Further water print experiments

I used marbling inks to create some backgrounds for my final assignment pieces.  I used the bath so that I could print large on A2 paper and I got some very surprising results. I’m beginning to realise that while the outcome will always be unpredictable, I can manipulate the inks in particular direction.

This was a really exhilarating experiment. I have realised that I can both create subtle prints as highly individual backgrounds for my drawings and create bold, finished images. More practice and exploration needed… I look forward to it.



Drawing 2 | Assignment 2 | Final pieces

Following my initial explorations into features of the Mersea Island shoreline, I made two more large drawings and submit them both as assignment pieces; Mersea Island Oysters and Mersea Island Mud.

I started by creating subtle water prints as backgrounds using black, burnt sienna and prussian blue marbling inks. In order to cover A2 sheets I used our bath. This was a messy and enjoyable process. The inks behaved differently in the bigger expanse of the bath and I got some big bold prints as well as the subtle ones I was after. I’ve added some of the accidental outcomes to a separate blog post here.

Both my drawings use Mersea mud as a key material, together with ink and pastel and the water print backgrounds.  I drew with twigs and bamboo dipping pen. The mud is a truly wonderful discovery as a drawing / painting material. It’s like clay and can be watered down to different consistencies to give different tones of grey-brown. It dries quickly and can be layered for depth. And it has a very pleasing matt finish that stays put. The mud has brought a quality that the more translucent inks could not but they are very good partners together. Drawing with twigs means you can’t be too precious about the outcome as the ink / mud deposits itself in a more irregular way with broken lines.

  1. Mersea Island Oysters

Mersea Island Oysters – mud, ink, pastel – 46 x 42 cm

Why choose oyster shells? The Mersea shoreline is littered with oyster shells and there is a thriving business of farmed oysters on the island. Many people visit for the seafood sheds at West Mersea and enjoy a plate of Mersea natives or Colchester oysters. That includes me as  I love oysters. The shells are symbolic of Mersea Island, a place I enjoy very much. The shells themselves are wonderful things; each and everyone is as different as we human beings are.

There is a link to my parallel project as oysters gathered from the shorelines were an important food source during the Irish Famine; many more people may have died without them.

What works?

The aim was to use use materials  from the subject to draw the subject. My subject is the Mersea shoreline so water printing the background and using Mersea mud fits the brief fairly well.

I’m reasonably happy with the scale and the composition. I did not want a neat and tidy whole oyster shell so chose to cut them off at the edges. While the drawings are deliberately loose and and not  hugely detailed (an oyster shell is made up of extremely complex layers) they do have the characteristics of oyster shells.

The white pastel made a very good addition to the drawing mix of Mersea mud and ink and enabled me to bring back some highlights.

What doesn’t work so well?

I lost a  lot of the simplicity of line that was in my initial mud and ink oyster drawings. I overworked these, particularly when I decided to put a coat of satin varnish over the shells. I was hoping to bring out the colours in the same way as happens when the oyster shells are wet.  To some extent I did achieve this but the varnish also mixed with the ink lines and made these less distinct. I’m not convinced on reflection that the trade off was worth it but if I hadn’t tried I wouldn’t know!

2. Mersea Island Mud


Mersea Island Mud drawn with mud, ink and pastel (A2)

Usually when I’m walking on the shoreline at Mersea I’m looking out to sea but when gathering the materials my eyes were focused downwards and I noticed for the first time the detail of these intriguing mini mud cliffs shaped by the tides. There is a lot of mud as well as sand at Mersea so, like the oysters, it’s an intrinsic part of the shoreline experience.

What works?


Source photo

This drawing captures the nature of the mud cliffs. I resisted the temptation to put in context such as grasses above or shells because I wanted to  lean towards the abstract. I am happy that the mud has form and the colours are appropriate. I am also comfortable with it being a slightly weird drawing. While the underlying water print is covered, it shows through in places and adds interest. The whole looks like a strange elephant with a map of Africa in the middle. It was a good and worthwhile experiment. As mud drawn with mud it fits the brief.

