MODULE 1, CHAPTER 1, ACTIVITY 1.1, PART 1

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CREATIVE SKETCHBOOKS LEVEL 2

MODULE 1, CHAPTER 1

Activity 1.1: Part 1

This is by way of an introductory note. I’m not an artist. I never studied art (although I love wandering around art galleries), and the only thing I remember from school is cutting circles and rectangles from tissue paper and sticking them on paper. I have no recollection of doing any drawing, or colour studies or anything like that.

Consequently. I found the colour and shape studies of my wall (Embroidery Taster Module, Unit 3) quite difficult, but I bought a couple of art books from Oxfam and spent some time experimenting with making marks and mixing colours, and I’m hoping this course will help me build on what I’ve already learned, and give me a better understanding of colour, shape, texture, pattern etc. It will certainly be a challenge, but I am looking forward to it.

My sketchbook is only 160 gsm, not the recommended 180gsm, but it was the heaviest weight paper I could get locally, so I hope it is OK. Also, I’ve split Activity 1.1 (Chapter 1) into two parts, because I got a bit carried away trying out different mark-making tools, and mostly I did a sample per page, so I had a clear record of my work, which means I seem to have used oodles of pages before I thought about using different types of paper and wet surfaces. I saw each suggested task as a separate undertaking, but I could have experimented with different tools and different papers at the same time, and tried to provide more variety in the sizes and shapes of my marks, and made the marks closer together, and tried making patterns with them. However, I’ve had tremendous fun playing around, and I’m fascinated to see how the most unlikely objects can be used to paint. And I’m curious to know at what point marks are printed rather than painted.


Most of the art supplies I have (pads of paper, paints, brushes, coloured pencils, sketching pencils, pastels etc) were my elder daughter’s, and she gave them to me when she left home. They are not the best quality – they are all old and cheap – but they are good enough to get me started. The paint just says ‘crimson red’, while the brushes are probably nylon, and don’t seem to have much information about size or shape, or if they do the details are hidden under layers of paint on the handles and some of them need throwing out, because the bristles are all stuck together. 

On the whole I worked directly into the sketchbook, and used a hair-dryer to dry the paint when it seemed too wet to turn to the next page (I also inserted sheets of kitchen paper between pages to blot any excess moisture). Occasionally the paint was so wet that I painted the next sample on to paper (92gsm, from a pad ), then stuck it in to the sketchbook.  

Other than the first couple of samples, I didn’t make any conscious effort to try different strengths of paint, but it varied as I went along, because each time I added more paint I left it thick to start with, and kept adding water to thin it down until I had to put more paint in again. You can see the variation between the thick, dark paint and the thin, paler colours. I suspect my colour would be stronger with a better quality paint. 

Some markers worked best with ‘pure’ paint, while I liked the effect of others in more watery straight paint. Some things gave unexpected results – I loved the little bottle brush, feather, lollipop stick and big, fat, fluffy brush which looked like a giant make-up brush. But the natural sponge was no better than artificial ones (actually, I think I preferred the artificial ones), and crumpled material was disappointing, though it might be good for covering paper. 

Anyway, my work on different types of paper will be in the next post, as there seemed to be too much stuff to put it on the blog all together. Meanwhile, here’s a photo of my hastily compiled ‘mood board’ showing paintings, wrapping paper, postcards which use lines, spirals, squiggles and all sorts of other marks. My favourite is the amazing Paul Klee goldfish – when you look at the picture closely everything is covered in little marks that look like designs scratched into the surface.

 

And here are lots of photographs from my sketchbook, showing my efforts at producing marks on paper with paint and a variety of tools. I’ve cropped  them as best I can, as well as editing them to make them a little lighter and brighter, to give clearer images.

The upper part of the page shows work with a dry and a wet brush, and watering the paint down. The lower part shows paint straight from the tube, which was quite difficult to control, but gave a deeper, richer, textured effect. You could make marks in the paint with a comb, or knitting needle to get even more texture. This took a very long time to dry.

 

These marks (above) were done with a children’s paint brush, which gave surprisingly good and varied results, but whatever I do to it, the photo will only print upside down.

 
The marks at the bottom of the page  above were made with a large fluffy round brush (it looked like a giant make-up brush), used dry, and I just love this. They could be flowers, or strange animal footprints… 

The big, fluffy brush used wet was nice, but not as spectacular, so I over-painted with the end of a straw, and various cardboard tubes (from a loo roll, kitchen roll and cooking foil). 

These marks (above) were made with a very small bottle brush (when I was a child my mother used one of these to clean the teapot spout!). It made wonderful patterns, and reminds me of flowers, and pine forests, and ploughed furrows in fields… 

 

The footbrush, dragged along (above) looked a bit messy, so I over-painted with a twig, which  was capable of more delicate marks than I expected.

I found a magpie’s feather, and used  it to produce marks (above and below). It looks a bit messy, but was fun to use, and different parts gave quite different effects.  

The marks made with a cotton wool bud (above) were a bit clumnsy. I tried over-painting with  scrunched up plastic mesh (the kind you buy oranges in) but it just makes dots, rather than netting marks.  

This page (above) was created using an eye make=up applicator – one of those little sponge things on a plastic stick.  
Ooh, this was such fun! Different sized marbles, rolled across the page (this would be much better carried out in a box). It would be fabulous with different coloured, thicker paints. Perhaps I could try putting blobs of paint over the paper before rolling the marbles… I could have my very own Jackson Pollock style painting!

The cat ball gave interesting results, but wouldn’t roll properly, because it had a ridge round the middle (no wonder the cat didn’t like it). If I could find a better ball I’d like to try this again, with the marbles.  

 

I thought the bamboo pen (top of the above page) would be easy to use, but it wasn’t. It was awkward to hold, unwieldy to use, and wouldn’t retain paint for more than a second or two, and the effects looked clumsy.

 

The wooden stick for stirring tea was another awkward tool, but the lollipop stick was fabulous – I love the textured effects it gave.

 

I thought there would be a noticeable difference between artificial and natural sponge, and that the natural one would be better, but in actual fact the artificial sponges  were more versatile.

 

 
The little flat, flexible, plastic spatula for glue (you used to get these with children’s glue – do they still make them I wonder?) was another surprise, because it produced a variety of marks – fat, thing, curved, straight, dots and all sorts. 

Cable needle for knitting (above) – tricky to work with.



The oddment of silk (above) and the velvet (below) were both disappointing, although they were OK for big marks. They might be better used to cover a sheet of paper in paint. The over-painted fine lines at the bottom of the page above were done with an old nit comb, but it was difficult to paint with – but you’d get great effects using it to produce textured effects in a thick painted surface.

 
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About chrisharding53

I'm a former journalist and sub-editor who loves needlework, reading and writing, and is still searching for the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Until I find the answer I'm volunteering at an Oxfam Book Shop and learning about Creative Sketchbooks!

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