Monday, 29 February 2016

One of four

Variations on a theme of black and white, positive and negative shapes, holes, spaces and hints of something, and then there's where to stitch and not to stitch, and even whether to stitch at all (I did a bit, though it's hard to see here) ...


... this small series of pieces exploring stitch on photographs is giving me much to ponder over.



I only hope you can see the fine detail and tell Pitt pen from stitch in the two details above (left clicking on the image to enlarge helps a bit).



Sunday, 28 February 2016

An almost spring day

Last week, as I drove to Cheltenham in the early morning, I stopped at this favourite spot to admire the clear blue sky, the late winter frost on the fields, and the sunlight over the Vale of Evesham below:




... and to enjoy a beautiful start to the day which sent me on my way with heart rising.

Clear frosty mornings like this one have been rare. The winter here in England has been extraordinary- one of the warmest on record. Snowdrops have been flowering since the end of December and hawthorne hedges sprouting since early January, The lawn had grown so much that my husband dusted off the mower in mid-January and mowed the grass.

These recent late winter mornings of frost have been something of a relief. 


Thursday, 25 February 2016

Artist Ann Christopher

I've been searching awhile for ways to extend work on black and white photographs.

This morning, a very good friend sent me this link to the work of artist Ann Christopher. In the quick look so far managed, I particularly enjoyed her drawings, assemblages and prints, of which these initially caught my eye ...

Ann Christopher   Power of Place 14   2007

Ann Christopher  Power of Place 9   2007

Wonderful, gentle and fascinating, these works exude a powerful sense of peace and rightness. I felt myself calmed as I looked at them and then I began to think.

Use of photos, extended drawing, graphite, air-light layering, black and white ... could this be one of those artistic light bulb moments?



Saturday, 20 February 2016

Exploring Line and Aboriginal Art

Ever since I lived in Western Canada more than 40 years ago, I've been fascinated both by the symbolism of much First Nation or Aboriginal art and also by its apparent visual simplicity and graphic qualities. It is an extraordinary mix that brings me much pleasure whenever I come into contact with it.

Pursuing this further the other day following our visit to Australia last autumn, I ordered Contemporary Aboriginal Art: the Complete Guide by Susan McCulloch and Emily McCulloch Childs. The book arrived this morning, and since it's pouring with rain and blowing a gale outside, I settled down to browse and be inspired.

One piece has immediately caught my eye - it's in black and white with only a central splash of bright red. It's called Mina Mina Hair-String Story and was painted in 2004 by Maggie Napangardi Watson. The title refers to the string made from human hair which is used in women's ceremonies. It seems to feature strongly in her paintings.

Searching on the internet, her work is generally brightly coloured but I found the graphic qualities and subtle sense of movement of this painting irresistible and set about working from it in black and white. As I worked, I explored qualities of line - weight, thickness and movement.


 After Maggie Napangardi Watson's Mina Mina Hair-String Story ...


This book was a second hand find on Amazon as it's now out of print but I'm sure it's going to be an education and a pleasure.


What a great resource the internet is in accessing such rare finds. Without it, I could only have discovered the book after hours of trawling around second hand bookshops and then probably only by chance.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Barbara Hepworth and Ovals


The other day, finding a postcard of a wonderful, even exquisite, little sculpture by Barbara Hepworth prompted me to have a change from circles and holes and to explore ovals.

Called Oval Sculpture and made in 1943, this piece was one of many items of beauty and interest seen in the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, in Orkney, Scotland, last summer. Oval Sculpture has especially stayed with me over the months since our visit but the range and quality of all the exhibits to be found here delighted me. I could so easily have posted other gems. I'm sure I've blogged about this visit before but dredging through my posts doesn't reveal it.

Inspired, I drew round a large oval perspex shape from my store and then moved the shape part way down and drew again, repeating the process twice more. I then filled in the segments I'd delineated with graded graphite stick which I rubbed with a fine cotton cloth to even the coverage.


Next, I cut out ovals of different sizes using some (nesting) perspex shapes. I then drew into each with the oval one size smaller and filled in portions of the shapes with smoothed graphite as before. Before sticking the ovals into my sketchbook, I played with the arrangement, twisting and angling till I was happy with the result. Though flattened here in the photograph, this gave something of a 3 D effect to hint at the sculpture that had inspired me.


This is something of a diversion from current directions, but who knows what will be useful and find its way into things ... and a change is as good as as rest.


Monday, 15 February 2016

Recent finds and favourite resources

As my work has changed recently, I've been finding several different resources useful. Today's post features a few of my current favourites, some new and some old and resurrected.

I somehow acquired a little set of Japanese screw hole punches by Ponchi. I can't find them exactly on the internet, though several similar ones are available on Amazon. Many seem more expensive than I remember paying but the closest would appear to be the version by Micro Trader (at £7.94 in the UK). It's called  a screw punch because when you press down on the handle, the spring type mechanism in the shaft forces the punch down into whatever surface needs a hole. If, like me you want to be able to punch holes wherever you choose, and not to be restricted by the usual pliers type device, this tool is really worth the money. Small holes made with the Ponchi can be seen in the little black and white piece below.


