Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Cystic Fibrosis: New Sketch-Project

Happy New Year folks! Hope you all had a good Christmas and a nice rest. Mine was lovely. I enjoyed relaxing, but also did some stitching: I started something new straight after the exhibition came down. I'll show you when it's done.

Anyway, remember back in November, I was making more concertina sketchbooks, preparing for a new residency, working with York University? Well, I have now done two sketching days and, so far, it is all going really well.

York's research project, called PARC (Pathways, Practices and Architectures: Containing Antimicrobial Resistance in the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic), interviews sufferers of CF to try and find out how they feel about their experiences of going to Out-Patients for their regular check-ups.

I am using my concertinas, so I can get flow between images and create longer pieces of artwork with everything on together, rather than lots of individual drawings, as I did with the 'day in the life of a site manager', or architect. As you can see from the complete example above, these concertinas are much shorter than those I used in Australia, or with the Unfolding Stories project at the Morgan Centre. This is necessary, because this is a much shorter residency, so I need to be able to make them as quickly and easily as possible.

Of course, it's never great having to visit hospitals, but it's particularly awkward if you have Cystic Fibrosis, because there is such a high risk of patients cross-infecting one another within the hospital, if steps aren't taken to help prevent it. On top of this, the processes designed to help stop cross-infection can easily make the patient experience less pleasant. 

How my part in the project works, is that doctors at different hospitals find volunteers for us, patients who are happy not only to be interviewed, but also sketched! We catch them after a check-up appointment and the researcher spends about an hour chatting to them, while I scribble away, doing my best to capture what I can.

One of the issues I have to contend with during the sketching, is the need for anonymity. It's important that I paint the interviewees as I see them, to capture their body-language, because it's that which makes them feel authentic, but I have to alter key elements of their appearance, such as hair-colour, age, glasses etc. (all the names you see on the sketchbooks are made up, by the way). This approach is a new experiment for me and I wasn't sure how easy it would be to pull off, but it seems to be working out okay. 

The other, slightly trickier issue, which I quickly realised when we got going on the project, is that, if we're not careful, the sketchbooks will become visually dull and very samey - basically, there's only so much you can do with a person and what they say. The environment the interviews are done in is generally a very sterile room and not relevant anyway. 

So I have been going into the hospital registration and waiting areas after the interviews, trying to capture the environments which come up in the interviews. This makes things more visually varied, but also helps to give context to the quotes I'm recording. 

The only trouble is, since the actual interviews are over by that stage, I have had to rely on the researcher's notes / recordings, to add additional text to those sections of the sketchbooks, after the event, otherwise the sketchbooks wouldn't flow properly. This was a technique I used a lot in Australia, because in some environments it was hard to hear what was being said, or too difficult to listen and draw at the same time.

We will be visiting three different hospitals during the project and I'll be going back two or three times to each, but the visits will be stretched out over several months. The two days we have done so far have been in a particularly good hospital, one which is working hard to protect their CF patients. Sufferers we interviewed gave very good feedback about their experiences, although there are still lots of issues coming out around the waiting areas and how CF patients are viewed by non-CF sufferers. 

As always, the sketching element has been fun, but the finding-out-new-stuff part of the work adds to it immeasurably. It feels good to be giving ordinary people a voice too. I so enjoy the sociability of the work as well, compared to what my working day used to involve when I was a book illustrator - basically me on my own in the studio for 3 months!

If you fancy having a go at working on a quick mini-concertina, they are extremely easy to make. My illustrated 'how to' post show you step-by-step what to do. I can't recommend the format enough - it is so liberating not to have to work within the confines of the usual page edges.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

UNBOUND: Exhibition of my Textiles

I am so pleased that I was approached to be a part of the Unbound exhibition. I really enjoyed getting it all together with the 3 other women who were showing, and it is interesting to see your work alongside the work of other artists. The four of us were chosen well - the artwork was very different, but the artists' approaches really complimented one another.

I have not shown my textiles work since the Orchard Square residency exhibition. I have created so much new work since then, which seems crazy, given it was only 9 months ago and I spent 4 of those months away in Australia, so not stitching at all. 