What doesn’t work so well?

I wish that I had resisted the temptation to outline the shapes with black ink or used something softer. The mud and the edges of the sand don’t have hard lines. I’m irritated because it would have been better to have applied the lessons from Project 1 when we worked in charcoal avoiding outlines.  Nonetheless, I’m reasonably happy that I pushed myself to do something different.

3. Mersea Mud water print


Water print 1: A2 water print with marbling oils. This has an uncanny resemblance to my second assignment piece: Mersea Island Mud (drawn with mud, ink and pastel)


Mersea Island Mud drawn with mud, ink and pastel (A2)

This is a late addition as assignment piece no 3. As I was going through my ‘accidental’ water prints I was struck by an uncanny resemblance between this print and my Mersea Island Mud drawing. I decided to include it in the spirit of a Cornelia Parker style discovery. My theme is the Mersea Island shoreline so a print made with no tools other than a little ink and a bath of water broadly fits the brief. I wonder how the inks would have reacted had I used seawater?

I deliberately used a colour palette that matched my Mersea Island studies but beyond that I didn’t have any idea how this print was going to turn out. The outcome was a complete surprise.

Also see

Initial explorations

Further water print experiments

Drawing 2 | Assignment 2 | Initial explorations

Make a drawing of a subject of your choice using the subject itself or tools constructed from the subject dipped in ink or paint.

I walk on Mersea Island several times every month, in all weather, sometimes with a view of the sea and sometimes with a view of great expanses of mud. We love the place; the sounds, the sights, the smells. On Good Friday we had a blustery cold walk around the coastline at East Mersea and gathered mud, sand, oyster, cockle and mussel shells, seaweed, twigs, grasses and driftwood. I’d thought that we would also pick up plastic bottles and other detritus… but amazingly there wasn’t a single piece of plastic or rubbish on the beach so I was delighted in my disappointment on that one.

I have hundreds of photos of Mersea Island and had I worked from these I would have attempted a landscape – sun glittering on the incoming tide kind of thing. But the experience of gathering materials was inspiring and motivating and led me to explore the materials as my subject rather than simply use them to recreate the bigger picture.

These are some of the thoughts and feelings I had on the beach

  • The beach landscape is made up of mud and sand and shells and grasses. And these shift and change with the tides.
  • Mini mud cliffs protrude from the sand – shaped by the tides with crevasses, buttresses and caves… all soft and smoothed by the action of the waves
  • The mud is a blue-ish brown. It is very thick; it was hard work scooping some up. There were pockets of sand as well as small pools in the mud.
  • The mud smells horrible.. the smell of all the tiny dead creatures that have died and become part of it.
  • The mud is oily. There are petrol like patterns in the mud which must be the oil seeping out.
  • Wet, slimey, stinky seaweed. Large dark green fronds of bladder wrack and other much more pale and delicate fronds.
  • Oyster shells everywhere – Mersea is famous for its native and Colchester oysters.  All kinds of sizes and shapes. Some fused together making natural sculptures.
  • Whole banks of shells – mostly cockles interspersed with blue mussel shells. These shift and change with every tide.

Getting started

Floating inks on water to create prints


I remembered my earlier experiments with marbling and thinking about the petrol patterns I observed in the pools on the mud I had a go using black, Prussian blue and burnt sienna marbling inks – colours that reflect the predominant tones of Mersea. The process involves floating the inks on an inch or two of water and placing the paper over.  Mersea is an island so using water felt appropriate.

I got some surprisingly strong results that could be considered finished drawings in their own right (resembling patches of mud emerging from sand or water) as well as some much lighter, subtle swirling patterns that could work as backgrounds.

The Cornelia Parker research point gave me the confidence to consider that an ‘accidental’ print of this nature could become a final artwork if it resonated.

I also had a go at using mud as a marbling ink, hoping that it would have sufficient oil content to work. It didn’t… so I mixed some mud with olive oil and tried again and the results were quite different to the marbling inks, more like microbes or bacterial floating in a solution. Interesting!

