Friday, 28 November 2008

This Week's Drawing and Painting Class

For a drawing and painting class I don't seem to have done much painting do I? But anyway...

This week we had to draw (or paint) from a photograph. I chose to draw my Mum when she was about 4 years old. It didn't have to be a portrait, but I've been enjoying drawing them, which is strange considering I always said I couldn't draw faces for toffee. This is as far as I got in the class:

As soon as I stopped to look at it I thought "No, no, no! It's all wrong!" Unfortunately I don't have this particular photo on my computer, and our scanner isn't working, so you'll just have to take my word for it! I find drawing at class such an unnatural setting, and drawing at a desk an unnatural position; it took me ages to even get started this week. I am learning from it though.

Anyway, I decided to work on it some more at home, but to be honest I wasn't sure whether to just scrap it and start again. I decided to stick with it, and it's looking much more like my Mum now. I'm not entirely sure if it looks like the photo, but it definitely looks like my Mum!

Of course, once again you'll just have to take my word for it! I think hair will help, but it's going to be tricky; it's a black and white photo and my Mum's dark hair blends into the dark background! I'm really going to have to try to get a scan of the photo. It's a very small photo too - her face measures just 1 inch in width!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

This Week's Ceramics Class and Other Clay Stuff

What a week! I hardly know where to start - there is so much to show you! So I think I'll start with something I can't show you!

Despite my confidence crisis last week I was itching to get my clay out by Thursday, so late in the evening (ok, maybe early Friday morning) I made a plate using just an ordinary dinner plate as a mould. I went for a very simple design of a plain plate with a couple of flowers at the side, inspired by the work of Whitney Smith. I can't show you this as I took it to class lass night to be fired when it's dry (and it looked patchy part dried - not a good photo look).

What I can show you is this mug that I made to go with it!

As this is slab built, to get the mug to come in at the bottom I cut four triangle pieces out, about an inch deep, but not very wide. The top isn't level and I noticed it bowls out slightly more on one side than the other, so I think I should have been more careful to get the triangles the same.

Talking of mugs, the prototype of my Mum's mug was ready to bring home from class this week.

Hmm... lots of glaze run there and not exactly round either! One lady at class was absolutely raving about it though! It was a little embarrassing, but at least I didn't have any confidence issues this week!

Here is my first coil built bowl as well, decorated with my first try at sgraffito.

The pedestals worked perfectly - thank you Cynthia!

And here is my little head from the first week!

I think this definitely screams "Found Art Tuesday"! But he/she needs a name - any suggestions?

My clay class was really enjoyable this week. Despite getting there about 45 minutes early, we were about 40 minutes into the class before I even started doing anything! I had spent all that time chatting with the other students and admiring other peoples work. The tutor had brought in a selection of pieces by other artists to show us, and he explained how each effect had been achieved, which was really interesting.

When I finally got going with the clay everything just seemed to go right. It was like a dream! I'm very happy to show you my work in progress so far - I'm really proud of this piece.

Now I just need to decide how to decorate it! Ah, the possibilities are endless! I thought I might try a little sgraffito, maybe a few hand made flowers, and even some slip trailing!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

This Week's Drawing and Painting Class

Firstly, I'd like to say a big thank you to Cynthia and Leanne for their words of encouragement on my last post. My clay class was on Monday, and those feelings of inadequacy that I described carried over into my drawing class on Tuesday, although I feel better now.

One thing I have noticed every week in the drawing and painting class, is that I am much slower than everyone else. During the still life studies I noticed that in the time it took me to do one still life drawing, other people had drawn several, or had drawn one and painted one. I didn't let it bother me as I noticed that their drawings were very sketchy in style whereas mine was more polished. The past couple of weeks it has bothered me more - we have had a model to draw and the classes have been quite intense - the first week we had to draw two portraits from different angles, and this week we had to draw the model in three different positions. So I've had to draw much quicker than usual and adopt a more sketchy style myself, whereas everyone else has been producing finished pieces! Don't ask me how.

So, I was feeling quite down about this but Anita and her son (who modelled for us) helped to put things into perspective for me. Firstly Anita said it doesn't matter how long it takes, it's the finished result that's important. Also she commented that I had completed the study in exactly the way she asked us to - measuring and paying attention to proportions rather than detail. She pointed out that she didn't need to correct any of mine, whereas she had to help others get their drawings into proportion. Actually, I noticed myself that one lady filled in quite a bit of detail, but he had no legs, and there was no room left on the page for them either! That's when Robin chipped in with probably the most important piece of advice I'll ever need - he said the foundations are the most important part of a building. He's a wise lad for only 16.

