Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Diary of a Sculptural Sketchbook

AccessArt member Emma Davies shares her working process through a sculptural sketchbook diary – working both outside and in the studio. If you would like to share your practice, please email us.


Sculptural Sketchbook Diary by Emma Davies

Sculptural Sketchbook Diary by Emma Davies

 

Wednesday Jan 30th

I set off with two long sheets of paper (150gsm)

Eager to get going – that was as far as my planning got. Really I should have taken more paper. My best work however often comes from a place where there has been minimal planning; when the seed of an idea takes its own course.

What I did know was that I wanted to sculpt the landscape out of the paper. Shape and tear the top edge to create a line that represented the wispy and undulating line of the hedges, trees and distant hills; the negative space above the frayed edges of the paper thus representing the sky.

The trees curve and bent over to form a covered track. As the track turns to the left it is framed by a tall hedge, this creates a hollow arc – a ‘hole’ that contains the sky. I needed to decide whether to draw this negative shape (when I came to sketch onto the sculpture) or whether it should be torn out. I plumped for the sculpted option, but I questioned at this stage whether this was the right thing to do.

View One: From the edge of the village, the beginning of the walk. Geddington, Northamptonshire

View One: From the edge of the village, the beginning of the walk. Geddington, Northamptonshire

 

View Two: Turn the corner and look up to see a ‘Hockney Esque’ scene of arched trees. Geddington Chase, Northamptonshire

View Two: Turn the corner and look up to see a ‘Hockney Esque’ scene of arched trees. Geddington Chase, Northamptonshire

 

View Three: Through the archway and look ahead to the beginning of the woods. I have torn the paper to follow the top line of the landscape 4

View Three: Through the archway and look ahead to the beginning of the woods. I have torn the paper to follow the top line of the landscape 4

 

Back in the studio I considered the options for construction – how to keep the essence of a sketch book but to also have a strong three dimensional form that the viewer could interact with visually – an impactful spatial dimension.

The separate pages would need to be physically connected but have a flexibility and length; I needed a method of connection that would enable the pages to separate and metamorphasise from a book into a sculpture.

In the Studio - working out the method of construction

In the Studio – working out the method of construction

 

Friday 1st Feb

Laid down some watercolour washes and went out: lots of thinking about construction. A realisation that I needed to sketch onto the backs of the pages- so that the sculpture could be viewed from both sides. Theses sketches could be the reverse of the walk – the walk back from these same points.

View One: Laying down the first Watercolour Wash

View One: Laying down the first Watercolour Wash

 

Monday 4th Feb

I decided to sculpt another three strips to represent the return of the walk. These would be connected to the reverse of the first three. The reverse of each strip is painted blue, so that any overlaps or exposed paper become the sky.

Tues 5th Feb

I glued the strips together – only on the bottom half, so that the tops are disconnected. This created an added 3D element, conveying the essence of a layered landscape. How do I continue? Further washes of watercolour to create some deep colours? Or start with the drawing?

In the Studio: more washes and the layered landscapes are beginning to appear

In the Studio: more washes and the layered landscapes are beginning to appear

 

Friday 8th

A few days break from working on the project hinders the speed at which I can return to it. After a brief spell of morning TV, the drive to pack my rucksack soon returns. I decided on a plan of action, fix the sheets together with a staple – I carefully bend a fold, that will enable the pages to be turned and then staple twice along a faint straight pencil line. I don the wellies and set off.

It is a cold morning; there is a stream of elderly dog walkers. The numbing fingers, the threat of a con-versation about the weather and being observed at work inspires my brain to think fast; and my fingers and hand work with speed and dexterity. The marks are dynamic and instinctual, just what I wanted.

I manage three of the drawings and back in the studio I am really pleased with the results: a crucial turning point in the work. I really like the contrasts between the subtle watercolour and the expressive mark making; it is coming to life.

Detailing the walk, more marks with pencil.

Detailing the walk, more marks with pencil.

 

Tuesday 12th February

Another cold day – my usual morning walk postponed until the late afternoon due to a much over due get together with an old friend.

The light would start to fade soon and the sky was already dark with snow clouds. The tracks had turned to mud baths because of the melted weekend snow.

Afternoon time brings a different group of dog walkers up the track and I am sure that I spot a poacher, carrying what looks like a dead rabbit, hanging from his hand. The man skulks along the other side of the hedge, away from prying eyes.

Despite the biting air I have a steely determination to finish this stage of the drawing. Rapid hand movements create more dynamic gestures. I returned home as the evening was drawing in. Proud of my work and the quality of the mark making; and the impact of the pieces – the layers of landscape, journeys, tracks winding, trees framing, hills leading. The six scapes connected, reading from one to the other and back again.

