Monday, 29 June 2015

9 Top Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Museum Visit

How to make the most of a museum research visit as a quilt artist
Floating heads by Sophie Cave
Following on from the first weekend of the C&G Certificate in Patchwork and Quilting 10 days ago, last weekend was the first weekend of the Diploma (more advanced) class.  It was lovely to see some familiar faces who had undertaken their Certificate with me at the Loch Lomond Studio and to meet the new students.  Our two topics for the weekend were research and playing with mixed media.  Permission to play is very important!
Urn from the Early People's Gallery
As part of the research, we made a visit to the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow.  If you haven’t been, it is well worth a visit.  The breadth of the collection is huge and there is always something I haven’t noticed before that takes my interest.  Which is why we were there.  As part of the Diploma, each student has chosen their own subject matter for research and I was hopeful that the Museum would have something to interest everyone.  I decided I didn’t want to put them off research by taking them to a specialist museum, although I think you can (virtually) always find something of interest no matter how unpromising the museum’s collection sounds.
Part of a very old boat
Although the members of this group, like me, were generally museum junkies, many newbie artists/quilters don’t visit museums regularly and some don’t know how to approach a visit to get the most out of it.  So here is some advice on things to do to get the maximum inspiration from a visit (and yes, quilters should visit museums and art galleries as well as quilt shows – perhaps more so)
From the Early People's Gallery.  I forgot to note down what this was as I was mostly interested in the detail than the whole object
1.   Look for an object or painting that relates to the subject that interests you.  Sketch it in two different ways (ie a line drawing, shading it, drawing with dots rather than lines).  Also you don’t need to draw the whole object – just the bits that matter to you – you’re doing research not trying to recreate someone else’s work.
Have I mentioned I like the Floating Heads by Sophie Cave?!
2.   Try out different media.  Draw an object/painting more than once using different implements such as pencil, pen, felt tip, Inktense, charcoal etc.  Get really adventurous and use several media on one drawing!  Before doing this, do check that the museum allows you to do this – some will only let you use pencils (so don’t forget the pencil sharpener and the eraser).
More Floating Heads
3.   Draw before photographing.  Yes, it can be intimidating, especially if you don’t think your drawing is any good, but remember most of the passers-by can’t draw any better than you, no matter how bad and it is a great way to start a conversation.  You will be asked lots of questions.  Why draw first?  So you commit the artwork to your memory, rather than to your camera’s memory.
4.   Find a work by an artist you haven’t heard of.  Think why you like it and find out more about her/him either at the museum or when you get home to see if you like their other pieces.
The Surprise Find - this is a Lowry and there isn't a matchstick cat or dog in sight
5.   Find an artist who creates work on the subject which interests you and look at how they have approached it – what do you like / don’t like.
Pattern on a Viking stone
6.   Look for five patterns you like.  This could be on the floor, the ceiling or on an ancient pot.  Obviously the number 5 is arbitrary, but having a goal is always useful.
View of the floor down one of the long first floor galleries
7.   Find a work you really dislike and work out what about it has triggered such a negative reaction.
I loved this work by John McLean, but many of my students were less keen on its 'naive' style
8.   Look in the bookshop – you may discover books that you didn’t know about or old exhibition catalogues of interest.
9.   Enjoy the cafe!  You will need a rest – your brain will become saturated, which is another reason to start with drawing first before this happens and before your feet get sore.
A detail of the building

I think that just about sums up how I tackle museum visits... in theory at least!  This time, I spent most of the day in the cafe, making sure that the students could find me if necessary.  When I did finally go for a wander around, I realised I was rather hungry and couldn’t concentrate on drawing, so just photographed instead, thus breaking my own golden rule.  However, I do have some plans to use the photos in the future.  Watch this space!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Starting the C&G Certificate Course

