The joy of workshops.

I left university in 1984, although to be accurate it was a polytechnic, as in those distant days that’s where you went to do your art and design degree. Since then I have taught solidly, mainly ceramics, and for the last ten years ceramics and textiles, in regular weekly classes, schools, hospitals, and many  venues around the country.

This is still quite a surprise to me, as I didn’t actually want to teach, having turned down a place at a different polytechnic to pursue teacher training after A levels. I left school and worked in a series of jobs, from the Civil Service to IBM, via a job in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham and a shot at becoming a radiographer. [ Can’t bear hospitals, I discovered, and fully admire all who work in them.]

However, going into teaching was a good move, complementing my work as an artist, and enabling me to meet some great people. I count myself as very lucky.

During all this time I went on just one workshop as a student, at the RBSA in Birmingham; this was three years ago. It was a printmaking and artist’s book course, and it was wonderful. I had noticed that people on my courses seemed to enjoy themselves, [no one has cried yet] so I recently decided I wanted some of that fun, and have treated myself to a few workshops and a course, as a student for a change.

I’m quite relaxed about what the results will be of taking courses; I have a number of ideas brewing that I will be hopefully starting to develop soon. But, I do want to add more to the mix, and I sensed this wasn’t going to happen at home. To change your art, I once read, you do have to change your situation. Actually I think the saying was you have to change your life, but I’ve decided a few changes of venue will do, thanks!

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I don’t draw as much as I used to, so have enrolled on an experimental drawing and painting course at mac, in Birmingham. This started on Friday, and proved useful straight away. I really enjoyed just being there to draw for two hours, and like the fact we draw what the tutor brings, in this case sunflowers.

I would never have chosen sunflowers to draw, so immediately that stretches you. Also doing quick sketches with pastels, oil pastels and chalk was good, as once again these are not mediums I would normally choose. Above, a quick oil pastel sketch; we had about 15 minutes for each exercise.

I felt as if I was a long way from the subject; normally I would have had the flower very close to me, and drawn it in a much more detailed way. So, it’s good to try something different.

I’ve booked a couple of printmaking courses too. I went to the first one at Birmingham Printmakers on Saturday. This was a one day course in silk screen printing, something I have never really engaged with before.

Well, all that changed. We used the photo emulsion method, which was all new to me, having never tried it before. I particularly enjoyed it as I do love trying out new machinery! There were vacuum printing beds too, so once you have made your screen you can really get going.

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I took two of my bird drawings to work from, and enjoyed printing them in black on a variety of papers, with one print on fabric too. My intention is to hand colour some of them, but working with multiple images in a mix of opaque and translucent acrylics is something I would love to try too. These workshops are mainly going to be useful to feed ideas into my textile work, including my new needlepoint experiments, but then there is also the possibility of making small scale artist’s books to consider…

I love the exact and fine detail that is achievable. These two prints, below, were printed onto some watercolour paper I had printed first with some text, on my inkjet printer at home.

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This bird was originally drawn in ink and felt pen, with some white acrylic block prints applied to break up the black. It was then photocopied onto acetate, and the screen was made using the acetate sheet. I love the subtle way the detail of the white areas on the black drawing has worked in the prints.

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I’ll be experimenting with colouring the prints with a range of media. Some of the prints are on Khadi paper so Koh-i-nor dyes should work well on that surface.

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So the next couple of workshops I’m booked on to will involve more screen printing, using stencils this time. I’m looking forward to this as I want to involve blocks of bold colour in my work as well as finer detail, so I sense something interesting will emerge. After that I’m going to have a go at gum arabic transfer printing.

So it’s a full term all round, and I daresay I will post more results from my workshop-fest.

8 thoughts on “The joy of workshops.

  1. However ‘experienced’ we may feel, it is so enjoyable to go to workshops, you always, always come home with some interesting ideas. Thanks for taking the time to write about your workshop/class, hope you continue to enjoy yourself.

  2. How exciting Steph. I love going on workshops but am now having to consider which will be useful. As a result, I am cutting down to concentrate on developing my work. Look forward to seeing what you do. Vicki

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  3. Steph, this was a joy to read through and the words resonate loudly as I’ve just come back from a course in Derbyshire with a friend. She’s a professional artist like you but recognised the need to feed the soul and be the student for a change. She was so energised by the experience and I sense that in you too. We were painting with an artist called Lewis Noble and his stand out comment to me was ‘you can see you’re a printmaker at heart’. Sounds like you are too. You will love gum arabic transfers. I was taught this by my friend Sue and it will open up lots of ideas for you. I shall be watching how the screen printing with stencils goes. Look forward to some images!

  4. Hi Lesley, yes, she’s right, it is energising and liberating. I’ve been using drawing inks today in the experimental drawing class, and guess what, I ended up printing from one or two of the painted images onto watercolour paper, and then effectively made a mini paper print block, to facilitate even more printing. It just happened! Then of course I had a lot more work than anyone else, so that was embarrassing. So your assessment is accurate!
    I love your print of Russell; let’s hope he returns this winter.

    To see Russell and Lesley’s blog go to Printed Material on my sidebar.

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