Easter Break – Reflections and Progress

I’ve made good progress and have been reflecting/evaluating  how I will bring all my images together since my last tutorial session. Further  tests with layers in gesso over an ordnance survey map worked well with a further layer of watercolour wash. I assessed the colour palette of my backgrounds I had painted in watercolour on deli paper, tissue papers and onto the gesso so far was not quite the right look I wanted to achieve. I further produced some watercolour washes in “sunset” colours, which are definitely more aligned with the colours I see when closing my eyes and meditating. I tested watercolour blues and greens using hemp string, leaves and ferns weighted down whilst the paper was drying to create an opaque monoprint. This was fairly successful, but I think the warmer shades work better. My background style and colour palette is now established, and I have developed several dip pen drawings to incorporate into my final artwork.

Monoprinting: This past week I took a minor detour and experimented with Gelli plate monoprinting using leaves, fine tree roots, and birch twigs to see what sort of natural fractal effects I could create to possibly blend into the background of my artwork. The prints were not particularly successful, but some resulted in beautiful leaf and root structure prints, and the process was meditative in itself. I had further researched making collograph prints, but with the Easter break and a long delay in being able to go on campus to book time with a support technician to use the intaglio press, I decided not to pursue this at such a late stage.

Having now developed the elements I want to incorporate into my final piece I have also been testing opacity of layers and arrangement of my images within Photoshop, (with some intense training from my personal tech support (husband!) This has given me an excellent overview of how I want my final layout to look. I also found that the linework in a few areas of my drawings needed to be bolder.

 

This week I’m in the process of re-drawing and further developing (using dip pen and ink) individual layers of my drawings and testing sizes of the images within Photoshop to finalise my artwork, and will incorporate some of the surface patterns I created on deli papers early on. My first drawing images were drawn with dip pen in a teal colour, but this does not combine well with the sunset colour palette. My next test drawings were done in black India ink which appears too harsh, but it gave me a clear vision of what I have developed so far, and these black and white images helped me to see more clearly how to progress. I have a Daler Rowney red-brown acrylic ink which I will test, and I think either this or a sepia colour ink would work well in the final piece. I find Photoshop so complicated to use, I need technical support, but it is a huge asset when combining it with adjusting size and opacity elements elements of my hand-rendered artwork. I finally feel satisfied with my progress to date and I have a clearer path now to complete my project.

I remember seeing a photo of a meditative natural garden sculpture and managed to find it – the “Mud Maid” from the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall (otherwise known as the “Sleeping Goddess”). She has the serene qualities I want my meditating face in my artwork to have. Incidentally, I have realised that my History of Art ‘A’ level (studying Renaissance art) has subconsciously given me inspiration for my meditating face image – in the form of Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ and ‘Birth of Venus’. Today, I spent a while studying these beautiful paintings online. ONE day, perhaps, I would like to admire them face-to-face at the Uffizi in Florence, to appreciate the narrative, colour and detail of them with the naked eye.

 

Reflection following Tutorial

I have so many ideas and test images/sketches /backgrounds that I’m now totally overwhelmed as to which I would like to incorporate in my work. Reflecting on the feedback from my last tutorial and discussions with Rachel, I have pared down the images I want include in my mindfulness map. I had too many elements in there and need to narrow my content down further. I have developed my backgrounds further with combinations of map sections washed with gesso, emulsion paint and matt medium and will test out watercolour backgrounds on these and decide which colours are most pleasing. I have also experimented printing mandalas with leaves and ferns using watercolours, and researched Andy Goldsworthy’s inspirational land art and ephemeral leaf nature sculptures https://www.sculptureplacementgroup.org.uk/sculptures-at-home-3-andy-goldsworthy/

Initially, I envisaged that the Map of Mindfulness could be a “seascape” on one side and “land/nature” on the other, but I realise now that this is too much – there would be too many elements to incorporate and it would not look cohesive. It needs to be less cluttered and more non-figurative. I have edited a good, smaller selection of sketches now for images I will incorporate, and will definitely include tree branches, leaf fractals and a meditating face (but NOT a Buddha – that’s far too typical and conventional!). Also, I have decided that the map will be single-sided.

