Tag Archives: drawing

Parallel Project – Remembering Passchendaele

It is the centenary of the battle at Passchendaele, where approximately half a million men, French, British and German, died. Remembrance of those gone lies at the heart of my parallel project; their presence in our memory, their absence from our lives.

During the recent book making course, the tutor was encouraging us to write in our books (the emphasis of the course was literary, rather than artistic), and in particular, suggested that the origami book design with its three internal pages, was especially suited to a Haiku. This Japanese poem has three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively. I made a very small origami book out of grey marbled Japanese paper, which I think brings to mind clouds or swirling mist. I am always reluctant to use handwriting, since my writing is rubbish and, being dyslexic, I don’t always write the character which I intend. P’s become b’s etc. Here is my poor effort:

The bad poetry and handwriting aside, I like this delicate, painted paper combined with text, or, possibly image and will consider it as a component of an artists’s book.

I have been reviewing my work throughout the course and thinking about what worked well. One of the works I selected was a transfer print, after Rauschenberg, which considered family memories.

Since I made this work, I have been collecting suitable images from newspapers which I might use in another. These range from high-heeled shoes and donuts (possibly for use in a modern ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’?) to historical, domestic or political images. One is this famous photograph from WW1 taken in the aftermath of Passchendaele.

I have been exploring the effects produced by acryl gouache, and want to introduce the ghosts of these soldiers into a landscape of forms suggested by gouache and water. The runs and blooms of the paint might be eloquent of the mire and desolation of Flanders.

A2, acryl gouache on 160gm cartridge

I dropped gouache of various dilutions into water washes suggested by the puddles and shattered trees of the photograph. This has resulted in a rather more representational image than I expected. The foreground is watery and chaotic, which is appropriate, but I wish I had let less say more. Slanting the paper up and down, I encouraged runs in both directions for the trees and I think that this has worked well for the starkness of the landscape.

Using the computer, I tried out various positions of the photo with in the drawing.

Having photographed the one image and scanned the other, I have a scaling problem here. The photo is actually smaller relative to the drawing than this composite. The photo in the newspaper is about A5 and the transfer method with solvent means that I cannot scale it. Also, the process only works with high contrast images which this is not. The photograph will have to be positioned in a lighter area of the drawing.

I thought that the transfer would be small and pale but this is disappointing. I don’t mind the soldiers being pale and ghostly but they are difficult to read in such a noisy  and contrasty background. I used gesso to make the area around the soldiers paler. The gesso looked flat and as though it was floating above the surface so, drawing on the lessons of the recent Experimental Drawing workshop, I distressed the surface with a scalpel. This has had the effect of adding to the war-torn nature of the scene. The figures stand out better but perhaps still look too small in the landscape.

If you crop into the drawing, the figures look better and the combination of transfer and paper surface becomes more interesting.

I could just select this portion, but I have decided to condense the drawing by tearing it apart and reassembling it; development by destruction. In reassembling it, I have tried to fragment the landscape. I have tried to capture that feeling of visiting a place after many years. I find that my memories are inaccurate and have distorted the landscape, omitting some parts, and making some features much more prominent than reality.

The revised shapes have the effect of drawing the eye to the ghostly soldiers.


This isn’t exactly what I set out to achieve; it has developed through the process. The result is a genuine, heartfelt response to the ordeal suffered by so many one hundred years ago, gone but not forgotten.

Workshop – Miniature books

Since my ‘Experimental Drawing’ workshop was only three days, and Oxford Summer School runs for six, I booked into a second short course on making miniature books with the future project of making an artist’s book in mind. Also, I generate a huge pile of works on paper which are never going to be framed or presented for assessment and which I would like to use to create more 3-d works.

The workshop was highly prescriptive in contrast to the drawing workshop, but I guess this is the nature of a more exacting making process. We learnt quite a few book forms, concertina (or zig-zag) in rectangular or triangular forms, flag books, pop-up books and the beautifully simple but satisfying origami book.

We also tried out a number of techniques for embellishing the books and covers including making simple stamps from craft foam, marbling and creating textured paper using wood blocks or other tools and a coloured paste of acrylic paint, corn flour and glycerine.

This paste was very effective, producing strongly textured, thick, strong cover papers.

Marbling was fun, and I had taken some of my own papers, so I tried it on delicate (but strong) Japanese washi. This is very absorbent, and rather than picking up the ink on the surface, it absorbed it, producing very delicate, subtle effects which might be excellent for an artist book.

Generally, I thought the techniques were more suited to personalised cards than artists books, but I did take away a lot of information which will be useful in a freer context.

At home I took an old sun dye test print and, thinking about the editing and recombining ideas from the drawing workshop, made a very simple two direction, concertina book in kraft card, and applied selected portions of the print.


