5/17/2015

Trial and error.



A multitude of packages arriving on my doorstep recently, each one containing art materials. I decided it was high time to replenish my stocks and took the opportunity to try out some things new.

I loved working on a cool assortment or if you prefer "Couleurs Froides" pastel paper by Daler Rowney. I liked the way the paper takes coloured pencils and gouache and I managed to produce a little collection of images to give to my agent for the upcoming Surtex exhibition In New York. 




I needed to buy some new pens as my old ones were showing signs of wear, especially after dropping one of them on the floor nib first. I have been trying out making tiny patterns and hope to incorporate some of these in a new book illustration project- more of that to follow. These small scale patterns were inspired by calico quilts.




The new book project needed a new palette, the client wanted rich colours and so I spent a happy day mixing and matching colours to fit the brief. These paints are gouache which goes on nice and thick, like evaporated milk... do you remember "evap" or are you too young? Unlike watercolour, these paints are opaque but can be layered and stippled with a dry brush to give shaded effects. I hope to show you more soon.



I was fortunate enough to attend a wonderful Society of Bookbinders workshop by the most amazing teacher and bookbinder. Maureen Duke is highly respected the world over with a wealth of knowledge gained over a lifetime and it was a real privilege to be part of her class on "Cuir Cisele"- a method of decorating leather by cutting and stamping areas so that the pattern stands out in relief. We each made a miniature book and tried our hands at this ancient method of decoration. Maureen had made it easy for us by preparing the book block and pairing the leather and cutting the boards so we were able to complete the entire book in a one day session.

The design was first dawn onto thin paper and transferred onto the leather. A sharp pointed bone folder helped to outline the shapes and the little hammer was used to press the handmade tool into the dampened leather. The tool was no more than a very narrow tube of metal inside a wooden dowel, a simple but effective way to create a decorative effect. We also cut the design with a scalpel to create lines and later dyed the leather in order to enhance the design; the dye took to the impressions and made them more prominent. We also learned a little about the history of the technique which dates back to the 15the century. In later years it was replaced by gold tooling but I rather like the simplicity and humility of this method. It is certainly less daunting than gold tooling and one which a beginner could try. 



Of course my book turned out a little skew-wif, the corners were not quite square. I had trimmed the leather far too close to the corners and so on, nevertheless I learned so much and felt that I had gleaned enough knowledge to be able to make more books at home.






The weather has been tempting us outdoors, gardens are lush and overflowing with new growth. The lure of the outdoors proved irresistible and we decided to make an impromptu visit to Pembrokeshire in nearby Wales. It was so lovely to see the sea again and to hear the waves crashing on the beach. 




I won't bore you all with my myriad of holiday shots, needless to say I took my camera. I now have a fresh supply of coastal plant images for future reference. You never know when you might need them!




Walking in the fresh air and breathing in those salty breezes proved to be just the tonic we needed and we returned refreshed and inspired. 

28 comments:

  1. Love what you have done, Val - also love gouache, which you have described so well! Good luck with the Surtex exhibition. Lesley x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lesley, I thought of you and St Ives when we visited Pembrokeshire. The coastline is so similar and Tenby reminds me of St Ives. x

      Delete
  2. Carnation evap on tinned peaches.

    Do you always mix your own gouache from powder pigments? Or have I got confused?

    I love the little book.

    C x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tinned peaches, evap and "Sing something simple" on the radio, a staple of Sunday tea!

      No Celia, I am not so clever as to actually make my own paints from pigments. What I did was to choose a selection of colours which went together by mixing them up together rather than straight from the tube; so a little bit of blue in the red, a bit of grey in the yellow etc.

      Delete
  3. Loved seeing the new supplies - I will be very interested to hear more about the pigments you are using. The little mushroom book is fab. Very jealous of Pembrokeshire though! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. The paints I use are Designers Gouache, I mix them with each other to arrive at a set of colours which work together, rather than straight from the tube if that makes sense?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello Valerie and thank you for your comment on my blog :) I agree, new art supplies are always so inspiring! I love the colours you have mixed from the gouache, and that little goldfinch on the coloured paper is just exquisite. Gouache is on my list of things to try out one day, I love the opaque rich colour of it.

    I'm very glad to hear that my little bird is inspiring you! The quilt related project sounds intriguing :) x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks for the kind words Chloe and for visiting again. x

      Delete
  6. Oh Val, there is so much to comment upon in this post!

