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July 2015
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archive for 'diy art school'

sketch, erm, tuesday

sheesh, strike tuesday, it took me this long to get the pics uploaded. sketch wednesday has a lovely ring don’t you think? ;)

we went camping by the beach on the weekend (and had a really lovely time) and i wasn’t organised enough to make an auto post for sunday. so by way of apology here’s 1 1/2 sketches.

the first is M, although it’s only a few lines it’s not a bad likeness and i consider it finished. it’s part of a page of fragments of the girls watching a film, the only time they sit even slightly still enough to sketch and G not even then – the page is full of barely outlined fractions of toddler; an arm here, an ear there…

the second illustrates the problem of trying to find time to draw in the holidays. i briefly had the place to myself with M at a friend’s and G asleep so i thought i’d have a go at a pen drawing. i spent too long trying to make sure everything was in the right place, and before i could get to properly inking in the lines she woke up. this is about 20 minutes’ worth, another 20 and it might have been worth something, it was shaping up quite nicely i thought.

sketch sunday or “one door closes another opens”

see, i don’t really know when to quit ;)

having dropped the 365 i appear to have talked myself into a new self-imposed regime: a sketch every sunday (posted, rather than necessarily drawn, on sunday). i’m resurrecting my diy art school after spending an inordinate amount of time mooching around mithi’s blog over the last week. you prolly all saw her embroidery hoops on whipup, did you delve any deeper?

it’s rekindled my urge to ponce about retrain at art school. there’s a course local to me that looks like the perfect fit, but that wouldn’t be possible until G is at school, so a few years away still. in the mean time i’d like to broaden my basic knowledge and skills foundation-course-stylee, and mithi’s blog will be a great help since she posts many of her assignments in detail, so i can try my hand at a few.

i’ve got my own copy of drawing on the right side of the brain and i’ll be working through that, but in the mean time i thought i’d warm up with some random sketching. this is the second version of this picture. the first was my usual style and took half an hour or more. i wanted to see if i could do a proper 5 minute sketch rather than a drawing. it’s okay, and i think the shapes are actually more accurate, though maybe that’s because i’d spent so long looking at it drawing the first one.

i prefer the stylistic distinction between blanket and horse in the first version – the horse with more detail, more lifelike shading, and the blanket more sketchy, but this one’s more lively which is what i’m looking to develop in my drawings, i think i naturally tend towards overworking which can make them flat.

suggestions in floral design

plate v

it seems to me that, when it comes to design, the victorian era is often overlooked. perhaps because it’s so ubiquitous – in the uk at least. huge swathes of our towns and cities were built in the 19th century, a quarter of us live in houses built before 1919. and if we don’t live in a victorian house, we’ve been accustomed to using victorian buildings all our lives, so much of our infrastructure – schools, hospitals, police stations, doctors’ surgeries, etc. – is housed in victorian buildings. victorian flourishes and flounces surround us; mouldings, coving, glorious decorative tiling that often survives on hallway floors or fireplaces; all are commonplace. and familiarity breeds contempt.

plate xii

we only did away with the last of the surviving victorian interior aesthetic after the second world war, and not effectively like they did in the states. that dark wood furniture, those velvet curtains, those panelled doors, they lurked gloomily on for a long time. it’s stuffy, it’s fussy, it’s the antithesis of modern, and we all know how much we love modern. even those who dig old stuff tend to go for the atomic, the mid century, or simpler, rustic, country style. everyone (except perhaps the crazy quilter) neatly sidesteps victorian, it just isn’t cool.

plate xxi

i can’t say i’m any exception to the rule, but i do recognise that the more celebrated movements that grew out of the end of the victorian era – arts and crafts, art nouveau – had their roots well and truly in the victorian age. the modern was born out of the heart of the old fashioned. and i have a huge fondness for ceramic tiles, particularly victorian and islamic designs, which share a combination of botanical and geometric motifs, brought together with some kind of magic that must be specific to the medium (but to a degree is often echoed in textile design).

plate xxii

and i’ve already shared my love of browsing for original sources. so when i found a copy of f edward hulme’s suggestions in floral design (1878), a book that is apparently seminal in the development of art nouveau – most astonishingly – at a price that i could theoretically afford, how on earth could i resist?

plate xxxiv

i haven’t yet had a chance to read the text, i’ve been too distracted by the illustrations – crisp chromolithographs, many highlighted in gold. all astonishingly beautiful, and often surprisingly “modern”. sadly i don’t think i can afford to hold on to the book – i sank a chunk of my digital camera fund into the purchase, and i’m really aching to move on with that. so its stay with me will be temporary, but i’ve taken the chance to record all 52 plates while i have them, and put them into an inspirational flickr set. i’ll try to annotate the pics as i work my way through the text.

plate xxxix

while it’s not the same as the stunning originals, the good news is that the illustrations at least are available in reprint under the title victorian floral designs in full color, although i don’t know whether the text is reproduced alongside them.