I think that the unimaginative print has been recombined into something much more interesting, though still more of a gift card than an artist’s book. A serious limitation is the conflict in requirements between paper that can be  crisply folded and thick printmaking paper. However, there are some ways around this such as here where the 160gm paper has been mounted in a thinner, fold-able paper. Alternatively, thread or fabric could be used as a hinge between sheets.

Ideas for development

zig-zag book, doubled where the zigs of one sheet are sewn to the zags of the other, leaving an internal space

windows cut into concertina books to fold the opposite way

cut holes (linked design/shape) to show portion of following page

prints collaged onto pages, small squares rearranged

multi paper stitched as sheets into Japanese stab binding book

concertina book section joined at right angles

cyanotypes mixed with drawings, paint, emboss etc, common theme or image

fabric covers

paper combined with stitch

small books stitched into larger books

pockets for small drawings

origami book which folds flat out of a hard cover, details on one side (each page) large drawing on back


Workshop – Experimental Drawing

The excellent Oxford Summer School offered me the opportunity to study ‘Experimental Drawing’ with Claire Christie Sadler, in a three-day workshop.

On the first day, we explored mark making with charcoal and graphite, using words as inspiration. Claire gave us each a booklet of words and asked us to make quick drawings through a square template onto several large sheets of paper. We were encouraged to not be too literal, and consider possibly overlapping the drawings and incorporate the words. A selection of different papers were available to try.

Gathering together, we considered and discussed the results of this exercise. Having worked through ‘windows’, we looked at  how we could use the window to select portions of different drawings.

This allows a different tension between the marks and brings into play the unintentional negative spaces. I also enjoy the effect of using the marks accumulated on the frame in conjunction with the drawings.

We also looked at some books illustrating how some artists use these mediums. This introduced me to the work of Dennis Creffield, and in particular, his drawings of every cathedral in England, using charcoal. I was deeply impressed by his strong, fearless marks and the way he moves the charcoal around, pushing things back or pulling them forward.

This exercise was then extended to produce a work in response to a poem, The Cablecar by Lawrence Sail.  I focused on ‘the moon’s daytime ghost’, but rather than trying to draw the moon, I wanted to create an absence, using a torn paper stencil. I drew into my marks in places with water and then used a rubber, abrading the surface, inspired by looking at the work of Alison Lambert.  I was trying to create a soft, dream-like atmosphere.

Charcoal, A2

Again, we discussed our work. These drawings tended to be much more representational.

On the second day of our workshop, we experimented with lots more media, and with disrupting the surface of the support by painting, gluing, scratching, tearing etc. I have drawn with pva before but using a glue stick to draw was definitely new to me. The other method which we all found inspiring was abrading the surface with the very coursest sand paper.

We were then given a cotton bag of 12 items and a large sheet of cartridge folded into 12 squares. We drew a response to each item using touch alone, responding to the feel of each object, rather than the way we thought it might look. The items included sheep’s fleece, folded cardboard, crunkled paper, a ball of wire, a bulldog clip and a tie of clingfilm.

Shell, painted tissue and charcoal, 20cm by 20cm approx

Wood off cut, cartridge paper folded and charcoal wiped along the edges created, 20cm by 20cm approx

Tea bag, newspaper, watercolour, gesso and pastel, 20cm by 20cm approx

Scrim, abrasion by coarse sand paper with powdered graphite, 20cm by 20cm approx

Metal domed button, silver oil stick, graphite, water, 20cm by 20cm approx

Wire ball, gesso and charcoal, 20cm by 20cm approx

It was very interesting to review everyone’s responses. Some were very literal, some highly tactile, some had actually used the item in their response.

We then chose a single item from which to draw a larger work, using sight and touch.

Small shell, charcoal, graphite, acrylic ink, water colour, gesso, 60cm x 60cm

As usual, I like details of this work more than I like the whole. I then drew the same shell using different materials.

Small shell, Indian ink, gouache, graphite, charcoal, eraser, 60cm x 60cm

I think the gouache has worked well here, but otherwise I think the first piece was the more successful. In both, the hinge part of the shell has interested me more than the wide curve, rendering the rest of the drawing dull.

On the third day, we looked at different supports and at drawing in response to music. We were given an envelope of A5 paper samples to experiment on:

Claire (who has also been a professional musician) had chosen 11 short tracks of a variety of music. She played each one whilst we listened, and then we chose a support and any mark making media we wanted and quickly drew whilst she played the piece again for a couple of minutes. Again, she encouraged us to respond to the feelings the music evoked. The drawings for each piece were laid in columns for comparison.

