Monday 31 December 2012

Lego Quilt Update -On the Design Wall

I've been motoring away making the 20 (4 x 5)  ten inch blocks for this lego quilt and they are now trimmed to size and pinned  on the design wall to marinate and tweak.  I've also  just about finished my Sketchbook  Project  using lithographs I made several years ago and have put together a sample for SAQA 'Metaphors for Ageing'  based on tree rings , inspired by the work of David Nash.
Just in time too as I feel I'm  going down with the lurgy that has put Ian in bed for the last 3 days.
At least I've had a productive end to the  year !!

Wishing us all a creative 2013.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Blue Marks Journal Quilts

Now the Christmas activities are over, with a well stocked freezer and fridge, I'm now in the second day of my planned creative period. First thing on my list was completing  my Journal Quilts 'Shades of Blue'. I had so many ideas that came to nothing - I worked for quite a while on  blue doors and printed off loads of images on  fabric before deciding they were too photographic and not enough blue! Sorting through my fabric stash  and scraps for potential bookwrap material, I came across some monoprints and leftovers from other projects with interesting marks so this became my theme.
 Several years ago  after Cas Holmes workshop I bought some Pebeo Soleil fabric paints and did some sun printing with weeds  from the garden, I combined these with some monoprints from Jo Budd workshop and machine quilted it
 I was pleased with the double stitched leaves I achieved on Indigo Winter School at Great Missenden and combined them with some scraps of arashi left over from 'Weymouth Waves', adding some machine stitching.
 I produced this gorgeous monoprint with  brush strokes of  screenprinting inks on silk when  working on pieces for Red Flotsam but couldn't bear to use it! So I took photos and inkjet printed sections out on fabric at different scales (below). I used different thicknesses of white thread and hand stitched it.  Definately an idea to follow up - having your cake and eating it!!
It has its limitations though - it doesn't have the sheen of the original so in this last JQ I used a silk satin monoprint, both shiny and matte sides and machine stitched with Madeira metallic thread. I really wanted to hand stitch it but ran out of time but I like the effect anyway.
I've really enjoyed this years challenge  and found it a useful process to explore and make mini-series on different themes resulting in a more cohesive collection. Look forward to seeing what next year brings! 

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Festive Greetings

This year we have reduced the number of cards and printed copies of our annual letter we send out and are donating the savings made to 'Combat Stress'.
 With all our best wishes for the Festive Season and 2013
Mags and Ian

Monday 24 December 2012

Catching Up Part I - Drawing at the V&A

Work finished for 2012  after heroic sessions catching up with transferring plants to fresh media; chilling and cryopreserving  orchids; putting a rare moss into sterile culture. The Christmas ham was collected this morning and Ian has anointed  it (and himself and the kitchen) with treacle glaze.  Cumberland sauce, Tiramisu, summer pudding , ginger macaroons and devils on horseback made and in the fridge. So finally a bit of time to catch up with a few blog posts I've been meaning to write!

The Friday following  the last of my National Gallery drawing sessions, we had booked tickets for the final days of 'Bronze' at the Royal Academy (more about  that in another post). I also had my lab Xmas lunch that day - as we didn't finish until 2, rather than going back to work  for a couple of hours before I was due to meet Ian,  I headed off to the V&A. I have my favourite haunts there  but influenced by my drawing classes I went for a wander around the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries. Lots of interest (including the wonderful Tristan and Isolde  quilt) but after all my weeks of studying folds in fabric  what caught my eye were the stylised folds of  'The Virgin Annunciate' drawn with distemper on linen.  Difficult to believe it's from 1500, it looks so modern!
I did a rough sketch but I'd like to return and do more detailed studies.
Appropriate too as I'm currently reading the  World Invisible  series on my Kindle which starts off with drawing in the V&A.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Thread and Surface

 Just received my copy of the 'Thread and Surface' Limited Edition  Sketchbook  Project   which includes a spread from my 'Distressed Doors' sketchbook.  

It's fascinating to see what other people have done with the same theme,  reminding me with pleasure of the evening I spent at Canada Water library looking through sketchbooks and giving me the inspiration to get cracking with my 2013 project which I've left to the last minute as usual!!
I think they chose well - the image of the door in a cave at Sougia in Crete  is the strongest composition.


