There was a crooked man

September 21, 2016

One of the elective subjects I chose in my arts course this year was Illustration & Imagery. Fairly early on, we were given a brief to complete a series of illustrations to accompany a nursery rhyme. I chose "There was a crooked man". If you don't know it, I've included the text below:

    There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
    He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
    He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
    And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

There was a crooked man (set of four)

This was a fairly quick project that we finished during the Easter holidays. The four pieces were cut from an A4 sheet of watercolour paper, making each piece A6 size. I chose the small format and simple designs, as I was missing working at that scale - we'd been doing a lot of very large pieces, and the index card challenge was still some time away.

Two of the pieces are inspired by the crooked house, one is the crooked cat, and the other represents the crooked mile. I quite like how they turned out, especially the white house on the black background. The individual pictures are included below (clicking on them will link through to Flickr, where details of the media used are provided).

There was a crooked man 1

There was a crooked man 2

There was a crooked man 3

There was a crooked man 4


#ICAD2016 week 6 round up

September 18, 2016

Okay, here's another week of index cards to round up. This post is quite late, as I finished these cards about a month ago and have since completed the daily challenge for this year. At the point that I completed this set I had equalled my total number of cards from last year, and then continued on to finish after eight weeks (56 cards). So it's good to know I've been able to push this challenge a bit further each year :)

Index-Card-A-Day (#ICAD) 2016 Week 6 round up

As I look at this set and the ones before it, I can really see how my use of colour has grown stronger and more confident over the last few years. I've also gravitated strongly towards pattern-based designs. I find them really relaxing and satisfying, so just in case I was getting too comfortable I made sure to push myself to try a few different things each week as well.

My index cards for the Index-Card-A-Day challenge (#ICAD2016) were posted on Flickr, Instagram and Tumblr as I created them. Now that the challenge is finished, the Flickr set is probably the best place to view them individually.


#ICAD2016 week 5 round up

August 15, 2016

I'm running behind both on creating daily index card art and blogging about it. I finished this set a few weeks ago, and have completed more since. I'm not sure yet if I will complete the full 61 cards (I've never managed it yet) or choose my own finishing point.

I remember that this lot took quite a while to create, as I agonised over a few of them for several days! The trio of flowers in the top right of the photo took me ages to finish - I really liked the design I'd come up with, so I took my time over choosing colours and getting it just right (not that I necessarily succeeded!). In fact most of these cards were a multi-step process, with time required between each layer of work.

Index-Card-A-Day (#ICAD) 2016 Week 5 round up

A few new things here too. On the right hand side some crinkled tissue paper lent texture to a card. On the bottom left I used the inside of a security envelope as the background pattern. There are acrylic and watercolour paints used here, as well as fineliners, markers and watercolour pencils. The bottom right card explored a pattern I'd been trying out in one of my assignments - it also covers up an unsuccessful experiment with rubbing alcohol :)

All of my index cards for the Index-Card-A-Day challenge (#ICAD2016) are posted on Flickr, Instagram and Tumblr as I create them.


Japanese collage postcards

August 8, 2016

This project was one of the last assignments in first semester, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Our task was to create a set of postcards using mixed media collage. They could be created manually or digitally (or both), and we needed to incorporate the following principles of design:
  • Colour (colour theory / schemes)
  • Contrast (dominance / subordinance and emphasis)
  • Movement and direction
  • Pattern (repetition and rhythm)

Japanese postcard collage - set of three

You can click on the image above to see a larger version of my set of three collages in Flickr. Following is a description of how my design came together, as well as individual pictures of the three pieces.

I'd never really done collage before, and found it difficult to decide on a theme beforehand. But as I thought about potential supplies that were available to me (textiles, tapes, magazines, patterned paper, wood, stamps, maps, paint, string, books, buttons, photographs, etc.), I started to form ideas for where I might begin. I enjoy origami, but I accumulate origami paper at a much faster rate than I can use it (thanks Daiso). So I decided to use my origami paper collection as a starting point for my collages - they would certainly provide the pattern element at the very least!

While sorting through my papers, I found a set that featured famous Japanese woodcut designs, including several from Hokusai's Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji series. Beginning with the Fine Wind, Clear Morning design (sometimes called Red Fuji), I started to play around with how I might incorporate images of Mount Fuji into my collages. I held a piece of red patterned paper next to it to see how I might combine them, and found that the origami paper was slightly transparent and allowed patterned paper underneath to show through. I loved the effect, and this became the key to developing a design that included both dominant and subordinate patterns through the use of cut and layered paper.

