Sunday, 4 December 2011

End of Year Report

Ever since I came back from Summer School at Urchfont Manor I've been trying to stick to the resolutions I made there.  (Evelyn, my table partner was such a help in this, Daneila too.)  The first was to try and do some work every week, daily if at all possible.  This I would say I've managed for blocks of time -- so still some room for improvement there.

What about other thoughts I had?  For the last two years Monday mornings meant photography class.  My preparation done, my bag packed the night before ready to compare notes, learn yet more and begin the weekly cycle once again.  I knew I didn't want to the unrelenting pace, but I did need some face-to-face contact with fellow travellers.  With this in mind I joined a local group, who meet monthly to work on whatever craft is currently obsessing them, ably guided by Jean Hart, who used to teach City and Guilds.  This helps as much for the chat as what I do there.  Finally, becoming an occasional member of the Norwich Embroiderer's Guild has also stimulated my mind.  The talk by Mary Crehan both amused me and introduced me to darning.  A talk on The Foundling Hospital by Jean Bright picked up on an interest I'd explored some time ago.  These supports together with the Distant Stitch blogs I enjoy following should keep me going.

Add to the above visits to Love Is What You Want, Origin and the V&A, a talk by Victoria Hall on marbled papers, The Bronte Parsonage and reading Aoife Maniz's touching poetry followed by my first experience of The Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate (seeing  the Textile Study Group's work and so enjoyably meeting up with Jan Evans, Mary Sleigh and, amongst the stunning pieces by Korean artist Jiyoung Chung, Viv Estill and her husband, Steve).  What wonderful inspirations!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Responding to Ideas.

1. Graphite Layer on White Paper rubbed back with an Eraser.
2. Black Acrylic smeared across White Paper with a Credit Card.
3. Diluted Black Ink washed over Clear Candle Wax.


Interesting new patterns emerge on the reverse side and even the thrifty use of thread and the castings off are attractive in their own right.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Chapter 2: Stitching Tonal Columns

This sample was worked on 10 holes to the inch canvas in a range of threads: crochet, buttonhole and single strand embroidery silk. It was difficult to graduate the transition from black to white simply because they are so stark.  White on black seems to show up more strongly than black on white.  The spring in the threads produced a nice 3D effect because the threads on the reverse side can be glimpsed through the holes.  Also, as the fine black thread crosses the white small bold white crosses appear, and as the fine white thread covers the equally fine black thread white diamonds are created.
At Summer School someone commented how addictive working on squared paper could be.  I now understand what they mean  and could quite happily have continued well beyond the examples posted below.

Simple experiments using lines -- looking at line length and spacing.

Taking a single line and developing simple patterns.  The third example has a strong sense of directionality achieved by the diagonal lines.

Enlarging a design.  Firstly, a hexagon which is elongated.  It's interesting to see whether the shapes tessallate or what shapes are created if they don't.  Secondly, designs from Margaret Pascoe's book, "Blackwork Embroidery: desgn and Technique".  The right-hand image shows pattern repeats, the left-hand the pattern being enlarged (with some imperfections in the copying).

The same design, the left-hand image showing regular disintegration, the right where it's happening in a more fragmented way.

I used 16 Count White Aida for the samples below.  I chose the paper design that reminded me of fish scales: the small squares could be worked in metallic thread to create highlights.

In Margaret Pascoe's book she discusses those who work straight onto fabric and those who need to draw their design on paper first. Thank goodness for squared paper!  I found this disconcertingly complex and it took many attempts before I could really see what was happening.  It is lovely in a very formal way and the continuous running stitch gives the appearance of the stitches being embedded in the fabric.  I also like the strong sense of directionality.

I find this pattern very appealing.  I used single stitches instead of continuous running stitch and as a result the threads seem to float above the fabric and increase the 3D feel of the design.

Having scaled up shapes on graph paper I thought it would be interesting to layer different sized hexagons using different thicknesses of thread.  The hexagon shape reminded me of fish scales and the wedding dress fabric I used for September's drawing project.  The fine and thick threads work, but the medium weight thread needs to be a little heavier.  I also think I needed to work the stitching more densely to see whether the idea has any merit!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Fish Shop Inspirations

Holt is the small Georgian town three miles from where we live.  It's where The North Norfolk Fishing Company has its shop.  The displays are wonderful -- fresh and inviting, ice packed around the newly caught sea-food.  I find it inspirational and so have found myself buying, drawing, photographing and eating my way through mackerel, herring and rainbow trout.  Their varied markings and gleaming skins are quite stunning.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Module 2 : Abstracting a Design From Animal Markings

1. White Chalk Letter Patterns on Black Tissue Paper.
2. Splattered Ink on White Cartridge Paper.
3. Shreds of Shiny Colour Supplement Paper.

4. Black Felt-tip on White Cartridge Paper.
5. Charcoal Scribbles on White Cartridge Paper.
6. White Chalk Multi-directional Rubbings on Black Tissue Paper.