The pages of my sketchbook were constructed from used 'colour catchers', treated with either inkaid or Golden Digital Ground and inkjet printed photos. I joined them together with connecting strips of non-printed colour catchers using zig-zag and then stitched them by machine using Madeira Polyneon thread.
Above are the 2 sides of the same sheet and below that how it looked once bound.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Lego Quilt Progress

 I was up late last night determined to have 4 blocks of 'lego quilt'  assembled on the design wall  as a reward for Sunday's marathon piecing section.
 The stages involved are :
1 - chain piecing patches of strips, light/dark with medium into 2-patches
2-  chain piecing the 2 -patches into 11 inch strips ( adding extra bits on as necessary)
3- pressing the strips (that took a while!)
4-  chain piecing 2  strips together
5 -  Randomly deal out 5 x double strips (below)  but weeding out  duplicate fabrics ( not had to do too much of this so far - have over 200 different ones!).  Sew together
 I'm loving how the random colours work together , now the decision is  what arrangement to use.
( it will be 4 x 5 ten inch blocks). What do you  think? Rail Fence or Bricks?

 A -'Rail Fence'
B - 'Bricks'

Sunday 2 December 2012

Drawing from the Masters - Sustained Drawing

I'm sorry to have finished my City Lit drawing course at the National Gallery, I learnt such a lot in 5 weeks. For this  last session there was no tour beforehand and a different tutor with a more abstract  approach which was refreshing. I got there early to have a look round to choose my victim painting to draw from. I whittled down my short list - some were much smaller in real life, others had poor light or  lacked  a good position to draw from. It was  very busy with events going on so that also had an impact as did rooms that were very busy ( I don't mind sketching in public but there are limits.....)
 Continuing my cloth theme  I  chose  ' Mary Magdalene' by Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo.
The time went so quickly tho' I did go for a coffee break  and my ideas about working in a more abstract, simplified  way went out of the window as I concentrated on analysing and trying to capture accurately the folds in the fabric. We  met in Central Hall to look at each others work rather earlier than in previous weeks - at  8.30 instead of  8.45. This had pro's and con's. On the plus side it was great to have more time to appreciate the varied styles  and to see the journey for all of us from our first works. In  previous weeks we've been asked to comment only on our own work and experience with  a summing up by the  tutor ( competing with  insistent remarks from the stewards that the gallery was now closed!)  This week we were asked to comment on other peoples which  we weren't used to - I  found positive things to say  but not everyone did -  one person  was  unnecessarily harsh, she'd earlier made  unwelcome suggestions about how I could 'improve' my drawing.  
In general though it was a nice group of people. Being spread through the gallery, concentrating on our own drawings, there wasn't the same interaction as in other classes but I enjoyed chatting with Catherine who  was like minded in needing a coffee before each  session started  and also in admiring the work of  Gerhardt Richter.  
So what were the 'learning outcomes ' for  me?
- a new appreciation of 'traditional' figurative paintings
- increased skills in observation 
- a better understanding of composition
- improvement in drawing techniques
- confidence to draw in museums and galleries
- finding time for art, the realisation that I could fit in classes after work, not just at weekends.
- that sustained drawing is sustaining!!
Most of all I've fallen back in love with pencil! For the last 30+ years my drawing has been rather cursory as I want to get to colour as quickly as possible. Now I want to explore  drawing further for it's own sake. I'm investigating life classes for the New Year but in the mean time bought a wooden hand at the National Gallery Shop ( even if it does look like 'Thing' from the Addams Family). The hands were what I noticed most in many paintings and I have ideas to incorporate drawings with the prints I produced in the British Museum lino printing course into my Sketchbook  2013 Project.  

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Baby Bunting

This weekend I've been mostly chain-piecing after cutting around 150  x 1 1/2  inch strips from my stash (on which it made no impression!) then assembling  1- 5 inch bits of those in pairs of medium and light and medium and dark trying hard to be relatively  random.
From this heap of bunting, hopefully a 'lego  quilt' for a colleague's baby will emerge...

