Thursday, 10 September 2015

Art journalling with Orly Avineri - Hollow Spaces

A few weeks ago I got the chance to take a 3 day workshop with one of my artistic heroes, Orly Avineri. It was up in Liverpool, a 5 hour drive from me, so it meant spending 3 nights away from Little O, the first time I had left her overnight. It was a bit nerve-wracking leaving her, I knew she'd be fine in the daytime but I was a bit worried about how my husband M would cope in the night without the easy option to breastfeed her back to sleep! In the end they were (of course!) both fine, so I needn't have worried.

Orly's workshop was called Hollow Spaces and we had the use of a wonderful studio belonging to Clare Campbell's Big Love Sista organisation. For a long time I have loved the idea of art journalling because a journal is a place where you can make a mess and play with no restrictions, no pressure and no need to show anyone or be open to any critique.

In theory.

Turns out I still have a huge inner critic with a need to create 'pretty' art that looks like other people's. I have only recently begun to make pages in my art journal that we're not trying to be finished works of art so I thought Orly's workshop would be a perfect way to loosen up and practice imperfection.

We started by layering colours over a whole spread and then pressing the pages against our neighbour's book, a great way to get over the fear of a blank page! The first morning was then spent covering some parts with gesso and leaving some parts visible. We even carved our own stamps, something I would love to do more of, I can see it becoming quite addictive!

In the afternoon Orly showed us lots of techniques to get images onto the page if you feel you are not great at drawing (hello!) Again, there was a focus on which spaces to leave and which to fill or cover. By the end of the day I was feeling more creative than I had in a long time and was amazed by how much everyone had achieved.

After the class finished for the day a few of us wandered around town for a bit, doing some very touristy things, and had dinner down by the docks.

Orly had given us a poem by David Whyte to take home that evening, put by our bed, and read first thing when we woke up. It is here if you'd like to read it. It is a wonderfully inspiring piece, and we had to incorporate some of the words into our pages on the second morning. After a while we were told to make a hole, a hollow space, on each side of the spread. "What?! Nooooo!" It was going to rip a chunk out of our hard work from the day before! But this is what it was all about for me, letting go. Embracing the impermanence and imperfection. It was so hard to rip that first hole without looking to see what I was losing on the other side! But it was also very freeing, and I think I got more from the workshop by doing my best to let go.

We also got the chance to play with fire and burn some holes into our pages. This is definitely something I would like to try again!

On the Saturday night it was the Brazilian carnival, so after out meal we staked out a spot on a corner to watch the procession. It was a wonderful atmosphere and the music and costumes were fantastic. I only had my phone with me, and as the light was going it was impossible to get many good photos with all the movement of the dancers.

The final day of the workshop was all about creating spreads putting together all we had learned. It felt very scary to start work on a new page from scratch without Orly telling us what to do! I soon got into it though, and the spread I created that morning ended up being one of my favourites of the whole workshop.

We ended the weekend with a visit to St. Luke's church, a hollow space in the middle of the city, before returning to the studio to share our journals and thoughts with one another. It was a lovely chance to see what other people had created and to reflect on what Hollow Spaces had meant and  could now mean to all of us. It was very emotional and I wouldn't have wanted to leave if I hadn't been going back home to Little O! The whole workshop was a wonderful experience, and if you ever get the chance to take a class with Orly I think you should jump at it!

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