Monday 21 December 2015

The saga of the tree

We have our Christmas tree all dolled up and twinkling at least a week earlier than normal. It's 'The Amelie Effect' - no one should underestimate the persuasive powers of a three year old! As you read this I hope you have a nice cup of tea and a plate of mince pies to hand - I'll try to be brief but I'll probably ramble on a bit and I think you'll need sustenance to see through to the end!

We actually had the tree for a couple of weeks before decorating it and granddad had the bright idea to keep it fresh and hydrated by plunging the lower trunk into the margins of the garden pond. There it lay for over a week during which time we had very wet weather. Ever practical, and not wanting a dripping tree on the sitting room carpet, I suggested we might want to put it undercover to dry out before it came into the house. The tree was duly carried to the garage and propped up, still tightly encased in its mesh bag. That's when the toad was spotted! He slowly crawled out of the lower branches and headed towards the door. I didn't see the incident myself you understand - it was just recounted to me after said toad had been safely returned to the pond. Two days later, when Amelie helped carry the tree from the garage, was when the second toad made his appearance. Now granddad said it looked remarkably like the first one but I'm sceptical. One toad looks much like another and unless we've discovered some hitherto unknown species of Homing Toad I suspect this was a completely different individual.

The tree was carried into the house and ceremoniously positioned in a corner of the room. We didn't have to completely rearrange the furniture, just shuffle a few guitars out of the way and for once we didn't have to cut the top off to make it fit - a first for us!

We have a fair division of labour about these Christmas things - he makes the tree stand up straight and I decorate. So, why is it I ask myself that tree lights work when you test them in a heap on the floor but 5 minutes of careful arranging later there's nothing doing? Time to pause for lunch while he wiggles the wires, changes the fuse and fiddles with the bulbs.

May as well have a mince pie or two while we're waiting. These are from the third batch I've made so far - don't suppose any will make it to Christmas!

Still no sign of life in the lights so, not to disappoint our grandchild, we carry on regardless with the baubles and all the naff but sentimental bits and bobs. That's when we spotted the frog! Now I love wildlife as much as anyone but I prefer it out of doors rather than in my sitting room. There ensued a lot of squealing (me) and hilarity (them) as the by now warm and very lively creature was corralled into a corner. It involved crawling on bellies with head torches strapped to foreheads to encourage him from behind the grandfather clock and finally to capture him under the cupboard. David Attenborough would have been proud as the captive was released safely back to his more natural habitat.

This is the stuff that family memories are made of. I have learned from this episode and thought I'd pass on a few words of wisdom;

1 NEVER immerse a Christmas tree in a garden pond. Find a bucket - it's easier in the long run!
2 NEVER expect tree lights to work on the tree even after you've tested them just minutes before.
3 NEVER go barefoot in your sitting room unless you are confident there's no risk of frog and toad infestation.
4 NEVER attempt to put a new set of tree lights on after all the other decorations are already on the tree. Aaarggh!

Apart from that it was all good fun!

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and peaceful holiday and I hope you are looking forward to a creative 2016!

And don't forget you have until December 31st to send me your favourite Art Diary page - I'm loving seeing what you've all done!

Happy Christmas Everyone!
Linda x

Thursday 17 December 2015

Art Diary Challenge Final

It's hard to believe but it's been more than 3 months since I challenged DMTV viewers to work alongside me as I kept a visual diary about events that happened during that period.

3 months sounds like a goodly length of time to fill a sketchbook with creative ideas but in reality it simply flies by and it takes commitment and energy to find the time you need. We all owe it to ourselves though don't we? Life is hectic and often stressful so we all deserve a few quiet moments of sanity in a busy day - making art provides that!

So whether it was recording the glorious leaves and berries of autumn......

Or the rare, red moon during total eclipse.........

Or the winter landscape that inspired this little quilt, which I've just started to embellish with paint and stitch, there was always something that caught my eye and my imagination.

I hope those of you who decided to have a go have enjoyed the experience and have also found the video updates we've offered on DMTV helpful.  What I'd like now is to see some of your pages! Please send me an image of your favourite open page spread, together with a few words telling me what you like about the page and what, if anything, it taught you.

I think if I had to choose my own favourite page it would have to be this one - not because it's brilliant drawing or painting - it has none of that. What it has done though is make me think - it has stirred something in me. While I was pasting these old and faded photographs to the page I have had time to cogitate on time passing. On family past and present. On the way roles in the family change as we age. Once I was that little innocent with my grandmother, running amok round her garden whacking everything with a wooden spoon, and now I'm a grandmother myself. I'm not sure yet how I can capture all that in my work but it's already made me get the paint brushes out and attempt a self portrait - it's a start I guess!

