Mental Health Awareness Week and coping with anxiety

Today’s blog comes from the Art and Design Library, who share a few things from their collections to mark Mental Health Awareness Week. The allotted dates are the 15 to 21 May, and the theme for this year is anxiety.

Anxiety is something we all know well. It is a normal emotion that all of us experience, but of course, anxiety can also get increasingly worse, and become a problem.

What can we do about it, and how can we better cope with these unhelpful feelings? The Mental Health Foundation has a really helpful webpage on anxiety – and tips and advice for coping with feelings of anxiety. They list some suggestions which might help. Or some of which might help; of course, people are different, and feelings are different. Please do seek appropriate medical help if you feel it is urgent.

In coping with anxiety, the Mental Health Foundation first suggest a focus on the breath, and breathing.

They have guides for breathing techniques that help to relax our bodies, as well as links to pages on mindfulness which some people might find useful.

Thinking about breath and air, a few artists come to mind: John Constable and J.M.W. Turner for their cloud and sky studies; and Peter Lanyon. I first came across Peter Lanyon’s work when I started at art college. His painting is expressive and abstract, and I remember clearly the book from the college library. We have it in our library too.

There is a particular painting in it called Soaring Flight which he made in 1960, a year after he began gliding. The experience of gliding fed into his painting. It deepened his thoughts and feelings about the Cornish landscape, and Soaring Flight  (for me anyway) very much soars…

Soaring Flight by Peter Lanyon from Air, land & sea
(A well-used page.)

Also, in that first year of art college, we had a tutor who told us to always remember to look up. We were to treat learning to ‘see’ seriously – and he urged us to look at things in as many different ways as we could. I’ve never been gliding, my legs wobble at the thought of it, but I can imagine it must have felt wonderful. Space – air – and breath, are wonderful things.

Next on the list comes exercise.

Photograph by Edith Tudor-Hart in a book showing children demonstrating her 'Moving and Growing' practice for childhood development.
Photograph by Edith Tudor-Hart in a book showing children demonstrating her 'Moving and Growing' practice for childhood development.
Photographs by Edith Tudor-Hart

It needn’t be vigorous; it can be gentle and contemplative even. These photographs by Edith Tudor-Hart have always filled me with a sense of joy in relation to movement. They are part of a much larger series, which can’t be reproduced here, but in 1950 she was asked by the Ministry of Education to take a body of photographs for an introductory work on primary education called Moving and Growing. Childhood development had always been a keen interest for her and before she studied photography she trained as a Montessori kindergarten teacher.

Keep a diary says number 3. It’s important not to ignore worries, but to allot them their time, and perhaps, if we can express our worries, we can help to understand and manage them better.

Many artists write as well as draw, and we have many many books of artists’ sketchbooks, letters, and writings…

Two books related to artist, Louis Bourgeois from the Art and Design Library.
Titles related to artist Louise Bourgeois from the Art and Design Library
A display of art books laid with front covers upwards on a table.
A selection of art books from the Art and Design Library

Challenge your thoughts, says point number 4.  Anxiety can make us think about what is worrying us again and again. Catch these thoughts and worries if you can, and challenge them.

Norman Ackroyd is an artist and printmaker that I hugely admire. He makes etchings of landscapes and the natural world, and often the landscapes are harsh and wild – Orkney, St Kilda, Shetland, the sea… They are about the power of the natural world and our place within it. They remind me that our world can be a turbulent one, and so can our journey through it.

Two art books on the etchings of Norman Ackroyd, one with the front cover displayed and the other held open.
Books related to Norman Ackroyd from the Art and Design Library

Number 5 is seek support for worries. Are you claiming the benefits you’re entitled to? Speak to organisations like Citizen’s Advice and Stepchange. Connect with people and talk about how you’re feeling.

Hands by Louise Bourgeois

These hands were made by the artist Louise Bourgeois. Often she depicts hands in her work and they are symbolic of support and friendship. 10am is when you come to me shows her own hands and the hands of her assistant and friend of 30 years, Jerry Gorovoy. 10am was when their day together started and it’s a piece that documents this daily support and friendship. How do we support those that we love, and how is it that they support us?

Number 6, spend time in nature…

Hard to do sometimes if you live in the very centre of a city, but there are always pockets of nature, and somehow these can feel all the more interesting and intense in busy built-up areas.

Art books on the theme of nature displayed on a wooden table.
A nature table of books from the Art and Design Library

Number 7, try to eat a healthy diet.

Not always so easy a thing to do.

The front cover of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle illustrated in another book.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

And lastly,

number 8, try to rest and sleep.

Reclining Mother and Child II by Paula Modersohn-Becker

This beautiful painting is by the German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker.

Please do come into the library and explore our collections, or have a look online.

CIRCLE – March exhibition in the Art and Design Library

The March exhibition in the Art and Design Library is “CIRCLE”, a thematic exploration using traditional photographic techniques by members of Edinburgh LoFi. The group were inspired by the recent Barbara Hepworth retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Some of Hepworth’s most recognisable works contain the circle motif – as a body, an eye, an aperture, and amongst the exhibits was an edition of the journal, CIRCLE, which touched the imagination of the members of Edinburgh LoFi.

Gregg McNeill “Tempus Fragmentum” (Wet Plate Collodion Tintype)

Edinburgh LoFi defines itself and functions as a social circle – with ideas, concepts and techniques circulating around the group, and the works displayed in the Art and Design Library this month are some of the visual reactions and expressions of members to the circular concept.

Alan Borthwick Untitled (Pinhole Camera)

While some of the works in this exhibition are inspired by the perfect form of the circle as described by geometry, others look to the myriad of meanings associated with the shape. Ending and beginning at the same place – the circular walking route followed in lockdown, a zen meditation around the centre. Enclosing and arranging – circles of friends and colleagues gathered for a purpose. Defensive, protective, time wasting, inescapable or complete – a circle can suggest all these concepts.

Elaine Robson “Coffee Rings” (Chemigram)

Edinburgh LoFi is a photography collective that has been running for 14 years. The group meets regularly to share their photography experiences across traditional, alternative and lomographic formats. They also run events, hold workshops and plan exhibitions. New members are always welcome. Visit Edinburgh Lofi online to find out more about the group.

Roddy Shippin “Microclimate” (Photomicrograph) 

CIRCLE runs throughout March in the Art and Design Library.

Did you know that the Art and Design Library hosts 12 exhibitions a year? We warmly encourage artists who are interested in exhibiting to contact us via for more information. 

The Central Library Children’s Art Club is back!

Are you aged 8-12 years old? Do you like to make things?
If so, then please be in touch! Send us an email at:
or give us a ring on 0131 242 8040.

We’re hoping to restart the sessions on a fortnightly basis, provisionally on a Saturday morning from 10.30am – 12pm at the Central Library.
Term-time sessions to begin on the 10 September 2022.

Our plans are for a free programme of creative play and learning – a time to explore art-making – build curiosity, kindness, and wellbeing – and hopefully foster an ever more creative relationship with the world around us.

We look forward to hearing from you!

We’re also running three summer workshops at the beginning of July:

5 July, 2 – 4pm – Printmaking with paper: the seashore!

6 July, 2 – 4pm – Constructing castles: modelmaking with recycled materials

7 July, 2 – 3.15pm – Funky plant pot découpage

Please book a free place online for these summer sessions via
If you have any queries, please contact the Art and Design Library by phone on 0131 242 8040 or email

New drawing and art books for children

For this month’s blog from the Art and Design Library, Jen reviews a few of our 


They’re exciting additions, and we have more to come. We’re planning a collection of travelling stock to send out to our community libraries – so do keep a look out for some smart new books on our shelves.  

For this year’s spring/summer exhibition, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art are showing a Barbara Hepworth show at Modern Two. It opened on 9 April and will run until 2 October 2022.  

Meet Barbara Hepworth by Laura Carlin therefore seems an apt title to begin with. Laura Carlin is an illustrator and ceramicist based in London, and the book feels so fresh. It’s a wonderful introduction, for anybody, to thoughts about form and shape. About what is it that we do in front of a sculpture; about how learning to see is a bodily thing; about how feelings and shapes collide; and how shapes talk to each other.  

