Nina's Textile Trail

My OCA Textile Tales


Improving Observational drawing

Following the recommendation to try to find some tutorials online or local classes to help develop my observational drawing, I have been attending a local drawing class.  Prior to this I did purchase and undertake parts of two online classes but I have found the experience of attending a class much more useful.

At the first class we warmed up by putting our hand into a bag to feel an item and draw the texture without looking.

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Then we chose to draw an aspect of a still life which included a mirror, top hat and tail coat.  I was very tentative, struggling to make my mark on an A1 piece of paper with a pencil or charcoal and the teacher recommended I try working with a piece of card, some white acrylic paint and some quink.  I felt more comfortable and freer with this approach and whilst I didn’t achieve much, I made some progress.  I neglected to take a picture of the still life set-up.


The following week, we warmed up by choosing an item for inspiration and creating texture with acrylic paint, quink and a piece of card.  I looked at a feather and some spherical wicker string lights.


The still life was an urn and some spherical wicker string lights.  The lights cast a shadow on the wall behind.  Although still tentative, I was comfortable working with the card and less inhibited.


Later, I can see the importance of grounding your subject, one area that could be improved upon.

Inspired by Rebecca Fairley’s book review of 27th April, 2015, I purchased Drawing Projects an explanation of the language of drawing and discussed the possibility of working through some of the exercises with my art teacher, Ruth.  In the following week’s class on 7th May, we warmed up by drawing with the pencil secured to the end of a stick.  The still life was set up as follows and I concentrated on the left hand sculpture.  The exercise was “essentially about making marks with varying amounts of control over your drawing implement.  The further away you hold your pencil from the point, the less control you will have.”


Initially, it was difficult to control the pencil but after a while I began to enjoy the process and then moved on to draw the bust again with graphite and charcoal.

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Ruth is a very, positive and relaxed teacher who helpfully points out areas to work on to give the piece better balance.  I left this class feeling pleased with the results and more confident for my third week’s attendance.

The last week before half term we started with two pencils joined together, another exercise from the newly purchased book which indicates “by using two pencils bound together, you will produce a range of dense and sometimes, unpredictable marks that will provide you with a surface to adjust, restructure, and work, both with, and against.  This drawing provides you with an opportunity to start by making marks inside the form and there-by breaking the habit of using line to draw the outer contour edge first”.

This was interesting, first we worked with the two pencils one HB and one softer and then worked into the picture with a putty rubber and a single pencil.  Later I reverted to the two pencils as I enjoyed the slightly ‘Giacometti’ effect.

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Our next project was based on the following exercise but adjusted to suit the class.  “The aim of the next exercise is to create a direct route of communication between your two hands.  … touch and feel an object with one hand and respond with pencil touch marks made by the other.  What is important is that the hand that makes the mark with the pencil, moves simultaneously, is in sync with, and responds to, the hand that is exploring your chosen object.  Tactile information is being transferred and made visible.  You will begin to make and recognise interesting marks that are made in response to haptic sensation”   (haptic = Relating to the sense of touch in particular relating to the perception and manipulation of objects using the senses of touch and proprioception.)    In our case we were handed a plastic carrier bag containing half a cut pepper.  The photo on the left is drawn with the left hand in sync with the right hand which was feeling the pepper.  The right hand drawing was done with the right hand whilst looking at the pepper.  I could draw whilst simultaneously ‘feeling’ the pepper but found it hard to think of making a variety of marks at the same time.  The pepper is approximately 12 x 10cm in these drawings


The above was a warm-up exercise after which we could draw from a still life or continue with the pepper.  The following is approximately 35 x 25cm and drawn with card and indian ink, acrylic paint, graphite, pencil and oil paint stick.


I think this was rather overworked by the time I finished and the left hand side needed more work to darken some areas after I obliterated some marks with an oil paint stick.  I was pleased to have tried different media and worked quite confidently (for me).  I explored a range of marks and like those for the flesh on the right hand side (and below) but feel a bit frustrated by the some of the added acrylic and oil stick on the left.


However, it was a very interesting exercise and one that I shall repeat.

