Thursday 29 May 2008

May Journal Quilt - Greek Hayfield

Although acrylics have the reputation for being fast drying ( which they are compared to oils), the painted field I did a few days ago looked quite a lot lighter after it had dried overnight. Trimming it to size and binding it with a couched cord, improved it no end but I still wasn't that happy with the foreground until I sewed some long grasses in enormous stitches with fine thread doubled up ( fun to sew so BIG)

After a bit of a struggle with Yahoo, an image has now been posted on the May Journal Quilt album of the CQ Yahoo Group. With planning and design work underway for other quilts , I've not making quite so much progress on my May 'Take it Further' challenge.

Wednesday 28 May 2008

Working Through Ideas II

Another productive day - I posted off 'Gythion Glow' for the Contemporary Quilt 'Thin Blue Line' and entry forms for 2 quilts for the Festival of Quilts. One piece is near completion , the other is in the planning stages: I spent a happy morning printing photos and doing several sketches and watercolour studies. The idea or concept and planning what I'm going to do are always the most difficult and time consuming (but fun !) part, the execution is usually much quicker and straight forward. There was much chewing of pencil while filling in the entry form - first of all what category? I'd orginally received a form for 'Pictorial' but as it will probably end up quite abstract, I thought 'contemporary ' was more appropriate and printed off that form from the website. Then what size? I learnt my lesson from 'Strindberg Shore' which while it had impact took a long time to do. I've done several pieces 80-90cm square so settled for that - it's big enough to have a variety of scale of stitching but achievable.
The inspiration is the Town Beach at Paralio Astros - when we were collecting orange coloured stones for our 'World Beach Project' starfish, there had been a storm the day before and the patterns of seaweed , and the banks of sand and stones were fantastic - the next day they'd all gone (along with our artwork!)
I've added to my collection of 'Inktense' pencils - I particularly like the new ' brown madder' one , perfect for seaweed. My favourite mug has been relegated to pencil holder as it very soon developed a crack. It's a very large china one with the text " I am not awake yet, don't even think about talking to me". I'm not a morning person ( at least until I've had my coffee)

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Working Through Ideas

I've had a productive few days over the Bank Holiday working out ideas for quilts for 'Festival of Quilts'. I always need deadlines - this one is entry forms in by the end of the week ( tho' not necessarily finished pieces). I made good progress on Quilters Guild Challenge on theme of 'Elemental' spending a happy time yesterday with printing blocks to extend a piece already started. I want to do an additional piece using my stitching and painting techniques and so today I took annual leave to develop samples ( which I'll finish off as 12 x 12 CQ Journal Quilts).
In addition to my usual seascapes, I've been working on one based on mown fields in Greece
This sketch I did on the spot - as it had been wet, Mrs Farmer was out turning the hay again, even breaking up bales that had got too damp. So it was a bit of a challenge as she came back and turned a few rows after I'd started.
I did a larger scale sketch at home - the Inktense pencils are great for gestural strokes.
So to fabric - I used the same purple over-dyed fabric front and back so that people can see what the original was once painted ( also gives a second crack at it if it goes horribly wrong) I stitched the rows between the mounds of hay by machine and the hay itself by hand stitching with cotton perle. At this stage I'd already discounted this as subject for a larger piece as the curved stiching distorted the fabric terribly.
Once taped to a board it was more amenable. The painting was initially fun but became a bit of a struggle. As the stitching was quite uniform with few areas unstitched, it didn't have the 'hills and dales' to catch the paint but leave the underlying fabric revealed.
I kept going and took photos of numerous incarnations, all not quite working - if I corrected one area I ended up having to alter areas I was pleased with to get the overall balance right!
This is the final version so far - the grasses in the foreground aren't right but that area is so overworked and scratched into with palette knife I'll have to leave it a bit to see if I can retrieve it
So I think it's going to be another seascape for FoQ !

Saturday 24 May 2008

Greek Grill Displacement

One of the pleasures in returning to the same place on holiday is revisiting old friends like this wonderful metal grill in front of a peeling wooden shutter. Despite the building work that's going on in Paralio Astros ( mainly new apartments for visiting Athenians), most of the crumbly doors I revere are still intact. I've used this grill as source material for several pieces including my October 2003 Journal quilt ( when I'd first made its acqaintance)
I was inspired to return to it to play with ' displacement' filter on Photoshop following Maggie's excellent instructions. I saved a pattern of the grill (with enhanced contrast) as a psd file to act as displacement map
I then played around with it applying to many types of images from the same trip :flowers, sky, landscapes but liked the effect best when applied to the original image of the grill.
I like it even more with the colour saturation increased.
Lots of possibilities, perhaps building up layers in organzas?

