It's been a challenge trying to find time to get in studio this last week with such a full schedule but I took Sunday off to do something creative because I was really craving it. Using the little broken pieces of clay pipes I found on a recent visit with the Culture Seekers to the Thames foreshore, I've experimented by drawing some of my own designs and a few Anglo-Saxon designs on them. It's my hope to reconstruct all the pieces into full length pipes that probably will have a quirky flare to them.
To follow the progress of this project do follow my instagram account for updates: @toothpickmuse
In other studio news, I'm working on a series of hyperrealistic paintings of fruit and veg slices, partially to sharpen my own skills as well as have a bit of fun and because I need a challenge so to follow along with my progress on these please follow my illustration account on instagram for regular updates: @mirmarnia
In completely different news about my blog, I'm adapting my artist interviews posts to be an extension of talks I'm offering with my meetup group, London Art Museum Creatives so if you would like to attend these talks then please join my meetup group here in London or follow this blog and stay tuned to the Artist Talks: An Artist's Perspective posted monthly.
And yet even more different news, I'm back to job searching as I would love to get out of poverty at some point in my life! The talks and classes I'm offering through my meetup are a great idea but would be so much more wonderful if more than 2 people signed up as I currently don't make enough to even buy food on a weekly basis. So in reality, it's fun organising meetup and making new friends, but wow that fee they charge is diabolical when buying basic groceries is a challenge! After five years of being unemployed and trying everything I can think of to earn money and still not making it, I feel like I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel for new ideas. And I'll tell you, finding motivation to keep creating in studio is a huge challenge, especially when everything I make never sells no matter what I do.
I suppose this is just not a good time to be an artist. I'd give anything to have a job and regular income. So if someone out there reads these words, lives in London and knows somewhere that's hiring for an art related person like me then get in touch! I'm learning that it's not how many applications you put in that will net a good job, but who you know who will speak up for you.....and no one I know seems to have any connections so it's like I've got one foot nailed to the floor and I'm going around and around and around and never moving forward.
Meanwhile last week I met the enthusiastic and inspiring granddaughter of Eva Schloss and then later on Eva herself which was so incredible and gave me such a boost of inspiration that I've been cheerful in everything I do. What an amazing family and how lucky I am to have met both Eva and her granddaughter whom I hope to collaborate with very soon! So now maybe this inspiration will fuel my job searching and bring me more success and hope. It's all about perspective, isn't it?
I just have to learn what positive things come from being unemployed for five years.....
I've been creating miniature tide pools inside oyster shells which has been fun, smelly and time consuming! Two examples here from my project of clear resin filled oyster shells with blue ink and iridescent pearl, silver and gold paint.
I began by submerging the shells in distilled white vinegar which was quite an interesting science experiment and made the entire flat smell like smelly feet......an unexpected eye watering treat!
I used a lot of sandpaper as well as a metal engraver to get down to the original pearly surface of the shells. I'm thinking that the next oyster shells I work on should be glow in the dark and painted in patterns.....so I'm looking forward to collecting more oyster shells!
I've got a selection of old broken clay pipes also from the same Thames foreshore visit previously mentioned in last weeks post, in which I'm now planning to draw with black ink. Apparently there's another artist out there who makes them into jewelry which is interesting but not really my thing. So illustrating them and then sculpting with them seems to be the next course of events.
What do you think of my two oyster shells shared here?
As mentioned in previous posts, my blog schedule is changing as I'm trying to accommodate a career adjustment back into freelance mode so these #MaterialMondays will be a weekly event and cover whatever I'm currently working on in my studio while I'll still interview other artists but only on a monthly basis as well as I'll be writing about the latest art exhibitions I've been to every other Thursday of the month.
To receive daily updates on my studio practice please follow me on instagram:
To read weekly about my studio practice projects please stay tuned for more every Monday at 9am UK time.
Thank you and please like, comment and subscribe.
In studio lately, I've been fixated on dragon eggs and have begun to create my own little miniature scene of multicoloured dragon eggs in what I hope will be a phosphorescent den that I'm going to insert into a miniature I've been working on for the last few years. These eggs are made from assorted Fimo clay and are entirely of my imagination.
See below a detail of part of the miniature I've been building. I don't think the eggs will go in that space but perhaps in a dark exterior somewhere.