So here are my drawings from this week. You'll be pleased to know that he kept his trousers on (I was anyway), but I couldn't bring myself to draw his nipples. It just felt wrong! He's my friend's son and he's only 16! Oh, and these are probably the worst photo's ever - if we get any daylight in this country before spring I'll retake the photo's and replace them!

Just out of interest - if I was to draw a corpse would that still be classed as a life drawing or a still life? :)

I didn't go to the life drawing class this week after all - I stayed home and made something with clay instead! Coming soon!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

This Week's Ceramic Class and Feeling Inadequate

I've been struggling with my mood this week and therefore my confidence. I went to class on Monday and the tutor was fine, and I was chatting away to other students, but deep down I was feeling inadequate. Everyone else seemed to have such wonderful ideas and were all working on their various projects, but I wasn't feeling very inspired. Having said that, I had a few people admire my castle and ask me how I made my first mug, so maybe every student feels this way a little? I just feel that I don't have any original ideas of my own. There are lots of things I would like to try to make, but they are all things I have seen on other people's blogs. I suppose this is all part of the learning experience though - maybe by learning from others my own ideas will evolve?

I also feel like I have been holding myself back creatively - I was dissatisfied with the clay, the glazes, the time I have at each class, and I have been waiting for everything to be perfect before I put the effort in to make some nice pieces - but I have decided that it's counterproductive to wait. What's the point in waiting until I have everything just right and then make something that could go wrong? Better to improve my skills with the materials I have available to me, so that when I have increased my knowledge, experience, and confidence, I can then make informed decisions about which materials to buy to make my pieces just right. Right?

So with all that going on in my head on Monday, I just used the time to glaze a few pieces, finish smoothing off my first roasting dish, and then start on another (seeing as I've had to throw away three of them at home in the space of one week!) So nothing very exciting.

My castle had been fired for the second time with the iron oxide and green glaze on the vines, and this was the result:

For a tea light holder, I didn't really think the design through very well. There are hardly any windows at the front! And they're too high up!

The glaze on the vines has run quite a bit. I could do with some advice from some of you lovely potters on this - my tutor got me to mix the glaze into a thick paste for the vines, using some dried glaze from the side of the bucket, could this be why it ran? Or did it run because it wasn't thick enough?

Sigh. Yes, it's wonky too. It stands at just under 9 inches tall and just under 4 inches in diameter.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

First Self Portrait

Our homework from the drawing and painting class this week was to draw a self portrait.
"Homework?" I hear you ask. "You've never mentioned that before Linda"
Umm... well, I didn't mention it before because... I didn't... do any! It's optional anyway. Honest.

So anyway, this week we were asked to look in the mirror and draw what we see. No.
No. Just no. The mirror thing - it's not gonna happen. My husband tells me I'm beautiful and I believe him - I don't need a second opinion thank-you-very-much! So I dug out a photograph from way back when I was cute - when I was about 5! And here is the result:

This was the reference photo:

I know; I cheated. It's so much easier to copy from a photo than draw from life. But trust me, I'm not going near that mirror!

B6 sketch stick on A4 heavyweight paper.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

This Week's Drawing and Painting Class

I know, a little late in the week, but you'll be pleased to know that I did actually draw at class this week! This week we had to draw a portrait from a model. I found it incredibly difficult for several reasons:

1. The model seemed so far away!
2. The lighting was quite poor.
3. The model seemed to blend into the background / the background was too busy.

For these reasons I actually struggled to see the outline of the model's face, particularly the mouth and jaw area in drawing two, so I feel they protrude too far now. Also, we had to draw the model twice from two different directions, so I didn't feel I had adequate time to finish each drawing - we had about 50 minutes for each drawing, which sounds like loads of time, but it seemed to go so quickly! Still, the purpose was to simply get a feel for proportions, and I enjoyed it and it's put me in the mood for more drawing!

I tried to sketch quickly in each of these instead of being a perfectionist about shading, because of the time factor.

Hmm... he looks a little cross eyed in this picture!

Next week we shall be figure drawing, and I will also be going to a life drawing class again later in the week, so I should have lots to post!

Pencil on A4 heavyweight paper.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

This Week's Ceramic Class was.... Drum Roll Please....

... Great! That tutor of mine is like Jekyll and Hyde!

Cynthia came up with a great solution for the glazing issue, and when I talked about it with the tutor he said that was fine!
"So I can glaze right down to the bottom?"
Wow. What happened to him? Actually, he was really helpful all evening! Maybe he's found my blog!!

So I got to work and made a couple of those, one for my first mug and one for my little bowl. After seeing the effect of iron oxide on a couple of pieces I thought I would use that on my castle, so I didn't need to make a pedestal for that in the end. I don't know how others apply it, but this was a liquid that needed to be painted on and then sponged off for the desired effect, and it was incredibly messy! Mind you, we only have two sinks/basins at class - on one the taps just trickle, and on the other the water sprays everywhere! So guess which one I used?

