Friday, 7 December 2012

Stuborn Sketchbook Resistance

Dear Diane,

Your last post made me laugh. You wrote:

"Or maybe I should speak for myself here – I am reassured by seeing a messy sketchbook because it reassures me that I can be messy too. I can get caught up in the belief that my sketchbook has to look nice and pretty. I’m getting a lot better about not worrying about that."

And then you have the temerity to show me a series of pristine neat pages with delicate drawings and neat doodles :) You must have meant that the thought in your head that it would be OK to be messy is enough to stop you producing anything near mess! Its enough to make me give up. Almost. I'm fine with a design book in which I might jot down ideas to keep me from forgetting them. Or for doodling as I think. I've always done that.

And because it is new to me and I cannot yet predict the results, I will play about with Photoshop filters and print out the results. These were both from a bird's eye view of a township in South Africa. So that storeage of ideas is helpful.


And I am fine with inspirational cuttings. I have done paper collages in preparation for fabric work even.

But at that stage I find the books/ pages whatever start to become a hinderance. First, if its down on paper in anything more formed than the doodle, its out of my head and it exists and I have no interest in it anymore. So that Maasi fence might have been fine in black and white lines but I look at the collage and think: yeah, I could make that but, why? Its already there. I prefer the colour and detail experiment to be with the actual quilt. The dynamism of the creation is somehow spent and I am not excited by the prospect of recreating it. its the working things out part of making that is fun and yu can only do that once. Secondly paper does not behave like fabric so a sketchbook page ( using any media other than fabric) as anything other than a memory jogger is not helpful to me.

I know some people like to sketch it out to see what the quilt will look like. Well, if I draw what is in my head its going to look like what is in my head! I think ( and there is no way to say this that does not make me sound arrogant and possibly self deluded so I will just say it and wait for the brickbats) that I am just blessed with a good vision that way.

It was illustrated when we auditioned two builders to build the studio in the then dark and unformed loft space. One company produced for us CAD assisted drawings and architectural plans. Very professional. The second builder came and waved his hands about at dark and inaccsessible corners and described what he would do in imprecise terms like : well we can push that back and put a thingy there to open it up.. I went with the second guy for the whole house because he could in his head exactly what I wanted and I could see in my head the proposed ammendments he suggested. Then we went ahead and had the joy of creating it making changes as we went as we got better ideas. That way was responsive. The company with the plans left me cold. All they did was draw what I had already told them I wanted and then wanted to replicate it. Where was the creativity in that?

That is not to say that we never used sketches. I did draw the tiling plan on the wall in pencil and taped samples of the sequence the coloured tiles should go onto a scrap piece of cardboard. Mostly because i didnt trust a tiler to disingush between slate grey and dove grey! And there were a couple of rough A3 plans I drew simply to confirm the conversations we had to avoid miscommunication in decision making. One copy got tossed in the builders van never to be seen again and the other the lawyer in me filed away in case of litigation. Otherwise? One whole house renovation. No designs. Works a treat!

This is not to say that I don't think I should spend time in the design process. Nor that it is important to see things well, which I understand to be the justification for people drawing a lot. But I am coming to the conclusion ( and this is a developing understanding of how I work best) that my main sketching is in my head. And that you can see and observe without necessarily recreating although no doubt thats one way to do it. I do spend a lot of time just staring at things and processing variations and options in my head. I am probably very irritating to live with as I will often stop participating in a conversation because something has caught my eye. I will stare at it for a while, with a few intakes of breath as if something is about to come out of my mouth, except it never does, my eyes narrow and then, eventually, I will say," Yes. That's it. Sorry? What?" in which time a new design has formed or a solution been found. And usually the end result that goes from head to fabric looks nothing like the item I actually saw, or at least only tangentally so, because it has been processed. Its the observing, thinking and mentally manipulating that produces a result for me.

Its just how I am. So I am not saying I cannot improve. I am saying that I am going to play up my strenghts in how I work rather than trying to be like other people just because it works for them. One thing I am going to do is try to find a little more time and allow a little more self indulgence to look at the things that I find inspiring and to try to play with how to achieve what is in my mind in fabric. So samples maybe more than sketches. Or fabric sketches if you like.

I bought this book recently. JR is an ' anonymous' artist who take photos of women and pastes them lage scale in shanty towns. In one project in Kibera the eyes of the women were pasted on a train that passed their homes .