I always love seeing the insides of books, so here are some sneaky shots. 

Meet Barbara Hepworth by Laura Carlin
Meet Barbara Hepworth by Laura Carlin
Meet Barbara Hepworth by Laura Carlin

As you can see, Laura Carlin’s illustration work is a fantastic medley of mixed media-collage-drawing/everything work. And as well as being about Barbara Hepworth and her sculptures, the book also includes prompts for how you might make your own sculptures inspired by the natural world.  

Some extra links – to the Hepworth Wakefield gallery and Barbara Hepworth’s biography page (great photos and snippets of inspiring thoughts); and her sculpture garden and museum in St Ives if you’re ever that end of the map.  

Laura Carlin won the prestigious V & A Book Illustration Award in 2011 for her illustrated edition of Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man. And one of my favourite books of hers’ is A World of Your Own. On play and creativity, it just sparkles.   

There are more in this series. Tate Publishing is the publisher, and the series is called Meet the Artist. As with the Barbara Hepworth, Tate have commissioned a contemporary illustrator to respond to an older artist. Lizzy Stewart has made one on Turner; Rose Blake on David Hockney and Andy Warhol; Nick White on Giacometti; Hélène Baum-Owoyele on Frank Bowling, Helena Perez Garcia on the Pre-Raphaelites.  

They encourage observation and imagination, and they are brilliant creative introductions to art history, and to artmaking. 

(A further peek – these next couple of pictures are from the David Hockney book.)  

David Hockney by Rose Blake
David Hockney by Rose Blake

Another exciting little cohort in our new stock collection are several books by the French artist and educator Hervé Tullet . Art Workshops for Children; Draw Here; I Have an Idea!; andMy Stencil Kit: Draw, Colour and Create Your Own Stories.For sheer joy, energy, and a perfect explication of what it means to play, I totally recommend these books.

Here’s a look inside for you: 

Draw Here by Hervé Tullet
Draw Here by Hervé Tullet
Draw Here by Hervé Tullet
Art workshops for children by Hervé Tullet
Art workshops for children by Hervé Tullet

I find it endlessly interesting watching my toddler with his felt-tip pens. His compulsion and delight, the variety of things that need to be done to and with a felt-tip pen. Whoever knew. I can see the process of him learning – how do I hold this object; what can it do; it’s a tool, oh wow – and with that, comes his discovery of all kinds of concepts… His drawing is totally process-based, he’s busy exploring stuff (until suddenly he’s not!) but mostly he is, and it’s fun for him. What I love about the Hervé Tullet books is that he takes this boundless curiosity and intuitive need to create that all children seem to have, and he plays with it. It’s the visual equivalent of handstands or cartwheels, or just lying on the grass wiggling your toes. The books contain activities and workshops that are adaptable for pretty much any age group. It’s easy to forget how to play, and these books are a bundle of fun and cleverness that remind us how important it is.  

On this workshopping topic I’d just like to mention a couple of other books we have: Drawing Projects for Children; and Make Build Create. Both are by the artist-educator Paula Briggs.  

And here’s an endorsement for the Drawing Projects book by Quentin Blake – “A beautiful book, full of ideas and a vivid sense of materials – truly appetising and stimulating.”  

It wets my appetite too. The book is a collection of simple exercises and activities about making thoughtful and meaningful marks in all kinds of media. I find more each time I go back to them. There are also helpful notes for the facilitator/parent of an activity, and one of the tenets behind the books is that the facilitator need not be a specialist at all.  

Paula Briggs has also set up a charity called Access Art which is a treasure trove of resources for children’s art activities, both for Primary and Secondary age groups.  

And one more picture from some of our new children’s stock:

If you’re at high school reading this, or you’re the parent of someone who is, I thought I’d include a few gems from our stock – some personal gems anyway, from my personal canon, as I’m sure everybody has their own. 

The writer and illustrator, Mervyn Peake, creator of Gormenghast, wrote a little treatise on drawing called The Craft of the Lead Pencil. Originally published in 1946, it is full of the essence of what drawing is (or should be). It is a simple telling, just a few pages long. We have it compiled in another book, Mervyn Peake: Writings & Drawings. 

Similarly, Kimon Nicolaides’ The Natural Way to Draw, is a wonderful (old) how-to book. It is a year’s schedule of drawing that looks at the components of making a drawing – gesture, line, form, feeling, the materials you are working with… – and always with an eye on artists working in the past.  

Also in the 1970s, John Berger (1926 – 2017), artist, art historian, and writer, wrote his influential Ways of Seeing to accompany the BBC TV series of the same name. And in the early 2000s, he wrote a little book of essays and fragments on drawing. It begins,  

For the artist drawing is discovery. And that is not just a slick phrase, it is quite literally true. It is the actual act of drawing that forces the artist to look at the object in front of him, to dissect it in his mind’s eye and put it together again; or, if he is drawing from memory, that forces him to dredge his own mind, to discover the content of his own store of past observations… “

This is illustrated so well, I think, by the artist Sargy Mann in an introductory essay to a book on Bonnard’s drawings. It is about how the very best drawing is discovery, and about how we see. 

We have a lot of books on drawing, of course; on artists’ drawings and artists’ sketchbooks. Come and look at the golden oldies. (How does Rembrandt draw? How did he draw so much heart, I’d love to know that. And Hokusai – he draws with so much facility, so much life – we have his Manga sketchbooks in one of our stores. Originally published in 1814, they are a handbook of over 4,000 images. They contain drawings of everyday life, people, expressions, architecture; drawings of the natural world and animals; myths and stories.) 

And here are just a few extra pictures I pulled off the shelves from our drawing section to entice you: 

Drawing and Painting by Kate Wilson
Drawing and Painting by Kate Wilson
Drawing water by Tania Kovats
Drawing birds by John Busby
Drawing books from the Art and Design Library collection
Comics Sketchbooks by Steven Heller
Comics Sketchbooks by Steven Heller
Anatomy for the artist by Sarah Simblet
Anatomy for the artist by Sarah Simblet
Botany for the artist by Sarah Simblet
Sketching books from the Art and Design Library collection

What I mainly want to say though, is, we have lots and lots of great books. Please do come into the Art and Design Library and explore! 

Edinburgh Women’s Mural

During Women’s History Month in March this year, Central Library began work on creating a public mural celebrating Edinburgh’s trailblazing women, past and present. This was inspired by another project entitled ‘Work in Progress’ by the artists Jann Haworth and Liberty Blake which has been running in the USA since 2016.

We had a fantastic response from the local community, and we’d like to say a big thank you to everybody that contributed, whether you provided nominations for our list of unsung heroines, or helped spread the word, or attended one of our stencil workshops. Thanks also go to Creative Scotland, who awarded us funding for the project, and to local artist Madeleine Wood and graphic designer Greg Stedman.

The Edinburgh Women’s Mural is now finished and ready to display, at Central Library! See below for a sneak peek of one of the eight panels. How many people can you recognise?

Edinburgh Women’s Mural – detail

Please come in to visit us and have a look at the full mural. We’d love to hear your comments and feedback, and if any portrait on the mural inspires you to learn more about a particular individual or subject, staff will be on hand to signpost you to relevant books and other resources from our collections. There will also be a “who’s who” to help you identify each of the women depicted, and a supporting display of interesting material about the women of Edinburgh. 

Check out this short video about how we made the stencilled portraits:

As you will see, one of the women featured prominently on the full mural is the Rector of Edinburgh University, Debora Kayembe. She kindly took the time to speak to us about her inspiring life and varied career. Watch her video here: 

We look forward to seeing you at Central Library, and if you are interested in attending one of our upcoming mural-themed free talks and events, please watch this space, or keep an eye on social media channels! 

The Edinburgh Women’s Mural is on display at Central Library from 23 May to 2 July 2022.

