Friday, 17 March 2017

Drawn from Life - a new book

Just under 1 week to go before my new book arrives in the shops on 23 March 2017.
I can't pretend that the build up to its release isn't just a little bit exciting.

Helen Birch on Amazon
I did a quick interview last week with Pyramyd - the French publisher of the book... 

The interview is available on Pyramyd's blog

English version:

Helen Birch, author of several titles on drawing translated by Pyramyd editions, answers a few questions ...

Why did you decide to write some books about drawing techniques?

I’ve always been fascinated by the immediacy of drawing. The most modest of materials can render something special. I like the diversity and apparent ease of drawing too. Whether pencil on ordinary notepaper or more expensive drawing kit on on specialist papers….there’s so much to see, think about, share and experiment with.

Through my experience as an art lecturer I’ve demonstrated and talked about drawing techniques with students. I thought that the experimental drawing outcomes from these workshops were really exciting and that others should see them, so I started blogging as drawdrawdraw. Producing a series of books was the next logical step. These books have included drawings, illustrations and paintings from international contributors and cover a wide variety of techniques.

What is your favorite drawing technique ?

I find it difficult to pinpoint just one technique! 
I like such a diverse range of drawing techniques from fine line drawings, to huge dark and messy charcoal drawings. I get a lot of satisfaction from looking at drawings, thinking about what prompted them. I like drawings that reveal something about the person making them – their ideas, willingness to experiment, conviction, and depth of research. All of these decisions can dictate which art materials an artist selects and how they are handled and ultimately - the drawing they become.

Which artists inspire you?

Again, a difficult one. A constant is Matisse, as are the drawings of Ingres, Walter Sickert, Paula Rego, Lucian Freud, Elizabeth Peyton and Frank Auerbach. I also like the illustrations of Craig Thompson, Marjane Satrapi, Raymond Briggs and Joe Sacco. This list would change if I answered the same question a day later!

Do you have any other book projects ?

I’ve been thinking about putting together a book about how to draw abstract forms, colours and patterns. There’s also the potential for more books that explore other specific drawing techniques.

The interview is available in French too

Monday, 13 March 2017

Blackpool: sand, sea & spray

Blackpool's urban arts festival Sand, Sea & Spray has been up and running since 2011.
If you visit this famous north-west UK seaside town in late July you can see the art being made 'live'. 
At other times a wander around will provide lots of surprises.

'Blackpool has hosted over 80 of the best street artists in the world and Blackpool has been transformed into an ‘open-air gallery’ of high quality art. If you look around the streets of central Blackpool you are sure to see one of over 100 amazing pieces of artwork on what used to be derelict dreary walls.'

I particularly liked this end terrace facade (from 2015) because of the way the spray paint has been handled in a linear way. These painted drawings remind me of ideas on a sketchbook page.

liking those angles...

and other random findings...

location of 'official' painting sites
and some unofficial ones...

Monday, 6 March 2017

Drawn from Life: social media

My new book 'Drawn from Life' is due out later this month - March 23rd to be exact.

As is usual before a soon-to-be publication date there's a flurry of social media activity and profile updating to do.

Last week I was busy on Flickr and Instagram. The feedback on Instagram was great - not only for my new book but for my previous publications Just Add Watercolour and Freehand too.

My Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn headers needed renewing next. 
A convenient discovery - a strip of 3 book covers is much easier to configure into a header space than 2 :-)

Drawn from Life is available in several languages

UK / US English
Spanish / Dutch
German / French
and Portuguese

update: just completed a Q&A with my French publisher - Pyramyd

Friday, 10 February 2017

Joan Eardley - an exhibition

The subjects of Joan Eardley's drawing and painting were the urban poor of Glasgow, and the land/seascape around the fishing village of Catterline near Aberdeen. Her career lasted barely 15 years when she  died in 1963, aged just 42.

