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Friday, March 31, 2006

Normal Service...

is resuming, slowly. I've got an inner ear infection, which upsets my balance a bit, so I've been in bed the last couple of days. Completely idle, which, for me, is unusual; if I'm in bed, I'm usually doing something. Art related of course...drawing, or sometimes hand stitching.

But now to get back on something that loosely resembles a track. When is a quilt not a quilt? Why, when it's a sculpture. And, in this case, a book. I've been working with lutradur again. I thought it would create an interesting book, and indeed, so it does. I enjoy making sculptural books, things that you can play with, look at from different angles and perspectives. These are very simple to make, yet incredibly effective.

I do bind books, now and again, and enjoy it when I do, but I'd rather be sewing. Or painting. So in future, I'm intending to pass cloth to Helen, who makes books faster than I do, and save my time for other things. Just because I know how to, doesn't mean I have to do it!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Inner Landscapes III

I thought you might like to see the other Inner Landscape piece I made on Monday. Besides, I'm tired, too tired to write much. Who said a picture was worth a thousand words? I'd like to shake his hand!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Inner Landscapes II

Having painted a lot of paper to do transfers onto lutradur, I thought that today, being wet and windy, was probably a good day to be beside an ironing board. Hence, two new 'Inner Landscape' pieces. Here is one of them, or rather, almost all of one of them, they are both slightly bigger than the scanner! The one shown here is made for an old friend whom I haven't seen in a long time, the other for a new friend, whom I seem to see quite regularly.

I was concerned about how to go on with this series, after the happy accident that was the first of the quiltlets. I shouldn't have worried. I did some painting, using the colours I thought were right together, and when I ironed them out, I recognised the people they related to. Strange, isn't it? Or there again, trusting the process and one's unconscious mind is always a good plan.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Not quite a host, more a cluster of golden daffodils.

Grubbing in the Garden

They say exercise is good for depression. Sadly, they're right. So when I felt a bit blue today, out I went into a warm wind, and tidied up one of the borders. This reminded me of two things. One, you really ought to tidy up in the autumn... Two, you really ought to be fitter than you are. Sigh. But there is something very pleasant about a little light weeding on a beautiful spring day. So I visited the plants in the other borders, and snapped these lovely miniature daffodils on the way back in.

And having blown the blues away, I finally got to grips with the quilt for the Spring show that takes place next month. And I made a book...that isn't a book... more tomorrow!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dancing With The Demons : Burnout

In a previous post, I talked about a quilt I had made to tell the story of my last breakdown. Shirley asked to see a picture or two, so here we go. This is a highly personal quilt, and yet the experience it portrays is very common, so I make no apologies for going into details to explain the quilt. Funnily enough, the artist's statement that accompanies it is very short and to the point. Fire, it says, is a good servant and a bad master.

The quilt describes a time period of about two or three years. I had been working in a very difficult environment, for an unreasonable man, at full pitch, for about three years. One day, a friend mentioned a fire walking workshop, and asked if I'd like to take part. I was horrified at the thought; I shook with fear. I said, no, I don't want to do anything like that. Later, though, I changed my mind. I didn't want anything to have such power over me, and so, I signed up for the workshop. I walked on fire. I burned my feet, slightly. You would think that I would have got the message at that point, but no. So, the first section of the quilt shows me tentatively stepping forward onto the fire.

About nine months after that, I burned out completely. I could no longer function in any meaningful way, and left my bed only to go to psychotherapy, and to have long hot baths with lavendar oil in them. The central panel of the quilt shows me, immobilised, being immersed in the fire, unable to escape.

And then, things gradually improved. I was no longer the person I had been; I was retired from my day job on medical grounds, and, eight years later, have no plans to return to my profession. But despite that, there was hope. The third panel shows a falling, burnt shell of a person, falling, falling...but below it, a silver hand. For me, that represents my own creativity, the saving grace, literally and metaphorically, in this situation.

