Sunday 28 August 2011

Early Music and New Sculpture

An afternoon of culture: 'Saturday Matinee' Prom at the Cadogan and just round the corner, new sculpture at the Saatchi Gallery. The concert was based around early music , particularly of Hildegard of Bingen both in its original form and new interpretation by Stevie Wishart (both spine tingling - less struck by the Britten and Birtwistle which seemed very clunky and masculine in comparison). Can hear it here.
Never been to the Saatchi before, it was very popular with families with kids posing in front of the sculptures. What strikes you is the amount of space -the galleries  are huge  with only a few sculptues in each room . The site specific piece 20:50  by Richard Wilson (not the actor!)played with your perceptions of space- what was real and what were reflections (perhaps  the oil fumes added to the sense of unreality! ) What I liked best though were the pieces that showed evidence of the hand of the  maker - the sketchy life drawings of Thomas Houseago made 3d  and the unfired clay figures of Rebecca Warren with the thumbmarks left.
Blogging is just procrastination - off to clean the oven before the next prom -Eijah !

Thursday 25 August 2011

Text Progress: Raving needs more work

Apart from cooking, cleaning and tacking the freesat cable around the skirting and door of the 'parlour', I spent most of last weekend working  on my sketches  for Quilt University course 'inspired to design' (more in another post) and whirring away  on my text journal quilts using Pfaff Grandquilter .It coped admirably  with all the layers of fabric and ink-aided colour catchers.
They've been marinading on my design wall while I decide if they need anything more. I followed the shapes vaguely and tried to catch everything down without losing all the raw torn edges.
I don't think 'THE'above needs any more doing to it , but 'RAVING' below definately does. It did have a marked white oval in the centre but that has almost disappeared - one of the effects of machine quilting is to unify the surface which has benefits and drawbacks. Paint or stitch to bring that white back?

I was thinking of doing some  hand stitching in orange on 'VENUE' and ' PARTY'

Perhaps some hand stitching in blue to emphasise the shapes in 'CELEBRATE' and 'OCCASION' ?

Then the decision about which 4 constitute CQ JQ's for June to September? Perhaps 'Celebrate,Occasion, Party, Venue'?? My favourite so far is 'Party' but that might change.

Monday 22 August 2011

More From FoQ 2011

 Textile News-Freedom 'Sometimes Chains are Just Shadows' Margaret Ramsay

Over a week now since my return from Festival of Quilts - time to mull on what has stuck in my mind.
Besides my 'Tunisian Door'  quilt in the competition section , I had 2 small quilts accepted  for the International Small Quilt Challenge 'Textile News - Freedom' organised by Gudrun Heinz. This was displayed on the wall of the cafe (where CQ exhibitions have been in the past ) with quilts grouped roughly by colour. What an absorbing exhibition - so many interpretations of the theme. I introduced myself to Gudrun  - we've been in correspondence as the quilt shown above  will be featured in the Bernina calendar and she explained how all the surfaces in her house had been taken over while choosing which to display! While Ian and I were having coffee on Saturday, I got talking to Bonnie McCaffery who was filming  the show - apart from taking a picture of me and my door quilt, I introduced her to Gudrun. Watch out  for the vidcast , out beginning of September (if don't end up on the cutting room floor! )

My purchases were relatively modest (the Textile News CD was included in the entry fee for the challenge) . I bought wadding  and wrist support from the Cotton Patch, African textiles  from John Gillow, African Fabric Shop and Langa Lapu Fabrics, InkAid from Art Van Go (for printing on colour catchers) . What I was inordinately pleased with was finding another 'comfort thimble'  at Quilt Direct. I bought one years ago which I use constantly but had been unable to remember what it was called and where I'd got it from - I'll keep the packaging this time|!
In trying to give Ian the full flavour of the show in one day, I didn't spend as much time in the gallery spaces as I would have liked - I totally missed Katrina Fiensburg's space and meant to go back to see the 'borro' pieces of Padmaja Krishnan but ran out of time.
However we did spent quite a lot of time looking at 'Textiles of the Islamic World (the book is on my Xmas wish list! ) - apart from having some spectacular pieces, it reminded us of our travels in Syria, Iran and Tunisia (all well represented) . Gillian Cooper's 'Muses' looked lovely, especially with their floaty sea backgrounds - so evocative of the goddess figures in the 'Lost World of Old Europe' we saw at the Ashmolean. It was great to catch up with Barbara  Weeks and  see all her Journal Quilts displayed - made me wish I'd been more systematic in my themes.
 Islamic Textiles

 Diversity in Europe-Finland

SAQA Beyond Comfort. 'Promised Land' Diane Wright

No surprise really that my favourites overall were landscapes!! I loved the sketchiness of 'Promised Land' - more details about its making here.  While I'm not interested in dyeing , it's made me think further of the potential of painting with  the Selectisine  pigments as used by Jo Budd . I feel  a George Weil order coming on.

