Monotype drawings have been a long-term favourite of mine, ever since I learnt the technique in 1981 at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. I began some new work this week, bearing in mind what I was thinking last week about allowing more space for the work, and decided to start with monotypes of my father’s old templates.
It meant (horror of horrors) having to clear out my work space, involving a lot of shifting things around and putting things away to make room for my toughened glass plate on the table, which in turn led to an incredible amount of dusting. A rethink and reorganisation of the work space is a great way to begin a new series of work, though, and I was excited when I could eventually begin! As usual there was the initial panic that nothing would come of it and that I wouldn’t ever be able to make art again, but the best thing is just to start somewhere and get marks onto those scary blank sheets of paper. I love the monotype process so much it it was just a few moments before I was totally absorbed. The marks, accidental and deliberate, are their own inspiration. Below is a detail showing lovely stony textures and pale lines left on the plate by the drawings which happened earlier.
I was photographing some of the templates diary work during the week when I noticed I was getting good images of some used carbon paper. I had been drawing templates through it to get that particular blue line, which somehow manages to be crisp and fuzzy at the same time; also, I love that particular blue colour. After the sheets of carbon have been used over and over I had noticed the shiny side becomes an intricate lace of inverse lines left by pressing through the back with a biro to transfer the line onto paper. I have tried so many times to capture it - scanning, fancy lighting, getting close up with the camera, but to no avail - no detail showed up at all in the images.
I had cut template shapes from the used carbons for some compositions in the diary, and these were amongst the photos I took this week. The natural light of summer was so good I saw that at last I had managed to capture those elusive lines! They were so interesting I brought them into Procreate on my iPad, cut them out, and composed this image - maybe an idea for a painting?
I was honoured to receive this comment when I posted this work on Instagram the other day:
To me, your work is a really inspiring example of how to take a set of artistic questions, ideas, and feelings and truly explore them, rather than just skating the surface ...
I was bowled over by this, not just because of the praise but because it came from an artist I highly respect and admire. Known as Daniel, please check out his Instagram Graphopathy - it is fun and inspiring and very intriguing.
Titled Ball Game, this work is available on my Etsy store, listing here
For weeks now I have been contemplating how people or characters might look in the templates drawings. The little figures above came out of the children's book I have been illustrating. I made this digital mockup with one of my recent drawings on my iPad and was quite taken with how the people look solitary and overwhelmed by their environment. They look like explorers on their Grand Tour, but the scene also reminds me of our local park where people are taking their daily exercise during lockdown. The entrance to the park is on a hill overlooking the park, and solitary walkers can be seen scattered amongst the trees and meadow areas. In that respect it brings to mind the works of Lowry, or even some of Henri Rousseau's beautiful works like Carnival Evening.
Well, last week I simply forgot to post this. I did the same with my Binky McKee illustration and design blog, I left both posts in drafts and forgot to publish, so I backdated it today. I was most interested in these leftover pieces of cutout template shapes, strewn across a piece of paper - they really do look like a strange calligraphy.
Another six from the series of Indian frame rubbings. No new work this week, but I find myself thinking a lot about the templates works, especially in the night in that state of half dreaming. They keep appearing to me with figures in them - yes, people! - something I haven't worked with for years. I am interested in the idea and it makes perfect sense in the wee hours, but when I am fully awake the images slip away as soon as I have conjured them in my mind. I guess the only thing to do is try it one day and see what happens.
A number of warm, sunny days last week got me out into the garden, working in my pop-up tent. It fills up rapidly with art materials, papers, tools, brushes, pencils, pens and jars of ink and is all rather precarious. The wind at one point was flapping the tent walls so hard the whole tent was leaning and threatening to spill my water jar. At one point the jar of ink fell over, luckily inside an old, thick-walled leather satchel which has seen it all in terms of art material accidents - the lid wasn't on properly, and ink spilled into the corner of the bag in a puddle, strangely enough in exactly the same place which bore a stain from a similar accident years ago. Such hindrances I took in my stride - they go hand in hand with working in a tent, and I managed to power through a lot of work making frottage prints of two wooden Indian frames as a basis for riffing on the templates theme.
After the frame prints I made monotype drawings of some of the templates. Here are some of the templates cut out and thrown down on a piece of paper, ready to use. I thought they looked like a strange alphabet, flying up in the wind to form words.
By the end of the day, the remaining ink on the glass palette not only bore the residue of beautiful marks but had the perfect consistency to make monotype drawings.