I have since made a number of quilts that are indirectly 'about' depression. One series is entitled 'The Texture of Memory', and it looks at the way in which we remember things, sometimes obscuring our own view, and distorting our memory, through wearing the infamous 'pink coloured spectacles' of hindsight. One of those quilts is part of the Changing Perspective show, if you're interested.

Meanwhile, I focus on the beacon of hope that is the silver hand of creativity. I can't make this illness go away, sadly; a short business type meeting will exhaust me for days, I miss the energy levels I used to have. But I can recognise that I have gained from it, too. I now have the time and space to explore art as I wish to, without any pressure from anyone except myself. I find myself wishing to put the art 'out there', but I'm not entirely sure that I have the confidence or the stamina to do so in a sustained manner. It's scary.

So, I finally find myself at a point where I have decisions to make. Wish me luck.

Hidden Meanings?

You may recall that I posted recently about a postcard. I'd worked on it, and lost it, and finally found it again, photographed it and talked about it here. What I didn't share with you, was the reaction of a particular friend, who shall remain nameless. That's rude, she said. I looked at it again. Phallic, right enough, regardless of any which way you turned it. How did you fail to see that, she asked, wondering if indeed it was just her mind... Well, to tell you the truth, I didn't make the connection. I work a lot with marks that are intended to make you think that they have meaning of some kind, that they might have been deliberate, intended... only in this instance, the meaning my friend found wasn't anything I'd intended... ah well.

As it happens, I managed to, well, mislay the postcard once again. I found it abandoned in the printer/scanner yesterday. While fishing it out, I realised that actually, I like the back a lot more than I like the I'm going to finish it as a two sided postcard, and be done with it. Besides which, on this side, you get to see the encaustic painting clearly, which was intended as a feature, but the lutradur obscured it a tad too much, and whilst said encaustic looked better on the other side, I'm not about to unpick and start again. I rarely ever unpick a work...I'm more likely to throw it out, and I don't think this wee thing deserves that, entirely.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Getting Nothing Done

Or at least, it feels that way. But when I look at the day, actually, it has been a day of incremental improvement. I had to go out to collect a variety of prescription well as the Prozac (for which I'm daily grateful), there's the iron tablets for the anaemia that always seems to be either present or threatening, and the inhaler for my asthma. Sigh. So, since I was out anyway, I continuted on to buy some batting and threads. And, once home, while waiting for the kettle to boil, I painted up some paper with transfer dyes. I don't have a lot of room for drying stuff, so little and often is my motto for this kind of work.

And then, I made An Experiment. I'm still struggling with the quilt for the exhibition next month, with Spring as its theme. I started a small brown quilt, but somehow, it isn't conveying what I want it to. So I took a piece of fine cotton, which is a deep brown, and felted some green wool tops onto it, randomly. I thought that I'd use it reversed, since Nuno felt of this nature usually has the odd glimpse of the wool on both sides, but whilst the two surfaces are bonded, there doesn't seem to be any fibre on the back. Which is fine, as I'm quite pleased with the top, and will use it fused (probably) onto some dark velvet. I want to suggest the random nature of growth, whether in a newly dug garden or a newly ploughed field. Pictures tomorrow, I promise. Meanwhile, the last of the dye pictures, a screenprinted piece that I'm quite taken with. Just as well, really, as I've got a few of them!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Deep And Meaningful : The Mummy.

the totem tribe. Michael suggested making lots of them, and he was right! But they tend to migrate to other homes.

My personal totem doll

A Short Story

I promised Jen that I'd tell this particular story. Amongst the other things I do, I make dolls. I resisted doll making for years, it seemed like a terribly 'girly' thing to do (no offense meant to dollmakers everywhere), and that just seemed so 'not me'. But it niggled and niggled, as these things do.