Thursday 18 August 2011

A different perspective

A visit to Tate Britain on the way to pick up my quilt from Greenwich:  a  view on the 20th century in Anish Kapoor's mirror (Peter Doig on the back wall); a revisit to Watercolour exhibition (Turner still my favourite); indigestion from the Vorticists; seeing old favourites in a new light in 'Restless Times'; an uplifting of spirits surrounded by the Cretan paintings of John Craxton. I'd been meaning to see this for a while after it was highlighted on the Culture Show but had forgotten it. Wonderful book now on the wishlist.
And an excellent quote: " But why explain pictures?No meal can be made more exciting by a running commentary analysis of the flavours. Everone has a different tongue. Pictures need no literary introduction. What they always need are open eyes and minds free from preconcieved ideas."

Where photos help!

Boats are notoriously difficult to draw but the shapes and lines (particularly the negative spaces around them ) fascinated me. I did improve thanks to an exercise in continuous line drawing but for accuracy I really could have done with a photo when scaling up to the largest painting I did on the course (22 x 18 inches). I attempted to simplify the shapes ( like Terry Frost) so that whether it was correct or not didn't matter(!) but I didn't go far enough.  It was also a bit rushed being the last day but I was finally 'in the zone' not wanting to stop painting. 

Working from Sketches

Another painting that benefitted from working from sketches rather than photographs. This was the painting that in our gentle'critique' everyone liked the best from my work (including the children on a family course - what fun they were having)

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Am I a Finisher? Quilts v. Paintings

I read with interest the post by Terry Jarrard-Dimond 'Are you a finisher?' , tried and failed to leave a comment, but decided I wanted to explore the subject further anyway.
Whether I'm a finisher or not depends partly on the medium and also the time and input involved.
I generally do finish my quilts - I put a lot of thought and time into the design, the subject has to be something that inspires me, I'm good at planning (the scientist in me!) and most of all I love the process of problem solving.  So with all that investment I generally want to see it through. Sometimes quilts just don't take off , usually if I've done so much planning that there's little interest left ( as with my 'Weir' where the creative energy went into painting and Journal quilts leaving insufficient for the actual piece itself). Abandoning at an early stage is not the same as not finishing.   Paintings are another matter! 

With watercolours, where you can't correct, if something goes wrong then I start another one! Quick fresh paintings look better than laboured ones to my mind but there's always the risk of continuing to make the same mistakes!  I'm afraid I've tended to apply the same approach to mixed media and acrylic paintings too but I'm getting better at persevering - my recent course at Slapton has helped a lot.   
At Prawle Point, I made a lot of sketches in pen and watercolour of the view through the gap in the eroded sandstone. Then back in the studio, we were encouraged to work larger - I had a board 20 x 15 inches with a start of a painting in yellow and red from years ago.  The tutor really liked the preliminary wash of burnt sienna and my tentative outlines in graphcolour pencil! It was a challenge to try and preserve some of that underpainting while building up the shapes.

I usually paint directly in front of the subject or when  working at home I  surround myself with 'storyboards' of  photos and drawings , so working only from sketches was quite scary to begin with.  Initially I didn't gather enough information or was concentrating too much in making pleasing paintings of my sketches but my 'note-taking' has improved.
Working on this painting (need a name -orange rocks? ) was a revelation. Not having any photos (apart from the small screen of my camera) I used my sketches to block in the main shapes . Then I got stuck and would have abandoned it but setting sketches aside and with the tutors advice ( get rid of the green , change the direction of the rocks) worked into it more - the advantage of acrylics.
There's still a lot wrong with it but it marks a breakthrough in simplification and perserverance - I'm finally becoming a finisher of paintings too!

