Monday, 28 March 2011

Masterclass with Norman Ackroyd

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to be able to attend a Masterclass with the great printmaker Norman Ackroyd at Spike Island Print Studios, Bristol.
The facilities were fantastic and Ackroyd was inspirational. He demonstrated all the technical knowledge that he has built up over the years, generously sharing many tips and techniques. One of his memorable quotes for the day summed up his approach:

“Precision and elegance with freedom = great etchings”

The master examining his plates

After 4 hours of mad note taking and diagram drawing we left exhausted with information and our heads spinning with ideas. My head has hardly stopped spinning yet.

The focus of his demonstration was making a sugar lift with the recipe passed on by the Atelier Lacourière, repeated below:
  • white granulated sugar
  • fill 1/3 jam jar with sugar, same amount of hot water
  • Whole tube black gouache, shake to mix
  • Finally add the smallest drop of fairy liquid to break surface tension

    Ackroyds plates drawn with a rigger and mapping pen, lifting in hot water through a hard ground
Ackroyd made it all look so easy so I got busy.
Stage 1, sugar lift, stopped out during the biting time

I enjoyed the variety of tone and marks that can be achieved, and the freedom that can be achieved is very exciting. there are more plates on the way, and this one is getting a second treatment, hopefully I will post the results soon.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Drawing the west end of the village

The David Tress work which I referred to in my previous post really got me thinking. I was very taken by his unusual viewpoint, and he inspired me to interpret the idea of gazing through fences and undergrowth to the key feature. I have been working on sketches and prints...

"the far stile"
graphite on paper

...this drawing is the most resolved piece so far. I was interested in how as an artist we can be very inspired by others work and yet when we come to do our own interpretations the end result can be quite different, truly an interpretation.
I like to draw before I make a print, and at the moment I don't think I will achieve more by taking this into print. The darkness of the trees behind the grasses adds some drama, and the path provides texture - two elements that I usually look to find by etching - usually through 'accidental' mark making. This image feels settled where it is at the moment.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Inside my Sketchbooks cont...

An expert blogging friend, Sue, has thrown down the gauntlet to all Art bloggers to share their sketchbooks. This could be an exciting exchange, but response has been a little slow, so I'm posting a few more sketchbook pages to support Sue's enthusiasm and impetus.

Earlier this year I visited the David Tress exhibition 'Landmarks' at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath. Try this link to see more of his work:
It was a very exciting and inspiring exhibition and I sat and drew and made notes for a good hour or so:

I was most inspired by the viewpoint Tress had chosen for some of his most recent drawings. To me it looks as though he is sat down amongst the grasses and undergrowth, having to look through to the view.  I expect artists often choose to ignore plant life growing in front of them in order to ensure the chosen view is clearly defined, but with Tress we look through; we can feel the whole environment; we get a sense of the overgrown nature of much of the Gloucestershire/Somerset countryside.

The weather was so good today I set off through the village armed with inspiration, sketchbook and drawing stool and found a few interesting views made more intriguing by tall grasses and dried out skeletons of plants from last summer:

A stream running from Cherington pond

The stream continues through a meadow at Nags Head

The stream running through West End, Avening

My view from my drawing stool

It was lovely to have the weather to work on site, an excellent opportunity to get to know the place and fix the image more strongly. It was interesting to approach a location with the very specific inspiration from an accomplished artist, and then to see how I may interpret the situation. I have looked for the direction of growth of the grasses and at this early point in the year it is still possible to see most of my view. There is a good possibility of working up these ideas back in the studio.

I hope some more sketchbooks are posted this week, they are fascinating, inspiring and reassuring to see the various approaches.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Sketchbook practice - a look inside my sketchbooks

Recently I have been expanding my use of sketchbooks, looking for ways to improve the amount of useful information I include. All too often over a number of years I have felt unable to work from a sketchbook page because the memory is not complete on the page before me.
The following two pages would be good examples of this:

Both made very pleasing sketches but they stayed as that. The positive from both was that I had included some notes about the day. The first one reads 'Midday quiet, grass seeded dog' and the second says 'Tall grasses, insects, hot sun at 7.30pm' The comments certainly add to the information and help to fix the day a little stronger in my minds eye.

Another method I have used is to spend longer on a sketchbook page, but working outdoors does require some kindness in the weather, and its not there yet.
These are some drawings done at the end of last summer:

The visual information on these pages have been much more useful, and of course spending so much more time with the view helps makes the memory of the place and the day very much stronger. Looking at these pages I feel I am right back there.

In making the etchings this year I have needed different types of visual information. I found I needed to know more about surface textures and the contours of the view in front of me. This has led to some sketchbook work which provides very interesting and unusual images, with great potential:

The last page combines all the elements and has informed my other work very successfully. I have made more notes, I have the structural information I need and the image is very strongly fixed.
I wonder how other people have developed their sketchbook practice?