Drawing oyster shells



Using an A2 cartridge paper I did some sketches of oyster shells using Mersea mud and thin twigs. Diluted mud definitely creates a good ink. It is durable and seems to stay put. The mud is very flat in tone. I liked the drawing better when I pulled out some of the marks with undiluted blue Quink (see crop right).  I was pleased with the quality of line in these drawings and felt the approach had potential.

I stuck sand on in blocks with PVC glue. I wasn”t keen on this but I did like the way that individual grains of sand attached themselves here and there creating a little subtle texture in the blue blackground and would consider reproducing this in my final piece.. or perhaps some tiny pieces of broken shell.

The drawing of grasses made with mud and ink using grasses, twigs and rosemary sprigs is effective and it does capture the scrub like nature of the vegetation on Mersea Island which is battered by the winds and high tides.

Looking at one oyster shell

This approx A4 drawing of a single oyster shell is compellingly strange. In portrait format it resembles an eerie mask-like face, reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. In landscape it goes back to being an oyster shell. It was drawn with bamboo pen, blue and black Quink and mud. The background is a light and subtle water print. The blue ink was overpowering so I washed it with water and some of the mud and blue flowed into the background which I didn’t mind.

Even though quickly drawn, I feel this has potential as a finished piece. I am also interested in the possibility of creating something more abstract by focusing in on the detail of the lines and layers that make up the oyster shell. These resemble waves coming into shore and create a pleasing association between the oyster shell and the sea.

Drawing mud


Using A2 cartridge paper, mud and ink I had a go at drawing the mini mud cliffs with a twig and bamboo pen. Initially I found myself with a one sided drawing with nothing on the right (sorry, no photo). I decided to add a section of oyster shell to represent waves. My two drawings didn’t connect as a whole. The mud cliffs had dripped a bit so I added some more hoping the technique would join my two drawings together (Mud and Sea 2). In a way they did but I’m not a big fan of drips as sometimes it seems they are added when an artist doesn’t know what to do to resolve a painting… which was definitely the case here. I pity our tutors trying to keep up with this kind of rambling commentary!

I then added some yellow ink to represent sand (Mud and Sea 2) and then took most of it away with bleach (Mud and Sea 3) and experimented with cropping the final to square (Mud and Sea 3) which created a tighter composition. I keep finding myself preferring square crops – I wonder if it is the Instagram effect?

I doubt that I have a completed drawing here of assignment quality but I do feel the blue brown of the mud cliffs is highly reminiscent of what I observed. I wish I had been confident enough to simply leave the mud cliffs and crop the drawing. There is potential to do more  with this mud.



Seaweed – A2 – button polish, ink, chinagraph

Using A2 cartridge paper I drew a couple of the big fronds of seaweed using ink and chinagraph and a twig. I know that one is bladder wrack but I haven’t identified the other. I used some button polish as a background. Handling this slimy smelly seaweed wasn’t very pleasant. I had to lay it out flat on a white plate to be able to see it. These  drawings are OK as illustrations but they don’t excite me very much. Because I can’t explore all these subjects in more depth I’m going to stop here with the seaweed as my mud drawings are stronger.

I am pleased that I moved out of my sketchbook and onto larger paper for these explorations. It gave my drawings more energy and freedom and also encouraged me to stand up to draw and use my whole arm.

What next?

Although the beach at Mersea island is characterised by layers of sand, mud, shells and grasses I don’t think I am going to get the best result by trying to recreate all these elements. It is better I think to focus on just one or two and allow room for my final picture to become more abstracted than representational. So thinking about what to do next:

  • Create some very subtle water prints as backgrounds.
  • Make another mud cliff drawing – maybe use a few pieces of broken shell or a few grains of sand alongside.
  • Do a detail drawing layered wave like lines of an oyster shell filling the picture plane.
  • Another mud and blue Quink shell drawing, large scale.

Then select my assignment piece(s).