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Ian and Mags at FoQ

 Ian really enjoyed his  first trip to Festival of Quilts ( even if I did wear him out - he had to go for  a little sit down half way through the art quilts!) First call was a photo in front of my quilt 'Tunisian Door' then a bit of retail therapy - a book basket for Ian and more fabric for me from The African Fabric Shop, some Ndope indigo from John Gillow ( who said he didn't recognize me in blue being so used to me wearing pink! ) Tried to catch up with Susan Briscoe but she was either overwhelmed with customers or not there (found her eventually  on Sunday choosing fabrics at Heide Stoll -Webbers stand). After looking at some of the gallery spaces including 'Textile News -Freedom' (more in another post) and a spot of lunch we concentrated on the competition quilts finishing with an excellent lecture from Jenny Bowker on the Tentmakers of Cairo. I posted him on a train on Sunday giving me a bit more time to look around.
 ? 'My Rhino'
It was interesting to get Ian's perspective - he's seen my quilts and those of my friends and been to Hever a couple of times . He loved this rhino - one of several not in the catalogue- late entries? Neither of us were struck by the 'Best in Show'. When I see pictures of quilts from FoQ, even by people I know well I often think I could have been at a different show entirely! As my taste changes and skills improve, what draws my attention now is very different to when I first started going to FoQ. Sue and I were discussing in the car coming back how so many quilts are let down by poor compositions.
Not this quiet piece by Grit Traum  which was so well balanced and just the right amount of machine and hand stitch.  Lovely!
 Grit Traum 'Treska'

 Hazel Ryder 'After Anna'
Other pieces that caught my eye because of the materials used was the apt use of velvet in these ferns and the use of stitch on Carole's  'Branching out' - red on blue or blue on red
 Carole Belfield 'Branching Out' (detail)
 Louise Rall 'Pots and Pans' (detail)

I'm always drawn (pun intended) to those quilts with a 'painterly' quality in stitch as with this exuberant scribble of pots and pans or with paint and stitch as is this depiction of the villages in Spain and Morocco
Jose Beenders-Klomp 'El Sur'

This photo is of the centre of the quilt - there were a couple of plain quilted borders around it which in my view did nothing for it - perhaps they were added to make it up to 1m . That rule has a lot to answer for, there were many quilts with unnecessary borders or 2or 3 pieces hanging together although there were several pieces (mainly from Europe) that  were nowhere near the specified size. 
It was great to see so many entries from Europe , it's definately getting more international each year.   

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Painting Dramatic Seascapes

 Just back from a few days painting in acrylics at Slapton (near Kingsbridge) in Devon.
 We went out sketching at various locations including the views from Dartmouth Castle and Prawle Point and then worked from the sketches back at the studio

 Tutor Susan Gray was excellent - very generous with demonstrations of techniques she'd developed and individual attention. I got a huge amount out of it, my painting becoming more abstracted and stylised as I worked only from sketches and memory  rather than photos. The variety of marks that can be made with painting knives was a revelation (although more practice is required...)   
 Very well fed - this blackforest gateau was to die for though the Sunday dinner of roast pork with proper roasties  followed by a selection of 7 local cheeses was amazing (Ian was very jealous when I told him) And then a pint or 2 of 'Otter' at the Queens Arms to discuss progress (and remember to take a torch to find your way back afterwards)
After such a  peaceful and creative time, it was sobering to  have to change route coming  home to avoid Ealing as the bus service was disrupted following the rioting. Horrific  to see photos and films of the damage to an area so close to us - cafes we use and my hairdressers with broken glass.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Pewter Pots and Paints

Every time we eat in the dining-room, I admire the pewter vases that my mum collected ( we used to have a vast ugly pewter tea urn but that was sold) . I've been thinking of sketching them for the 'Grey side of life' theme of Sketchbook Project 2012. I love the subtlety of form and light and shadow so it fits well too with the International Quilt Challenge I've  signed up to, the current theme being light and shade .  I've already used them in 'Lunaria' quilt ( see below before the honesty seed cases smothered it! ) but they deserve to star in their own piece!

 Then there's the Taplow Vase for 'Whatever Floats Your Boat' at Slough Museum
 I don't know quite how I ended up with this when something on the lines of this Picasso painting was what I had in mind. Time to revisit it I think.

But my immediate concern (apart from trying to keep cool) is sorting out my packing for Dramatic Sea and Landscapes in Acrylic at Slapton, Devon. Why does painting require so much stuff??!! My bag of clothes is small but I've an A2 art folder and  huge rucksack containing paints , brushes and easel -they're going to love me on the train!! I'm not taking my netbook so I'm having a blog and computer holiday too ( apart from looking at my emails on my phone) . Ian is in charge of supervising the Freesat installation in my absence - as well as a new roof we treated ourselves to a 40" television having put up with 'Retrovision' for 4 years (thanks to a dodgy aerial we've only been able to watch BBC1, BBC2 and CH4)
Service will be resumed in a few days!