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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Just Say No.

Yes, I know, you've seen it before.  I sat yesterday and did a bit more of the long stitching in the stop section, looked at it and thought...nope.  This isn't working.  Actually, none of it is working.  And that's for two reasons.  Firstly, the balance of the monoprint.  The intention was to have a semi-abstract landscape piece, but the blue area, to me at least, is too large, and the yellow strip down the right hand side, too narrow.  I was about to say that the original print looked better, because of the intensity of the colour, but doesn't.  It would, if the yellow strip was wider, and the whole piece, therefore, wider, because that would balance it all up.  And then there's the stitch.  I like the lower section, but the top just Isn't Doing It  for me,  and trimming off a section at the top improves things a little, but really, not enough to justify the amount of work I'd be putting into it. There really is nothing I can do,on this piece, anyway, so I'm going to stop working on it.  I'm just not able to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. 

Once upon a time, I would have said, 'so I'll cut them both up and use them in other things'.  Know what?  Just not going to happen.  This one is going in the bin, so that it doesn't stare at me accusingly from whatever box I put it in, going, you got it badly wrong, na na na na na.  I'm not going to waste time and energy thinking about what to do with the remains; if it was that obvious, I would have worked it out.  I've tried looking at the individual elements, to see if they are workable on their own; they aren't, with the possible exception of this section of the first print.

It's arguably a bit wide, but that's okay, I can work with that.  The wool is couched, I find, not needle felted, so can be removed and repositioned, or even left as it is, with other pieces added.  There's the possibility that it still won't work....but if that's the case, it will be because I'm not convinced it sits well with who I am and what I do.  I'm not sure that I'm particularly interested in making such a direct reference to a landscape.  I got into the habit of doing that while I was selling work; it was more likely to sell than the pure abstracts I prefer to make...but of course, I don't do that any more, so it shouldn't affect my thinking. 

I think there is a general feeling, with textiles, that it's important not to waste things, and therefore not to bin them.  I'm of the view that I've got everything I can get out of these pieces of fabric, in terms of learning, and that is enough.  Given the design flaw, they're not really any use to anyone else, so there's no point in giving them away, so I'll keep that small section, bin the rest, and not waste any more time and energy on them.  And I might get a decent enough small piece out of the remains.  Bonus.  At the end of the day, though, my time and energy is far more valuable to me than a few bits of fabric.  When something isn't working, it's definitely worth taking the time to look hard at it to understand exactly why that is, regardless of which point in the creative process you are in.  Not every piece works out, and, with a blatant disregard for mixing metaphors, flogging a dead horse will not turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.  Bin it.  You know you want to...just make sure you learn something from it, first.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Making ME.

You so know that a woman who made art about depression (see one post here, and search the blog for other examples), was inevitably going to make work about ME.  So, stuck in the rental, I used what remained of my stash to create this piece. 

I wanted to express the impact that ME has had on my life.  I was frequently described as 'vibrant', 'full of life', and my work reflected that.  Strong colours, oranges, reds, bright blues.  And then I got ME, and work, and vibrancy, stopped dead.  Months in bed, then months in a chair, with little movement, and resting every hour...and when I say resting, I mean ten minutes of every hour spent in silence, with my eyes closed.  Gradually, things improved, and I started to do some handwork, but I don't expect to ever return to the levels of productivity I used to have.  In a way, that's what this quilt is about.

