An Introduction To HE: Research Trail Assignment: Notes, etc, 2

Some images from my primary research at the Bridget Riley Paintings, 1963 – 2015 at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. (I visited on 4 June 2016).

Bridget Riley Clair Obscure 2015

Postcard image of Bridget Riley’s Clair Obscur, 2015 (notes below).Bridget Riley Pink Landscape

Image of Riley’s first step towards abstraction, following her study of George Seurat’s art and methodology. Aiming to achieve an equivalent sensation to viewing the scene, without recourse to traditional colour schemes or imagery. Image from Wiggins, Colin et al “Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work” Published By National Gallery Company, London 2010.Bridget Riley Rattle 1973Postcard of Bridget Riley’s Rattle, 1973 (notes below)

Exhibition Visit Sketch 1

Notes on Bridget Riley’s Vespertino, 1988 An image of the painting can be found on the National Gallery’s website.Exhibition Visit Sketch 2IMG_20160604_160744252IMG_20160604_160754512

Notes and sketch of Rattle, photograph of painting and photograph of detail showing pencil lines of construction, careful placement of contrasting diagonal lines of red bordered by green and separated by white; and red bordered by blue paint, separated by lines of the white canvas showing through.


Photograph of Bridget Riley’s Clair Obscur, 2015 (please see notes below).

Riley Notes

Below are notes made on the book:-

Wiggins, Colin; Bracewell, Michael; and Prather, Marla “Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work” Published By National Gallery Company, London 2010.

Riley Notes 2Riley Notes 3Riley Notes 4Riley Notes 5

Assignment 1: The First Six Drawings

#1 Blind Contour Drawing, Single Line with Black Fine Rollerball Pen


I picked this drawing to do first as a fairly fast, loosening-up exercise. I can just about make out the individual objects. I seem to have made the twig very over-sized and stylised-looking. I like the effect of the pen with its ‘clean’, hard appearance. I found the exercise useful, in getting me to really start observing the outlines and textures of the objects. I tried to make it a continuous line, but did lift the pen once or twice. Might be a useful technique for a free embroidery, machine sewn piece.

#2 Mixed Media ‘Realistic’ Drawing: Pencil, Charcoal, White Pencil, Eraser, Rubbing


I used a cardboard frame to get into my mind the aspects of the composition I would focus on, and found it helpful. This drawing started out as a pencil sketch, but I wanted more contrast, so I added some charcoal and white pencil highlights. I also used an eraser to remove some over-darkened areas, or to provide highlights on the melon, for example. I tried to use different marks to represent the textures of each object: harsh, jagged lines for the broken bottle; softer, fine, directional marks to indicate the faux fur threads of the scarf.

I decided to fill in the negative space around the twig and give it a fine, swirling pattern to represent the lichen and gnarled nature of the wood.

I was quite pleased with some of the textures I managed to indicate, but found the flat, gleam on the black feathers hard to show, and wasn’t quite sure how to show the soft, juicy flesh of the melon. Although the bottle neck is not correct (amongst other things!) I did use a tip from Olivia Irvine that she shared with me about finding angles (comparing the angle of a line you want to draw, to the horizontal or vertical by holding a pencil up) at the recent study visit in Edinburgh. That came in very useful.

#3 White Acrylic Ink Drawn With The Dropper on Black Paper


I had hoped to do a dripped painting, but my dropper was bunged up so I ended up using the dropper like a dip pen. I liked the white for showing the bright highlights on the bottle’s jagged edges, and for the fur effect with little scratches in the ink and dried brush-like strokes giving a soft look to that area. I felt that the least successful area was the beads/buttons ‘splatter’. I think that might have worked better by spraying the ink off a brush. The ink dried into cracks and crazing like dried mud or ceramic glaze, which I thought was an interesting effect, and an added texture.

#4 Thread Sampler Drawing


I marked out the main elements of the composition using a photograph as a guide and poking a pin through the photo into a sheet of watercolour paper, to show corners, and outlines of the objects. (Inspired by Debbie Smyth’s “Drawing With Thread” exhibition, which I had read about in my research for this assignment).

