The courage to use what is near at hand | The Open College of the Arts
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The courage to use what is near at hand

It is always tempting at the beginning of a new course to go out and buy a new set of materials – sketchbook, pens, paints or papers, but is it always necessary? Not doing so can often lead to some exciting outcomes. 

Printing with and adsl plug and cotton buds

Found items cost little or nothing but can also have another, deeper level of meaning. Using recycled materials could help strengthen an environmental message, maybe a piece of clothing could hold some form of memory. Think about what you are trying to convey, could a different choice of materials help strengthen your ideas? By challenging yourself with new and unusual materials you can discover ways of working that can surprise you. Old magazine pages used envelopes or second-hand maps from charity shops. Coffee and beetroot juice can be used as paint or ink. Old clothes or sheets can be used for textile sampling and stitching. Experiment and explore when you are out and about, what could be used? Receipts from shopping transactions, old packaging. Perhaps use found items for printing and mark making… the possibilities are exciting!

Portrait painted with strong instant coffee
Old book pages with magazine collage.

Sketchbooks don’t always have to be expensive ones from art shops, consider using an old book and then drawing, collaging or sticking work over the written pages. Perhaps think about compiling your own sketchbook from loose pages. There are a number of creative ways to bind loose pages including simple solutions like large bulldog clips and binding screws or traditional stitched binding solutions. Loose pages also have the benefit of allowing you the freedom to send just a few pages to your tutor instead of the whole sketchbook for tutorials.

Sketchbook from individual loose pages

Think about extending material possibilities and write about your decisions into your learning log. Why are you using it? What is it adding to the narrative of your work? Would something else be a better choice? Enjoy the possibilities!

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Posted by author: Katie Taylor
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