A suggestion from my last tutorial was that I could incorporate collograph printing and I spent a while researching this possibility further. West Dean College of Arts & Conservation had a good home collograph tutorial by Vicky Oldfield on You Tube which I watched several times. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2jwWjSyweQ . Having given this careful consideration I have decided not to include this in my work at this stage, as it will add another element which I don’t think is not the look and feel I am wanting to achieve. It is also difficult to visualise how to create an image which would fit with my work, giving it a dream-like opaque quality. I want to achieve the effect of thin transparent, ephemeral layers. I am continuing to explore other collograph printing websites by printmaker artists Anna Curtius, Belinda Del Pesco, and other You Tube art education videos, so I have not completely dismissed this.

https://www.annacurtius.com/blog/how-to-make-a-collagraph-print-in-four-steps

In my ongoing research of cartography I have also been researching map illustrators from a magazine article, “Well Mapped Out” in the March 2021 edition of The Guildford Magazine https://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=&edid=0ab41d9a-e86e-4151-8f6e-7c66de32ff2f&pnum=16

– Nicola Howell, Camilla Charnock and Lisa Tolley, and looked at Roberta Faulhaber’s art mapping work. https://robertafaulhaber.typepad.com/blog/2010/03/artmapping.html

There are some thought-provoking gentle meditative Zen mindfulness poems which have led me to think about including a few words or possibly a quote? This inspired me to experiment with creating my own “found” poems by using words cut from magazines and books to create my own sentences about mindfulness. It’s an enjoyable process, but am I digressing again?

Look After Yourself

Look at the world differently.

Discard the bottled torrent river.

Unwind with the breath in the smallest of moments.

Step by step you reveal an oasis of calm.

Appreciation. Being. Watching.

Experience the now.

Looking to Focus

Connect yourself with nature.

The present moment unfolds.

Breathe slow, make strands that flow.

Shine from the inside, let go.

Tutorial & peer feedback 26th March

Beth: could you try overlaying the images you have digitally?

Rachel: contact Kevin Lawton the Fine Art technician at AUB for acces to testing out collograph prints?

Beth:  I think that the experiments look really lovely and calming, it looks like you are on the right track and I think testing lots of ways of doing things quickly will help you decide what you like

Wiktoria: I really like the natural look of the prints! it’s very free flowing which made me think of consciousness and positive thoughts? I don’t know if it was intentional but the connection between nature and mindfulness is really nice. I felt relaxed looking at them 🙂 also the textures were very interesting and effective

From Rachel : Matteo Zamagni

https://www.annacurtius.com/blog/how-to-make-a-collagraph-print-in-four-steps

Cyanotypes

Beth:  Cyanotype would work lovely with your leaves.

Experimenting with composition and materials

Yesterday, I tested sections of ordnance survey maps with a thick gouache wash over them, tested transferring maps to cartridge paper as a background. I also mixed a beautiful pale green colour for a background. This map needs to be simpler and have fewer elements. I want it to be cohesive and not cluttered. I’m back to the form of a map again. This is the way forward, and I really need to get cracking now. The ides of March are marching on!

I want to draw out the map layout using dip pen, with a path running through it maybe? I tested drawing my images with a dip pen using black ink and also blue-green acrylic ink. Both looked good and I like the effect of the acrylic ink.

The idea I have is for the background to be pale yellow or green (map palette) colour and have tested colours and effects. I sprayed, with a pump bottle, watered-down pale lemon yellow watercolour paint mixed with gouache onto thick cartridge paper.  The colour turned out well, and it could finally be a possibility.  Is it too pale, does it need more detail or layers? I also mixed and tested a pale mint soft green shade watercolour with white gouache, this was too vibrant for a muted background colour. I blotted it with some kitchen paper and accidentally achieved a pleasing effect of decreasing circles – a sort of reduction print really.

Once the sprayed lemon yellow background layer had dried, I tested using mono prints of watercolour blended “clouds” onto it, blew onto the wet paint to achieve some beautiful muted rainbow colour blends. These are the colours I see when I close my eyes and meditate. I’m unsure about these backgrounds though and I think I need to test more ideas.

The next step to identify which pieces of leaf fractals or printed birch twigs I might want to include to create a mindful image of a map. I also think that some appropriate words are needed in order to give the sense of mindfulness of this work.  I have cut out some random words from magazines and newspaper and created random, but relevant, “poetry” with them. I’m thinking that perhaps I could collage these words on the paths that wind through the map? I want to somehow create layers, but don’t have the time to teach myself to do it in Photoshop. I also like my artwork to be analog. (It took me a good couple of hours this afternoon to work out how to add a heading to my blog!) I just seriously don’t have the time it takes me alone to learn how to do these tasks. This is the hardest bit of lockdown and learning remotely. It is clear that I need to develop my digital Photoshop skills, but now is not the time.