Also see

Final pieces

Further water print experiments

Contextual focus point: Cornelia Parker (-1956)

I approached this research exercise by describing some of Cornelia Parker’s most well-known works and discussing some of the methods and aims that underpin her art before moving on to the specifics of her 2010 piece, Poison and Antidote Drawing.


Photograph: Suki Dhanda for the Observer

Cornelia Parker is one of Britain’s foremost sculptors and installation artists. Her work first came to my notice more than a decade ago when I came across  Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) in the Tate.  To create this, probably her most well-known work, she persuaded the British Army to blow up a garden shed she had filled with a collection of everyday objects. She gathered up the exploded  pieces and suspended them on wires around a single light bulb, as if in an orderly state of mid explosion. In so doing she changed but did not destroy the shed. In a small scale recreation of the big bang she gave the shed and its contents a new form and the viewer a new way in which to experience it. I was rooted to the spot when I first saw this piece. The originality of the concept and the working method fascinated me, as did each of the gently rotating parts. I saw a surreal beauty in this bizarre act of destruction and reconstruction.

Another of Parker’s works that moves me is Mass (Colder Darker Matter) which was shortlisted for the 1997 Turner Prize. A bolt of lightning struck a Baptist Church in Lyttle, Texas and burnt it to the ground. The townspeople thought their church was completely destroyed but Parker made the church rise again by suspending the charred fragments as an ordered cube with the largest pieces in the middle and the smaller pieces radiating out to the edges.  There is something elemental in this; like atoms the individual parts are not destroyed but rearranged into something new and poignantly different.

Parker says in the 2013 BBC film What Do Artists Do All Day? that she was influenced by Marcel DuChamp (1887-1968). Like Duchamp she works with found materials but she goes further.  DuChamp challenged the fundamentals of what art is in presenting  works such as Fountain 1917, a porcelain urinal changed only by the addition of the signature R Mutt. Parker takes found objects and re-presents, repurposes or changes them significantly so that we see them differently and they tell a new narrative.

In 1942 in New York, DuChamp draped a mile of string over the exhibits in a surrealist exhibition, obscuring everyone else’s work. Parker describes it as a “very naughty piece of sabotage that I always wanted to reenact”. She succeeded in 2003  when she draped a mile of string around Rodin’s  The Kiss. Exhibited at Tate Britain, Parker named the  piece The Distance (a Kiss with added string). This kiss with strings attached bound the lovers together, strengthening their bonds but also suffocating them. Again, by changing an object, by repurposing it, Parker tells a new story. The lovers are still lovers but Parker has added a potentially darker note to their story.

Poison and Antidote drawing (2010)

Make notes in your own words in response to the following:

  • What do you think Parker is trying to do in her piece Poison and Antidote Drawing (2010)?
  • Poison and Antidote Drawing is created using rattlesnake venom and black ink, anti-venom and white ink. Parker often uses bits of her subject to make her artwork. Why do you think she does this?

In creating Poison and Antidote Drawing Parker says she wanted to explore the linkage between opposite pairs such as Hitler and Freud who seem to personify contrasting elements of the psyche. She also felt she wanted to make something physically dangerous and had in her head the thought of someone dropping dead on reading a poisoned letter.

The drawings (there are several in the series) were created using black Quink ink mixed with rattlesnake poison which was then turned into Rorschach prints. This format, symmetrical ink blots created by folding paper, appealed to her for two reasons: (i) the outcome cannot be fully controlled and (ii) they are used in psychoanalysis where patients are asked to describe what they see in the prints. This gives a connection to Freud.

Parker created the antidote element of the drawings by dropping a mixture of anti-venom and correction fluid onto the paper – you can see the correction fluid in the viscous white marks. Once again the final form was out of her control.

Parker brings the poison and the antidote together in one drawing. The poison was suspended in black  and the antidote in white ink which gives parallels  with the forces of good and evil, the healing white witch versus the dark witch, and these mirror Parker’s thoughts about Freud and Hitler – a healer and a destroyer.