It was really useful to have a reason to get it all mounted up and on the wall, because it's quite hard to get of sense of what you are doing, when your recent body of work is not visible but, being an attic, my workspace doesn't lend itself to putting work up.

I also showed 5 large chalk drawings that I created a short while before I started creating the textiles. They are based on my experience of being out in the landscape:

I haven't looked at them for over 2 years, but was going through the plans chest in the run-up to the show and suddenly noticed that there was a strong connection to the textile mark-making and flow, so I thought it would be good to show them alongside the more recent work.

We had around 100 people at the private view, which was fantastic. I was kept busy, chatting away all evening. I'm told I got rather squiffy, but that can't be true, can it? It was such a great space for it - so big! I loved the post-industrial look to it (it was once part of a scissor-factory, I'm told).

We had a lot of fun, then it was oh-so-suddenly time to take it all down again. The space looked so bare when we were done - just like when you take down the Christmas decorations in the New Year.

If you missed the show, you can see all my new work on my Facebook page Lynne Chapman: Fine-Art Textiles. This is in lieu of a website for the moment. I'll get that sorted sometime next year. It feel like I only just finished setting up the Lynne Chapman Urban Sketcher site and it's such a lot of work. Which of course stops you doing the real work. At the moment, I think the most important thing is to keep going with the textiles as much as I can, seeing where it takes me.

Monday, 3 December 2018

A Day-in-the-Life of a Construction-Site Manager

Remember back in the summer, I did a project with York University, looking at what architects do all day? Well, the researchers were so pleased with the results, they asked me to do another, similar project - they wanted to carry on to the next stage of the building process and look at what happens when the plans get to the building site.

We did it the wrong way round really: I was slightly dreading having to sketch outside in November weather. I took lots and lots of layers with me. As it turned out, we were very lucky. It did rain on us right at the start, but it was a very mild day for the time of year and not windy at all. Phew.

The site was a massive development in the centre of Rochdale. We had to start at the crack of dawn, because we needed to be on site for their start of day, which meant staying in a hotel in Rochdale the evening before and getting up and out so early that we missed the cooked breakfast! Damn. This research-sketching work is always so interesting though, I didn't really mind. 

Come 7am, I had already checked out of the hotel with the researcher, Chrissy, and we were trailing our wheelie-suitcases through the still dark streets of Rochdale in the rain, following Google Maps. The site soon loomed up - it was so big it engulfed most of the town centre. Luckily we were given a brew as soon as we got on-site, then we were kitted out in the obligatory big boots, reflective jackets and hardhats. Amazingly, they found some in my size. 

Basically, Chrissy and I shadowed Josh, the Site Manager, throughout his day, with Chrissy scribbling everything he said and did in her notebook, and me painting and drawing what I could capture. It was even more fast and furious than I'm used to. The indoor meetings were okay but, once we got outdoors, Josh was moving back and forth between different contractors on different parts of the site and hardly stood still for a moment, so the sketches got a bit rough and ready.

I loved trailing around behind Josh all day, finding out about the different elements of his work. It seemed pretty stressful stuff, with so much responsibility. He was basically keeping an overview and trouble-shooting, to make sure the right things were happening in the right way, and that all the different contractors could do what they needed, without being in each other's way.

And it was brilliant getting access to the site. Much of it was still big holes in mud, but there was one building starting to go up - just iron girders with basic stairs and floors in place. The dark section you can see in the photo below is the beginnings of banked seating for a cinema screen: 

We went up a few floors to talk to welders and scaffolders. Sparks occasionally fell like fireworks from the other side of the floor above and large areas were shrouded in a green netting, which Josh told us was because they were spraying the girders with fire-resistant paint and they didn't want the paint drifting out over the people and cars below. 

The construction team were really easy-going about being drawn. The men outside, in particular, were far too busy to be bothered, although one man kept asking me if I would do a drawing for his girlfriend!

We went in and out, moving backwards and forwards between meetings with managers of one sort or other in the nice warm site office and the much briefer catch-ups with different men on site, sorting out issues. 

