Hi guys, sorry to have been somewhat AWOL recently. Reading of interesting books and quality films has been on the downhill slope, and that’s before I even get to anything that might require even the slightest bit of creative effort. I haven’t been feeling that motivated recently, and seem to have slipped into a sad little cycle of going to work, watching TV and getting lost in the vast depths of the internet – and then repeat. I don’t know if this is the daily grind getting me down or some wary Berlin tunnel vision kicking in, but recently I just don’t seem to have the energy – but even worse than that – the interest (!) in anything besides the afore mentioned depressing little things.
But, I do hold out some hope because things are imminently about to change in a big way. This is a busy week for me as it happens to be my last week at work – and also my last week in the UK before I leave for Berlin. In anticipation for restored motivation for LIFE, but especially the arty side of things I have begun to finally create an online portfolio which I will doing the basic foundation work on over the course of the next few days (when I’m not packing/working/freaking out). I’m hoping to photograph my best pieces of work and then continue to add to it over time; hopefully it will be a good showcase of my technical skills, but also a nice thing for me personally as it’s a pleasure to see my work presented in such a nice way instead of languishing in drawers and folders under my bed.
You can access my new portfolio (currently still called ‘portfolio’ as I have yet to come up with a name both witty and sophisticated) here More work will be added in the coming days.
I’ve been somewhat in the creative doldrums recently. It’s funny how quickly apathy can spread through all parts of your life; there’s the blank pages in my sketch book, the blank pages in my note book, the empty blog post, the long overdue email I can’t write, the first paragraph of the book that I just can’t seem to get past – and they’re all mocking me. If you have ever given in to the desire to clean or bake when there’s a deadline looming then you know that the feeling of wasting time is fused with anxiety and frustration.
Bearing that in mind then it’s interesting that my first creative break in a while should be time- themed.
Last weekend I picked up a some collage paper collected together by artist Anthony Zinonos. I have bought one of these little collections of collage papers before (they are available to buy on his website) and found them to be quite inspiring and a good starting point for new projects. These little packs are good for if you don’t have the patience, or know where to start looking for interesting paper. Also good for seasoned creative types for whom this is the adult equivalent of a lucky dip, well deserving of irrational childhood excitement. From experience I know that once you start scrapbooking or creating collage art suddenly you start acquiring stamps and tickets and other interesting bits and pieces from everywhere, the materials start to breed and you stop being able to close your drawers.
I quite like the work of Anthony Zinonos, but my plans for the paper were quite different. The first thing I did was to lay out all the pieces on the floor to see what goodies I had and start thinking about how to use them.
I think if there had been a spare white wall going I would have been tempted to just stick everything up because I thought it all looked great already, that’s not really engaging my creativity though! What I actually ended up doing was using the graph paper and sewing up a fake graph:
I stuck this into a small Moleskine notebook with the idea of creating a scrapbook. The next page I created was a clear follow on colour/theme wise:
I actually went to buy a copy of the Financial Times specifically for this, to get the printed shares and the specific orange colour. Buying the Financial Times to turn into an project is exactly the sort of financial backwards that seems to follow me around! It looks great here though. I thought a bit of a theme was developing, so here is what I have created so far:
As you can see the collage papers were just a starting point and I had to go in search of specific things I wanted after a certain point. It’s always quite difficult to showcase a book as it can be quite laborious to photograph every page so I also made a video, but now I think this gallery works better. Books are difficult things to exhibit in galleries, they always seem to opt for turning a page every week or so (so you would have to visit a lot to see the whole thing!) The sort of scrapbook I’m working on is also quite a tactile object and I think that gets lost in the photographs, the best way to see it is really to flick through it so you can enjoy the different textures of the paper, thread, ink painting and especially the coin rubbings. If you have ever seen hand illuminated manuscripts in galleries or museums then you will know what I am talking about, the gilded scroll work always appears slightly raised, a delightful feature that you completely miss in photographs or prints.
I mentioned before that I managed to pick up a mixed bag of old stamps from an antiques fair last year. The same stall was also selling bags of outdated currency, and I really wish I had bought some now as the banknotes would have been great for this project. Ebay and Amazon do sell old banknotes, but they seem to specialise in rare expensive ones which aren’t really what I’m after.
