Thursday 21 January 2016

Blast from the past

An old school friend got in touch this morning. She'd discovered a photograph of us aged 16 on a school trip to London. Laura laughed herself silly when she saw it! What is my hair about?

Oblivious to issues of health and safety, here's Livvy and I up to our ankles in pigeons in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. I know it was a long time ago but really, black and white photos?? Had colour not been invented yet? Funny thing is, I remember that outfit so well. I made it myself from chocolate brown, pinstripe wool. There was a waistcoat too although you can't tell that from the picture. I'd mastered button holes for the first time and I really thought I was the bee's knees!

Back in the real world, I've been helping with Fingerprint orders a bit this week. This has involved slaving over a steamy iron and cutting up fabrics ready to post out to customers. I'm very cheap labour but I wreaked my revenge by plundering Laura's stocks of hand dyes. Now that I'm working on a huge quilt I need fabric! This quilt was meant to be a way to diminish my heaps of scraps but I've underestimated how many I need for such a massive piece. The main trouble is, my plans to be really random with colour choices have fallen by the wayside. I'm such a control freak I have to introduce some formality and that means bands and borders of consistent colour. Turns out odd scraps just won't do!

Here I'm auditioning the turquoise chevron border and the first few of the Tumbling Blocks that will surround everything. As you can see, there's still variation in the colours of the fabrics but I need to keep the values similar or the 3D effect won't read well. I've neglected this piece for too long but now that I'm back on track it's becoming an obsession - does anyone else stitch standing up in the kitchen while they watch the soup simmer or is it just me?

Bye for now,
Linda x

Sunday 17 January 2016

There are pencils and then there are pencils

I've been drawing on my iPad for the last few days and I think I may have a new obsession!

I've treated myself to an Apple pencil and it's made a huge difference to the detail I can achieve. Fingers just don't compare! If you're interested, I'm working in Procreate.

It's interesting when I compare the digital drawing with the oil painting. (Anybody else think it looks more like Sharon Osbourne than me - thank goodness I don't have to live with Ozzy?) Admittedly the painting isn't finished yet but right away I can see where I've gone wrong. The lips are too narrow and the cheeks too round! I worked both these portraits from the same photograph so they should be more alike. I'll need to slim the painted face down a bit which is no problem - if only it was that easy in real life!

Of course I won't be abandoning my paints and brushes just because I've got a new toy. The world is big enough for both.  I've already prepped a new canvas and I'm just putting off the moment. I've been prevaricating a bit - spent far too much time arranging and rearranging stuff this morning instead of just getting on with it.

Don't understand why I'm so nervous to start something new after all the drawing practise recently. The Art Diary Challenge really focussed my mind and it was so popular I am thinking we may have to do something similar again later this year. One of our Highly Commended winners for 2015, Annette, sent me a few more of her diary pages...........

Nature is always a wonderful source of inspiration and these prints have a lovely quality don't they? Thanks for sharing Annette!

Winter seems to have arrived finally and we woke to snow again this morning. Nothing to get excited about though - just a light dusting that melted away almost as soon as it had appeared. The day remained overcast and dismal - always a sign on a gloomy Sunday morning that the best place to be is in the kitchen.

I think I'm getting good at ciabatta! Today I followed the recipe in Bertinet's book 'Dough'. Last week's batch used his recipe in 'Crust'. We shall have a scientific tasting later today to decide on our favourite. Just waiting for these to cool down enough to slice!

I'm in a quandary right now. I've got the big patchwork I'm working on spread out over the table in the conservatory where the daylight is great for hand piecing but my easel and a brand new canvas are also set up ready for action - decisions, decisions!

Bye for now - Linda x

Wednesday 13 January 2016

You can never have too many pencils

At least that's what I heard from our Art Diary winner today!

This is what we sent Jennifer as her prize. Its lovely to hear the parcel arrived safely in Denmark and I know the pens and pencils will be put to good use!

Our Highly Commended winners received a lovely tin of graphite pencils and a selection of our greetings cards. I hope they'll enjoy using them!

