Thursday 31 July 2008

July TIF

This months TIF idea was 'half way mark' and this colour palette. I tried as much as possible to match the colours , NOT using Photoshop this time but fabrics from my stash. Using ideas generated through the Studio Journals course, I applied 'Frottage' (rubbings) from an Indian Print Block to the fabrics using a crayon and then quilted from the back. I'd forgotten I'd used this print block to print out some fabrics several years ago. So the 'marks' are both crayon and stitch. It's been satisfying to do something totally by hand

Tuesday 29 July 2008

100th Post, Labyrinths and Elements

I've had my head down in more ways than one - finishing off my pieces for Festival of Quilts whilst suffering from vertigo and dizziness as a result of viral Labyrinthitus ( as if the tooth infection wasn't enough!) It's just as well that I'd finished the 'Tideline' piece which required machine stiching and some thought and concentration whilst painting.
This 'elemental ' piece was started in Angie Hughes 'Poetic Images' course during CQ summer school last year. Buying some wooden print blocks and printing more lettered fabric extended the piece beyond 'Sea' and 'Sky' to 'Fire' and 'Stone' ( component parts below). I'd already auditioned fabrics and roughly pinned it so only hand stitching was required which has been very therapeutic. It's colours are more subdued and gentle than my usual colour palette - a bonus in being soothing to stitch.

It's almost a year since I started this blog and this is the 100th post!
In that time I have moved house (and had the builders in); travelled to Greece, Romania and Iran; been inspired by Henry Moore sculptures in my work environment; participated in several challenges ( TIF, CQ Journal Quilts, CyberFyber exhange); had pieces of work in 2 exhibitions ( 3 if count the display of 2007 Journal quilts at Sandown).
Throughout the year , I've gained a great deal of insight by working through ideas and thoughts by writing about them here. The links forged between other like-minded bloggers have been even more important and their thoughtful comments have provided encouragement and inspiration. When I first started reading blogs and thought I might like to start one of my own, I had no inkling of the generous community spirit there is in 'blogland' (nor how addictive it would become!) Thank You!

Sunday 20 July 2008

Tideline- After the Storm

I've put thoughts of playing with studio journals aside for the moment, concentrating on finishing stitching and painting one of my entries for FoQ. I learnt a lot from my Journal test piece below - to leave more of the underlying fabric showing through and to introduce more colours into the paler areas
Stitched surface before painting
Stitched area before painting (detail)
Stitched and painted area (detail)
I'm not showing you the whole thing yet as having to wrap it round a board to paint one half and then the other, I haven't seen it myself apart from doing a merge in photoshop! I've printed out a couple of merged photos to scribble on - I can see where some areas need further attention. This has been carried out with nagging toothache (re-occurance of infection from failed treatment earlier in the year). Poor Ian has borne the brunt of my foul temper - if ever there was a need to dedicate quilts in the same way as books to a patient spouse! Audio books from Audible have helped- 'Anne of Green Gables' when stitching ( with her impatience of patchwork) and 'Wuthering Heights' while painting.

Tuesday 15 July 2008

Treetop Walkway, Water Lilies and Kaleidoscopes

At the weekend Ian and I visited the Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens with his sister Sioux and her family. Sioux was apologising for me having a Busmans Holiday but actually during the week I have very little chance to walk around the site and hadn't yet seen the walkway. At 18m tall not quite the 38 m I experienced a few years ago in South Western Australia in the 'Valley of the Giants' but nevertheless an interesting experience and different perspective. The walkway is apparently designed using the Fibonacci series. I don't have the same urge to visit the new Shirley Sherwood Gallery. While botanical art is very useful as a scientific tool , as an art form it leaves me cold ( much like Germaine Greer in her recent article ). As a botanist who paints this is seen as heresy! It's always assumed that I must like drawing plants but my scribbly art style is the opposite of what is required and while I can make a decent attempt for work purposes, I don't particularly enjoy it. I'm glad that Rob suggested we see the Giant Water Lilies(Victoria amazonica). I like the way the structure of the waterlily house (built about the same time as the Palm House) is reflected in the water, a reminder that Decimus Burton used the structure of a water lily leaf as inspiration for the glasshouse.
Also in the water lily house were baskets of the carnivorous pitcher plants Nepenthes. I was showing nephew James how they catch insects in the liquid that accumulates in the pitcher ( in so doing managing to tip some of the liquid into my face , much to Sioux's amusement) We also teased some leaves of sensitive plant Mimosa and then dragged James to 'Climber and Creepers' so I could have a play!
I've been busily hand quilting one of my FoQ entries with brief interludes doing some of the exercises in lesson 3 of the Studio Journals course. This includes looking at negative and positive space - I manipulated several photos using 'desaturate' and various 'Sketch' filters in Photoshop. I'm rather pleased with these ducks ( I rotated the image and 'inverted' the colour then pasted into 1 layer ).
We were also introduced to the delights of free online kaleidoscope software . This example is from a watercolour sketch - I have lots more on my Flickr site. It's a delightful 'toy' and interesting to see how patterns and shapes become distorted but I can't really see me using this particular technique in my textile work. Mind you I haven't worked out yet what I'm doing for my July TIF challenge........

