Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Paper cut trees

I've experimented for the last few days laying down tracings of a tree outline in various sizes over one another and then cutting round the outlines and between the trees to create lines within the shapes and draw attention to the outlines ...

to work with shadows ...

and to cut out look-throughs ...

Last of all, I began to abstract further, colouring in some of the shapes within using graphite sticks and a paper blending stick. 

This is very much work on-going and I hope the strange lighting conditions I seemed to need to produce shadows I could photograph allow the work to be seen adequately!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Folding a colour photograph

I've been playing this afternoon with the colour potential of my new A3 printer ... just a little bit so far.

Two photographs of a stream bed, each slightly different but stuck back to back and enhanced, with marks added and overprinted, folded and partially cut, gave this:

A book of pictures, an unfolded box, a random 3D structure? The different forms that are possible with this fold are themselves an entertainment!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Black, White and red and Stitch

I've been playing around with the idea of stitching on top of the hedge images I've posted on several occasions over the last two months. For this experiment, I settled on using parts of the image in the simple accordion fold book shown here. I'm hoping eventually to achieve a pair of pieces to be hung one above the other and using the complete versions of both the positive and inverted images in that book, though time will tell.

Two experimental versions have followed in my evening stitching time. Both are shown below, very much as work in progress. On each, I've kept the stitches simple, using only a basic satin stitch for the trunks of the trees and small single-wound French knots to suggest leaves. In each case, I've been working on the placing and density of the stitching as I don't want to lose the original images by covering them in stitch.

The first and, I think, so far the most successful, shows a black image on a white ground with red stitching in No. 12 pearl cotton to pick out some of the individual trees. I've played with the position of intense stitching and which areas to leave completely unstitched. I don't yet feel I have this right but this trial has been most useful.

The inverted image, white on a black ground, has seemed much more difficult so I've worked several stitching alternatives on the same piece.

Red stitching appears to jump forward too much and white stitching disappears, leaving only a vague feeling of texture when viewed from a distance, even when I used No. 8 pearl cotton. Another alternative I tried was to use a variegated black / grey / white thread but again this gives much less impact than in the first piece above.

I don't yet feel the two pieces would work well together. I'm still considering alternatives as I work further on them both.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Digital Mark making

I spent time earlier this week playing with digital mark making - enhancing and printing to A3 a photograph I'd taken recently which included strong abstract marks when enlarged and cropped. I then put the image through the printer for a second time to overlay it with tree outlines which I placed and printed randomly - at least as randomly as I've so far found to be possible within Photoshop Elements print options. I folded the sheet using a simple structure that involves partial cutting into thirds and then a form of accordion folding.

In May I'm going to do Pixeladies Course 3 which with luck will help with this overlaying issue (and many others, hopefully) and enable me to have more control over what happens when I undertake this kind of mark making. If the quality of previous courses with these two ladies is anything to go by, I'm sure it will be excellent.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Cloudless spring sun, wildflowers and beautiful scenery

What a lovely day we had yesterday. We went up to Winchcombe in the Cotswolds north of Cheltenham. The sun shone from early morning and it was cloudless and warm (an unusual 20+ c). This is always a lovely area and it looked especially good with the sun on the pale ochre buildings and the trees casting gentle leafless shadows. It was a lovely way to welcome in spring.

In the morning in fact, this was a trip with a difference since we walked round Winchcombe completing a 'murder mystery' trail that my husband had been given for Christmas. This was great fun and deciphering the 23 clues forced us to look hard at the old buildings, read the information plaques on the walls and drink in the history and prettiness of the place, including this delightful row of cottages leading down to the river ...

... and to spot small instances of quirkiness, including a pair of metal posts either side of a short flight of steps up to the church which were topped by little elephants the size of my hand - very tactile - but it was hard to work out their purpose or the reason for their choice.

Then there was a dog gate beside a stile with an almost canine face on top (the whole lifted up to allow the dog to pass through rather than climb the stile) ...

... and particular doggy nonsense, these gems on dog mannequins in a pet shop window.

