Saturday, 15 September 2012

Sketch Books

I love working in sketch books - exploring ideas, trying out techniques, working around a subject. In fact, I sometimes think that the work I produce in my sketch books is more exciting and vivid than my finished pieces. Maybe this is because I feel less pressured to 'get it right', or perhaps I'm a sketch-booker rather than a single piece stitcher, or possibly I should be working in paper not fabric .... not, I'm sure, that it matters; it's all such a pleasure.
Quilted stitched journal cover
All my books have cartridge pages and come from Seawhite of Brighton. They are good quality but quite reasonably priced and cope well with the range of things I want to include - pencil drawings, painted pages, small textile pieces and the cutting and sticking of paper and card or photographs.

I generally have a range of sketch books on the go at any one time which serve different purposes. Some I use to draw or paint what I see around me - in my garden, in the local area, or when I'm out and about or on holiday. These books are usually quite small. Others are more like journals or records of a stitch project as it progresses. They are large and heavy and usually bulging with stuck-in pieces of one kind or another and sometimes covered with a stitched textile.

Tree Trunk outlines, Glen Tanar, Aberdeenshire
Pencil drawing
Trees in Glen Quoich, Aberdeenshire
Pencil and watercolour
At the moment, my small books for observational work are 20 cm square and I am enjoying their shape which is new to me. I find it allows me to be more flexible with layout. By working across a full page spread, I can use a rectangle if I want to, yet the relatively small size fits well into a bag and is not too bulky to carry around.


Currently, my observational drawings are done in bound hard-backed books. For experiments involving paint and mixed media, I have a spiro bound book. I  like to keep the two separate as painting pages inevitably means that paint spills through from one page to another and I like to keep my drawings clean.

An arrangement of stones
in a Geology piece
Pencil drawing










In them, I draw whatever takes my fancy. Sometimes my choice of subject is linked to the theme of the moment; other times I am just intrigued by a view, a collection of trees or a building and want to record what I see. Occasionally, when I am somewhere and have no other paper to hand, I try out ideas for a textile piece for inclusion in my journal.

All in all, these little books have a good feel in the hand and I reach for them with anticipation and pleasure.

The journals are large in size (about 45 x 30 cm) and I usually begin a fresh one at the start of each new focus as this seems to help me to concentrate my thoughts. I try out ideas, techniques, colour schemes, or explore more widely around my general theme.

A journal page - Cricklade North Meadow
Watercolour to work out colour scheme for of weaving

The work I put in the journals comes from a range of sources and I frequently use mixed media. I generally work towards abstraction, perhaps taking photographs or drawings, manipulating them in Adobe Photoshop and then cutting them up to work out a design.

Journal page completed following a weekend course with Sandra Meech
Photos taken in Scotland manipulated in Photoshop,
cut up and remounted to exploit their graphic qualities










On other occasions, I work freely round a subject, using paper as an analogy for fabric (cheaper and quicker and easier to manipulate). I paint and tear or cut the papers and produce several different versions of a general theme. At the start, I often have absolutely no idea where I will end up - and that is the fun of the whole thing.

All these books give me a freedom to develop my skills, explore and experiment. I think they are where the growth of ideas happens for me. Above all else, I gain enormous pleasure and satisfaction from them. For me, they are as important as the final piece of work that results - and often much more personal..

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