Another online creative challenge that I have taken up this year is the 52 Weeks Art Journal, hosted by Raspberry Blue Sky. Throughout 2021, she will be providing a weekly word prompt that I will use to inspire a page in my journal. The work is intended to go into an altered book or a handmade book.
Which book am I using?
I am also using the British Library Desk Diary from 2019.
Does the diary format work?
The format is perfect as there is a double page spread for each week, with the number of the week at the top. The theme of the diary is maps. I decided to use the purpose of maps (i.e. to plan routes and stay on course) as a way of giving myself creative direction, guided by the weekly prompts. The paper is also a good weight and is really suitable for collaging onto.
How have I found the prompts?
I was initially unsure that word prompts would inspire me. However, I have been pleasantly surprised. The prompt comes out on Monday, I usually take a few days to mull it over, then spend a couple of days playing with ideas before there is a ta dah! moment at the end of the week.
Here are a few journal pages I’ve completed so far:
I’ve really been enjoying the art challenges I’m working on this year. You can read about #the100dayproject in a previous post.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve found any inspiring creative challenges that you’ve enjoyed…
One Sunday afternoon I was listening to an episode of Art Juice. They had an interview with Lindsay Jean Thomson, and they were talking about the 100 day project. I hadn’t heard of this before but it grabbed my attention.
The date was 31 January 2021 and the UK was in the middle of lockdown #3 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. During this past year I’ve completed a few art courses and art projects and they have really kept me focussed. But I was in need of a new challenge, perhaps this could be it?
I realised I was listening to the podcast on day #1 of the 100 day project! Oh well, if I was going to do it I had no time to overthink it, just pick something and start – TODAY.
Thankfully, an idea came to me rather quickly.
My 100 day project
I have been dabbling again with printmaking recently (having studied printed textiles at Uni, the printing seed had already been firmly planted!) And I have been collecting a variety of printmaking tools and equipment that I wanted to use one day.
For my 100 day project, my first thought was to ‘MAKE a print everyday’. But I quickly dismissed this as I could end up putting too much pressure on myself to ‘make a GOOD print everyday’. Instead, I realised, I just wanted to play and experiment and to see what marks I could make…so I decided to ‘print SOMETHING everyday’. This way if I did a potato print or a hand print I had still met my intention. No pressure.
I then thought 100 days…wow, that could feel like a long time. After reading about people who had done the challenge before, they spoke about getting bored and giving up. As I have no desire to do either I decided to break down the 100 days into 10 mini projects. This way I could choose 10 different printing methods and spend 10 days exploring each one.
It was also suggested to find a unique hashtag to use on Instagram, so all of your project could be saved in one place.
#100daysofmarkmakingwithprint is the hashtag I chose.
Days 1-10: lino printing
For the first 10 days I chose lino printing. As I had no time to prepare I found a few lino cuts that I had previously made. I had only used them to make rubbings for collage, so I’d never actually printed with them!
Also, for speed (and as they were quite small) I used an ink pad, which I use for stamping, to print with and tested one out in my sketchbook. The printed mark is so beautiful…it has its own aesthetic which I love.
The Brooklyn sketchbook library began in 2006 and is a not-for-profit organisation, based in the US. Their aim is to ‘encourage creative storytelling within a global community’ and currently has over 50,000 sketchbooks from artists from around the globe.
Since 2016, I’ve been a member of SEVEN, a sketchbook collective. We meet up every couple of weeks (currently on Zoom but usually in person), work collaboratively or individually on sketchbook projects, run workshops and have exhibited in the Leigh Art Trail. In September 2020 we decided our next sketchbook project would be to enter the Brooklyn Sketchbook project. We duly sent off our payment and received our blank 5″x7″ sketchbooks a few weeks later.
We participated in Vol. 17, which meant our deadline was 15 February 2021. Each submission comes with a new list of suggested themes, that you can use as a starting point, and I was inspired by ‘marks and markers’, which I developed using mark-making techniques.
I chose to combine my theme with reference to Warley Place in Essex, a former Edwardian garden owned by horticulturalist Miss Willmott until 1934. After her death, the house was demolished and the gardens left unattended for several decades. It has been maintained as a nature reserve, by the Essex Wildlife Trust, since the 1970s where it still provides glimpses of its former charm.