It was handy for my purposes that Josh was reasonably distinctive-looking with a beard and slightly prominent ears, so he was easy to pick out in the sketches. Useful too, that he was fairly young and attractive, so I didn't have to worry about not making him look fat, balding or ugly! It can be a slight issue if you are drawing the same person over and over. 

Some of the text quotes were recorded as I went along, particularly the indoor meetings but, on the whole when we were outdoors, it was so challenging that I was struggling to capture just the visual elements, so there was no way I could get text too. That's why there's been a gap of a month between me doing the sketches and finishing the work - I had to wait until Chrissy had extracted some suitable quotes from her mountains of notes, before I could add them in (an unenviable task). This was the system we often used in Australia and we had the same problems with it drawing things out somewhat, but sometimes it is the only way.

Because it had been such an early start, and because I still had a long journey to get back home to Sheffield, we cheated slightly and didn't stay until the end of the day. By half way through the afternoon, we had more than enough material.

Back in York, Chrissy and her team selected eleven of the A4 sketches from eighteen I had created. When they had given me the bits of added text they wanted to include, I scanned everything and laid things out in the same rainbow pencil boxes I'd used for the architect project.

This day was all part of a much larger body of research, Buildings in the Making, about how you create buildings which are truly fit for purpose, how healthy they are for us and how buildings we work and live in make us feel. The researchers are mostly interested in the issues around architecture for hospitals and care homes. This work is linked to the residency I'm currently doing on Cystic Fybrosis clinics in hospitals - it's the same research team.

The university will use my sketchwork as a way to interest different parties who are not going to engage with turgid academic papers. Sketches are a very effective way of getting people's attention and are a great conversation starter, with the ability to communicate ideas swiftly in a way that anyone can grasp. 

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Mounting Work for my Exhibition

I'm spending this week getting ready for my exhibition. It's less than 2 weeks away! I have been working hard and so have a plan's chest drawer full of textile pieces which need mounting up:

Because the raw, uneven edges of the fabric, and the slight unsquareness, are an important part of the work, I surface-mount each piece onto a stretcher, which I create myself, with John's help. The first time I showed my textiles work, as part of my Orchard Square residency, I bought a big roll of lovely raw cotton from Whaley's, to make the canvas stretchers. Luckily, it seems I have just enough left to do what I need.

That first time, John made all the stretchers for me from scratch, which took ages, but we have now discovered a company where we can buy individual, ready-cut, wooden pieces at different lengths, so it's a much quicker business to put them together. Here's the first one, hot off the press, so to speak:

We have to hand-stretch each one, which is a bit of a tedious business. Pulling the cotton tight to keep up the tension, ready for stapling, makes your fingers hurt, but we'll get it done. 

After that, I use Bondaweb to attach the work to the stretcher fronts (plus a little stitching here and there for the larger work, just to be on the safe side). They look so lovely once they're done. Here's the latest piece I finished early last week, now all mounted up and looking posh and ready for the exhibition:

The show, called Unbound, opens at the Gage Gallery, at KIAC in Kelham Island (Sheffield S3 8DB) on Dec 7th. I am sharing the space with 3 other women artists. Here's a short bit about each of us:

Lynne Chapman

Lynne hand-stitches into fine layers of textile, building up areas of intense colour and texture. Her most recent work is inspired by petroglyphs: the frayed, ambiguous glimpses of ancient stories, the idea that we leave behind an echo, consciously or unconsciously.

Helen Purdie
Helen’s precise and colourful studio paintings and her gestural plein air works are influenced directly by the world around her. As a recently, late-confirmed autistic woman, Helen will also be exhibiting a new autobiographical piece exploring the challenges and beauty of her day-to-day human interactions.

Katie Jamieson
Katie chooses to use materials that have the qualities of softness and absorbency. She is constantly responding to the organic nature of the work. It reflects the balance between creation and destruction; building layers up and knocking them back down again until the whole piece emerges.

Lisa Wallbank
Lisa's whimsical approach to assemblage presents curiosities, fragments and debris from the toybox, in amusing and puzzling combinations. Each artwork invites the viewer to construct a story, but obvious narratives are confounded by details that just won't fit. Or will they?

