Residency Day 12 – Digital Detox

Coming out to Bergby Konstcenter in Sweden for a two week artist residency, has been an amazing experience and opportunity for me. I have absolutely loved the arts centre, the enthusiasm of Helen and John who run it and it’s beautiful locality.

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Painting together.

But, it has also provided a creative and interesting experience for my three daughters, aged 13, 11 and 8 – through a ‘digital detox’. This has encouraged intensive bursts of drawing, painting, sewing, reading and 3D art using the natural environment.

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Tablet free zone !

The girls embraced the idea of a Digital Detox, occasionally there was a bit of a wobble,  but overall they enjoyed it. My middle daughter has also read six books in the two weeks – reading some twice!

The girls have been taking their sketchbooks with them on their days out, too.

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My youngest daughter sketching with her Dad.

The ‘Young Artist’s’ exhibition wall includes the work by the young children who live here, who also really enjoyed drawing and painting.

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Young artist’s exhibition.

Sharing, learning new artistic skills and learning new words in English and Swedish has been a great bonus – especially when learnt with friends!

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I can’t say that when my girls are back in the UK they won’t be straight onto their electronic devices, but the two weeks without them has taught the girls that they can not only enjoy themselves without these devices, but  they  have learnt again to entertain themselves, regained their love of reading, and that boredom is a great way to ignite a creative imagination. They have also all said how lovely it is to play freely outside, to be able to run around with no socks on, feel grass rather than concrete and just play.

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Egyptian Book of the Dead

Egyptian Book of the Dead panel

Egyptian Book of the Dead panel

In the past I have made some very exciting pieces for the Great North Museum, Hancock, many of those linked to their Egyptian collection. To add to the interactive ‘Mummy’, the dressing up clothes and other pieces, I was recently asked to make a large textile panel which showed the ‘Weighing of the Heart’ ceremony – as the heart should be lighter than a feather to reach the afterlife – to be used in school workshops.

Decorative border and gods in place.

Decorative border and gods in place.

The panel shows the Egyptian gods Anubis, Ammut, Thoth and Horus. The panel was painted on fabric, to ensure it could be easily folded and was practical to use for school workshops.

Thoth and Horus.

Thoth and Horus.

When starting to research the different gods, how they were illustrated, the colours they wore, it was quite frustrating to see there was quite a lot of variation – they both have very distinctive faces but the design changes from tomb wall panel.

Thoth and Horus completed, detail.

Thoth and Horus completed, detail.

Anubis completed, detail.

Anubis completed, detail.

One the panel, was to be written in hieroglyphics a secret message from the museum’s Learning Team, for the school children to decode. Again from researching hieroglyphics, I have discovered there is also quite a lot of variation in the standard imagery used – but my 10 year old was able to decipher it last night without a crib sheet from what she remembered learning at school a couple of years ago, so I think the children will be fine!

Anubis and Ammut weighing the heart.

Anubis and Ammut weighing the heart.

Whenever I work on projects like this, I realise just how lucky I am to be able to get involved with such interesting and fascinating projects – for this to be my job!

REWIND: Ravenswood Primary ‘School Values’ window hangings.

In the Spring and Summer term of 2012, I was asked to work with the children of Ravenswood Primary School to create a series of banners which illustrated the ‘school values’ and to be hung in the large windows of their dinner hall. ALL the children in the school, from Nursery to Year 6 were involved in the design of the banners and painting them – well over 500 children! It was a fantastic and exciting project to be part of.

All ten window banners, hanging in the dinning hall.

All ten window banners, hanging in the dinning hall.

Every year group was allocated a school value and in their lessons, they came up with a design for it – often linked to areas of the curriculum they were working on.

'R' for 'Respect'.

‘R’ for ‘Respect’.

I transferred the children’s designs onto cotton fabric, 2 metres by 80 cm to fit the windows. Then every child in school from that year group, would spend some time painting on their hanging.

'A' for 'Achievement'.