Aleksandra Zawada – Ceramics display

A new exhibition of ceramics by Edinburgh artist Aleksandra Zawada opens on the main staircase at Central Library running from 5 April to 28 May.

Aleksandra Zawada studied Painting at Edinburgh College of Art. She lives and works in Edinburgh. Aleksandra creates hand-built, creature-looking sculptures. Her work is focused on simplicity of forms and yet is playful. Borrowing from an artist’s imagination as well as surveying ancient and oriental ceramics, she creates deliberately irregular, at times rough, works with a distinctive sense of style (and often humour!)

Aleksandra’s pieces are hand-built from mainly raku clay and bisque fired. They are hand-painted using oxides and glazes and then fired again. The artist’s love of colour makes her work not shy away from using strong tones. However, she often uses ones that reference historical glazes. Her sculptures are unique, escaping straightforward categorisation.

Aleksandra writes, “My work is inspired by Ancient; Oriental, Japanese and Outsider ceramics, and colour comes from my training as a painter. I respond to clay in the process of making. I have always had an affinity for simple materials and for works that are tactile. 

I do not make many pieces. 

My work is immersed in a dialogue with all the sculpture that has inspired me regardless of their origins and times they were made. Subconsciously, I am making my own museum collection.”

A selection of books on ceramics complementing Aleksandra’s work from the Art and Design Library at Central Library are included in the exhibition.

For more information on the artist go to, or follow on instagram at

Pathogenesis – artworks by Cordula Marks Venters in the Art and Design Library

A new exhibition opens in the Art and Design Library, Central Library, running from 19 March to 26 May featuring artworks by Cordula Marks Venters.

Cordula Marks Venters is a German-born, Edinburgh-based artist and illustrator. In her work, she explores a broad range of themes and subjects, including the microscopic world, dinosaurs, mythology and nature. She finds inspiration on the forest floor, in the night sky, in the rocks below her feet and the prehistoric life-forms that fill her imagination.

St Corona by Cordula Marks Venters

The exhibition of artwork is entitled Pathogenesis. Viruses, bacteria and a motley crew of other characters inhabit the world of Pathogenesis.

This exhibition came out of the Covid pandemic. Viruses were the unseen threat, occupying our everyday lives and terrifying us – as diseases have done throughout human history. Yet, when these viruses and other pathogens are viewed under the microscope there is undeniable beauty. On examining their shape, form and functionality, we can also appreciate their enormous adaptability and resilience. They are survivors, just as we try to be.

Playing with the concept of pathogens in human or animal form offers wide scope for the artistic interrogation of a key question: who are the real dangers in our world?

All works by Cordula Marks Venters.

To find out more about Cordula’s work, upcoming events and to sign up to her mailing list, please visit or find her on Instagram @cordulamarks.

The Art & Design Library encourages applications for exhibitions from local artists and community groups. To find out more and apply email or drop in and see us in the Central Library. 

Snow in art

For our December cabinet display outside the Art & Design Library we’re displaying some wintry pictures and this is a blog post to go alongside it – to add a wintry commentary of sorts. Specifically, I thought I’d think about snow in art.

It’s snowing as I write this.

A cold wet snow, that’s falling in big lumps. We’re all chills and fevers in our flat; coughs are racking like boots against the (cold) floorboards. We have clammy skin, drippy noses, we’ve had too much tea, too much toast and soup. There is too little light, and condensation is rolling off the window-panes. It’s winter.

When I think about the Scottish winter and snow, and pieces of art that capture it, I think of Joan Eardley – immediately – of course. This year marks the centenary of her birth, and there have been some wonderful exhibitions across the city; please do have a read of our previous blogpost.

I find her the most beautiful and powerful of painters, for the sheer depth of emotion she conveys. In her painting, Catterline in Winter (1963), a row of cottages slips, like they are being tipped from beneath, off a snowy hillside. Above, unflinching, is a cold grey sky. The night has left its thumbprint in the shape of the moon, and we can feel how it lurks, in a vast forbidding way, all around us. There is a wetness in the snow and a bitterness. The picture is also a portrait of her Catterline home as Joan Eardley lived in one of the cottages, the furthest on the left, number 1 South Row. We can’t reproduce the painting here unfortunately but it’s on display in the left-hand cabinet half-way up the stone staircase to the Reference department.

In art historical terms, Joan Eardley’s work nods towards abstract expressionism, expressionism, romanticism, and en plein-airistes everywhere. But really, as an artist, she is herself, and she paints what it is like to be in the fields, and in front of the sea, in all that landscape and weather that’s happening out there. She moved to Catterline, a small village on the north-east coast from Glasgow. She painted outdoors, weighing down her work with ropes and anchors and stones. She wore oilskins. She got very cold…

As a child my family lived in Germany for a while, and I remember how snow happened properly there, every winter. Or at least in my memory it did. My dad gritted and shovelled the path in front of our house with a fluorescent orange snow shovel, and my parents dressed me in a red snowsuit. Which makes me think about the whiteness of snow – and how light and colour sit in relationship with it. 

Claude Monet was a master with regards colour and light on snow. He too dressed for the cold, in English tweeds apparently. I immediately think of his haystacks but he painted many snow-scenes.

Haystacks: Snow Effect by Claude Monet, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

He shows so perfectly how snow covers and transforms the forms within a landscape. The haystack is such a strange lump of a shape; we feel how it sits there right from the middle out.

Another snowy treasure – the Limbourg Brothers’ page for February in the late medieval illuminated manuscript, Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, 
Limbourg brothers, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s part of a book of hours, a book of prayers to be said at canonical hours, made between c. 1412 – 1416, by three brothers, Dutch miniaturists, Herman, Paul and Johan. Cover the blue parts of the painting with your fingers and the snow feels so different – colder maybe? The blue is so strong. And precious. There’s an interesting blog from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Limbourg brothers (mostly it looks at their earlier Belles Heures). And another all about the practical questions on drawing and illumination in the middle ages.

Another painting I wanted to mention was the German painter and printmaker, Franz Marc’s picture of a white dog lying down in the snow.

Dog Lying in the Snow by Franz Marc, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The dog was Franz Marc’s own dog, Russi. He paints him (or her?) in non-naturalistic colour; colour-wheel colours, that are pure and un-patterned – the brushwork is less busy than a Vuillard or a Bonnard. And the shapes are very soft and simple. The dog and the snowy ground it lies on are gently modelled and fit together like an interlocking wooden toy. The living creature and its environment are one, and neither seem to threaten.

Franz Marc was a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter group, an art movement important to expressionism. There was no manifesto to the group, and although the work looked in many directions, it shared a commonality in its desire to express spirituality through art. The Blaue Reiter artists were interested in the relationships between art and music and colour; in medieval art and primitivism, children’s art and folk art. And they had a special interest in how colour might convey spirituality and be imbued with symbolic associations. Franz Marc painted many animals. I find them very dignified and beautiful. The poet Mary Oliver, titled a collection of poems, Blue Horses (2014), after Franz Marc’s paintings –

I do not know how to thank you, Franz Marc.
Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us…

To be outside in the snow, and then suddenly inside, in the warm, looking out at the snow… This is a feeling we all feel. We feel contentment and comfort coming indoors after being outside and I associate these feelings very much with memories of winter and childhood.

Jill Barklem’s Winter Story has always sat in my head. It’s part of her Brambly Hedge series, published in 1980, about a community of mice – Mr and Mrs Toadflax and their family and friends.

Brambly Hedge characters,
“Jill Barklem Sneeuw ill pag 4” by janwillemsen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The details, the observation, the miniaturised world… each page is exquisite. She even made working mechanical models for the world that she drew; a mouse mill and a dairy. I think of Shirley Hughes too, and how she manages to capture the glow of windows and doorways and inside spaces, while outside, sits the winter cold. That glowing warmth isn’t budging, there’s no way the cold can get in.

Tove Jansson’s character, the Groke, is a hilly-shaped mound of a creature, that appears in many of her Moomin stories. She’s always seeking out warmth, but anything she touches turns to ice or snow or dies. And then of course there’s Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman for childhood snow at its most magical.

