Saturday, 29 April 2017

Drawing with the boy

I've written a fair bit about art and craft from a female point of view but one thing that bothered me a little was how boys can feel excluded.

I couldn't help but notice that many of the art and design activities for children were a bit girly. It would be a shame if boys were excluded from being creative because the activities we give them aren't engaging them.

Luckily for me, I stumbled across a solution. When I started to work on my drawing about six months ago, the style that appealed to me was a graphic, almost cartoony one. This is perfect for my seven year old son and soon we were drawing together.

Here's one of his drawings:

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And here's one we worked on together (I drew the dalek, he coloured it in.)
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Yes, Dr Who features a lot in his art work! (There's a lot of Star Wars, too). His drawing has improved lots over the last few months, in fact a few weeks ago his entry won a drawing competition and the prize is to paint his design on the wall of our local food bank. Very proud mum.

I hope that having an activity we can sit down and share will be a useful conversation opener over the coming years, too. I'm sure there will be times when we need to talk and it might not be easy to get started.

By the way, if you're looking for a craft activity for boys, these pipe cleaner ninjas are brilliant. (Girls love them too.)

Monday, 17 April 2017

Being a human being (Woman exhibition progress update 1)

I worked through ideas for my entry into Bedford's Woman exhibition but nothing really felt right. I found the idea of identity as a woman fascinating - it's so complex and personal. But whenever I tried to define what it meant to me all I came up with were stereotypes and cliches. None were really me.

The more I tried to define what it meant to me, the less I wanted to be put into a category. All I want to be is a human being. 

At the same time I became interested in pop art and illustration. I also stumbled across Kate Bingaman-Burt  who draws everyday objects. That gave me the idea to draw the everyday objects around me and let the observer decide what they say about me.

This brought up more questions about the amount of stuff I own. Am I more than my physical stuff? If so, what? How different would this painting look in five years or ten years? How much of my stuff is now digital rather than physical? How much different is my stuff as a woman compared to the stuff owned by a man?

I looked at artists who paint lots of objects together to get an idea of how to arrange my stuff so it looked like art and not just a mess (although now I come to think of it what's wrong with a mess?) and to get an idea of the scale to use.  Pierre Alechinsky paints lots of objects and often uses ink, Keith Haring painted lots of objects, often as simple line drawings and also added movement, which is something else I'm considering.

This is a page from my sketchbook where I played around with ideas...

This is where I'm up to now, I'll post my next update soon!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

A new art exhibition in Bedford: Woman & Identity

Good news! We had such a great time with Weaving Narratives that we're doing it again!

There are few changes, though. This new exhibition is not connected with the Bedfordshire Archives, but it is being arranged by two of the contributors to Weaving Narratives, Sophie Atkins and Ana Gonzalez Ortiz. Many of the Weaving Narratives contributors are taking part but there are lots of other artists involved, too.

Here's the brief:

"There is a wealth of female artists working in and around the Bedford area. But where
are they? What issues are they concerned with? We want to create an opportunity to
make these artists and the issues addressed in their art visible to the community in
which they live and work. And so was born our project: Woman - a pop-up multi-
disciplinary exhibition featuring work by female artists in the centre of Bedford.

The ethos of this exhibition is positive exposure. It will provide a fantastic opportunity
for participating artists to gain exposure for their work. But more than that, it will be a
positive force for the community; offering opportunity for a wider and more diverse
participation in the arts in Bedford, bringing the art to the people and also
encouraging an exciting dialogue with the community around art and the issues central
to the work of the female artists. It will be rebellious, fun, thought provoking and

The theme of the exhibition will be ‘Identity’. You may interpret that however you like.
We do not wish to limit ourselves in any way to conventions surrounding womanhood,
as we are all of course so much more than just a gender. You may also like to consider
ideas surrounding the visibility vs. invisibility of women."

The exhibition will open on 5th July at the Panacea Museum in Bedford and run until early or mid-August.

I got hold of a copy of the brief in November 2016 and I've changed direction so many times since then! Women and identity are such broad themes that it's been really hard to nail down one idea that I could make into a piece of artwork.

Initially I wanted to show that many of the creative women I know and who taught me wouldn't consider themselves to be artists at all. Instead, they were sewing, crocheting, making-do-and-mending and all the time supporting one another with a good natter, tea and cake. I had an idea that I'd make a fabric collage expressing these ideas and using these techniques. Here are some examples of the fabric 'patches' I made:

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This was interesting, but it didn't feel right. It felt like an extension of the Weaving Narratives project I did last year. I was ready to move on and try something new.

I'd been practicing my drawing for six months or so, and I wanted to so something with what I'd learned. But I also wanted to use strong colours, so that would mean I'd need to go beyond just the pencil and fine-liner I'd been using up until then.

The trouble was that I hadn't painted anything since I was at school, so that would be another learning curve. Good fun, but had I bitten off more than I could reasonably chew before the deadline? Here are a couple of my experiments with pastels and acrylics. (Oil pastels because I love the bright colours and I happened to have a pack lying around. Acrylics because Mr Google said it was the easiest way to get started with painting - and again, I love the bright colours).

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So I was learning loads but still not much closer to what to make for the Woman exhibition.

