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.
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.
My 'honorary brother', Ian, has been in Venice for a few days. We grew up together in the same street in Scotland and did our spell in London at the same time, but now he lives in Germany so I don't see so much of him (especially these days when nobody sees much of anybody!) but we speak twice a week on the phone. Every day when he was in Venice he sent me photos of his hotel and places he had been, which I am sure unconsciously rubbed off on me because as I was deciding on a title for this one I realised there were references to canals, Renaissance buildings and motifs, the romantically scruffy and slightly broken feel of Venice, misty vague shapes, and I noticed the unreadable writing in a foreign language (asemic text) had a distinctly dangly appearance. Ian had sent me a photo of the most beautiful old Murano glass chandelier (in his bedroom!!!) which made a huge impression on me - I love it so much, I reckon without knowing it the chandelier influenced the delicacy and suspended nature of the lettering.
So, this one is titled Letter From Venice. It will be going off to the Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh for inclusion in the annual Christmas Exhibition On a Small Scale along with two other works of A5 dimensions. The exhibition is going to be online for the first time in its history. It was a good move on the Gallery's part because who knows which Covid alert tier Edinburgh, or any of our cities and towns, will be in next month. If the spread of the virus doesn't slow down it could happen that non-essential businesses will be forced to close their doors again. If that does happen, the show goes on - three cheers for the internet!
New drawing in progress with a comet, of course, and more unreadable writing. The section at the bottom right (pictured above) looked to me like a strange machine, so I gave it cloud puffs rising up towards the comet. I drew the comet around a splodge of dark red monotype ink which I thought gave it a sultry Martian look.
The finished drawing. I talked a bit on Instagram this week about the asemic writings I often use in my work. It began by colouring in all the o’s in my school jotters with a pen, followed by all the other closed letter forms, mostly in Latin class. That was quite a few years ago now (nearly 50!) - I just never stopped doing it. At the same time I discovered I could draw on my eraser with biro and print with it - my jotters must have been quite an un-scholastic mess, but I found it all fascinating. I even picked up a couple of words in Latin at the same time.
After discovering the medieval pottery of Samarkand and Nishapur while at Edinburgh University, my filling-in and elaboration of letters became properly fancy. I loved, and still love, finding new forms in text. Although this detail started off as actual hand-written words, I now have absolutely no idea what it originally said. I am intrigued that it still retains the sense of text in spite of being unreadable and devoid of meaning. I think of it as seeing sign-posts in the language and script of a foreign country. You know what they are, yet you are unable to decipher them; they simply remain exotic and mysterious in their existence.
PS We finally sold that house and warmly welcome the lovely young family who moved in on Friday! It has been a busy weekend.
The other day I was playing around with a grille composed of Old West lettering again, I placed it over one of my drawings to see how it would look. It does have a feeling of looking outside from within. I was most interested in the shapes created between the letters, coloured around in black to isolate them.
This week I have had a push to get the children's book I am illustrating as Binky McKee well on its way to completion. Part of it was to create alphabets of lettering to make a couple of posters for the story in a Wild West kind of font. I became very interested in the spaces between the letters as I was making them into words. In my spare time I quickly threw together this idea in relation to my interest in asemic text and legibility. It made a fascinating screen reminiscent of mashrabiya design. I placed it over a photo I took of the side of a rusty, bashed up skip (when we were moving house two years ago) and some fascinating shapes revealed themselves. They almost look hewn from stone.
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.
After a very busy couple of weeks I got back to work making larger confused flags for the Open Eye Gallery On a Small Scale exhibition. This is an annual event hosted in the run-up to Christmas, when one of their beautiful Edinburgh New Town Georgian galleries is turned over entirely to line the walls in banks of A5-size art by gallery artists. The works are presented simply unframed on the walls in a grid formation, an exciting melting-pot of ideas, materials and colour (the artists' party is great, too). Affordable small works mean a great chance to buy art for Christmas!
It has been interesting to scale up from the miniatures I have been making for Brexit Art Machine, I can fit in more drawing to combine with ideas of obfuscation, disorder, transparency and confusion. I am enjoying the flag invention more than ever as I make flags 14, 15, 16 and 17 in the series especially for the gallery, and then watch out in 2020 for some more miniature flags for the vending machines.
7 great things about this week:
1. Waves aren’t made of water: I watched David Malone’s The Secret Life of Waves on BBC iPlayer. Poetry, philosophy, life and death, needles blowing bubbles, and Professor Michael McIntyre’s fab lab’s wave box at Cambridge University complete with rubber ducks - marvellous.
2. Brexit Art Machine is in London, with my mini confused flags loaded alongside works by brilliant artists in the vending machine! It is popping up at selected venues, and was outside the Houses of Parliament a couple of days ago.
3. A friend making an extremely speedy recovery from a knee replacement and looking fabulous and happy after years of pain.
4. I found a beautiful, tiny insect exhausted on the kitchen worktop. I smeared a strawberry beside it and observed through a magnifying glass: insect found its way to the spot of juice and fed by dipping its proboscis. I noticed it had a pair of curly antlers fringed spectacularly with hairs. After a while it had enough energy to fly away and I felt nurturing and deep-down happy.
5. Coloured pencils so soft it's like drawing with eyeshadow.
6. Relief. When pain, worry, nightmares and things that go bump in the night disappear and you feel yourself again. Maybe it was the full moon.
7. Getting back to work in my room.
Thanks for visiting, see you next week!
I had a great trip by train to Edinburgh to deliver 6 more Confused Flags for Brexit Art Machine (or any of the Artobotic vending machines, of course). Delighted that my made-up alphabets have found a place where they make sense by not making sense!
7 great things about this week:
1. Off-peak travel on warm modern trains of comfort and phone chargers.
2. Autumn leaves, irresistibly crisp and crunchy, and the COLOURS!
3. Views from the Forth Rail Bridge: splendificent (spell-check doesn’t like that word! haha, I won)
4. B’s red car on a grey road dotted with bronze leaves.
5. A trip to the Scottish borders and a wonderful weekend with friends. Discovered they are into art, so the newest Confused Flag will be winging its way to them: a thank-you gift for their kindness in making us and our weird greyhound so welcome.
6. Making duvet igloos in bed to maximise snuggling on frosty nights.
7. The sounds birds make at this time of year.
Thanks for visiting, see you next week!
New work in progress: my work room has begun to settle into some kind of order after the house move. I am allowing the drawings a bit more space on the paper than previously, and incorporating messed up things like the little blue rain cloud above, which I drew using carbon paper. I like the fact I can't see what I have drawn until I remove the carbon paper. Surprises keep the work fresh, and there is quite a personality developing in this one.
Thanks for visiting, see you next week!
Four revisited altered text drawings I made in 2014 when I was making a lot of work using text which I obliterated and altered to suit. This collage shows 4 details. Reading the image from top left in a clockwise direction, here is what was going through my mind at the time.
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.