with adverts for stair lifts and commode chairs on the back.  They all have those adverts. I don’t think the publishers are aiming them at the youth market.

Two Jugs And A Sugar Bowl

18 Feb

Does what it says on the tin, really. Didn’t have anything interesting to draw today as I spent most of it down at the Print Workshop, printing up a block print and a drypoint and I forgot to take photos of what I did to blog. So I grabbed these and stuck them on a blanket on my pouffe [had to push Ming the Merciless off first. She went off in a huff]. Quickly sketched them because I’m trying hard to draw everyday, no matter what other artwork I’m doing. It’s not easy. Those wobbly ellipses and the foreshortening – oooof! Especially the little fat jug at the back. People are so much easier to draw. Maybe I should force myself to do some still lives for practice – or penance lol 🙂


Better go and apologise to Ming the Merciless now. Cats have ways of getting revenge!

Sprogs, Sculptures And Sketchbooks

17 Feb

I babysat three young relatives today and I’m absolutely shattered. How do parents cope? Kudos, parents. I took them to see Keith Bayliss’ exhibition, The Enclosed Garden, at Mission Gallery. After I threatened them and they stopped running round and being loud, we all settled into the lovely contemplative ambience of the exhibition and absorbed the beauty of the sculptures. I settled the littlies down with their sketchbooks and some pens and they sat on the floor for the best part of an hour, drawing quietly. The drawing above is by Owain aged 7 and the one below by his sister, Rhiannon, who is 5.  Without prompting, Owain drew the male figure and Rhiannon the female one. I thought that was interesting.

The male figure has a bowl on his head and the female figure has a bird. Nathan, their cousin, also 7, drew the male figure as well. His is the drawing below. He also included a lovely little sculpted bird that was on the wall above the figure. It’s great to see the completely different styles between the three of them.

They like working in their sketchbooks and they’re very careful to sign and date their work, like proper little artists. I tried sketching them sketching, but even when they’re doing something quiet, they fidget and wriggle and change position all the time, so I didn’t get much that I was happy with and now I’m way too tired to do any more drawings. I’m off for a bath and an early night once I’ve blogged – they’ve worn me out lol 🙂


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