I looked to female artists for inspiration and although - again - I learned loads, none of it was close to the way I felt about my identity as a woman. In many ways that was a good thing because so much of women's art seemed to be about oppression and suffering. I totally understand why women have felt the need to express themselves in this way and I feel very fortunate that I don't need to. I'm not especially political, either. I admire women who are, but it's not me. So what was I going to do?

Watch out for the next post and I'll let you know...

Sunday, 5 March 2017

What? More exhibitions?!

It's now a year since I was scratching my head over what to create for the Weaving Narratives exhibitions. I thought the story would be over in October 2016 with the last Weaving Narratives exhibition in Flitwick, but it's still unfolding. (Or possibly unravelling :-) )

Bedford Central Library wasn't on the original list of venues, but once they saw the exhibitions at Luton and Flitwick libraries they invited us to exhibit there, too. This was really exciting because I've been visiting Bedford Library since we first moved here when I was six years old. When I go up to the second floor balcony I can still remember the smell of coffee that wafted around there when it was the coffee bar! By a strange coincidence the library was opened a few days before I was born, so we almost share a birthday (this seemed more relevant when I was six than it does today, though!)

The library is just down the road from all of the places that feature in my pieces, so it couldn't be much more local. Here are a couple of photos for you.

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I helped out on the first day of the exhibition, and as it was the 9 to 11am slot on a Thursday morning, the visitors were mainly retired people. Many were fascinated and really enthusiastic about work on display, with many of the pieces bringing back memories from long ago. Some pieces are based on buildings that have been demolished (e.g. my Picturedrome Cinema and Emma Johnstone's Cardingtom Mill) so I was heard the comment "I remember that! Actually, DO I remember that? Where was it?" a few times!

I had a long chat to an older guy who I think just needed to have a chat with someone about how he was getting older, didn't see his friends as much  and could no longer do some of the things he used to enjoy. He wasn't feeling sorry for himself, I think he just wanted to talk. I hope that, when I'm that age, someone has the time to listen to me.

In those two hours I learned first-hand how art can make a connection with people. Until then I'd tended to believe the stereotype that art is elite, expensive, hard to understand and if I'm honest a bit pretentious. This was the complete opposite of that...personal, emotional, tactile, real.

So the official Weaving Narratives exhibitions are over but there is one more unofficial one left to go. Anne-Marie Stijelja curates the art gallery at Bedford Hospital and has asked the contributors if we'd like to exhibit our work there from the end of March until June. Over half of us (maybe even most of us?) said 'yes' so look out for our work if you're passing by the door of the Swannery Restaurant from March - June 2017.

And...I'm making a new piece of work for a completely new exhibition this summer, so look out for a post on that soon!

Friday, 3 March 2017

My 21 Day Drawing Challenge

I enjoyed Von Glitschka's 5 day drawing challenge so much that I decided to take his 21 day drawing challenge, too.

It didn't seem like a big thing at first - after all it was only about fifteen minutes a day over the Christmas period. But I learned loads in that time. It really did show the power of doing something every day.

I posted my drawings on Instagram, I'll add a few in this post:

Some drawings went well and I was pleased with the result, others I found really tough and I had to tackle them a few times to get a half-decent result. Others I totally misunderstood but even then I learned a lot about how I made assumptions about what was being asked!

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One of the best things to come from this drawing challenge was that my children were so curious about it that they joined in. So not only did they learn a thing or two about drawing, the three of us had some pleasant drawing sessions together over the Christmas holidays.

Back last Autumn I decided to improve my drawing because it's a basic skill that wiould give me lots of options in any art or craft I chose to do in future. But it's taught me so much more than I ever expected. Watch this space, things could get interesting!

Monday, 28 November 2016

It's looking a little sketchy

Back when I was making my felt pictures for the Weaving narratives project I thought that it would be good to improve my drawing. I wanted to go beyond using photographs and begin drawing up my own designs.

I already had an account at, so that was the natural first place to look for tutorials. I took Von Glitska's 5 Day Draw course where you...well... get drawing prompts five days in a row. Simple really! Part of the course was to post your drawing on social media, so that's what I did.

My first few weren't that inspiring but after a few days I lightened up and had some fun with it:

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I really like Von Glitska's work and he said one thing in the course that stood out for me. I'm paraphrasing a bit but it was something like 'don't worry about drawing something photo-realistic. If clients wanted that then they'd use a photo.' (I don't have art or design clients, but it was a lightbulb moment anyway).

In art lessons at school I felt I was encouraged to draw what was there in front of me in detail. Which I guess has its place but is pretty boring! So now I don't have to do that it's opened up lots of possibilities...

Saturday, 26 November 2016

I've been learning freeform crochet

It's been a while since I last posted but I haven't stopped making. I've been teaching myself freeform crochet on and off for the last 9 months or so. Ever since I made my first piece for Weaving Narratives and wondered what else I could do with crochet but without a pattern.

My plan with this was to just doodle with wool and try out as many different things as possible, so if I found something online or in a book, in it went. I didn't even have a plan for what it would be, but it's so big that I guess now it's going to be a blanket.

Part of the fun has been seeing people's reactions because I don't think most have seen anything quite like it! Anyway, here are a few close-ups.

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I have no idea when I'll finish it because there's still a long way to go and I fit it in around other projects. Next winter would be a good guess. But that's another part of the fun - being as relaxed as possible and only working on it when I feel excited about it.

I'm aiming to make it freeform in every possible way!