The City & Guilds courses have finally started.  Over the past four days, there have been six very enthusiastic and occasionally bewildered students in my studio starting on their C&G Patchwork and Quilting Certificate.
Chrystine's cake, which was followed by an equally delicious one made by Isobel.  What great students!
The first day started well when Chrystine arrived with freshly baked cake.  Always a good start!  Everyone seemed remarkably relaxed and keen, even when faced with poster paints and hand printing to practice colour mixing.  I would like to report that our activities then became more grown-up, but really, the beauty of this course is having permission to play and experiment and try new things.  Perhaps at a more adult level too, it gives you the structure to make you do things you should do, but never quite get round to, such as trying out different stitches on your sewing machine.  Even reading your sewing machine manual to see how it should work.  I know I am very guilty of this myself – you get a new toy/sewing machine/ camera so you dive straight in, not wanting to waste time.  However I know that both my sewing machine and camera have so much more potential that I still haven’t bothered to find out about.  Even with our new car which has wonderful new gadgets integrated into it, I still haven’t read how to use them beyond the music system.  Perhaps understanding the parallel parking function would have been more useful?
Concentration whilst trying free machine quilting
Anyway, back to the C&G.  The students are lovely and I was really impressed with their attitude and their first results, especially since some of them have little patchwork experience.  After playing with poster paint and colour wheels, we did some basic quilting and piecing and tried out different ways of adding colour to fabric.
Some of the colour onto fabric samples
Our next meeting isn’t until September and I can’t wait to see what they come up with from their homework challenges.

Trying out different ways of adding colour
My next challenge is the C&G Diploma class which starts this Thursday.  I’ve got lots of interesting activities planned out and I’m really excited to get all the students together and to see how their research into their different topics is developing.
Some of my notes, which were embellished by oldest son

In the meantime, less than 24 hours since the students finished, I’ve already managed to turn my studio back into a Gillian bombsite, with tables and fabric all over the place.  Better start tidying again! 

The now not-so-tidy studio - back to normal!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Gelli-plate printing during Open Studios

Printing materials - strawberry and bubblewrap
Open Studios finished last night and today my studio is getting back to normal.  During the week I had some tables set up so visitors could try mono-printing using gelli-plates.  Rachel enjoyed it so much she came twice and got greatly in the spirit of it trying to mark make with strawberries.  It did work, but they tasted so nice, I ate them rather than print with them!
Mark making with the strawberry on the gelli-plate
When I cleared up yesterday evening, there was a lovely pile of prints that I had made as demonstration pieces.  Although they are only on cheap copier paper, I really like some of them and they will make great backgrounds for some artwork or perhaps to be turned into artists books.  I do like the prints on better quality paper, but it is good to see that you can achieve satisfactory results with the basics. 
Rachel with the strawberry print
All three of my children eventually had a go and it was great to see the effects the boys achieved by just drawing very quickly into the paint on the gelli-plate before printing.  Watching the immediacy of the kids printing is very inspiring – sometimes I spend too much time thinking, whereas they just go for it, without caring too much.
Some of my gelli-prints mixed in with the children's

So now, I’m trying to get back to normal and am working on a new big piece which I started last week.  I also have the first C&GCertificate class starting on Thursday, which is very exciting.  I have virtually everything ready for it, just got to get the house tidied now before the students arrive.  I’m sure most times the C&G comes up I’m going to regret running it in my home studio as I need to tidy the house, but secretly that was one of my goals with running it from home to try and force me to be tidier!  I just hope it rubs off on the rest of the family...

Working on the new piece

Monday, 8 June 2015

In my studio: visitors!

Stitching in progress 
It’s Open Studios week here (Forth Valley Open Studios) and after a dismal week last week of migraine, I got everything together just in time.  It’s fun having visitors and sharing my work.  I’ve taken down the wadding I use for my design wall and was dazzled by the white wall behind it – it’s amazing what a difference there is between soft cream and bright white!  The walls and doors now have my artwork hung on them and the worktop has lots of smaller pieces and sketchbooks out too.
White walls in my studio
Part of the joy of reorganising my studio to teach in it is how easy it is to move everything around and configure it in different ways.  So I have a desk set up with my sewing machine so I can carry on stitching at quieter moments and three tables put together in the middle so visitors can have a go at printing.
The little one showing off her stitching skills
I’m not sure if my daughter counts as a ‘visitor’ but she certainly had a go at printing yesterday, using two gelli-plates at once and covering herself, the paper and the floor in paint.  At least she made some interesting prints!  She also spent some time sitting in the corner showing off her stitching skills. 
Sketchbooks and other info
The studio is open until Sunday 14th June from 12-5 (apart from Tues and Weds), so if you are in the area, please pop in and have a look/chat/go at printing.

More work out at Gillian Cooper Studio

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