Friday 30 September 2011

Up, up and away!

Very first thing this morning, before we'd even had breakfast, we were surprised to see this drift past the window! Well it's very warm and sunny - I'd be up there too if I could!

I grabbed my camera and managed to catch sight of it again just before it drifted out of sight beyond the roof of my workroom.

Before you email to ask, those strange mesh covered tunnels are a cunning device to keep bugs off our vegetables! While I was in the garden with my camera poised I took the opportunity to photograph one of our chickens. She's a young Maran - beautiful markings and lovely brown eggs when she's old enough. We got her as an egg and we're relieved she's a hen - her feet are so enormous we fully expected her to grow into an ostrich!

Hard to believe she's the same little scrap of life I showed you back in the spring! Her she is with her Mom only a day old. 

Putting all of the distractions aside, I've been back in my workroom and I added a bit more paint to the poppy seedhead painting as you can see below. It's only a quick sketch but I've enjoyed it and am determined to do more!

Thanks for visiting!
I'll be in touch again soon,

Wednesday 28 September 2011

No socks please we're British

I am really, really sorry for the dreadful pun but I couldn't resist! Britain does have a terrible reputation for its weather. How come I finally finish my  hand dyed merino and cashmere socks in the same week the BBC announce London is currently warmer than Honolulu?

Just to pile on the irony I finished a cozy Moebius cowl last night too!

With 28C forecast again for tomorrow I don't think I'll be wanting either of them for a while yet. Not that I'm complaining!

I am managing to keep faith with my promise to paint or draw every day - for the time being at least! Having sold a few of my paintings lately I need to replenish stocks! I'm still working with my favourite Rooks as you can see above. He's had a generous layer of gel medium applied and will probably take forever to dry! I shall add detail to the feathers once that happens.

I quite like his expression at the moment - he seems inquisitive don't you think? His features will need a little attention before he's done.

Of course while I'm waiting for him to dry I'm faced with the problem of what to do with the paint left on the palette. I'm too mean to wash it away so I've blocked in the start of another painting - this time it's a Crow.

Tomorrow we're going back to see the BP British Portrait Award 2011 for the second time. It will either spur us on the bigger and better things or make us give up altogether. Let's hope for the first so I am inclined to finish both of these at least!

Thanks for visiting!
Talk again soon - Linda

Monday 26 September 2011

Portrait exhibition

I didn't mean to post again so soon but Laura and I just got home from visiting Wolverhampton Art Gallery where the British Portrait Award 2011 opened this week. It's an inspirational display of incredible talent and you should go if you can! I'm standing in front of 'Little Sister' a painting by Tim Okamura from Canada.

The Art Gallery is housed in an impressive building that has recently undergone major renovation.

The facade tells of its Victorian origins but the inside space is now light and airy with lovely big galleries and importantly, a nice cafe too!

The sign says it all - these paintings are indeed world class and we are lucky to have them exhibited on our doorstep!

This by portrait by Ian Cumberland was one of my favourites. The judges must have agreed - it got third prize.

This picture by JJ Delvine caught my attention for a number of reasons. I'm involved in an exhibition with an oriental theme next year and the background in this painting was beautifully rendered with Chinese style birds and flowers.

How about this portrait by Jan Mikulka for intense and moody - his eyes definitely followed you around the room.

The artist who painted this arresting portrait, Isobel Peachey, said she tried to capture the sitter's Renaissance appearance. I think she absolutely nailed it don't you?

I think this is kind of weird but wonderful. It's by Mark Bush.

Up close the brushstrokes were mere suggestions of shapes but step back and every stitch in the knitted gloves was convincing.

The above are just a taster of what's on show. There are actually fifty portraits. If you can't see them in person second best option is to go to the National Portrait Gallery website.

We were both rather subdued driving home. Do you know that feeling where an exhibition is so good it's overwhelming? Fine figurative painting hasn't really been fashionable for ages but here's evidence that it's alive and well and currently on show in Wolverhampton! We're going again on Thursday!

I'll post again once I've come back down to earth. If I do that is!

Saturday 24 September 2011

Paint or Stitch? Probably both!

I've been having a bit of a bead frenzy. Lots of seedbeads stitched onto embroidered and quilted hand painted fabric.