Everywhere there were spring flowers, hedges bursting with blossom and sunlight glinting on water ...

All in all, it seemed a most unlikely setting for a murder!

After lunch, we completed a short section of the Cotswold Way that we hadn't done before. For those who don't know it, the Cotswold Way is one of the Uk's sixteen long distance National Trails. Each one takes the walker through examples of the country's most beautiful rural scenery. This one is about 100 miles in length, all along the top of the Cotswold escarpment. Over the years we have walked many sections and the views are always spectacular and every mile a pleasure to walk. 

This time, our goals were very modest. We were heading for the neolithic long barrow of Belas Knap, a round trip of a mere 1 1/2 miles. We walked up the steep face of the escapement from a small roadside car park and through a wood ...

... and out onto open grassland and beside a stone wall for panoramic views.

Then the walk finally took us along a sunken, tree-lined path to reach the Knap.

  The long barrow was hard to photograph as the enclosure around it was small but further details and much better photographs can be found here on the English Heritage website. 

Tomorrow the weather is forecast to return to normal - cool and showery - and more typical of  a British April. I hope we've not just had summer!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Hedges Book

Yesterday, I finally completed the version of star accordion artists' book that I first posted about last month.

Before adding covers, a closure and a title, I photographed the piece from a variety of angles. The more sculptural of these no longer worked after the addition of the covers with their extra weight but I've chosen one to show here, mostly because of the shadows it cast in sunlight. 

This has been an excellent learning experience, although I still have some issues to resolve for future books of this kind - mostly to do with the strength of spine where I feel the structure is very fragile. 

However, for the moment, I have plans for something rather different ...

Monday, 27 March 2017

Spring surprises

Up here in Scotland west of Aberdeen for a few days, we've been so lucky to find glorious spring weather. The days have been warm and sunshine unbroken. We have walked and visited some favourite spots. Everywhere daffodils are flowering and tree buds fattening.

Today, we visited Crathes Castle and walked around the lake and into the formal gardens. I unfortunately left my card reader for my iPad at home so my photos are restricted to those I rembered to take on my phone. Here are just two to give a flavour of this lovely time.

We come here regularly and the weather this time has been warmer than it often is in July. How extraordinary is that!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Graphite and Pine Trees

I spent some time this afternoon playing with one from a favourite series of line drawings of Scots Pine trees, adding graphite to exploit the negative spaces.

Some while back, I bought some Derwent Graphitone pencils and two paper blending stumps (also from Derwent) and thought it was time to experiment with them. Since I've played with this pine tree image (and similar) many times before, it seemed like a good and familiar place to start on a rather showery and cold afternoon. These pencils are water soluble but I found they also blend well with the stumps. I used the darkest pencil (an 8B) but I also have a 6B and a 4B and will now give those a try too - perhaps with some water the next time.

On the basis of this afternoon, I think I'll find them most useful and will be taking them with me when I go to Scotland for a short break this weekend. 

Now I look at the post on Blogger, I must apologise for the poorly reproduced photo. As is often the case, Photoshop hasn't coped well with enhancing a pencil drawing - and this time seems worse than most!

Friday, 17 March 2017

A card for a friend

Now a birthday card made for a good friend who says she enjoys my work ... such friends are always to be encouraged!

The image for this card was cropped from the much larger one shown in the accordion fold book in the last post. It was inkjet printed as before on Smooth Pearl 290 paper from Fotospeed. It was further cropped in Photoshop and then hand cut to exploit the negative shapes as an experiment to see whether this was something I wanted to pursue.

I think it is, either in this flat-mounted form or perhaps in an accordion book with cut-outs. Mounting the image away from the card on small supports helped to create a slight shadow. If the depth of the supports was increased, it might be even more effective - I will try this out too.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Leggy hedges

I grabbed some time in my workroom the other afternoon to complete a simple accordion fold book form. The photos for this were taken in New Zealand 18 months ago, where such tall, leggy hedges are seen around fields all over the eastern side of South Island. I've found the lines and positive and negative shapes they create fascinating and they seem to respond particularly well to manipulation in black and white in Photoshop.