By using materials that relate so directly to the story being told Parker embeds a whole new layer of meaning into her work. For me this creates a deeper and more emotional response. It intrigues  me and has the potential to engage my attention for longer than if I was to find myself in front of a painting or drawing created with more conventional materials.

Further examples of this direct use of materials relating to subject matter are The Pornographic Drawings (1996) in which Parker used obscene videotapes which were seized and shredded by Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise. She extracted the ferric oxide component of the tapes and dissolved it in solvent to create an ink. The chance connection between the explicit nature of the resulting Rorschach prints, in which I can see intimate male and female body parts, is extraordinary. Despite the process of destruction the video tapes seem have held onto their obscene nature.

In order to full appreciate and read the works described it is necessary to understand and think about the choice of materials . Otherwise a Rorschach is just a blot, and a charred piece of wood or fragment of a garden shed is simply rubble.

How do you think it feels to stand in the presence of artworks that are constructed from original objects of great cultural significance? 

Materials have a value and have always been used, deconstructed and reused as trends and needs change. These materials may have been used in artworks and be refashioned as new artworks or they may be everyday or found materials that become artworks.

I find myself wondering how to define “original objects of great cultural significance”. I do not feel this definition is exclusive to great works of art.  The detritus of everyday life may be just as culturally significant as a fine piece of Gothic architecture. Pop art with its focus on everyday commercial products is just as culturally significant as Renaissance art; a midden may be as culturally significant as a burial chamber full of treasures.


Colchester Castle, built from the remains of the Roman town

Colchester Castle comes to mind. It’s a Norman construction but with its red bricks and tiles it looks Italianate. It’s character comes from the fact that it is built from the remains of the old Roman Town. So culturally significant remains were used to construct a new and also significant building and they imbued it with character.




Lampedusa Cross, British Museum

A very different example is that of the Lampedusa crosses which were made from pieces of a boat wrecked in 2013 off the coast of the Mediterranean island. 311 Eritrean and Somali refugees were drowned en route from Libya to Europe. The inhabitants of Lampedusa helped to save the lives of 155 others. The island’s carpenter, Francesco Tuccio, was moved by the plight of the survivors but frustrated that he could not make a difference to their situation so he used his skills to make each of them a cross from the wreckage of the boat.




The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, Michael Rakowitz

Another interesting example is Michael Rakowitz’s recreation using syrup tins of  Lamassu a winged bull with a human face that stood at the entrance of the ancient city of Ninevah in what is now Iraq. It was wrecked by Isis in 2015. Rakowitz ‘s project called The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist aims to remake cultural artefacts looted and destroyed since the 2003 military invasion. The sculpture, currently in London’s Trafalgar Square, has been clad in 10,000 syrup cans signifying an industry that was once Iraq’s second biggest after oil but which was destroyed by the conflict.

In all three examples an understanding of the materials, where they have come from and their significance contributes to my appreciation of and response to the new object.  The materials the castle is built with deepen the historical meaning and explains the Italianate look. In the example of the crosses,  pieces of salvaged wood represent the survivors, those who died and the kindness of the islanders and this leads me to respond in a deeper and more emotional way. The syrup cans remind me that Isis destroyed industries and artefacts as well as killing people.

How does that differ from, say, standing in front of a painting of the same object?

If I was standing in front of a painting of the Castle or the Lampedusa crosses or Lamassu, despite the skills of the painter, I might not fully see and understand the material properties of the objects and this could lessen my appreciation of their significance and story. I might also not gain a real sense of scale and I certainly would not be able to touch the rugged stone, feel the smoothness of the wood or get close enough to realise that the glinting metal cladding is made of syrup cans.

What has Cornelia Parker been up to recently?

Parker was appointed by Parliament as the official artist for the 2017 general election. While following the campaign trail she posted a selection of musings and photos on Instagram many, with ironic and quirky angles.

Her final works were unveiled in February 2018 . These consist of two films, entitled ‘Left Right & Centre’  and ‘Election Abstract’ – the first digital artworks to enter the Parliamentary Art Collection. These are accompanied by a series of fourteen photographic prints selected from her Instagram feed.