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Exhibition of my Australia Sketchbooks

Although I finished my Australian residency back in May this year, we didn't have a proper exhibition of the work at the time, just in informal event with wine and nibbles, in the research centre itself:

Six months later, the sketchbooks have at last all been exhibited in Perth in what looks to be a far posher venue! This delay was because something rather dramatic happened during my residency... 

When I was commissioned to do the work, the Centre for Transformative Work Design was part of the University of Western Australia but, by the time I arrived in Perth to begin my work, Professor Parker had already decided that she wanted to move her research centre from UWA to Curtin University, the rival Perth university. The whole time I was working there, secret negotiations were going on behind the scenes. It was all a bit cloak and dagger!

The deal came to fruition around the time I came back to England. UWA were not best pleased to lose the centre and so we put things on ice until the researchers had settled in at Curtin. 

I got an email last week, showing me some fabulous photos from what seemed to be a very successful event. Prof Parker did a talk about the residency, using my very first batch of sketches, from the tip attendant in Peaceful Bay's rubbish dump, as an illustration of how useful the visual record is to her research.

They had all the project's research-sketching competition entries on-screen too, as well as photos from 'behind the scenes' - me in action in various places, I assume, like these photos of me sketching at a massive opencast mine site, in Wyalla:

For the exhibition, they had some of my work printed onto canvas and they displayed those pieces on easels, which was an interesting way to create visual contrast in the space:

It's such a shame that I couldn't be there in person, but so lovely to see the photos and hear about how the event. You can see more photos here.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Making More Concertina Sketchbooks

This morning, I am making lots of mini-concertinas of watercolour paper, because my next residency, with York University, starts first thing Monday morning! This time I am part of a project which is researching the strategies hospitals use to try and combat cross-infection between sufferers of Cystic Fibrosis. 

We have had a couple of meetings, so I know a little more about it than I did, but I will learn plenty more as we go along. Basically, there are a few specific infections which the rest of us shake off, which people with CF can never get rid of, and which will ultimately kill them. If one CF sufferer already has something nasty, hospitals have to make sure that it's not passed on to other sufferers when they come into the hospital for their appointments.

The project is going to talk to individual patients at hospitals in Leeds, Liverpool and York, while I sketch, to discover how they feel the 'segregation' strategies work for them and what the environment feels like from their perspective.

Anyway, if you are also a sketcher, I thought you might like to have a go at making some easy mini-concertinas at home. This time I am making them from standard sheets (76cm x 55cm) rather than from a roll, which is much more straight forward. 

You start by scoring, ready for the folds. Working down the longer side of the paper, measure and lightly mark at 30.5cm and again at 61cm. Do this top and bottom, then score down right across the sheet at the two sets of marks. I have a special scoring tool, which is very handy, but a dead biro will work just as well.

Next measure along the shorter sides: mark at 22cm and again at 44cm. Now you cut along the length of the sheet at those marks, so you have 3 strips: 

Two of them will fold up to something that is close to an A5 sketchbook. The thinner strip is 'waste' as far as my residency project goes, but makes and excellent little landscape concertina book.

Now the folding. You have only scored every other fold, because they go in different directions (which would have meant scoring on different sides of the paper). So, taking your first strip, fold at the two score lines:

You create the additional folds without scoring. Gently bend the paper, to line up the two existing folds. 

When the edges are lined up, use your palm to press the fold in place, then run your finger down to firm it up. Do this again for the final fold and you have your finished concertina, with 5 facets on each side:

I have already made a cover which fits this size concertina - it was the one I made for my Australian residency, with the Centre for Transformative Work Design in Perth. I created detailed instruction for how to make the covers, when I did my initial residency with the Morgan Centre. Take a look here at how to do it. It's not difficult and, once you have it, you can use it over and over again, as long as you cut the concertinas to the same size.

Right, I'm more or less set for my residency now. Later this afternoon, I take a train to Liverpool, where I am staying overnight in a hotel, ready for an early start at the Heart and Chest Hospital in the morning. I will be sketching two different patients in the morning, then spending the afternoon sketching around areas of the hospital which have come up in the interviews. Wish me luck!