Meanwhile, aside from making miniatures, I've been drawing in the Victoria & Albert Museum and it's been a bit of a struggle this last week as my interest in model making has taken over. This week too, I received a rejection email from the Royal Drawing School who have for whatever reason decided that my drawing abilities are not good enough for their graduate programme.
(I should point out that I'm not unfamiliar with rejections because I receive hundreds a month from either job applications or art opportunities, but enough is enough. I wanted a boost out of poverty and struggle and the Royal Drawing School would have offered the boost I needed but never mind.....moving on)
So this last week, I've decided to ditch my five year long pointless job search and return to being a freelance artist instead which just means no days off, lots of work and hopefully more income than the last time I tried to live like this! Previously, I worked as a freelance artist from the late 1990's to 2014 but having struggled with the instability of the work, I broke away to try to find a steady job because I was longing for financial stability but apparently that isn't going to happen so it's back to freelance. Joy. I'm hopeful that this time around, it's easier because I'm that much wiser! (insert sarcasm here!)
Being a freelance artist feels like I'm walking a plank over sharks or something and each time I take a step, I've got to build the plank ahead of me in order to survive as an artist. Here's hoping I don't fall in!
So I've been actively involved in attending meetup groups and even organising my own events all of course related in some way to my own art practice. I've also given myself a challenge for the Cast Courts at the Victoria & Albert Museum as I feel like my drawing ability has been knocked down a notch from that rejection so I'm going to revamp my technique and try to crank out some well worked drawings while just focusing on the sculptures by Michelangelo.
Below, an image taken the other day in the Cast Courts. I've got to now work on compositions that are interesting and not typical so that I can push myself in drawing.
And lastly below this an image of some of the items discovered along the Thames foreshore when I joined an event lead by the London Cultureseekers, a group on Meetup. It was an interesting day listening to what the archaeologist had to say and show, as well as discovering for myself all the fascinating finds along the shoreline and then conversing with other members about previous discoveries they've made. As suggested by the London Cultureseekers organiser Robert, I'm trying to find ways to make these finds into some sort of art project so I'll hopefully update with this project in the coming weeks.
This blog title, River Monsters, referring to my ridiculous fear of deep dark water and the only monsters spotted during this event were in my imagination, thankfully!
I must say, it was absolutely fascinating and I'll definitely do it again, with hopefully a more knowledgeable eye and less jumpiness to the churning dark river!
If you're keen to follow me and my ongoing art projects then please stay tuned each Monday at 9am UK time for more #MaterialMondays.
If you simply cannot wait till next Monday then quickly step over to my 4 instagram accounts where I update my art projects daily:
To check out my meetup group then please go to: London Art Museum Creatives
If you're interested in archaeology and other cultural events in London then check out my friend, Robert's meetup group: London Cultureseekers
I've been enjoying exploring the many ways to create using Polymer Clay and as you can see from the above photo, I created a little bowl.
I'm enjoying the many many ways in which to make canes with all variety of patterns and colours and the delight when you slice through the cane to see what kind of pattern has been created! I'm not following any specific pattern but am just playing with ideas for now.
I have many things to perfect and still make quite a lot of mistakes some of which have lead to accidental beauty such as this bowl! I'm using it as a ring dish for my jewelry which is now helping to organise my bedside table!
I'd like to explore unconventional experiments and make little pieces of furniture for containing the multiple ingredients for my miniatures and will update my instagram accounts as much as possible with these discoveries so do follow my four instagram profiles for more if you'd like to follow this process:
@Mirmarnia, @Toothpickmuse, @Draco_Ganymede, and @11MillionHands
*To follow Material posts stay tuned every Monday 9am UK time for more.
This week for this Material Monday, I thought I'd share with you my recent studio experiments using wire as a sculpting tool.
As you see in the above video, I've been making a series of wire circles that I'm linking together with no real objective other than to create a sort of layer of these circles. If you're familiar with my ink drawings and my toothpick sculptures, you'll know that I have a fascination in repetitive patterns so of course the repetitive circles seem to be having a similar pull.
With my toothpick sculptures, I'm constantly focused on trying to conquer the straight line and to create curves and this is no different except that it's going the reverse: In repeating these circles, I'm trying to explore how I can create a linear structure using curves! What is my obsession with this?! It has been going for over two decades now!