"These two contrasting strands are the focus of this exhibition, which looks in detail at her working process... draws on a remarkable archive of sketches and photographs which remains largely unknown and unpublished.
The exhibition also features many loans from public and private collections, allowing the viewer to trace specific developments between the photographs, the drawings and the finished paintings."

see the exhibition here:
Joan Eardley | A Sense of Place
Children & Chalked Wall, 1963, Oil on Canvas, 80.5 x 86cm

A selection of Eardley's pastel / charcoal drawings of Glasgow children....
Portrait of Andrew Samson

The striped muffler 

 The Pale Blue Jersey, c.1960, W:23cm H:26cm
The Striped Cardigan 1962, pastel on glass paper
Madeleine - pastel on paper 6 x 7 inches
The khaki shirt, Pastel on paper, 28.5 x 19.5cm 
Boy - pastel
“Girl with a Baby,” c.1962, pastel on sandpaper, 10 5/8 x 8 3/4 in
Joan Eardley drawing a child. Photo by Audrey Walker
“A Glasgow Tenement,” c.1959-62, pastel, 7 7/8 x 9 7/8 in
“Autumn at Catterline,” pastel on joined paper, 4 3/8 x 12 5/8 in

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Sunday, 5 February 2017

well hung!

A long overdue, first of several thoughts and reflections as prompted by my regular annual visit to the Manchester School of Art / Manchester Metropolitan University degree show. OK , so the last one was Summer 2016, and now it's February 2017. That's how things go sometimes. I have a slough of photos awaiting attention.
Not rushing things often leads to a joining of the dots in my head.

I really enjoyed the work of Kate Aspin - as much for the way it was hung as for its content. 
Kate Aspin - MMU Degree Show 2016
I've always been intrigued by a range of ideas for exhibiting artwork - in, and out of gallery spaces. See my exhibition / display / installation Pinterest board for more examples.

I used to hang work using a particular eye-line height, a hanging line, and often used a formulaic (invisible) grid of verticals and horizontals.

Seeing Kate's work reminded me how that all changed when I saw Wolfgang Tillman's exhibition layouts for the first time. 
There are multiple hanging lines and no consistent eye level. He still uses grid patterns to match up the edges of things, to create a flow between his prints, but importantly he makes use of the diagonal shift between things. Something I used to scoffingly call the flying duck method of hanging.

Lesson learned - using the diagonal... disrupting a rigid set of ideas makes for a more dynamic looking show.

View From Above ©Wolfang Tillmans
©Wolfang Tillmans

See him discussing the exhibition here...

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Why drawing is an important part of the sculptural process

Richard Wilson is a British sculptor who presents the urban environment to us in new ways. He disorientates us by reinterpreting form and space. 
Turning the Place Over comprised a vast ovoid section of a façade that rotates three dimensionally on a spindle
20:50. "The gallery is filled to waist height with recycled engine oil, from which the piece takes its name. A walkway leads from a single entrance, leading the viewer into the space until they are surrounded by oil on all sides."

From an interview with Rajesh Punj - May 2014

RP: How integral is drawing when planning a work?
RW: Drawings are vital for me, because number one I am working with teams, and I have got to be able to express my idea sensibly, and in a coherent way, so that there is no misunderstanding. Sometimes I am invited to make drawings and models to assist in the securing of funding, so you would be asked to make a maquette in order to convince someone who is not that well versed in the art grammar, that they can say oh I get it, I like it, let’s put money forward into that, so it will be a local authority perhaps.
So these things are done to the best of my ability, in order to convey the best possible way the concept as it is at that moment in time. The other thing the drawings are done for is, in the same way people go to the gym to work-out, I use drawing as a mental limbering up. I have got to get very familiar with my work, because once I am familiar with it, it is handed over.
Over Easy / 1998 / © Richard Wilson / Tate London
The oil installation, 20:50, first made in 1987 at Matt’s Gallery, now permanently installed in the Saatchi Collection, was described by the art critic Andrew Graham Dixon as ‘one of the masterpieces of the modern age’ in the BBC television series The History of British Art - (see 44.36)

An exhibition of site specific works and supporting drawings -

Richard Wilson: Stealing Space can be seen at Annely Juda Fine Art (London) 26 January–25 March 2017

"... The exhibition features four new works, two of which are in direct response to the gallery's internal and external architecture....Wilson’s work offers a new perspective on everyday spaces, forcing us to re-evaluate our surroundings and to look again."
“Space between the Door & the Curtain”, 2016