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Tuesday, July 31, 2018


...well enough to finish Borderlines, and to get out of bed, for that matter.  I had a hospital appointment yesterday, always good for stitching, and added the last few rows this morning...and here it is.

I have to say it looks better in person, than in a photograph; the texture is easier to discern, for one.  I'm still debating the orientation.  A well designed piece should look good from any orientation; this was the original design:
Looking at them here, perhaps the initial intention is still the better of the two... and that's what I'm likely to stick with. It seems to have more of a feeling of space; the first image shown has a heavy feeling, as if those abstract paper fields are sinking down to the bottom of the piece.  Plus, I like the way that the long stitches below the 'field' are echoed by those above the 'sun'.    I need to put it away for a while, to let it sit.  It has taken longer than I expected to finish, and to some extent, familiarity breeds contempt.  I was certainly sick of stitching it... patience is not my strong point.  No hand stitch for me for a while, I suspect...though you never know, something may require it.... and really, that's what drives my activity: the demands of the piece.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

High Exposure.

I'm in bed again today; other than reading a trashy novel and playing the occasional silly game on FB, I'm not doing anything, other than think.  So...what to write today...?   Well...the closest I've come to work is a bit of light editing.  I found some poems I wrote several years ago, and have been rereading and amending, somewhat.  Most of them focus on my childhood.  I make no secret that I had the childhood from hell, but I rarely share the details.  These poems, though, look at that.  I've been debating in my head whether or not to share any of them.  I have a profound dislike of work that pretends to be art, when what it really is, is therapy. That said, I think that I have enough distance now, that I can look back on my childhood and see it for what it was, and hopefully, to describe it without histrionics.  So, today's creative act is a poem.


The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.  Omar Khayyam

The worst of it is hidden in the dark,
Where nobody at all can ever find it;
The bad things, (like the fights, the slaps, the sobbing
On the bedspread til I slept still sitting up,
Chastised for some infringement
That I cannot now remember, and would not have been
That much), all those bad things I have brought into the open, understood, accepted,
Shrunk to their proper size.    The randomness of it all
Is like my childhood, rule today,  reverse tomorrow,
Punishment inevitable as Mister Frost in winter, icing
up the windows from inside.  At the time, my sister
was so sure that he was real, wanted to make him pay
For every sharp waking, frozen, in the night...
But she grew out of it.  Eventually, I learned
That every pleasant moment had its darkness,
A word, a slap, a scratch, until I cried,
Then, 'something to be cried about'
I grew up convinced that all the good things
Do not last, may be stripped away by anyone
At any given moment,  while happiness,
Like Jack Frost, lived in books.
Pleasant moments rarely come to mind:
So linked to darkness, little is remembered.
Snippets of my past, all coalescing. Adam
And his pandrops, Auntie Bell, high tea (with more
than one bit of cake).  More pandrops in the kirk
From Auntie Ebbie on a Sunday, purloined
From her brother, a surreptitious sharing, with
No crunching.  I really don't remember
Any more.  There must be something.  Surely
There must be something.  Clouds have silver linings,
Sun with rain brings rainbows: surely there were more?

I think every artist aims to share something of themselves with every piece of work. This feels like the ultimate in exposure in comparison with visual art, where meanings are cloaked in metaphor and subtlety. Words are much harder to work with for just that reason; give me a paintbrush any time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

An Unexpected Find.

While unpacking boxes in late January or early February, I found a roll of hand made paper, which I put aside to bring downstairs to my workroom, with some other art stuff, but somehow never got round to it.  Yesterday, before returning to bed, I went to get the paper to have a look...and found that two of the three pages already had sketches on them.

These are pastel drawings, made around 2007, I think, when the ME wasn't quite so acute.  Doesn't time fly, etc...  I got interested in semi-abstract landscapes, and these are examples.  I was using a lot of pastels at the time, and going to a drawing class, mainly drawing faces, but playing around with the pastels in general, seeing what might be done with them.  I really enjoy working with pastels; there's something very direct about them, applying pigment directly onto paper, using fingers when necessary to blend them.  They're a bit messy, as they generate a lot of dust, but the mess is worthwhile (well, ok, I would say that, being the queen of mess). 