I remember listening a few years ago to a podcast on architectural design, specifically air conditioning in fact. The podcast talked a little about the pleasure we feel in moving from one temperature to another – about the cosy inside space, and the cool summer breeze. And design thoughts on creating a thermally fluctuating space to mimic this pleasure; on ideas about how we perceive temperature, and can we see temperature as more of a sense? Do we need to move away from thermally neutral spaces and recalibrate how we cope with, and sense, our thermal environment? You can listen to the 99% invisible podcast here.

And a few extra thoughts.

On snow, and joy, I’d just like to include Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. It works for me every time.

On beautiful book jackets – Tove Jansson’s Moominland Midwinter.

On frost fairs and the little ice age – the opening scenes in the film Orlando directed by Sally Potter. The young Orlando is a page in the Elizabethan court and falls in love with Sasha, a princess in the Russian entourage, as they skate through one of the Thames’ frost fairs.

Also a London Review of Books article on frost fairs by the poet John Burnside.

On ice skating and painting – Hendrick Avercamp!

On snow flurries – Alexander Calder and explore more on Calder by borrowing a book.

On any snowy painting by Pieter Breughel the Elder.

And lastly, any snowy woodblock print by Utagawa Hiroshige.

Books on all the artists mentioned are available to borrow from the Art & Design Library, Central Library. Please come and browse or search the Library catalogue online to reserve and pick up from a library of your choice.

Elizabeth Blackadder, 1931 – 2021

Elizabeth Blackadder would have been 90 years old this week, and here in the Art and Design Library, staff have been saddened at her recent passing. She was one of Scotland’s most loved artists and she achieved recognition and success across the UK. She was the first woman to be elected to both the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy of Arts in London. She was honoured with royal recognition too: an OBE in 1982 followed by a DBE in 2003. She was even appointed Painter and Limner to the Royal Household in Scotland in 2002.

Ruby Rose from the Art and Design Team has been spending some time with the Elizabeth Blackadder books in our collections and shares her thoughts. 

The artist at work in her studio by Elizabeth Blackadder, available to reserve and borrow from Your Library

I have an abiding fascination with artist studios, materials and methods, so am particularly drawn to the Royal Academy Masterclass publication, “The Artist at Work in Her Studio” which conveys a sense of her approach to her work as a painter. In this beautifully illustrated book, she describes some of her processes and artistic choices in creating still life and flower paintings. She provides insight and opinions about painting in her own words, and it reminds me that she was a teacher at her Alma Mater, Edinburgh College of Art, for much of her working life. I find a quiet generosity to her commentary, and perhaps some sense of the pedagogical impulse in her straightforward descriptions of elements of her techniques. The book is laced with little snippets: the paper she uses, the colours she chooses, her approach to arranging a still life, even how she uses a paintbrush.  There is a complete lack of pretence, and in a wealth of photographs we get a wonderful insight into her studio and practice.

Morning glory : haiku and tanka by Alan Spence, illustrated by Elizabeth Blackadder, available to reserve and borrow from Your Library

Another favourite of mine from the Art and Design Library collection, is Morning Glory by Alan Spence, a collection of poems in the Haiku and Tanka forms.  This tiny book of tiny poems is exquisitely illustrated with tender drawings and paintings.  Blackadder’s mid-life interest in Japanese culture comes through in delicate drawings such as a Matcha Whisk and blue green Matcha bowl with a wisp of steam rising from the warm tea within. There are Japanese fans and a kimono. These are echoes of her larger work with Japanese themes, and throughout you can sense an expressive evocation of the subjects.  There are several paintings of peacocks, including on the cover as you can see. I find the lively drama in her expressive brushstrokes delightful. Nothing has been overworked or laboured in the illustrations, and they appear almost effortless precisely because of the underlying skill of their creator. There is a resonance here to the immediacy of the small form of the poetry. The deceptive simplicity of the poems hides the process of creation.

This same sense of evocation and expressiveness comes through in one of her (and my) perennial favourite subjects: cats.  She drew cats in pencil and pastels, painted them in oils and watercolours, and they feature in her print work too.  The popularity of her cats was recognised in 1995 with a UK release of Royal Mail stamps featuring 5 especially commissioned cats.

Elizabeth Blackadder by Judith Bumpus, available to reserve and borrow from Your Library

Happily for feline afficionados, several of the published monographs about her reproduce many examples of her cat paintings and studies. These include Duncan Macmillan’s 1999 survey of her career, and the first book dedicated to her by Judith Bumpus features a charming green cat amongst the foliage (“Cat and Orchids”, 1984) on its cover. 

Elizabeth Blackadder by Phil Long, available to reserve and borrow from Your Library

My final favourite is the book that accompanied the 2011 retrospective exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery, “Elizabeth Blackadder” written by Philip Long, and reading it feels both appropriate and poignant at this time.  The exhibition celebrated Blackadder’s 80th birthday, and surveyed her entire career.  The book remains a perfect introduction and review of her work as she developed through the decades.  It contains a lush abundance of images ranging from landscapes, portraits and intricate pen and ink city sketches of Italy and Scotland created in the 1950s through the subsequent decades.  It gives an amazing insight to how the artist’s early subject matter evolves and develops, whilst new themes emerge, such as her interest in Japan.  I’m particularly drawn to a duo of detailed shells in watercolour painted in 2011.  Blackadder’s work belongs in many public collections, but she was extensively acquired by private collectors too, and this exhibition gathered together many artworks from private collections.  We are lucky to have the accompanying catalogue to let us have a glimpse of them now.  Indeed, amongst the collection in the library we also have a few exhibition catalogues from her solo shows that are a joy to look at.

These titles and more are available to browse and borrow in the Art and Design Library. Do pay us a visit soon – there’s no need to book. 

Make your own art with our new books!

The Art & Design Library has been a hive of activity lately, as a backdated delivery arrived and has seen desks piled high with boxes containing stacks of brand new art books. Staff have been busy getting the books ready to go on the shelves and enjoying a sneak peek themselves!

A diverse range of titles have been added to our catalogue since we opened, ranging right across the board, from architecture to printmaking and everything in between! We have outstanding new reads on old masters including Da Vinci and Rembrandt, and on innovative contemporary artists including Nalini Malani, Jo-Anne McArthur and Zanele Muholi. There are books on the fascinating lives and work of illustrators Dick Bruna and Raymond Briggs, and we have a new collection of art books aimed at children (look out for more on this in a future blog!).

Often our most popular items are those which help give our customers a creative boost, those which inform and inspire you on your journey to make and develop your own art and craft. Since our order arrived, our shelves now hold a fantastic selection of insightful books, written by craftspeople and artists who share their experiences, struggles, influences, techniques and insider tips!

So, if you make your own art or would love to learn a new skill, then read on, there might be something here written just for you…

‘House Of Print’ by Molly Mahon

Molly Mahon designs and creates beautiful and original fabrics, wallpapers, and functional art pieces for the home. This joyful exploration of block printing by the designer takes readers through her initial design process, through to the block carving, colour mixing and the printing process. The book is jam-packed with beautiful photographs alongside clear and easy to follow instructions. Starting with simple block prints on paper and fabric, through to potential ways to transform the pieces into modern and stylish homeware, this book is sure to fire your imagination.
Borrow House of Print

‘Open Studio. Do-It-Yourself Projects by Contemporary Artists’ by Sharon Coplan Hurowitz and Amanda Benchley

Open Studio is book of fun, accessible DIY projects by leading contemporary artists including Marina Abramovic, Julie Mehretu and the Haas brothers. With behind the scenes photos taken in the artists’ studios, it demystifies their practice as they draw, paint, sculpt and design an original project for readers to create at home. Included is a suggested list of supplies, illustrated step-by-step instructions and pull-out templates and stencils. The result is sure to appeal to both adults and children and inform their creative practice.
Borrow Open Studio