I really enjoyed the fiddly cutting that was required to realise my idea, especially for the Shore of Tago Bay design. Total satisfaction for the side of me that loves details! The next element that I incorporated was pages from a Japanese book I found at a Little Free Library - you never know what treasures you will come across in a Little Free Library just when you need them! These provided a great accent, and an additional source of pattern.

Finally, I wanted to add the kanji characters for Mount Fuji (Fujisan) to the pieces. I did some research on the characters and how to draw them correctly. I used a Japanese brush ink set with an inkstick and inkstone to create them. I ground up fresh black ink (very exciting to finally try this out!), and wrote out the characters many times. Rather than draw directly on to the collage, I selected the best of my practice efforts and scanned them onto the computer. I then added them to the collages digitally using Adobe Illustrator for the final printed layout.

Fine Wind, Clear Morning

Japanese postcard collage (1 of 3)

Shore of Tago Bay, Ejiri at Tōkaidō

Japanese postcard collage (2 of 3)

The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Japanese postcard collage (3 of 3)

So there you go - my little tribute to Hokusai and Japan in collage.

Special thanks to my friend Kate for gifting me the patterned origami paper that I used in these collages. It was just perfect for the traditional Japanese origami designs that I wanted to showcase :)


#ICAD2016 week 4 round up

July 14, 2016

I had a bit more time at home to work on this set of index cards (school holidays!), so it was a good opportunity to get messy and play with paint. In fact, I've just looked back at all of my weekly collections for the last three years, and this is the only set that features paint on every card for a whole week.

Index-Card-A-Day (#ICAD) 2016 Week 4 round up

Something else occurred to me as I was looking at these cards, though, and that is that only one of this week's card uses paint alone - the rest all incorporate at least one other medium. And, again, as I flick through previous weeks' cards it dawns on me that I have slowly but surely grown into a mixed media artist.

I'd always thought of mixed media as involving collage, found objects and thick textural elements, but of course even combining paint with markers or pencils is a form of mixed media. And in looking through my previous index cards (and my art school pieces too) I can see these combinations occurring more and more frequently. This semester we'll be undertaking a major project in addition to our regular assignments, and I'll be using that opportunity to explore my interest in mixed media further.

My index cards for the Index-Card-A-Day challenge (#ICAD2016) continue to be posted on Flickr, Instagram and Tumblr individually as I create them.



July 10, 2016

For one of our assignments in first semester we were tasked with creating a triptych (a set of three works that are designed to be displayed together), with a focus on the principles of composition, including balance, proximity, use of positive and negative space, etc. The subject matter was completely open, but we were restricted to using black, white, and one colour only.

It can be so hard sometimes to come up with a creative idea and get started. For this project my mind was stuck on wanting to build a pattern across the three panels, but I couldn't figure out how to make the idea make sense as a set of three. I also wanted to tell a story. It was during a discussion with my teacher, in which I struggled to describe my thinking, and then we both started drawing in order to communicate ideas to each other, that it finally came together. I've always thought of art as being a solitary exercise, but I can't tell you how many times a conversation with another person has helped to unstick an idea and push it along to its next stage.


My final piece, pictured above, is a story of urban growth. The line drawings of buildings not only grow in size to form a city, but also become more detailed and complex to evoke a sense of crowdedness. Finally the wash of blue watercolour paint over the top adds extra weight and mood to the increasing density of the picture. A viewer might see this as a feeling of growing gloom, or maybe industrial pollution. Some might see it as simply the increasing complexity and busy-ness of modern life. Hopefully its meaning is open enough to support a range of responses, but still move the viewer through a story.

You can click on the image above to see a larger version of it in Flickr. The individual works are also pictured below.

Triptych Part 1

Triptych Part 2

Triptych Part 3


UTS Library Artist-in-Residence Program (30 June)

June 30, 2016

Last night I attended the VALA AGM and 2016 Williamson Lecture at the University of Melbourne's Baillieu Library.

Mal Booth is the University Librarian at UTS (University of Technology Sydney), and the 2016 Williamson Award recipient. He spoke about the UTS Library Artist-in-Residence Program that he began in 2012. I loved hearing about this program - such a great initiative that has reaped wonderful rewards in terms of cultural engagement with the library and its collections.

Mal has a great sense of how artists see the world differently, and how their creative way of thinking can be utilised to build connections between the library, its users, and its stakeholders in a way that wouldn't otherwise be possible. Artists can represent the library's value in an interesting, human, and culturally rich way - providing so much more than numbers and statistics can.