And as soon as I looked at them, I a different version of a folded book.  First, though, I'll need to make drawings on the reverse of the paper.  I did, though, make a mock up of the folds required for the book, using the third piece of paper, which doesn't have drawings on it.  This, too, will be drawn on eventually, a different approach to the same thing (see below).

The folds indicate the size of the pages...I won't try to explain further for now.   I do think that it'll be interesting to take a pair of large scale drawings, like the ones I've just found, and divide them up, through folding and cutting, so that they present in a different way, each page standalone, the two drawings interrelated...and yet be able to unfold the book to see the whole thing united again in the original way.  The third book, though, will, I think, have individual drawings like these large scale sketches, option upon option, sixteen in all, relating back to the original drawings, but quite different in approach.

And that's it for today: energy finished.  It really doesn't take much...sigh.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Today's Blog... brought to you from the sofa.  Robin's out, and we're expecting a couple of parcels.  Doubtless they'll arrive once he's back again. but if not, by the time I get downstairs, there's a real risk that the delivery man will have disappeared again.  So here I am.  It's more difficult to rest on the sofa; too much stuff that ought to be done, or wants to be made.  I'm resisting.  That said, I'm also contemplating this piece, which you'll remember from Saturday's blog on printing.  It said it wanted to be a book: I agreed.

It looks quite different in 3D, than it did lain flat...

The orientation change makes a huge difference, while the folds encourage us to read both the whole thing and the individual page.  I did contemplate hand stitch, but I really do think that machine stitch is preferable (really do have to ring the engineer this week, I NEED my machine back). 

And talking of needs, the piece needs a poem.  Of course it does, I hear you holler.  The poem will be written on the other side of the book, this time, before the stitch is added.  I think the effect of the stitch will be interesting; it should break up the text, even the individual letters, making the poem act like a piece of visual art.  Which is, I suppose, the whole idea. 

The poem is about interpreting visual marks.  I've got a thing about that...I talk about it here, to some extent.  I stitch, print and paint in this way, making marks, and to me, that reflects the natural world, where the elements create marks in and on, for example, stone, which our minds then attempt to interpret.  'Natural Graffiti', a quilt I donated to a cancer charity, reflects that them (see it here), but I've been stitching rune-like and other abstract and semi abstract forms into quilts since I started making, over thirty years ago (cough).

No, it's not written yet; I'm going to lie on the sofa for the rest of the morning, and see what we can come up with, my unconscious and me.  Seems infinitely reasonable.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Making The Most Of Things

. sometimes all there is.  Today I'm in bed.  I've been slowly deteriorating over the last couple of months, so this is mostly a preventative measure, and I may be here some time.  My bedroom is possibly the nicest room in the house; it's huge (the size of a double garage), has a gentle colour scheme (white and lilac, predominately) and is light and airy (it has two windows).  There's no view, really, just the grey of roof tiles against the massed grey of the skies.  No camera up here, so no images; the image is from a much earlier blog, a manipulated image of a photograph taken in France, as I recall, the right colours for the room.  I wrote a haiku, though...

layer on layer
grey ethereal softness
smothering the sun

The sky is heavy today, filled with heavy grey clouds.  There was some brightness, just above the rooftops, but that has gone now, though the sun seems to be trying to break through; the haiku reflects a moment, a snapshot in words.  I have a few books to look at, 'The Art of Joan Schultze', one of the few quilters I really admire, 'Art Textiles Of The World : Great Britain Volume 2", which speaks for itself, really, and 'Hat Anthology', ditto.    Lots of images to consider, the kind of books you can dip in and out of without getting overtired.  There are some novels, too, though reading feels too much like hard work today. And my third window, the computer, my window on the world, where my friends live.  It's a small life, but it's mine. And I do my best to make the most of it; there is art in everything, even this.