‘The Stencil Graffiti Handbook’ by Tristan Manco

Written by street art expert Tristan Manco, this book not only contains countless tips and tricks for making stencil art but is a guide to an artistic path. Aimed at “artists, activists, designers, typographers, provocateurs and all rebellious spirits”, Manco explores the medium’s applications within grassroots activism as well as the contemporary craft scene bringing this radical artform to light. Featuring studio visits with street artists and step-by-step guidance, this is an essential book for anyone interested in the graffiti scene.
Borrow The Stencil Graffiti Handbook

‘The Papercraft Ideas Book’ by Jessica Baldry

The Papercraft Ideas Book contains more than 80 fabulous papercraft artworks by contemporary international artists and includes a wealth of tips and guidance. A visual feast and source of inspiration, this book is a treasure trove of ideas for papercraft subjects, methods and styles. Techniques include 3D collage, paper marbling and paper quilling, as well as stitching onto paper, paper embossing and traditional papercutting. Expand your creativity and express yourself through this incredible craft.
Borrow The Papercraft Ideas Book

‘Textile Travels’ by Anne Kelly

Renowned textile artist Anne Kelly looks at how travel, past and present, can be captured in textile art. Illustrated with evocative photographs throughout, she explores the influence of different cultures across the globe. Included are a wealth of ideas for using traditional techniques, fabrics, motifs and colours and exquisite examples of work by leading contemporary textile artists. A practical and beautiful guide for textile artists, embroiderers and makers everywhere.
Borrow Textile Travels

‘Pastel Painting Atelier- Essential Lessons in Techniques, Practice and Materials’ by Ellen Eagle

An essential and enlightening read on the history, techniques and practices of pastel painting. Artist Ellen Eagle takes an in-depth look at pastels’ relatively unexamined past, reveals her own influences and includes magnificent work by masters including Mary Cassatt and Eugene Delacroix.  Aimed at serious artists but an informative read for anyone interested in using pastels, Eagle gives detailed advice on materials, suggestions for working in the studio and step-by-step demonstrations.
Borrow Pastel Painting Atelier

We hope you enjoyed this preview of our motivating new books, however to view the entire range be sure to visit soon, as we have many more!

Book a slot, choosing ‘Central’ from the list, to visit the Art & Design Library. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Must-see exhibitions this summer!

The Art & Design Library has recently opened, and the timing couldn’t be better. This summer in Edinburgh sees a fabulous line up of art exhibitions to visit, plus the world class Edinburgh Art Festival (EAF) is about to kick off and looks as exciting as ever. Running from 29 July to 29 August, EAF brings together over 35 exhibitions and new commissions in visual art spaces across the city, complemented by an online programme of events and digital presentations.

Shows in Edinburgh this summer include some well known artists and some new talents exhibiting for the first time. It can be hard to know where to start when presented with such a wealth of choice so, just for fun, in no specific order, here are some of our top picks!

Islander: The Paintings of Donald Smith at the City Art Centre,
29 May – 26 September 2021

The Big Net. Oil on panel, c.1984. Used with permission from City Art Centre.

Artist Donald John Smith attended Grays School of Art in Aberdeen where, in 1958 he was named outstanding student of the year by principle Ian Fleming.  He later returned to his home of Lewis and painted from his studio there until his death in 2014. His subject matter was local, and a celebration of the island women and fishermen that lived and worked around him. This exhibition, a partnership project between the City Art Centre an An Lanntair Gallery in Stornoway, gives an insight into the man behind the paintings which celebrate the power of the human spirit.
Read more about Donald Smith at the Art & Design library.
Book a time to visit Islander, The Paintings of Donald Smith exhibition at City Art Centre

Elfyn Lewis- Mor a Mynydd at &Gallery, 3 July – 4 August 2021

Hirael’. Acrylic on board. Used with permission from &Gallery

Welsh artist Elfyn Lewis is having his first solo exhibition. This presents a new collection of his paintings done over the last year. The title translates as Sea and Mountains, referencing Helen Frankenthaler’s painting, Mountains and Sea. His brightly coloured, multi-layered abstract paintings suggest vivid landscapes and he experiments with different processes to communicate his love of place.
Plan your visit to the &Gallery

Castle Mills Contemporary at Edinburgh Printmakers, from 4 August 2021

Wendy McMurdo, Cormorant, 2021. Published by Edinburgh Printmakers.
Used with permission from the artist and Edinburgh Printmakers.

Showcasing works by some of the UK’s finest contemporary artists, all of the work included in this exhibition was created at the Edinburgh printmakers studio during or just before the pandemic hit. The exhibition includes artists at the cutting edge of artistic practice and a number of recipients of the Edinburgh Printmakers Publishing Award.
Read books published by Edinburgh Printmakers at the Art & Design library.
Plan your visit to Edinburgh Printmakers.

Karla Black – Sculptures (2001 – 2021) – Details for a Retrospective
at the Fruitmarket Gallery, 7 July – 24 October 2021

The newly refurbished and extended and Fruitmarket Gallery has reopened with an exhibition by Scottish Turner prize nominated artist Karla Black. Resolutely abstract, the sculptures reject figuration and are made using unconventional materials including her signature cosmetics, over-the counter medicines, cleaning products and packaging.  The results have been described by gallery director, Fiona Bradley as a ‘moment of raw creativity’.
Borrow books on artist Karla Black from the Art & Design library.
Book your visit to the Karla Black exhibition at Fruitmarket Gallery.

Jock McFadyen – Lost Boat Party at Dovecot Studios, 11 June – 25 September 2021 

Dovecot is celebrating the Paisley artist, Jock McFadyen’s 70th birthday with this major display of over 20 large paintings. Best known for his contemporary landscapes, the monumental painting Lost Boat Party depicts a funfair which appears to have detached itself from the land and is slowly drifting out to sea. Online events include the launch of EAF with Jock McFadyen, an interview with the artist and a curator talk on this exhibition.
Read more about Jock McFadyen at the Art & Design library.
Book your visit to the Jock McFadyen exhibition and online events at Dovecot Studios.

Ray Harryhausen – Titan of Cinema at The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern Two), open now until 20 Feb 2022.

The largest and widest-ranging exhibition of film special effects superstar Ray Harryhausen’s work ever seen, with newly restored and previously unseen material from his incredible archive. His work included the films Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad films of the 1950s and 1970s, One Million Years B.C. and Mighty Joe Young. Included are truly memorable characters like Medusa, the Kraken, and Bubo the owl, as well as his iconic skeleton army from Jason and the Argonauts.
Read about Ray Harryhausen at the Art & Design Library.
Book your ticket for the Ray Harryhausen exhibition at Modern Two.

Joan Eardley Centenary exhibitions: A series of exhibitions and events across the UK to celebrate 100 years of one of Scotland’s best loved artists.

Joan Eardley & Catterline at The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One), from 16 May – no closing date at present.

This extraordinary two room exhibition includes some of Eardley’s most iconic paintings, such as Catterline in Winter (1963), Summer Fields (1961) and Snow (1958). 
Book your visit to the Joan Eardley exhibition at Modern One.

Joan Eardley Centenary at The Scottish Gallery, 30 July – 28 August 2021.

This major exhibition includes her most celebrated subjects: the streets and children of Townhead, Glasgow and her home at Catterline. It will be accompanied by a series of online events including a tour of the exhibition, discussions and a lecture on the artist.
Find out more about the Joan Eardley exhibition at The Scottish Gallery.
Borrow from our range of books on the life and art of Joan Eardley at the Art & Design Library

What is top of your must-see shows this summer? Whatever you choose, we hope you enjoy it, and should you want to read more about your favourite artists, then what better place to visit than the Art & Design Library? Remember to book a time to visit for browsing and borrowing, selecting Central Library on the online booking form.

Welcome back, we’ve missed you!

Do you like your art fictionalized?

Stories that make art their subject or artists their characters can help to bring art and its history alive to readers and at the same time can teach us things and spark off an interest to learn more about an artistic movement, artist or time period.

Staff from Central Library have been busy reading and have come up with a few suggestions for stories that bring art to life. Many of the books below are available to borrow in ebook and/or audiobook format.

