Sunday, 10 December 2017


We always get excited when it snows significantly here in southern England. It happens rarely and settles and lies even less frequently.

The forecast last night had suggested we would be south of the snow zone as we so often are but this morning, much to our surprise, we woke up to this ...

... and it's been snowing gently almost all day. A few centimeters are now lying and it will freeze hard tonight. Photos tomorrow when sun is predicted should be even more rewarding.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Shapes hiding in buildings

It's most surprising what shapes and effects hide in buildings to be revealed in a photograph.

I've spent a cold, rather grey afternoon searching through photos taken in Vancouver in August, converting those that looked promising into black and white, then cropping, rotating and adding marks and removing selectively. Most of these were photos of some of the many high rise buildings in the city, so many of which are fitted with reflective glass and therefore have fascinating reflections to add to their striking shapes ... very clever!

The next few I'm not so sure about as a whole, but each one has effects and details that have caught my eye.

Next, sometime, to look at those others that seemed less promising on first glance. You never know what might after all be lurking within ...

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Lobster pots at Porthlethen

On our recent trip north to Aberdeenshire, we had three beautiful, mostly sunny late autumn days one of which drew us east to the coast. We visited the tiny port of  Old Porthlethen, south of Aberdeen. The tide was out and the village bathed in sunlight.

We walked along the quayside and I took photos of lobster pots and boats.

Earlier, on the same day, we walked on St Cyrus beach, a place we try and visit each time we come to Aberdeenshire. On that quiet, increasingly sunny midweek afternoon, it was beautiful. We shared the three miles of sand with a few dog walkers and many sea birds.

We later learnt that the temperature had been 13C, and I have to report (though not reveal in a photograph!) my husband went in the water, up to his waist - but (surprise, surprise) he didn't stay long. I sat on a rock and watched.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Drawing with the work of de Stael in mind

The other day, I met up with an artist friend. It's always a pleasure to see her. This time, we found ourselves discussing, among many other things, the work (and especially the drawings) of Nicolas de Stael, an artist I hadn't considered for sometime. Looking afresh, from my current perspectives, I was intrigued by many things. First of all, it was the economy of line in many of his drawings.

Nicolas de Stael, Dessins 1953/54 

Nicolas de Stael, Bateau à Martigues, 1953/4

In others, it was the simplicity of the mark making where he seemed to be focusing especially on intensity and scale of mark to make pattern. The calm and stillness of this image was very different from many others we looked at.

In yet others, I was interested to see the way he used pen and ink to give great depth and movement. Again, the mark varied in scale and intensity, to produce a purely abstract image.

*I'm afraid I'm unable to attribute these last two images fully. as they were obtained by googling or on Pinterest and no details were given

Needing a break from trees, I sat down this afternoon to do some mark making with his work in mind. I wanted to focus on simplicity and economy of mark and to work in monochrome. I did several small, quick, five minute pieces on cartridge paper, making myself stop at the end of the allotted time.

In the first two I used a black roller ball pen and played around with intensifying and spacing the marks.

Then I played with a wide, chubby graphite stick, using it on its point, on its end and on its side. Finally, I put the two together.

This mark making seems to have great relevance to my stitching, especially in the case of the small individual marks I made with the roller ball. The seeding and French knots that I frequently use mimic the pen marks very well. I'm not quite sure why I didn't realise this before, but I'm sure it will be useful for me when I'm drawing specifically with stitching in mind. 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Silver Birches 3

Today's versions of Sunday's cropped black and white Silver Birch image, involving selective cropping, selection of negative spaces and filling with black to varied tolerance to increase contrast.

I think No 2 has the most appeal for me because it retains some of the texture but still has good contrast, but there may be more to come ...

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Silver Birches 2

For the last few days, I've been working further into the negative spaces between silver birch trees on a fresh print of the image I posted on 30 October. I have yet to add coloured stitching to suggest leaves but was interested in the black and white effect I was getting around the trunks below. I was experimenting with using thick and thin bars of stitching and considering carefully which negative spaces should be stitched and how much of the dark grey space should be covered.

As I worked, it occurred to me that it would be interesting to photograph the image and crop, perhaps giving thought to a piece of weaving.

Next, I rotated through 90 degrees and then cropped again - not sure whether this adds anything or not, but I like to consider all possibilities that occur to me ...

There is much more to do before I could begin a piece of weaving, not least to work out the black / white balance which is not right here. I also need to experiment with ways of achieving the contrast between the thick dark grey / black stripes and those very fine white trunks and maybe to consider the inclusion of some colour in some way. Perhaps a combination of weaving and stitch might be the best route. 

My next move will be to work in pen and ink and also pencil on paper, working on small parts of the image and see where that goes. I will post further if anything interesting results. 