It is made from the most subdued colours I could find in the very limited (one ziplock bagful) of scrap I had remaining. I was, incidentally, astonished to find that I had the colour range I needed for this particular piece, not really my colours at all.   Much of the cloth, like the piece with the postal marks, has been used with the wrong side up, to keep it as neutral as possible.  The dark stitching reflects two things; the amount of crying I do (emotional lability, not to be confused with depression, is a feature of ME), and the idea of the bars on a jail cell.  I don't get out much any more, and the loveliest of houses can feel like a prison if you don't feel able to leave it.  There is a hint of hope in this piece, though, and it is implied by the border fabric.  It is all the same fabric, but the bottom piece and the central bar are right sides out; the rest are wrong side up.  If you look closely, you will see that there is metallic patterning across the surface of the fabric, a gold colour.  For me, that represents hope.  I have indubitably improved in the seven or so years I've had this illness, and whilst it's unlikely to ever leave me, at least I can do a fraction of the amount of work I used to, and hug my family, and do some basic housework.  It's not much, but it makes a life.

More stitch needs to be added; you can see the beginnings of it here:

And, in a move much unlike me, I will probably add a narrow binding.  Yes, I still hate binding, but it seems appropriate here.  Dammit.  I think there's likely to be a series of these little pieces, and/or a small handmade book or two, if only to increase awareness of the illness and its consequences for sufferers.  ME is willfully misunderstood as a mental illness; it is all too physical, and research is beginning to work out what the problems really are. If you are interested, it's worth looking at the ME Association's website; click here for a description of what ME is.

And now I'll get off my soapbox, and on with that stitch.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Monoprint Magic...

...was the title of a workshop I gave at Festival Of Quilts.  'What's so magical about monoprints?', one participant asked in a rather snippy voice, 'I've done them before, I didn't think that there was much magical about it.'  Ouch.  Well, I said, we're using transfer paints.  The magic of transfer printing is that you the one (or two) prints that you usually get from a monoprint plate, becomes four (or five, if you're lucky) prints, as the exhaustion point of the paint is much later than it would be using printing ink.  Oh, she said.  I suspect she was unimpressed...but she seemed to have fun anyway, so it can't have been that bad.

I've written about monoprints, too, in the Evolon book, as a good way of developing a series.  So I guess it was inevitable that when I went through the Evolon I'd kept, I would find a couple of monoprints.  These two are, I suspect, Print One and Print Five, as they get paler and paler as the dye exhausts. 

As you can see, I had already started to work with both.  Print One is clearly the stronger of the two; that yellow really sings.  It needed a treatment that was equally as strong, so I started by needle felting a piece of yarn onto the background.  I think I may add another two, and then see where we go from there. 

Print Five, though, is delicate, much too delicate for needle felting. I really like the structured stitching in the lower section of the piece, it seems to work well.  It was intended to reflect the way that the paint has transferred in this version. 

You can see the lines of texture running across the piece, as the dye exhausts at different rates, allowing the texture to show through; whilst there are similar lines in Print One, they are by no means as obvious. 

So far so good.  It's when it comes to the top section that I changed my mind.  I wanted to have something unstructured up there, originally, as a counter to the structured stitching below.  I didn't want the colour or the stitching to stand out too much, so I selected a variegated green/white/blue.

...and as you can see, you can't see it.  It Just Doesn't Work.  Dammit.  I did consider increasing the size of the stitches...but that didn't seem to work any better, and then I discovered I couldn't find the original this stitching is Coming Out.  Sigh.  It's going to be replaced with this:
And this is so not what I intended...but I think it's what's needed.  A darker variegated thread, much larger stitches.  I had in mind light rain when I decided how to stitch it.  I think it's an improvement.  I suspect it might have been better if I'd been able to cover that whole area in those small stitches, first, but you have to work with what you've got...well, okay, I have to work with what I have, for a whole load of reasons that I won't bore you with. 

More stitching tomorrow, I think.  And if you want to read more about monoprinting, put monoprinting into the search box at the top of the post, and you'll find other discussions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Seeing Things

Pondering what to do with this piece of dye painted cloth, which I found in the wooden chest upstairs.  Not long before I moved, I did some dyeing with my friend Clare Hedges; she dyed some warps for her loom, I stuck to cloth.  She wrote about her day, and what she did with the warps,  here; I love the braid she made from them.