And then I went on a workshop that was run by Michael Brennand-Wood, a well known UK embroiderer, whose specialism is 3D. It was fun, from start to finish. I, of course, being of a dark disposition, or at least a tendency thereto, found myself making something Deep and Meaningful, something that looked like a mummy, and which represented the cycle of birth and death. And on day three of the workshop, nearly finished with Deep and Meaningful, I looked round and realised that everyone else (and there must have been about a dozen of us), without exception, was working on something brightly coloured, that looked joyful, and I thought...what AM I doing? So...I started making a totem doll. There she is, up at the top of the blog. She turned out to be a self portrait, bless her...a glimpse of the goddess within, I suspect.

And I've been making dolls ever since, some of them totem dolls, made from sticks and cloth, others entirely cloth. And I love it. It's my treat, for when I'm between projects and I'm stuck, and don't know how to move forward. Making a doll or three does it every time. So does making altered books, but that's another story altogether...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Closet Quilts

One of my goals for this year is to ( last...) catalogue them, the finished quilts that live in the wardrobe above my head. I'm very, very bad at paperwork; my preference is to make, not to record. But every time someone asks me what size a piece is, I have to go measure it...again...and that makes no sense at all to me. So, I have a little book, and in it, I'm writing down everything I've made. Well, that's not strictly true. Everything I still have in my collection, or that I know is definitely somewhere else, like the healing quilts hanging in an acupuncturist's surgery, or the specific quilt I gifted to someone in the US, made for her birthday. Which is why I've got piles of quilts in the living room, and a tape measure on my knee.

Fortunately, though I've been working in cloth for over twenty years, the serious art stuff only goes back about five or six years, so it's not as if I have to dredge my rather uncertain memory for what I made Back Then. What is interesting, is clearly seeing the patterns in my work. I thought there were more quilts in the Texture of Memory series than there actually are, for instance. It is probably the earliest of the series quilts, and many of the themes in it, are still popping up in my work today. Many of those early quilts are either directly or indirectly about depression. One of them, Burnout, charts the progression of my last breakdown; my son can't bear to be in the same room as it. I know how he feels, though I see the hope in it, rather than the pain.

Art as therapy? Perhaps. But then, nobody criticises a writer for writing what s/he knows. I don't make quilts about depression specifically to help myself get over it; I make them because making art is what I do. And as I understand my situation better, it changes, hopefully for the better, and so do I. If that's therapy, so be it. For me, it's a by product. The real aim is the visual moment.

There seems to be rather a lot of work just lying about the house, waving...really must Put It Away. But not before it is measured and catalogued. What's scary, is that once this is done, I have to catalogue the paintings, too. There are quite a few of those, which accounts for the seeming gap of nearly a year, where I painted full time, pretty much, and didn't touch textiles. At present, there are paintings piled up in odd places. They aren't as easy to store as textiles. What I really need, is a Fan, who could take some away!

Monday, March 20, 2006

When In Doubt...

cut it out? Well, not quite. I had a piece which I really liked, a handdyed square (napkin), which I'd dyepainted blue. Then on top of that, some lutradur, half dyed red, half dyed blue, with a white gap between them. And then, I stitched. And Stitched. And it didn't work. So then, I stitched some more. And yes, it still didn't work. I even overdyed it a bit more, which is easy to do with lutradur, just a question of ironing the colour on to where you want it. And that wasn't right, either. So, finally, I cut it up; I now have a diptych. And I'm happy. Or I will be, when it is mounted and framed. The photograph shows it lying on the tiled floor in my conservatory.

Reading this over, I realise that, despite my intention to talk about something other than dyeing, given that I seem to have been obsessed with it over the last couple of days (and more images to come...), dyeing does seem to have sneaked in. Ah well, I suppose it is a reflection of the way I work. Dye first, dye last, it doesn't matter to me. I don't have a specific order in which I apply the processes I use. I just make it up as I go along, and do what seems to need to be done at the time. Like I keep saying, it's a question of trusting the process...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

printed pieces

printed pieces

printed pieces.

squiggle, squiggle...wonder how I'll eventually use this piece...

