Wednesday, 25 September 2013


This week is all about books.

I've now been allocated a tutor for my OU module so it's time to catch up with the reading.  This is my first level three course and I'm expecting the assignments to be more demanding and therefore more time consuming.  However, many of the set texts hold good memories for me so I'm looking forward to revisiting them.  I chose children's literature because, as some of you know, my own story for kiddies is being published later this year.  The illustrations are being completed right now by a talented Italian lady.


My diploma course also has a written component.  It's not going to be all fun weekends, being creative and learning new techniques.  We have to bring our experiences together in a final essay so notes have to be made and other people's work referred to.  On the plus side, our student ID card allows us access to the beautiful old library at the college.  There are worse places to spend a few hours and if the effort of studying becomes too much the bar is just a few steps away.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sunday Sunshine

My little patch of Rudbekia has been flowering for weeks now, giving sunshine even on the wettest days.  In fact quite a lot of yellow has crept into my garden this year, including the Argyranthemum that I've been using to practice colour mixing, for my sketch-book.

It's a plant I know as Jamaica Primrose and from new flower to faded bloom its petals pass through almost every shade of pale yellow and cream.  Quite a challenge to find the exact tone.  For me, acrylics are easier than watercolours.

I've decided that, in my newly acquired sketch book, 'drawings' should not be limited to pencil and paint.  (If I did that I'd never fill the beastly thing.) So I've been adding some 'fabric sketches' to the pages.  Continuing the theme of leaves and using odd scraps of organza, I've been playing with a different style of colour mixing.

  It's surprising how much the colours change when the fabrics are layered over each other.  I'm having fun with this and have not yet exhausted all the possibilities, so I'll probably be making a few more before I move on.

The 'paint and stitch on paper' that I mentioned last week is coming along quite well, but not yet ready to post.  I chose a lichen encrusted branch on my old quince tree as a suitable subject.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Day Two

While Saturday had been mostly black ink and charcoal, Sunday was all about colour.

We were given a selection of leaves, some naturally variegated and some beginning to show autumn colour and five tubes of paint, two yellow, two red and one blue.  The idea was first to sketch the leaves as accurately as possible and then to mix colours for painting our sketches without obscuring our drawn lines.

I cannot draw, I've never been able to draw, but my sense of colour is quite good so I did enjoy mixing the acrylic paints and keeping them transparent enough for my sketched lines to show through.

Next we did some collage work, quick responses to specific words, using only two colours of paper.

After lunch we were into the third dimension!  We were each issued with a lump of clay and asked to make sculptural responses to words generated by our tutor.  This was working against the clock and entirely on instinct as we were given only three or four minutes to complete each piece.  This, to me, was huge fun!  Sadly though, as we were working so quickly and the same clay was continually reused, there was no time to record the pieces I made.
Our final mini sculptural challenge was to represent how we were feeling right at that moment.  I made two pieces, one entitled 'Tired' and the other one 'Battered'.  This resulted in much group laughter and a commendation from the tutor for my honesty! 

Looking back I'm astonished at how much the tutors managed to fit in to our first weekend.  We now have a few days to write up our notes, sort out our heads and have a go at a few of the ideas that we have buzzing around.  I want to try a combination of paint and stitch on paper, maybe representing lichen on a branch or something similar.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Day One

All weekends at West Dean start on a Friday evening, with a meal, a chance to meet fellow students and a bit of preparation for the following morning's practical session.
The emphasis over the whole of the introductory weekend was very definitely on drawing.  Not my strong point, but I had fun trying to improve!  Saturday morning found us out in the grounds searching for bits of shrubbery to use as tools for drawing trees.  We'd been issued with black ink and a what I considered to be an unnecessarily large sheet of paper.

First choose your tree.

Some people drew a whole tree, or even a group of trees.  Others went for a more detailed approach, a particular branch or an interesting part of the trunk.  I decided on a couple of branches of a yew tree that were hanging over a laurel bush.  The branches were making attractive shapes and I found that the pointed end of a laurel leaf makes a surprisingly good 'nib' for drawing spikey yew leaves in black ink.

After lunch we were sent into one of the courtyards of the college to draw shadows.  This time we were armed with charcoal and another oversized sheet of paper.

The idea was to lay the paper on the ground and draw round the shadows that fell on the paper.  Then move to another area with different shadows and add them to our paper.  Then move again, so that we built up layers of shadows, some faint, some dark, some lacy, some bold and straight, all being cast over each other.  The finished drawing was full of interesting negative shapes and great fun to do.  Although my poor old knees were wishing I hadn't crawled quite so far under that middle bush! 

Fitted around these two major projects were smaller ones involving splashing lots of paint about, in response to some carefully structured words, working as a group to make a huge paper sculpture and using mixed media materials to give our individual interpretations of what it means to live a creative life.