But I digress (so what's new, huh?). Like the photograph I showed you on Monday, it made my heart sing when I found it, a combination of the brightness of the colours and the movement in the piece.  I'm not sure about the orientation, though... this feels 'right', but landscape is not an orientation I usually use.  So there's this...
..which looks to me to be promising, too, but with a different feel to it feels as if all the marks are trying to escape out of the right hand side of the cloth.  Turning it over, as we did above, somehow grounds the movement, almost literally.... it becomes an abstract landscape of sorts, in my head, at least, albeit with a lot of sky, while the top piece feels as if things are completely air borne.  I wonder how many of you can see what I see...or indeed if you see anything at all.  You can let me know; that's what the comments are for!

It's tempting to simply iron the cloth, and leave it as it is, as a painting.  I won't, though, because I think it needs texture, and leaving it flat just isn't going to work for me, whichever orientation I end up choosing.  That said, if I ever get a painting studio, this will be used as the basis for a painting or two on canvas, complete with texture.  So...stitch it is.  I think.  The other option, of course, is to cut it up and reassemble it... not really an option I want to take with this piece, because it feels like either way, it has a coherence, a meaning, that I don't particularly want to disrupt.  There is, I think, another similar piece in my stash, however, which would let me explore that particular avenue.  And if there isn't, I can always create one....eventually.  It's an avenue that would let me have lots of small pieces, or a couple of medium sized pieces, with the chopped up bits reassembled, either on their own or with other fabrics.  As squares or rectangles, they could become the heart of a log cabin type construction.  Really, the permutations are endless.

Which is why the post got the name it did.  I see things in this cloth.  I see meanings, and I see opportunities.  So far, I've described at least six different ways of approaching this cloth... as two different types of painting, two different types of stitched piece, as two or three different types of pieced work (okay make that at least seven).  Picasso said, 'Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working'.  I believe that the process I've just described, is more or less what he meant.  So the next time you 'just don't feel like working', or 'aren't in the mood for working', or however you describe procrastination to yourself, just go look at a piece of cloth, or a painting, or a photograph.  Challenge yourself to find as many options as possible in it.  And then...just do it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


...and more sorting...  It's interesting to see how much fabric I don't have.  Instead of multiple large boxes, I have two small boxes of commercial fabric.  One of them contains my collection of cat fabric...I made Robin a small quilt called 'The Cat Hater Quilt', a long time ago (it's a long story), and always meant to make a bed sized quilt along the same lines...but never did.  Couldn't bring myself to get rid of the fabric in the recent purge, though.  It's mostly fat quarter size and smaller, and I dare say at some point I'll get round to The Quilt.  The other box has mostly scrap in it, some of it donated by a couple of kind friends when I realised that I really had overdone The Great Purge, though there are also some FQs I bought recently, just in order to have something to play with in the rental, where I actually did have a workroom, as opposed to this house, where, at present, I have a pile of stuff (sigh). 

And then there's the two partially filled boxes, with dyed lutradur and evolon...well, mostly dyed, some of it is painted.  I still hold the line that paint is Not A Good Thing to use on either of these fabrics; lutradur, because, unless you're using watercolour paints, you take away the semi transparent nature of the cloth, which is what makes it special, and evolon, because paint ruins the hand, that lovely suede/velvet like feeling.  Here they are :

As you can see, there's not a huge amount, though I do still have lutradur on the roll, which is perhaps a tad excessive for what I need these days, but I dare say I'll get through it.  I might combine the boxes, save a bit of space, which is at a premium now that I'm down to one room.  Having said that most of this fabric is transfer dyed (or printed), the piece at the very top of the evolon box (the lower image) is quite interesting.  It was coloured using encaustic wax, just to see what happened.  Unsurprisingly, the fabric became really quite stiff, but the texture of the stitch still shows through quite clearly; I didn't think that it would.  I thought it might be interesting to make applique elements using theory, at least, you could attach them to the surface using heat, as the wax would melt, then resolidify, and cling to the base fabric.  Must try it out some time. Another one for the list.