Turned Out Well

I've had squeeze bottles in my box of 'things to make marks with' for years, but somehow, never used them...I have now! They make a lovely, clear mark...must do some more writing on cloth... Must also go through the box of things, and play with the rest of them! And buy a funnel, for pouring dye into them, less messy all round, methinks.

The printing I did has turned out well, though you wouldn't know it from these pictures... But then, I think 'well' is perhaps a misnomer. Well for the purpose I have it in mind for, would be more correct, perhaps. As pieces of whole cloth, I'm not overly taken with these examples. But then, they aren't intended to stay as whole cloth. They will be cut up, used together, with other cloth, stitched into, all sorts of things. And for that, they are ideal.

We fall in love with cloth, sometimes, and talk about being unable to cut it up. For me, that's the clear sign of either a whole cloth piece, with unobtrusive stitching, or quite simply a perfect piece of cloth, that should be allowed to remain exactly as it is. It might never be used in a textile piece, but I suspect it will fuel lots of ideas, if you sit with it long enough. And that is surely a bonus!

Saturday, March 18, 2006


I've spent the last couple of days working with dyes. I had forgotten how much I enjoy that...particularly the painting and printing aspects. I used to sell my cloth, and teach dye workshops, still do, now and again, but never the painted stuff. Nobody seemed interested in it. Now, with books like 'Breakdown Printing', and doubtless the popularity of City & Guilds courses, there seems to be more of an interest in 'interesting' cloth. Or perhaps it's just that I've moved from Scotland, which is resoundingly traditional in orientation towards fabric selection. (Go on then, the Scots among us, prove me wrong...I'd love it!).

I had done some low water immersion dyeing which I wasn't particularly happy with. Scotland has wonderful soft water, and I'm finding that I don't get quite the colours I used to, here in hard water hell. Mind you, that's the only complaint I have about Norfolk, and I can deal with it via Calgon, so I have little to complain about! So, some of the cloth was reimmersed, in a magenta dyebath, and the rest of it was printed over. I also did some screenprinting on plain fabric, but that's another story for another day, I think.

The results were varied, and, I hope, interesting. Well, put it this way, I expect to use it all! See what you think. The pictures below are dye painted cloth; the one above, LWI.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Dyeing to...

see how my cloth has come out! It's still in the washing machine, so photos tomorrow, perhaps. Meanwhile, I've been adding colour to some batik, which has been hanging around waiting for me to remember it for weeks, now (really must keep up these lists, they work!). Both have had navy dye added to them, it'll be interesting to see how they end up. These are made with a beeswax with other waxes added; I've now got some soya wax, and some instructions (thanks, Arashi), so I'll try that next, sounds as if it's a lot easier to work with. And doubtless, will have its own peculiarities and limitations, too.

I'm now wondering about the patterning in that picture of the frost covered windscreen from yesterday. I meant to make work based on it...that was, oh, three years ago...and still there is nothing. So suddenly, it has come to the head of the queue, mainly because I love the texture of it. I thought I might explore different ways of creating similar effects on fabric. I don't suppose they'll be any different to anything anyone else might come up with, you understand, but it might be interesting to play with. If you think the same, feel free to use the picture and come up with your own versions...if you send me an image or two, I'll put them up on the blog. Have fun with it, I intend to! And do let me know if you work with the image, whether or not you want the results published here. If it's a popular thing, I might even run a challenge...with A Prize !!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Counting The Hours.

Today, I took the thickened dye I made at the beginning of the week, and, following the guidelines for one of the techniques in 'Breakdown Printing', by the Committed to Cloth team, Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan, I printed with a screen on some plain cotton cloth. I also printed with a single block, a ceramic tile which is itself divided into a grid of small squares, aiming to vary the mark each time I used it, mainly working on previously dyed cloth. And then, just for a bit of variation, I did some discharge printing and painting. And given that I always make too much thickened dye, I've got some to play with tomorrow.