Storytelling Workshop & Tutorial Feedback

Today’s zoom workshop was on sketching and storytelling narrative through sequencing. The session highlighted to me that a) I need to sketch more frequently b) I suck at drawing people – especially hands.  They have no 3D-ness about them. It’s something I must address, although we have had zero life-drawing classes this year, and I haven’t had any enthusiasm to practise it myself. Definitely more sketching practice required.

Feedback – (from Clare Baskerville)

Look at the Smithsonian Library Artist Books collection online (Rachel mentioned earlier)  – amazing selection of books that books, more like pieces of art, they include ephemera and many other things.

Look at using mark making lines/dots to show a path on a map. The very act of making dots and marks is meditative. Or use smaller pieces of a map? Perhaps further explore monoprinting using leaves. Refine the colour palette – maps have a quite a delicate colour palette. Look at O/S maps colours. Remember that maps are very fixed geographically – will mine be?

My reflection following this:

What do I see when meditating = many beautiful colours blending and swirling into patterns.  Mindfulness in nature is about biology and nature, getting away from hecticness, being calm. Bringing it back to the here and now, and repetition of pattern and thought – dots, lines, circles, making creative repetition and varying intensity.

I could incorporate a small piece of a map with sections of noisy and also calm with pathways coming from them. I have too much to include in one picture and am now considering a handmade concertina style artbook instead? (– no bigger than A4 size. Maybe A5 (too small?) or square? 20cm x 20 cm ?)

  • Or I could create a zine, but having researched zines, I think it is not detailed enough for the style of image I want to use.  The concertina book could have pull-outs or pockets and added ephemera? Start from pale O/S map colour palette and go though the book gradually blending and progressing the colours to a colourful finale of a meditation image?

Maps, Materials & Fractals

I have thumbnailed various sketch ideas for possible layouts of a single piece of artwork as a “map”. None are quite what I want. I have been further researching different types and styles of art maps.  Qiu Zhijie and Roberta Faulhaber, maps of mind maps … to establish what the composition of my map might look like. It could be a map but not a traditional map, but possibly an overall view of comparing tree branches/veins/arteries, roads, tree roots patterns. They are all very similar and I am thinking of ways to combine them.

I have so many ideas this week and was keen to get something properly creative onto paper. I have experimented with various patterns, from simple monoprinting with acrylics, and creating flowing flora and fauna loose patterns on deli papers and cartridge paper. I limited my colour palette to warm hues of apricot, golden yellow and magenta pink (which was too bright) The outcomes looked very amateur and not the look I want. I  will test some watercolour washes next in similar colours, and test blues and greens but they may be too close to underlying map colour to be a visually interesting contrast.

Using a dip pen to draw with watercolour, black ink and high flow acrylic inks,  and also mark making with sticks and twigs, I achieved some good effects and made some preliminary sketches of images I would like to use which convey the sense of general wellbeing. Some of my mark making and monoprinting was done onto deli paper, but there is a sharp crease down the middle of each sheet. I will test tissue paper next, however I think this will be too delicate and will probably tear when wet. I will order some extra tough wet strength tissue paper which is used in making paper lampshades and test this.

The images I want to incorporate are a dip pen outline of an ethereal female face, with flowing hair, eyes closed, peacefully meditating. I also want to include ferns, sea shells, waves, stars, tree branches and sun rays.

My test drawings are too cluttered, there are too many components that I want to include. My next step is to be selective and whittle down the images which work best combined in the composition. Should I create one piece of gallery artwork in order to fit everything in – how big though ? A3, A2?  Will the images lose their charm if they are too big? Will they look lost? How will I scan the final artwork or photograph it digitally if it’s so large….

I really need to test more to establish which patterns, and what mediums to use. How do I also bring in ephemera into it as well? It feels like a “supermarket sweep” at the moment, there are so many things I want to put in my trolley!