I also heard from one of our online students today. Gill is one of the last few people who have been working independently through our Creative Quiltmaking course. She kindly sent me a photo of her finished quilt and agreed to let me share it with you all. Believe it or not this is the first quilt, other than journal sized pieces, she's ever made. Great job Gill - I hope there will be many more to come.

She included a page from her sketchbook showing the source of inspiration for the beautiful curved lines of her piecing.

And a detail shows how the linear design developed from the theme. Thanks for sharing Gill!

I'm busy with preparation for a new DMTV topic. What's new you may ask - I'm always busy with prep! You can just spot the intriguing title of the old book I'm altering in the image above. You might question what all those magazine cuttings have in common but I think you can tell that colour is involved! I'll be trying my best to be imaginative in the way I illustrate many of the rules of colour theory. It's a subject that's so often written about in academic and dusty, dry terms - I hope to be more visual, inventive and fun! All will be revealed to subscribers very soon.

I'm also back hand piecing my mosaic patchwork quilt after a lengthy and frustrating interval. I've been battling a trapped nerve in my neck for nearly six months. It made the small motions of repetitive hand sewing too painful but now I'm much better and I'm doing my best to make up for lost time. Progress is being made but there's still a long way to go. Don't know why we decided a super king size bed was such a great idea but thanks for your patience if you've been waiting to see how it's turning out.

So, with the wisdom of hindsight can I say think of your posture and don't spend all day hunched over a computer like I do? It was the first question the physio asked me!!

Talk to you again soon - Linda x

Thursday 7 January 2016

And the winners are..............

I announced yesterday that Jennifer Mary in Denmark was the overall winner of the Art Diary Challenge but today I want to qualify that and say that everyone who entered was a winner in my eyes! A diary of any kind is normally a very private place and it takes courage to go public with the pages!

When I wrote to let Jennifer know she had won yesterday she sent me this in reply;

It's a record of the art materials on her desk that day - I think you can see why she was a worthy winner. Jennifer tells me she's working in her third book of the challenge and has no intention of stopping anytime soon!

When we judged the submissions we were looking for a number of different qualities. It wasn't all about technical skill although obviously it helps if the drawing is sound and the art medium chosen is used with understanding and sensitivity. We were looking for pages with visual impact, well composed and with competent use of mediums but concept and idea were probably just as important as the visual effect achieved.

A visual diary is more than a sketchbook. I looked up a number of dictionary definitions and here's a combination of my findings:

A diary is a record of events and experiences kept daily or at frequent intervals.
A book in which are recorded personal observations, thoughts and feelings.
A daily record, usually private, of the writer's (artists') experiences, observations, feelings, attitudes.

To me, the most significant words that appear in the definitions are 'personal experiences' and 'observations'. The challenge involved a specific time - 3 months - and was intended to be a response to events within that specific timeframe. Because the work we received was of such a high standard we have decided to make three Highly Commended awards.

The first goes to New Zealander Bernice. Her page recorded a day at the river beach with her family. The open page spread shows both the whole experience plus a beautifully executed detail. Bernice painted the detail on watercolour paper and inserted the sheet back into the book after removing the bulk of the original page.

She has combined photography and painting to tell the story of the moment really well. It's almost like being there ourselves!

Annette recorded an autumnal chestnut leaf using coloured pencils worked over a gessoed page of her diary. Her observational study perfectly captured the crisp edges of the leaf as it curls and begins to decay. The shapes on the right hand page are actual leaves, pressed and attached under layers of acrylic wax. The text is collaged from magazine pages and burnished with gold.

The idea of a conker on a string to act as a bookmark was a great final touch!

Pat made a well observed and beautifully understated drawing of a sloe branch to record the bumper crop this year. Just look at the texture of those gnarly, lichen encrusted twigs!