I dipped in and out of her Instagram feed as she was gathering the material so it was good to be reminded through this exercise to view the end results. They are a very singular reminder from an unique and unusual viewpoint of what a bitter, disaster struck, confusing and surprising election it was.

The works of Cornelia Parker mentioned in this research piece can be seen on my Pinterest page here:



Chilvers, Ian, and John Glaves-Smith | Parker, Cornelia |  A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art. | Oxford University Press, 2009 http://www.oxfordreference.com.ucreative.idm.oclc.org/view/10.1093/acref/9780199239665.001.0001/acref-9780199239665-e-2057  (accessed 27/03/18)

Cornelia Parker – Wikipedia website | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelia_Parker (accessed 27/03/18)

Film What Do Artists Do All Day | BBC 2013 | Viewed onYou Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuAF55BN-Ak  (accessed 27/03/18)

Chilvers, Ian, and John Glaves-Smith. “Parker, Cornelia.” In A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art. : Oxford University Press, 2009 http://www.oxfordreference.com.ucreative.idm.oclc.org/view/10.1093/acref/9780199239665.001.0001/acref-9780199239665-e-2057 (accessed 27/03/18)

British Museum online collection – Poison Drawing –  http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?assetId=454763001&objectId=691360&partId=1   (accessed 27/03/18)

Artpace website | Mass (Colder Darker Matter) | Sheila Dewan | http://www.artpace.org/works/iair/iair_summer_1997/mass-colder-darker-matter  (accessed 27/03/18)

Telegraph online | Cornelia’s kiss, with strings attached |  Nigel Reynolds Arts Correspondent | 26 Feb 2003 | https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1423131/Cornelias-kiss-with-strings-attached.html  (accessed 28/03/18)

Two Rooms website http://tworooms.co.nz/exhibitions/cornelia-parker/ (accessed 28/03/18)

British Museum online collection | Lampedusa Cross | http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3691920&partId=1&searchText=cross+lampedusa&page=1  (accessed 28/03/18)

UK Parliament website | Cornelia Parker’s General Election artworks unveiled | https://www.parliament.uk/corneliaparker (accessed 28/03/18)

Painting without brushes workshop

I went to a morning workshop at the CO3 Gallery in Colchester on Saturday and found myself in the midst of a friendly and talented group of people in a fabulous studio in a back garden. Wish I had a studio like that in my back yard!

Artist Maggie Harling ran the workshop and showed us a technique she has refined which involves painting using acrylics, threads of different weights, aluminium foil and cling film. We based our work loosely around teasles… some of mine morphed into trees. The workshop was a good fit with my current OCA module, Investigating Drawing, which encourages student to be experimental about what they draw and paint with.

While the results felt little formulaic in that we all produced work with huge similarities, I’m sure I will use some of the techniques in future, particularly coating threads with acrylic and making lines by pulling the thread across the page. It would be interesting and challenging to have a go at drawing a figure using this method.


Life drawing class – week 8

Last session of my 8-week life drawing class. Things have been very busy so I’m really pleased that I got to all the sessions as these classes with Judith White at the Wilson Marriage Centre in Colchester are excellent. They are challenging and stimulating and it’s great to be part of such a nice group of like minded people. I’ve signed up for another 8 weeks starting after Easter.

After some quick warm up poses Judith challenged us to work on just a part of a pose and also to incorporate some background with a bit of colour. I’m pleased with this. I had a faltering start to drawing today and chucked away most of my quick poses as my hand and eye were definitely not in sync. Perhaps I got my mistakes out of the way because this portrait of Alice is a likeness and it came together quickly. The whole A2 portrait was finished in just an hour and 15 minutes.

My aim was to use two different strengths of drawing – light and delicate for Alice with very limited palette, and strong and bold for the backround to create a sharp contrast in the two styles. I feel it has worked reasonably well.  Out of curiosity, I experimented in Photoshop with a black and white version; it is neither better or worse but interestingly different.