Saturday, July 21, 2018


...isn't something I do very often.  Mostly, that's because I don't like using other peoples' images or work.  I have never gone for the Somerset Studios variety of mixed media, that uses copyright free images, usually vintage.  There used to be an awful lot of it about, and it all looked the same.  Not my thing.  Sometimes, though, it's justifiable, usually when I want an effect that I can't reproduce myself; like this.

I can't imagine carving something as detailed as this; actually, as you know, I'm giving that sort of thing up, as soon as I've finished the current crop of lino blocks for the Spears and Shields series.  And sometimes I see a stamp that I Just Like, so I buy it.  Mostly, though, if I can't make it myself, I don't use it.

When I went into the studio this morning, I discovered, to my surprise, that the paint I'd mixed earlier in the week was still usable, thanks, I presume, to a combination of medium and clingfilm.  So I thought I'd try out the stamp, which arrived about a week ago.  I love text and the allusion of text or words...that's perhaps not all that surprising.  I've wanted a stamp like this for a very long time, but have never got round to buying one.  This one will do nicely.

So...I also discovered that I'd let the paint dry on the glass board I'd been using to roll out the paint for printing.  Unthinking, I dumped more paint on, and started to work.  Thoughtlessness and laziness are a deadly combination... look what happened....

That texture is the result of the dried-up paint being rehydrated, catching on the roller and peeling off.  This is Not A Good Thing.  Reader, I trust you will not be doing this, for lo, I am a Bad Example.  If I'd thought about it, I could have turned the board over before I started, and used the other side (I didn't).  So in the end, I scraped as much of the dried up paint as I could, before wiping the board with a floor wipe (face wipes really aren't big enough for studio use).  And I started again.

I wanted to start to build up a couple of layers, so took a piece of lutradur 120 which had already been coloured,  stamped the text on it, and then made a monoprint on top of that.  The monoprint was in two sections, as you can see from the photographs.

I think this has interesting textures.  The paint for the monoprint was added to an old lino block (the proper, traditional lino); it seemed to work fairly well.  And we're back to waiting for the machine to come home... I think a phone call on Monday will be in order, given that there's a queue building up.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Road Trips...

give endless opportunities for photographs.  Well, okay, road trip is a bit of an exaggeration these days.  We went to visit a friend of mine from Uni, a couple of days ago, who was staying with a friend in a tiny village near Arbroath.  We paused at one point, pretty much in the middle of nowhere...

The further north you get, the closer the hills become, until you're travelling through them, rather than viewing them from a distance.  And finally, we got to our destination.  The lady my friend was staying with lives on a cliff top overlooking the ocean...what a wonderful view...

I was intrigued by the ruins in the water, the remains of a harbour.  Fishing in this part of the world is not what it was, and there is but a cluster of homes on the hill and these remains to remind us of it.

The actual garden has a profusion of flowers, somewhat unstructured, a true cottage garden.

I caught this marigold on the way out; useful flowers, marigolds, culinary as well as beautiful.  They are good in salads, but also have a medicinal use; see here for more detail.  They are relentlessly cheerful flowers. 

So...your eye candy for the day.  Will I use these in the work?  I doubt it, though they will doubtless influence my thinking at some level, as beauty always does.  The shape of that decaying harbour, though, might well appear in something at some point... I'm always interested by structures that are tumbledown.  We'll all have to wait and see.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Stitch, Stitch, Stitch

I had a hospital appointment a couple of days ago, so took some sewing with me, Borderlines again, which has been hanging about looking sulky on my sofa, as it hadn't really progressed from the last post. it is.

This last area is a really strange shape; a narrow piece, right at the top (which is to the bottom of this image, underneath the abstract sun shape), plus a fairly large approximate rectangle, with a curving area along one side.  When I change threads, this time to a darker brown/blue perle, I tend to change the direction of the stitch in order to delineate the different areas.  So, running them horizontally,  parallel to the stitch closest to them, just above the paper blocks, was not going to happen, but running them vertically wasn't really ideal either.  Finally, I decided that the best way to stitch this area, given the circular sun shape that somehow had to be worked round (no pun intended) was to stitch diagonally.  This isn't an ideal image, but hopefully it will give you an idea of how that's working...I'm fairly pleased.  And there will be some larger stitch in that small area above the 'sun', which will echo the larger stitches lower down.

