Two years ago I started to meet up regularly with three of my sketching friends to work on our Sketchbook Projects. We enjoyed the catch ups so much that after the project was over we decided to continue the drawing sessions but work on our own projects. We sketch, eat and chat (not necessarily in that order) for most of a day once a month.
A topic that always seemed to pop up in our conversations was how we have all bought, or been given, art supplies and never have the chance to try them out. Or how we would like to try out different styles or approaches that we don’t normally sketch with.
So I came up with an idea of the four of us heading off somewhere for a weekend and spend the whole time trying out and experimenting with a lot of the art supplies we own, and more importantly, to do something different. That was the paramount objective. The golden rule was to NOT use what we normally sketch or paint with, or in the style we always use. However, there were no rules on how you used the new mediums or what you drew.
We booked a “summer” house up in the Blue Mountains, 90 minutes out of Sydney. It was listed to be able to accommodate up to 8 people, but with all our equipment it was just enough space. Although this area is a wonderful and popular tourist location, we banned any sight-seeing, eating out and scenic drives and closed the doors for much creative art-making.
When we unpacked all the supplies it was quite intimidating at first but as we tested out some things that night, so we were able to go to bed with some plan of attack for the next day.
Bring it on
After a brisk morning walk we got stuck into it. We eased in with a 10 minute warm up where we all grabbed three different mediums and drew a picture. Then it was all systems go and nobody needed any prompting for the next one, or the next, or the next.
Because we only had one full day of art we even minimised time spent making lunch and dinner, by having a cold antipasto buffet for lunch where everyone could pick and eat as they worked, and for dinner we let the oven do all the cooking and popped a lamb roast and vegges in the oven. The dinner table was covered more with paint brushes and paints than cutlery and plates the whole day.
Collage and mixed media is something I dont dabble in a lot. It requires patience, and cupboard space to collect just too many things to make up these pictures. Although it was fun, and I could do it every now and then, I didn’t find it as satisfying as drawing or painting a picture. Its more about cutting, gluing, sponging and so on.
I’ve been clearing out the family home and I found a box full of old Gestetner carbon paper. My mum used to work as a school assistant and when I was growing up, this stuff was used to reproduce work stencils and school newsletters. I think most from my generation, and past ones, will remember this stuff quite fondly. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here.
Anyway, the carbon still worked well and we started to experiment with it. Another thing that was quite exciting about it was when you applied water to your finished drawing, the purple coloured exploded everywhere and gave an interesting bleed to your linework.
I tried using some of the plastic stencils with acrylic paints. These were fun but I think it takes a bit of trialling to get it to do what you want it to do.
All of us had our own objectives to achieve this weekend. Mine was to try and put more “interest” in my pictures. What I mean is to give it more direction and more contrast, whether it is through light/shade, busy/quiet, loose/tight. While the others wanted to loosen up and be more expressive, I wanted to reign that looseness in and find that balance between drawing purely with instinct and executing some discpline.
I was quite happy in the end. My goal was to lead the eye around the page through the dark blue shadows under the waves and rock, so that your eyes are moving in a continuous spiral.
Then a straight up acrylic paint picture and I kept my palette down to three colours. I also tried not to mix the colours too much beforehand, but rather let them mix on the paper. The key in this picture was to use the black sparingly, keep it “unblemished” and hoped that it tied the whole picture together. I also wanted to created balance between the flat surfaces and the textured areas.
My next one was from photos I took of some old building blocks. Initially I wanted to play around with the strong lighting and shapes. So I used another water soluble medium, and wanted to spread the colour with my old Letraset markers I used to use for storyboarding. But they were sooooo dry I couldn’t barely colour in one side of a block. Thus, I lost track of what I wanted to accomplish in my attempt to get some ink out of these pens. I will say this, they didnt get re-packed for the trip home!
For the last one of the weekend I wanted to apply this new approach to materials I DO use all the time (ok I broke the house rules), but I really wanted to exercise some discipline with my splashes of colour and free flowing lines so that it had quieter spaces and points of interest.
It was a great weekend, and for anybody else who might have spent the weekend in the Blue Mountains, the unrelenting cold rain, hail and mist (in spring!) would have ruined their time away. But for us it was the perfect weather for staying in and being creative.
Below are some of the results from my friends. If you would like to see more of their stuff, please click on their names below.