Here we go again! Sometimes work seems to have a cyclical process. Sometimes a piece of work runs its course or runs out of steam. It seems uncertain where to go next. This is when I return to drawing. I recently completed a Mindfulness Training Course which gave me lots of insights to combine with my drawing practice. The skills of concentrating on a task and learning through a process are often things that many other artists do already. The mindfulness adds an opportunity to become more aware of the skills we have and enables us to use them to serve ourselves and our practice more effectively.
So how can mindfulness help our creative practice?
Mindfulness is about being fully here in the present moment. It is about developing awareness of the body and mind. This can help to slow our minds down. This in turn enables us to make physical space to focus on the task here and now. In this space there is no right and wrong only experience and the ability to notice our own experience. This can enable us to move from a judgemental mind to one that is curious, and asks questions- What if? Where? How?
What is Mindful Drawing?
When we draw mindfully we bring awareness of our body/posture, thoughts and feelings to the process we are engaged with. This enables us to become aware of the feedback between the physical act of drawing and the creative mind.
Mindfulness training involves repeating meditations which helps to develop concentration and awareness. A drawing meditation combines mindfulness skills with drawing practice. An example of a practice follows. Allow about 10 minutes though can be longer if you wish.
A Mindful Drawing Practice
Before you start your practice you need to have all your materials ready in front of you so that you can stay in the practice and not have to go looking for materials. Its good to have a clear work area so there are not too many distractions. Chose some paper and something simple to draw with such as a pencil or pen.
Make your self comfortable.
Bring your awareness to your posture with your feet on the floor.
Be aware of how you are sitting balanced on your chair and your arms and shoulders relaxed.
Notice your breathing and how the breath comes and goes with out any effort.
When you are ready bring your attention to the materials in front of you noticing how your hands and arms can move effortlessly to pick up the pen and begin to draw.
This is an opportunity to trust in the wisdom of your body and mind.
Just draw whatever comes- there is no right and wrong. It is an opportunity to explore mark making, texture, imagination,observation-what ever is right for you.
When you come to the end of the drawing and put down your pencil bring your awareness back to your breath and the body and then open to the wider room.
This is the end of the practice.
This is something you can do every now and then when you have a moment or you can make it a regular practice. It is important to work in a way that suits you and the way you work as well as exploring new ideas and ways to work which may sustain you and your practice as an artist.
Our work 'Dura Mater, Pia Mater' (https:/
Gave a presentatin of my work, practice, the AA2A course, as well as some information about applying to opens, and useful creative resources after graduating.
Following a conversation with the ceramic technician, I decided to experiment by adding the ‘mother stories’ text to clay. Beginning with mono-printing, I transferred the text onto clay slabs using underglaze and newsprint. As a first attempt, I was pleased with the results, but wanted to try other techniques.
Using lino, I scribed the words (in reverse), and then pressed the clay onto the lino board (with a light spray of WD40 first, so the clay could be removed easily).
Again, the result was interesting, and I enjoyed the fact that I was able to retain the actual handwriting (size and style) of the person who had written the comment (authenticity in my work has always been an important factor).
These techniques worked well on flat surfaces, but I wanted to see if the same could be achieved on a 3D object. So my next step was to make a sculpture on which to test these ideas. I decided to create a small ‘mother’ figure, uncomplicated in its structure but which would add another reference point to work. I sculpted the figure with an inward curved area at the abdomen, indicating the space where the womb would be located. I wanted the mother to have an organic feel, understated and subtle.
However, having completed the sculpture, I decided to firstly create a mould. Before adding or inscribing text to the figure, I wanted to ensure I would have more than one mother on which to work. Creating a Gel flex mould would enable me to make repeat ‘mothers’, and experiment using different materials.
This was great fun, and I tested the mould using soap, plaster, jelly and wax – all with very different results!
Things rarely go to plan. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I was once given some sage advice by a wise 7 year old who told me ‘always try to turn your mistakes into something good’.
One of my objectives was to regularly record my processes and developments through a series of blog posts using both text and visuals. But now, almost halfway though the residency, I find myself writing my first post. But, following that 7 year olds advice, I think this is an advantage – something good – more than a problem, because apart from my experince being all-encompasing, it’s given me time to think and to reflect.
The delay isn’t because I have nothing to record; far from it. There is almost too much, and each visit to Derby University for my AA2A residency leads me to discover new and exciting possibilities, all of which I’m eager to explore and pursue further. So, my unsuccessful plan to frequently share my experiences could be viewed positively in light of this.