The only other fabric I have is for dyeing, probably more than I need, silk and linen as well as cotton.  I'm used to dyeing in big quantities, hence the volume; I tended to buy dyeing fabric whenever I saw it at a good price.  Haven't quite decided what to do with it all.  There's no way that this type of fabric will fit neatly into a small box... under bed sized box it is....and possibly two of them... just have to work out where to put them.  If all else fails, I dare say they can go under an actual bed.

I doubt I'm going to get anything done today.  Yesterday was stressful for all sorts of reasons, and I'm feeling like a wrung-out dishcloth...and given that I'd like to go out this evening, to the Embroiderer's Guild in Linlithgow, I think today will be spent on the sofa.  I lead such an exciting life...snort...

Monday, March 26, 2018


At last, a clear wall, ready for bookcases...and the first one in situ.  I managed to drag this one out of the garage by myself, albeit I did need a long sit down afterwards...  I couldn't find the loose shelves, either.  That proved to be a bonus; it allowed me to pile up the transparent shoe boxes, using the space effectively.  I suspect I might not have thought to remove the shelves, had they been there with the carcass.  Yes, that's all thread.  Yes, there's a lot of it.  In front, is the boxes I have already filled, ready for the next bookcase.  That may take some time to achieve, but at least I've managed to get this far.

I decided to empty a large wooden chest that was upstairs, which was full of sewing 'stuff'.  In the Norfolk house, it lived downstairs in the conservatory, and I thought it was full of projects that I'd bagged up ready to go.  Apparently not, though I did find a couple of those.  Mostly, though, there were pieces of lutradur and evolon in various sizes and shapes, some more vintage lace, mostly still attached to tray cloths and the like, and some bits of scrap canvas from Bertha.   I'll tell you more about what I found, later on in the week, but my favourite find today has to be this;

At first glance, I thought it was a tulip, but actually, I think it's a partial magnolia blossom, manipulated a little in Paintshop Pro.  I'm still not convinced that spring is here, despite the clocks leaping forward at the weekend, but this did lift my spirits quite considerably.  It's printed on canvas from the Bertha era, but will have to wait for stitch until the studio table is clear enough for me to set up a sewing machine.  More about my finds as the week progresses.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Carrying Further On...

...while boxing, yesterday, I collected all the UFOs in a heap.  I knew that there was one pieced top...but in fact, it turned out that there were two.  One is really quite small, and manageable, the other is lap sized, well, okay, small lap sized.  Both need a damn good iron...but that's not surprising given they have been hanging around for several years.  Here's the first one...

It's made entirely from hand dyed scrap...I rather like it.  It doesn't photograph all that well, and in honesty, I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with it now... but I dare say I'll think of something.  It wants some white in the lower right hand quadrant, at least, if not throughout the lower section, just to balance it up... I feel some evolon applique coming on.  Or perhaps some couched thread or needlefelting.  The ideal thing would be to add another narrow section at the bottom, but I don't think I have any suitable fabric for that, so perhaps not.  I'll have a look, though, because that would work well.  I have a load of fabric for dyeing, but not enough energy to dye...but I dare say I could manage to print a piece using fabric paints or acrylics.  Problem solved...once I've actually got the studio in some semblance of order.

The second piece seemed a bit more problematic, albeit not from a construction point of view.

If I remember rightly, it was meant as a gift, to go on the back of a's big enough for Cara, our granddaughter, to snuggle on the sofa with, or for me to cover my legs with, but by no means big enough for a bed.  I rather like it.  It has random cats throughout, my favourite being the one at the bottom right of the quilt, he's a beauty.  So what's the problem?  Well, really, it's a size thing.  Partly, I don't think it's big enough to be truly useful, though that could be corrected by adding another border.  Mostly though, even although it's not all that big, my heart sank when I thought about quilting it.  That said, I quilted a piece that was not a great deal smaller than this one, as an eightieth birthday present for my sister's mother in law, a lovely lady with a passion for textiles.
Here it is, called 'Jessie's Japanese Garden', all tacked up ready to quilt.  And for the sake of completeness, a couple of details.