His art is amazing and meaningful but I find myself drawn not to the faces of the women which is the whole point of the art, but to the corners of the pictures where distressed paint and scraped wood and combinations of planks make exciting combinations. I mean.. Look at the fantastic artyness of Kibera's patterns and textures from the air!

There is a new series on TV here called Spice Trip which is a combination of travelogue and cookery show. This first week they were in Zanzibar cooking cloves and learning their provenance and I was fascinated by the corrogated iron roofs in the background and wanted to find a way to replicate that effect in fabric. S much so that ai was even distracted from the orange clove syrup pancakes. And it takes something to distract me from pancakes! Maybe if I watched on ipad on playback I could take screenshot images for reference. There is a slight discomfort in finding such visual beauty in what are actually apalling living conditions, and yet, it is there.

So, my vague and visionary builder comes to start work on the wet studio in January and I hope that soon thereafter I will be set up to have everything easily on hand to do quick 'sketches' with wet media on/ with fabric. I will see if that, combined with my usual lines drawings for memory will work for me. Not least of all I have yet to play with the silk pen I bought months ago, the accessories for which you have recently kindly posted for me.

All that said, there is one area where I can see that maybe playing in a book in paper could work for me. I am excited to be doing a five day retreat class at Committed to Cloth in September. It is Clare Benn's class on Graphics and Graffiti. It is my first time at the C2C studio and it comes highly recommended so I want to be very prepared and ready to get the most out of it. We are encouraged to bring source material with us and so I will be building a collection of inspiration images and my own preparatory work. This was my excuse for buying this gorgeous ( in my view) scrapbook with pockets last week from Paperchase. Good stuff can get stuck in, bad attempts thrown out and hopefully I will have a lovely inspiring book to work with.

There are three books I have been eyeing to start me off and I think I will order one this afternoon. Or two :)

This one was produced casually at a recent meeting of my art quit group Eteceta by Magie of The African Fabric Shop and she nearly didnt get it back after I spotted it contained art by Wosene Worke Kosrof? Like this, isn't this wonderful? He talks about how in his art he takes the language of his home and transforms it into something new reflecting his experience as an immigrant, which is right up my street! Oooh! I see that if I am prepared to pay a fair bit I can get a old catalogue of his work. Tempting.

This one I think was also hers and I beleive that the author Denie Lachs is someone who has inspired Clare Benn. Certainly she teaches at C2C from time to time. The english version is expensive now so I think I shall get the German edition and practise my language skills. (Its mostly pictures!)

And I found this one by accident browsing the web after I stumbled on the review ( with lots of photos) here. These sketchbooks are very close to written journals which is much more in my comfort zone.

You may like to note that that reviewer has a long list of books about sketchbooks he has reviewed here. Lots of temptation there. Which brings me to a new point and something I constantly struggle with... Where lies the balance between focus and stimulation?

In the last three days alone I have been inspired by Omo Tribe body art, a set of map filofax dividers I saw here, Zanzibarian shacks on Spice Trip, and typography and african fabric design. (Where Magie goes, baskets of mouthwatering fabric follow!). There is so much possibilty, so much to learn how to do and work with and follow through... And so little time! Its a constant dilemma as to which to pick to work with. Do you have that problem? Actually I suppose it is the diametric opposite to the creative block issue you wrote about. I have no doubt whatsoever that focusing down and working in a series produces the best work and I do believe that you can ( maybe even should) work on more that one series at a time. But how many is too many?! And how to decide which to choose and how to know you made the best decison?

Sigh. I don't even have time really to read all the art books I want to. Although, maybe that's conncted the fact I have now been in this cafe for two and a half hours writing this. Probably time to go to the studio!




Sandra Wyman said...

The Calligraphy one is mine - hope you manage to get a copy!

Anonymous said...

Apart from the bit where we had to have plans in order to satisfy Building Regulations for the change of use of the building we renovated our entire house, barn and outbuildings from utterly derelict to home with no plans. We knew what we wanted, our builders told us when it wasn't feasible and occasionally the planners and English Heritage (who were in our case WONDERFUL as we are also a listed building and had several hoops to go through)were on board with ideas and suggestions as we went along. It was the second project we had done. The first one we did we had an architect draw up such complex plans no tradesmen would take them on. So we threw the plans out of the window and started again. In both cases we got a beautiful home complete with bits and bobs we would never have had if we had stuck to a plan.