Pictures? Well, I'd love to. Problem is, this stuff has to batch for 24hrs. Yes, it could be less. It might only make it to tomorrow morning before being rinsed out. I have no self control when it comes to dyed fabric. I've always been the kind of person who desperately wants to have the cloth out of the dyebath, almost before it went in there! was a day well spent. And I have the pink fingers to prove it! I always seem to forget about gloves when dye painting.

It's cold and dreich here today, after a couple of beautiful, sunny, warm days that made me hopeful of better weather. But not as cold as the day when I took this photograph of frost on my windscreen, back in Strathpeffer.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


has been quiet, work wise, as I catch up on some of the bits of 'real' life that need doing, like shopping (a girl has to eat) and collecting a parcel (a girl has to read...lovely amazon...). Tomorrow, though, I'm going to play with my small screen and some thickened dyes. So, this evening, I'll go put some fabric into soda ash solution, and make some print paste.
And possibly use this close up of the bottom of That Bucket as a source of inspiration for tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Communal Comment

Regular readers will be wondering why I just posted a picture which seems to relate to nothing much in particular. Well, in part, I was getting to grips with Hello; I didn't think that adding another blog would have to be explained to Hello, so, when I posted a picture, instead of going to the new blog, it came here. Oops.

Today, the two H's and I spent a day together, ostensibly working (and some stitching was done, really, it was). There was, of course, cake (Heather is the Cake Queen). And coffee. Did I say marshmallows? But above all, there was critique.

Now, those of you who belong to alternativequiltlist will know that we've been talking about critique on the list, and that I've been enthusiastically talking about the process of critique through question. For those of you wondering what I'm talking about, I usually critique by asking questions. That way, the artist keeps control of the conversation, and learns what s/he is ready to learn, at a speed that works for both of us. Well, I'm here to say that today, my critiqueing style went from the interrogative, through the strongly suggestive, and out the other side. At one point, I even went hands-on, and folded a quilt top to make a point. And it was fine.

I don't normally work that way, so I wondered why it was that I felt able to do so in this little group. The answer, I think, is that we all varied styles dramatically during the conversations we had about our work, but we all spoke with respect for person and work. And we trust each other. I think that is the key issue, in fact. Trust. Trust each other, trust the process. And then it's all as easy as falling off a log. Or writing a blog!

Monolith was one of the pieces critiqued today. It now has additional stitching, and looks the better for it.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Guess what...I found it!

Having A Moment.

It doesn't matter what you call it, whether it be blonde, senior, both or neither, I'm having one today. Or I've had one (gee, I can't remember...). When a friend phoned today, I said, I'm stitching a postcard. Just killing time, really, waiting for the cloth to be ready to rinse. It wouldn't usually matter, but I dyed some silk with soda ash, and silk really doesn't like to be long in the bath with the alkaline... so, there I was, stitching away. After rinsing and lunch, I went back upstairs and stitched some more, both on the card and on a small piece that has been assembled for a while, lutradur on a beautiful monogrammed napkin... surprisingly, it has my initials on it. Well, it is surprising given I bought it in a charity shop for 50p. But I digress (nothing new there...).

Then I thought, Must Take Picture Of Postcard, which combines lutradur on top and wax (soaked into the base of the card), which makes it Unusual. For lo, I have one I took earlier (at the top of the blog), but it would be nice to show the development.

And so it would. Which leads us to the moment of vagueness which has led me to somehow...well...mislay?...the postcard. Dammit. I've looked everywhere, but I still can't find it. Sigh. Oh well. There's always tomorrow....and tomorrow....and tomorrow....

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Profits Of Idleness

are not always what you would expect them to be. This picture here, for instance, is an example of the kind of thing that happens when you forget to clean up after a dye session. Well, okay, perhaps forget is too euphemistic...just plain ignore the cleaning up, is closer to the truth! It doesn't happen every time (guess how I know!), but just this once, I looked in the bottom of the bucket, and here was this beautiful pattern. I have taken photographs like this before, of ice on the windscreen...but this is like coloured ice. The textures are fascinating, and I'm hoping to use the photo as the basis of some photoshop work. I want to work with some of the details, perhaps to make printing blocks, something to work with on a long term basis.

