At the beginning of lockdown, Astrig Akseralian posted some lively 2 minute landscape sketches in our friends’ and members’ facebook group. They intrigued us, so we asked her to take us for a walk through the work she has been doing and how she approached those quick landscape pieces.

Having been asked to write about what I have been working on in my studio during this unprecedented time has made me reflect on what has inspired me recently. Trying to put into words my feelings about this strange time and how it has affected my work, makes me realise the tactics I am employing to get myself working. In a nutshell, like many people, I have found my productivity in the workshop drastically reduced and it’s not through lack of motivation. I certainly am busy and the weeks seem to fly by. I think a home building, nesting instinct that has taken over. I always grow flowers and vegetables and this year I think I could open my own small nursery! Plenty of productivity and a lot of careful nurturing is required. I suppose these types of activities are reassuring and fundamental and so important now.

When I am in my workshop I have found my mind flitting from one project to another and finding it very hard to settle. I decided a few weeks ago that I wouldn’t feel bad about this and not worry if what I was doing didn’t lead to a body of ‘ finished’ works. Usually at this time the focus is on impending Open Studios, finishing and framing work, rushing to the photographers and producing Giclée prints. This gone there is a huge void to fill and much seems trivial?!

I had been using the initial daily exercise allowance to go out with my sketchbook and a very limited handful of materials to make 2-3 min sketches. Treating it like the 1-3 min sketches that I so love doing in life drawing. My aim is always to embody life, energy and movement. I tend to prepare some pages in my sketchbook before I head out. Here are a couple of examples of the prepared pages done in the workshop followed by the additional quick sketch made around Cambourne.

Top row: prepared pages Bottom row: prepared pages with drawings added on site during a walk

I have been using the fantastic Daniel Smith sheets that I won at the SEAW Selected Exhibition last year to prepare the paper. Preparing pages has a few benefits: Creatively it leads to unexpected results and means making the page ‘work’ is a challenge . It results in lively fresh sketches and means you don’t have to carry lots of stuff! Finally it’s also fun to do. The more play the better, so no sitting down or hanging around! I only allow myself a few moments to jot down the most important elements as I see them. I try to take 3 or 4 implements that will give me a good variety of marks eg. A biro, one oil pastel, a pencil, a Stabillo Woody and water brush.

These are a few more pages from my sketchbook from a trip to the orchard and allotments in Cambourne using the same technique.

If you haven’t tried this method why not give it a go?

I have really enjoyed working in my sketchbooks in this way. I always try to keep my work fresh and loose so this exercise has been a reminder for me.

Collage work

As well as sketchbook work I have been using collage to create some bases for paintings. I find this is also a good way to begin work playing with the collage pieces is absorbing and the results provoke further response. I paint my own papers to collage with using acid free tissue and a mixture of media from acrylic,inks, Posca pens and oil pastels. Here are a few examples of boards I have been working on.

Top left: Collage collection. Top right and bottom row: details of some of the panels

Varying degrees of success but starting points. Let me know what you think?

Other activities and recommendations from Astrig

  • Grayson’s Art Club – You can watch all episodes on demand here
  • London Drawing – zoom classes. They have a great programme weekly find out what’s on here
  • #artistsupportpledge – Astrig has been finding Instagram her favourite platform for viewing others work and posting her own. It’s a great way to see what others are doing and she has been selling work through the Artist Support Pledge. This is a great incentive set up by Matthew Burrows. The idea is that artists support other artists by selling and then buying art. Once you reach £1000 in sales, you pledge to spend £200 on artwork. You can find Astrig’s Instagram profile here