Some of you might know that I have been on quite a lengthy period of sick leave. One of the things that I have done during this time is to follow a web-based mixed media art class. It follows the letters of the alphabet and there is a drawing exercise and a mixed media assignment every two weeks. We are now at the stage of being asked to produce a series of work based on what we have done so far.
C was for children’s art. I am not particularly well-versed in children’s art, although I do have a lovely painting by my godson in my office, but I was really taken with an image in Jonathan Fineberg’s The Innocent Eye which is about the influence of children’s art on modernist painters. There was a child’s stripy head which influenced Jean Dubuffet which I absolutely loved. So I thought I would work with that, although unfortunately I can’t find a reproduction of the picture. I was also doing some drawings of faces and experimenting with very simple cartoon-y faces. I thought I might do something with Joan Eardley’s wonderful paintings of working -class Glasgow children.
I think these are stunning and decided I would make some dolls based on these.
But I still couldn’t quite let go of the stripy head so I made some little pieces in my scrap book using either paper or washi tape which is lovely Japanese printed masking tape:
In the end, I thought it would be more of a stretch to do the stripy faces than the dolls which I know how to do. I made a template and cut out some striped fabric to make the heads. I bonded them to some remnants of heavy furnishing fabric linen. Then I drew round the template in my sketchbook. I was struck by how the simple round heads looked so much like the work of Bjorn Wiinblad, who is one of my favourite artists from my childhood.
When I was in Copenhagen last year I made my lovely Danish second family take me out to the Arken Gallery to see a big Wiinblad exhibition.
I remember these illustrations from my youth. I remember seeing his work or a very good copy of it on chocolate boxes although I can’t remember the brand. These plates with illustrations of the months of the year are so familiar to me that I think the chocolate boxes must have been by Wiinblad or a follower:
I love his super-decorative style:
and those decorated noses:
I thought I would work on these. I did some sketches and in the bottom right hand corner where I was working out the pyramid shape of the headdress I suddenly saw Elizabeth Taylor popping up:
She looks really badly sun-burned but still gorgeous, and so I decided to make a series based on the fantastic headdresses she wears in Cleopatra:
and she wore mad stuff in real life:
I used gouache which is one of my favourite forms of paint because it is so blocky. The colour is very bright and very flat. This whole project has a very illustration-like feel and gouache was traditionally used in art layouts for advertising material.
So far I have made up two of the series. The first is the flower pyramid which I did in stickers in the sketchbook but with huge sequins from Tiger, a treasure trove chain store, in the piece:
Were I to do this again I would be more careful not to get that purple stripe over the mouth, but I was going for a naive childlike approach. The second piece uses beads and a very fancy button:
Both were really good fun to make and I stuck very closely to the sketch, which is unusual for me. The sketch allowed me to make templates to cut out the hair, but also to check the eye placement and so on.
The point of the class on children’s art was to try to remember our joy in drawing from childhood. I used to love to draw and to make collage, and I think the simplicity and boldness of this helped me to remember those feelings.