Zoe from Central Lending and Central Children’s introduces us to How to be Both by Ali Smith
How to be Both is a really interesting book exploring love, family, truth, art, and grief. It’s split into two narratives, one told from the point of view of a contemporary English teenage girl called George and the other from the perspective of an Italian Renaissance painter called Francesco. Some editions of the book begin with one narrative, some with the other. It’s definitely a work of two halves, or sides, as it explores the not-so-binary relationships between concepts such as life/death, male/female. As you might expect from a novel loosely about art, it is also preoccupied with the act of seeing, and being seen: that things and people are more than how they appear, if you take the time to really consider them. 

Although there is some trademark Smith playfulness and lively dialogue, it’s not a light and fun novel to read. It feels like more of a philosophical thought-experiment, using the characters’ lives as a vehicle. Smith really zooms in on what it means to be alive, as she spends a lot of time describing minutely what George, mourning her mother, is thinking and feeling, and what Francesco the artist is seeing and doing. This book asks you to pay attention and think, as Smith demonstrates in her incredibly erudite imagining of Francesco’s life as an artist, in her painstaking exploration of George’s emotional inner life, and in her sharp-eyed deconstruction of the real paintings and frescoes featured in the story. “There’s always more to see” says one of the characters in the book, and this sums it up perfectly.
Borrow How To Be Both as an audiobook.

Jen from the Art & Design and Music Team reviews Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Piranesi lives in a marble world that is rushed through with saltwater tides and weather. There is only Piranesi in this world, the incongruously dressed Other who he meets twice a week, and hall upon empty hall of statues. He fishes, he mends his nets and clothes, he writes in his notebooks and he lovingly tends to the dead – all 13 of them. 

Until chalked messages appear and the darkness of the tale, the disjuncture and the unease at the metaphysics of the place, broaden out. The character “16”, a sixteenth person, appears to Piranesi and his beautiful marble world, like the tides, bulges.

I read this book in the early hours of black winter nights, in a locked-down world, feeding a baby. It was wonderfully apt to think on, and as a response to the 18th century artist Piranesi – his etchings of city ruins and imaginary prisons – the book feels so surprising, deep and luminous in every way.
Borrow Piranesi as an ebook.

Bronwen from the Art & Design and Music Libraries introduces A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier
Have you ever found yourself in a church admiring the craftsmanship of the kneelers punctuating the rows of pews? Tracy Chevalier’s A Single Thread takes up the story of the broderers of Winchester Cathedral; the exquisite workmanship and skill of the kneelers they embellished with fine embroidery, and the real-life tale of real-life head-broderer Louisa Pesel. But the main story is around the fictional character of Louisa, one of the generation of so-called `surplus women’, left alone after the death of so many young men in the First World War, who struggling for independence finds solace and comfort in the companionship of her fellow broderers of Winchester Cathedral.
Borrow A Single Thread as a ebook or an audiobook.

Doris from Central Lending Library reviews The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild 
The Improbability of Love, a quirky debut novel, is a delight from start to finish and is full of passion, intrigue, great wealth and skulduggery. 

The main character is Annie McDee, a private chef who finds a mysterious painting in a London junk shop. But, this is no ordinary work of art. It is in fact a talking painting with an imperious attitude. Measuring only 18 inches by 24 inches and painted by French artist Jean-Antoine Watteau, the little painting has an extraordinary history. Many want the painting and will stop at nothing to achieve their aim. 

Light in tone, The Improbability of Love also explores the darker side of the art world, examining the relationship between wealth and real value. 

Though a work of fiction, the Improbability of Love is informative and Rothschild mentions a number of artists and their paintings including Cezanne’s card players and Klimt’s Adele Bloch Bauer, thereby, simultaneously entertaining and educating readers. 
Borrow Improbability of Love as an ebook. 

Fiona, Central Library Manager, tells us about The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch is the first book which sprung to my mind when the idea of art in fiction was mentioned. It’s one of my favourite books and I’ve read it three of four times. It’s not an easy book to sum up but at the heart of the book is a small painting – The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, a student of Rembrandt’s, who died at the age of 32 when a gunpowder factory near his studio exploded. The painting is one of the few of Fabritius’s works which survived.

In the novel, the painting is rescued from an explosion at New York’s Metropolitan Museum by 13 year old Theo, whose mother dies in the same explosion. Instead of returning the painting Theo keeps it, and the book follows him as he grows to adulthood, still wracked with guilt and grief.

It’s a long book covering lots of different themes – I’ve seen it compared to Great Expectations by Dickens. I loved it!

Hope from Central Lending and Central Children’s considers how the author Alan Hollinghurst writes beautifully about art/artists and the pursuit of beauty in The Sparsholt Affair.
In his most recent novel, The Sparsholt Affair, the protagonist, Johnny Sparsholt is a portrait painter, his life and work overshadowed by a scandal surrounding his father, David Sparsholt. The book looks at the prejudices and hypocrisy of post-war British society – a society where a man could be a hero, only to have his name and reputation destroyed when he goes to bed with another man. 

Jonny, though famous in his own right, always feels he is followed by this scandal, which destroyed his parents’ marriage, landed his father in gaol and saw the family name dragged through the gutter press. Throughout the book, full of painters and the painted, admirers and the admired, Jonny forges a path falling in and out of love with a beautiful but unobtainable man, and ultimately, unexpectedly becoming a father himself. There is a wonderful scene at the opening of one of Jonny’s exhibitions, seen through the eyes of his six-year-old daughter.

Painting and beauty is a constant in this strange, lovely, scathing novel, which leaves much unsaid, but stays with you for a long time afterwards.

Joanna from Art & Design and Music shares her appreciation of Fair Play by Tove Jansson.

Translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal and awarded Bernard Shaw Prize for Translation in 2009, Fair Play is the last novel written by Tove Jansson, when she was 75.

As an artist and a writer Jansson is best known as the creator of the Moomin stories, which have been published in thirty-five languages. Overhemingly talented she was a painter, illustrator, cartoonist and comic strip artist. From 1930 till 1960 she worked as an illustrator and the cartoonist for the Swedish-language, leftist, satirical magazine Garm, drawing caricatures of Hitler and Stalin.

Towards the end of 1960 she start to write for adults and her prose was usually semi-biographical. This is the case in Fair Play.

Fair Play is mainly a love story, but unusually ends happily. This is a book about life, love and art. I’m not sure if this book is a novel built with seventeen chapters or just seventeen short stories put together. Portraying everyday life of two loving partners in their seventies: Mari the writer and Jonna the graphic artist and a film maker. But this story is not as obvious one, the plot is much more complicated. In some way this story box is a kind of chinese puzzle box. So we should remember, that in real world Mari impersonating Tove herself is much more than a humble writer girl in this story. Jonna is a portrait of Tove’s longlife, friend, lover and companion Tuulikki Pietila. Each chapter shows us Mari and Jonna in different situations and circumstances. In their spacious and distant workshops with the shared attic space with the sofa TV and collections of film cassettes. Feeling a little bit like eavesdropping we can hear their discussions about art, ideas for writing, small everyday quarrels, jokes about taste in films (one of them is all for ambitious Fassbinder kind, the other one prefers B class Westerns). We can also see them in the boat arguing in the mist about their mothers, on their small island in a cabin size house or in the Great City of Phoenix (title of one story). Travelling with the 8mm Konica, nervously looking for the next roll of Kodak film.

And where is the art you may ask? Art is the main subject of this book. The art of living and the art of loving. Everything beautifully sketched with Tove’s delicate writing.
Borrow Fair Play as an ebook.

We hope you might enjoy reading some of these books as much as we have and would love to hear your recommendations.

Heard any good art recently?

It seems counter intuitive as there are no pictures but the art podcast is thriving. When you hear people talking about art the images spring to life in your imagination.

Art and Design Library staff get asked to recommend good art podcasts. It’s a difficult enquiry to answer on the spot but here’s a round-up of some you might like to explore.