Pat concealed the fruits of her labours (sloe gin) under an attached flap which altered the proportion of the page and gave scope for more drawing. The overall composition, ignoring the spine of the open page is very successful. We liked the combination of variation in scale, the drawing of negative space and the use of accent colour in the form of the bottle, the stitching and the yarn tag. Once again this is an example of a personal story recorded with sensitivity.

I may never issue a challenge again as I've had real trouble singling out individuals from all the submissions received. I feel guilty about not being able to give everyone a prize!!

May I take this opportunity to thank everyone who followed the challenge and especially the brave souls who sent in their pages for judging. You are all winners and my sincere hope is that you'll keep a visual diary from now on!

Talk again soon - Love Linda x

Wednesday 6 January 2016

New Year - new start and a winner

Happy New Year even if it's a little belated!

Much as I love Christmas, I'm always itching to get into a normal routine. All that relaxing and doing nothing soon palls! Most of all I long to get back in my workroom. I have managed to steal a few minutes here and there to do a bit of drawing but nothing serious or considered. That really must change as I've been treated to a beautiful studio easel, a number of large canvasses and lots of tubes of oil paint - my family are determined I will have no excuse not to paint.

However, before I lose myself in painting, the first priority in this new year has been the unenviable task of choosing a winner for the Art Diary Challenge. I knew this was going to be an almost impossible job and it was! In fact I had to rope in Laura for assistance. After much debate, we have chosen a favourite open page spread and I can announce that the deserving winner is Jennifer Mary from Denmark. Jennifer's page stood out for us because of the thought behind it. In her words..........

"Everyone morning I go for a walk before breakfast and I have made the decision to pick up a piece of litter, each day, and throw it in a bin.
This works well with the usual cigaret packets, beer cans and bus tickets, but this day I found two torn shopping lists outside the supermarket and todays challenge was chosen for me.
They were picked up, but never reached the bin.:-)" 

We loved Jennifer's response to a simple idea to do her bit for the environment. Illustrating a stranger's discarded shopping list across her art diary page that day was completely serendipitous but showed us what an imaginative approach Jennifer has to keeping a visual record of events. Many congratulations Jennifer - your prize of art materials is in the post. I hope you continue with your visual diary and it will give you lots of pleasure.

We were so impressed with the standard of the work sent to us that we couldn't leave it with just one winner. We have awarded several Highly Commended prizes too. I'll share their pages with you next post!

In the meantime I have been giving a lot of thought to my own work lately and I want to continue with the theme of family and of portraits. To that end I took loads of photos over the holiday. I'm going to ease myself in gently with individual heads on each canvas but my longer term ambition is a group composition - I will have to get practise in before I can attempt that! People always think these things come easily to me but the truth is it's always scary to start a new piece, especially as I'm working in oils and that's new to me. Not all of my models have been cooperative when asked to smile for the camera.

Don't think I'll be using that one!

Before Christmas Laura photographed some of her father's guitars and banjos. We had an idea to print the images to cloth and make them up as cushions as a surprise. Unfortunately the run up to the big day was hectic, customers had to come first and his present went to the bottom of the list. Now that the main rush is over we were able to give him his late gift and he seems to have forgiven us for its lateness!

Each cushion has a second image on the back so they can be switched around for a different look. The detail of the banjo is probably my favourite. How convincingly 3D is that well done Fingerprint!

Even though there's been far too much eating and drinking going on over the last couple of weeks I am enjoying being in the kitchen again. Thanks to my sister-in-law Pam, I am now the happy owner of Richard Bertinet's book, 'Crust'. I have loved his first book, 'Dough' for ages and now I have some of his more challenging recipes to tackle. Yesterday I made a ferment and today, 24 hours later I made 5 ciabatta loaves. They look suitably rustic and taste wonderful - well worth the time taken. I'm planning to have a go at the baguettes next!

With the whole year ahead of us it's time to get creative again. Laura and I have loads of ideas to get you started. I hope you'll enjoy this year's DMTV videos if you're already a subscriber and if you're not, maybe you'll decide to join us!

Thank you for your company over the last year - please keep your comments coming.
Till next time - love Linda