When I sat down and thought about what was at the root of my problems, I realised that I had now completely lost interest in the poem that I was trying to interpret. Because I could no longer get inspired by the poem, the very labour intensive way in which I had decided to interpret it had become an immense burden instead of a source of interest and satisfaction.
At first I even considered giving up the whole course. However, I realised that I would really miss the friendship, companionship and swapping of ideas that I receive from my fellow student and from Sian herself. I also thought I had invested too much in it to give up now. So perhaps I could just give up this chapter and start it over again. I got out the course notes and re-read them. Some words there seemed to jump out at me:
"Keep the construction of your structure simple and not complex to make, utilising the methods and materials used in this Module and any others you would like to add as appropriate."
In my initial enthusiasm for the poem I wanted to interpret, I had lost sight of that. Sian approved of my plan and I immediately felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. At this time, I had attended an local art class, a four-week course on Monday mornings on "Creative Sketchbooks". As I worked away over these four weeks, all the pressure was off me and I was just having fun. As the weeks went on I found myself more and more taking the Scottish Herring Fishing as my theme. My husband had been a herring curer until the herring industry collapsed in the late 1970s. I had found out quite a bit about the life and culture of the people involved and found it very interesting. As part of my teaching career, I had also written a little illustrated booklet about the herring industry, pulling together some information for my pupils to read. I decided I would like to make a simple book cover for my little booklet.
As my research, I dug out all the old family photos. Some showed the progression from sailing boats to steam powered and later diesel powered boats. Some showed the women who gutted and packed the herring, travelling all round the coast of Britain to wherever the herring was being caught. Some showed the baskets and barrels used for storage and others showed the various ports from Lerwick in Shetland to Great Yarmouth where herring was landed and processed.
|4.11.H1 a selection of photos of the herring industry|
I continued to work in my sketchbooks drawing anything that particularly interested me, without thinking too much, just letting my instincts home in on what I liked. (In doing this I was delighted to re-discover my love of drawing.)
|4.11.H2 some pages from my sketchbook|
|4.11.H3 some drawings of herring - the middle one is collage, the bottom one was done with a non-waterproof pen and then sprayed with water.|
|4.11.H4 some drawings of boats|
I thought my drawings were a bit tight and precise in some cases, and so, following some advice given by the mentor on "The Great Painting Challenge" on television, I attached a pen to a long stick, blue-tacked a large sheet of paper onto the wall and drew at arm's length to free up my drawing. I did two drawings in this way and rather liked the wonkiness of them.
|4.11.H5 arm's length drawing of fishing boat and crew|
|4.11.H5 arm's length drawing of fish|
The wonkiness of the drawings reminded me of machine embroidery when I have tried to draw with the machine and so I couldn't resist trying one of the drawings as a machine embroidered piece. See H4a below.)
|4.11.H4a machine embroidered drawing of fishing boat and crew|
One thing that interested me was the markings, fins and scales on the fish. Another thing I found interesting was the patterns made by the piles of barrels in which the fish were packed.
|4.11.H6 barrels at William Slater& Sons curing yard in Great Yarmouth|
I wanted to combine many images of parts of the herring industry in my final design for the book cover. One idea I had came from the photo of the barrels. I cropped the photo and then cut out some of the tops of the barrels to show a drawing behind. (See H7 below.)
|4.11.H7 little vignettes of the herring industry, displayed in barrels|
Another and similar idea I had was to draw little vignettes on circles and then to arrange the circles in the pattern of scales on the fish. (See H8 below.)
|4.11.H8 circular drawings arranged like fish scales|
I can visualise either of these two techniques interpreted in a mixture of pen drawings on hand-made paper, machine embroidered drawings or hand embroidery. I think a border done in drawn thread work to interpret some of the markings on the fish might look quite good.
My next tasks are:
- make some more hand-made paper
- do some more abstract drawings from the markings on the fish and patterns on the boat and other drawings
- make some small drawn thread samples to interpret these drawings
- think about colour. I quite like the black drawings, either on a plain white background or on one coloured as in H2.
I am more and more sure that I made the right decision by changing my theme. I am enjoying every minute of this work and look forward to days when I have time to devote to it as opposed to doing anything to avoid working on it as was the case before. One disadvantage is that my house is no longer sparkling clean with the washing and ironing all done. (My husband called them "displacement activities"!