Khadi, gold and black gouache

Sumi paper, gouache

Bockingford, watercolours

Chinese paper, ink in water

Newsprint, graphite

Kraft paper, white chalk and gel pen

Sanders Waterford rough, charcoal, water

Sugar paper, gouache

Sanders Waterford HP, graphite powder

Drafting paper, drawn on both sides, oil stick and gel pen

Most of these papers I have used before, either for water colour or printmaking. However, I was excited by the possibilities offered by drawing on both sides of the drafting paper. I found this exercise very difficult. We had only a very short time to consider which support to combine with which materials and draw. Music is something of a closed book to me and I suspect that lack of knowledge means that my response is rather superficial, certainly when compared to others in the group who were musicians. I certainly couldn’t identify any of the pieces of music apart from to say that one was Bach.

We moved on to draw large scale pieces in response to a work by a Norwegian composer which induced a feeling of peace and tranquillity.  I found my drawings becoming simpler and simpler, although I spent some considerable time on each, mainly thinking and rehearsing a single stroke.

gouache, A2

gouache, A2

gouache, A2

gouache, A2

This last piece was made by allowing a drip to run down the paper whilst occasionally touching it with a brush tip dipped in gouache.

I usually work fast and instinctively but this can lead to a piling up of marks without much consideration. I do know that less can be more, but I need to remind myself of this more often. This music had the effect of slowing me down and making my marks much more spare and considered.

One idea I shall take away from this workshop is combining drawings or selecting part and viewing it through another. Here I have taken these final drawings and reimagined them using photo-editing software.

I can reference Ellsworth Kelly and cut up my drawings and reassemble them, or I can select details and assemble these as a montage, but I do like the idea of cutting a window in one drawing through which you view another. I have experimented, cutting a frame in one and positioning it over others…

I think that this works best when an element from one drawing links into another. Below, I have extracted two sections of the surface altering experiments and related them in a wide space through lines I have imagined  extended from one to the other.

This workshop felt like a natural extension of many of the ideas and projects in the Drawing 2 course and whilst quite a bit wasn’t new to me, I still came away feeling excited and empowered. There were ideas which I will definitely build into my practice such as physically editing my drawings and juxtaposing them. Dennis Creffield’s charcoal works will be a touchstone.

Parallel Project – Drawing with Light

I want to do some research into drawing with light. This arises out of a review of earlier work and selecting light motes as intriguing found drawings. It also plays into future Part 5 themes of drawings developed over time and  my parallel project looking at absence/presence and traces.

There are various ways one might draw with light. Perhaps the most obvious is to make cyanotype prints using light sensitive paper on which an image can be made in several ways. Light can be excluded from the paper by stencils of various sorts, paper, thread, object, or the paper can be used in a pin hole camera to record traces of the sun or environment. 

Alternatively, the path of a small, powerful light can be traced in a longer exposure photograph, as in Gjon Mili’s photographs for Time magazine, where he attached lights to a figure skater, or those he famously took of Picasso drawing in space (Page, 2017).

Another way of harnessing light might be to prick pinholes in a support, possibly in reference to some image on the support and back-light it so that small, selective highlights are created.

I wanted to see if I could capture the light motes in a more direct way than photographing them. I have some Jacquard Solarfast light sensitive dye left from a textile project a few years ago which could be pressed into service. I had no success with this on paper in the past but decided to have another go. The fluid was applied to paper in a darkened room. Not being sure how best to apply it, I started with a sponge roller but progressed to a sponge brush as the roller produced an uneven orange peel effect. I chose a very bright day and set up an exposure bench outside with a cutting mat, a sheet of glass and my reflective object, a copper kettle.

My initial exposures produced solid blue sheets. I had thought that a long exposure would be necessary, but quickly realised that the background light was burning out any image and that the copper light motes were not very bright. A large card board box was positioned to shade the paper whilst allowing the light motes to be reflected back on to the paper. An exposure time of about 2 minutes allowed the light motes to be exposed before the whole paper was completely exposed and the marks were lost. However, only the strongest are captured and the delicacy  and extent of the whole is not recorded.

Perhaps I could produce a better image by using a uv light source in a darkened room with stronger light motes produced by cut glass. Unfortunately, this failed to develop at all, probably due to my led torch not producing enough uv. The dye only develops when wet, and the paper dried out before any development at this light level.

The glass light motes are much stronger than the copper, so I tried producing these with the sun as the light source. The light has to go through the glass rather than reflected back, so shading the paper was not possible, and you can’t project just the light mote.

Initial results were uninspiring, but I did get better at exposure, subject selection and dye application.

Old, heavily cut glass worked best at scattering the light. A flower bowl with internal holder probably produced the best image. All these glasses are really old and inherited it from my grandmother 40 years ago. This gives these pictograms added layers of trace and significance for me. They have a connection to Cornelia Parker’s images of glasses.

I did manage to record some light motes but I would much rather not have recorded the glass objects producing them. The light motes have a mysterious beauty about them which is negated by showing the objects. Since the light has been concentrated, rather than excluded, by the subjects, these images will always be low contrast.

