In the studio, I am still stitching. I took some finished pieces to the framers this morning and am now finishing off some smaller ones that I think I will show unframed. This is all for the exhibition with Clive Barnett at Art Van Go that starts 2 September. I've pinned everything up on the studio wall to decide what goes in ... and what doesn't - and to choose titles for the ones still unnamed. It is all hard work - and there's lots of associated admin, none of which makes for a particularly interesting blog post.
However, I have not shared the details of the last round of mark-making / drawing, so ...
This was the fourth round of forty days of daily mark-making. In fact it was forty-two days and finished at the end of July. I've only just got round to sorting through the photos. This time I had decided it would be interesting to work on loose sheets of paper, which is what I would normally prefer to do anyway. But, having worked in a sketchbook for the previous 120 days plus, I found it surprisingly difficult to get going. Despite the increased freedom, for the first week or so I could only manage my minimum one page a day.
There's something about working in these blocs of forty days - each develops its own rhythm or character. And each time, there's been a period of adjustment at the beginning - uncertainty about what to do, having to find new strategies for working. And at the end, I have sometimes felt that it was becoming predictable, routine, that I was just repeating myself. It's curious and I wonder whether it would be the same if I had committed to a continuous practice rather than a time-limited one.
I value activities that put me in a position where I don't quite know what I'm doing. So this period of adjustment each time is not a bad thing in my view. The difficulty is a sign that I'm having to find my way and learn something afresh. I actually prefer this to feeling that it is too easy, automatic and I am not having to think.
The value of this practice (for me, I don't know about others) is the engagement with the process and the materials. This is more important than the quality of whatever results. I think what I'm looking for is the development: changes in the kind of marks, the ways of organising them, finding different methods for making them, effects I haven't seen before.
So, what happened in the end, once I got through this awkward adjustment phase, was that I found myself alternating between two contrasting strategies. The first was that I took full advantage of the loose sheet to manipulate the page: folding, crumpling, rubbing, scratching and piercing the surface. It was more of a collage approach - and sometimes I layered two pages together, making holes in one so you could see through to the next. It was quite intensive and I usually worked on no more than two pages at a time or even worked into a page over two days.
The second strategy was to do a series of ten (or more) pages, working quite quickly with the same media (mostly ink) and a similar theme. This led to series of very similar looking pages but I found it very informative. It was an excellent way of trying different combinations or layers of marks - variations on a theme.
Since the end of this fourth round, I have accidentally taken a break. Accidentally, because I didn't actually decide to do so in advance. The immediate cause was first, that I went away for a few days; second, that I hadn't prepared either paper or sketchbook for the next round, which just proves how important it is to do this if I want to keep going, in my case at least. The secondary cause is that I'm in two minds what to do next with this. I do feel that my mark-making is becoming a little too repetitive for my taste. I could just carry on and work with that, keep pushing things on until there's a breakthrough. But I'm also thinking it might be valuable to spend some time on more observational drawing to train myself to make new marks / combinations of marks. But then that would be a decisive shift towards drawing rather than mark-making ...
So, while I'm working on finishing the final pieces for exhibition, I'm allowing myself a break to figure out which approach would serve me best. ... And if I fail to make up my mind, I shall just start anyway and see what happens ... once this exhibition is up and running that is.