All my works originate in these books. I have a number on the go at the same time which span years as I keep adding to them until they are too full to take any more. Two or three are always open on my desk with a large one on the floor as I work. Over time they acquire nicknames, such as The Messy Drawer and Book of Materials. The Messy Drawer was the originator for my Confused Flags series for Artobotic’s Brexit Art Machine, the Book of Materials contains scraps of experiments with different media such as wax, inks, oils, metal leaf, and drawings made with unlikely instruments.
Which one would I save in the event of a fire? Fairisle+Form Ol’ Scruffy, so many beautiful memories and thoughts are bound in the pages of that book. They are all precious repositories; dogs, snow, loving people, wine and golden raindrops, the car breaks down and you meet a hero. I don’t know how I would begin again if they caught fire and I lost them. I would probably have to dig around in the ashes, retrieving anything recognisable and make the ‘Fire Book’ which would be resplendent with singed edges, scorch marks and visible mending with gold leaf, Kintsugi-style “golden joinery”.
I am making plans for what I'll be doing with the small scale works now the monotype ink has dried thoroughly. At the moment they are being pressed flat, so I will be starting work on them this week, aiming to have four ready to ship to the Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh by the end of the week. This one pictured above returned to an old favourite shape I have used a few times in the past, which comes from an old wooden Indian salt box. I drew around it onto a piece of card to use as a template alongside my Dad's old ones.
I got nothing done yesterday because I was making face-masks in colours for autumn and winter wear - I say masks, but in fact it took nearly 5 hours just to produce one. I had only intended spending a couple of hours on it, but I was working from a tutorial which I loved, but which I simply could not get to work. The new masks differ from the ones I made earlier in the year in that they have vertical pleats instead of the horizontal ones more commonly in use, designed to be more comfortable because the mask doesn’t touch the nose and mouth; however, I just couldn’t figure out the measurements. I spent a while cutting out a template as per instructions and everything, but it still wouldn’t work. There wasn’t enough room to make pleats by the time it was stitched up, and I noticed at this stage it was already mask-sized before any pleats went in. I’m wondering if the measurements given were for the finished product and not the cutting size? In addition, my sewing machine simply would not sew over the elastic straps so I spent ages faffing around before realising it would be so much easier not to try with the machine, but to leave holes to poke them in and hand stitch at the end.
Eventually I did it with gathers around the nose and under the chin instead of pleats, and it was a success in the end so at least I got something out of the day. It was much more breathable and comfortable than the others, too. It was fine for me, but much too small for B! I’ll be back on mask-making this afternoon, this time I’m going to work backwards with the measurements to get the dimensions for cutting out the fabric. Look at all the scribbling and scoring out all over my mask template! It's not my tidiest work.
Not much to report this week, mostly because of a work crisis over at Binky McKee, but here is a little progress on the drawings, four of which I will submit to the Open Eye Gallery's On a Small Scale Christmas exhibition. I work on semi-transparent tissue paper, which means I can take advantage of reduced opacity and work on the back as well as the front. Here I have gessoed the images in the centre of the monotype frames on the back. It's enough to make those areas stand out, and it means I can draw easily over the area without clogging up my pens.
I do love my close-ups of the work! Here are three laden with texture and inky splotchy marks (so inspiring), the white gesso can be seen underneath the drawings.
Here’s the latest drawing Steam Machine finished except for ironing, and that may have to wait a while because I procrastinate all ironing terribly, including artworks. I have eight in total lined up so far in this series, each measuring 285x225mm, but I will be taking a break from it now - to get on with works for the Open Eye Gallery Christmas exhibition!
Called ‘On a Small Scale’, each year in November one of the Open Eye’s beautiful big galleries (it is an elegant Georgian building in Edinburgh’s New Town) is banked on all four walls with A5-size works, tiled tightly together, and it always looks amazing - a colourful mosaic of all the artists works which beckons the viewer in for close inspection. This year, for the first time in its history the exhibition will be launched online. This is to allow social distancing in the gallery where selected works will be on show, but I do find it exciting to think an online presence will give the exhibition a global reach.
Artists are invited to submit up to four works measuring 148x300mm, but I have already prepared a series of 12 from which I will select four for submission to ‘On a Small Scale’. I generally work in series so it suits me to work this way, leaving me with eight for other exhibitions.
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.
Because I work so closely when drawing and it’s no fun getting ink on sleeves and the sides of hands, I had to wait until the monotypes I mentioned on 23 August had dried perfectly before resuming work. I used monotype to draw template forms because it lends a stony, earthy texture, so now I am adding things associated with the air and sky. Aerial puffs, steam, comets and clouds are beginning to populate the drawings, all natural events, unpredictable, wobbly, and transparent in contrast to the templates. I often use stitching because it throws me (sewing is not exactly my forte) and the results often add a comedy moment. I stitched the little cloud in this drawing, and it looks shy and fragile. I haven’t yet decided whether to leave that little loose thread in place or cut it off; I’ll see how it looks when the drawing is finished and ironed.
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 spent some time photographing details of templates drawings from my diary this week, exploring those passages which use more space. The spaces aren’t exactly negative, being activated by broad, loose brush strokes which offset tighter marks. Their opacity complements semi-transparent areas created with tracing paper; tight marks meet a mist of gestures, so they are apparently being released into mid-air. The sensation is that they might eventually disperse, but there they are fixed in the world of the drawing.
Moving forward, I want to explore giving the drawings more breathing space - and use more colour.
I started a new set of Confused Flags this week for Artobotic vending machines, particularly with the Brexit Art machine in mind. Working against the backdrop of British politics and the Brexit process growing more shocking and convoluted at every turn, my flags seem to grow in confusion and obfuscation in response - they may look rather embarrassed, too!
Brainstorming in a tiny notebook. This is how most of my work begins: an idea, a small notebook, and some very fast work. These are nine pages from a tiny notebook generating ideas for more Confused Flags.
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.
Candle-light shadows. I set up little 'night theatres' in my bedroom. As darkness falls, I light strategically placed candles and watch the plays begin. A perfect activity for the darkest days of winter.
(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.