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Landscape in brown, orange and yellow

We've just returned from a cold but mainly sunny week near Aboyne in eastern Scotland. Regular readers of this blog will know that we visit this area frequently. This time, we walked, visited favourite haunts and met up with friends, but above all, we enjoyed the wonderful autumn colours. This year seemed especially beautiful. The bracken (not usually my favourite plant) combined with the beech, silver birch and larch trees to give the most extraordinary range of browns, oranges and yellows everywhere we looked.

I took, as usual, lots of photos. The birch trees especially caught my eye following those we saw in western Canada in September but the coppers and oranges of the beeches were equally magnificent. First of all is a group of photos taken while walking around Loch Kinord in the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve, between Aboyne and Balleter. It was a lovely 5 mile walk which we were lucky enough to do on a wonderful cloudless day:

On the last day of our visit, we visited the grounds of Crathes Castle, a magnificent National Trust for Scotland property east of Banchory. Just as you enter the grounds, there is a beautiful pool on the right, always good for photographs of reflections on a still day. On this occasion, with the sun shining again, hardly a breath of wind and the browns, oranges and yellows of autumn, it was unmissable. 

Finally, as we left to come south over the Cairn O'Mount, the weather was cloudier, but the browns were no less striking.

We won't be back in eastern Scotland now till the spring. We always go south with regret as we miss the wildness of the mountains but family is too far away and the climate less kind. Our first visit of the year, usually at the beginning of April, is always something to look forward to.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Silver birches

In Scotland for a few days this week, between walking and visiting friends, I’m stitching this trial piece on cotton using perl√© 8 and 12 threads from DMC. I’m playing with positive and negative shapes and adding a smattering of colour to suggest leaves, using small French knots ...

It comes from this photo of silver birches taken recently in the Kanaskis valley, Alberta, (where autumn was turning as we watched) and via Photoshop Elements where I enhanced the image and converted it to black and white.

 I've printed out a second copy of this small image (12.7 x 17.8 cm) and intend next to try another colour way. Such small images are quickly and easily completed and are great for exploring ideas. Scaling up later, however, can be more tricky!

Now, on a completely different topic, is anyone else having problems with Blogger? Following recent Windows and Apple updates, on my PC I'm unable to access most of the features on Layout so I can't make any changes, I find viewing on my iPad has minor glitches, posting this post on my iPad was fraught with difficulty and the Blogger app is unusable. I suspect Google have stopped supporting it ... Am I right?

So, I might just be about to change blog provider - any advice?

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

MAO Space Tapestry

When I was in Oxford recently with textile friends, we popped in to Modern Art Oxford, enticed by the promise of black and white images (I was certainly) and work on an epic scale.

On view was an exhibition of collaborative work by Aleksandra Mir called Space Tapestry: Earth Observation and Human Spaceflight. Three huge panels filled the walls and each one represented a new chapter in a long term project exploring aspects of man's exploration of space and its impact on our daily lives. The whole Space Tapestry of which these panels are just a part is 200 m long in total and its presentation was inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry.

The result was most impressive and made absorbing viewing. The work is not in fact a tapestry but was described in the exhibition notes as: ' an inquiry ... realised through the analogue medium of drawing'. It was drawn entirely with a sharpie pen and it was fascinating to see the huge range of marks Mir and her assistants had managed to achieve with this simple medium.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of this work was the fact that it was collaborative. Mir had invited a team of assistants aged 18 to 24 and at the start of their working lives to draw the panels collectively in her studio. Each one completed a small section of the work under her guidance. Their individual styles and responses could be seen within the work, yet it retained its collective whole.

This inspiring exhibition can be seen at the MOA in Pembroke Street until 24th November and is well worth a visit.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Photos and design

I've now downloaded, sorted and begun to process all my photos from my recent trips - no mean feat given that I took a giddying 6,000 plus over the summer! It will take me a long time to absorb them all and to take from amongst them images that I think have potential for textile work.

I know some different approaches will be prompted by all this but for now, while I consider my options, I've worked in familiar ways on two pictures I took of playground equipment in Port Alberni, BC. The shapes I saw in the structures and the ease of turning them into silhouettes appealed to me very much at the time.

I'm showing what I've done with them so far (much manipulation in Photoshop Elements), together with the original images.

The original images ...

I added the small amount of text prompted by a need to practise some of the skills I learnt on the online course with the Pixeladies I took earlier in the year. I see these images perhaps as part of a book project, which gave the inclusion of text some point - though for now, I'm really enjoying the experimentation.

It's good to be thinking artistically again. I've found it hard to concentrate on anything over the summer ... but I have missed it. It helps me to feel rooted!