7. Sgraffito -- Black Crayon over White Chalk.
8. Black Acrylic Paint applied with Credit Card.
9. Rectagles of Newsprint applied Directionally.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Summer Sketchbook Project

Well, it's taken me considerably longer to complete than I ever imagined, certainly more than twice as long as Sian envisaged, but every day has been so worthwhile.  It's been liberating and energising and above all inspiring. 
And now for some personal reflections: I've learnt to look;  I've learned to trust the process, that a little work each day does build skills and confidence, and that success, however small, is a great motivator and reference point.   I thought I knew these things already, and I did, but the SSP has brought them back to the surface and in doing so reawakened my pleasure in making and doing.  For that particularly, thank you.

Day 30

It was interesting to see the difference between my first drawing and the second where, with only a little cheating, I tried to draw only looking at the plant not at the paper.  I hope even with the addition of stitch this looser approach shows.  I had thought of adding some stitch to the cones but could not come up with something I liked or felt could convey the velvety mounds.  I think the straight stitch works well to outline the petals and conveys the first signs of autumn collapse.  The stems I'm afraid have turned into bamboo!  What I need is some stitch to convey their willowy curves.  Several layers of watercolour convey the grasses amongst which the echiacea grow and echo the work I did on Day 19..

Day 29

This is even better -- much freer and done in a trice.  It probably epitomises one of the things the SSP has taught me.

I rather like this print though I can see where my hand pressure was too light.

Putting on the second layer didn't really work.  Maybe the colour was too dark or too thick.  Whatever it was I need to practice more to get to grips with the method.   However I do like the drawing.

Day 28

I've included this monoprint because it illustrates a couple of things I've learnt.  Firstly, what happens when the ink on the glass is a little too thick.  Secondly, and probably more importantly, how a drawing can appear to be accurate but when reversed its weaknesses are distorted.  This cotton reel looks very lopsided especially at the bottom -- I needed to put some guide lines in to help create symmetry.
I've been working on getting the proportions in my drawings right, however, these cotton reels don't look particularly and I probably need to use a softer pencil to create a darker mark.  The monoprint version looks better.

Friday, 16 September 2011


Before my pears finally turned to mush I photographed them to decorate both the front and back covers. Somehow through use scratch marks have appeared, only on the pears and looking quite intended.

Days 26 and 27

I'm still beavering away drawing cubes and chairs, including a very unattractive loose-covered affair in my workroom -- very challenging and not entirely successful. I've anguished over angles and proportions and then stopped. I'm quite pleased with other drawings and there's no doubt about regular practice improving my skills and how I feel about having a go. It would be good to have a lesson or two locally. Sadly the scans were too light even though the drawings didn't appear to be so I haven't included then. Here are the coloured (pastel and oil pastel) and black and white carbon copies.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Day 22

Again it's exciting to see the effects than can be achieved. Thinking ahead to the black and white work for Module 2 I can see a number of techniques that will be useful. As for this piece I was quite pleased with some of the delicate flowerheads, but need to develop a wider range of strokes. They seem to be all or nothing at the moment with little in between.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Day 21

Still working on reaching the finishing line ....

I found this an oddly comforting task. It was interesting to see how the dry and slippery media interplayed and what was revealed when I scraped back.

Day 20

Thought I 'd have yet another go at wax resist, choosing a lower angle this time and finding contrasting sky. I like this layering technique very much: the different quality of lines is really interesting, but I can see that I need to spend much more time mixing the colours if I'm to achieve anything nearing accuracy.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Day 20

Our fennel's growth has been distorted by the wind and grows at a 45 degree angle, hence the strong directional pull to the top right corner.

I found the combination of wax and scratch -and scrape - to build layers really interesting. It produced some lovely rivulets of colour, though my attempts to hint at the flower heads by scraping a patch didn't really work.

Day 19

My last efforts were rather tentative and the scratches were not very visible. I'm back to using Koh-i-Noor and finding the intense colour defines the scratches and scrapes better. Some interesting effects where the blade was scaped across wet paper. The fennel and its background was mainly yellow-green, as a result there was no opportunity to create a variety of colour mixes. I need to choose my subject more carefully.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Day 18

I'm still working away at the SSP though the new drawing lesson is almost too tempting.

I made marks with both pointed and round blades, cutting through the paper in some places (light pressure achieves little). The round blade produces an attractive double mark. I also tried sandpaper which made a dotted texture when the oil pastels were applied.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Day 16

My final pear drawings and I hate to think what's been keeping them going for so long. My collection of papers from newspapers and magazines included a range of thicknesses and finishes from matt to shiny. I've enjoyed doing this and am pleased with the results, especially the right-hand pear where the gradations of colour are quite subtle.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Day 15

A delay in progress, the result of a very lovely long weekend with our son and his new wife.