My art teacher is interested to try some of the exercises too and we spend a couple of hours together this week trying ‘A Tactile Self Portrait’.  The aim of this exercise is to create a direct route of communication between the two hands as above. With the drawing paper attached to a board and pencils accessible, we taped an area approx 40 x 50 cm and placed our drawing hand and pencil on the place on the paper where our mouth might be.  We closed our eyes and began feeling our mouth, trying to describe in marks, the range of sensations that the touching hand was feeling and continued to explore and draw our face.  It was quite a strange experience, a bit intense and we started talking to each other and talked thoughout the drawing.  Then tried again without talking.   I found I could work in sync and definitely thought about the texture as I was making marks. I couldn’t think to change pencils or media as I was working and stuck with a soft piece of graphite.  The first attempt is on the left.  It is not meant to look like a face but be a collection of marks.  Ruth, who is a trained sculptor, found it hard to concentrate on the texture and not try to draw her features. Her picture (not shown) showed a greater variety of marks than mine.

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Not talking to each other produced a greater variety of marks but we couldn’t make it to 10 minutes, stopping just after 8.  It was interesting, quite freeing, not to be worrying about what it looked like but just be concentrating on making marks.  I will definitely be trying this again, at least with a pepper, if not my face.

In one of the conversations in the book Jack Southern comments that “the process in the early projects is one in which you are able to ‘unlearn’ and feel less self conscious of how your drawing should look.  Freeing yourself from the bounds of representation can be very liberating, and lead to more interesting descriptive drawings.  We are pulling everything apart, in order to make all these new discoveries about mark-making.”  In the book the students undertake the exercises during an intensive two week workshop and draw more than one drawing in each project.   He continues the conversation saying “in a week’s time you could make a well-observed drawing, with all these new aspects of drawing language to refer to.  It is simply like you are constructing an alphabet; a vocabulary of marks from which to draw on”

Although I have only touched on the exercises, I am definitely expanding my mark making vocabulary and confidence.

Maslen, Mick & Southern, Jack (2014) Drawing Projects an exploration of the language of drawing (Black Dog Publishing)



TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Additional Reading

Bleiweiss, Sue (2012) The Sketchbook Challenge  Potter Craft

A nicely presented selection of different artists journals sketchbooks and techniques.  Nothing new to me but a very enjoyable read.

Brereton, Richard (2009) Sketchbooks the hidden ART of designers illustrators and creatives Laurence King Publishing Limited

An interesting, eclectic, collection of the working sketchbooks of designers, illustrators and creatives, accompanied by a short narrative from each artist.

Gooding, Mel (1994) Patrick Heron (Phaidon)

A comprehensive, illustrated look at the work of Patrick Heron.

Greenlees, Kay (2005) Creating Sketchbooks for Embroiderers and Textile Artists

This is a more comprehensive book than The Sketchbook Challenge and Artists’ Journals and Sketchbooks.  It focuses on creating ‘Sketchbooks’ rather than journals.  I have revisited this book many times throughout my studies to help improve my confidence and each time, something else clicks into place.

Hornung, David ( 2004) Colour, A Workshop for Artists and Designers

A thorough and complex exploration of colour.  This too I have revisited several times. When I first encountered this book, it was a daunting tome, but the more I learn, the more valuable it becomes.

Perella Lynne (2004) Artists’ Journals & Sketchbooks Quarry Books

Similar to The Sketchbook Challenge above, this has a  selection of ideas and techniques for Journals and sketchbooks and different artists’ work.  My preference is for The Sketchbook Challenge as it’s a little more contemporary.

Piyasene, Sam & Philip, Beverly (2013) Just Draw It  Search Press Ltd.

An excellent book for those of us who just need to draw!  Lots of fabulous, user friendly ideas to get you putting pen/pencil to paper with details of specific Artists’ work to reference on practically every page.  Just do it!

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TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Reflection

This has been an interesting assignment, a very timely suggestion from my Tutor and much appreciated opportunity.   I was really lacking confidence in my drawing and sketchbook work and feel much more positive having completed these exercises. My preferences on sketchbooks and materials also became clearer.