When I received my blank sketchbook, I was disappointed in the quality of the paper, which I thought was too thin and wouldn’t stand up well to being painted and collaged onto. So from the start I decided that I would rebind my book using thicker paper.
The first session SEVEN did involved mark-making with inks, which gave me a good foundation to work on. Once I had a selection of inky papers I chose a few and cut them up into long strips. I then glued these strips together to form one long piece and folded it into 18 concertina pages.
NB: If you rebind your sketchbook, the only limitations to consider are that the pages must be the same size, the overall thickness of the sketchbook must be no more than 1″, and the barcode on the backcover must remain visible.
I collaged cyanotype prints, old artwork and scraps of ephemera onto the pages, which I worked into using intuitive mark-making, drawing and painting.
These are some of the finished pages I created:
I thought it would be difficult to send off my sketchbook once I had finished it (you do get very attached to your work!), but I think as I knew this was the outcome all along, I was happy to let it go. Before posting it to Brooklyn I did scan all my pages, so that I have a record. I have also opted for the library to digitize the pages, so they will be available to view on their website anytime.
If you fancy a challenge, I would highly recommend taking part.
Earlier in the year, I took the free ‘Find Your Joy taster course’ by Louise Fletcher (you can read about it here: Find Your Joy taster workshop). After the 10 day course had finished, I was itching to keep learning and to dig a little deeper into my art practice. So I signed up for her 10 week FYJ2020 course.
The course began in early July and ran until mid September. Each week we were given a different topic/thought/process to explore, which we could share within the private Facebook group and course hub. About 1000 people signed up, so it was a large group but it felt less overwhelming than the taster course.
The primary focus of the course was to understand what you like and don’t like; what you enjoy doing and what you don’t; to reconnect with some past (often forgotten) interests; and to explore some new ways of working and new thought processes. For me, it gave me a better understanding into the artist mindset. Having come from a strong design background I’m used to clients giving me a brief, so my main challenge was learning to set my own brief.
I’ve been keeping a sketchbook throughout the course, and I’m continuing to develop it. In contrast to my usual journal-style sketchbook, this one has plenty of notes and ideas I’ve scribbled along the way.
The sketchbook is a really useful tool to help me to reflect on what has worked and didn’t work and to keep me on track.
I’ve also now joined Louise’s Art Tribe, which anyone can join for a small monthly fee. Let the creativity continue…
In the weeks leading up to our wedding anniversary this year we discovered that the 9th anniversary gift, here in the UK, is pottery. However due to some confusion we had last year, when we mixed up UK and US gift lists, I had already been given some lovely pottery as a wedding gift. So this year my husband decided to buy me a ‘make-your-own-pottery’ kit!
The kit I received was made by Sculpd and came complete with two bags of clay, various tools, a set of pastel paints and sealant.
Now, although I have dabbled with ceramics at college, and did a short night class, none of these had amounted to anything great, so I was a little apprehensive.
Thinking of what to make, I decided that as we had got married in Portmeirion, North Wales – which is known for its pottery and is a beautiful, pastel-coloured, Italianate village – I would take inspiration from the architecture.
I looked through a small guide book I had bought on Portmeirion village, and made a few initial sketches, looking to capture the essence of the various styles of buildings…
Once I had settled on a design, I drew out my pieces on graph paper, to make sure I had the scale correct – I didn’t want it to be too big or too thick in case I ran out of clay! I found some pieces of wood to use as a guide for the thickness and rolled out the first bag of clay and used the graph paper as templates for cutting out the shapes.
Each piece was designed to make up the wall of a building with details including windows, shutters and doors that I needed to cut out. This bit was quite time-consuming and fiddly, but very relaxing.
As the clay is air-dried, I needed to keep each piece covered with cling film until I had finished cutting out the details on all of the pieces.
Constructing the piece was much easier than I had anticipated. I had visions of it collapsing on itself but the clay was surprisingly sturdy and it all held together. I scored the edges where two pieces were to meet and used a slip of water and clay to bind them together.
The piece needed to dry out before I could paint it, and this took several days. Once it was thoroughly dry I gave it a base coat of white paint before painting the walls in pastel blue, pink and yellow along with a deeper blue and painted a checker-board effect on the floor.
I really enjoyed this project, much more than I thought I would. And as this piece only used up one bag of clay, I’m now planning what to do with the second bag…