The downside to this idleness, of course, is that you do have to clean up before you can dye again... and now that that is done, I'm going to dye tomorrow, some browns, I think, and perhaps some orange. And do some gocco printing, though that may be done later in the week.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Creative Chaos or A Peep At The Paintings

My studios are attic spaces at the top of the house. They are...well...compact. I wrote a few days ago about being in the Zone. That day, I made four paintings...or at least, worked on four paintings, whether they are done or not is anybody's guess at this stage. So, here's a glimpse of them, drying, nearly dry, in fact, waiting for me to decide What To Do Next. Which might be, move 'em out of there and get on with something else...
But not today. Today, I've done various bits and bobs, and now, I'm going to have a coffee, and some chocolate, and then Take A Nap.
ps note the toys on the top shelf. I don't really have a studio at all, I have a playroom! Hurrah!

Friday, March 10, 2006

One Of Those (Perfect) Days.

Yesterday was busy, but wonderful. I had to get my hair cut (yes, again, already, doesn't time fly...), so planned to potter around Norwich, looking for some yarn for this project, some cloth for that, some lunch with Robin and maybe a visit to a gallery. The gallery visit turned out to be a gem, a visit to The King Of Hearts to see some work by Evelyn Williams, who makes wonderful, luminous paintings of people, many of them portraying self and family, and their relationship. I find her work inspirational, spare, yet full of meaning. And the gallery itself is stunningly beautiful, full of interesting things to look at, and comfortable leather armchairs in which to spend time looking at whatever work happens to be on show at that time. And, browsing through the shop, I found that there is going to be a lute concert, by my hero Nigel North, in the recital room at the gallery. My idea of heaven...I love the lute, play it, badly but enthusiastically, so I bought tickets (Robin is mildly appalled!). And then on to lunch, which was good, and haircutting, which was fine, and the purchasing of canvasses for a new idea (which were half price, so I got extra!). I couldn't have planned a better day. I even managed to get the fibres I wanted, and work out how to make the piece that has been troubling me for days, now.

It's at this point in the writing that authors often write...and then she woke up! But it really was one of those perfect days. We need days like this, all of us, no matter how dedicated we are to making things, working at our art...downtime is as important as worktime. When last did you have a day like this? I hope it was as perfect as mine; and if the answer to that question is, I can't remember, then don't you think it's time to plan one into your life? Do it now!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I Have A Little List...

Actually, it's rather a loooong list. All the things I'm working on, would like to work on, need to do (like washing the kitchen floor...), The Book I'm cowriting, and the other one I'm thinking about... the training course I want to go on. I used to keep it in my head, this list, and it flew about like bats in a belfry, dotting in and out of view, and periodically going to sleep entirely. Either way, I wasn't getting much done. Actually, that's not true. I was getting plenty done, just not what I truly wanted to work on.

Now, this is perplexing, but simply explained. In a previous life, I specialised in working with people on self development themes. One of the things I did with them, was help them to manage their time, their resources, so that they did what they wanted to do, rather than what emerged at the top of the pile. And then I burned out. Magnificently. It has taken eight years to get back on what appears to be a totally different track...but is also quite similar. Not to mention the detours along the way. In part, I blamed all the techniques I used, then, to manage my time, to fit more in, to do more... and I abandoned them.

Today, though, I thought, well, one little technique won't hurt. And I opened a little book that my friend Helen gave me, and I wrote A Little List. Six things To Do. And I did 'em. Even the kitchen floor! I think that sometimes, we are afraid of what we most need in our lives, and we contrive to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Today, I feel as if I've taken back a little more control over my life and my work. Really, what I've learned is that it's not the techniques you use, it's how you apply them. I used these useful time and self management techniques to work myself into a grease spot. Now, you can use them that way, but that's not the only way they apply. Using them with kindness and concern for the person I am... that seems to me to be the best way of working.