plate xlv

such beautiful designs couldn’t have been developed without a thorough understanding of the subject matter, and f edward hulme is probably best known today for his series of volumes illustrating familiar wild flowers, pages from which are readily available as prints. if you’re digging these as much as i am (heh, can you tell how much i dig them?) you might also be interested in christopher dresser’s studies in design, from the same era, available in reproduction.

end plate

Art, Design, and Visual Thinking

Art, Design, and Visual Thinking: an interactive textbook. via inaminuteago.

the celtic coin index

trinovantes/catuvellauni gold stater

honestly, this isn’t as o/t as it may at first appear. i was once (briefly) an archaeologist and have always found design inspiration in the ancient world. i was just reminded how drawn i am to the motifs on british celtic coins, in particular the horses. many of these coins were made in imitation of greek coins (the gold stater of philip II of macedon, in particular):

philip ii stater

over time the designs evolved further and further from the original, becoming progresively more abstract:

corieltauvi gold stater

you can still see the chariot wheel in both my examples. the cross/ear of corn type pattern on the obverse is derived from philip’s laurel wreath (and ears?).

i was searching for a book with plenty of illustrations to use as a design reference when i came across the ultimate resource; the celtic coin index online. there are thousands of images, you can browse by tribe and every image is accompanied by comprehensive information on its provenance, composition etc.

love it :D

new from old

i got a new book this week. well, new to me at least. crochet workshop by james walters. when someone as talented as helle jorgensen who makes such amazing stuff as this:

medusa nematocysta

highly recommends a crochet book you have to sit up and take notice. i found one online for a very reasonable price (if you’re trying to track down an affordable copy don’t despair!) and snapped it up. i haven’t yet had a chance to settle down for a proper read, but i love that it gives you the real nitty-gritty knowledge that informs a real understanding of the structure of a crochet piece.

i love vintage craft books, i love having a less-well-known source of inspiration. that’s not saying that following a project word for word from a book no-one’s heard of has any greater merit than doing the same from stitch n bitch or knitty (and not knocking that, particularly as a way to pick up new skills, or as simple relaxation). but it offers an alternative aesthetic, as well as techniques that may have been overlooked by modern authors.

i was pretty excited when i heard via inaminuteago that a 1912 embroidery manual – embroidery and tapestry weaving by grace christie – had been added to the guttenberg project. and oh how disappointed i was when i realised that guttenberg doesn’t support illustrations. i mean how much use is that? i’m not a particularly visual learner, i like words (in case you hadn’t guessed :D ), but really, an embroidery manual without pictures? :?

i’ve also been browsing the art&design books on ebay and have found a few crackers, though they’ll have to wait for payday. i feel that going back to original sources like this forces creativity – the work isn’t done for you, you have to translate your inspiration into whichever medium you’re working. it’s reawakened my interest in acquiring a more systematic art education rather than the bits i’ve picked up piecemeal over the years. i still have half a shelf-full of art history books on extended loan that haven’t been read and are due back soon, so i’m going to try to work my way through them. now i just have to stop myself falling asleep in the middle of the greek classical period…


my diy art school stuff has a permanent home now on these pages, accessible from a sidebar link just above the gallery. the bare bones structure is there but it still needs a fair bit of tidying up. i’ll keep posting details of updates, but keep the bulk of it out of the blog.

i’m currently much enjoying my texture studies, although i suspect i’m likely to flit around between things as my interest waxes and wanes (yay! for doing what the hell you like when you like). i’ve posted the second of my drawing on the right side of the brain “befores”, but i’ve rather stalled with that since the next exercise is to copy a drawing upside down that she suggests you take at least 40 minutes over. i just feel that if i’m to set that amount of time aside i can think of many more productive things i could do with it, kwim? i’d rather just sketch my lovely flowers before they die.

Johannes Itten 1888 – 1967

Johannes Itten 1888 – 1967

i’m really drawn to the vorkurs (the bauhaus preliminary course), what i know of it so far at least. fingers crossed i’m hoping to get hold of a couple of itten’s books.


ooh i found me a reference syllabus of sorts: Course Schedule – California College of the Arts. gives a decent overview of what bases should be covered.

and on a slight tangent, i’m working on a better way of organising all this d.i.y.a.s. stuff, since there are posts i want to expand on over time. i’m going to set up some pages with a more traditional website structure. when i have time.


i was taken by some texture studies in the bauhaus book and thought i’d try some of my own. i’ve been out gathering stuff today and took some pictures too. i found it surprisingly difficult to differentiate between texture and pattern and found this distinction helpful:

… pattern changes to texture as you loose sight of the individual motifs. This is easy to do with natural patterns, but you have to get quite far away from a checker board grid to see it as texture. Patterns are generally more noticeable than textures. This makes them a stronger visual element for controlling attention. art 104