A wonderful day with lots of visitors taking up our expressive drawing challenge for Made in Roath festival. We rolled out long sheets of paper, and invited participants to use paint, charcoal and pastels to experiment and have fun.
For our Saturday afternoon drop-in session to experiment with cyanotype, or sun prints, participants brought along an assortment of things to try out on the photo-sensitive paper. Beads and seeds, feathers and flowers fresh from the garden were laid out and placed under the UV light bed for exposure.
Creating compositions using a variety of materials.
The most effective were often the most transparent or delicate items. Mary brought along a tracing on acetate of grasses she had made for a lino cut, and this worked beautifully, with small skeins of wool for clouds. Experimenting with double-exposure techniques added depth and interest: netting placed over the exposed grasses gave the effect of light rippling through them.
Rosalind, who is a wonderful illustrator, began to draw her designs on tracing paper, adding photogram items such as glass beads to enhance the composition. The tracing paper also adds varying tones.
Glass bottles from a flea market became ghostly alchemist’s wares. Sally’s double exposure using feathers and dried hydrangea flowers was also magical.
This was a Cyanotype Drop-in Session I ran at Cardiff Print Workshop. After my short introduction about the history and process of cyanotype printmaking, participants experimented with a variety of objects and techniques to produce interesting, abstract photograms.
Automatic drawing or painting can be described as “expressing the subconscious” using any technique that eliminates conscious control and replaces it with chance. The basic techniques originate from spiritualism, practiced by artists such as Georgiana Houghton and Hilma Af Klint, both of whom have recently had their work exhibited in a revival of interest and appreciation of automatism and early abstraction.
Surrealists such as Andre Breton and Andre Masson, were keen to experiment with automatic drawing and promoted it as an art movement. By this time, ofcourse, psychologists of the unconscious had dismissed the idea of spirits speaking through the artist: it was the subliminal self that could express itself in ways that could lead to the development of real artistic genius. The new interpretive framework was now wholly secular and based on the insights of psychoanalysis, but the basic techniques were adopted from spiritualism.
Whichever way you wish to interpret it, drawing randomly without rational control is a good way to avoid inihibitions that freeze the flow of creativity. It is a way to bypass the ‘I can’t draw’ mentality a lot of people develop when the natural artistic confidence of childhood is abandoned.
Making simple marks and considering the relationships between them bypasses jugement by the logical brain about what is “good” or “accurate.” It opens the doorway to the intuition, allows the emotions to be engaged, and allows enjoyment of the pure physical experience of artmaking.
Some of my experiments:
One of Georgiana Houghton’s spirit drawings – The Eye of the Lord (1 Sept 1870), and Joan Miro – Preparations for Birds, detail, 1963.
Continuing to experiment on the backs of carpet tiles that were left in our studio, this painting emerged. I’ve called it World Tree. I used a combination of house paint for the texture, oils and ink.
There is something raw and deeply absorbing about Hannelore Baron’s multi-layered work. Found materials are combined with enigmatic text and abstract figures in her collages and box constructions.
The work suggests both the condition of entrapment and the possibility of release, no doubt informed by her early traumatic experiences of war in Germany in the 1930s. Unlike Joseph Cornell, her box assemblages are not wrapped — or trapped — in the air of poetic-romantic longing. Baron’s boxes and notations insist that the human spirit can persevere, however damaged.
Hannelore Baron website: http://www.hannelorebaron.net/
Sometimes, when you don’t have much money, you have to use whatever is lying around for your art. There was a pile of old carpet tiles in the studio when we moved in, so I’ve started working on the back of them. I like that they have already had a life, and some character of their own; it helps me avoid the fear of the stark white canvas and the fear of making mistakes and having to produce something. The carpet tiles don’t care what I do to them, so I feel free to play. They don’t mind if I walk over them with paint on my shoes, or spread glue about and then heat it so it bubbles up. They don’t mind if I peel away their sticky backing to get at the fur underneath and then paint over it for texture. I might try working on the carpet-side next.
Some more carpet tiles beginning their second incarnation as art surfaces.
And just so I don’t forget, here’s some sublime pieces I’ve discovered recently by Dutch artist Walter Rast. His website here.
Featured on sculpter Robyn Gordon’s sumptuous blog, here.