I used positive and inverted versions of this image, and printed them out to A3 size on photographic paper. The prints were folded and then placed back to back as a perpetual mirror image of themselves. Although there is stitching in this piece, it’s structural rather than decorative, holding the pages together in the valleys of the folds. A black cover was added at each end of the piece to make a positive full stop. 

The image seemed not to need embellishment. The only details I added were small burred holes to give texture to the areas of leaves. I’ve used this technique before many times and call it ‘blind' (or empty) stitches. These are made by poking a darning needle through into each image from the back. In the photographs, this treatment seems to show up more noticeably in the positive image where the holes were coming through into black, though on the computer screen, neither shows them well.

In reality, I think those in the inverted version are more interesting because they create delicate texture and small shadows on the white surface. 

I've just begun to explore stitch versions of these images ... lots to think about, not least, how to add meaningful stitches to an already very striking image. 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Hedges and Artists' Books

This is a post about learning and work in progress - work which follows recent experiments with photographs of trees and hedges and then an excellent artist's books workshop last Saturday with Lesley Crawley up at the yard:Artspace in Cheltenham.

For anyone who is not familiar with this genre, the world of artists' books is huge. Our focus for the day was one of the simplest forms known as accordion folds. Numerous versions were on offer and wonderful and inspiring examples were shown. I was amazed at the variety and complexity that was possible with such a simple basic idea.

I dived straight in and chose to work on folding some of the modules needed to make up a version of the star accordion book. I used two copies of an image of a hedgerow taken on South Island New Zealand 18 months ago which I had previously manipulated in Photoshop and printed onto A4 photocopier paper. I trimmed the photos to give a long narrow shape and stuck them onto light-weight white card. Manipulating and lining up the image gave me something to think about and much useful practice in the folding techniques.

Unfortunately, I was unable to complete the whole star as I didn't have enough of the photographic material with me. Anyway the wish to try out other forms of accordion book overtook me. First of all, I tried a basic accordion fold with no frills which I made with simple computer paper for speed. It used an inverted version of another very similar hedge photo to the first ...

I then tried a much more complex form involving careful measurement (and the oportunity to cut in the wrong place!) - a panel accordion where a shape is partially cut out of each fold which allows panels to swivel when opened out ...

Last of all and with time running out, I had a go at a flag book where small 'flags' are stuck onto a narrow accordion folded spine ...

Perhaps, on reflection, I should have explored those basic forms in plain white card first as I might then have chosen to make a form which I could have finished in the session. I have the tendency at workshops to choose, usually unwittingly, the most complicated option which means I take home unfinished work which is frustrating.

The next steps in all this will be to do a proper, full version of the star book, thinking about backing colour (maybe black instead of white?), methods of joining the modules of the star together and the making of a cover. This is important as it anchors the form when it is open as well as protecting the 'pages' when closed.

I had been feeling for sometime that artists' books were something I wanted to explore, linked to my photographs. I realised that I needed to develop my practical book making skills and also my awareness of what is possible. This workshop was an excellent beginning.

You will find more about Lesley on her Printed Material blog  and by googling Lesley Crawley artist. Star accordion books and others of this type can be found by googling Artists' Books, accordion folds, and any other of the folds that take your fancy. The opportunities and the information are endless!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Packaging lunacy

Today I received this new Janome quilting ruler via Amazon UK ...

It measures 24 inches long by 6 inches wide by about 1/4 inch thick. It arrived in this box ...

... which measures 40 inches long (that's over a metre) by 25 inches wide by (and this seemed somehow the most ridiculous bit) 6 inches deep. It was stuffed full to the brim with a year's supply of rolled up paper for protection. 

I wish these photos could convey the absurdity of the situation. My 3 year old grandson would have loved to have the box to play in if he'd been here ... a boat? a car? a space rocket? a bunk bed? a house for his teddies? The possibilities would have been endless.

I hope the ruler will be worth all this effort and consumption of resources. I'm only glad that, as an Amazon Prime subscriber, I didn't have to pay separately for carriage!