After all that messing around I only had half an hour left of class. I didn't want to waste a single minute though! So I got to work on a small roasting dish for my toad in the hole! (Great photo in that link! Yum yum!)

This is coil built with a slab base. I could do it quickly because all the sausages are pre-made at the beginning of class with a machine. I still had to rush though, so I've wrapped it well with a damp paper towel and hopefully it won't be too dry next week for me to smooth out.

I mentioned last week that I had glazed my face piece without really knowing how it would come out. Well, this was the result:

To get this effect I painted on honey glaze first, then white (painted on because of the lose pieces, which are now firmly attached. You can see at the top on the left that one piece slipped). I seem to have lost a lot of detail under the glaze, but the tutor kept telling me to give it three layers (no wonder it runs!). What do you think?

Monday, 10 November 2008

Great Painting, Great Cause

Thank you to Jafabrit for raising awareness today about the plight of Refugees.

My mother in law has worked with refugees and asylum seekers, and some of the stories she has to tell are heartbreaking.

Please visit Jafabrit's Blog, where she has some great links to refugee services and of course a great painting to illustrate the cause.

Bloggers Unite

My New Favourite Mug

I made a new mug last night...

With a message for my tutor...

And of course a foot so that I can glaze right down to the bottom. I realise this is less than half an inch, but what can I do? The cookie cutters just weren't deep enough!

Yeah, I thought Bob the builder would be appropriate with the "Yes I Can" message. Taking the Mickey? Me? I don't know what you're talking about! :)

I tried to make this mug more rounded at the top and bottom. I have to say it was another learning experience, and there were things I did this time that I would do differently next time. I need more practice/tutoring with the handles too, as this one took me three attempts! And I don't think I'll be moving into mass production anytime soon - I can't believe how long this mug took me to make! The other one only took an hour! With this mug I spent most of my evening smoothing out the dents that I kept putting in it. I think I should be called the clumsy ceramicist!

Oh, and it rocks. No, I don't mean "It Rocks!", I mean it rocks; wobbles. So maybe Bob the builder wasn't the best idea for a foot after all - I'm sure my tutor will let me know - but hey, I had fun!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

I am Undaunted... I made this lino cut last night for my next mug and anything else I decide to stick it on. I may or may not use the lettering.

What does it mean? Well... it just means Three, obviously... *ahem*... so moving swiftly on...

I had this idea of making a little "table" for my castle and other pieces to sit on whilst being glaze fired.
1. The piece will be elevated above the shelf of the kiln
2. The piece will be resting on a flat surface i.e. the table top
3. If I make the circumference slightly smaller than the castle then the glaze is less likely to run onto it and fuse the two together

If it does then I think it will look ok on the castle and the bowl, but it might look a bit silly on the mug. But then the mug was only a trial run anyway, and from now on I will make a foot/feet for everything. This should keep my tutor happy, and if not then I know he is being deliberately awkward and the only reasonable thing left for me to do would be to kill him and face the consequences. I hear they have very good art facilities in prison.

Afterthought: It means Three Words - "Yes We/I Can"! Of course it does. Yep, that's what I meant all along. :)

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

This Week's Classes

After all my excitement over the weekend, this week hasn't been a good week so far. *mumbles to herself "Where do I start?"* Very long rant to follow...

Before the school break we had a very basic lesson on glazing in the ceramics class. I didn't really have enough pieces ready to glaze that night, which I was pleased about because I wanted to learn more about the subject and do some test tiles first, rather than the whole thing being so hit and miss. One thing we were told in class was to leave a half inch unglazed rim around the bottom of each item, in case the glaze runs and the item sticks to the shelf in the kiln. Now, that's fine if you have thrown a bowl on the wheel and you leave the foot ring unglazed, but half an inch at the bottom of my castle? Half an inch at the bottom of a mug or a vase? That would just look stupid. (Actually, it does look stupid - there were some finished pieces at the class on Monday)

So after giving it some thought I emailed our tutor during the school break and asked if I could use a support under my pieces to make sure they don't stick to the shelves in the kiln. He replied saying that commercial supports melt at high temperatures. (The kilns at class are electric and are fired at 1220 degrees C. As I understand it, cone 7 is 1215 degrees C, so it's a little hotter than that.) Ok, I shall have to come up with something else, I thought.

So, back to class on Monday, and I resumed our conversation. I explained that I'm really not keen on the unglazed part around the bottom and I asked if I could make my own supports. He said it's a lot of messing around and the clay sometimes softens when it gets very hot, so there is a possibility that the pieces will warp without a flat base to rest on. He said he sometimes rests pieces on tiles if he thinks there is a danger of it sticking to the shelf.
"But won't they stick to the tile?" I asked.
"Yes" he replied.
"So the piece would be ruined anyway?"