I didn’t consciously develop a financial theme for my scrapbook, although it came about by accident I have no shortage of ideas for what else to do (currently I’m cutting out Monopoly money). I find craft projects and drawings to be very therapeutic, and I think something in my subconscious has definitely come out here. Like many of skills I seem to endowed with I have no idea how scrapbooking might be turned into profit, although I sure would like to have an epiphany on that one. If I could do this all day and make money out of it I would be a very happy person. For the time being it’s just an activity for evening stress busting, my own itchy fingers and sense of satisfaction. It’s a work in progress and I hope to fill all the pages but I’m very pleased with what I have created up to now.
And with that:
Freelance scrapbooker, embroiderer extraordinaire, and general creative person available for hire! Will work for tea, gratitude, interesting paper and modest amounts of actual money.
In this case is gold. 23.5 carat to be precise. I’ve been trying my hand at gilding, a decorative technique that involves covering an object with fine layers of gold leaf (although silver, copper and mixed leaf can also be used). Gilding can be used on loads of things, in the past I have used it on paintings, but it’s more likely to be found in nice houses or on fancy statues, for example:
I started out with a wooden corbel (prospective plant stand) picked up from a second hand shop. The first thing I did was paint the corbel yellow using enamel paint. The enamel provides a good base for the size which the gold will stick to, and ensures that the size will not sink into the wood. Yellow is a good colour to use as will not be obvious if there are any missed patches of gold.
After this was dry I added a layer of oil based size. This took about two days to get to the right sticky/tacky level for me to be able to apply the gold leaf.
The next stage was to ‘mop’ up the gold using circular motions with a soft brush to brush away the excess gold.
Finally the gold could be polished gently with cotton wool:
Gilding is a highly skilled trade, and like all highly skilled trades it looks really easy until you attempt it yourself – and then realise that there’s no chance you can get anywhere near the speed and neat application of a real pro. There are several different techniques you can use, for example, water gilding. If you feel like real gold leaf might be a bit pricey (and the price of gold is still on the rise) then you might want to opt for transfer leaf, which is a lot easier to apply, but not quite so shiny.
Recently I have bought Photoshop Elements 11 and I have been doing some playing around today. I used photoshop quite a lot at college while studying art but my skills are a bit rusty these days. Photoshop can be kind of tricky if you’ve never used it before, but my advice is to stay away from the books for the most part if you’re entirely new to it. The best way is to just mess around until you get the hang of the basics and then go from there. I think I am going to use Elements to do a travel series, hopefully turn my tourist-y snaps into something cool while getting some practice in.
Something cooler than these anyway, not a bad start though. Watch this space!
Harry Clarke was a Dublin born illustrator and stained glass artist. During his short life (1889-1931) he produced illustrations for Edgar Allen Poe’s stories and Goethe’s Faust amongst other things. An example of the intricacy and detail of the work of the Arts and Crafts movement, his work also bears similarities to contemporary illustrators Aubrey Beardsley and Kay Nielson. The maddeningly intricate patterns, which I’ve spent many an hour copying, also remind me a lot of Gustav Klimt.
My first encounter with Harry Clarke was standing in front of one of his famous stained glass windows at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. At that point I was a little first year History of Art student, and even though I was impressed I had other things on my first year mind – I forgot about Harry Clarke. Several years later the National Gallery of Ireland hosted an exhibition of Harry Clarke’s illustrations for Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘Fairy Tales’, and this time, I was hooked. I’m not sure exactly what it was that first made me pick up my paintbrush and decide to have a go at copying a Harry Clarke, but it’s certainly been an interesting ride and undoubtedly a sharp learning curve.
I don’t know what your opinions are on copying things, but while studying art at college we were always encouraged to copy paintings and drawings as part of the creative process. The thinking on this probably lies somewhere along the lines that you should learn the rules before you can break them. It’s astonishing how much you can learn about an artist’s technique by trying to recreate one of their drawings, and more than anything else it’s just a good technical exercise. From that point onwards we were supposed to try to create our own work in the style of that artist, do this enough times and with enough artists and you might eventually be able to find your own groove. I suppose there are a lucky few people out there who already know their own style, the rest of us have to find it through trial and error.
I digress; I like copying Harry Clarke illustrations because it’s therapeutic. When trying to create your own original piece of work your mind is constantly whirring and questioning every line and every colour choice, but with copies my mind can wander. In short, this is just what I’m doing to clear out my head; my real creative juices are getting poured into other things. Recently I’ve been thinking about maybe doing my own set of illustrations for something in the style of Harry Clarke. This would require quite a lot of planning as of course I’d like to get it right, I’m sure it would be a good challenge though – maybe a project for the new year.