Friday, 23 November 2012

My Love/hate sketchook relationship

Dear Diane,

Thank you for inviting me to be your live in life coach! Now what a great job that would be and I would love to live in California. Or most places that are not England come to that. I was thinking just the other day about how, when I was at the career choosing stage at school and we were given access to a special library of career books and leaflets, I discovered the possibilty of the consulate or diplomatic service, However,m when I mentioned the word 'diplomatic' at home my parents literally laughed out loud. So I didn't go that route and went into law instead. And I love my job and it suits me. But its one big drawback is that now, unless I give up all my seniority, I am stuck in England and Wales. Cannot even go to Scotland! And I could be in Hong Hong or Oman or Rio or somewhere exotic. Or San Fransisco eating sourdough and shopping at Williams-Sonoma. Sigh. how much are you paying?

I wonder if this wanderlust has anything to do with the fact that my current art work is all about maps and other cultures? I will answer your questions about sketching/ visual journals in a moment, but first do you remember that in your letter to me of the 7th October you wrote

" But I know, from our non TT4T conversations and from seeing your work, that the series courses you did have helped you grow. I see you doing things differently in your work, even approaching your work differently. It seems to me that you have an attitude that each piece is a learning opportunity and a step in your journey. Is that true? I've told you, as well, that I really like the pieces you did in your course, and looking over the blog I like them even more. I hope you'll write here soon about where they have led you since you posted."

I absolutley agree. I feel that I am now on a progressive journey rathen that flailing about waving my arms and grabbing any passing idea that comes. It is not necessarily that I am driving straight and fast down a main road though. Its more like walking through an old European city where you are generally moving say from main square back to your hotel but in doing so you explore some side streets, come back to the main route, go forward, explore some more side streets, realise that you regret not buying the puppet you saw in the first side street, go back to collect that then move a bit further forward down the main street and so on.

So, I started the working in a series doing a short course in which I made some Maasi quilts involving fences. I also had the 20/12 series which had me doing the stamped and scraped orange/ yellow surfaces. Then I came to maps via a 20/12 quilt I made of a map. I knew I could do the yellow surfaces so I stuck with that and began to explore the maps. One of London, one of Chester, then I went back to Africa with my latest, Joe Slovo Township. Which features a fence done exactly as I did them in the Maasi series. And shacks. Which I know is going to be something that crops up again.

So its a bit like I got back to the hotel and now I'm going back to the squaref or dinner but from a different direction looking at things in a different light and maybe taking a different side road to get there.. I definately feel like I have a destination even if I am not sure exactly what it will look like when I get there or how long it will take to get there.

So, its a bit like, I know I am going to a restaurant but all I know is that we will go to the eating quarter and mooch around to see which one we like. And maybe I'll eat at several, one course at each. That way, if I pick a bad restaurant it doesn't matter so much. Its only one course, maybe the next one will be better. And if its worse, well thats the risk I take. At least I know on my next trip to return to the good one and maybe try something from the same chef but a different recipe. So, when I make a quilt now I am working within a framework and everything I do educates me. If something is better or worse or just dfferent it just adds to my options for future works.

I used to wonder how you knew when a series was done and how you coped with the having to start again from scratch with new topic matter. But now I am expecting that things will just gradually evolve. So for example, I have two new projects I have committed to both of which need to be finished by the end of March.Gulp!

One is for a newly formed group I am in and we are working to a theme of Transitions and we will all incorporate the same 4x3 grid format of sixteen inch squares. When I thought about that I naturally thought about immigration and travel and maps. Probably because thats what I was thinking about anyway! So I looked for a place I could base my map on and came up with Brick Lane in London because the area itself has seen a lot of transition as waves of immigrants ( Hugenot, Irish, Jewish, Bengali, Somali) have passed through. and of course the immnigrants themslevs are transitioning So, I know that I will incorporate a map and the history of the area as I have been doing. But I also know that the wholecloth yellow orange thing is not right for this. So, I am both excited and scared. I have the saftey net of my map and handwriting to fallback on but I know I need to incorprate new design and new techniques and new colours. I am playing with creating images suitable thermofaxes from my own photos which is new for me.

The other work is for an outdoor show in Belgium. Having been working with shacks and having long been fascinated with informal housing, I came up with the idea of making an actual shack. Big enough to walk into. This is a stupidly ambitious idea but you know... Its exciting!!! And as you say, I tend to go full tilt! But I think I will add maps to the outisde of the shack. What of and how.. Who knows?! So its the same theme but worked out in very different ways. Sidestreets of the square.

One lesson I have learned from Joe Slovo and counting my time spent on it is that however I decide to construct it, it will not be hand quilted!! In fact, the invitation asks for textile art not necessarily quilts so in terms of time that may be my saving grace!

So, this sketchbook thing. I was willing to try. I really was. First, to get me over the 'oh, but my equipment is always somewhere else' excuse, I converted a filofax to a portable art station. I filled it with different kinds of non intimidating paper. And I drew my filofax full if art things. I did not impress myself.

So the next time I drew my hole punch. Still not impressed.

So I drew my filofax pile again.

The pile looked so much better with writing on. It kind of distracted from the patheticness of the uninspired drawing. Sigh. I decided, late a night to try again. I started to draw the pattern on my Crazy Daisy China. But because I was not looking properly I made a mess and in frustration I wrote all over my page how I felt about that. Then I got out my letter stencil and added some words. Which gave me some ideas for my transitions quilt.

So the next pages reverted to my usual form of 'sketchbook'. Totally nonvisual.

Then I remembered the washi tape I had you send from the US because the pictures of it had been inspiring in terms of the 'chopped up language' that immigrants experience and the colours. By the early hours I had a vision of where I was going with this piece.

So was the sketching sucessful or not? No, in that I have no interest in repoducing the Jane Le Fazio school of pretty bordered pages of Things I Saw Today. Its not me. Althought I love to see other people's books in that style. Yes, in that getting the materials out got me in the zone to design. So I learned something from that to work with.

Recently I was able to visit Jane Lloyd in her studio, which I discovered, after years of admiring her work, was at the bottom of my mother-in-law's road! She showed me how she had been working with collage to start her day off. Pages and pages of rough collage work in a sketchbook. I was sort of politely looking at them and smiling and, to be honest, thinking, 'Well,whatever turns you on, but thats just ripped up magazines glued down.I've seen kindergarteners do better. ' Then she showed me her new series based on that work that had evolved a long time after she started doing the collage books and I changed my mind. Even though I was struggling to see how she committed do much time to ripping up and glueing down paper and could not quite explain how the the leap from that to the work actually worked, I could see the clear connection. It was also interesting to note that this new work is very different from her established work which is on her website and to be able to talk with her about how she might draw the two together.

I wonder if, when my transitions quilt is finished how obvious the connection will be between Brick Lane and washi tape?!

After your challenge to me reminded me of that, I think I need to work on seeing time in a visual sketchbook as a sort of spectulative investment of time. Then I need to work on being the sort of person who makes a spectulative investment! And I need to work on finding my own way to do it. Then I have to work on being the sort of person who likes herself enough to acknowledge that her own way of doing it is worth investing time in.

This is a lot of work. I think I will need a cup of tea and a slice of tiffin to give me strength. Do I get tea breaks in my live in job?


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