Alongside my textiles course, I am also working part time on the other end of the island on a farm with a weaving mill called Ardalanish.

Ardalanish is a very special place… an incredibly picturesque well maintained farm right next to a beach on the Ross of Mull.  It is the only ‘organic’ weaving mill in Britain and by using mechanical ‘Dobby looms’ from the 1950’s (original design from 1826), they retain the look of a museum.  The farm keeps a herd of 200 Hebridean (small black sheep) and 25 highland cows, the spun fleeces of the sheep are used in the weaving studio along with other native breeds like the Manx Loaghtan and the Bluefaced Leicester.


Manx Loaghtan

Bluefaced Leicester

If you are ever in Mull – I would recommend you to visit.  If you are unable to, then see images below….

welcome room, office and shop

weaving mill

cotton loom used for bothy mats

The shafts of the loom

mechanical detail

warping wheel


pattern frames for the looms

bobbin winder

mechanical detail


I did a little research on the internet today on mark making.  Amongst the suggested artists (Picasso, Klee & Van Gogh) – I found a few other examples which I particularly like…

Joel Shapiro, "Untitled", 1969, Fingerprints on Graph Paper.

I hadn’t thought of using my finger to make marks..even though that is what we did at school…it looks good.

Jo Lankester, Echlin St Quarry Juxtaposition 1, right panel, 2010, Etching Aquatint

Jo Lankester is a printmaker who uses a combination of drawing and mark making – it hints at landscape but allows the viewer to read into it in other ways.

Cai Guo-Qiang. Gunpowder

The piece above is by Cai Guo-Qiang – a chinese artist whose work includes drawing, installation, video and performance art.  I was unable to find a date or a title for this unfortunately but it is one of his works which explores the properties of gunpowder.  This work led to him working with explosives on a much larger scale and his ‘explosion events’ became his signature work.

Cy Twombly, Untitled, 1970

 Cy Twombly was an american artist famous for these large scribbled..’graffiti like’ works.  These are 2 of my favourites.  I think his use of colour is exceptional.

Cy Twombly, "Wilder Shores of Love"

Val Nelson, "Madama Butterfly, Act 2, 2010" Ink on Stonehenge Paper

Val Nelson is a Vancouver based artist who also writes a blog called “Optimistic Pursuits” which details her passion for drawing, exhibitions visited, inspirations and includes some of her work and works of others, inside and outside of the art world.  It is an excellent blog.  This piece is a drawing she did in the dark (blind drawing) at the theatre – layer upon layer of fast sketching detailing the scene.  It is a technique that I would also very much like to try.

Exercise 1 & 2- Marking marks with pencils and creating tone

I found this exercise very difficult if I am honest…I found it frustrating and ended up just scribbling everywhere basically.  After chiding myself – I had another go … I realise that every exercise is important and it reflects badly on me that I had difficulty applying myself.  It did serve as a good warm up however.

I would normally describe myself as a careful ‘drawer?’ – but I found the most consolation in the hard fast scribbles with a soft 3B. This is unlike me – but I found it hard to fill the 8cm box with careful repetitive marks…

I enjoyed the tonal exercise much more – there being a kind of satisfaction in creating depth.

Exercise 3 – Alternative methods and materials for making marks

I love using scrap materials so I pulled out all the paper from the recycling and kindling basket by the fire.  I also found  my old typewriter to see what marks could be achieved with that…(not many as ribbon needs replaced it turns out).  Using twigs, slate, shell and stones that I found on the shore i persevered – the only issue with these was that they do not hold the paint like a brush- therefore you need to keep applying more and more as the lines fade out quickly.

Materials: Newsprint, tissue paper, black and white card, graph paper, parchment and tracing paper. Marks made with biro, pencils, graphite, pastels, tea, typewriter and flame.

With great reluctance (fear) I introduced some colour..using paintbrushes, slate, matchsticks, cork and shells to varying degrees of success.

I scribbled over an old postcard with the matchstick which was fun – I love the idea of recycling old images to make new less lifelike work.  I also used a pinecone on this page.