4.1 Making a sketchbook

I didn’t like the concertina type sketchbook, it was stiff and unwieldy, starkly white and smooth.  Sketching from memory was difficult and frustrating for me and it was far more satisfying to sketch from life.  It was very apparent that regular sketching improves skills. I was very slow and need to work on quick sketches.  I didn’t particularly like working with fineliners or black media in this case and found the aquarelle pencils very versatile.

4.2 Customising a sketchbook

I loved working in a old book.  I liked the size, how it felt in my hand, the quality of the paper, the rough surface, the creaminess of the pages, the deckled edges.

It was enjoyable exploring Patrick Heron’s still life style and particularly his use of colour. I was pleasantly surprised by how much pleasure I got from painting and really like gouache as a medium.

4.3 Collating a sketchbook

This also suited me.  It was very flexible to work loose leaf, working with the textured papers was very satisfying, as with the last exercise, I liked the smaller size, the ease with which the A7 papers sat in my hand, the colour, texture and feel.  I had so many ideas, I was a little overwhelmed and perhaps lost focus, getting carried away with the recreating the qualities of visual and actual texture and forgetting about adding pops of colour and translating more aspects of Dorothy Caldwell’s work.   I wanted to stitch to create texture but wasn’t sure if that was the point of the exercise.  I fretted about whether I should be sketching more but loved it all and could happily have dyed, printed, discharged, stitched and explored for a few more weeks.  I feel indebted to those who have shared their knowledge on blogs and pinterest so generously and eloquently, making the task of researching Dorothy Caldwell’s work so accessible and enjoyable and helping me to develop a love for her work.

All in all, an enjoyable and useful interlude to my ‘Creative Approach’ studies.

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TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Exercise 4.3 Collating a sketchbook – Stage 2 Textiles-inspired translation

In this section we are asked to work with paper and materials and explore ways of customising these to resemble the qualities noted in our chosen artist’s work, considering ways to alter the appearance and be imaginative.

I was quite inspired by Dorothy Caldwell’s Collecting Cards and decided to used A7 and A6 Khadi paper for some of my experiments.  I liked the way the small papers could be held in the hand and leafed through, so continued with these sizes throughout the exercise.

I continued with the ‘Tea-time’ theme and based my initial explorations on ‘tea’


A7 khadi rag paper coloured with fruit tea bags, tea and tea bags stitched onto the cards.


tea stained paper (left), emptied, used tea bags bonded onto vilene (middle),  kitchen roll paper coloured with regular and fruit tea bags bonded to vilene (right)


Top: inside of recycled envelope crumpled, ironed to vilene, rubbed with black oil pastel and fixed, monoprinted recycled curtain lining appliqued and silk boucle couched in tea cup shape. (18). Particularly like the effect of the grey patterned paper and oil pastel and love the couching method to create simple outlines.

Bottom left: Black recycled envelope crumpled and ironed to vilene, rubbed with white oil pastel, stitched bowl shape. (19)

Bottom right: Black Quink onto dampened khadi 150gsm discharged with thin bleach applied with No 1 paintbrush. Used teabag paper stitched on.  (17)  Like the pale blue/greys produced with the black quick wash and the rusty colour it discharged to with thin bleach, and the variegated grey thread stitching on the tea bag,  It made me think of stormy weather.


Top: Shibori attempt indigo dyed cotton, used, emptied fruit tea bag bonded to surface, hemp couched. (20)

Bottom:  Used tea bag papers ironed to black vilene, teapot still life couched free hand. (21) Had to extend the fabric to fit the tea pot spout!   Like the effect of the couched hemp thread onto tea bag background.

From this point on, my explorations are based on the qualities of Dorothy Caldwell’s work but not relating to the Tea theme – wondering if I should have been drawing/collaging onto these papers?  Either way, it has been a really useful exercise with mostly positive results and a good resource for future reference.


Cotton rag paper coloured with tea bags, black acrylic applied with roller, walnut ink applied with stick and brush, fineliner pen and stitch, fibre and rag paper pierced from both sides.  Like the visual texture and colours of top left (22) and the combination of drawn line and stitch bottom left (24).