Monday 7 July 2008

Fluorescent Paints

As a change from slaving over the sewing machine, working on quilts for FoQ, I've been doing some more exercises from the 'Studio- Journals' course, this time on colour. As I largely ignore colour wheels etc and use intuition, I decided not to do excercises associated with colour theory but to have a go at constructing palettes from 1 inch squares cut from magazines. I rifled through 3 old copies of Saturday Guardian magazine cutting out photos and then cutting selected ones into 1 inch strips and then squares. My eye was drawn by the pinks and reds in images of Desmond Tutu, football stadiums and an article on festivals in India illustrated by umbrellas ( along with various advertisements) I showed Ian what I'd done and he instantly saw what I had not, that my palette had been influenced by what we'd seen at the RA Summer exhibition. Besides what I've written about already, we were struck by the subtle use of fluorescent paints in several pieces which drew your eye across the room, particularly those of Frank Bowling and Barbara Rae but they were by no means the only ones.
I prepared this watercolour page with cling film scrunched in the wet paint and allowed to dry. I now need to search for fabrics and threads to match this palette and stick 'em down.

I'd first had a go with watercolours and cling film in my sketchbook (unfortunately buckling the page) as background for photos and drawings of Sheila's bean poles. Ian and I spent the weekend with his parents a few weeks ago, a pleasant time discussing gardening and picking gooseberries. Both Ian and I were brought up with our parents watching Gardeners World , and thought it rather boring. Now we're avid watchers ourselves and ring Ian's parents afterwards to discuss ideas. Scary how you turn into your parents or perhaps it's just the onset of middle age!

Saturday 5 July 2008

RA Summer Exhibition

Ian and I went last night on part 1 of our annual pilgrimage to the RA Summer Exhibition. There's always such a variety of work that's it's impossible to look at it all in one go , a second visit starting at the end and working backwards is required.

As photographs are not allowed and they never seem to have pictures in the catalogue of the items you like best (with a few exceptions) I've learnt the value of scribbling down quick sketches of what grabs my attention.

On this visit, as in recent years, I concentrated mainly on the prints in the Large Weston Room.

I particularly like the composition of the linocut by Jennifer Hall and the handpainted background to the etching by Katherine Watkins( both featured in the 'prints under £500') I admire Chris Orr's dynamic drawings and prints, often with a lot of humour to them. Among this year's offerings are the 'Improved Rhinocerous' ( with its wealth of detail) and sketches of London in 'The Tide Runs Strong Here' .

In the Small Weston Room, a corner was hung with textile related pieces. Those that appealed were a still life by Peter McNiven of a stash of fabric and basket of sewing things; an embroidered picture of red shoes by Jayne Ward and a subtle work by Bridget Jackson of unpicked and resown canvas (quite different to her bright paintings of clothing)

In room V there was a textile piece in cut and twisted felt by Anna Kyyro Quinn and in a slightly different line , several works in Uccelli series by Jennifer Durrant of painted canvas cut and applied to a background in patchwork-like patterns.

My favourites? I was rather taken by a painting of a red formica table by Jo Oakley, with its reduced colour palette and variety of textures and quality of surface (shiny table, matt textured 'wallpaper') but in the end its the luminous 'temple painting' by Ian McKeever that haunts both Ian and I

Friday 4 July 2008


Learning has been top of the agenda this week. At work I've been planning, preparing powerpoint and equipment for teaching teachers plant 'cloning' techniques at 'Bioscience Evening' at Wakehurst Place ( didn't get back til 11.30 on Thursday night!) and then I've been rushing home to do some homework on 'Studio Journal' online class. Although I really should be doing some work on my quilt for FoQ, it's been good to focus the odd half hour on starting good habits in establishing a sketchbook which gathers everything together ( the analogy to a 'compost heap ' of ideas has appealed to many recording their thoughts in the associated forum )
The first excercise was to 'make marks like you stitch'. I've struggled a bit with this as I'm not an embroiderer, and although I enjoy hand stitching its just varying lengths of running stitch with the odd cross stitch if I'm being daring. I have been known to attempt the odd french knot too but usually after such a long gap that I forget how it's done. However I've persisted and learnt quite a lot from interpreting a Van Gogh painting in lines for stitch , particularly about the process : building up motifs and then joining them together, a rather different approach from my usual drawing technique. I wouldn't use this image as inspiration for my own work as although I liked the swirls in the sky, the lines of the trees and suggestions of the buildings, there's too much going on in one piece. Thinking about this proved useful in considering my current quilting project based on shorelines, going for the 'less is more approach' to stitching.
The second excercise was on 'frottage' (rubbings) I had great fun going round the house and garden with a chunky wax crayon and varying weights of paper. First of all trying to work out a tonal scale with samples- more difficult than you might think because of the distractions of the different patterns.
On Cas Holmes workshop last year we did some rubbings with crayons on papers and fabrics(including in my case metallic sheers which were magic!)
I revisited making rubbings from Indian wooden printing blocks including this wonderful swirly one , using tracing paper to build up layers. My crayon has gone missing so I had to use a graphite stick - very messy , note to self to buy some fixative.