Drawing & Sketching · Sketchbooks · Watercolour

Coastal Explorations

I have just recently returned from a 2 day workshop hosted by artist Debbie Lyddon at her Whelk Shed studio in Wells-Next-The-Sea. The theme of the workshop was Coastal Explorations. But before I tell you more about this exciting, creative workshop I must tell you a little about Debbie’s art and where you can find her work on the internet. Debbie has a website – debbielyddon.co.uk, she also blogs at debbielyddon.wordpress.com and you can find her on Instagram – debbie.lyddon. Please, please DO have a long look at her stunning, original and inspiring art work – she creates beautiful textile art, she also draws, sketches, paints with watercolours and creates with a whole host of other mediums too. You wont regret losing an hour or two exploring her work…

The workshop theme was Coastal Explorations. It was a 2 day workshop on the 11th & 12th of May (Saturday and Sunday). There were only 5 spaces on this workshop which were occupied by myself, my sister Carolyn and three other lovely ladies. The workshop sold out super quickly, so I was really pleased that Carolyn wasted no time in getting us booked up.

Debbie's Studio - NB
Debbie’s Studio

This is Debbie’s studio. It’s a lovely large, bright work space along the quay at the water’s edge in Wells-Next-The-Sea. We arrived just after 9 am for a 9.30 am start. The workshop ran till 4.30 pm each day. This is actually my first ever proper art workshop.

Once everyone had arrived we began by having to introduce ourselves to everyone, saying a little about ourselves. Then it was straight down to creative endeavors. Saturday morning was to begin with a SIGHT WALK but as it was raining we improvised and began by painting a large sheet of paper (about quarter imperial size) with watercolour paint – just totally random splashes of paint and mark making. This only took about 20 minutes or so and we left them to dry.

It had now stopped raining so we began our SIGHT WALK. Debbie had made us all a small sketchbook from drawing paper – neatly hand stitched. Armed with the sketchbook, along with a pencil and graphite stick, out we went for a walk along the marshes. We had to observe our surroundings, near and far,  and then make quick drawings and notes about what we saw. We were encouraged to FILL our sketchbooks! We also collected interesting things we found along the way – shells, rusty objects, pebbles etc.

Wells Quay 4
A SIGHT WALK along the marshes

This is where we walked, picked up interesting things from the shores of the quay and farther along we ventured up onto the dyke (the grass bank on the right of the photo).

Back in the studio we got down to creating things inspired by our sight walk. The painted sheet of paper we did at the outset we turned into a concertina book. We had to write notes from our sight walk into the book.

Concertina Book 1 - NBConcertina Book 2 - NBConcertina Book 3 - NB

How to cut and fold the paper to make the concertina book can be found in this book…Making Books - NB

Debbie highly recommended this book. I bought mine from Ebay for the princely sum of £1.50 and it’s as new. It is a brilliant book full of creative book ideas.

We also made plaster prints inspired by our sight walk. I’m not going into all the ins and outs of how to make plaster prints but if you ever get the opportunity to do it I highly recommend it. Here are my plaster prints…

Plaster Prints - NB
Plaster Prints

We used objects we found on our sight walk to make impressions in clay first then the plaster is used to make a print from the clay. I really like how my plaster prints turned out and this is something I would love to do again sometime.

Work In Progress - NB
Plaster prints in progress in Debbie’s Studio

Above is a view of our working space in Debbie’s studio. On the tables you can see our plaster prints in progress, paint trays, drawing materials etc.

As well as the plaster prints we also started to make a pocket for our concertina book (pictured earlier) to go in. We started by painting a piece of our chosen fabric with acrylic paint. If you look at Debbie’s work you will see that she creates lots of lovely rusty eyelets in her work. She showed us how she does this and we incorporated an eyelet in our fabric, which was left overnight in the studio to dry and hopefully go rusty…

Painted Fabrics Drying - NB
Our painted fabrics with eyelets, hanging to dry and rust in the studio…

I think this brings us to an end of the first day of the workshop. It was a full day but very productive and fun.

Day two of the workshop (Sunday) began at 9.30 am again. We began by making our own hand made sketchbook to take outside for a SOUND WALK. I absolutely loved making my own sketchbook. Debbie gave us all a standard bookbinding needle, which we took home with us. We used the correct linen thread for book binding too. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but never really knew how to go about it.

Debbie showed us a Powerpoint presentation about seeing sound and translating sounds into art – very interesting. Then we went outside, like the previous day, with the sketchbooks we made ourselves for a SOUND WALK. For the sound walk it was all about what we can hear and not what we can see. We had to just listen to everything around us, near and far and document it in words and drawing/mark making in our sketchbooks.

Sight & Sound Sketchbooks - NB
My Sight and Sound Sketchbooks from the workshop
Sound Walk Sketchbook 1 - NB
My hand made sketchbook made for the SOUND WALK

Above and below are images of my sound sketchbooks – just writing and drawing what I hear…

Sound Walk Sketchbook 2 - NB

Have you ever tried to draw sounds?  You don’t draw what’s making the sound – you have to draw the sound itself. Try it – you may find it quite tricky… !

Back in the studio we had to create a piece of art inspired by what we’d heard on our sound walk. We were given a really wide but short piece of watercolour paper to paint on and then fold into a concertina book. Here’s my sound inspired concertina book…

Concertina Book 4 - NB
An abstract watercolour in book form inspired by sound

Concertina Book 5 - NB

Above and below are two closer views of my sound inspired concertina book…

Concertina Book 6 - NB

Abstract swooshes of watercolour paint and and marks from a graphite stick…

Remember the painted fabrics we left to dry in the studio from the previous day? Today we waxed the fabric and then stitched them up by hand to create a pocket for the concertina book we made the previous day…

Bag For Concertina Book - NB
My hand stitched pocket with a watercolour concertina book inside

Stitch is really not my thing. But I embraced it and did it. I was just about as far out of my comfort zone as I could be doing this and my hand stitching is not great. I like the eyelet and it has a little rust on it. I quite like how the pocket turned out.