I set out to create a series of large-scale sculptures using concrete (or at least solid and durable materials). I discovered, 1. concrete is powerful (monumental work such as Rachel Whiteread’s ‘Ghost House’ 1993 come to mind), 2. concrete is moving (thinking about Doris Salcedo’s poignant series of furniture sculptures), and 3. concrete is delicate (the beautiful tiles by Zoe Buckman).
Using some of the text collected from my long-term and ongoing project ‘tell me about your mother…’, my first experiments were simple forms, mainly squares and cubes. I added text in different ways - on paper, using transparencies, printed onto fabric, adding plastic letter moulds, inserted after pouring, placed inside the container, and added after drying – all with differing results.
The least successful of these I think, was mainly due to my inexperience with the material (quantities of ingredients, curing times and an understanding of viscosity). Despite this, I gained immense enjoyment from the process, and felt excited to do more and continue to pursue this idea. I began using white cement and added text with linocut boards. Although the results improved, the objects were small. And I knew I wanted to go larger…
So I began to research more, ask more questions, and benefit from the knowledge and skill of the technicians at the university. They are an incredible resource and, at Derby, have been an inexhaustible source of information. I recall my initial apprehension when I first visited the areas in which I had anticipated spending most time – the wood, metal and engineering workshops –all unfamiliar environments to me, and feeling so remote from the comfort of the art department. However, after spending numerous occasions in these areas, they have become places I feel at home in, and am so pleased to be able to use these facilities and have access to the equipment and the knowledge held within them.
Our work 'Images and Illusions' has been Highly Commended in this year’s Awards for Red Line Art Works.
'Humanity faces some very urgent issues. 'Red Line Art Works' is a home for works by artists and creative people who are concerned about the big global issues, the state of our world and the lack of global justice.'
'This website is for all who believe that art can register big problems. We invite you to show your works on this website' ...
Meeting an artist in a freezing studio in Digbeth, isn’t what you except to do on a typical Monday, that is what myself and Rebecca Collins did, as student reps, for the AA2A interview.
Emma is a mixed media artist, who has a studio in Birmingham. She went to Bournemouth University, where she was involved in a Brewery art project, which raised money whilst being at University in 2015. She was also involved with a lot of arts projects and involved in pop art in a suitcase, which was taken to Venice Biennale.
She is presently involved with East Side Projects, which is a gallery based in Birmingham. She acts as a research assistant and is involved with tutorial projects with local artists. In July, she wants to find and get together a group of artists that are dispersed throughout the region, also by looking at different arts and how their audiences are diverse and how these audiences could get together. Emma talked about how you can be an associate of East side Projects and how there are many paid opportunities once you become a member of the project.
As she is heavily involved in the East Side projects, and her own art seems to be on a back foot at the moment, she hopes to get this going again by using the Wolverhampton School of Art and Design’s facilities soon. We suggested that she comes to give a talk because she an ideal candidate to explain what to do after the degree finishes and how to get involved with local projects.
Emma seems to be juggling her art well, with a career in the arts, which seems to have a healthy future.
One of the essential things I am interested in is how when we repeat a task over time it starts to alter our perception of the task in certain ways as well as potentially altering us. Can it also alter the essential nature of the task itself?
With a task that has very clear perimeters as to how it can be done it almost forces us to be creative and to engage our minds in new ways of thinking. This is the challenge I set myself. I work with a limited range of materials and set tasks which I repeat allowing for variations each time. The work begins with drawing and develops into using other materials alongside.
It is this steady deliberate approach which developed an interest into momentary readings which over a period show time passing. Each drawing/reading captures a moment which is immediately past. What can this tell us?
The materials I use for the drawings are ink and paper and willow sticks, thread and stones. Each drawing is on a 10cm x10cm piece of paper. I make a reading with the sticks and stones then draw them noting the date and time.
Out of the drawings and materials other tasks develop. Small 2d drawings with the actual sticks and thread become readings in their own right. 3d pieces develop which are less readings and more sculptural pieces developed with insights from the daily drawings.
I continued cutting up porn magazines. I wanted to see the images outside of the magazines, I thought that by removing them of their original context the bodies and genitalia would look ridiculous. I removed the heads/faces of the women whilst cutting up the images as the person within the picture had no relevance to my ideas. Just like the person within the picture wouldn’t have any relevance to the person who would buy the magazine. The dismembered bodies looked eerie on paper and I was compelled to remove the female genitalia by scratching/ripping the paper. I then cut up a variety of skin shades into rectangles with similar likeness to a plaster and then placed the rectangles over the genitalia.