The Art Newspaper Podcast from the London publication The Art Newspaper provide some of the most topical podcasts around. Hosted by Ben Luke, the weekly show is not a digest of recent articles, but a chance to hear experts talk in depth about new developments or trends.

Find out what it was like to be a woman artist making art during the feminist and civil rights movement with Recording Artists Radical Women. Drawing on the archives of the Getty Research Institute, podcast host Helen Molesworth explores the lives and careers of six women artists spanning several generations. Contemporary artists and art historians join Helen in conversation.

If conversational, gossipy and fast-paced is more your style try Talk Art: actor-collector Russell Tovey and musician-turned gallerist Robert Diament speak to some big name artists and collectors. Listen in to explore the magic of art and why it connects us all. Special QuarARTine episodes picking up on the latest responses to the pandemic across the world.

Photography Down The Line from Stills Centre for Photography in Edinburgh is a weekly series of conversations between artists, photographers and the Director of Stills: starting during the coronavirus lockdown this series shares the ideas of artists during this challenging time.

Meet Me At The Museum is a series of podcasts from The Art Fund featuring well-known faces taking someone they love to a favourite museum or gallery. The current series is available every week for four weeks from 20 April 2020 and features Mel Giedroyc, Edith Bowman, Katy Hessel and Anneka Rice, all exploring museums they love.

Podcasts on art are proliferating. If you find an art podcast you like and think others would enjoy why not share this with us @edcentrallib

What libraries mean to me with Molly Kent

In today’s library Q & A session, we ask artist, student and library advisor, Molly Kent what libraries mean to her.

Molly is currently in her final year at Edinburgh University studying for her MA Hons Fine Art and Art History. Molly is currently curating her degree show which uses the traditional medium of rug tufting to create an immersive installation space on the topic of doubt. The work draws on contemporary existence regarding social media and living in an internet-driven environment through the visual aesthetics of digital glitch. It also highlights the importance of a time-old craft, evolved and made relevant to the field of contemporary art through various areas of research. Making use of bright and neon colours, unsettling phrases and organic shapes, each piece intends to mirror the feeling of doubt through sensory experience and highlight the commonality of doubt, albeit often brushed under the rug. Rugs, that we’d normally see as domestic objects, begin to morph and climb walls, resembling bacteria and virus structures, as if mutating before us. It plays on the idea that doubt can be perceived as an ailment that overtime shifts and morphs into something new continuing its hold over us.

Rug tufted artwork by Molly Kent

What do libraries (including Edinburgh City Libraries) mean to you as an artist and as a student?
Libraries have often been one of the main starting points of my research when it comes to approaching a new series of artwork. While my current work centres on my personal experiences and emotions, the medium I am currently working with is new to me. Libraries have offered me an otherwise unattainable insight into the process of rug making, with both my university library and Edinburgh City Libraries holding a series of books that weren’t available online. As well as a wonderful holding on contemporary arts more widely, the library gives insight into other practices as well through exhibition catalogues that inspire new methods and presentation.

In particular, Edinburgh City Libraries has a great holding of books that go through the step by steps of rug hooking, including what fabrics, yarns and adhesives to use. Information into the practical side of rug making is somewhat scarce online and the insight gathered from these books has been invaluable to my practice. In addition to this, being able to experience a whole host of artistic expressions from so many areas of visual culture through the rotating monthly exhibitions in the Art and Design Library sparks creativity from often unexpected works – opening up ideas to branch off existing works into new multidisciplinary methods.

Also, I grew up in libraries, so to speak. Often taken after school to access books that we couldn’t at home, and as a safe place to work, libraries have become a haven for me over the years. The ability to immerse myself in so many different topics, enabling my research and artistic practice to reach new avenues is invaluable.

Rug tufted artwork by Molly Kent

What is your earliest library memory?
My earliest memory of libraries would be from back home in Birmingham, at my local library after school. My mom would take me in so I could read to my heart’s content, often getting through a book a day. Talking to the librarians was a highlight and over time I’d be allowed to help out around the library, especially after my mom started to work there.

When I was around 12/13 years old I would be helping to run craft sessions. These sessions helped me find my love for creating and helped others express themselves through art too. I continued to help with the craft sessions when I started working at my hometown library at 17 years old.

Are you struggling to cope without a library? What advice would you give to those who love the library and can no longer go in?
Without a doubt, yes. As I’m coming to the end of my degree, it’s especially difficult not to be able to dip back into all the books I’ve been looking at for the past year or so, or find inspirations in new ones. Books have always been one of my main sources of creative inspiration and the loss of access is difficult. As well, having worked as a library advisor for the past 7 years, and having a good understanding of catalogue systems, it’s easy for me to find books on particular topics and areas quickly. Now, with just the internet and e-services, it’s more time consuming and far more difficult to find relevant information quickly.

I’d advise looking into the eBook services, particularly magazines and periodicals we host online now. Being able to browse art magazines and see what’s going on worldwide in contemporary arts is vital, and especially seeing how galleries and artists are responding to and working within the new confines of a COVID-19 landscape. In addition to this, for myself, Instagram is a great place to look for inspiration and community in these strange times. I’ve been able to connect more widely across the UK, and globally, and as I’ve put more time into sharing my work there. I’ve made new connections that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

A lot of people are struggling just now – art has the capacity to soothe by reflecting our emotions but also to challenge – what do you recommend as an artist to those that are struggling?
It’s difficult to pinpoint because we all process things differently. For myself, I am creating more now that I am home and challenging myself to produce something new every day. But for others, trying to navigate this new way of living could be difficult and we shouldn’t feel the need to use this time as one of productivity. If you have the spark to use this time for creativity, my recommendation is to start now. If you’ve ever wanted to draw, paint, sculpt etc. work with what you have currently, be it only a pencil and paper and start making. Or, if you’ve ever wanted to know more about art or any other topics, there’s a whole host of courses being published for free online by some of the biggest institutions online. I’ve been eyeing some courses from Harvard for when I finish my degree next month, as something to keep my brain engaged and continue my learning.

Are you able to practise as an artist just now? What are you working on? What would you recommend as a way through?
I am lucky enough to have a home studio (read: my partner and I have a  home office that is completely overrun with rug-making materials) so I have been able to continue my artistic practice. I was lucky enough to have had my degree show sponsored in part by Paintbox Yarns via Lovecrafts and was sent yarn to work with. So, thankfully, I have plenty of materials to work with. Just before quarantine started I was able to upgrade my rug tufting frame so for the past few weeks I’ve been working on some large scale rugs.

Rug tufted artwork installation by Molly Kent

How can we connect as librarians, borrowers, readers and as creatives just now when the library is closed? Can social media be a replacement or do we need more? How can art help to overcome this?
I don’t think social media can be a total replacement for the physical, in-person communicative experience. Some galleries are creating stunning digital exhibitions, and it’s great that more investment is being made into online engagement with individuals, particularly as this will greatly benefit social groups who were excluded from some mainstream artistic spaces. But currently, it’s a fantastic place for us all to connect. I’ve seen digital book clubs, live-streamed art tutorials, even art tutorials taking place via Zoom. This is all so we can continue learning, sharing and providing one another with feedback to keep our work developing.

Ultimately art can bring everyone together, there’s no need for a high brow understanding of the ins-and-outs of art history. If art makes you feel something or peaks a curiosity you hadn’t otherwise explored, now is a great time to engage with institutions, artist-run spaces, and individual makers within your locality or internationally. Then, when libraries re-open it will be wonderful to bring together a newly engaged community focus into these pre-existing spaces.

Rug tufted artwork installation by Molly Kent

With huge thanks to Molly for talking to us and sharing what libraries mean to her.

Visiting art exhibitions from your armchair

This blog is written by Bronwen, Librarian in the Art and Design Library.

“Working in the Art & Design Library we are keen to promote access to exhibitions and make a point of collecting catalogues of the major shows around the UK. This year is a little different but with art museums having their virtual doors open we’ve pulled together some of the many online exhibitions and galleries you can visit without leaving home.

