Processes and Cycles…

I enjoy thinking about processes. I like to see how other people work and I quite like to analyse my own processes. This comes in part from a desire to not panic about periods of what seems like not-working… or periods of mindless repetitive activity that seem devoid of thought and consideration.

I have been really busy in other parts of my life lately, and now that has finished, I found I just wanted to be in the studio making. The making I had lined up was the work concerning twigs. I wanted to just get here, draw half a day, then wrap up the twigs I had drawn. I have about 150 wrapped twigs and the target is to get about 800. So this is the period of mindless repetition. It’s actually quite joyful and restful as I don’t need to think about it. My decisions about materials and method have been made, I just need to get on and do it.

I started to think, while I was wrapping, about where this idea had come from and the process the thinking followed, and I realised this is common for me.

I’ve drawn a cyclical diagram, but the point I am going to jump into that cycle to explain what is going on, is the bit where I am hanging finished work, because every end holds a beginning right?

So while I was curating and hanging Drawing Songs, as I assessed what had been made/drawn/recorded etc over the two week exhibition period, I started to think what would be the next thing to work on. What had I learned, what had this project done for me? I felt somewhat drained by it. There is a level of exhaustion and relief that comes at the end of a project (yes, I do seem to work on projects, one at a time?). So I started to think about what would be needed to refresh me. The abstractions were organic forms, and as I looked at them I found myself thinking that in order to feed the abstraction, what I needed to do was spend a while with reality. Go back to the observational, to the primary source, the raw material. This was to be my next period of development. Once the work was packed away, labelled and stored, I cleared the trappings of the exhibition process and period from my table and started to think about drawing from observation again, and of course, I would be thinking about natural forms… leaves… trees… flowers… feathers… seashells… water… clouds… but what actually happened was during a walk in the park after a very windy weekend, I started to pick up twigs blown down to the paths. They were covered in lichens and moss. On some the bark was peeling… so I filled my shopping bag and brought them to the studio, along with a new A3 sketchbook. On the first page I drew the first few twigs out of the bag, arranged separately like specimens. Drawn with fine ink line, no shadow, all tone built with line. I read about the lichens – did you know some lichens only grow 1mm per year – did I really have in front of me 50 years of growth on this gnarled twig? I started to think about the building up of time. Some of the twigs had buds. Some were very brittle and dry. All sorts, and very interesting to draw! I decided very early on, within the first half dozen pages that this book would only be for twig drawings. Not only that, but they would all be done in the same way with the same pens. A catalogue of sorts. When I had drawn the twigs they were put into a basket under the desk, so I didn’t accidentally draw them more than once.

Then of course, give any artist a load of objects and they will start to play with them and think about the possibilities. I had said I would just put them onto the compost heap once I had drawn them, but this did seem to be a bit of a waste. So yes, I started to play with them. I painted a few, a broke a few up, and then started to wrap one or two of them with some fabric scraps I had on the shelf behind me. I often return to the textile when I play. It is a language I am familiar with, so I can concentrate on what I think about the objects I am wrapping. I started experimenting with different types of fabric and different methods of wrapping, stitching, or not stitching? An idea started to form about these twigs being individuals. At the same time I was reading an article about child poverty. The high numbers of children in the UK living in poverty (31% across the country, obviously higher in some areas, in some demographics). So I started to talk about it to people. And then I made a decision to make an installation that represented all the children in one particular area in the town where I live, who live in poverty. (See post from April 1st – 760 children). 

So now having had thoughts, done a bit of reading, talked to people and experimented, I am now in the process of drawing and wrapping all these twigs/children. A mindless and repetitive making. It is comforting and reassuring to know what I am doing. It won’t last long, but while it does last, it makes me happy.

I am looking at spaces where I might exhibit them, and at how I might display them, as each method of display highlights some different characteristic of the work.

This cycle of work development isn’t a regular, one speed process, and sometimes I might pick up a “miss a go” card, and sometimes take two steps back, or leap forward at any time, but it is a process that follows this path, for pretty much every project I have done.

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