Monday, 1 May 2017

More Adventures with Alice

A few weeks ago I started to tell you about my adventures with Alice. This was a weekend of mark making on an island in Essex, organised by Alice Fox. We had such fun, but what made it stand out  (a part from being with such an inspirational and lovely artist!) was that it stretched me. My go-to  tool for recording is often my camera, or a pen to write down words. This time Alice encouraged use of marks.

On our first morning Alice gave us a list of ideas. These included making marks with natural materials and found objects, as well as our favourite tools. I opted for a thick graphite stick most of the time. We were invited to record a list of different sights and sounds, vague enough for personal interpretation, and challenging enough to stretch (I'm still working out how to record colour, other than words!) One of my favourite pieces was the map of my early morning walk, which I spoke about in the previous post. Here I had held the graphite stick on a wedge of folded card, and the movement of my body directed the marks. This time I thought about how I could record sounds, and decided to do it in a similar way.

Standing in the water I closed my eyes and just listened....

Wellington boots kept my feet dry, and at brief interludes it was important to check my footing because it was an incoming tide. As well as checking the depth of water, which was fast riding, I needed to make sure I didn't sink too deep in the soft mud. Otherwise, I just shut my mind to everything other than the sounds. Of course, I could have sat on the bank where I didn't have to think about my environment, but standing in water made me feel more connected to my surroundings, and part of it. My experience was better for it.

I came up with the idea of recording the sounds by letting my pen react to the sounds that I heard. There was no thinking or planning; my hand moved intuitively and I really enjoyed this. It's something I will do more of in future. Before this weekend I lacked understanding about making marks, and now I know that when I look at these marks again, I am transformed back into that time and space,  and that they have emotion attached. 

The two pages will be joined together to create a simple accordion book, with a cover. Ideas also include making a separate book with a few photos taken at the time, and some words of explanation; with a small wallet to keep the two together.

During our weekend we also did a collaborative project. 
While sitting round the large table we were invited to make a mark
on an A3 sheet of card - something that had meaning to us this weekend. I chose my early morning walk, with it's irregular line that marked my route and journey.  We then passed the sheet to the next person, and we repeated our same mark on the sheet in front of us. We continued doing this until we received our original sheet, with a mark from every person present. 

Alice showed how to fold the card and cut along the lines, so that when folded it created a small book.   We ended up with lots of interesting marks on pages, and each of us spoke about our experience. Hearing why some people chose the words or marks that they did added meaning to our piece of work, and even though everyone repeated their mark, each book was entirely different.

One of my pieces of work was inspired by looking at the landscape.
It took several attempts before the abstract shapes of the tree line and mudflats revealed themselves, and I discovered that this free expression takes practice and playfulness for it to shine. I have way to go, but enjoyed the experience! In the same spot, I watched birds swooping and others wading in the mud. More random marks recorded this, and back at the house I added feather prints.  
A lot of our work was on pieces of folded card, small enough to carry on our field trips. Later this gave us opportunity to use these in a variety of ways and I recognised different projects coming together. In this next one I sewed the landscape and the bird flight pages together. As with other work this is still in progress. I may add a cover and have a question mark about including a hint of colour.

I mentioned at the beginning about making marks using natural materials and found objects.  In this next book there are pages that have texture - rubbings from wood, the crazed paintwork of upturned boats, metal, and rust.

I recorded what I saw and heard in words and in marks, and discovered that flowers add beautiful colour when rubbed onto paper.
I had not tried this before.

Inspired by another in our group I also took prints of mud. I discovered this is not as easy as it sounds, although to be honest, I did not spend time and patience experimenting like the lady in question. She had sat the same spot for an hour, watching the change in mud as the tide went out. She took numerous prints, and some were really subtle and delicate, with signs of movement and flow. The mud I chose was quite dry, and to make an impression I had to apply pressure. It lacks the delicacy of her prints, but it left the mark I was looking for and later I used wax to seal some of these pages. This encaustic art has a lovely texture and I have since used some of these pages to make covers for small notebooks.

I mentioned that there is a lot of mud and that it can be dangerous to go off the footpaths.  One lady found this to her cost. One foot wrong and she slipped onto her back. With no foot
or hand holds she was stranded,  with arms a loft holding her expensive camera!  I was in hearing distance had she shouted, but out of sight and with panic held under control, she somehow managed to turn and lever herself out of this thick  quagmire.  I had previous taken a photo of this broken warning sign and drawn it on one of my sheets of paper. I even added smudges of mud, though not intentionally! This page took on new meaning after this ladies experience and I discovered new found respect for the sign and warnings. It's easy to get blaze' when an area becomes familiar so I was grateful for this reminder. 

I'll be back with part 3 because I still have more books that I  made that weekend.  And I'll leave you with my favourite view of the mud, with the sun reflecting at the end of another glorious day.....


  1. I'm sure you came home with all your senses buzzing! What a glorious way to get the creative part of your brain working in all kinds of new ways. As I was reading I was reminded of a blog I read by a lady who combines her love of knitting and her love of recording sounds. It's called "Knitsonik".

  2. Fascinating account of your experimenting and such visually interesting results. I wondered how you rubbed the flowers to get the colour - sounds and looks great. You've clearly let yourself be absorbed into the process ...


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