Artists approach the library and its data, systems and processes differently to librarians. They use their imagination and creativity to think about it differently, visualise it differently, express it differently (I know I'm over-using the word 'differently', but that's the emphasis I'm trying to make!). Artists can mix up information and play with it to produce brand new ways of relating to it. With a little help from aesthetic intervention (my new favourite term) they can make information beautiful.

As well as creating amazing artworks, installations and data visualisation techniques, the artists in residence are helping UTS to build its own new special collections. Their ongoing relationships with the library bring continuing benefits even after the residency has finished.

Information about the UTS Library Artist-in-Residence Program and the work created by the artists since 2012 is available on the UTS Library website, including links to each of the artists' projects.

And if you'd like to get a taste of what else Mal is thinking about re: the future of academic libraries, check out this Slideshare presentation from November last year.

Finally, it was lovely to catch up, however briefly, with some awesome friends at the talk, and to marvel at the small-world connectedness of the people I'm lucky enough to know :)

South Lawn in the evening, looking towards the Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne


#ICAD2016 week 3 round up (30 June)

June 30, 2016

I'm running behind on the index card challenge (and #blogjune too), as I really needed a few days off after the semester finished. I'm not really worried about trying to catch up or keep up, though, as long as I just keep going.

To that end, I've started carrying some basic art supplies around with me, and several of the cards in this week's batch have been started or finished when I've find tiny pockets of spare time. Some of the cards were started while I was waiting for a lift, and then finished later at home. Another one was started during a class when we experimented with paint and texture (I think the teacher was a bit surprised when I declined the offer of a stretched canvas and got out a pack of index cards instead!).

Index-Card-A-Day (#ICAD) 2016 Week 3 round up

These cards were a lot of fun to create. I especially like the centre card with the colourful circles and black lines. My other favourite from this batch is the orange card covered in eyes - I've been playing around with a variety of simple eye shapes and designs, and this was a fun way to lay them out. Some new media too, with paper collage and neon pencils.

All of my index cards for the Index-Card-A-Day challenge (#ICAD2016) are posted on Flickr, Instagram and Tumblr individually as I create them.


A History of the Future: Imagining Melbourne (28 June)

June 28, 2016

There's a lovely little free exhibition on at the City Gallery in Melbourne Town Hall at the moment, called "A History of the Future: Imagining Melbourne". It runs until 12 August 2016 and features stories and images of ideas for development in and around the Melbourne CBD over the years.

There are proposals for elevated pedestrian walkways, canals, bizarre building designs, underground trams, pyramids and autogiro buses. There is also information about some design proposals that actually did go ahead, such as the underground train line and housing commission blocks.

A History of the Future: Imagining Melbourne

The artwork running around the upper wall is by Lewis Brownlie. It's an imagined cityscape of Melbourne that incorporates the proposed developments featured in the exhibition. There's a short YouTube video that shows the artwork in progress.

The City of Melbourne website lists the exhibition location and opening times, and also provides a contextual description of some of the exhibition content. If you can't get to the exhibition while it's running, The Age has a slideshow of some of the most interesting proposals. Lewis Brownlie's artwork is included too.


More about charcoal (27 June)

June 27, 2016

My blog post from yesterday was all about the first time I 'got' charcoal. I mentioned in it that the following week I really got stuck into making the most of the medium. This post is a quick one with some pictures from that class.

The podium in the drawing room was covered in a random assortment of objects, and depending on our position in the room and proximity to the podium, we were to draw a section of whatever we could see. I took a quick photo of the view from my easel. It included a toy scooter, a knitted reindeer, an electric fan and a couple of gourds.

Charcoal study photo, Studio Drawing

I won't go into techniques here, as I talked about that in the other post. But basically I kept working back into my drawing with the charcoal and kneadable eraser to create shades, contrasts and textures within the piece. I was so focused on it that I think I missed most of the lunch break. The photo of my finished work is below.

Charcoal study, Studio Drawing

We had a bit longer in class that week than usual, so this is the result of about four hours' work.

I've also included a few close up photos from the drawing, as it was a fairly large piece on A1 paper and the detail gets a bit lost. I'm still very much a beginner, but I really enjoyed working on this. I consider it (and the previous week's work) to be a personal breakthrough, as I had to get through a lot of resistance to finally enjoy using charcoal as a medium.

Charcoal study detail, Studio Drawing

Charcoal study detail, Studio Drawing

Charcoal study detail, Studio Drawing

Sally Cummings

Art student. Librarian. Crafter. Foodie. Geek.
And much, much more :)
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