So...nearly finished.  Too tired to stitch today; we were out yesterday (of which more tomorrow), so I need to rest to make up for the energy I expended.  It was worth it, though...a joyful time was had by all concerned.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Added Extras

Sometimes, I just can't help myself... while printing, I spotted a couple of bits of fabric.  This one had been coloured during a workshop last year, and has been lying around ever since.

Yes, I probably should have ironed it first.  No, it didn't seem to matter; it has turned out quite nicely.  I will iron it before I stitch it, however.  The other piece was a bit of rust dyed silk which, as it happens, has bondaweb on the back of it for some reason. 

I think it works quite well.   Admittedly, I have absolutely no idea what I'll use them for, but that's okay.  I've got a bit of paint left...not sure how malleable it'll be after two days, admittedly.  And I doubt I'll get round to using it for another couple of days.  Today was a hospital day, complete with shower (they take up a huge amount of energy); tomorrow, I'll be meeting up with an old friend...who would doubtless say, less of the old..  So not enough energy to spare for print making, painting or anything else.  At least I got some hand stitching done in the hospital; waiting rooms are ideal for that sort of thing. And we're heading for the coast tomorrow, so perhaps a few photographs...  art is life, after all.

Monday, July 16, 2018


one of the books that I'm planning around the theme of shields and spears.  I've now carved a couple of lino blocks for that, with a couple left to do....enough for now, I thought, even though one of them was only partially finished. And, just to prove I've learned my lesson, note my (relatively) tidy work surface...

I decided to use acrylic paints this time, combined with a medium that delays the drying time, so that the ink doesn't just dry on the plate.  For once in my life, I followed the instructions; I was a tad alarmed by the idea that too much medium might mean that the paint doesn't dry at all.  It's one thing to get the ink from newspapers on your fingers; entirely another when the visual art comes off on your hands...  \I mixed my own colour, a combination of three paints.  Someone once told me not to use paint straight out of the tube; it was important for an artist to mix their own colours.  And so I have found it.  It's a meditative thing to do, and allows you to really think about the effect you're trying to achieve, and the colour that will do that for you.  It took several tests before I was happy with the colour, somewhat warmer than the dark brown out of the tube.

 The blocks are too small for a double page, and besides, other than the central spread, they aren't seen like that within the structure of the book, so I needed to select elements to print on each individual page.  I started with the partially carved block; here's the test print.

The bit I hadn't thought through was that the whole thing would print, not just the leaf.  Fortunately, I liked that result...if I hadn't, there would have been a lot more carving to do before I could have used it.  I may well cut one of the remaining blocks in half, and carve a block specifically like this, to use in the future. 

I started to print the five pages that make up the signature (the technical word for a combination of pages, if you haven't come across it before).  I wanted a random combination of images, but started with the central motif.

It became obvious quite early on that I couldn't print on both sides of the pages; lutradur is semi transparent, so the print can be seen on the other side, though, as it is printed, not dyed, it hasn't come right through; it's like having a shadow.  And that was okay, because I intended to stitch, so the shadow would be supported by the stitch.  And, without overtly thinking it through, that had been my intention from the start.  What I hadn't realised, though, was that I needed to vary on which side of the lutradur I printed, so that there would be an interesting visual mixture of strong and weak prints.  I only managed to do that once, though... a combination of getting carried away and brain fog...sigh.  I'll be more deliberate about it the next time I make a pamphlet book in this way.

I struggled with deciding what to do with the cover.  In the end, I decided to print the same thing on both front and back covers, and here it is.

I think that works well; the image is a strong one, an eye catching way to present the piece, I hope.  When the ink was dry, I folded the book and combined the pages, mixing up the different images to avoid having the same thing twice.  The joy of working with semi transparent material, is that you get more than you usually would, when you look at the open pages.  Here's a look at that central page again, this time combined with the rest of the pages.