This has been an interesting piece of research for a very sunny day. If I want to pursue it further, I think I have to invest in proper cyanotype chemicals and be able to expose dry paper using a focused light source.


Jason D Page. 2017. Light Painting Photography History. [ONLINE] Available at: http://lightpaintingphotography.com/light-painting-history/. [Accessed 8 July 2017].

Celtic Fringe Travels

I have been in Britanny, walking the coast path. A satchel of art materials went with me; coloured pencils, a small tin of Inktense blocks to use as pan colours, a few pencils and brushes, A4 and A5 pads, all designed to be compact for packing and walking around with. As usual, I hoped to draw every day, but I underestimated how tired I would be after a day’s walking, averaging about 12 miles, and how uninspiring a campsite can be for sketching in the evening.

However, occasionally we were within walking or cycling distance of a neolithic site, or on a campsite with a view. The megaliths, stone alignments and  dolmens particularly appeal to me as subjects and they relate to my parallel project as  traces left in the environment of past peoples, their beliefs and, in the case of their burial structures, their search for a connection between their own world and something beyond.

Stone alignment at Camaret Sur Mer, Finistere, 2xA5, Inktense pencils

The stones reflecting the setting sun, 2xA5, Inktense pencils

Falling dark fast, A5, Inktense pencils

‘Allee Couverte’ chambered burial, Mougau Bihan, A5

I had cycled back, up hill, about 4 km to this, after a days walking, so my hands were really shaky!

Trying to capture the monumentality of the stones.

Struggling to depict bright, setting sun and intense, interior shadows.

Burial mound, Ti Ar Boudiged, Brenniliz, 2xA5, collage and Inktense

I had some painted newspaper in my bag for collage and tried it here. I hoped it would give presence and solidity to the mound but this is pretty hopeless.

The same view in washes

I haven’t done pen and wash for ages and I really enjoyed it.

View of the entrance and the dark, mysterious internal space, A5

The contrast between internal darkness and external play of light fascinated me. It has been established that some of these structures were revisited many times for multiple burials or ceremonies. I image that the builders had a similar feeling of moving from one environment to the another, from their everyday world to a frontier or portal to something beyond. This mound has a huge block towards the end. I think the burial chamber would have been beyond this, and the space in front may have been visited. In the ‘allee couverte’ at Mougau Bihan, above, someone had placed a jar of flowers in the inner space and scattered rose petals to surround the structure. These places still have a hold on us.

A4, soft graphite block.

Soft graphite has best captured the play of light and shadow within the structure and the presence of the enclosed monolith.


Parallel Project – Media Removed

This post analyses further researches in to present and absent media though repeated applications of paint and then removal to build a history of marks.

At the London Original Print Fair, I saw Basil Beattie’s mono-screenprints on Two Rivers paper. Some years ago, when I was painting watercolours, I bought some of this wonderful handmade paper, but have never used it, partly because I have moved on from mannered watercolours, but mostly out of fear. It is just too beautiful and too expense to leap into. I see the proprietors occasionally through canal and life drawing connections and at art fairs where they demonstrate the handmade process. They often have Oliver Lively demonstrating on their papers and his process is very interesting to watch, as he often scrubs away, quite violently, at the surface. Last summer, Oliver suggested that I buy one of their small sketchbooks to liberate myself of paper fear. This came back into my mind after see the Beattie prints and also some recent sketchbook disasters trying to paint on cartridge.

I have phoned Two Rivers to order sketchbooks for summer travel. Chatting about painting and printmaking on their papers, their advice was to use it, and then if that wasn’t a success, scrub it off under a tap and start again, because the surface sizing will take repeated media removal. Suddenly, this long drawn out thought process over their paper has played into my researches on adding and removing media.

The paper is highly textured and stiff as cardboard, with irregular deckle edges on all sides. For my experiment, I used acryl gouache, as I hoped that this could be removed, especially if not completely dry, but the acrylic content might mean that it would not be completely removed. I want to leave ghost marks, although i have no idea what their character might be.

Detail showing the record of earlier marks in the paper texture.

Each layer has been allowed to dry a little more so that the marks have gradually become more defined. This latter layer was allowed o dry overnight and then a scotchpad taken to some areas. So, no paper fear now!

28cm x 38cm

This, probably final, layer uses rich, black, barely dilutes gouache. The character of the paper is clearly visible even in the blackest areas.

This is amazing paper. I cannot decide whether this is ‘finished’ and whether it has any great merit beyond research, although, in that respect, this was a very useful experiment.  I enjoy the rich and varied tones and the layers and variety of of mark. The final layer of marks was developed in response to earlier marks using a photo and drawing app on the ipad, but the sweep of paint at in the lower half has come out too symmetrical. This goes away into a folder for a while, to be got out later and considered more objectively. It may get developed, or completely painted or scrubbed out to produce a new surface, or left alone.