I bought an old ordnance survey map of Bournemouth and photocopied sections of it, onto which I tested a whitewash: I used white gouache layers, scumbled white acrylic and paint, and washes white acrylic high flow ink. The paint layers in all three were not thick enough and the paper became very wet. There is a risk of damaging the map if I don’t get the correct consistency for the paint wash. It needs to be opaque enough to see the map through it, but not so that the maps overwhelms the rest of the images. I used Nori paste (very much like wallpaper paste) to glue the paper down. I have previously used Pritt stick but this is a bit too patchy and not particularly long lasting. The Nori paste crinkled the paper, despite weighting it down, Golden matt medium worked well.

I need to keep reminding myself  – what is my aim:

Mapping the sensory effects of wellbeing on the mind

Or to visualise the sensory effects of nature on the mind through mindfulness for wellbeing.

My next steps:

  • to establish what my background will be
  • to establish what form the piece will take – book or large piece of work?
  • To establish what details to incorporate

So far I think my idea is too dry – does it necessarily have to be a literal map?

I have also found a superb poem by Jack Kerouac “On How to Meditate”: (which I would like to include as well… somehow)

https://www.faena.com/aleph/jack-kerouacs-instructions-for-meditating

Researching Practitioners

I have sketched a few more composition ideas and researched a couple more interesting artist’s work.

Val Britton  http://valbritton.com/ has created some beautiful maps, network diagrams and astronomical photography. Her work is abstract and she uses collage and other mixed media.

https://helenwellsartist.com/

Helen Wells  who “uses expressive mark making to create details and patterned art works which feature repetition and rhythm, multiple layers and organic imagery.

Ongoing Early Research

 Reflection

I’ve researched many illustrations of hand drawn maps by Grayson Perry,  Qiu Zhijie, Roberta Faulhaber’s “art-mapping” to work out the composition of my “map”. I’ve also practiced some mindful sketching, sketched some rough ideas, practised my yoga and meditated and reflected some more. I have some chalk pastels which I’ve been experimenting various effects with, mark making and exploring  colour palettes whilst listening to some chilled jazz muzak. I really need to stop procrastinating, I can’t use all the colours and all the ideas. I need to be selective!

Last night I watched the final episode on tv about the artist Ophelia Redpath on Sky Arts “Landscape Artist of the Year 2021”.  She was sketching the landscape in Dinas Oleu, Snowdonia. I really empathised with her as she told the cameras she felt completely overwhelmed by the sensory overload of details and how she wanted to capture it all, not to leave anything out.

  • Create my time plan and keep to it as much as possible.
  • I will experiment with materials/ papers and try and establish a colour palette
  • I will experiment further in developing my images into firmer solutions, and then narrow those down – (meditating Buddah’s too predictable?) What elements do I want to include?
  • I will look at combining fractals with images and explore pathways of maps and veins and tree branches
  • Experiment with map forms – what might it look like in essence? Will it fold or roll? Will it have a border or a compass? Astrological map? Mystical garden? Circular 360 degree? Fictional neural pathways in the mind? How will the points in it connect? (Is it a map of nowhere and also of everywhere) (Grayson Perry maps)
  • Collaged/ephemera photos – start gathering suitable ideas for inclusion
  • Sketch more trees and branches, leaves, fractals – what about dragonfly wings? Butterflies?

Feedback and reflection from tutorial 11/3/2021

Add further references to bibliography

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/sky-arts-landscape-artist-of-the-year

https://opheliaredpath.com/

https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/grayson-perry-ra-s-portraits-of

https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/news/2019/apr-29

It has been discovered that Jackson Pollock’s paintings have fractal patterns running through them. I backtracked a bit and researched fractals in nature, I’m particuarly interested intrees and leaves, they are beautifully structured. (insert photos of ziggy zaggy willow here).

Feedback and reflection from tutorial 11/3/2021

I need to remember to use my project proposal as a measure of my progress and check I am going in a relevant direction.

What aspects of mindfulness do I want to show in my project?

What are the benefits of mindfulness? Are there goals to be reached? (Not necessarily as it can put pressure on someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder to reach something they feel is unattainable. What will the headspace be that the onlooker needs to be in to practice it? I need the project to be a balanced view of self-help because if someone happens to be in a bad place mentally some people can’t get out of it on their own and need professional help. Some of my tutor feedback was to explore mindfulness through printing techniques – look at mono printing, dry point etching, and get a variety of marks in controlled vs uncontrolled results.

Will it be a book or a map? A zine? Will the book or magazine be bought and paid for? Will it be for a mental health charity?