Tomorrow begins the decision of colour

Detailing the walk, more marks with pencil. The story of the walk is coming to life

Detailing the walk, more marks with pencil. The story of the walk is coming to life

 

Weds 13th February

Some colour goes on to each scape. As much as I liked the subtlety of the pencil and watercolour washes, I felt there was a need for some sweeps of yellow sunlight and vivid blue tracks that were re-flecting the light of the sky on their puddles; a palette to intimate the beautiful winter shades that are the bare bones of the trees and hedgerows.

Thurs 14th February

It’s finished. I am really really pleased.

 

The Walk into Geddington Chase, from Wood Street, Part One’. Geddington Chase, Northamptonshire  Cartridge Paper, Watercolour, Pencil, Chalk Pastels, Staples.  2013

The Walk into Geddington Chase, from Wood Street, Part One’. Geddington Chase, Northamptonshire
Cartridge Paper, Watercolour, Pencil, Chalk Pastels, Staples.
2013

 

The Walk into Geddington Chase, from Wood Street, Part One’. Geddington Chase, Northamptonshire  Cartridge Paper, Watercolour, Pencil, Chalk Pastels, Staples.  2013

The Walk into Geddington Chase, from Wood Street, Part One’. Geddington Chase, Northamptonshire
Cartridge Paper, Watercolour, Pencil, Chalk Pastels, Staples.
2013

 

Emma Davies

Copyright AccessArt 2013 www.accessart.org.uk

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Comments

17 Responses to “Diary of a Sculptural Sketchbook”
  1. Sheila Ceccarelli says:

    Emma I love this sculptural sketchbook – thank you so much for sharing it with AccessArt – it was a real privilege to read about the intimacies of your process and wonderful to see the finished piece unfold. I love the way you go back and forth between being immersed in the landscape and developing, building and reflecting on the ideas in the studio – you described the process so well! I love the way you bring the paper to life with the physical tearing and beautiful mark making. What I want to know is where will this lovely sculpture live now?

    • Emma Davies says:

      Hi Shelia,

      Thankyou so much for your feedback – it is geat to know that what I am trying to acheive and communicate I am actually doing so! It is one of the hardest things to do I think, to truly communicate to others what you see and experience. For me, the creative process/ who I am as a person/ my identity as an artist, how I live my life and how I share with others are all inextricably linked and inspire and inform my work. I have become so unispired by standard paper sizes and wanted the surface to be part of the work and reflect what it is I am inspired by, rather than placing squeezing an image in, constricting it and placing it onto a surface – the image is the surface. As to where it lives now…. well, I am in the process of making it’s cover, to protect it when it is not on display… and after that I am not sure! I have ideas… !

  2. Trisha says:

    Love this idea and your drawing style too. I work in Textiles and funnily enough, have been struggling the last week with how to turn original sketches of a Finnish lakeside into 3D pieces, toying with similar ideas, but in paper and fabric using additional acylic paints and machine embroidery. I got to the point when cutting felt wrong, not organic enough shapes and started to tear the paper. Love the way you draw the trees, very expressive, wonderful mark making, a joy to see.

    • Paula Briggs says:

      Hi Trisha – it would be lovely to see some images if you ever feel like uploading them – you can post them here x

    • Emma Davies says:

      Hi Trisha,

      Thankyou for your lovely comments.The more I draw trees, the more I see them as beings with personalities and physical traits if their own – either pertaining to their speices or their individual lives – what animals they house, weather damage, geographical factors etc. When I draw them I want to encapsulate at least some of this, but being careful to not to be too hung up and rather to intstinctually respond and to harness the right techniques.
      Would be really interested to see some of your work!

  3. Emily West says:

    Emma, I love this fresh and sculptural approach to drawing and sketchbook making. Thank you for sharing your work and ideas!

  4. Paula MacGregor says:

    I am a book artist and enjoying manipulating the book structure to enhance the contents. http://www.paulamacgregor.com/bookworks

  5. Emma Davies says:

    Hi Paula,

    Hi Paula, I have had a look at your website – thankyou. Yes, we have got similar interests! I am a bit of a collector – some would say hoarder – but then they don’t understand! I am in interested how we have different approaches to making books – mine are very rough around the edges – the method of constructing the book developing as I go along – and also, having limites craft skills, I emphasise the roughness rather than try and hide it. I like your book with the Victorian Wallpaper – although not as precious – I have an emotional connection I guess to the papers I use, as I collect them from my everyday life (such as potato sacks) and know which old piece of work has been sacrificed to make a new one. Best Wishes, Emma

    • Paula MacGregor says:

      I also love organic torn edges and have made books in this way too.

