Helen Frost

Mark-making and materials: Short course

By Helen Frost - Mixed Media Artist, FDAD Alumni and Short Course student

I completed the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design back in 2015, but I remain a regular visitor to West Dean to attend short courses that I consider to be immediately relevant to my practice of making with found objects or which might offer me new ways of working and to provide continued inspiration. 

In December, I spent four days at West Dean College working with six other students and Jo Veevers exploring drawing and mark making using graphite, ink, the projected image, and a host of other materials. The West Dean landscape was the primary source of inspiration and we experimented with various ways of generating a series of marks from this starting point. Using the marks made, we then worked into mono print, collagraph, and etching with acetate and plaster. 

On the first evening, Jo gave us a stash of waste textile and paper materials and some pieces of acetate cut to fit inside photographic slides. We arranged our chosen material between two pieces of acetate and glued them together. 

Once the newly made slides had dried, we viewed them on a projector with amazing results, which provided direction for a series of abstract drawings in the future.

Each day began with a different exercise to initiate the development of ideas. Jo had pre-prepared a long landscape sketchbook using a variety of papers of differing lengths and I folded some pages before drawing horizontal lines in a variety of media. The folds provided some interesting breaks in the lines and a variety of quality of mark.

We looked at extracting images from the sketchbook.

We also went out in the West Dean landscape to draw en plein air with the brief to recreate our view in an abstract or semi abstract way. The resulting drawing was then photocopied and used as a starting point for experimentation.  

A walk in the gardens was recorded with a series of mark making tools, noting where we stopped, moved quickly or slowly, and the direction of our steps. 

Using the work produced so far, the group next moved onto printmaking, considering the marks that had been made and any found materials collected. My found materials were those that I have collected whilst beachcombing.

First was mono printing using oil based pigment. I employed this using the drawn landscape as inspiration, and also in combination with collages made in response to the TALFAW drawing, using a found object direct in one and a mono print of found wire in another.  

Finally, we considered print using a plaster block which Jo had prepared for us and into which we scratched our design. On this occasion, I drew images of found shoe soles on a stony beach (below).

As you can see, we packed a lot into the time available and we all came away with a host of ideas for making future works!