I used a rough, polyester thread and needle to sew through the holes. I tried to suggest the textures of the objects with the stitches/marks made. For the scarf, I tried loops cut or uncut, flat stitches overlapping or distinct and finally some scraps of thread couched freehand to the paper. I liked the uncut loop threads for the interesting texture produced and the flat stitches gave some direction to the texture they were evoking. The cut threads reminded me of hairy legs and the couched threads were interesting, but didn’t look much like the scarf’s texture.

For the twig, I used only french knots, some tight, some loose, with loose threads in places, in several sizes, some densely packed and some more widely spaced. Although it didn’t look much like the original, I felt that it had captured something of the texture of the lichen and bark. I liked the effect and may use it again.

For the knife and broken bottle, I used a simple outline stitch, with large, straight stitches, which I thought described the shapes and textures quite well. (I should have stitched the knife first, though, so that it appeared behind the glass).

For the melon, I used a running stitch, that I felt was the least successful experiment. I wanted it to appear ‘softer’ than the knife and glass, but it just looks flat and cartoon-like. I did like the improvised ‘seeds’ though.

From a practical point of view, the techniques took a long time to complete and the looping stitches in particular were hard to produce: I kept pulling them flat by mistake, or catching threads on the reverse. They might work better on fabric and I will certainly try some of these again.

#5 Collage

This is a large piece (almost A1 size), made from paper, fabrics and plastic from a bottle attached to part of a corrugated cardboard box.

The background is scrunched and folded tissue paper; the ‘scarf’ is taken from a wool, machine knitted jumper (cut and stretched to encourage fraying); the melon is a shiny synthetic fabric (coat lining); the knife blade is a stretchy fabric with reflective embellishments; the handle is a dull, un-reflective cotton; the glass is made from a crushed and cut plastic bottle; the feathers are three different fabrics (shower curtain fabric; light cotton; and the reverse of some antique velvet ribbon); the twig is represented by corduroy.

I freehand cut the shapes with large fabric scissors and arranged the pieces before trying to attach them to the background with spray glue. This made a horrible sticky mess of the two pieces I tried it on (the melon and knife blade). I will not be using that glue for this purpose again! I used multi-purpose white glue for the other pieces, but afterwards thought that ‘sticky fixers’ might have been better for the plastic element.

Well, this was an interesting exercise in trying to represent the textures of the objects. I enjoyed it the least of the attempts I have made so far because of the mess and finished result, but it did get me thinking about how to represent certain textures in fabric and other materials. I felt that the paper background was the most successful part of the collage, along with the reverse of the velvet ribbon for the feather, which gave it a nice gleam, and also worked finely cut and fluffed up to represent the tufty area near the quill end. The least successful part was the bead spatter which I didn’t attempt – I could only think of adding beads and buttons, which was a bit too literal. Although maybe using a splatter patterned fabric or paint splatter might have worked, too.

#6 ArtRage App Digital Drawing – Imagined

ArtRage Sketch

Having seen David Hockney and Katie Sollohub use digital art techniques, I thought I would give it a try. This is a speedily done first attempt, imagining the objects I have been drawing recently. This particular version of the app only has one brush head, but the size and resulting texture can be varied, as can the colour. I will certainly try to use this again in the future. May be useful for sketching ‘on the go’.

Assignment 1: Gathered, Arranged and Photographed Objects

I had been thinking about which objects would best fit the theme I had chosen: Nature’s Larder. I had words such as ‘shard’, ‘fur’, ‘spiky’, ‘splatter/spatter’ and ‘jagged’ in mind and came up with some found objects:- a broken bottle, a twiggy branch, feathers, and added to these some items from home – a ‘furry’ knitted scarf, a knife, a slice of watermelon, a claw or tooth like pendant, a mixture of beads and buttons for the ‘splatter’.

I started out arranging the items fairly close together on a white background. I had quite quickly rejected the pendant as it seemed a bit too obvious a choice and the colour didn’t suit my theme of reds, black, silver/grey, glass and green.


I felt that some parts of the arrangement were working, such as the random spray of beads coming off the end of the scarf and over the feathers. I thought it might be better to see the point of the knife, so tried this (second image below):-


I didn’t think that the fine red fabric added much to the composition. I thought that a dramatic splash of red from the scarf and smaller elements would be more effective without the red in the background.

Next, I tried a black, textured background, and smooth black base and a different arrangement:-


I liked this much more: the broken glass contrasted well with the textured black backdrop (a skirt). The red also looked more dramatic and although one feather lost some contrast, the gleam on it meant that it was still visible. I thought that the whole scene had a more menacing, dangerous feel to it.

