Friday 27 May 2016

Review: Meditative Drawing workshop

The artist Jacqueline Wylie held a Meditative Drawing workshop amidst the knitted paintings in her show 'Rumpelstiltskin Revisited'. The ADF Gallery on Royal Avenue, Belfast has excellent light, and the central space was perfect in which to work.

'This ‘Drawing Meditation’ workshop explores drawing and mark making in black and white. It uses charcoal and chalks to make generative drawings in response to music and Jacqueline’s current exhibition of Knitted Paintings.' (ADF)

I was able to attend the morning session of an all day workshop. At first, sitting around a table, we explored the ranges of pencils, charcoal and chalks the artist supplied. We were encouraged to use white paper at first, to try out a number of different materials and jot down beside our sketching the pencil type and thickness for our future reference. Points and sides of the pencils gave different effects.

circles with left and right hands

Using circular movements, and exchanging hands, we loosened up just as a dancer might perform stretches or a singer practice scales. This was new to me as I usually launch into a drawing with pencil before 'practising' yet I understood the value of relaxing and freeing up tight or sluggish muscles. With loosened hands more accurate marks might be made. Jacqueline talked about keeping a sketchbook to practice in, making a record of different materials and also using it as a stimulus for new ideas. 

I discovered that circles made with my dominant right hand were accurate, I completed them without thinking. But using my left hand the 'circles' appeared more triangular. Perhaps practice might cause that to change. And yet I liked the difference between dexter and sinister.

using charcoal pencils

 quick strong marks and marks that filtered away into nothing

We continued to use more paper to try different marks, again with different materials. Marks on top of marks, dots smudged in circles. Each person's work looked very different. 

 charcoal scrapings

There were no sharpeners on the table, Jacqueline spoke about using knives to bring the pencil leads to a point. She explained it was softer on the wood and leads and as some of the materials were quite expensive it resulted in less breakages and damage. 

As I used a craft knife on a charcoal pencil tiny grains of charcoal fell on the paper. Using my fingertip I treated each grain individually, using them to make circular marks. I wondered how this could be enlarged - using golf ball sized pieces on a floor of paper with pressure from something much stronger than a fingertip. The beginnings of a performance perhaps.

individual piece

During a break Jacqueline showed us reference books she used, some of them including work done by artists drawing lines over lines over lines, in a similar way to how Jackson Pollock built up his famous drip paintings. Jacqueline then asked us to find an individual space on the floor to work to music. The music was gentle, meditative and as I worked I reached a zone, not unlike the place I find myself when engrossed in an artwork. I had taped four pieces of A3 paper together, two white and two black. I took a graphite stick, a white chalk pencil and a grey charcoal pencil. It is unusual for me to sit on the floor as doing so  makes me feel uncomfortable and it's difficult for me to get up off the floor. But I was determined to try this exercise.

 drawings on sheet with right hand and with left hand

The feel of the different materials became much more acute. I held the chalk and charcoal together, making mirror marks of light and dark and trailing from the white paper onto the dark. Some of the music suggested a lighter touch, other parts hinted at heavier. From time to time I switched materials from right to left hand.

The area of paper between my knees I drew with the same movement repeatedly as the music became repetitive. Some marks were heavier and some trailed away to nothing. Because of limited mobility most of the paper not covered by my legs remained untouched. This in itself is a statement.

Although the images might look like a lot of unintelligible scribbles, I took a lot away from the morning session. I liked the freedom of allowing my reflexes to carry the pencil. Much to think about and I will be starting a sketchbook based on these exercises plus I'll be 'loosening up' before beginning any further artworks. It will be interesting to see if my art embraces any of what I practice.

Tomorrow's blogpost: 'Art process - 3 ballpoints'

Copyright © 2016 by Roisin O'Hagan/bloowabbit
All rights reserved. The artworks/illustrations or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the artist except for specific permission granted with a free downloadable.

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