So thank you Judith for the teaching and Alice for being an extremely good and natural model.

Looking forward to the next 8 classes.


Project 3 Narrative: Part two – putting it all together and further experiments with materials

My next step is to look at how I might create a picture with one, two or even three of the objects that bring back memories of my Grandmother.  I used Photoshop to explore different arrangements and backgrounds. At one point it did start to feel as if I was doing an exercise in graphic design but it was a helpful way to quickly get an idea of what might work and what would be worthwhile drawing as a ‘real’ picture.

Putting it all together – possible compositions

I explored a lot of alternatives and I think the easiest way to present them is by background…

Using the chiffon images as background




Taking polka dots off the cups and using them as background

For this I sourced some images of polka dots from the internet that used the pastel colours my grandmother liked so much.



Using the zebra crossing as a background

I was pleased that I chose to work with the zebra crossing because it showed me  that pretty items can be successfully contrasted with harder images. This helped to take the saccharine sweetness away from my portrait of my Grandmother.



Tumble cups with tea background


Tumbling Cups of Tea – A2 – Black ink and strong black tea

I finished my A1 drawing of the tumble cups by adding a background using tea and I am fairly pleased with it. It uses just one of the objects – the cup and saucer repeated – but  the narrative is there. It reminds me that even at 100 years of age my Grandmother never spilt a drop of her tea. The cups are tumbling but the tea is definitely not spilling out. Also I enjoy the fact that this drawing uses very simple materials, black Quink ink and strong black tea.






Matisse inspired drawing using tea and blueberry juice as materials

To counteract the fact that I had done so much in Photoshop I decided to try to make a complete drawing using the Art Deco and William Morris wallpaper bluebells together with a cup of tea. My idea was to try to create an image where the background, foreground and middleground imagery is mixed up spatially, as in Matisse’s The Dessert, Harmony in Red (1908).

I  used blueberry juice and tea as materials as well as blue and black Quink, and Chinagraph pencil. Mixed results but definitely some elements that work … the blueberry juice with its texture, the white bluebell drawn with black Quink and Chinagraph. There is overall a sense of energy, possibly a bit overwhelming as it’s not easy for the eye to find a way in. But perhaps I could simply call it enigmatic instead. I’m not sure my Grandmother would understand why the bluebells are white…  I find it quite hard to explain myself!




Using apparently incongruous materials


Button polish, wax crayon, black acrylic – scratched away with drypoint and lino cutting tools. 30cm x 30cm

I had in mind that it would be interesting to try to completely take away the pretty, pastel elements of one of my Photoshop compositions. I used a technique I’d discovered in Project 2 – button polish, with a layer of coloured wax  crayon and then black acrylic on top. I scratched the image using drypoint and lino printing tools and had to think about weight and direction of line because I had limited ways of differentiating one element  from another.

I’m glad I had a go at this. It is successful (although I’m not yet sure how durable it will be as the acrylic scrapes away very easily – update – it seems to be holding up). This technique has finished the job that the zebra crossing started in that it has taken away the saccharine sweetness. I like the fact that the bluebells have a hint of blue and there are subtle blue polka dots on (and in!) the cup.

Pick of the bunch

These are the images I feel are most successful together with my reasons.





Phew! This was a long exercise and took a lot of time and energy to complete but I put the time in because I felt I was getting a lot out of it. It was particularly interesting to see how background and materials can alter the mood of an image. I was also intrigued by this method of story telling and found this a fascinating way to get ideas flowing. I enjoyed teaming a teacup and saucer together with a zebra crossing and would never have come up with this combination without the mind map that I started with and this narrative concept.  It has taught me that strong and soft imagery can be powerful together.

I did perhaps spent a bit too much time in Photoshop and not enough time exploring different materials but nonetheless I made some good discoveries with the use of tea and blueberry juice. Also sponged ink as a background is I think worth returning to.

Also see Project 3 Narrative – Part 1