Ok, so I'm starting to realise that the shelves are more important to him than other peoples pieces of work. Every suggestion I came up with he had a reason why I couldn't do it.

"So basically you're telling me that it's just tough. I have to have a half inch unglazed rim around the bottom of my pieces"

But it looks so crap. Somewhere during our conversation he told me that he doesn't "do perfect". Well guess what? I don't "do" intentional sub-standard rejects. Ok, maybe that's a bit harsh - it depends on your personal taste. I showed Anita some of his work and she describes it as "rustic", whereas I prefer a much more polished and professional look, such as the pieces created by Cynthia, Leanne, and Judi. I know I'm only a beginner, but why set my goals lower than what I hope to achieve? I feel like he is stifling my creativity and not allowing me to grow. A half inch gap looks fine on a "rustic" piece, but that's not the style I want to create. The whole thing made me feel so disheartened that I couldn't really see the point in making anything, since I'm not going to be able to finish the pieces in the way I want to anyway.

Then I went into the cupboard. Someone had moved my face piece with some sort of oxide on their hands, and left red marks all over the piece. Thankfully they sponged off, but I just felt like no one has any respect for anyone else's work in this place. I decided to go ahead and glaze it before it gets damaged any further (because it has loose pieces remember), even though I haven't made any test tiles yet so I don't really know how the colour will turn out.

One positive thing was that I got to go on the wheel for the first time. It was very relaxing and therapeutic. The clay felt so lovely. I got absolutely covered in it, but I didn't care - if there was enough room in the splash dish I would have climbed in and rolled around in it! I realised that centering the clay is like falling in love - once it's happened you just know - if there is any doubt then it's not right. I didn't manage to make any pots, but my heart wasn't really in it because of what had happened earlier. I'm not saying it was easy and I just couldn't be bothered - it was very tricky, but maybe if I was feeling more determined, I don't know. I was enjoying just playing with the clay anyway.

After showing his demonstration on the wheel to the class, the tutor just left me to it. I preferred that in a way because it gives one time to get a feel for the clay and what works and what doesn't. When he did finally pop his head around the corner he just said that the wheel was too fast. He is so negative, it's a wonder he hasn't put off the whole class. When I told him about the book I bought "The Spirit of Clay" all he said was "The problem with American authors is blah blah blah..." to be honest I don't know what he said because my brain just switched off. I mentioned to him in my email that I was going to try lino cuts with the clay, and all he said to that was that when he tried it the lino got stuck in "the mud". The only stick in the mud I see is him!

Anyway, the whole thing got me so down that I didn't feel like I could even produce anything in my drawing and painting class. I have to say that I'm having a major confidence crisis right now.

I'm going to look for another class somewhere else.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The Impatient Ceramicist!

I couldn't wait! I did my first lino cut last night! Well, strictly speaking, it's not my first lino cut ever because I made one at school to print with, but that was so long ago I couldn't even tell you what it was of!

This isn't the "simple outline of a character" I had planned on either! This is the design for my Mum's mug. The circumference of the mug needs to be about 12" so I made a pattern 6" long that I could turn around and repeat on the other side of the mug. The lino was really hard and I kept having to warm it up with a hair dryer to soften it. Carving was a bit tricky to start with, but it didn't take long to get the hang of it. I tried to carve a flower but I found the round petals really difficult to do - in the end I made such a mess of it that I just cut a big circle out to get rid of it! I think it would have been easier if I had gone for long pointy petals similar to the leaves.

I did this sitting in my armchair, and by the time I was finished it looked like I had dropped a bowl of All Bran everywhere! I pick the best places to be creative don't I?

Tonight I couldn't wait to make my first mug! I'm quite pleased with my first attempt, but this won't be getting fired. It was more of a practice run. Edit: Photo's were hideous so I took some better ones today (Monday) in daylight.

Of course, I took the photo from the best angle, but trust me, this is not a good mug! I don't really have the right equipment at home so this was never going to be perfect. It is much too thin and weak in places. Also, my clay is over a year old now, so although I have kept it well wrapped it's drying out a little, so the clay has very fine cracks from being bent. Mind you, I threw it around quite a bit, so maybe if I was more careful it would be ok. If the clay was any softer I don't know how I would stop it from collapsing!

Pulling my first handle was fun! But if I was doing this for real I think I should have let the mug harden a little first, and the handle needs to be thicker. I just put that on quickly for the photo!

Edit: Just to give you an idea of the size compared to a normal sized (Craig David) mug! My Mum drinks a lot of tea!