That effect will be something to consider in the future.  And now I'm stuck.  I want to stitch this with the machine, and I still don't have it back (hopefully this week).  Overall, though, I'm pleased with the way it has worked...for once, pretty much as I thought it would.  It needs a poem...I have two of three lines, but one refuses to come.  It'll doubtless arrive in its own sweet time...words are not as biddable as paint.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Getting Lost...

or at least, mildly confused, has its compensations.  For me, at least, it was the view.

We had pulled off into a cul de sac to get our bearings.  Views like this one are very common in Central Scotland, swathes of flat land leading to gentle hills.  Mountains are around, certainly, there's Arthur's Seat, for example (well, okay, that's an extinct volcano), but mostly, there are soft, rolling hills everywhere you look.  And cottages, nestling into the slopes.

I was intrigued by the house at the top of the cul de sac, too.

I've found myself taking a fair amount of photographs of buildings, recently... the house at Callendar Park, the stonework of a commercial property, and eyeing up several more.  Perhaps it's because we've had so many problems with our own, brand new house.  Or maybe it's just harking back to when I originally learned to paint; one of my favourite paintings from that time, was of an old cottage in a field, not far from here, come to think of it.  I feel a hankering to make paintings like that again.  It's funny, the things our unconscious suggests to us.  I can't imagine making textile work that's representational; many people do so, but it's just not my style.  It's not my usual painting style either, come to think about it...but it's not completely foreign to me, so perhaps...

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A Right Dyke

Dry stane dykes are a prominent feature of the Scottish landscape.  This one was at the edge of a farm shop car park.

Have a closer look

Lichen is a measure of the purity of the air; clearly, here, the air is clear and good, despite being relatvely close to Edinburgh.  I love the textures of a dry stane dyke, and would have loved to have learned how to do it.  That's not likely to happen now, of course.   

I've had a thing about walls, and stone in general, for many years.  I find them fascinating.  The softness of these Scottish dykes contrast beautifully with the flint walls of Norfolk, which I find, have a much harder texture, and are more angular        .

To me, though, they share more than they contrast.  There are miniature stories in each wall; the marks on each individual stone, and the way they interact together.  Gorgeous.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Next Steps

So... the paint dried...and now what?  Well, whilst I do have to wait for the machine for the next bit, I did think it would be useful to see what an unstitched book would look like.  The answer turned out to be...too fat... so I've ended up with two. Top image is the front.

\I discovered something else, too.  The paper is not exactly the same size, so it needs to be trimmed to make it so.  If you look carefully, there are bits of the inner pages peeping out from the covers on each book.  Sigh.  Making books is a matter of precision, which is, of course, just what I'm not good at.  For once, though, this isn't my fault; I didn't cut the paper.  And it's infinitely redeemable.

I selected two of the stronger images for the cover, split the paper in accordance with colour, the yellow pages together (no, we're not talking telephones here...).  and then had to pick the centre pages, the only ones that read as a complete image.  And here they are.

I think this has real potential, and I'm glad I did it.  It's not the first book I've made in this way, ie using abstract paintings; sadly, I don't seem to have any examples to show you.  They were altered books, a completely different kettle of fish, and focused mainly on the texture of the paint.  People never touch paintings, yet my work is highly textural; I wanted to give them the chance to feel my work, as well as to look at it.  Touching paintings is verboten; touching books, though, is encouraged.  But I digress, as usual...

Now, I get to trim the paper, and put them to one side until I have the machine back.  Generally speaking, though, I think this has worked pretty well, for an experiment.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Playing With Paint

If you remember, I made a couple of monoprints on paper, recently; I talked about it here.  What I don't seem to have shown you, though, is a couple of prints on small sheets of paper, ready to make a book.  Or if I did, I can't find the post....sigh.  Here they are

Basically, a print, and a ghost.  I wanted to make a few more this size, and to print on the back of these, as a base for stitch.  I thought it would be interesting to see what happened if I had random prints on front and back, and stitched in response to one side.  It could be could not...  So today, I made a few more pages...

