Review: Eimear Kavanagh’s experimental workshops at Bluecoat

Experimenting with Mixed Media, Eimear Kavanagh
dot-art at Bluecoat

Words, Carol Emmas

As a photographer, the camera has been safe ground for me. I know my way around it and how to use it with confidence to create the type of image I want to exhibit. However, it’s a different matter putting any other artistic medium to paper. In my minds eye, I see a masterpiece. Yet, in previous attempts to put paint to canvas, let’s say it doesn’t quite translate. This inability has always rendered me a frustrated artist. It has also made me anxious about putting any creative mark on paper because of the dread that it could all go so horribly wrong.

So, when I heard a mixed-media workshop, organised by dot-art and held at Bluecoat was being rolled out I was definitely game to try to conquer this rather irrational fear.

Tutored by Eimear Kavanagh, an artist with a wealth of experience within the arenas of; fashion, public street art, textiles, illustration, album cover design, stage set design, tattoo art, schools education and community workshops, we were in safe, knowledgeable, hands.

Her workshop centred around experimenting with different ways of layering by using the likes of; tissue paper, inks, acrylics, pastels, charcoal, found-images etc, with the aim of constructing a collage of sorts. ‘Of sorts’ meaning it can be whatever you want it to be.

There are no fixed rules. What is beneficial is learning new techniques that guide the process along. I certainly have never used bleach in any creation before, but it brought forth some quite stunning effects on individual creations.

The time allocated (11-5pm) is a generous amount for anyone to get their teeth into a project and easily complete one or two works (there was one speedy worker who quietly completed four wholly competent canvases by the end of the day). We were shown quite a few effects that can be achieved through the multi-layering of coloured tissue paper to give depth. Also, using Indian inks was a first for me, but it won’t be a last. Acrylic paints can also form part of the image if the student wishes, as can found-images and/or photographs (in fact those participating are encouraged to bring materials they personally wish to incorporate into the artwork).

Eimear Kavanagh’s own artwork is spontaneous and intuitive, influenced by memories and emotions that are teased from her subconscious into a more tangible form onto paper, so she will often use materials and images that are quite personal to her.

If you have an artistic bent, Bluecoat is the perfect place to immerse the self into creativity, as it has that proper traditional art school feel. Did it conquer my fear? It certainly loosened me up enough to lose some of the irrational artistic control I’ve developed over the years and I had a most enjoyably immersive time with a lovely bunch of people. I also learned a lot of new techniques which in themselves translate across all creative forms.

Some of the others on the workshop created some great pieces from novice to semi-pro – all so different and all very individual. It was really encouraging to see that everyone comes from a completely different place. It both highlights our differences and similarities; that we all are intent on the same goal and that is to learn more about doing the things that fundamentally interest us.

Needless to say, due to my own innate inability I won’t be entering my personal piece for the John Moore’s Painting Prize just yet and neither will I be passing it over to any Rorschach psychologist anytime soon.