It's my birthday today, and I opened an Etsy shop as a gift to myself - at long last! I will be stocking it gradually with watercolours, including these 6 from the week. When I have enough listings to make it interesting, I'll link to it from this blog.
In the mean time, I hope everyone enjoys the bank holiday weekend in lockdown!
I discovered a liveliness in the work this week, and was surprised when I began to recognise work from my past coming through. I am going to hark back to my days at Gray's in Aberdeen again, because something in the distribution of weight, tone, shapes and marks goes right back to then. Around 1983 we had a class trip out west to sketch the sea and mountains (I think to Tighnabruaich, I may be wrong). Following on from the monotype landcapes I talked about previously, I had begun to develop landscape paintings using lots of inky splotches and dark areas crossed by even darker spots and lines, but on that trip it really came together. Unfortunately I can't find any of those now, but I did refer to them a few years ago in a large sketch book, where for three pages I made little drawings of fruits using every mark I could imagine and a number of tools to make them, including home made quills from bird feathers, and my finger tips. I haven't worked this way for ages, and I am really enjoying it - it's weird how some things just never go away.
These fruits were ideas to decorate ceramics.
Three more new templates works in landscape format. I made quills from birds' feathers to draw some of the shapes, mixing the uneven, splashy ink lines with the precision of technical and mapping pens used on others, collage, and areas of tone created with repeating lines. They are probably the lightest, most free work I have made for a few years and I was pleased that they seem to connect to my younger self at art school. One day when I was studying painting at Gray's School of Art I had exclusive use of a printing press, and I made about 20 monotypes based on landscape drawings I had made out in the Deeside country near Aberdeen. I worked them with loose paint after printing, and it was a simply wonderful day, a big favourite in all my years at art school. Today I am delighted that my new works are reminiscent of those.
The first two artworks made as a result of the templates diary. They are on ruled sheets of paper taken from a vintage Cameron's Register of Class Marks, R.H. The book had never been used; it belonged to my mother, who was assistant head teacher at a primary school in Rosyth for 40 years. The sheets measure 21x34cm, or 8-1/4 x 13-1/2 inches as it was back then, and are ruled in charming light blue, dark blue and pink.
Nos. 99 and 100 - it feels great to have got this far with the templates diary. This, however, is where it stops. I have removed unused pages from the book to allow it to close with enough pages remaining to use for experiments and notes, for I am now moving on to make artworks in their own right which can be exhibited and sold.
Watch this space for new work in the next few days ...
Up to no.98 now, I have definitely decided to stop the templates diary in favour of making artworks in their own right once I have reached 100. I'll continue with the book itself as a sketchbook for experiments, rather than a diary, as I have several ideas lined up to try - at least, for as long as the book can be closed, it's already bulky with so much thick paint and collage.
If you visited this page earlier and saw an image of a cushion here instead of these drawings, it was because of a weird bug which confuses images from this blog with ones from my illustration and design blog at Binky McKee if they have the same title (i.e. the date posted). I must get more inventive with my titling! It's comforting to see there are other kinds of bugs than coronavirus around at the moment.
I couldn't believe it when I noticed I have been doing these for 15 weeks now ...
This week's six, and I am up to no.86 now. I wasn't intending this diary to be a 100 days project, rather I saw it as a whole year's worth of drawings. In just over two weeks I will have reached no. 100 and I'm undecided about whether to continue working in the diary. The book itself is beginning to bulk up with pieces of collage, paint, and wrinkly paper on the pages. If I fill up the whole book it will be impossible to close it! Fat books aside, I am very happy with the progress of the work, and I do wonder if my time would be better spent making actual art works which I can sell.
I work a LOT in sketchbooks and always have several on the go. My dad was an architect and naval draughtsman, and after he died in 2017 I found heaps of old templates while clearing out his study. Always having been an avid collector of shapes, at the beginning of this year I bought a WHSmith A5 diary to use as a sketchbook specifically for work based on them.
As well as the work you see here, I illustrate under the name of Binky McKee (my mother's maiden name was McKee, Binky was every single one of my great grandmother's many cats!)
If you would like to visit my Binky website, please click the picture above.
I always take prints from my monotype glass at the end of a day's work. It helps with cleanup and the results are often surprising - like this one, which looks like a weather front! (Yet another work titled A Change in the Weather on its way?)
(Sorry the archives don't nest!)
A 2013 work book, still very much in use
Please note all images on this website are ©Heather Eliza Walker 2013 - 2020, and may not be used or reproduced without prior consent.