Underpants Gnomes ~ part 2

Moving on 6 or 7 weeks from my panic at the idea of playing to discover who I am as an artist, and what makes me dance a little happy dance.

After my turmoil of angst laid out in my last blog, I decided to go right back to the beginning. Drawing. It might not be everybody’s beginning, but for me drawing is where it all began. I’ve been nervous about go back to that place in case I couldn’t draw any more; draw in the loose confident carefree way of my youth. Turns out it is still there after all these years and numerous life challenges that have been sent my way. So often I feel worn out and look back at the 20something me like she was a totally different person, barely recognisable, which I’m sure is very common.

Back to drawing. Once I’d decided that was how to begin my playing period, things kind of snowballed. The monoprinting that I’d tentatively started in my last blog was to continue, to tease that confident line out of me. No rubbers, no faffing, just get the lines down and don’t worry. I rushed out with my ready rolled ink and some paper and drew our two friendly hens…very obliging models whom were very curious about what on earth I was doing. Drawing from life; drawing creatures that keep moving is quite tricky but so much fun. You have to look with eyes that see only the important lines to describe form, and with that comes a certain kind of energy. I did a few fast monoprints of our hens (Babs and Bibi) and did a little happy dance; I could see those same lines from my youth staring back at me from the paper. After the weekend I rushed out with my rucksack full of ink, roller, pencils, pens and paper and found pigs and cows to draw too. All animals; I’ve found my theme.

I knew this work had to lead to something more so I spent some time in my little studio pondering what I could do with these drawings. Not being able to let go of my love of printmaking, I wondered if it was possible to transfer the lively energetic line of my quick life drawings to lino. I adore lino but I’ve noticed a huge difference between my intial drawings and the final piece, using careful and overworked lines and shapes. It seemed like a good challenge to explore but how? Babs and Bibi sauntered past my window. I took my piece of lino outside and drew directly onto it using a japanese brush pen (not sure why I picked that up, but glad I did!). Those quick flitting lines made to describe Babs grooming herself were then laboriously cut out (irony…nice contrast), inked up and put through my press and another little happy dance followed.

In and amongst these drawing episodes my love of sculpture was also ringing a little bell in my mind. I found some very affordable clay (with a view to revisiting casting but got a horrible shock at the cost of ‘ciment fondu’, my favoured casting material) but I’ve barely touched the clay as line, rather than form, has been most prominant in my play. I also found, after 20+ years of not knowing, that black sculpting wire is indeed available. I’ve always used horrible cheap galvanised stuff, twanging and smelling though self~supporting, when I could have used black annealed wire. Much nicer and aesthetically pleasing.

I made two wall pieces (out of the galvanised stuff) then, after making a lino print of half a pig, finished off the lines with wire. This sparked my lightbulb moment of how to combine my love of drawing, printmaking and sculpture. Do please watch this space. I’m so excited I can’t begin to describe how brilliant it feels to be at the start of a whole new way of working, more reminiscent of my fine art days. I think drawing will now feature heavily in my work however, and will always be a safe place to retreat to when I’m struggling with ideas, confidence or knowing how to get started.

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Workers

My recent new, experimental piece is finished…at least I think it finished! Sometimes there’s a clear conclusion to a piece and other times one is left wondering if it is in fact finished, or if missing something, whatever that ‘something’ might be, aesthetically. I’m living with it a while before I print any more. It will be a limited edition of 20.

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I decided to call it ‘Workers’ for several reasons:

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The idea for this image of an ant carrying an unborn baby came about after reading a book to my youngest daughter called ‘There’s a Hair in my Dirt!’. One page talks about ‘slavemaker ants‘, which I’d not heard of before. They steal eggs from other species of ants and once hatched the youngsters are forced into labour for the colony. This idea fascinated me, and coincided with a recent conversation with a friend about education and the idea that our education system is being deliberately ‘dumbed down’ to produce good workers for society. The rights and wrongs of this theory are not being discussed here, and I expect there are plenty of blogs out there exploring this notion. My personal opinion on this matter is not of importance, and in all honesty I’ve not drawn any conclusion for or against…but I wanted to explore the concept metaphorically as it intrigued me. The other coincidence prior to this piece materialising in my mind, and unrelated to the above conversation, is I’d been watching Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ with my eldest daughter.

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Although I have explained the thought process behind this piece, I love hearing how other people interpret what they see. Different eyes and life experiences see things that would have never occured to me:

“Funny how there are systems in nature and in mankind. I like the parallel you’ve drawn (literally!)”

“Body Snatchers” political sci fi thriller — about mind-abduction and conformity.”

and other people see nuture and protection…and others are just freaked out!

What do you see?

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Interestingly, after I’d printed this, I had a play with some rat linocuts I made before Christmas. It has sparked an idea for a whole series which (in my opinion) would make a fantastic exhibition. I’m so excited! I can’t wait!  I’ll save that for another blog….!