Next, I tried a dazzling contrast (thank you Bridget Riley!) with bright green, fluid material. I also tried a more spaced out and carefully placed arrangement for some of the items, especially the beads and buttons. The broken bottle and claw-like twig were tried both lying down and upright.

The convolutions in the fabric hid some of the beads and made others roll about where I didn’t want them; the glass and twig became less obvious and although the red and green contrasted well and I liked the black and white feathers against the green, I decided that I preferred the black background. The arranged buttons didn’t look much like random spatter and the other items felt too disparate and unconnected.

A diorama-type effect was what I aimed at next, taking a large box and lining it with the black fabric, setting it on its side with the opening towards me. I arranged the objects so that they seemed to be clawing or striking their way out of the blackness. I liked the claustrophobic, Gothic horror feel of this arrangement, but felt that a more open composition showed off the jagged glass better, and I preferred a flat base.


I returned to a black texture background with flat, black base, tried several more arrangements before coming up with this:-


The knife is suspended in a fairly upright position (‘invisible’ thread to the rescue) and the scarf is pinned higher up so it appears to undulate down the right side of the composition and explode into ‘droplets’ in the foreground.

After my first study visit on Saturday, I had ‘layers’ in my head, so tried one more experiment with the fine, semi-opaque fabric in front or partially in front of the group of objects.

I think the way it blurs the view of the objects is quite interesting. The reflections off the glass and knife become more of a focus, while the twig and scarf blend into the background. I may try a drawing with this veiled view, but will use the version in the large photo above as my favoured option. The piece of melon will be changing daily, though!

This was an interesting exercise. I am surprised at how much difference a different background makes to the emotional ‘feel’ of an arrangement. The textured black gives a woodland or cave-like feel that makes me think of wild places. I wanted the knife cutting into the melon ‘flesh’ and the knitted ‘fur’ scarf to represent an animal’s gore-covered maw; the claw-like twig reminded me of a hawk’s striking claw and the jagged bottle was like teeth or claws, but also represents danger and violence. The feathers (fragility and vulnerability), with the ‘blood splatter’: the unfortunate remnants after the predator has feasted.

I had been quite pleased just to find the objects that I wanted (especially that broken bottle – not something I would normally be overjoyed to see!). In the past, I might have stopped at the first arrangement, but I think the colour scheme of black and red with glistening, jagged elements tells the story of ‘red in tooth and claw’, and the circle of life and death in the natural world much better. If I could change one thing, it would be the twig – I like the claw-like shape, but would have preferred something with thorns.

Assignment 1: Brainstorming Ideas For ‘Nature’s Larder’ Theme

Being interested in food, I was immediately drawn to the ‘Nature’s Larder’ theme for this assignment. I decided to start a mind map and, at first, went down the route of foraged foods (nuts, berries, fungi, seaweed etc), and plant-based diets (allotments, fruit and vegetables etc) which I think, could be interesting topics, but after some more thought, the word ‘survival’ popped up and I started to think about nature’s larder being what animals and birds eat. Then the phrase “red in tooth and claw” came to mind (I see from the website that this is a quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, In Memoriam A. H. H., 1850.)

This seemed to promise some interesting associations. Here is my rather messy mind-map (please excuse spelling errors below, eg territory and spiky):-

Brainstorming Ideas Natures Larder

I will gather some appropriately representative objects tomorrow. Rather an odd subject for a vegetarian to choose, but there won’t be any meat or taxidermy involved!

Study Visit: Edinburgh College of Art Degree Show 2016


Visited on:- 04/06/16


Before the visit, I browsed the ECA website preview and picked out some art works that looked interesting.

ECA Research

I searched for reviews of the show and found one on the website from last year, and another by Adam Benmakhlouf on website for this year’s show.

The reviews seemed to concentrate more on the installations and paintings, than the textiles and jewellery, which I was more interested in visiting, but it was useful to get a foretaste of what I could expect to see.


I understood the stated objectives to mean that I should explore the show and study the techniques used, development process, and presentation of the art works and to explore the particular pieces that I was interested in. It was important to speak with the students at the ECA to learn from their first hand experiences. Interacting with my fellow OCA students was also important to share experiences, opinions and ideas. Finally, reflecting on the study visit and the learning that can be applied to my own practice.

