Converse – Drawing on sneakers

I have recently been experimenting with drawing on trainers, specifically; white Converse (or cheaper alternatives!). Although most of my work is ink on paper, I also enjoy branching out and seeing what materials allow me to draw on other surfaces such as walls, plasticwindows or even eggshells.

Initially, I tried both Sharpies and fine line permanent markers on old converse (grey) and cheap white canvas sneakers.

As you can see, although not dreadful, there is some bleeding into the material. The permanent markers gave me far more control than sharpies, so those were definitely the right pen – but how would I get the line to be crisper and cleaner and more like my work on paper? Especially as I wanted to move on from cheap canvas shoes to real Converse – and you don’t want to mess those up at £40+ per pair.

So, as with all things art supplies, I asked my friends at Jacksons Art what they’d suggest to help prime this kind of canvas so that I could create a cleaner line effect.

The recommendation from Jacksons was to experiment. Helpfully, they suggested 4 different types of primer that might work. And so the experiment began.

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The following is an arts materials review. No doubt, I am not using the materials for their intended purpose and therefore apologise to the manufacturers if I am in any way criticising their products  – I’m just trying to find a hack that works for this purpose.

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Types of primer:

  1. Golden Matte Medium
  2. Golden Fluid Matte Medium
  3. Liquitex clear gesso
  4. Winsor & Newton clear gesso

Next, I took a Converse sneaker (this was actually my own pair of size 8s that I was testing..!) and marked out 4 squares for the test.

I then applied each medium/gesso to the patch of canvas directly above, let it dry, assessed the effect, then drew on top to see how the permanent marker interacted with the gesso.

Findings – impact of gesso on canvas

What I was looking for was a light gesso, that wouldn’t make the canvas too stiff, wouldn’t remove the texture of the material, and wouldn’t darken or dirty that brilliant white.

  1. Golden Matte Medium

This one had the biggest impact on the material in that it darkened it considerably, even when dry. This picture is of the heel of the shoe which I thought might have contributed, but I did another test near the toe and it did the same thing.

2. Golden Fluid Matte Medium &  3. Liquitex clear gesso

These two were probably best in terms of impact/effect on the canvas – they neither left dark stains, nor were so thick that they obscured the texture of the canvas.

4. Winsor & Newton Clear Gesso

This one came out the thickest, obscuring the most of the canvas texture. Unlike the Golden Matte Medium, it didnt darken the material and kept it nice and white, but it almost looked like a thickly primed painting canvas.

Findings – drawing on gesso

For the next stage, once the gesso was dry I use the permanent marker to create some sample drawings.

Note: if you see someone with partially drawn on white converse, that will be me..

  1. Golden Matte Medium

This didn’t work for me. It felt like I was drawing on hard lumpy plastic or hardened glue. You can probably see from the way the roof of the turret is bumpy where I lost control of my pen on the uneven surface. Control is absolutely paramount to me so this, combined with the darkening effect puts this gesso in last place for me in this test.

2. Golden Fluid Matte Medium

This one was much easier to draw on than the Golden Matte (non-Fluid), but still felt a little bit scratchy compared to the next.

3. Liquitex Clear Gesso

The thing I liked about this one, was the ease of drawing (i.e. smoothness), compared to the level of detail I could achieve.

4. Winsor & Newton Clear Gesso

Remember, this is the one that went on thickest and removed the texture of the canvas. It was relatively easy to draw on (because it had smoothed out the texture underneath) and the black seemed to look blacker as a result. However, for some reason it seemed that I couldn’t get the same level of detail as the Golden Fluid Matte Medium and the Liquitex Clear. Take a look at the hat in the drawing, and the way the lines are almost blurring together.

Conclusion

I’m keeping the Golden Fluid Matte Medium and the Liquitex Clear, and would definitely buy both in future for this purpose, depending on what I could get my hands on. However, I’m starting with the Liquitex on all my current projects and commissions.

Now check out the difference between primed and unprimed – the expensive blimmin failure that was this pair of baby/kids Converse!!