Sunday 25 November 2012

Drawing from the Masters -Tone

This weeks session at the National Gallery was on tone and I'm starting out this time with what  I achieved - my interpretation of 'The Virgin in Prayer' by Sassoferato. It took me long time to choose a subject to draw  despite having choice from a limited  number of rooms so I only had an hour. But I'm learning to look beyond the subject matter which doesn't necessarily appeal to the underlying structure. The more I drew , the more excited I got, finding repetitive shapes (especially triangles) and connections  and I realised that  it reminded me a lot of the neoclassical period of Picasso.

As in previous weeks we started with an hours gallery tour picking out particular aspects of a few paintings. The first was Leonardo Da Vincis'  Burlington House Cartoon .  It's modelled with relatively few tones - the same tone can look different optically  according to what it's' next to   so it's critical to keep making comparisons. This  was what we were to look for and bring out in our sketches - so no pressure then!  
After looking at  the 'Virgin of the Rocks' to see how that had been carried through into paint,  we spent some time debating whether the background blue of Bellinis's 'The Doge, Leonardo Loredan'was the same throughout (it is) as it looks lighter against the RH side in shadow . The complimentary orange of his cap adds to this.
The effect was even more dramatic in the Chiaroscuro of ' St Francis in Meditation' by Zurbaran
We finished by looking at Seurat's 'Bathers at Asinieres' ( and the  oil sketches alongside). While we waiting for a slot among all the tour groups, we were shown some of the sketches in an exhibition catalogue where he'd started  with details such as folds in the  shirt fabric but then had simplified.   I'd forgotten how much I liked  his drawings,   so was pleased when I got home  to  track down a book I bought  over 30 years ago.
Next week we have 3 hours 'sustained drawing' putting everything that we have learnt on form, tone and composition into practise. Ideally we have to know what we want to draw beforehand so  the tutor can track down where we are!  I've  narrowed it down to about 8 (!)  and will  probably go a bit earlier than normal see  what the light's like ( some rooms are a bit dark) and whether there is comfy seating nearby  before I decide.

Thursday 22 November 2012

More Bookwraps

On Saturday I took the bookwraps I've made so far to meeting of Thames Valley Contemporary Textile  group  to  encourage others to make some for the tombola next year at FoQ. There was quite a lot of interest,  and also a few requests on where  I got my  A5 sketchbooks (Seawhite of Brighton 'Starter').  I'd stocked up at the London Graphic Centre  but they're also available online directly  .

I used up yet another project ( an experiment with steam fixed silk paints)  and worked  out a cunning means of fastening - pony tail elastic bands!!
The first of the zigzag offcuts covers worked well  with the bonus of an interesting inner surface of various backing fabrics.

Working out ideas for hardback sketchboooks, I incorporated a sleeve at one end but a strip/band  at the other so it will accommodate different thicknesses of  book. Finished this one off  with binding and a ribbon.

Adapting the idea  of overlapping  sleeves I use for cushion backs, this  wrap using cut up  ophan quilt  blocks was very quick and easy - much easier  than binding. I'm going to prepare this as a tutorial for the 'patterns'  page on the website, with a variation incorporating the strip/band.  

Sunday 18 November 2012

Drawing from the Masters - Composition

We started our session on composition at the National Gallery by first returning to the Expresso Bar to look at Frank Auerbachs' interpretation of Rembrant's 'Belshazzars Feast'  where you could clearly see a diagonal composition in his simplification. Then back to  analyse Ucellos' 'Battle of San Romano', particularly the linear perspective  with broken lances in the foreground leading you in.  I love the design of the lances in this but chose not to draw it - wouldn't want to give Ian the false impression that I'm suddenly interested in battle scenes!
We played spot the vanishing point in Crivelli's 'Annunciation'  before  looking at the surface geometry in paintings by Veranesi and Tintoretto -very clear diagonal in 'The Origin of The Milky Way' (below)
After further examples from Poussin and Rubens and a reminder to look at the shape of the canvas in relation to the composition, we were set free. No sketching stools available this time so I stayed in the Rubens room (29) as it had reasonable light and leather sofas (ever the pragmastist!) After several thumbnail sketches of various pictures, I decided on Rubens 'Miraculous  Draught of Fishes'  for the waves and curves of the bodies. I had several attempts  until I started to work out what was going on  by which time it was 8.40 and time to meet up with the others. Tone next week then 'sustained drawing'.