I've been known to get carried away with beading but it's hard to resist when the work just cries out for a little glimmer and gleam of copper. The garden always looks a little melancholy at this time of the year but the seedheads are the stars of the show. These papery poppies have spots and dots just like my beads.

I love them so much. It's good to look up close - who'd have thought they had such spiky stems? I never know what to do first, shall I stitch or paint?

May have to do both! Here's the first stage of a watercolour. I want to keep the seedhead pale and delicate so I've started by painting in the background with a fluid wash of deep indigo and sepia. The paint is still damp so I've scattered a few grains of coarse salt on - it's already beginning to work its magic.

I've tilted the page so that the paint runs and flows.

Once it's completely dry I'll brush the salt away and carry on with the painting. At this stage anything could happen. I'll let you see how it turns out if it's OK. If you never see it again you'll know why!

Of course, while the paints are out and you're waiting for one painting to dry you may as well have a crack at another one! Iris are complicated shapes to tackle but pretty distinctive. As long as you get something vaguely iris-like it'll be recognisable.

It may not be the time of year for new resolutions yet but I've promised myself to make time every day for a quick painting session. Even if it's only half an hour - everybody has half and hour don't they? Of course I've had good intentions before -  we'll have to see what tomorrow brings!

Have a good weekend!

Saturday 17 September 2011

Needle Museum here we come!

It's been a busy week. Our exhibition in South Wales came down on Monday and Belinda packed it all up and drove the work from Aberdare to the Needle Museum in Redditch on Tuesday. We met her there, selected the pieces we thought would look best in the gallery and set them up that afternoon with the help of Joanne and Chez. The exhibition was due to open on Friday so there was no time to mess about!

We don't normally have such a speedy turnaround - not sure how that happened! We have been lucky enough to exhibit at the Needle Museum before and love the space. The industrial building provides a fantastic backdrop to our work.

When it was still a working mill, the needles used to be scoured and finished using power generated by water. The Victorian water wheel is an old lady now so she's only set in motion a couple of times a week. We caught her here on one of her rest days!

Of course, if there's a water wheel there has to be water! This is the mill pond at the back of the building.

On opening day Laura and I went back to the museum and worked in our sketchbooks or did a little gentle hand stitching - it was quite a treat.

Visitors arrived throughout the day and seemed to enjoy the quilts. We certainly enjoyed chatting with everyone and were happy to answer questions about our favourite techniques.

This detail is of a quilt of mine called One Golden Pear. It has holes cut through the quilt and beaded leaves and fruit are suspended in the open spaces between the branches - I was very pleased to see how the terracotta bricks of the walls complemented the colours of the fabrics. If you click on the picture you'll get a better view.

The museum holds the National collection of needles and I fell in love with these Georgian betweens. Joanne told me it's difficult to date them exactly but she believes they were made around 1820. Of course they would have been handmade at that time and it was a dirty and dangerous occupation. I photographed them beside my thimble to give an idea of how tiny the packet is. I can't even see the eyes of the needles, let alone thread them! Those Georgian seamstresses would have needed wonderful eyesight.

The museum even has its own cat. This is the very vocal Henry - he kept us company all day.

The exhibition continues until October 23rd so do please go along to see the quilts and the needle collection if you can. We shall be there again from 10.30 till 3.30 on October 20th and would love to see you then but please check details of opening times and entrance fees with the museum especially if you are travelling a distance.

Enjoy your weekend! Talk to you again soon, Linda

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Need sunglasses at dinnertime?

I know I've said before that 'him outdoors' knows more about design than he lets on - now it appears we are even growing our food in complementary colours.

Not content with violet and gold vegetables for dinner, there will be red and green chillies in the salad. Highly coloured food is said to be good for you but this could be dazzling!

Laura spoiled the symmetry of it all by bringing this offering from her garden this morning.

How odd to have aubergines that aren't aubergine! I'll be interested to see if they taste the same as our 'proper' aubergines.

Autumn is definitely in the air - must be because the knitting has emerged! I always have a project on the go in the darker evenings. Right now it's socks - I couldn't resist rescuing some skeins from Laura's latest dyeing session.

