Amanda Hislop has been teaching at Ardington School since its inception and lives nearby, so she knows the local area and beauty spots very well. This appreciation of the outdoors translates so perfectly into her mixed media work, which offers the viewer new perspectives on land, sea and treescapes. Her work is complex, and while she had a quiet moment between visitors at Ardington Artweeks this month, I managed to ask her more about how she puts her pieces together.
Talk me through the process involved in your work?
Amanda generally starts with a completely fresh piece of muslin or calico as a background; then she layers pieces of paper onto that surface and glues them with a cellulose paste. She traps fragments of found materials between the layers. These could include leaves, threads, fabrics and other plant material. This first collaged piece is then left to dry and then Amanda builds up colour through layers of acrylic paint. Thin layers are applied in a watercolour consistency, with texture added using a thicker paint and a palette knife with a delicate touch, to enhance the textures within the piece.
Once this is all dry, Amanda then works onto the piece with stitch. She says ‘stitching has a drawn quality about it – a natural look’. Amanda follows the contours of the layered objects with the stitching, using free machine stitching (see our earlier blog for a description of this technique) in the main. She is now experimenting with hand stitch however and adding bespoke, intricate details to her work in hand stitching in some of her recent explorations.
When is a piece finished?
Amanda confides ‘I like to allow time to look at a piece and allow the work to feel finished before I leave it alone. I look and consider over time. My advice is don't rush at it too much as you can easily overwork a piece. I never unpick things – that’s a rule. I pace myself and I would work over the top of stitches rather than undo them. Otherwise your piece will lose its’ rhythm’.
What is your favourite subject and process?
Amanda loves the land, the sea, the sky and trees; she gets the best part of her inspiration from these facets of nature which she records in a sketchbook. She says ‘all of these have to be in my life and my work. Trees are a special favourite this year as I have done a daily practice earlier in 2019’. The key words she uses about these subject areas are:
What’s your favourite piece?
Amanda pauses for a while on this question. ‘They are all part of me so it’s difficult to name a favourite. One huge piece at home however stands out is called 'The silvered bark of birch trees'. It’s approximately 1m wide by 2m tall and needs a baronial hall to hang in. I usually keep it rolled up on top of a wardrobe until I’m at a major exhibition or delivering a talk about my working practice and then it comes into its own!’
You can see that Amanda’s work definitely favours a certain colour palette. Her work is earthy. Her red would be a burnt sienna for example. Yellows used are ochres and raw sienna. She loves the seascape palette and soft blues flow through Amanda’s work creating a soft contrast to these earthy tones.
What does the Future hold for Amanda?
She is working on a book for Search Press. Amanda has written the book which will be published in Autumn 2019. It’s called ‘Stitched Textiles – Seascapes’ so look out for it later this year. It includes descriptions of her techniques and a range of projects and ‘How To’ tips on colour and composition. The project pages are quite structured to help people really develop a good piece of work, and the subject reflects her own personal take on the sea. Amanda really enjoyed the creative processes involved in writing a book and agreed it has helped to define her point of view. There may be further books on other aspects of her work, but ‘let’s get this one out first,’ she smiles.
The first book may be published in multiple languages and Amanda is teaching in France in September. Who knows where the future will take her. She states ‘it would be great to have more time to work on my own things!! I would love to have a place where people come to me rather than me having to do too much travelling’.
We love Amanda’s work, and if you are inspired by what you see, then you can join her on a workshop here at Ardington.