So at the moment, I've spent a few hours each day just creating circles so as with my other work, it's rather time consuming but fun. I will post updates as I progress so if you'd like to keep up to date on this process then please follow my instagram accounts: @toothpickmuse and @Draco_Ganymede
*If you would like to see more Material Monday's then please stay tuned every Monday at 9am UK time for more!
I've been experimenting for the last few weeks with just hot glue and wax paper. I wanted to see if I could build with just hot glue by creating stencils that I could glue together to create sturdier structures.
So far it's remained an experiment and is just purely for fun. I've yet to figure out how I can use this method to make something substantial.
Here are some images of the stencils and what I've created:
I enjoy the shadows cast by the structures much more than the structures themselves.
A fun experiment that I am enjoying. The only big issue is that I wish I could control the amount of glue coming out of the gun as it's difficult to create strong sturdy strands or avoid the typical gloopiness of hot glue.
A video I made below of the process with some cheesy music:
Well nothing more to really share about this, aside from it's a fun experiment so if you have a hot glue gun, some wax paper and some time then this is a good way to explore sculpting and drawing at the same time.
If you want to see my other experiments and processes in my art studio then please follow me on instagram. I have four profiles:
Mirmarnia - mainly for illustrations
Toothpickmuse - for processes and experiments
Draco_Ganymede - for sculptures/model making
11MillionHands - for my ongoing art activist peace project
*If you enjoyed this Material Monday post then please stay tuned every Monday at 9am UK time for more.
As an artist, I try to make myself create something daily even if the something never develops into what I would define as successful so I feel this is an important topic.
I've always known I would be an artist.....growing up in a very creative family almost defined my path before I knew it myself because the creative path seemed the most logical. During my childhood, I was accustomed to what "studio time" meant because my father had to practice the piano because it was his profession and my mother had to paint because it was her profession so when I was young and took time out of my regular routine to create, I was left to make those discoveries on my own. So when I got to art school as a young art student, making time to create in studio was as much a part of the day as anything else. But being in art school put more pressure on what we created because an art school's objective is to get us into the idea that we must produce work which will define us, show our "style" and give us a map as to where we should go next. It was in art school that I realised I thought differently than what my teachers wanted from me and that changed who I was as an artist.
To me, the product that comes from the act of creating isn't as important as the journey it took to get there. Luckily, I get to keep the best part for myself as process can't be priced and sold! It can be wasted however which riles me very much as you will see later on in this post.
So since art school, over twenty years ago, I've relished every ounce of "studio time" I've had as it is where I try and attempt many different thought processes and though often this results in failure in terms of not producing a finished piece, it does offer me a chance to learn about my material and what I'm trying to develop.
So I'm sharing with you today, some previous attempts......followed by failures of projects where I've tried something and tried again and tried again and not yet succeeded to achieve the results I'm looking for. I don't really know what I'm trying to do except that I'm trying to push a material to the limits of my own understanding of it to see what happens and if I'm lucky enough to go beyond that limit, then evolution occurs and I move on to the next level of trying and failures and successes......
Below is a speed video I've created where I've been working with sliced up toilet paper rolls, coloured paper and hot glue as sculpting materials.......I abandoned this process about 4 hours in and binned the product because it wasn't going where I had wanted it to go but the process brought out another idea which is slowly developing.
Above, the image is of a backdrop in a theatre production that I did many years ago for the Hockaday School in Dallas Texas for their 8th grade musical, Oliver!
I spent about 2 months working on this, was paid very little and was then unrecognised for the work on opening night. Still riles me that I wasted so many precious studio hours on something like this but then everything is a learning experience. I learned from this that I can demand more money for a job and that I can also turn it down if it will not forward my career as an artist. To work for little to nothing is commendable......if you're financially stable and have time to spend. Many lessons learned from this job!
The actual production of Oliver was of course a success and I must make it clear that I was glad to be invited to paint the backdrop to be part of their production. To do a 10 ft by 40 ft drop like that for limited funds and then have none of the organisers recognise my work is a bit frustrating but it did the job of giving me a much needed life lesson so it was a good experience in that sense. I do also enjoy giving of myself to help others but in this instance, I gave too much at a time when being valued monetarily would have been greatly appreciated.