Here are links to the products used in this test and in these sneakers (coming soon to my Etsy store).

 

Note: Jacksons don’t currently stock the permanent markers, so I had to spend a ton on Amazon. Tweet them and they tend to supply once you demand. 🙂

Golden Matte Medium

Golden Fluid Matte Medium

Liquitex Clear Gesso

Winsor & Newton Clear Gesso

 

 

 

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Linocut – “Kintsukuroi”

H Locke_ Kintsukuroi

I’ve been a bit obsessed of late with the concept of Kintsugi – the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with gold – also know as Kintsukuroi. The underlying idea – that an object is more beautiful for having been broken.

Cue an opportunity to get the gold leaf out again and practice my l33t gilding skills, when an exhibition opportunity arose at the Mill E17, to be part of the printmaking exhibition Ink, Press, Go.

For this piece, I took the concept of Kintsukuroi into the (always challenging) world of linocut.

I make no secret of the fact that linocut really stretches my skills and my patience. I like the control of pen and ink. I know what is going to happen and I have complete control. Whereas with linocut or lino printing, I have no idea if the thing is going to work until I take it out of the press and peel back the paper from the plate.

It’s probably good for me, and good for my practice, to relinquish control from time to time. But I still find it stressful, especially with a deadline looming.

So, back to Kintsukuroi.

For this piece, I drew and cut a lino plate of a generic vase, which in itself was neither particularly hard, or particularly interesting.. excluding my various attempts to get it to print evenly.

And then I kind of freaked out my lovely instagram followers by doing this..

I admit, I freaked myself out a little too.

Next, I attempted to glue it back together with gold leaf. This is where I learned the importance of LETTING THE INK DRY FIRST.

Yeah, that didn’t work. It’s meant to be a fine straight line. As you can see, the gold stuck all over the place including off the print. Fail. Well, this is how we learn.

So, back we go and fortunately I’d made a few attempts at the linocut print, so I could tear even more of them apart! This time, waiting until everything was dry…

Bit more careful with the glue this time..

And of course I remembered to wear gloves to avoid tarnishing the gold with my human hand oils 😉

And there you have it.

Kintsukuroi – edition of one.

Linocut print and 23ct gold leaf.

Exhibition details here.

Mixed media – “Room For Growth”

About the exhibition

In 2016 I was invited to be part of an exhibition called Palimpsest, held in The Old Chocolate Factory in Bad Oeyenhausen, Germany.

The exhibition was curated and organised by Katja Rosenberg and Artcatcher with the aim of raising money to support multilingual guided tour for citizens with a migration background.

The theme “Palimpsest” means from old, make new. It also has the practical meaning associated with old drawing and writing materials, where ink etc was scraped from velum to allow it to be re-used.

“In the context of our town and current world, we mean the process of redefining the purpose of a  place in an ever changing world with its changing challenges and opportunities – the essence of the place stays visible, but its thinking has to change with the times.” (Katja Rosenberg, 2016)

As the exhibition was held in a building destined for regeneration by a local architecture firm, this was particularly salient.

All works entered were the same dimensions (30x120cm portrait), and installed hanging from the interior ceiling of the building, allowing visitors to walk between the works. In addition events and dance performances were held around the work during the exhibition.

About the work

“Room for growth”   Ink on rice paper.

Artists statement:

“We construct a building with one original purpose in mind. A generation invests in the maintenance of the building until it falls into disuse, or evolves its usage and meaning for the next generation.

In this work, we see a building which has multiple simultaneous uses, with inhabitants finding many ways to benefit from the structure. This building is a hive of activity – representing the ever-changing ecology of a building as well as the dual influence of both man and nature.

The artwork is constructed of layers of rice paper and maps of the Bad Oeyenhausen area containing the old Schokoladenfabrik building, which are visible beneath.”

About the process

For this piece I was inspired by the format (120cm portrait), the location and the concept of Palimpsest – which aligned with my ongoing interest in architecture and the relationship between people and the buildings they inhabit, particularly when those uses and facades change and grow together.

