Not my 'best 9' on Instagram in terms of engagement, but my personal favourite posts from last year.
I reckon it's safe to show this year's Christmas cards and gift tags now, as everyone should have received theirs. After two design fails which proved either too expensive (cannot believe how the price of making a rubber stamp has risen) or too time-consuming to make lino-cuts before post deadlines, I settled on simple prints from a cardboard triangle plus the usual rubber stamp culprits. Printed on imitation Japanese tissue from Lawrence Arts, mounted on card. Although not as planned, the blend of materials worked well at the last minute.
Ten days ago the frosts set in overnight. I just transferred photos from my phone of this unbelievably beautiful tree, which appeared the next morning on the surface of a glass table-top in the garden on one of my wrought iron designs forged by Stan Pike; I hadn't held much hope for the quality of the photos at the time, but they captured it beautifully. I can't imagine how the ice trees formed with such intricacy and consistency, but what a gift from Nature.
This is a bit more of a Binky thing, but it's what's been happening during the week. It's the time of year again for some intensive card making, beginning with birthday cards. So many of our friends have birthdays towards the end of the year and at the beginning of the new year I kick off the season making cards for them. This year I was a little later than usual because my work-room required repairs to one wall, and when that was done I made it available for Molly to work from home for a week, and a lovely week it was.
This time I made little envelopes out of origami paper, with a tiny slip of paper tucked in on which to write the the birthday person's name. I remembered this design from my shop days in London. I used to make several ranges of greetings cards to sell in the shop, and these were very popular, so I hope the birthday girls and boys will like them!
Now I'm onto making this year's Christmas cards, a bit under pressure to meet post deadlines for Christmas and challenged ideas-wise, but it's always best to just start with something simple and something will come of it in the end.
I absolutely love the work of Howard Finster. Like many people, I first encountered it on Talking Head's Little Creatures album art. I was reminded of it while making the music drawings last month for Open Eye's On a Small Scale exhibition; something about the distribution and scale of the different elements which make up Finster's works is not dissimilar to the way I was thinking at the time, and I have been pondering it since delivering the works to the gallery.
The Open Eye Gallery's annual Christmas exhibition opens online today! It runs until 23 December, and my four music drawings are on show.
I'm taking a break from social media at the moment. I was thinking of it as a vacation, but that doesn't sound quite right. It sounds as though I'm vacant or empty, but in fact I am exploring new directions and I can't do social media at the same time.
In the mean time, David Zwirner Gallery in Manhattan is showing a rare series of 8 watercolours by the wonderful Hilma af Klint, artist and spiritualist. Tree of Knowledge No.3 (shown above) can be seen, with others, on Hyperallergic, courtesy David Zwirner. They are all amazing and I'd give my back teeth to see that show! Unfortunately I'm not on vacation in Manhattan, just in the spare room here in Fife. Not so glam.
Four works trimmed and mounted on boards, details written up on the back, and all ready to go. Last week B drove me to Edinburgh to drop them off at the Open Eye Gallery in Abercromby Place. I would normally take the train to pick up the mount boards and then again a few days later to deliver the completed works, but I sprained my ankle rather badly three weeks ago and the walks to and from the train stations, although short, were out of the question. A shame, because I look forward to these annual trips. They have a sense of occasion and I never tire of the wonderful crossing of the River Forth; I'm also at leisure to stop for a chat with the wonderful Open Eye people, and to wander around and ogle all the beautiful art when I get there. Before the pandemic the Edinburgh Christmas German market was open at the time of delivery, too, which I absolutely loved.
Travel by car was an altogether different experience, however ...
My partner is a modular musician, so there is music or sound (not always musical!) all around the house every day. The notion that music doesn't exist until it is played absolutely fascinates me and to see this big rack of buttons, sliders, and dials with its spaghetti tangle of cables and blinking lights suddenly burst into life at the flick of a switch is a wonder. Where was all that sound until that moment? Does it lurk unseen in the cables, and where does it go when it's all turned off - back into the electric point? The fact is, it's in the musician's brain. I think I just wanted to pinpoint something physical in these drawings because my brain gets as tangled as those cables thinking about it.
Phew, what a week that was - Captain James T. Kirk actually went into space, aged 90, and satellite Lucy is off to Jupiter's Trojan asteroids for 100,000 years to discover the origins of everything. It's quite overwhelming.
Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, I just keep drawing: I start each drawing with a statement at top left, like the chord played in folk music before the jig starts up and the devil's music gets everyone delighted and dancing. It's followed by a succession of whirly characters, then towards the end at bottom right I make a couple of extended shapes to indicate a slowing down, before a big triumphant flourish at the end. It's a sort of duuuummmm-de-Boom! sound, but in pen. While I'm drawing I'm thinking shapes evocative of musical instruments: cellos, violins, tubas, flutes. Radiating shapes represent swelling melodies amongst firework bursts of sound. There is a pulse or rhythm indicated by the punctuation of black shapes, which originated in my asemic text drawings (is there such a thing as asemic music?) Paradoxically, this is a quiet, slow practice which helps to sooth away all the terrors of space, in every sense.
This is the third drawing for submission to Open Eye Gallery's upcoming On a Small Scale exhibition.
The second submission to Open Eye Gallery annual Christmas show. Last week's drawing brought up a much better suggestion for its title, still in Polish theme, from an old university friend on Instagram: 'Mazurka'. I like it! ..."usually at a lively tempo, with character defined mostly by the prominent "strong unsystematically placed on the second or third beat" (Wikipedia). My friend nailed it, so the first drawing shall indeed be titled Mazurka and not Polka as I originally thought.