The Study Visit:-

After introductions within the study group, and initial discussions about our experiences of being an OCA student, we started our visit in the ECA Textiles Department. The walls had blown-up photographs of the student’s work, and the hall had textile banners, and display benches or manikins featuring the work of each student.

I was immediately drawn to Performance Costume student, Zoe Longbottom’s, highly textured long green coat. It was part of a costume in which the artist had imagined “… Peter Pan as an evil spirit that steals children and takes them to Neverland.” The garment had an exaggerated military styling with oversized metal buttons and a green, camouflage/woodland feel with stitching that gathered and puckered the fabric giving a reptilian skin effect, with burnt holes in places to give a worn and torn, “post-apocalyptic world” feel to the costume.

I rather nervously approached one of the students, Danielle Ward, to ask about her collection, ‘Distort The City’. How had she come up with the ideas for her designs, what was her process, etc? She kindly showed me her black and white photographic references, featuring angular architectural details, forming lines and geometric patterns. The photographs themselves can be folded, before light and colour are added by using angular glass jars filled with brightly coloured substances suspended in liquid, and adding these images to the mix. She then developed a process of distorting the images through scanning and moving the images as they were scanned. This produced, often colourful and abstract versions of her images. Sometimes wholly abstract, some, in which the architectural details dominate, and other pieces, a mixture of the two. The fabrics are produced through a combination of digital and silk-screen printing. Danielle then adds further distortion to the fabrics by introducing sewn seams and/or folds to make the fabric three-dimensional; additional, laser cut embellishments are attached to provide another layer of interest, texture and movement.

There were many other wonderful creations to explore. Some students focusing on updates of traditional techniques like embroidery, appliqué, weaving etc. Others had used cutting, folding, embellishment and/or digital or hand printing techniques to achieve their aims. Here are a selection of images from the show.

Study Visit ECA June 2016

We moved on to the Painting Department where the students’ workspaces (normally occupied by four students) were now featuring an exhibition of one or two students’ work, as were corridors and stairwells. We were lucky to find many of the students ‘in residence’ and willing to talk about their work.

Rachel Alice Johnson’s portraits centred around the public ‘breakdown’ of American celebrity, Amanda Bynes, and her subsequent hounding by the media. The final portrait features the artist imagining herself in Amanda’s position. The paintings felt like a mixture of traditional oil paintings with a modern twist, featuring words along with the portrait. The brush strokes of bold colour had an almost electric, obliterating feel to them, which I felt portrayed the lack of control and annihilation of the individual’s personality. Rachel is also a singer in a band and once she had mentioned this, I felt that I could see a musical rhythm in the brushstrokes.


Lily Macrae’s beautiful paintings were a mixture of abstract and figurative work. The artist explained that they formed a series, each of the four pieces having more complexity than the previous one. The canvases were primed with ordinary emulsion paint before oil paints were used over the top, allowing the artist to move the paint around more easily. These colourful pieces had all sold.

I was fascinated by the surface textures and layers in these paintings, which I believe had a rusted metal base, salt and paint, with layers stripped back and peeled away; drips and runs in other places; the rust and salt adding naturally formed textures to the artworks. It made me think of the weathering, ageing and the disintegration of abandoned, man-made objects. The artist’s name is Richard Nauyokas.

There were many other artworks to admire, using a variety of techniques, materials and interesting presentations. A theme of hanging or arranging groups of smaller artworks in scattered groupings, or neat lines at different levels. Pieces that could be viewed from both sides could be hung from the ceiling to be free hanging, or mounted on brackets extending from the wall. Another theme I noticed linking the textiles and paintings was that many featured layering of materials to give added textures, glimpses through a transparent layer with patterns on it, or a semi-opaque layer. One artist worked with cast wax shapes, with added threads.

Here are two collages of some of the many art works we saw:-

Study Visit ECA June 20161Study Visit ECA June 20162

After a picnic lunch, during which we discussed the artworks we had seen and enjoyed, along with many other topics, the group split up to explore their own areas of interest. I went with Olivia and Margaret to the Jewellery and Silversmithing Section at The School of Design.