This photo above is of myself standing in London Bridge station holding my sculpture, "Fibonacci Fold Pod" as my friend took a picture as it isn't everyday that you see a massive toothpick sculpture in a train station - we were transporting it across London to St. Albans a few years ago after it spent some time on top of a wardrobe of a friend in Clapham.
I see this style of sculpting as an experiment that lasted many years but has now evolved and adapted to something smaller (living in a city in a tiny room has made this necessary) and I think more exciting. In 2011, I built this sculpture to be part of one of the first exhibitions by Parallax Art Fair and it was a fun time which resulted in being quite out of pocket due to not selling at the art fair which was the beginning of my dislike of art fairs in general. This sculpture has travelled with me for several years since that exhibition and it now languishes, half broken on top of a tall bookshelf in my very tiny bedroom but even though it's broken, I keep it.....and I'm not sure why. I don't work in that style any longer.....it is literally the last dinosaur before my sculpting methods evolved but it continues to live on top of the bookshelf........I do see it as a failure in some senses but I still love it for the memories I developed making it which ultimately led to my style evolving.
So I'd say that failure in art is part of it......you need failure in order to succeed so then trying and sitting down to create every day is a necessity for every artist because it's possible that the processes and failures are the next stepping stones to the next success or evolution and that is everything! The trick is to find the determination to keep going when faced with multiple failures.....that's tough and really challenging.....look at my unrelenting job searching. I've been trying.....and failing to find a job for five years now. But I still revise my CV and still seek out and retrain to stay up to date in my profession and I still apply to nearly fifty jobs a week because at some point, whether it's today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or in a few years......I'll eventually succeed but only as long as I keep trying.....
- All highlighted underlined words are links to related content.
*If you enjoy reading these Material posts then stay tuned every Monday at 9am UK time for more!
One of the area's I love to work in as an artist is in model making - in miniatures. For some reason, a tiny version of a man made space fascinates me. Capturing textures to make my miniatures look close to life sized versions is an ongoing exploration. I do love brickwork and creating run down or impossibly imaginative spaces like this image above of the warehouse facade I created recently. The idea is that it is supposed to look like it has been built on multiple times so there are old bricks mixed with new and a great deal of wear and tear, indicating a long history and a very run down feel to it.
Last year, I retrained in model making techniques, mostly to enhance my own skills and to give myself a better chance at employment. Unfortunately, I've yet to find a job with these skills but I'm still trying and meanwhile still learning as I discover new techniques.
So here below, I'm including a technique I have perfected....making semi realistic bricks using foam board. It is my objective to try to find ways to make model making easy to do with limited materials primarily because model making materials are expensive. In this video demonstration below, I'm only using a bit of foam board with a scalpel blade, a mechanical pencil and a metal ruler. Though I've re-trained with Leigh Took of Mattes and Miniatures from Creative Media Skills at Pinewood Studios as well as David Neat here in London, I have always tried to make my materials basic and affordable. This technique below was first discovered from my time studying with David and then perfected after studying with Leigh. I think the use of the mechanical pencil as a sculpting tool is just as important as the scalpel. Using black foam board is deliberate too as it helps to have a black background before painting so that any cuts made afterwards helps define the shapes you're cutting out.
For painting afterwards, which I didn't include, you can just lightly dry brush faint reds, oranges and browns over the surface with a sponge to create realistic looking bricks.
Studying model making techniques with David Neat is great to learn about precision and how to accurately measure to create very tidy miniatures that are ultra realistic. He has a book out too which I bought and still refer to often. I did enjoy his classes but I'm too much of a free spirit and if he sees my video above, I'm sure he'll cringe at how badly I measure out the bricks but as a sculptor, I do like to "feel" my way around my work rather than seriously follow rules.
Studying with Leigh Took at Creative Media Skills was so opposite of David's classes. Leigh is more relaxed and makes experiments much more. He does of course follow measurements and so forth but not to the point where it stops him from making discoveries along the way. When I took the Miniature Model Making course at Creative Media Skills, it was the happiest week where I worked on a team with other model makers all creating one dystopian city together! One of Leigh's miniature brick making methods were to save time which is far different from David's methods. I like both methods I think. Once I have similar material to his method, I'll add another demonstration as I've used it a few times in variations with very interesting results each time.