    Of course, new art supplies are like Christmas morning to my eyes. I don't think I've seen that particular Daler paper over here, although I have used some of their papers. I am now intrigued. Your goldfinch is very beautiful indeed.

    New Pens! Which brand are those, if I may ask. I currently like the feel of the Prismacolor fine line markers in various widths. I do like the look of those linear "swatches" which remind me a bit of samples I knit before starting a fairisle design.
    Lucky you to attend the bookbinding session. I am sure that the teacher was absolutely delighted to have you in the workshop. Your tiny book is a gem. I love your expression skew-wif, and will think of it as an ingredient to charming.
    And ... how grand to have those days on the Welsh coast, with sunshine and flowers. Fresh air and lots of inspiration go well together, don't they? xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Frances, the pens are technical drawing pens by Rotring. These are Isograph, they also make Rapidograph which fills with a cartridge. These fill with ink, you can get different pen widths, some draw the finest lines imaginable. You should try one. x

      Delete
    2. Thanks so much for the info, Val. I had many experiences with the old Rapidographs and always seemed to manage to let them "dry up." Perhaps I would get on better with the Isographs and will look for them at local art shops.

      My gouache paint experiences occured when I was investigating the possibility of designing textiles. I loved my course at Parsons School of Design, and putting my portfolio together, but...the trail cooled, and I spend another bunch of years working in that law firm from which I finally escaped. Gouache is a very interesting medium. I enjoyed working with it very much.

      Truly, Val, you are the one who masters all these techniques and inspires the rest of us. xo

      Delete
    3. re pens-I think they have improved since our student days, they can still be a bit temperamental but you can buy a cleaner which helps.
      Textile designers love gouache because it goes on flat and helps with the screen printing process although digital printing allows multi effects, shading etc.
      Your designer training shows in your knitting, your use of pattern and choice of colours and yarns- not to mention your tea cups! Not sure if I am the master of anything, more a matter of just keeping going! x

      Delete
  7. I bought some gouache for myself at Christmas and have yet to try it! You have inspired me to play with mine now :) Love the gorgeous little book as well.

    ReplyDelete
  8. You must try it, if you have never used it before just remember to let each layer dry before adding more. It dries nice and flat and opaque. You can add shading by stippling a darker shade on top, just make sure it dries out first.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Much exciting news here, a new book, new tools, new designs for Surtex and a wonderful leather bound treasure. I am with you, I like the simplicity of the tooling without the addition of gold leaf. Those Primrose in Wales make me think you could design something filled with the flower.... I can imagine it now, done in your beautiful style.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jeri, you would love Pembrokeshire. The primroses grew in a tiny garden in St Davids, a cathedral town.

      Delete
  10. Very interested to read your tips on using gouache - my attempts have tended to go muddy, but I can see now that patience to let things dry properly is needed! I also like the look of your pens - is the ink waterproof?
    As always your art is a delight, and you have clearly been making the most of the spring with a trip to Pembrokshire - what an inspiring place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sandie, the Rotring ink is described as "Easy flow, high opacity and good adhesion Smudge-proof when dry and waterproof".

      Delete
  11. So much good stuff in this post, and I love your Cuir Cisele piece.

    I'm an Isograph fan, I always have one close to hand when I'm doing anything arty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Annie, I thought you might be an Isograph kind of girl somehow. x

      Delete
  12. each art you are working on is such a joy to see.
    new supplies can be inspiring and fun and it looks like both are true for you. i hope you had a wonderful vacation. lovely spring to you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks Tammie and the same to you.

      Delete
  13. Love getting delicious things in the post; although art supplies would come second to old carved mop buttons for me!

    Like lots of other commenters I love the little gouache goldfinch. He is so appealing, would love to see more.

    I'll keep my eyes peeled for the pens you're using; great detail in your mark making tests.

    Lastly I hope your (own) handmade leather book smells and feels as good as it looks...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laughing here. I had to Google carved mop buttons. Who knew there was such an art form? The examples I saw were stunning and intricate and now I want to see if I might find some around town.

      Delete
    2. Old carved mop buttons, I need to know more!

      Delete
    3. I am intrigued, old carved mop buttons? They sound delightful!

      Delete
    4. Oops, I appear to have been inadvertently intriguing with my jewellers' jargon! Mop or M.O.P. (as I should have written) is mother of pearl. So I was talking about old carved mother of pearl buttons; still delightful but not nearly as mysterious :)

      Delete
  14. Mother of Pearl! Now I understand. Thank you for educating us. x

    ReplyDelete