Two of the students whose work had piqued my interest initially, were exhibiting here:- Li Wanshu’s wonderful “Go With The Glow” Collection was developed from her observations of deep-sea creatures. The three-dimensional pieces suggested the shapes and forms of those creatures, with moving ‘tentacles’ of beads, acrylic and UV reactive nylon wire and paint. The artist showed us how they glow under UV light with fluorescent colours becoming apparent. They are made to wear and enjoy while dancing and clubbing.


Eileen Xie’s thought-provoking pieces were exploring the refugee experience of belonging and safety through her nautical theme. A poignant compass-like piece says “Some Where Not Here” and has what looks like blood specks around the face of the compass, requiring some input and thought from the viewer, as to its meaning.


Many of the works were more like miniature sculptures than wearable pieces, demonstrating cross-over skills and overlapping boundaries. This was also evident elsewhere in the exhibition – painters making installations and sculptures, for example.

Study Visit ECA June 20163


We met up for a discussion of what we had seen, what had inspired us, and what we would take away from the study visit and use in our own work. This being my first visit, I was not sure what to say, but did pipe up with some observations about some of the artworks that had inspired me (discussed above). We also talked about the OCA course and its downsides, such as being isolated, or having too much written work to do. Solutions were also shared, for example, attending study visits and extra-curricular workshops and groups to overcome feelings of isolation and to build confidence, skills and a supportive network.

I really enjoyed the visit, and felt that I gained a lot from it:- inspiration, camaraderie, new outlooks on what is possible in the field of textiles, the potential for branching out into new areas such as sculpture, three-dimensional artworks, jewellery, and using new techniques such as layering in my work, abstraction and simplification, working in a series, and variations on a theme. Seeing the development work and process of the students was also very informative: seeing an initial idea explored, researched and developed, then presented as a finished collection.

Edinburgh Study Visit Collage Page

A page of business cards, postcards and reminders of the trip (some with fold-out hinges and comments written beneath).

Assignment 1: Research on Drawing

In my research for this Assignment, I have looked at the drawings and approaches of the artists suggested in the course, and a few others that interest me.

I find that I am having to even question what I think drawing is. (Before this research and this course, I would have said that it was mainly for producing a likeness of the object or scene being studied, or to make a preliminary sketch for a finished piece of work). I like Michael Ginsborg’s quote about “…the drawing attitude” quoted by Alison Carlier and used as the title for her set of conversations with artists on the subject of drawing. I think it means having at open, exploring, adventurous approach to drawing: experimenting, questioning what drawing is for, and why we do it and what it could be.

Thinking of how this relates to my work in this Assignment: my head is now spinning with possibilities. I will explore drawing using different approaches and media. I will try to explore a variety of approaches, different ones in each sketch: for example:- descriptive drawing, textures, feelings and emotions, pattern, close-up studies – maybe trying out a drawing app – all exciting prospects!

I have included my research notes and sources below.

Assignment One - Research 1Assignment One - Research 2Assignment One - Research 3Assignment One - Research 4Assignment One - Research 5Assignment One - Research 6Assignment One - Research 7Assignment One - Research 8Assignment One - Research 9Assignment One - Research 10Assignment One - Research 11Assignment One - Research 12

Assignment One - Research 17Assignment One - Research 18Assignment One - Research 19Assignment One - Research 20

Assignment 1: Introductory Assignment

Key Aspects and Tasks

I have read through the course notes for the first assignment and have picked out what I think the key aspects and tasks of the assignment will be:-

  • researching other practitioner’s work for ideas and inspiration, and reflecting on the research;
  • choosing a theme, then mind-mapping and free association to come up with ideas;
  • selecting and gathering an interesting and varied collection of objects that represents my interpretation of the theme;
  • exploring arrangements, layouts, backgrounds etc to create a mood that matches the theme;
  • observing and representing the textures, details, patterns, shapes and forms of the objects. Using a variety of media on a range of paper types and sizes. Mark-making and drawing, focusing on the qualities the objects exude;
  • analysing my performance on the assignment with respect to the learning outcomes;
  • writing a self-assessment about how I performed on this assignment, with reference to the assessment criteria.

Key Tasks

These are the key tasks that I have identified and put into the order in which I will carry them out.

Assignment One - Key Tasks Diagram

Time Table Plan

This is the time table for the tasks that I have come up with. It looks a bit tight to me, but I will contact Cari if I think I need a bit more time to complete it.Assignment One - Timetable of Tasks