Art Class in School

Fandango’s One Word Challenge prompt word of ‘silkscreen’ today immediately takes me straight back to high school art class, nearly 40 years ago. As well as focusing on understanding (and practising) the basics of drawing and painting we also experimented with lots of other techniques for creating art, some of which I haven’t thought about for years.

I remember early on we were introduced to lino block printing, where we each carved out (with various-sized special little tools) our favoured design on our little rectangle of lino block – carved in reverse, of course. I chose a capital letter ‘R’, decorated with patterns all around like the grand initial letters in old manuscripts. Once all our carving was done we carefully rolled coloured ink onto the surface of the block before up-ending it onto paper and printing countless versions of our chosen design.

Then once we’d taken the block printing as far as we could (with one block there are only so many options to experiment with) we used plasticine to build a little sealed wall around the edge of our lino blocks, and filled them with plaster of paris and left them to set to create an image in relief, which we then painted to keep along with our many prints. Such a lot from one little rectangle of lino block though… πŸ™‚

And then of course later on there was the screen-printing and memories of the taut silkscreen frame used – I can still hear the strident sound of the squeegee pulling the ink purposefully across the surface of the screen, a bit like a muffled zip-wire sound cut short – vvvvt. There was a knack to getting it just right – not too fast, not too slow, not too much pressure, not too little – and then the moment of anticipation as you lift the screen off and remove whatever ink-blocking template used undereath to reveal the final result.

And for me, the result was always a little bit disappointing. I mean, effectively it did exactly what it was supposed to do – sharp lines, strong colour, vibrant solid shapes – but personally I found it all too formulaic. I do appreciate we were schoolkids so our designs were inevitably simple, and that more complex designs could be created by using multiple templates and different colours of ink to build up clearly differentiated layers.

But still… for such a laborious process where the purpose was to create easily replicated sharp-edged identical images, I found that promise a little lacklustre. We screen-printed both onto paper and onto cloth, so I could definitely see how using this process for printing multiple T shirts with exactly the same design would make sense, or multiple identical paper posters, but somehow it just didn’t catch my creative imagination at the time…

But batik – now that lit a creative spark in me! Batik basically uses hot wax painted free-hand onto cotton fabric with a tjanting tool and being left to set hard before dying the cloth in a cold water dye bath. Once this is done, the wax is removed and the cloth is boil-washed to remove all remaining traces of wax. It’s a little like tie-dying but using wax instead of string to create areas of dyed and undyed cloth. You can then repeat the process as many times as you like, building up layers of colour and shape.

Each individual piece of batik is unique, and because the chosen design is painted on free-hand you can change your mind creatively in the middle of applying the wax so there’s always an element of uncertainty in outcome of the process, which is probably the thing that really appeals to me – I like not knowing exactly what I’m going to end up with. Aaahhh… the memories… what fun I had… πŸ™‚

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Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Rhymes with Rosy

I was born along the North East coast of Scotland, in a world where the Doric dialect was spoken. My mum went to a posh school in Aberdeen so always spoke ‘proper’ English, but my dad went to an ordinary secondary school and spoke mainly Doric – in fact, at 83, he still speaks Doric with family and fellow Aberdonians, but has since tempered his everyday accent to be better understood in the Inverness area he has lived in for the last 50 years or so.

Anyway, the point of the little family history lesson is that I mainly associate hearing an abundance of beautifully descriptive Doric with my early childhood memories, and oh, the wonderful words I miss these days! Because as well as the accent affecting how many easily distinguishable English words are spoken, at times Doric seems to have a completely different vocabulary all of its own. For example, I remember very rounded old ladies always wanting to give you a ‘bosie’ – the kind of cuddle that hugs you tight to their bosom (which presumably is where the word originated).

Other great Doric words I remember from childhood include ‘oxters’ for armpits, and all the Doric men I knew would be wearing a ‘sark’ and a ‘semmit’ – a shirt and a vest – and of course their work trousers would all be held up with ‘galluses’ – braces (suspenders). To be ‘drookit’ is to be soaked through and ‘clarty’ is dirty (I was a real tomboy, and if there was water or mud nearby I’d inevitably fall in, so remember hearing those particular words with regularity).

To ‘birl’ (rhymes with girl) is to spin around really fast (usually until you get dizzy) and to ‘dirl’ is to vibrate – like when you get a ‘skelp’ across the ‘lug’ (a smack on the ear) it gives you a ‘right dirl’. Not to be confused with the love-it-or-hate-it ‘skirl’ of the bagpipes though! If you’re ‘scunnered’ you’re fed up, and if you ‘canna thole’ something you can’t tolerate it, and to be ‘fair tricket’ is to be delighted. Hmmm… Probably best to stop there before I get myself into a right ‘bourach’ (or mess!).

