Saturday, September 04, 2010

How are bird poo & calligraphy connected?

It seems a little explanation is in order! I enjoyed participating in the “August Break” so much, and I realized a few things.

It helped me to identify what sort of subject matter interests me most in my photography (reflections, abstraction, light and shadow and strangely perhaps, architecture). I’ve honed my skills with Photoshop so I can get closer to achieving the “look” and mood that I’m seeking.

The trouble is that photography is just a little too “hands off” for me. I enjoy the actual going out and scouting for potential photographs, and the digital processing is okay (not a negative anyway) but even when I print off the result, I don’t really get the same “buzz” as I do from the handcrafted work I’ve done. Disappointing, but knowledge is power.

It made me think about the value of concentrating on a particular medium for a while, practising regularly, daily if possible to see how I go with it and whether it might become a regular part of my skill-set.

There are a number of areas that I’m very drawn to, and have only dabbled with. I’ve bought some gear, maybe a book or two or gone to a work shop, but not really gone much further. My studio is full to over-flowing, and I think it might be time to get methodical.

So…in the interest of keep me on track, here’s a basic list:

abstraction (huh! not a medium, I know, but more of a lens through which to explore:

  • drawing
  • printmaking
  • encaustic

I don’t see any of this taking me away from books, which is good, because it’s important to keep something constant!

So this month, it’s going to be drawing though not so much in a representational way, more in an abstract, tactile, material and maybe colour sort of way. I would see this as a way into both printmaking and encaustic.

A few months ago I stumbled across this wonderful book by Denise Lach, Calligraphy: A book of contemporary inspiration.

Denise Lach: Calligraphy

Suddenly I had found a book which articulated exactly the approach I’d been thinking about for the past couple of years. The book uses natural textures and forms as inspiration for what I would call “a calligraphic response”. The results are fascinating, beautiful and sublime, and even better, in the book Denise says you don’t need to study calligraphy before you try this way of working!

I’ve started exploring inks, because I love transparency and a kind-of calligraphic effect, without actually moving into text. I’m interested in the meditative qualities of repetition and the ritualistic nature of some of these practices, although I don’t particularly want to follow the traditional paths.

So here I am, and the first two days I’ve been playing with probably the easiest tool, the pipette. You saw an example in my last post, and here’s another:


At the moment I’ve only one pipette, so I’m limited in the type of line I can achieve, but I like the organic, hand-drawn quality.

I went out walking and found inspiration in the most mundane marks. In fact, I went back for my camera, so I could show you.

inspiration on the path Yes! it’s bird poo!

Below is my first attempt:

pipette-ruling2556 Not as easy as it looks – this seems too “drawn”.

Hmm, this is better, but I think ink might be too thin. Paint might work better. Not really sure how much you can expect when you take your inspiration from poo!


So I’ll be continuing my “mark making” explorations and posting a few other posts, still catching up on exhibitions I saw while away. This month I plan to draw every day, Mon-Fri, but I may post in small batches to conserve a little energy. And hopefully you’ll witness some improvement!!!


  1. Ahh, pipette! I like that effect. And bird poo is quite decorative as your photo shows. I have one plant in my garden that constantly has white splotches dropped from a great height - I suspect a kookaburra. Other mark making I like in the garden is the elegant scribble on the gum bark. And snail trails. Maybe I should be taking photos too.

  2. Oh yes, scribbly gums are very beautiful. Thanks for your encouragement Carol!

  3. Aha, so that's what you've been up to ;O) Are you using inks ? I love coloured inks. In fact at college I loved to draw with ink and a scratchy pne or a 'pen' made out of stick.....surfaces are important too I find. I also combined that sot of drawing/mark-making with printmaking --- especially woodblocks and linocuts.

    I wish I could get as organised as you. You're so methodical while I just wibble :O)

  4. I've not seen or heard of this book before amanda (nor its author, 'renowned calligrapher 'Denise Lach...) - I'll have to keep my eyes out for it (a quick googling showed me that it was only published last year.... but my looking didn't yield much more info... I would have loved a quick looksee inside)

    it will be very interesting to see what you glean from this journey - I have a number of formally trained calligrapher/artist friends who, because of their formal training, find the mark-making/abstractionist route quite challenging....but you don't carrying any of that baggage so I'm sure you'll have a whole lot more fun!

  5. Ronnie has made a valid point...about carrying "restrictive baggage."

    And I love the less structured approach!

  6. Thanks for your comments everyone.

    Yes, cusp, I am using inks. And I agree the are beautiful.I can see that the surface will have a significant effect - hope to try some more textured paper soon.

    Ask and you shall receive ronnie! Some peeks inside coming. Yes I googled the author too - not sure how reknowned she can be with such a low profile on the net, but I guess it's possible!

    I'm hoping the lack of training will be helpful, as you say ronnie and dinah - not sure yet!!! We shall see.

  7. Ooh that poo IS inspirational - i fancy a go at something abstract now and will keep an eye out for interesting marks in nature, thanks!

  8. Amanda I have noticed the bird poo "art works" as well on my walking trips only I have never explored it any further. So maybe now it will be eyes down and camera too...Scibbly gums are a favourite as well, isn't nature wonderful.

  9. Hi Ashy, Hi Alison! Thank-you for dropping by. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who notices these crazy things!