This is narrower, and, I suspect, slightly shorter, but really, there isn't all that much difference.  Perhaps I can cope after all.  Or maybe I could give it to a long arm quilter to finish for me... but that always feels like cheating...okay, so I'm a control freak.  What's truly interesting, though, is how well it matches my living room.  I now have lilac sofas; the quilt fits in the general decor as if it had been made for it.  So one way or another, that particular quilt is going to be finished.  So much for working small.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


No, not that kind of boxing... this is a non-violent blog, I'll have you know.  Besides, I don't have the energy to fight, even if I wanted to.  Though perhaps this should be entitled Reboxing, as in part, it involves transferring stuff from large boxes, to small boxes...these small boxes, to be precise, bought in Costco yesterday.
These are a really handy size...small enough to fit on bookshelves, but large enough to take a reasonable amount of stuff, without making me struggle to move them.  This illness really does affect everything, right down to how I store my stuff.   I bought ten, but I suspect I'll be going back for more.  In my last studio, my stuff lived in under bed boxes, which was fine when I was, it's not so great.  I suspect that ultimately, I'll be getting rid of Rather A Lot of storage boxes, including the really big ones I used to put stuff in to take to shows.  

So...I've allocated the first five.  One has knitting yarn in it.  And that, I'm struggling with, given that I did knit now and again, but don't really knit any more (well, only when depression strikes hard, but that's another story altogether).  There's a bit of me feels that that yarn should go somewhere where it will be used, rather than hoarded, and I suspect that's what I'll do.  Err...make that, what I've done; I've taken half of it out of the box to donate to charity; the other half has potential for embellishment, so gets a stay of execution for now.  Another box has paper in it, specialist papers like tea bag paper, which I'll use for stitch.  One has rust dyed fabric in it, mostly silk, but some lutradur and evolon, too, as well as some vintage fabric in it, mostly lace, which I keep promising myself I'll use, but never actually get there... I'm not really convinced that lace is my style, but  at some level, I love the delicate nature of it, so it survived the original cull, and seems to be surviving this one, too.  There's some lace yardage, too, modern stuff, for hats and bags, which was bought when hat making was at the forefront of my mind.  The fourth box has some vintage fabric that I treated with soy milk before we moved last August, and which has been waiting to be eco printed ever since.  I suspect it'll be waiting rather a long time more, given that I don't currently have a garden, and I'm not going out much at all.  Again, I'm not entirely sure it's my style, really, not that I'm absolutely sure what my style is, any more. The final box has my stash of mostly hand dye painted or printed fabrics, plus the UFOs I mentioned.  

So far so good, huh?  More boxes are definitely required, but for now, I have five more to play with.  I think I'll bring the startling number of shoe box sized plastic boxes containing threads in from the garage, and reallocate them among the boxes, keeping them arranged by colour as they are currently (I blame that Clare Hedges, she's a bad influence...).  The shoe boxes can be used for other things, possibly in other places, such as the study.  For now though... I need a rest.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Carrying On.

One of the things I do have in the new, as yet unestablished studio, is a number of UFOs, things that I thought, six months or more ago, that had enough potential for me not to bin them, or pass them to someone else to do something with, as was the fate of a reasonable amount of stuff.  Looking at them now, I'm not so sure I shouldn't just have binned them... and certainly this piece in its original state was not particularly promising.  I had taken a rectangle of cotton hand dye, and felted white wool onto its surface...sadly, I didn't take a photo of it in that state.  It didn't look good.  I don't like giving up, though, and thought that a bit of surgery was in I trimmed it round the edges of the wool, to produce this :

