Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Slippy Vessels

I wish I managed to write this blog straight after classes rather than wait until the last possible moment (ie the night before the next week's classes). Ah well, that's the joy of the writer's deadline. At least I'm still writing every week, and it's being read by a few friends here and there.
I had an excellent reason for not writing it last weekend: I went straight off from the end of class on Friday to stay on a narrowboat for the weekend. I can even justify it as part of my research for the vessel theme - perhaps. I did take a few photos of a derelict rowing boat on the canal bank, framed by birch trees, tying in nicely with the 'wreck' I'm working on for ceramics AND the tree shapes for my painting. One day I'll be able to add photos to the blog. Promise.
So in painting we were all continuing the objects we'd chosen the week before, and having spent much of Tuesday morning studying my previous efforts while sitting nude for a class of teenagers in the same room, I knew what I wanted to try next. I'd brought in a New Scientist article on fractals in weather-forecasting which had some interesting illustrations to inspire me. The tutor was talking of layering the paint/charcoal mix and allowing it to dry in-between, so I smeared a layer of white emulsion all over two sheets of A1 (using my favourite tool, the paper towel) and allowed them to dry during the coffee break - communal coffee-and-ginger-cake - then set up a donkey in the lobby and experimented with wet and dry charcoal and emulsion mixes on top. One painting had looked quite promising until I ruined it by adding too much, but I learnt something new. The second gave me the cloud layers I'd been aiming for, and a way of suggesting the light coming through. So not a finished product, but getting closer. A fellow-student took snaps of them all with her phone and emailed them to me. I'm now thinking I'll have to buy another sketch book purely for my clouds project.
The afternoon was spent in the print room with our textiles tutor learning the basics of silk-screen printing in pairs. We used wool and string as a resist, and later torn strips of paper, and initially one colour. Our pair used too much of the ink mix and made a mighty fine mess, adding further colours with gay abandon and ending up with a sludgy brown-grey on the last sheets - we also played around with the soggy string and wool, dropping it onto the prints to make worm-marks. That triggered further thoughts for me on the 'Ancient Can of Worms' theme which is still lurking in the background. There's a poem on its way, and probably a sculpture, but it's taking a lot of processing and isn't there yet.
In ceramics I took a two-pronged approach to our Vessels project. One was to scale up my little 'family vessel' maquette, discovering what I couldn't do with larger pieces in the process, and making four little figures to inhabit the broken boat which resembled chess pieces. The other was to finish mixing the casting slip and start playing around with materials to see what happened. The stiff hessian I had did exactly what I was hoping it would - held up in a tubular shape. I have to see how it fired before I know if I can aim for a final piece with it. The paper doily was useless and fell apart as soon as the slip soaked into it. The netting was interesting, some of it plain and some knitted up into a square, likewise the knitted material sample. At the last minute I fetched some fluffy wool that I had in the back of my notebook, and draped it into a loose pile when 'slippy', thinking that it may serve as 'worms' if I go for the can of worms idea. The garlic press squiggles were fine for a small maquette but might not scale up.
There should be a firing this week so I'll see how my various thumb-pots and glaze ingredients have fired. There's still the planned raku-firing of my large coiled pot to attempt too... not enough time. I suspect I'll have to return to ceramics when we get to choose next year.
Finishing off with life drawing as usual, and we had a female model for the first time. We've met before and spent some time chatting and exchanging news of other jobs. She's lovely to draw - 'just draw lots of curves,' she told us 'and you can't go wrong.' Our initial task was to use sharply defined black and white, deciding where on the body to draw 'contour lines' of tone and filling in all the darker bits black. I definitely haven't got the hang of tone yet. The last drawing of the day was the technique I've seen used to great effect with students I've sat for - to cover the whole sheet with charcoal and to rub out the lighted areas of the model with a putty rubber. It's a very messy business. And I'm not magically better at producing accurate or interesting pictures even when no pencil is involved.
Still resisting drawing practice, though I did a little on the boat. It's much easier to read a book about drawing than it is to actually do it. But the ideas are swarming around and slowly finding their way out into the world, either in 3D or in poems, so I'm not complaining at all.

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