I was thinking of a title for this one, but I've found it now. It has a sombre rhythm and references to tubas and brass, and unintentionally some of the black shapes resemble funeral urns - so I'm thinking more in terms of a New Orleans funeral parade: those great, joyful celebrations of a brilliant life lived. For my younger brother, Robin, who tragically passed away in June. He was a musician, luthier, roadie, and a keen lover of black soul music; and a passionate believer in Scottish independence. He was at the frontline of many marches, carrying the saltire flag. He even designed a new saltire for Scottish independence which is in use today. Somehow I think he chose the title for this drawing himself, the mischievous spirit! He jinxed earlier attempts of mine to title the piece, I typed it wrongly at least five times. Robins Parade it is, then. I'm leaving the title ambiguous by omitting the apostrophe on Robin, so it could equally be the song-bird's music at dawn. Both interpretations are meaningful.
Last week's pencil drawing on manuscript paper turned out to be a good study. Needless to say I am most happy with the choices and decisions I made, the drawings are now positively singing to me. This is the first completed musical drawing for Open Eye Gallery's On a Small Scale winter exhibition. I think I am going to title it Polka - that's what came into in my head when I was drawing this, and it definitely looks like there is dancing going on, maybe a polka, or an eight-some reel or strip the willow?
It's interesting to see how, from a distance, this does resemble sheet music.
Still wanting to draw music, I made a start on both options proposed last week. I prepared some small sheets of Japanese papers with monotype 'staffs' in printing ink mixed to a warm brown which works well on both the ivory and buff papers, using a ruler for some, and wonky freehand for others. These will be worked over in pen.
I also tried pencil on paper from the vintage music manuscript jotter I found. Just as my first attempts with a pen, pencil doesn't really work either. I thought my marks were weird until I found the characters worked better without the comic-strip style shading I normally use. At first it was frustrating, but the advantage of using pencil is the ability to erase, so I kept reworking characters over and over until they began to develop into the vision in my head. I discovered the old manuscript paper is very strong and withstood constant rubbing out, which I know for a fact I can't do with the Japanese paper I normally use.
However, as far as the vintage manuscript paper goes the verdict is that the pencil work is too pale and indistinct, the opposite of my first attempts with a pen which were heavy and clumpy. I keep almost-spent pens which produce various pale greys; using one of those may be an option if I want to work on the manuscript pages but to be honest, I think the monotypes are the way to go for now. The Japanese paper is beautiful and the staffs in monotype expressive and exciting. I accidentally worked one on the 'wrong side' of the paper which was lovely, taking the ink in a way I like, so I prepared a few more of those. I already know my pens draw well on it because I tested both sides of paper samples when I was selecting which to buy. As soon as the monotypes are is set I will use pen to draw the characters I developed in pencil.
I should probably use pencil sketching in the time-honoured tradition more often to develop new ideas instead of going directly to pen on paper.
Open Eye Gallery's annual 'On a Small Scale' exhibition is on the horizon, so it's time to get on my A5 mojo.
Some time ago I found an old pad of blank manuscript paper in the house amongst a heap of music books. I found the pale blue-grey, thin, mechanical lines of the staffs on creamy paper exciting, full of the possibilities of unheard melodies played on strange instruments. I decided to keep it for drawing.
I began a test piece over the weekend, thinking I could perhaps make something for the exhibition, but things didn't go quite as I had imagined.
I began by sprinkling small watercolour dots over the surface in a manifestation of unfettered notation, a sort of musical asemic text. All was good at this point, but when I began drawing it didn't go so well. The paper is smooth with little bite, it absorbs more ink than the Japanese paper I normally use, and there isn't enough control of the pen pressure so my marks look rather clumsy. I began to overthink the reference to music and nothing looked like the picture I had in my head.
I prefer the watercolour dots on their own. They dried in tiny crisp dots with fine, darker halos, but the pen-work is out of harmony in every sense.
A fine technical pencil may work better, so here's the plan:
1. Try again on the found manuscript paper using technical pencil
2. Prepare for drawings with hand-drawn monotype staffs on Japanese paper
It means mechanical staffs v. hand-drawn; both have equal appeal. I have a feeling the monotype/drawing option may be best for the exhibition, as the pencil option may look like a blank sheet from a distance - but is that a problem? I have never shied away from work which doesn't shout, but whispers.
I never knew the tragedies in Mary Shelley's life until Wednesday, when the midweek pick-me-up from Brain Pickings by Maria Popova landed in my inbox, along with this exquisite passage by Mary Shelley:
"Winter passed away; and spring, led by the months, awakened life in all nature. The forest was dressed in green; the young calves frisked on the new-sprung grass; the wind-winged shadows of light clouds sped over the green cornfields; the hermit cuckoo repeated his monotonous all-hail to the season; the nightingale, bird of love and minion of the evening star, filled the woods with song; while Venus lingered in the warm sunset, and the young green of the trees lay in gentle relief along the clear horizon."
Welcome to my journal! It's my work diary. I usually post here once a week on Monday, but there are often 'mid-week bonus' posts consisting of things which fascinate me such as growing carrot tops and avocado pits, anything weird, and news items.
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.
Dissolving people. Above, the same symbol a few months later
(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.