With the requirement for a long work, I wanted to work with a continuous sheet of paper of an appropriate size. I also wanted to include a map of the local area in which the exhibition and the tours would be held.

Therefore I combined a long sheet of rice paper with maps of Bad Oeyenhausen to allow both to be shown without impacting on the surface work itself.

It was also particularly relevant as I had recently been exploring cartography as art and drawing, as part of my studio work.

First, I had to test my hypothesis that by drawing on rice paper, enough of the map would be visible beneath

 

 

 

I created some practice drawings using Derwent Grafik pens as an initial experiment.

It actually created a nice balance with the relative opacity of the paper, so that there was an impression of the map behind, without obscuring or over-complicating the illustration on top.

When working with the rice paper, I soon realised two things.

  1. You cannot use pencil. Or at least, you cannot erase pencil, as it destroys the paper. Therefore you need to draw in ink first time, and you have to get it right.
  2. The ink bleeds massively into the paper, especially if your drawing uses slow and methodical marks, rather than broad light gestures. So whereas on standard drawing paper I might use Derwent Grafik pens to provide a little more movement and fluidity (because my lines are slow and methodical and can look a little rigid), when working with rice paper I needed to use drawing pens with more control.

 

Note: for more info on these differences between drawing pens, check out my very very long materials review on the Jacksons Art Supplies blog

Here you can see how I experimented with different pen sizes for different features in the architecture, working out which nib size of which drawing pen brand I would need to replicate the effect I’d expect on standard drawing paper.

In the end I settled on a combination of Unipin and Sakura Micron Pigment markers of various sizes, and used this as a constant guide as I developed the final work.

In order to work at this size, and fully understand the dimensions with which I was working, I pinned the full length map to a roll of fabriano drawing paper and taped it to my studio wall.

And because, as previously established, I only had one shot to draw this directly in ink, I basically had to pre-draw the framework on an identically sized piece of paper and copy across.

Here’s the final work.

  

 

Linocut – DFL

DfL h locke

DfL (Down from London) is a limited edition linoprint I created for a series of exhibitions in Margate in summer/autumn 2016.

It was a good test of my linoprint skills – which compared to the control I feel when I pick up a pen – are virtually non-existent.

Credit for the final result must go partially to advice from such sage experts as Martin Adams and Kirsten Schmidt (expert East London Printmakers) and Margate-based Nick Morely of Hello Print. Incidentally, if you want a superb book on linoprint for artists, you could do worse than grab a copy of Nick’s book.

As with all good things, I started with a drawing..

DfL h locke

Please note the wooden spoon – turns out that’s the most important part of the whole process. It’s all about the pressure baby, especially when you’re hand-printing lino.

For this edition, as you can see, I used Jacksons Water-based ink. This is a lot easier to clean up after, but as I’ll cover in other posts, for some editions I use Caligo especially when printing by hand.

DfL h locke

To cut the plate I used Pfeil tools. To be fair, they are the only ones I use or would consider – just so much control and such high quality. They’re pricey but 100% worth it – the best price I’ve found is at Jacksons.

DfL H locke

I love the way plates look when they’re freshly inked. So much potential (but also potential for it to go wrong… 😮 )

DfL H locke

DfL H locke

Here’s what happens when you don’t use enough spoon… sob.

DfL H locke

Here’s the first colour plate going on – with enough pressure! Thanks to my experts for the tips and I can confirm that the only way to hand print lino is essentially by applying pressure until you have worked up quite a sweat and creating one massive bicep. Maybe I shouldn’t have made this edition in the middle of a hot summer..

DfL H lockeThe first reveal of the second (black) plate… thank gawd I didn’t mess that bit up.

DfL h locke

Edition of 10 completed and suspended – it’s always quite satisfying to see them strung across the studio.

DfL H locke

DfL H locke

And I got to show them off at the Viking Gallery in Cliftonville, Margate.

I’ve also made a series of greetings cards based on this work, which are available in my etsy store.