Excuse me, folks, I'm off to change my life.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Joys of Technology

Today, my technology, such as it is, is having the equivalent of a Bad Hair Day. How do I know this? Well, just as I started writing this, my computer decided that it was time to reset itself. And Blogger won't let me upload an image. And when I sat upstairs working on a couple of pieces, my aged and reverenced Bernina made strange noises, chewed up a piece of fabric, shredded some thread and then broke three, no, four needles on the trot.


I'm sure you could have heard me in Australia! So, I did what any self respecting stitch artist would do. I took the machine apart. I dusted, I talked to it, I oiled, I cosseted. And it allowed me to finish what I was doing, as you can see in the corner, there. The piece is called 'Inner Landscapes I'. I didn't know it was a series until I realised I really want to make more of these. It is made from lutradur over a preexisting quiltlet, or rather, the back thereof. Whilst you can't see them in the scan, there are wonderful marks, like ghost stitches, under the lutradur. I'm really pleased with the piece. I suspect that it would like to be beaded, or possibly foiled, so I'm not sure that it's exactly finished, but the stitch bit is complete. It reminds me of a friend of mine, or rather, how I suspect his inner landscape looks. He has a strong sense of self, is incredibly laid back, and is, all told, a lovely man. Wonder what my own inner landscape looks like... or yours...what do you think?

ps As you can see, Blogger relented. Hurrah for Blogger!

Monday, March 06, 2006

In The Zone

It's 9.30am, and I'm in the zone. Two paintings completed, and I wasn't especially early to rise (I never am...there are larks, there are owls, and then there's me...I sleep, therefore I am). When I say completed, I don't mean, from start to finish in one fell swoop... though I do paint like that, sometimes. These had been underpainted, thought about and left aside for a good month or so. Today felt like the day to finish them. This is a coffee break, and I've got another on the easel saying, my turn, my it ain't done til the fat lady says so.

And just as I wrote that, my son called to ask me something or other, and said, oh, Speed Painting. No, I said. Not really. I may not spend huge amounts of time applying paint to canvas, but there's a lot going on in my head, pretty much all the time, which has to do with the paintings. Standing in front of the canvas is just the end result. But I did like the idea of Speed Painting.

What I particularly love about the painting, and art work in general, is being able to see a progression. What started this particular progression is the painting above, 'One Fell Swoop'. It somehow felt different to a lot of the paintings I've made recently. Different palette, certainly, slightly different techniques...above all, more space than is usual in my paintings, that are usually crowded with mark and colour. The two I've made today don't both follow that trend, but one of them definitely does. Photos tomorrow, perhaps.

But when I stand back and look, I can see the journey from the earliest paintings through to these current pieces. Some of the themes endure...a type of mark, a palette. Others are long gone, visited and abandoned. But all of them had their part to play in my development, and the development of the art. And for that, I'm truly grateful.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


was, I thought, the balm of hurt minds. But reading the London Times Health Supplement, yesterday, I learned that apparently it helps you lose weight, too. This effect isn't working for me. But then it wouldn't, given the amount of chocolate I eat... But what really interested me was a side comment. 'People have some of their best ideas in bed'. it said. 'A study... found that nearly a third of us think that we have our most creative thoughts when we are between the sheets'.

As a confirmed taker of naps, I feel vindicated. As well as less tired!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Tired, Tired, Tired

Yesterday was busy, busy, and I'm too tired to write much. Tomorrow might prove to be a day in bed, I think. However, I thought I'd just show you that I do still work in oils from time to time...this is Emerging II. On the front page of my (slowly developing) website, it says that the thread that binds my apparently disparate body of work, is a passion for layers and texture. I hope that is visible through the illustrations here on the blog. Either that or I'm fooling myself...but I don't think so.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Waxing Textile

I used to try to keep my art in boxes. This is the textile box, this the paint box, this the sculpture box... But life isn't like that, and neither is art. So these two pieces have borrowed some texiles and some associated techniques. The one above has a piece of fine net with sparkles in it, embedded in the wax. It seemed to want to be moon-like, so I didn't argue.