White wax crayon resist, walnut ink stained rag paper and gesso, directory paper crumpled, ironed to vilene and dripped with black quink ink, same paper with white acrylic applied with roller and credit card and yellow ochre acrylic. Really like bottom right (29)


White packing paper crumpled, shaded with black aquarelle pencil and brushed with damp brush, brown paper crumpled and rubbed with brown oil pastel, cartridge paper crumpled. lightly sanded, brushed with light wash of blue quick ink, and used regular tea bags,  not very effective so stamped and rollered with black & white acrylic. (35) Much improved.  Bottom right, directory paper crumpled, gesso and acrylic added.


Evolon coloured with disperse dyes/transfer paints.  Top, layout paper painted with transfer paint, sprinkled with salt, allowed to dry, ironed onto Evolon. (36)(37)  Very pleased with this effect.  Bottom: Transfer paints painted over wax resist onto layout paper, ironed onto Evolon, bit vibrant, so white acrylic monoprint off gelli plate added.


Top left, Black cotton borsolini and two layers of muslin stitched, then white acrylic applied with roller and monoprint off gelli-plate added. Ironed onto vilene (39).  Like the effect of painting after stitching and the monoprint.

Callico, muslin and felt coloured with walnut ink.


Top left: Evolon coloured with transfer paint, not very effective so brown, yellow ochre, black and white acrylic paint added with roller.

Top right: Black and white collon jersey ironed to vilene, monoprinted white acrylic off gelli plate. (44) pleased with this effect and monoprint.

Bottom, calico and old black denim printed with plastic grid, roller, black & white acrylic. (47) (48) Both effective.


Top: Black denim printed with credit card, grid and white acrylic paint. (49) & (50). Effective.

Bottom Left black felt monoprinted from gelli-plate, white acrylic drawn into with kebab stick. (51) pleased with print.

Bottom Right. painted bondaweb ironed to vilene, black & white acrylic applied with roller. (52) Good visual texture.


Indigo dyed cotton with gesso, wax resist with monoprint, grid and acrylic, lines painted with No 1 brush and fine bleach to resist. (52,53,56,57) good visual texture.

As the pieces were so easy to handle and look through, I wanted to present them in an accessible format where the textural nature of the bundled pages could also be appreciated.  Linking back to the ‘tea’ theme, I chose to recycle a tea bag box, with a small extension for the A7 samples.

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I like the tactile nature of this sketchbook, it was good to work with small pieces, to allow things to dry and then go back to them.  The textural look and feel of holding a bundle of pages is pleasing to me.  I appreciate actual and visual texture, found Dorothy Caldwell’s work inspirational and thoroughly enjoyed working through this exercise.


TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Exercise 4.2 Customising a sketchbook – Stage 2 Painter-inspired translation

Before moving on, I tried to paint a room setting, from a photograph I set up at my parents house, inspired by their 1950’s chairs!  I had difficulty painting it directly, as I had done with all the pictures in the previous post, so resorted to sketching it first with charcoal.


I was pleased with the result at this point.  Once I started painting, I felt I lost my way a bit with the colour.  I was intending to use the bold complementary combinations previously observed, but found it difficult with the muted colours of the actual room in mind.  Referring to Patrick Heron by Mel Gooding, I found a painting in a earthy colours that appealed (Night Still Life 1948).

I was reminded that earlier in this process I thought that the colours used were based on a limited palette, for example, the three cool primaries or the three warm primaries and some of my paintings in the previous post used one or other of those combinations.

Referring to David Hornung’s book,  A Workshop for Artists and Designers, I realised that the that the colours I was hoping to achieve could be mixed from an earthy tones triad, plus white.


This is the beginnings of my testing, the top four circles painted in yellow ochre, red ochre, indigo & white (all Winsor & Newton).  It was good to explore this and I will revisit it again soon.


The above is my finished painting.  Whilst i am quite pleased with it, I lost my spontaneity somewhere near the beginning, deliberated over it for far too long and definitely over worked it,  but I was delighted to discover all the colours that could be achieved with an earthy tone primary triad and feel that working in an old book in a Patrick Heron-inspired way has been truly inspiring and improved my confidence.