I learned so much and experimented and discovered and really grew my skills which was wonderful! I wish it could result in finding a job in the industry!
Below is an image of the tiny miniature chairs with a little brick wall that I made in David's class:
And here's a picture I took of our final dystopian scene while in Leigh Took's Miniature Model Making class:
And below this a close up shot of the building I made:
I've always made sculptures and miniatures in particular have been a fascination since I was very young. Really sparks the imagination for some reason!
I find that I can get very excited about brickwork or architectural textures in general just while out and about and have far too many photos on my phone of close ups of textures because I'm always trying to understand how I can make something in miniature form. Brickwork being one of the most fascinating!
I'd highly recommend both David Neat and Leigh Took as model making teachers as they've taught me so much and if I had lots of money, I'd take their classes again just to freshen up and to have a lovely time! Also if you want to buy David's book then follow this link: Model-Making: Materials and Methods by David Neat
All red highlighted words are links to related content.
*If you enjoy these Materials/techniques posts then please return every Monday at 9am for more.
I have an addiction to drawing complicated repetitive patterns of tangled tree branches in pen and ink and hiding various words or images or my signature within these branches just for the fun of it so I had to write about this addiction!
I've made a speed video so you can see how very addictive my ink pattern drawings are! If my fingers were able to go on drawing for hours without sleep then this is the activity I'd probably choose!
I find that the best pens to use for my addiction are Graphik Line Maker pens, Faber-Castell PITT artist pens or Staedtler pigment liners.....all varying sizes. If you want some of those pens for yourself then just click on the highlighted brand names so you can purchase your own on Amazon. I tend to go through one of each size in about a month due to my addiction!
I find this type of drawing very meditative and very similar to how I sculpt in toothpicks so I think that has something to do with the addiction as I'm just as addicted to creating toothpick sculptures as I am to drawing!
I love the stark contrast of white paper against thin black lines as it feels to me as if the lines are like a visual vibration and very pleasing because I unconsciously try to find shapes or words in these branches which is probably what has lead me to hide words, shapes and my signature in my drawings. I love the idea that the viewer has to interact with my drawings rather than just passively look at the thing.....more fun to play a game, don't you think!
If you want to try to spot hidden words or my signature in the finished image, make sure to follow me on Instagram to see the finished drawing at the end of this week: @MirMarnia
*If you enjoy these material reviews/techniques then please stay tuned every Monday at 9am for more!
Today I'm reviewing and demonstrating the watercolour graphite that comes in a tin, called "Art Graf". Above on the left you will see a speed drawing video of myself using the material with a brush and then on the right the finished drawing.
One thing to note for anyone who hasn't tried this material yet - I found it easier to first put a few drops of water in the lid of the tin first and then dab the brush into the solid graphite before painting with it. Only reason being that if you put any water directly on the solid graphite cake in the tin then it just soaks away very fast.
It's a fun way to add graphite in a fluid way to a drawing/painting but if you want to erase areas of this watercolour graphite then you may be frustrated as it doesn't erase very well. I just painted over the problem areas using watercolour paint and it solved my issues right away.
It is lovely and fluid when you paint it on but it dries fast which is a little frustrating as you can never get the perfect consistency because it always dries up after a few strokes. I do enjoy how it can be layered onto a surface and then possibly scraped off with sandpaper (very fine sandpaper though).
I'm still not very sure how to use it so I think this is very much something I'll have to experiment with and then return to in a later post once I've worked out how it will work best for me.
It is far more fun than pencils but with less control! All in all, I think it's well worth it as a great drawing tool and painting tool for artists and I will plan to repost in the future after I've had some more time to play with it.
In the meantime, do have a look at my speed drawing video and let me know what your thoughts are especially if you have experience using this material as I'd be very curious to know other's opinions on the topic.
To buy your own Art Graf please click on this sentence to purchase it from Amazon.
*If you would like hear more materials reviews and watch more speed video's and demonstrations then do check back every Monday 9am UK time for regular material review posts.
My name is Franceska McCullough and I'm the owner and artist of Toothpickmoon. I'm interested in blogging about art materials, art events and conducting artist interviews.
*Disclosure: The links I'm using on this blog will only ever relate to the products I myself use in my own practice.