Amazingly the pears linger on though the lushness of the last drawings has gone and now they're over-ripe like my drawings which seem to have lost some of the reflective quality built up through the routine of daily practise, though I'm sure it'll come again. Possibly it's the result of a certain staleness with the subject matter. Anyway, here are the felt tip pen scribbles, rather over-coloured and unsubtle. Interesting textured surfaces and a different angle for the smaller pear.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Day 14

Today I've experienced the highs and lows of drawing. compared with the oil pastel pear this is a dismal failure. It's been difficult with a more a limited choice of Stabilo colours to achieve the same richness. It may in part be the flat-looking background and maybe I need to work into this. There's a slight suggestion of depth in the Ligularia, but no more than that, and few of the lovely directional markings. This attempt serves only to show up the weak composition (the Modigliani Pear is still causing trouble). Oh dear.

I really enjoyed doing this and the result is pretty successful. My set of oil pastels (24 Rowney and Daler bought ages ago with 25% off) have a really good range enabling me to build the right colours. They also are perfect for making individual marks to show the roundness of the fruit. More work needed on the highlighted areas.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Day 13

It's taken me quite a time to complete this task as I've been experimenting with watercolour and inks on the photocopied sheets. I've been happiest with Koh-i-Noor with which it's possible to create strong colour but also let it down on the page. I know that's possible with watercolour too and maybe it's down to mixing colours more accurately. I wanted to add strong coloured fine detail to the centre of the flowers but was unable to achieve that; the very quality of mixing the paint on the page, which I like about Koh-i-Noor, made any small marks disappear. As for the highlights, I found the video to be essential and even so it's taken some practice to achieve them. Thicker than 100gram photocopy paper would have been better for painting. Finally after advice from Sian, I intend buying a few more better quality brushes.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Day 12

I've selected, in addition to the everlasting pears, the stem of ligularia in bold gold with a brown centre and the beautiful variegated nasturtium in vivid oranges with gold and crimson markings (tomorrow's task will be a tall order).

I seem to be forever complaining about the way the colour reproduces -- both on the blog and when printed out -- even though I'm lucky enough to have good quality kit. There must be a reason -- must investigate. It's such a pity as the rich burnt orange is a wonderful colour deepened with purple Koh-i-Noor for the shadows, though you need to work with it quickly as it dries leaving patches in unhelpful places.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Day 11

I've used Koh-i-Noor and my Stabilo pencils as suggested mixing the layers with a wet brush. The pears seem to change colour before my eyes, the palest colour an over-ripe gold which I achieved with the addition of purple a clever hint on my colour wheel, though the blog lacks the subtlety I though I'd managed to achieve. I've enhanced this with seeding to suggest the freckling on the pear's skin, but maybe French knots, my first instinct, would have been better. The darkest shade is an almost crimson blush so hard to achieve and even when I set the pear alongside it looked unreal. I've used Cretan stitch in space-dyed thread, echoing the shadows cast by the flower stems.

Why, oh why these reds and golds. I used them on my first Summer School and again recently? They don't really reflect the colours to which I feel naturally drawn.

Here are my objects -- alongside the pears, a terracotta plant pot, a ligularia flower, three nasturtiums and some fennel laid on some dyed fabric from Module One. In the background a kelim cushion. All glow with colours reminiscent of Harvest Festival, though the plant pot is a bit disappointing, modern and the same tone throughout.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Day 9

Another drawing challenge and one than nearly made me cross-eyed. The colouring in was great fun using Stabilo Woody, the shadows with Graphitint and the waterbrush mentioned by Sian which I picked up on our latest wedding trip to Derbyshire -- a super art shop in Matlock.

The crumpled check shirt I had to go over several times before the grey tones showed up sufficiently. The drawings hint at movement and finally after a week back at home my mind's settled enough to concentrate fully.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Day 8

Again the cockle shell. This drawing is a combination of paint on a dry brush with pencil for the horizontal lines. There's no doubt about it drawing really develops observational skills. I found myself scribbling lists of things like the quality of the edge, the ridges, highlights and shadows and most obvious of all the shell's fan-shape - a little store of inspirations for future projects.

I've been away for a number of days (yet another wedding) and found this task a real challenge. First the area around the pear stalk. Really the area only consists of a series of curved and straight lines of varying depth and distance apart. I chose 8B pencil as I did for the basket, which I drew under a strong light to emphasise the shadow. This was very frustrating and took several false starts. The shading again needs to be stronger and though I made the sketch bigger than the original hoping to make it easier, I don't feel I've managed to convey an impression of the curved main struts with the cross-pieces weaving over and under them. For the cockle shell I tried paint on a dry brush as Sian has done, but again the result has limitations.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Day 7

There's nothing like looking at a drawing on the blog - spake the convert - to give you a perspective on your work. I took this charcoal pear back for a second go to strengthen some of the shading and still feel I could do more. Following Sian's tip about using a strong light to show the undulations on the fruit I think the shading is more honest, though as ever there's work still to do. I realise, too late perhaps, that the lit side needs a much more delicate touch, the barest trace of a line. This "very quick" task is a slow burn with me.