Once I have all your favourite images I will make what will no doubt be a very difficult choice between the submissions and decide on a winner! You have until December 31st to send me your images and words. I shall announce the winner and give details of the prize during the first week of January.

Please don't be shy - send to me here as soon as you are ready and I'll file everything safely ready for judgement day. Good luck to everyone who enters - I can't wait to see your what you've been doing!

Linda x

Saturday 12 December 2015

Shaping up

Just a quick post today to let you see the outcome of the latest painting session.

The drying time between layers of oil paint is the worst thing - I'm always impatient to get on with it! Trouble is, if you work it too much it gets muddy and you're also tempted to put in fiddly detail far too soon.

At least I managed to finally get the top off a tube of blue yesterday! Stood it upside down in very hot water for a couple of minutes and then resorted to pliers. There were three different blues in the paints Laura gave me and although I realise you shouldn't choose your colour palette by which tube you can actually open!!! sometimes you just have to go with what you've got don't you?

The paint is getting thicker now and that will increase drying time between sessions - since patience isn't my strong suit I'm lining up some new canvasses. Maybe if I work on a couple at once I can switch from one to the next! Laura tells me I am still painting like I'm using watercolours so my plan is to start the next piece in a very different way. We'll have to see how that goes.

Bye for now,
Linda x

Thursday 10 December 2015

New challenge

I don't know why I've never got to grips with oil painting - might be something to do with growing up in the 50s and 60s when acrylics were the new and exciting medium and everyone thought oil paint was old hat. I have dabbled a little bit in the past but the results were nothing to write home about. It's surprising really because I think it was the smell of oil paint and turpentine that started me painting in the first place! When I was in my early teens I used to go into the old Art School building in West Bromwich and the smell was an assault on the senses, followed immediately by the magnificent sight of ranks of wonderful studio easels. If you ever get breathless with excitement in an art shop you'll know exactly how that made me feel - and it wasn't the fumes making me breathless by the way, I just hyperventilate when I see massed paints and brushes!

I had no intention to take up oils again but this week Laura gave me all her paints and mediums - she isn't happy to use them with Amelie around. I decided to give them a go and having recently finished my 3 month Art Diary Challenge with a self portrait thought that was the way to go. (Better than offending a different model anyway). Painting with oils is completely opposite to everything I'm used to with watercolours or even acrylics. I'm having to learn from the beginning! This is really only an underpainting and will change quite a lot as I add more layers of glazes.

I shall probably blend a lot of the brush strokes out while the paint is still so wet and malleable.

And I am aware that I need lots more shadows and dare I say it, wrinkles!!! The hair also looks a bit too voluminous - I'll give that some attention next session and then let you see how it's looking.

Not to be outdone on the Christmas preparations front, I snaffled the leftover salt dough from Laura's recent video for DMTV and made these tree decorations last night. There's a second batch drying out in the oven as I write this so plenty of fun painting and gilding to come later today. I love any excuse to get the Treasure Gold out!

I'll be back with details for the Art Diary Challenge competition next week. If you've been keeping your own visual diary make sure to visit my blog to find out how to enter. There will be a prize!!

Talk to you again soon - Linda x

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Who will I talk to today?

I really admire people who don't prevaricate, hesitate or put things off till another day!

No-one could call Trixie a slouch - she sent me this photograph a mere 3 days after I posted my fingerless mittens on this blog! What a great job she's done with a bargain yarn from Dunelm. Sounds like a girl after my own heart!

When I open my email each morning I never know who I'll be hearing from and from what part of the world. Yesterday, Anita wrote to me from the Netherlands with pictures of the 2 purses she has made after watching Laura's humbug purse video for DMTV.

This one is made by recycling a quilted patchwork block.

And this one is from hand dyed, quilted fabric. Lovely work Anita!

And the same day I heard from Jennifer in Denmark with pictures of her gorgeous little appliqu├ęs inspired by the Art Diary Challenge and her sketchbook pages.

Jennifer made these for a Christmas market - I hope the snow didn't keep people away and they sold really well. Beautiful work Jennifer!

My artistic efforts of late have been quite therapeutic! Laura has designed a new 'We Print, You Paint' fabric and I volunteered to make a sample using my favourite Jacquard Lumiere paints in combination with some gorgeous Liquitex Acrylic Inks.

Here I'm only just making a start - I'll show you the completed piece next time. Laura has been working with the same design using fabric marker pens to achieve a completely different effect. We always like to try out various products so we can recommend techniques with confidence. We both worked on the panels as Storm Clodagh raged outside on Sunday afternoon. It was a lovely way to spend a few hours although the noise of the wind was quite scary again. Fortunately it was short lived!

Maybe you'll be tempted to get some art therapy too when Laura releases the new fabric design for sale?

Talk to you soon - bye for now,
Linda x