So there we are, that was my random, rambling Stream of Consciousness Saturday post brought to you today by ‘bosie’, my slightly off-the-wall word that rhymes beautifully with rosy πŸ™‚

Weekly Smile: Retro Mother’s Day Card

Retro Mother’s Day card

I learned to read in the late 1960s with the iconic Ladybird books, always set out in the same format of text (written in varying levels of difficulty depending on age and reading ability) on the left hand page and an artist’s illustration on the right. Some of our original reading books are still at my mum’s, so my kids also grew up clearly recognising Ladybird books.

I’ve recently acquired a few tongue-in-cheek adult versions too, probably created specifically for my age group – The Ladybird Book of the Shed, The Ladybird Book of Dating, The Ladybird Book of the Hangover, and How it Works: The Grandparent. The format is exactly the same, various original illustrations have been used, and the wording is in the same idiosyncratic 1960s tone but nevertheless discussing the new adult topic.

Anyway, when my 36-year old son Simon thoughtfully sent me this very retro-style personalised card for Mother’s Day last Sunday in the same style as the books, I simply couldn’t stop smiling… and I pointed out to him he was not only a special edition but my First Edition too! πŸ™‚

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Retro

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Idiosyncrasy

Trent’s Weekly Smile

Adventure Stories from Childhood

My love of adventure stories was kindled in childhood by Enid Blyton with her Five Find Outers and Dog mysteries – oh, the fun I had alongside Larry, Daisy, Pip and Bets, and of course Fatty and Buster the dog as they ran rings around local policeman Mr Goon. The books captured the homely everyday English village life of the mid-1940s, where children were safe to explore and adults didn’t really interfere in their esapades too much.

And then I moved on to reading the adventures of the Famous Five – Julian, Dick, Anne and George and Timmy the dog. I was always intrigued by George – a short-haired girl named Georgina who always dressed like a boy – and the fact that they all went to different boarding schools so only met up together in the holidays at George’s house where they pretty much ran free around the countryside, solving mysteries here there and everywhere as they went. Again written in the 1940s, this series also left a long-lasting impression on me.

But when it came to mystery-solving the adventures of Jupiter Jones, leader of the Three Investigators took me across the cultural divide between Britain and America, to the alien world of boy’s fiction. Jupe Jones was an orphan who lived with his uncle and aunt who ran a junk yard in which the Three Investigators created their headquarters in an old hidden trailer accessed via constructed tunnels within various parts of the junk yard. Along with Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews, Jupiter Jones brought 1960s California to life for me, and I soooo… yearned for a proper bona-fide den hidden so well away from adults like these boys enjoyed so much. Freedom again…

But probably the series of books that took me furthest away from my everyday reality was The Chronicles of Narnia written in the 1950s –Β  truly a different world of English children’s post-war adventure stories, a world accessible variously at the back of a wardrobe, in a painting, on an underground platform, through a door, with magic rings, and finally, as a result of a train crash…

All of these beloved book series day after day took me and my voracious appetite and creative imagination many miles away from my quiet family and school life in the very rural Highlands of Scotland in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and even now my love of reading about myriad fabulous fictional characters, catapulting me into multiple alternative realities, has never really disappeared… ❀

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Adventure

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Tin

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The humble tin plate has played such a big part in my life…

I was a Girl Guide for years, and absolutely loved camping across the Highlands of Scotland (where I grew up), sleeping in giggling groups in the old heavy green cotton canvas bell tents, cooking hearty meals on an open camp fire, eating on old-fashioned tin plates not unlike the one above (although my well-used original was much plainer – just white enamel with a dark blue rim) all sitting on the ground circled around the flickering embers.

This more modern version of my old tin plate gives a proud nod to those wonderful memories, with the cute overall pattern of black-face sheep a fun addition to my little blast-from-the-past treasured memory πŸ™‚

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Tin

Girl Guide & Queen’s Guide

One upon a time a long, long time ago, I achieved my Queen’s Guide Award in Girl Guides.

As Guides we could complete voluntary merit badges covering all sorts of skills, both indoor and outdoor pursuits, and when you had achieved the requisite number of merit badges across several different categories, you achieved your Queen’s Guide Award.

There is a photograph somewhere that appeared in our local newspaper of me and two others receiving our awards from our District Commissioner, but for now its location eludes me.

I was part of the Girl Guide movement from the age of seven, when I first became a Brownie Guide, through Girl Guides to Ranger Guides, which I left when I was about sixteen, I think (once school exams properly kicked in and formal education took precedence) πŸ™‚

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Guide