‘A’ for ‘Achievement’.

Using the mid weight cotton and COLOURTEX by Specialist Crafts, we were able to create a ‘stained glass window’ effect.

'V' for 'Valued'.

‘V’ for ‘Valued’.

As you can imagine, sometimes trying to co-ordinate so many children was a bit tricky but the teachers, classroom assistants and parents all helped to ensure it was a very smooth running project.

'E' for 'Enjoyment'.

‘E’ for ‘Enjoyment’.

'N' for 'Nurturing'.

‘N’ for ‘Nurturing’.

On each of the hangings, the children decided it would be great fun to paint a Raven, a symbol of the school, which they could have fun looking for whilst sitting in the dinning hall eating their lunch.

'S' for 'Self-confidence'.

‘S’ for ‘Self-confidence’.

'W' for 'Working Together'.

‘W’ for ‘Working Together’.

The large textile window hangings, also help to absorb the sound in the dinning hall, so it doesn’t seem so noisy for the younger children.

'O' for 'Opportunities'.

‘O’ for ‘Opportunities’.

'O' for 'Openness'.

‘O’ for ‘Openness’.

Besides the different year groups, some of the school clubs also created their own designs for a ‘school value’. The Drama Club painted the ‘Self-Confidence’ hanging and the School Council design and painted the ‘Openness’ hanging.

'D' for 'Diversity'.

‘D’ for ‘Diversity’.

I must admit, one of my favourite window hangings was by the children in the Nursery. There was approximately 63 children in Nursery at the time and each one choose a butterfly shape then painted it in their preferred colours.

The window hangings are much enjoyed by the children and are a lovely talking point for them, as they are able to remember which elements they painted of the hanging when they were lower down in the school.

This is a detail from the hanging painted by the 63 children in the school nursery. Their school value was about Diversity, so they each painted a butterfly, different in shape and colour. The raven appears on all of the hangings, as it is part of the school insignia and a fun image for the children to find on the hangings whilst eating their school dinners.

New Portraits

I have been itching to get on with starting some new portraits but time and other work commitments have been getting in the way. But over Easter, I have managed to start two. I thought, due to the way I work on them, it would be much easier to have two pictures running along each other, so whilst one is drying or I’m planning the next section I can get on with the other one.

Intensive preparation for my portrait of Isaac Rosenberg.

Intensive preparation for my portrait of Isaac Rosenberg.

The first one, I have been planning since completing my portrait of Wilfred Owen in November. It is a portrait of Isaac Rosenberg , a First World War poet and painter who died on the 1st April, 1918. He is to form part of the series of portraits of War Poets, I am making. He is a fascinating character but at the time I didn’t know much about him, so I spent most of January reading the very in depth and interesting biography of him by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.

Isaac Rosenberg, machine line drawing.

Isaac Rosenberg, machine line drawing.

Within Rosenberg’s portrait, I intend to capture images of the Whitechapel Library, images of dancing women to evoke his poem ‘Daughter’s of War’ and other elements I have to finalise. As with the portraits of Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen, which I have completed and are now hanging at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle, I intend to sew parts of his poetry into his clothing adding texture and visual metaphors.

My second portrait I have started working on is of William Morris. Morris has always inspired my work and way of thinking. The Arts and Crafts movement during the Victorian  period placed great importance on quality of fabrics, beauty in design and the quality of craftsmanship.

William Morris, the beginning.

William Morris, the beginning.

I work, initially creating the portrait using a sewing machine to ‘draw’ the lines and then I continue the portrait using hand sewn stitches which are slow and laborious but also very meditative. The portrait of Morris, will also be painted in acrylic then over stitched, using similar techniques to my recent picture ‘Portrait of a Green Man’.

Sewn line drawing complete.

Sewn line drawing complete.

Over the next month or so, whilst working on commissions for the Hancock Museum and printing some more lino prints, I shall also be working on my portraits, which bring me great enjoyment.