The image below has some gold net in it. I deliberately chose a net that would melt, so that it seems to both sit on top of the wax and have melted into it. It seemed appropriate for a wax piece to have some melted cloth.

That said, I don't allow technique to dictate anything about the piece. For me, technique is subservient to meaning, not its master.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

This one has lutradur included in the wax. Well, I had to get my new obsession in here somewhere!

another encaustic.

Encaustic Painting

I've spent a couple of days working with encaustics, it seems a good idea when there's snow on the ground and a nip in the air. Apparently, like many other wonders, encaustic painting began in ancient Greece. Since then, it has gone in and out of fashion, but now seems to be picking up interest. One of the first things I did in Norfolk was to take a workshop in encaustics, and I'm really glad I did.

Encaustics involves wax and pigment, heated til it melts, and applied to a suitable ground. It makes wonderful, translucent colour with much depth, and the medium is hugely flexible, allowing the artist to use it for collage and image transfers (for instance), as well as straightforward painting. Its great advantage is perhaps also its great drawback: it dries almost as quickly as you take it off the heated palette. It also can be quite fragile, unless treated with care in the making. For the book fiends among us (and I know who you are!), I'd recommend The Art of Encaustic Painting by Joanne Mattera, a good read with wonderful photographs. And if you want to try it, take a look at R&F Handmade Paints. Actually, go look anyway, it's the artist's equivalent of a seriously good toyshop!

So, what have I been up to? Well, for those of you wondering what the 'other' encaustic looked like, the one I hoped was exciting, it's at the top of today's blog! I did have fun with it. Messy fun. And I'm here to say that you really want to be wearing gloves and long sleeves to do this...wax flying through the air is fine until it hits your bare skin!

I thought I'd add a couple of images of things I made earlier (in true Blue Peter fashion. For those of us who didn't grow up watching BP, it is a UK childrens programme famed for its craft projects. At some point, a presenter would pipe up...and here's one I made earlier')
All of these pieces are roughly 12" square, and are encaustic on hardboard which I covered with watercolour paper. I hope you like them. Either way, expect more tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Process, Process, All is Process

I said a day or so ago that I'd started a quilt for Glemham Hall quilt show in Suffolk, which takes place in April. As it happens, I read Rayna's blog around the same time, where she suggested, and I quote,

'Everybody works so differently: I think it would be fascinating to see your processes - why don't you shoot some pix and share on your blog the way you think while you are making a piece?'

So, Rayna, this one's for you. And everyone else, of course!

I was really stuck with this theme. I work in abstract, but somehow all these cliches kept coming to mind, like lambs gambolling and snowdrops, and... Finally, though, my brain got past that, and remembered the journey through Cambridgeshire and the flat fields, that beautiful dark brown colour that they are, just at the edge of spring. The occasional sewn field, with shoots carpeting the soil. And the unworked (as yet) fields, with dead foliage around them. And the spring blue sky. And I thought, wool, and I saw landscape. Which led to the first picture. I liked the odd shape, but not so much the blue sky... too big, too dominant.

So, off it came.

And then I thought...hmm. Let's see...

But no, that wasn't it either. Finally...

pretty much back where I started. I have begun to quilt the piece. I'm quilting for texture, mostly, heavy, intense stitch in a dark brown rayon thread, wanting to suggest that shimmer that wet earth sometimes has. I'm not sure that it's enough, though, and am contemplating adding tiny spots of green here and there. Knots, perhaps. Not beads, too alien to the texture. The green 'field' is a cotton damask, the rest of the cloth is guid Scots wool. Knew it would come in handy, sometime.

Process, process, all is process...