A Response to the Gott Bequest with Kevin Hickson and Beth Smith

13.08 (preliminary drawing)

Prior to their first workshop, Kevin and Beth visited Leeds Central Library to explore some of the wonders of the Gott Bequest. The books themselves are astonishing, intricately detailed drawings and paintings fill the delicate pages, printed alongside each image are wondrous remedies for each type of plant or flower which are devised to heal every ailment imaginable. To introduce the workshop, ‘A Brush with the Wild’ Kevin and Beth shared their experience of the books with the group, and presented the objectives of the sessions as the build up to Light Night continues. Amused chatter about the plant remedies filled the room, as everyone enjoyed hearing the range of treatments which seem so obscure today.

The group sought inspiration in flowers from the garden and images and prints from a range of books. The workshop focused on experimental drawings using a range of materials, such as inks, watercolors, pencils and charcoals. The group made great use of the opportunity to explore botanical drawing, which would be used in the upcoming workshops as source materials for their ceramic creations. The reception from the group was positive, and everyone gathered together at the end to admire each other’s efforts. This enabled the group to share their challenges and experiments with the materials, and to appreciate the possibilities of other tools which they may not have previously used.

Comments about the workshop were encouraging, and everyone seems excited for the upcoming sessions in which they will explore a range different media.

14.08 (ceramics)
The following day, the group gathered together for session two. The aim of this workshop was to revisit the botanical drawings and prints from yesterday’s session, and use them as inspiration to produce botanical 2D and 3D ceramics, which would all contribute to a larger mobile construction.

Beth introduced a method to create clay pods, which required a delicate touch and attentiveness to the materials, as the pods needed to be strong structurally, and required sufficient air holes to prevent difficulties with firing. The group responded well to these new techniques, and it was clear to see their enjoyment in working towards a common goal. Everyone experimented with the endless possibilities of mark making, some using actual plants to press into the clay, some engraving patterns into the surface and some using lead letters to create small imprints of text.

Many members of the group were highly familiar with ceramics and they shared their knowledge and experience of working with clay with others who may not have prior knowledge of the material. As some members of the group hadn’t previously met until their first workshop yesterday, it was clear to see the pleasure they received from meeting up again to work together on a common project and share their interest in the Gott Bequest and community projects such as Light Night.


The results from this workshop were fantastic, and it was clear that the group had thoroughly enjoyed themselves, as they all gathered to appreciate each others efforts. Apprehension and excitement filled the room as we discussed the process in which the clay would now go through; the clay must be left to dry thoroughly before being put in the kiln and fired. After this the group will have the chance to paint their creations and varnish them, before they are assembled as a mobile. With three workshops to look forward to next week, the group headed off in high spirits after a great couple of days working together.

20.08.2015 (Drypoint Etching)




The following morning the group got together again for the fourth workshop. Although we were all pretty tried after a busy day out, it was clear to see our little excursion had really improved the groups bond and everybody was really relaxed and shared their experience with some of the members of the workshop who hadn’t been able to attend the Sculpture Park trip. They also discussed their thoughts about the works they’d seen there and how it had provided examples of other artists who created sculptures inspired by natural forms.
For this workshop the group was introduced to Drypoint Etching which was completely new to the majority. To begin they collated their previous sketches and paintings in order to inspire ideas for the image they would choose to etch, and then sketched their design onto paper. When this was complete it was time to begin the etching process, which required a piece of Perspex and an etching tool. Learning about how much pressure to apply, and which shapes were easiest to translate into the Perspex were all part of the process. Trial and error revealed techniques which worked really well on their prints and some which didn’t translate so well through the printing process. A range of different mark making techniques was explored and this revealed some really wonderful outcomes.
Beth introduced the method of rolling the ink and applying it to the Perspex and showed everyone how to put it through the press, and in turn the group all had a go. Some people knew working with ink was not something they would enjoy getting involved with, and so the group worked together and helped each other out in areas so nobody had to do something they were uncomfortable doing.
The outcomes of this workshop were impressive, it was clear this new technique had inspired people as some even commented that it’s something they’d like to try again, in their own work and also to produce some gift cards!
21.08.2015 (painting ceramics and wet on wet painting)
Apprehension filled the room as Kevin emerged with a box full of their freshly fired works, apart from a few little cracks in some weaker areas of the clay, these had been really successful! For this final workshop, the group would be painting the ceramic works they had created in the workshop last week. It was clear to see the sense of pride that the group felt for these works, as they had seen them progress from their initial state prior to being fired. Having the opportunity to work on these again and develop their ideas was great, and after Kevin and Beth introduced some examples of possible painting techniques, the group worked hard on finishing their ceramics. The group used acrylics as the range of colour possibilities is much broader than glazing, although it can be more fragile and prone to cracking. To resolve this, the pieces were varnished when the paint dried. Some of the methods the group used to decorate their ceramics involved dripping watered down paint, which helped to highlight any delicate marks made in the surface of the clay. Some of the group chose to decorate their works in very bright colours, while others tried to achieve very naturalistic and realistic effects. To finish off the workshop the group experimented with some wet on wet paintings on large sheets of paper. This was a chance to further explore some colour possibilities and to work in a very liberal way without the pressure of creating something spectacular and the results showed a huge improvement in confidence!
It was clear to see these workshops had really brought the group together and through sharing these common experiences and mutual goals, they had bonded well and they discussed what a great experience this had been. The work created in these workshops will be contributing to Inkwell’s exhibition for Light Night.




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