There's no particular rhyme nor reason to any of these.  They're based on curves, and use the same colours of paint, and that's really all they have in common, other than that all of them are printed on both pages.  I'll be machine sewing, and that will need to wait until I get my machine back from its service.  The problem with using a really well recommended local engineer is that everyone else uses him too, so I've had to wait three weeks for him to do the work, such was the length of the queue.

Here's a few in close up.

The last image is a cheat, to use up the last of the paint; it's a piece of lutradur, too small to go in a book.  It may end up in the bin...but you never know... Looking at them, perhaps hand stitch is the way to go... depends on how difficult the paint is to sew. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Slowly, Slowly...

...may well catchee monkey, but when it's the only speed you've got, it's a pain in the bahookie.  I want to make another book,  a series of books, really, and decided it would be interesting to do it in lutradur.  The semi transparent nature of the cloth, and its natural stiffness in the heavier weights, make it an interesting choice.  And as luck would have it, I found some precut pieces in the lutradur box (this is lutradur 100), offcuts from the kits I used to sell. A bit of judicious trimming, and they were ready to take some background colour.

I chose Naples Yellow acrylic, in the end, a slightly dusky yellow that provides a good contrast to browns, but not overly dark.  I watered the paint to a watercolour consistency because whilst I want the colour, I don't want the semi transparent nature of the cloth to be hampered by the solid nature of undiluted acrylic paint; that will come with the prints I will add to the pages later.  And that's pretty much the extent of my activity today.  Fortunately, however, whilst I doubt I'll be able to do much more, I can at least think (well, for a while, anyway).

My process has always been to turn up at the empty page, or piece of cloth, and do what seemed necessary according to my inner artist, unconscious mind or whatever's in charge when I work.  That doesn't seem to work well with a book.  The writers among you (hi, Ann) will not be surprised by this, given the amount of planning, writing, rewriting and editing necessary to produce either a novel or a piece of non fiction (and don't start me on poetry...).  With a visual book, it's even more important that one's intention, at least, is clear, because, unlike a novel, the sequencing is not clear.  My intention for this particular book, is to use the spear/tree, shield/leaf motifs that I've been cutting from the lino (here's the one I'm working on just now)

And that's as far as I've got.  Because whilst I know these motifs are important to me, I'm not sure exactly why...and the why is the core of the art, both visual and poetic .  I'm not stuck, exactly.  I can poddle along with the mechanics of the making, the carving, the printing, the assembly.  I know what the centre of the book will look like, though not the cover (apparently this one needs a cover, who knew...) or the sequence of images before and after it.  And it needs a poem.  I think.  Or maybe it doesn't.  Maybe it needs random words, for now, and the poem will emerge over time.  I suspect that it's not one of these very short pieces I've been writing for the books, but rather a longer piece, that will extend across several books.  And perhaps those books will need their own case.  Or bag.  Yeah, bag.

And this is how my creativity works (you may have noticed).  It doesn't really matter if I can start with nothing, or not.  What's important, is that I keep asking myself the questions, and make, in response to the answers. 

Monday, July 09, 2018

Using What You've Got

Not a good day, today, either physically or mentally, so I wasn't planning to work, much less blog.  Went into the kitchen to get a drink, though, and decided to take a few photographs of the lovely orchid my granddaughter gave me a couple of weeks ago. 

Over the years, students have said things along the lines of, it's easy for you.  I haven't got a garden, or a camera, or.... all sorts of things.  In these days of mobile phones, though (just saying that, makes me feel old...), nobody lacks a camera, and there are things to be found in our homes, without us having to cross the threshold.  Given that I currently don't *have* a garden, the orchid is a lovely source of images.  As is the fruit bowl.

Mind you, I can't retake that particular image...I ate one of the nectarines (it was yummy).  That's the problem with still lives incorporating fruit. I love the colours in this image, rich and varied.  Recorded for posterity...and inspiration... what's not to like?  There are doubtless lots of other things I could be recording, but that's it for today.  And all it took, was to look carefully.  And not to make excuses for myself, but rather to do what I was capable of doing, no more, no less.