(Note the new light grey carpet, suitable for taking photographs of random textile items...which was not really why I chose it, but...).  I contemplated cutting holes in it, too, but decided that was A Step Too Far.  It was, however, a distinct improvement, so only the trimmings hit the bin.  It sat like that for a few days, and I started to go through the stuff in the studio.  One of the things I found was a sponge, with a single felting needle embedded in it.  Bingo!  Going through the boxes with yarn and threads produced a purple variegated wool, and the piece started to take shape...until the damn needle broke.  Yes, I have loads more.  No, I can't find them.  Yes, I'm stuck, and so is the piece, looking like this... 
(This time, it's on the new coffee table, perfect height and colour for photos).  Improved?  I think so.  Stuck?  Oh yes, absolutely.  I'm planning to do some hand stitch, but really don't want to start that until I've finished with the needle felting, as I suspect I'll add a little more at the top left hand side.  Basically, I attached the yarn to emphasise curves in the felting, which is why I started where I did.  I think I'll echo the downward sweep of the yarn, and then double back to balance out the piece.  Incidentally, I rather like the yarn curving out over the edge, but it's not particularly practical, so it will be felted onto the bottom as originally intended. 

One partially down, several to go.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Starting Again From Scratch (Almost).

Over the past few years, I've been muttering about ill health and ME, and taking time off (it's summarised here).  It has been an unpleasant journey, mostly, from bedridden to remission, back to bedridden via heart issues, and very little done in the way of art over what I realise is pretty much the last six or seven years.  And I'm still living with it; I need a mobility scooter or wheelchair to go out, as I get unreasonably tired, unreasonably quickly.  There is a blessing of sorts; the depression seems to have taken pity on me, and pretty much disappeared, though struggling with grief has been the theme for the past couple of years.  I tell you this, not to  make you feel sorry for me, but rather to explain where I am at the moment with life, the universe and this illness, which is unlikely to go away. 

That said, my lovely husband and I did 'go away'; we decided to move from our home in Norfolk, back to Scotland, so that we could take a bigger part in family life up here.  It was a very extended move, as we had to wait for a house to be built, and took roughly six months, in all, but we finally moved in early January of this year.  We've slowly (emphasis on the slowly) got the house together, except for the garage, which still has a few boxes in it, and... yes, you've guessed it, my studio...which looks like this...whimper...

It was really difficult to find a house that had a separate dining room to serve as a workroom; I try only to use the stairs once a day, so needed a downstairs room for my stuff.  It looks like I have a lot of stuff...but when I consider how much I used to have, this is an anthill, not a mountain... very little fabric, an incredible amount of thread, much of which is still in boxes in the garage, feathers galore, hat blocks, sketchbooks, paper, paint.... jings.

At the moment, I'm kinda stuck.  Robin has hurt his back, and my son is busy, travelling the country for work, so the shelves that will hold all of this are everywhere but in this room.  I'm hoping to go out tomorrow to get some boxes to hold it in, though, so that at least it will look organised.  What has become apparent, though, is that even this reduced stash is too much for the space, I don't want to paint in this entirely new, pristine space, for lo! I have a talent for making a mess (surprising, huh?).  So I suspect that a summerhouse for the back garden will be in order, so that I can keep the mess outside.  It'll not be anything like the Little Green Shed (20ft by 10ft just won't go in this garden), but it'll be better than nothing, and given that I've cut down on the range of things I do, that's not unreasonable. 

So...what will I do inside?  Sewing, mainly, some drawing, dyeing if I can manage it, or if I can find someone to help me, felt making, ditto, hat making and some printing, probably just monoprinting, which is my favourite in any case.  Painting goes outside.  That sounds like a lot, but when I compare it against what I used to do, as taken from a bygone list of workshops... it doesn't seem so much.