I have established that my aim is to visualise and follow the sensory effects of nature on the mind in the practice of mindfulness.

Feedback & Early Research

What’s the next step ? / Feedback and thoughts following tutor /peer session:

I’m feeling overwhelmed with ideas and thoughts and am not sure where to begin. I must find a starting point. Gather information through drawing?

  • REFLECT REGULARLY – WEEKLY! (Use the points from the Individual Learning Plan for guidance)
  • Mood boards
  • Research and read
  • Go for a walk and experience nature – practice mindfulness – what are the steps?
  • How is it practiced? Categorise ways of being mindful. I could narrow it down to something within my own experience.
  • Loose sketches
  • Explore practitioners in art and mindfulness/wellbeing
  • Reflect on whether this might border on fine art, will it be authorial?
  • Is it a map for someone who doesn’t need a map? Look at types of hand drawn maps. Map my own environment? Have I travelled in my mind to places I have pictured during lockdown? (Oh yes!)
  • The act of drawing and knowing the geography of a place … connections….
  • Test and explore materials, start to pre-empt problems arising and ways in which a solution might be sought.
  • Evolve the project as it progresses, adapt and change. The form may not be specific at this stage.

What is mindfulness?

It’s the awareness of the ‘here and now’, being in the present moment. The awareness of the self both mentally and physically, our thoughts, senses and imagination responding and reacting to each moment as we experience it. A present moment of freshness and perspective, connecting to the wonder of life.  It’s meditation, positive affirmation, journaling, practicing gratitude, positive psychology, reflection and balance.

Where can you practice it?  Find a calm and peaceful spot, a green outdoor space in nature, or a calm place indoors to meditate, exercise, eat good food, breathe deeply.  Anyone can practice it and it doesn’t cost anything.

What are the benefits of Mindfulness?

It improves your well-being (it reduces anxiety, improves self-esteem, creates deeper connections and empathy with the environment and with others.

Mindfulness improves your physical health (scientifically proven) (helps reduce stress, treats heart disease, lowers blood pressure, reduces chronic pain, improves sleep and alleviates gastrointestinal difficulties.)

It has proven benefits on the brain and thickens the amygdala. (Dr Sara Lazar – TEDex Talks).  It can help improve many areas of mental health illnesses.

This is my body of early key research – http://mandmade.co.uk/?page_id=503

The Project Proposal..

My theme will be:

A ‘map of mindfulness’ (inspired by the pandemic and its effects on our mental health)

The proposal framework will follow this format:

  • Theme
  • Why it is worthy / justify its need in the world
  • Intention (The effect I wish to have on the audience)
  • Key Research (theory /practitioners to investigate)
  • Potential audience / end-user context
  • Potential forms e.g. book – how specific do you want to be?
  • Methods / practical methods skills problems to solve

The intended effect I wish it to have on the audience? Why it’s worthy:

In the past year or so of the pandemic everyone’s mental health has been affected  to a lesser or greater extent

 Being mentally healthy and living well is important to every single one of us – whether we are living with a mental illness or not.

Everyone is experiencing lockdown differently and it is widely reported that most people are likely to be struggling with their own mental health.

Mental health is a journey we all take and this is my map to hopefully help guide the way more easily and to empathise and discuss.

To explore, empathise and illustrate methods of connection with nature, and nurture our mental health and wellbeing. Many people don’t discuss how the pandemic has affected their mental health, and we have all become more isolated during lockdown. My project is to get people talking about it, empathising, thinking and looking at possible ways of improving/nurturing their mental health and wellbeing. Looking at art and creative mindfulness practice.

Key Research (theory / practitioners)

(this is just a starting point – I’m compiling an evolving Harvard Bibliography as my project progresses)

The Potential Audience / End User Context = Young adults and adults

Potential Form?  = A large hand rendered map which (will fold up?) (Or possibly a zine?)

Methods / practical methods skills / problems to solve etc.

-What information will be on the map? Linear or non-linear?
-It will be fictional
– What form will it take? Possibly use an old ordnance survey map as a base?
-Or make my own map using a large sheet of (brown?) paper – how large?
-What sort of paper?
– Will the map fold? Maybe some pockets and stitching?
-What medium? Gesso base, ink? Collage? Mixed media, watercolour?
 -Include ephemera?
– Colour palette?
-Journal/diaristic  journey/route style? Linear or non-linear?  Autobiographical or authorial??