As I mentioned in my last post, Delicate Surface Frogtape has been the other great new find. Really a gentle masking tape intended for the building trade, I've been finding it to be a great help while designing and adjusting work. When applied in small strips, it allows the positioning and repositioning of paper, photographs and fabric and it continues to stick as I stitch things down. The best thing about it though is that it doesn't seem to pull off and spoil the surface of watercolour paper as it's removed.


For printing out images onto fabric with an inkjet printer, I'm finding that the US letter size (almost A4) sheets from Crafty Computer Paper are excellent. They are not as cheap as fabric I prepare myself but are much less fiddly. They come ready prepared on a peelable backing paper and treated so that they are waterproof once dried. There is a good range of fabrics, including premium cotton, silk, linen and organza (choose the waterproof version in each case). Each one feels very good in the hand even after printing and is a pleasure to stitch on. The sheets are also available in A3 size if you're lucky enough to have access to an A3 printer.


Old friends from the past have proved themselves particularly useful. I have been drawing quite a bit and have found both black Pitt pens and graphite sticks and pencils particularly appropriate during my current fixation with black and white. A favourite selection mostly by Derwent is shown below, although I have yet to try washing water over the Graphitone stick shown left. 


One of the things I find most enjoyable about working in a different way is the need to change materials and learn new techniques. I like the way it keeps me on my toes and investigating ...


Thursday, 11 February 2016

Stitching on photos and extending the line 2

I'm playing further with the idea begun here of stitching onto the surface of a photograph and extending and echoing the lines within it in pen and stitch. This time, there is just one large image placed on the watercolour paper ground.


Once I had placed the photo carefully on the paper, it was held in place with delicate surface frogtape whilst I stitched it onto the paper. This tape worked very well as the photo didn't shift when I stitched and the tape didn't lift the surface of either the ground paper or the photograph when it was removed.

I think this tape will be very useful in helping me to position all sorts of photos and drawings on lots of surfaces - very many thanks Olga for the suggestion - and I think the reel containing 41m should last me a lifetime!


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Grayson Perry - The Vanity of Small Differences

I had a delightful day out on Friday in the shape of a trip to Bath - a favourite city of mine with its stunning buildings and fine views. No matter what I do when I visit, it's always a pleasure to be there. This time, there was a particular reason for going.

Shopping over, I went to see the exhibition of Grayson Perry's woven tapestries entitled The Vanity of Small Differences in the Victoria Art Gallery on Bridge Street. The works were completed in collaboration with Channel 4 Television to produce a series of three programmes entitled, All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry, broadcast in 2012. I watched this at the time and was fascinated so a chance to see the tapestries was unmissable.

Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close



These tapestries are described by Susan Moore in the book accompanying the exhibition as being, "... a bracing walk through that taboo subject: class". They chart (remarkably without judgement) class difference and identity, kitsch and 'good taste', discomfort and certainty. I found the work at once amusing, challenging, colourful and absorbing in its detail and spent a long time looking at each tapestry and enjoying the humour and sadness in each one.

The Upper Class at Bay
The photographs above are not mine but downloaded from the Victoria Miro website as no photography was allowed in the gallery. I looked carefully at the work, read the small commentaries that accompanied each tapestry and then, on my way out, bought two books. The first was the exhibition commentary that included an outline of the project, excerpts from Perry's sketchbooks, a fold out photograph and detailed images from each of the tapestries, and observations by Suzanne Moore and by Grayson Perry himself. Although I have yet to read it all, first impressions suggest it will be a fascinating insight into the project and into his work as a whole.

The second book I bought was Grayson Perry: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl by Perry's friend Wendy Jones. This so far delightful biography (I'm about a third of the way through) has been my main read since my visit to Bath. The blurb describes the book as mesmerising and I can only agree, although it does include explicit accounts of aspects of his growing up that some readers might find difficult. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in Grayson Perry's work or in the life of an artist who has wrestled with the legacy of a very troubled childhood and discovered resilience and success.


Thursday, 4 February 2016

Stitching on photos and extending the line

... and more stitching involving cropped sections of black and white photos, previously tried here. This time, I punched small holes through the photos before offering them up to white Fabriano ground paper to give depth and contrast. The stitching and lines within the photos were extended and mirrored in black Pitt pen. 

The main thing I'm trying to sort out, is the best method of fixing the photo croppings firmly without either sticking them on with glue so rigidly so that the photos ruckle and the ground paper distorts (that experiment failed to photograph acceptably), or attaching them loosely and then losing the desired really close interplay between shiny photographic paper (not easy to see in this photo) and the watercolour paper - which is the approach I used here. 

More trials to follow, some perhaps involving fabric, though I have yet to envisage how that will work ...



Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Faint and delicate circles

I experimented this morning drawing circles with a small selection of graphite pencils, thick and thin. The idea was to  go simple and minimalist and to work again on just how pale and soft I could go and still maintain some impact. All this was in contrast with the crisp black and white photos I've been working on a lot recently.

 Near circles over one another: on top, drawn with the fine point of a graphite pencil, and underneath, with the angled end of a thicker graphite stick.

A series of circles on top of one another using the fine pointed stick, the base of a chubby graphite stick flat on the paper and underneath it all, graphite pencil shavings spread wide and soft with a finger

 Simple circle made with the base of the chubby graphite stick 


Graphite pencil shavings drawn with a slightly damp finger

Next, I may print out one or two of these onto thick drawing paper or fabric to see what stitching I'm moved to do.