Jazz flute, and Ginkgo rider

The first of these two pieces started life as one of my not exactly series, but better described as a group of works based on players of musical instruments.  Most of the individuals are women, and one day a woman with red hair playing the flute came into my mind.

I like rendering my drawings as relief prints – showing the carving too.  There is something in this which seems to combine the flat image with movement and even three dimensionality, I find.  In any case, I like the effect, so have been using it a lot.  The digital graphics can also add to the layered look.

For Jazz flute I wanted her hair to be red, and the whole atmosphere to be a warm and sunny one.  The fact that I have a friend who plays the flute and who loves the sun may have influenced this desire.  So I tried out printing the lino block on yellow tissue paper which had been crushed once then flattened (adding more random elements with a batik-y feel).  I think she looks good even starkly thus in the initial image which was scanned.


The digital work gave her the red hair, the green dress, and the pastel scattered background from my ‘background’ digital files – much used many times before, and once I was happy with the image I printed this out onto a prepared A3 sheet of cotton lawn.

jazz flute

I am really happy with the effect of the yellow rather than white base, and I am now adding the final layer of stitching with fine silk threads.

In the case of Ginkgo rider the final image came about through trial and error.  When learning to print collagraphs one of my attempts used leaves.  The image of that attempt I thought might be worth chopping up digitally to use as elements in a future piece.


One of the great advantages of scanning at a high resolution, then cropping is that I’m not limited to the scale of the physical piece of paper.  The ginkgo leaf was its actual size on the print – as can be seen in relation to the stamps; but I am able to render its looks much more appropriately sculptural with a crop.

Turned round the sweep of the stem and the fan of the leaf made me think of kites and windsurfers,… although a sail is usually above the sailor my thoughts took me to a rider – someone who would be swept off on top, holding the mast, so to speak.  The digital processing in this case simply added the red rider.  The rest of the image is a high resolution scan of the cropped print.  This will also be printed onto A3 prepared cotton lawn, and more colour will be added with thread when I start stitching.

ginko rider2


Ongoing: Figure drawing

Drawing is fundamental to my work, but not in a wholly straightforward way.  I do not for instance keep a sketchbook in any conventional sense, nor am I regular in sketching or drawing anything, everything, or even specific categories of subject.  I have tried exercises of doing such, keeping a sketchbook, attending life class courses, etc., but they did not work for me.  I need to be driven by purpose, or I must be in a kind of drawing zone – by which I mean that my subconscious perceives a reason for drawing.

I have not had any formal art training, my classes at school having stopped in my early teens.  On the other hand, since I can remember I have wanted to be an artist, and have sought out information about the history of art,  (overwhelmingly Western), artists’ biographies, work, and techniques, and visited as many exhibitions as I could.

I suspect that commissioning so much artwork during my publishing career has had a definite influence on my image-making.  It took me – perhaps is still taking me – many years to break away from the process of thinking up an idea, then thinking how best to picture it, then choosing the style best suited for communication of the idea, then choosing the right artist.   Perhaps the solution I have found is to generate ideas for work which are so personal that only I can attempt to communicate them – or at least elucidate them for myself.  Thus I am moved to draw aspects of what speaks to me, of what somehow illustrates what I am thinking or feeling.

sketchbooksFrom life, blind drawing is what I mostly use.  To be unobtrusive – and also so that I can carry a notebook around easily – I have a small pile of A6 landscape sketchbooks which I got from Muji years ago.  I don’t think they do them any more, but as I have only used a few they will doubtless last me.  The books are spiral bound, and each page has a perforation so that it can be torn out easily.  Both of these are useful, especially the latter as I scan the drawings I like.

I think that I use blind drawing because it is an essence – a gesture, an attitude, a mood I want to capture, not the person themselves. What I do draw often becomes an element of my visual vocabulary, and is repeated in different manifestations.  These drawings of cellists were the starting point for the design Trio, which became both a small piece and a quilt.

cello1cello 2cello 4trioIn this case it was a repetition of the same image, but more often the drawing is repeated in a different visual context.

Other drawings are done from my imagination/memory, or using photographs for elements more than a whole figure.  To begin with I believed that using photographs (from books, magazines, the internet) was a failure on my part until much to my relief I learned that the great Francis Bacon had done this, and that it is fairly common practice.  That, I suppose is something that would have been sorted out much earlier had I gone to art college

Wanting to represent a mixture of anger and loss of control I drew this figure.


I cannot remember what the basic source was – perhaps a man – an athlete stretching a leg against a wall.  It would have been enough for me to extrapolate the figure I needed.  In 2006 I was using wire mesh both in my images and literally as part of the collage, and feeling that I needed both that and something more of the earth – i.e. the slate, I created Hard place.  (I called the technique brodage as it was stitch rather than glue which held all the elements in place.)

hardplaceFour years later I felt that lack of control again, and the same figure was used in the quilt Home made soup.

Home made soupI do all of my final drawing digitally, whether from the scan of a blind drawing, or using one monitor to show my source picture while I draw digitally on the other monitor.  So the drawing is important as the start of the manifestation of the work, but it is a vague idea or feeling which actually starts each piece.