      I had a dream the other day about a train that was a sanatorium, there was a dividing wall running down the center of each open carriage, and beds were lined up against that center wall – everything had originally been pure white, but now there were signs of dereliction everywhere. I have made a model of the structure and will eventually make it into a book with a narrative.

      My mum spent 3 years in a sanatorium during the early 50′s, I have her diaries which tell of her heart ache as well as some ‘memorabilia’ I think I might use that for the narrative.

      This is not usually the way I work, I would normally have a narrative first and construct the book to suit that – so it will be interesting to have the structure first this time…

      • Emma Davies says:

        Hi Paula,
        Sorry I haven’t replied to this earlier. Your dream and process of creating a model of this is fascinating. I am about to branch out into constructing a stage set design for a project I am lead artist on – I am intrigued how I am going to make my small paper sculptures work on a larger scale!
        I am interested to hear how your sanitorium project develops – especially as it is such a personal project for you and as you say you are reversing the way you normally work.
        Best Wishes
        Emma

  6. June Nelson says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this. It didn’t at first sight relate to my own practice but your process has given me some ideas for tackling a problem I have been wrestling with for a while. In addition, as an Artist Educator frequently called on to devise landscape workshops, it is a brilliant resource which I can see developing in all sorts of ways. It is very generous of you to share it.

    • Emma Davies says:

      Dear June,

      So pleased it has helped with your work. I am also and Educator and deliver lots of landscape projects and workshops. I am always trying to reinvent what I do and look at the landscape from many perspectives – as much as possible away from a white sheet of plain paper (although sometimes a white sheet is great for the simplicity of drawing and learning the technical side of things but can dampen the imagination)
      I have a page on facebook if you want to like me – http://www.facebook.com/EmmaDaviesFineArtWorkshops

      Best Wishes
      Emma

  7. Elaine Sellors says:

    Diary of a Sculptural Sketchbook – Emma Davies
    ‘In the Studio – working out the method of construction’ – wow!

    What an inspirational image in its own right – made me all excited and wanting to have a go at painting just pieces of paper ripped and standing in this way. The colours are beautiful!

    • Emma Davies says:

      Hi Elaine,

      Thank you! You have reminded me that keeping it simple is often the best way. At the moment I am embroiled in a different work entirely….. taking my sculptural works and exploring ways to use them as stage sets…. this has developed into a fully formed performance piece which is far from simple! Turns out for stage sets I can’t use cardboard due to fire regs, so I am exploring alternative ways that are cheap and that can keep that torn quality like ripped paper. The stage set is of a house and I wanted to use the cardboard (so just like these pieces of paper) to suggest sections of raggedy walls.
      I am treating the costumes in much the same way – torn and worn edges.
      This all started because I wanted to scale up the sculptures – and as my work is narrative based – and I am involved in theatre work, it just all came together. Sorry to go on but your comment was lovely and reminded me of what my starting point was,why I have developed my work further – and that not too panic as simple is best!
      Through devloping the work in such a manner has become labour intensive… but I guess…. what your comment has also made me realise is that my experimentations with paper has really helped and inspired me with how I am approaching the whole design of the set and the costumes….. the layering of size, texture and colours. So the simplicity of material is often all you need to form the basis of a work.
      Best Wishes
      Emma

  8. Hi Emma,

    You can get a substance to spray on paper/card to make it fireproof. I had an exhibition in a library in London and they insisted one of the other exhibitors sprayed their cardboard installation with it. I have no idea what it was, but I am sure that you could find out now that you know it exists.

    Fingers crossed – Paula

    • Emma Davies says:

      Hi Paula,

      Unfortunately I have explored that route – the cardboard needed would have to be single layer and not corrugated as the tech officer explained that when coated with the fire retardent the cardboard becomes too soggy. Could I find any company that sold single layer sheets? No!

      So, I have had to compromise and am using chicken wire and material draped over that. With the performance looming on the 31st Jan… which icludes a film (shooting on Sunday) I have to now stick to this course of action!

      The issue of exhibiting works made of cardboard though is an interesting one – as in my usual practice… cardboard takes centre stage…. as I have not yet exhibited the works (they are in development) I haven’t come across this problem yet. I do need to think about it though, as the works are supposed to be enviromentally aware,making art from recycled materials, keeping it as natural as possible.It is slightly defeating the object if I then have to coat ithe work with chemicals!

      Fingers crossed are needed!
      Best Wishes
      Emma

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