Exercise 4

Wax Crayons…..I hate wax crayons… so much that I couldn’t bring myself to buy any at the local Spar (I put them back prior to payment), and instead resorted to stealing a plastic pot of decaying fat crayons from my neices.  I have a new  technique for working with materials or on subject matter that does not appeal to me: – I keep doing it until it does… I find that with perserverence that one can learn to love any material or find some good qualities within it.  In the case of the wax crayons – I dislike getting really dirty or using very basic primary colours (fear of producing little more than a childish scribble?) .  However…after a bit of layering and quite a lot of pressure from my upper body to get the crayon to release its colour – I started to notice attractive qualities.  Although the inks painted on top (wax resist) did not really seem to work – I thought the layers of colour and the scratchy tones were impressive.  I would apply the same theory to the whole theme of ‘Making marks’ – at first it seemed just a warm exercise to loosen one up…but now after pondering it and researching it – I realise that it is an art movement in itself.  Although all categories of drawing and painting could technically be referred to as ‘mark making’ – the technique of creating work based’ around marks’, e.g. Cy Twombly, (rather than accurate reproduction of reality ‘using marks’ e.g. the English Romantic painter John Constable) is what the terminology actually means to me now.

I guess I also felt some hesitation in making rubbings… I remember going around the Edinburgh botanical gardens as a child and furiously rubbing away at the bark on the trees – and proudly presenting a crumbled, half torn piece of paper back to my teacher.  For this exercise I chose a red watercolour pencil which has a slightly softer tip than a regular colouring pencil.  I restricted myself to the house and 10metres around it so as not to get carried away.  Unsurprisingly, after approaching wood, rock and stone – I found myself inorexibly drawn to leaves.. there is a reason children are taught to take rubbings of leaves – they display a wonderful skeleton.

Rubbings with watercolour crayon, indoors and outdoors

Wax resist

Rubbing away and blanking out. Graphite, biro, eraser & tippex.

Acrylic paint applied with sponge, cotton bud, cork and paintbrush.

The last suggestion in exercise 4 is to make a collage using scraps of paper.  I was totally at a loss of what to do…short of copying the exercises by Gwen Hedley in ‘Drawn to Stitch’.  One thing I am attempting to do with these exercises – is to not buy anything new..(very hard) – so I just keep returning to the waste paper basket for materials.  This ‘collage’ (if it could be called that ?) took 5 minutes using an old envelope and a box of matches at the last minute to create the burns.  I think the burning could be my favourite discovery in making marks…

Cut up envelope and matches..

I returned the following day to the gardens with my camera as the light had changed and was mainly overcast – the walk from my cottage runs along the shore through some light woodland – and the sea appeared almost more beautiful in the grey…giving it a metallic mirror like quality.

I love these palm trees...it seems like an oxymoron in the hebrides

Old greenhouses...are wonderful - I hope to be the proud owner of one some day. I tried to capture the crisp reflections on this...I am not sure I achieved this in detail - perhaps they are just indecipherable due to the angle and the light.

The colours seem unreal on this old tree...perhaps it is mould ?

This reminds me of the 'Ents' from Lord of the Rings...

Lichen is what keeps these walls alive to me....as if their former glory is redefined every 10 years with new layers


These are photographs I took on a sunny afternoon on a walk from my cottage to the Torosay castle gardens…the island has a vast expanse of mountain and lakes (lochs) but very few traditional tended gardens.

I am not hugely confident with a camera..I did however find the ‘vivid’ option on the colour scheme of the camera which I felt gave the images the sharpness in colour which was in fact totally accurate on this particular day.

My main objective for this course is to really be introduced formally to the process of working with textiles.  Whilst I have an idea of what I would like to produce (which I expect to change as the course progresses), I have no idea how to approach a project from start to finish .  I just completed a 12 week ‘Stitched Textiles’ course at Edinburgh art school and in fact only enrolled as I had a tapestry class the same day so wished to make good use of my time.  It turned out that I became much more engaged with the stitched textiles rather than the tapestry as the experimentation at that level was more apparent (I spent my tapestry class simply trying to learn the art of weaving).

What I also realised was that I am quite hypnotised by the subtlety and beauty that can be achieved with something as simple as a sheer fabric and some humble black thread.  In order to not get fixated on finite drawings (as is my tendency), I hope that this course will free up my drawing style and enhance my creative abilities.  Ideally it will start the process of giving me the real confidence to pick up any organic material from the outdoors for example, along with a simple rag I find lying around..and combine them to create something I, (and hopefully others), will find truly beautiful.