Gooding M (1994) Patrick Heron Phaidon Press Ltd

Hornung D (2004) Colour, A Workshop for Artists and Designers Laurence King Publishing Ltd


TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Exercise 4.2 Customising a sketchbook – Stage 2 Painter-inspired translation

This task has been very enjoyable.  I had in mind that I would like to find and old book with a stitched spine so it would lay flat and was fortunate enough to find one in a charity bookshop.


Initially when considering the painter’s work, I painted out the text with white gouache or gesso so I could write on the page.


but once I got into painting, I liked the added effect of seeing some of the text showing through.

The paper is of good quality with a slightly textured surface and easy to paint on. I mixed colours, matching them to computer prints of his paintings, although I later discovered that the colours are stronger in Mel Gooding’s book about the artist (Phaidon).


DSCF4321       Had a go at painting a ‘Checked Tablecloth’.

DSCF4322       Painted one of my Mum’s dining chairs.

DSCF4323 DSCF4324 DSCF4325 DSCF4326 DSCF4327       Some other mugs, cups, teapots, flowers.

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Tried ‘The Long Table with Fruit’ and ‘Anenomes and Lemons’.

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TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Stage 3 – Drawing from Life

I chose to draw a journey around my garden which was a bit ambitious as it was difficult to find sixteen different views!  I didn’t work very quickly.  I found I lost focus if I tried to work faster, so quick sketching is definitely something to work on.   However, I did feel more confident drawing and observing as the task progressed.

I enjoyed adding a bit more detail, but didn’t feel very confident working with coloured pencils.  Derwent coloursoft pencils are lovely to use, soft and vibrant, although I only have a small selection.  I like the effect of the water soluble pencils but used them quite tentatively, although adding some felt pen helped improve visual impact.  I found the concertina type sketchbook a bit stiff and awkward to work with.

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Drawing from life was definitely easier for me than drawing from memory.  It was just so much better being able to constantly refer to the subject rather than rely on memory and imagination as with the drawn from memory journey.  Both sketchbooks were just a collection of images, although using the same media for each individual book gave it some unity.  I can see that the concertina type sketchbook would be a good way to present some projects, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for regular use.

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TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Stage 1 & 2

Before continuing with Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach Assignment 4, I’m taking this extra Assignment from the Foundation Course to improve my confidence with Sketchbooks and making a concerted effort to spend time practising drawing.

Stage 1 – Preparation.

Taking an A1 sheet of cartridge paper, two concertina sketchbooks were constructed.

Stage 2 – Drawing from memory

The course notes suggest referring back to Part One, as I am taking this in isolation, I looked at someone else’s blog to determine what I should be using and have considered different tools, black marker pens & fineliners, charcoal, and ink.

Initially I started to work with marker pens and fineliners.

The exercise proved to be more challenging than I expected.  I found it really difficult to recall my journey well enough to draw it and to think of enough scenes to fill the sketchbook.  Also, I was working far too slowly, in too much detail, completing only a fifth of the piece in 40 minutes.  I was frustrated that there were things I ‘couldn’t draw’.  I was tempted to start again completely, but had a re-think.  I covered the first two sketches with clean paper, calculated that to complete it in an hour, I shouldn’t spend more than four minutes drawing each two segment section and began again using a fine paintbrush and Quink ink.

I managed to work more quickly but still found it difficult to be spontaneous, not to worry about how it looked and took about two and a half hours to finish it, taking into account thinking/planning time.

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Sketchbook – Soft Pastels

Whilst working on Stage 4 Developing design ideas which involved quite a bit of drawing, I felt ignorant of how to use the various media I have gathered since starting the course to its full potential.  I looked online for some information on soft pastels and found the ‘How to use soft pastels’ guide on useful.

It seems ridiculous now but I just wasn’t using enough pressure or really varying the pressure when I used pastels and nor had I thought about the variety of marks they could produce.  So I am happy to note just how vibrant and versatile they can be, although I’m sure the more I use them in different situations, the more I will learn.



Following my exploration into soft pastels, I added some background colour to some earlier drawings, which iimprovedtheir look.