She's adding a few irresistible luxury yarns to the store and it's a perk of the job that I can have first pick! This is a gorgeous Superwash Merino, cashmere and nylon yarn that's making up rather nicely!

OK, it's only a sock and I know it looks like nothing on earth right now but it's really satisfying to do that turning of the heel bit! Fits so snugly. And you just wait - I'm on the straight bit that goes down the foot, that means no counting so I'll be able to knit while I'm watching TV tonight. It'll soon be finished then comes the trickiest bit - I'm not great with patterns and tend to improvise with knitting just like I do when I'm cooking. Making a second sock to match the first is always a challenge!

Wish me luck!
Talk again soon - Linda

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Just can't get enough!

I've never felt the need to accumulate lots of possessions. I have things I like and with no regard for fashion trends I keep them forever or until they fall apart! I do have precious things of course but mostly they have sentimental rather than monetary value.

On the walls I have paintings and drawings that my talented daughters made while they were still schoolgirls. Above is one of four honesty paintings Frances created using acrylic paints and below is a pencil drawing Laura made of her sister. Can't remember how old either of them were then but it's been quite a while.

I have lots of wooden treasures my father made when he taught himself to use a lathe after he had retired. He often turned pieces of wood he found on his walks by the local river where he was bailiff. Isn't it wonderful that such lovely things can be made from odd scraps?

My mother is the family magpie - visiting her house is like going into a museum! Every surface is covered with 'stuff'. You turn around at your peril - an errant bit of anatomy is quite likely to send some fragile object plummeting to its doom. I like space and I hate clutter - it's so claustrophobic. So can someone please explain to me why I have suddenly found it almost impossible to walk past a dusty antique shop or pass by a flea market without examining every stall? What possessed me to buy this for instance?

Or this, although at least this is useful - it was made by recuperating soldiers and meant to hold cutlery but it now organises my pencils beautifully.

The latest discovery is even more dangerous than the temptation of the antique shops and market stalls - I have found the local auction house. Today we waited patiently for several hours to bid for this fantastic fabric container. I don't know much about its history yet other than it was something to do with a linen producing factory.

Here's a detail of the image showing a huge loom.

It was meant to hold fabric so it's very satisfying to put it back to work in my studio!

Obviously some of the things I am acquiring lately have a textile connection and if you were being kind you might justify the purchases as being useful to my work in some way. Not sure that I can use that excuse for the find below however. Can you picture the quilt this might inspire - no, me neither! Still had to buy it though!

Seems that we grow to be like our mothers after all. Would someone please warn my daughters what they've got to look forward to?

I'm off to dust my finds - talk to you again soon - Linda

Friday 2 September 2011

Summer's back!

Maybe I shouldn't tempt fate but, after a couple of quite autumnal days we've been treated to some glorious late summer weather. We made the most of it today to visit with our youngest daughter in Cheltenham.  Her tiny but productive garden is a real sun trap as her outdoor grown tomatoes prove!

From Cheltenham it's just a short drive to Beckford where Beckford Silk can be found. This is far more than a shop - although you can buy silk fabrics by the metre or fashion accessories and garments made from silk you can also watch demonstrations of the printing processes carried out on site.

A guided tour of the silk screening studios was fascinating and certainly made us appreciate the skills required for the production of the many beautiful fabrics, scarves and neckties.

These are samples of the different types and weights of silk fabrics that they dye, print, discharge and devore. By clicking on the image to enlarge it you'll also be able to see a view of the lovely Beckford Silk building.

I loved most of the fabrics but the dyed georgette silks were particularly irresistible!

Although the advantages of using silk screening techniques over traditional block printing were explained to us, I couldn't help but find the wooden print blocks very desirable as objects of beauty in their own right!

The intricate designs are amazing aren't they? Makes me want to do much more printing!

If you get our DesignMatters e newsletter you'll already have seen that Laura posted an image of my recent sunflower painting attempts. I thought I'd just finish with a closer detail showing the effect of sprinkling salt onto wet watercolour paint. It's a pleasingly simple way of introducing a little visual texture into a painting! If the sun continues to shine I plan to spend more time painting in the garden tomorrow. Fingers crossed it'll be good! (That goes for the weather and the painting!)

Have a great weekend - bye for now, Linda