Thursday 15 May 2008

MayTIF:Sunprinting and Echiums

An interlude from Greece, I've been thinking about the 'Take it Further' challenge for May, whether to use the colour palette below or go with the concept which is 'what do you call yourself and why ?' more specifically 'how do you describe yourself as an artist?'.
This debate of art v. craft surfaces regularly and as I don't make a living this way , it doesn't worry me unduly. As a botanist , I already have a label ( and could make up a latin one at that!) If I say I make quilts then the assumption always seem to be that they are for beds and although I have made bed quilts , my work would be rather uncomfortable now to sleep under. As I've always painted and drawn and 'done art' , I don't distinguish between what I do on paper and textiles, its more to do with how finished a piece is : I would regard many of my journal quilts as sketches. Making art is mainly about the process for me. I dedicated the 'Growing Orchids From Seed' book I co-authored to my parents who taught me to observe and interpret the natural world. These activities are as much artistic as scientific.
So I think this months TIF to describe me has to have a botanical theme interpreted artistically.
What comes to mind immediately are these wonderful huge Echiums ( native to the Canary Islands) which I can see from my office window. They are usually not that hardy but some hybrids sowed themselves in the area behind my lab where the airconditioning vents for the growth room give warm temperatures even in winter. These plants have now self-seeded everywhere around the building - this year there is a particularly prolific flowering (they're bi-annual) They have little blue flowers with pink stamens and the bees love them.
The perennial cornflowers in our garden also attract bees in large numbers.
While I was at work yesterday mulling over ideas, I saw the weather forecast for the next few days was for rain so if I wanted to do some sunprinting I'd better do it quickly! Starting at 5pm probably wasn't the best time especially as I had to search a bit for where I'd put the 'Soleil' silk paints! I'd brought some old scientific posters back from work as they were on foamboard which makes a good surface for sticking pins in once wrapped in a bin bag. I collected forget-me-nots, vine leaves, honesty seed pods , dandelion leaves and some grasses and placed them on wetted and painted cotton and silk lame, weighting down the board with secateurs. I had trouble chasing the sun round the garden: first of all it was on the shed roof, then the garden table and finally on the front step ( much to Ian's confusion when he came home!)
The results were surprisingly good considering how late in the day it was - I shall definately be playing some more! And I want to try some monoprinting with acrylics too ( at least that doesn't need the sun)

Wednesday 14 May 2008

World Beach Project

We really enjoyed participating in the 'World Beach Project' co-ordinated by the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of textile artist Sue Lawty's residency. Our photos are now uploaded on the site - the detail on the google maps when you zoom in is incredible - you can almost see the exact location where we assembled our pieces. On the first full day we were at Paralio Astros we went down to the sandy beach in late afternoon and almost immediately spotted a large marbled rock sitting in the surf and decided to work at extending the patterns into the sand. We gathered cream and white stones and Ian acted as photographer while I placed them. As the rock was continually asked by the waves, nothing stayed put for very long but it was interesting to see the patterns change and then work with them. We watched all the stones we'd placed gradually being removed untile there were none left. Whilst doing so, I saw something move in the gravel, a few tentacle-like objects waving around and a starfish gradually push itself out from underneath the stones it was buried under.
We decided this would be the subject of our next art work on the other 'Town Beach' and a few days later we spent a happy time collecting suitable coloured stones walking along the tideline ( there'd been a storm the day before and the patterns of weed deposited were wonderful). After a fishy lunch at one of the very Greek fish tavernas , sorting the stones while we waited, we went back down to the beach and laid out our creature. The photo on the website is of it dry - we also wet it , first of all with a water filled paintbrush so only the starfish was wetted but unfortunately it dried too quickly. More drastic measures of pouring water on it did give wonderful colours (see below) but also wet the background so not quite so satisfactory
We collected far more stones for our palette than we used, most of which were the colours of the local limestone rocks and soils.
The photographer in action !
The next day when we came back there was more gravel deposited and our starfish was gone. I hope others saw it before it was covered over.

Monday 12 May 2008

I went to Argos and I bought...........

Just back from a very relaxing week in Paralio Astros in Greece - Ian's 4th visit, my 5th. I never thought I'd be one of those people to keep going back to the same place ( after all we do more exotic trips too like to Iran ) but it's a real stress-buster. Weather was a bit more variable than in past years but we walked up to the castle and had a few visits to the beach ( more about what we did for the 'World Beach Project' when our efforts are posted on the V&A website). The storm clouds made dramatic backdrop to drinks on our balcony and made challenging subjects for watercolours (I painted every day). The major expedition of our visit was to the ancient town of Argos, to revisit the small but interesting museum and stock up on supplies at the weekly market. To fit everything in we got the 6.45 bus (groan) and having some time to kill after our purchasing before the 13.00 bus back we went to the ampitheatre. As storm clouds gathered and thunder rumbled we headed back - just as I stepped on the stage there was a massive clap of thunder and lightning strike (Zeus trying to tell me something....?). Luckily we just made it to the cake shop that acts as the bus station when the heavens opened. The apartment we stay in at 'Irini Filoxenia' is self catering and although we usually eat out at tavernas in the evening, we fix our own breakfast and lunches and cook a ratatouille type dish on evening.
So we went to Argos and we bought to take home : Metaxa and local variant Atreus (Ian's secret gravy ingredient); 2 large tubs of honey still with bits in; interesting herb and vegetable stock cubes ; huge scoop oforgegano . To cook with we got 'horta'(greens')- nice steamed and served cold with lemon and olive oil dressing besides the ingredients for the briam (tomatoes, peppers, stripey aubergines and courgettes, tomato puree)
Unlike in the UK, the tastiest tomatoes are the largest and knobbliest!
Stripey aubergines are a local speciality (they even have an aubergine festival in Leonidas down the coast). I was experimenting sketching with my new 'Inktense' coloured pencils, the 'shiraz' hue is just right. It's a while since I've done any still life and I made the mistake of concentrating on the pattern of stripes on the surface rather than the form.
I did better with the courgette but will need to add some different yellow pencils to the selection.