Altered Art (books, shoes, boxes, bags, quilts name it, we can alter it!)
Artist's Trading Cards
Artists Journals and Sketchbooks
Basic Batik
Basic Book Binding
Basic Hand Stitch (decorative)
Book Covers (stitched)
Cloth Dolls (Keyhole Kate)
Colouring Paper and Cloth
Fabric Postcards
Fascinator Fun
Feltmaking (wet and dry)
Finding Inspiration
Free Motion Stitching For Texture
Mixed Media Painting
Paper Making
Printing with Natural Materials
Screen Printing
Silk Paper Making.

So... now to edit my supplies accordingly.  A couple of things that won't be going, though, are these:

This box is full of supplies for hat making, mostly sinamay.  I thoroughly enjoy making hats, though it hasn't been something I've blogged about much at all, as I recall.  It's ideal for someone with ME, I think, because it doesn't often require brute strength; rather, it involves lots of small, fiddly movements, and you can mostly pick it up and put it down again at will, so good for lots of little rests.   At the front of the box, though, there are rolls of canvas and Evolon, the last remnants of the photographs printed on Big Bertha, who has gone to a new home.  I will, however, finish them off as something to remember her by.

And then there's this little lot, emphasis on the little, barely a third of a box.  Bits of hand printed or hand dyed fabric that I couldn't bring myself to throw out or give away, and which will doubtless combine in small pieces of work...but that's another blog post for another day.   Meantime, I'll keep you posted on progress.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Breaking It Up?

Isn't she beautiful?  Femme En Blanc, by Van Gogh, painted in 1890; that's all I know about her, factually at least.  However... I've recently discovered online jigsaw puzzles.  Yes, I know, it's taken me a while... but it's a lot easier doing jigsaws online, than it is to spend time and energy trying to persuade the cats not to bat pieces all over the kitchen floor, or across the table, or, indeed, to sit square in the area I'm trying to complete.  This way, Mollie simply sits on my knee and goes to sleep...

I've been mostly making up jigsaws of landscapes (there doesn't seem to be a verb to denote jigsaw?  to piece?  to assemble?), but this lady caught my eye.  Harmless piece of entertainment, I thought.  Wrongly, as it turned out.  This particular jigsaw was quite difficult to assemble; all the bits looked the same.  What I discovered, though, was that assembling it taught me a great deal about Van Gogh and how he used paint.  Yeah, okay, I knew that already, intellectually.  I've stood in front of several of his paintings, and thought about how he moved paint around, how he added marks to the canvas.  Somehow, though, piecing together disassembled brush marks really made me think about them, almost to experience them, though without the mess of actually painting (we're in a new house, of which more another time, and I have no painting studio as yet...hell, I have no studio set up at all so far).  It also allowed me to appreciate the tonal subtleties of the piece.  Tonal subtlety isn't really something I've associated with Van Gogh... I was wrong. 

There's also something about looking, and looking carefully.  There's nothing like a jigsaw to make you really look at what you have in front of you, and reach an understanding of it.  No, that bit doesn't fit there, but it does match the colours... not there, either...but  there, it fits.  No matter how good we think we are at observation, a jigsaw makes us better.

This exercise in proxy creativity also made me think about my own painting, and drawing.  I make marks similar to those black, semi abstract heart shapes at the bottom of the canvas, in paint, dye and stitch.  Mine tend to be rune-inspired, or Celtic in origin.  Maybe it's time I did more of that kind of loose work.  And those are important thoughts, at a time when I'm really not sure where I'm going, what I'm going to do next, at a time when I have to recognise, once and for all, that my energy is severely limited, as is my space, so even the huge cull I had before we moved here from Norfolk was not severe enough.  I feel I need to get this last cull right, even although I know that getting rid of things is not the end of the world, as things can be replaced at the right time, the time when you actually need them, instead of hoarding them against a future that probably won't ever arrive, certainly not in the form you expected.

So, there you are.  Creativity, learning and reflection encouraged by the simple act of making a jigsaw.  Which artist will I study next...?