Tour some of the world’s greatest galleries with Google Arts and Culture!

The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in Google Street View

With Google Arts and Culture you can take virtual tours around some of the best art museums in the world from the British Museum to MoMA in New York to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris – you can zoom in far closer on individual works than you ever could in real life! You can even take a tour of our National Museums Scotland.

Close to home explore the collections of the National Galleries Scotland; explore their featured artists and art works and get some ideas for getting creative.

Catch up with the latest videos from The Royal Academy, London including virtual curator-led tours and artist interviews and explore the Royal Academy collections from home. The Royal Academy Gauguin and the Impressionists was due to open on 29 March: the Royal Academy are bringing a taste of the exhibition to you at home.

Tate Modern may be closed but you can view their series of Online Displays.

Watch an online-only performance by the Congolese choreographer and dance artist Faustin Linyekula in the Tanks at Tate Modern My Body, My Archive is a performance re-invented for the particular situation of this exhibition and its closure to the public. It combines segments of his works Sur les traces de Dinozord 2006, Statue of Loss 2014, Banataba 2017 and Congo 2019.

Image from the Dai Nippon (Great Japan) exhibition on Capital Collections

Ever wanted to get the National Gallery London all to yourself? Now you have a chance with their series of virtual tours. Tours link directly to painting pages where you can find out more information on the art works on display.

Dai Nippon (Great Japan) is an online exhibition of beautiful Japanese prints on Capital Collections. The artworks are taken from the Henry Dyer Collection of amazing artefacts gifted to Central Library by his family.”

Quines Exhibition

Launching next Saturday 7 March on the eve of International Women’s Day is the exciting new exhibition `Quines: poems and textiles in tribute to women of Scotland’ on display across Central Library.

Taking inspiration from Gerda Stevenson’s poetry collection Quines: poems in tribute to women of Scotland celebrating and exploring the richly diverse contribution women have made to Scottish history and society, edge textile artists Scotland members have each selected varied poems from the collection, interpreting them in diverse and inspiring personal ways.

Come to the launch afternoon running 2-4pm Saturday 7 March. Book on Edinburgh Reads to hear Gerda Stevenson reading poems from her collection Quines and take a guided tour led by edge members around the exhibition. Enjoy a cuppa and chat to edge members.

The exhibition is on display on the Mezzanine, on the Staircase and in the Art & Design Library running until Monday 30 March.




LGBT history in the Art & Design Library

February is LGBT History Month and, in the Art & Design Library we’ve been looking at some of our books that explore this rich history and its amazing contribution to the visual arts. All are available for borrowing from the Art & Design Library.

A Queer History of Fashion: from the Closet to the Catwalk edited by Valerie Steele, published 2013.
From Christian Dior to Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, many of the greatest fashion designers of the past century have been gay. This book looks at the history of fashion through a queer lens, examining high fashion as a site of gay cultural production and exploring the aesthetic sensibilities and unconventional dress of LGBTQ people to demonstrate the centrality of gay culture to the creation of modern fashion.

Art & Queer Culture by Catherine Lord & Richard Meyer, published 2019.
Art & Queer Culture surveys artworks that have constructed, contested, or otherwise responded to alternative forms of sexuality. Rather than focusing exclusively on artists who self-identify as gay or lesbian, the book instead traces the shifting possibilities and constraints of sexual identity that have provided visual artists with a rich creative resource over the last 130 years

A Queer Little History of Art by Alex Pilcher published 2017.
The last century has seen a dramatic shift in gender and sexual identities for both men and women, reflected in a period of artistic experimentation as artists have sought to challenge social conventions and push the boundaries of what has been deemed acceptable. The result is a wealth of deeply emotive and powerful art intended to express a range of desires and experiences but also to question, criticise and provoke dialogue. This book showcases a selection of works which illustrate the breadth and depth of queer art from around the world.

Drawing difference: connections between gender and drawing by Marsha Meskimmon and Phil Sawdon, published 2016.
Drawing Difference’ analyses how both drawing and feminist discourse emphasise dialogue, matter and openness. It demonstrates how sexual difference, subjectivity and drawing are connected at an elemental level – and how drawing has played a vital role in the articulation of the material and conceptual dynamics of feminism.

Queer British Art 1861-1967 edited by Clare Barlow, published 2017.
With a focus just on British queer art, this book has sections on ambivalent sexualities and gender experimentation amongst the Pre-Raphaelites; the science of sexology’s impact on portraiture; queer domesticities in Bloomsbury and beyond; eroticism in the artist’s studio and relationships between artists and models; gender play and sexuality in British surrealism; and love and lust in sixties Soho.

We’ve many more biographies and analyses of works by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender+ identified artists. From Diane Arbus and Francis Bacon to Keith Haring, Gilbert & George and David Hockney, we’ve got them covered. Drop into the Art & Design Library for more information.

December’s art exhibition: Noni Choi

The December exhibition in the Art and Design Library showcases artist, Noni Choi, whose work is a gorgeous celebration of nature, colour and energy.

Noni Choi is a botanical artist and illustrator based in Edinburgh. She is from South Korea and trained in ceramic arts in Seoul. Noni worked as an art teacher in Korea until 2009.

“As a painter and an illustrator, flowers and stars are a rich source of inspiration in my art. My work captures the precision of nature creating meditative studies of the beauty of the natural world I see around me.  To me painting is a return to nature. I hope that my paintings which are created with bright colours, full of happiness and vibrant energy help people to return to innocence.

I love nature and I hope to protect nature with my works someday.”

You can learn more about Noni on her website: and follow her on Instagram: @artistnoni

The exhibition runs from 3rd December until 31st December.

October Exhibition – Art and Design Library

The October exhibition in the Art and Design Library is a group show showcasing the work of Edinburgh based artist, Norma Henderson and her father, Forbes Dunn.  Friends, Family and Photography features painting and photographs by the two artists, along with several examples of work by close family friends.

Forbes Dunn (1925-2016) studied Technical Drawing when he left school in 1939 aged 14, going on to a lifelong career as a Technical illustrator & Advisor with the Scottish Gas Board. He was passionate about all aspects of art and was skilled in a range of areas including acrylics, pen & ink and watercolour. He was a member of Musselburgh Art Club for many years and travelled abroad with groups on “Painting Holidays.” He remained an active member of the Art Club until his death in 2016.

Norma Henderson discovered her love for photography early on, thanks to her artist father who gave her a camera when she was 7 years old. She became fascinated with darkroom processes and went on to study photography at Napier University. She made her career with the University of Edinburgh where she worked as a photographic technician for 28 years. She says that, “Art has gone along on a parallel life with my photography – it’s a relaxing hobby.” The exhibition includes examples of her paintings as well as her photography.

The exhibition also includes work by Sue Cavanagh, who has studied art since she was at school with a focus on etching and watercolour, and Mark Douglas, a photographer inspired by his interest in film and television.

“Friends, family and Photography” runs from 3rd to 31st October in the Art and Design Library on George IV Bridge.

July’s art exhibition

WENCH, an exhibition of paintings by Mira Knoche opens on 2nd July in the Art and Design Library. It focuses on sisterhood and the paintings on display consider female friendships, rivalries, solidarity, as well as heroes worth remembering.

Mira describes her exhibition as “a visual manifesto and love letter to all libraries that evolved from a display of three paintings as part of International Women’s Day at Leith Library. WENCH is a warm invitation for women to see, curate, and celebrate each other’s stories.  Here’s to championing the female gaze on women and women becoming loud and visible.”

An Edinburgh based artist who loves painting people Mira is intrigued by the human mind, bodies, stories, and the interplay between art and community, she enjoys hosting creative platforms where different art forms meet.  She has co-curated several groups exhibitions and life drawing events.

In addition to her exhibition in the Art and Design Library, Mira is co-programming the event ‘Sonic Leith: WENCH’, a female-led feast of punk, poetry, art and electronica at the Old Dr Bell’s bath in Leith on 25th August. You can learn more about her work at

The exhibition runs until the 30th July.