Sunday afternoon we also made a little box for one of our plaster prints to go in…

Plaster Print In Box - NB

It was made from felt dipped in wax and then tied up with wire. This was lovely to do and something I will definitely do again. This now sits on the windowsill in my home studio.

I think that pretty much brings us to an end of the two day workshop. It was a full two days – Debbie packed a lot into each day. We all had a lot of fun and learnt new things.

In between all the creativity each day, we had a tea break in the mornings with lovely cookies, lovely lunches each day of home made quiche, salads, cheese and fresh bread and tea break with home made cake in the afternoons! What more could you want? Also, I may not have documented everything we did in the exact order that we did it, but I think you’ve got a very good idea of how the workshop progressed.

What have I taken away from this workshop? Several things…

  • I love making my own sketchbooks/books and will continue to make lots more
  • I will try to increase my awareness of my surroundings via all of my senses
  • I will do more drawing, sketching, painting outside in inspiring locations using my own hand made sketchbooks
  • I will try to create new and unique art from the drawings, sketches and notes in my  handmade sketchbooks

The workshop has given me a valuable glimpse into Debbie’s thought process and work practice as an artist. She was very generous with her knowledge and resources. She also very kindly let us photograph the numerous pieces of art on display in her studio. But those photos I will not post – it’s up to you to make the effort to visit her website, blog or Instagram account. It’s a very inspiring way to spend an hour or two…

27 thoughts on “Coastal Explorations

  1. Bought the book, Evelyn! Thank you for recommending it. I love making my own books for experimental (and experiential) artwork. Also, I was wondering if you’d like a box of SE USA Atlantic Beach seashells since you do so much with photography and subsequent watercolor lovelies. Would love to send you some – especially what I call the ‘imperfect but perfect’ ones! No pressure if you already have all the shells you need. Private email me if you’re interested. I would love to see your work with them. XOXO

    1. Thank you Carol. I loved the book making on the workshop. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages but just needed a little push in the right direction. Thank you for the offer of the shells but I probably have more than I know what to do with already… ! More shell painting will be on the agenda sometime…

  2. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your detailed account of your workshop with Debbie Lyddon. I have admired her work for a long time now and had a holiday in Wells last year so we could see her installation as part of an art trail. I would love to do a workshop with her sometime and your account shows just how generous she is. I’m glad you had a lovely time with your family.

    1. Thank you Julie. The whole holiday in Wells was lovely. Carolyn and I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop. This was the first workshop Debbie has done in her studio and there’s a good chance she may do more in the future. Have you signed up for emails on her website?

    1. Thank you Jodi – it was a great experience. I’ve learnt and grown as an artist from the workshop. Debbie”s work is very inspiring…

  3. Wow, that’s a lot to pack into two days. I’d never even thought to try and make art out of sounds like this. What a fantastic workshop x

    1. Thank you Sunnyfae – I loved the workshop! It was a unique creative experience that I would highly recommend if you ever get the opportunity to go on one of her workshops in the future….

  4. Thanks for such a detailed account. I’ve done a couple of courses with Debbie too – we have the same taste!

    1. Thank you Eileen – this workshop was a lovely creative experience. I highly recommend Debbies workshops if you get the opportunity to do one…

      1. Evelyn, could I share your workshop story and two photos – one of the beach and one of your watercolor book in my newsletter? I’m so inspired by your coastal retreat! I’m going to create my own book and “retreat” to the beach for my own sight walk. Let me know if it’s ok to share your story, the photos. I’d link to your blog post of course. Here’s a link to my newsletter if you’d like to learn more about it. https://mycreativeresolution.com/newsletter/

      2. Eileen you are very welcome to share my post and some photos. I’m so pleased you found my workshop experience so inspirational…

  5. Oh, lucky you! It looks like it was a wonderful workshop. Such a small group and a great location, and the freedom to explore different directions….wow. The plaster prints look great, no wonder you want to do more. I think they’re your kind of thing. 🙂 I love the idea of the sound walk -and I love your sound-inspired concertina book. I li9ke your take-aways very much. And I will take a look at Debbie’s website and blog now! Thanks for this informative and inspiring post, Evelyn. Though my medium is photography, I am inspired by other media, just as you were inspired by concentrating on sounds….

    1. Thank you Lynn. The workshop was a lovely inspiring experience. Debbie’s work is stunning – you will enjoy her website and blog…

  6. Such a lovely fascinating post, of your workshop with Debbie. Super work. I will look at her IG and website. I’ve been looking for a workshop to take me out of my comfort zone. I love watercolours. Sewing isn’t my thing but I love the whole idea of textures, wax, fabric, thread, paint, clay, plaster , paint paper and found objects.

    1. Thank you for visiting my blog. Debbie’s workshop was wonderful and a fascinating insight into her work process. Like you stitch isn’t my thing either – I’m a watercolourist. But dipping felt in wax, plaster prints, book making and drawing observations of our environment in hand made sketchbooks was awesome. I would highly recommend doing one of Debbie’s workshops if you get the opportunity. If you sign up for her newsletter on her blog you will get an email when she is doing more workshops. In my experience they tend to sell out very quickly… !

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