Gallery of past work

Monday 27 May 2013

Favourite books

Another favourite book, Expressive Drawing by Steven Aimone,  to post about today .... together with his interesting website. I especially like his photographs and the link given leads to this part of his website.

His book approaches drawing in a purely instinctive and intuitive way and he often suggests working very large which I find freeing and liberating.

The basic idea put forward in the book is that you begin with an abstract mark and then add another where you instinctively feel it should go and then another and so on and on until you feel you want to stop and the piece is complete and satisfying.

I have done several of the exercises shown in this book and found them to be very interesting. If nothing else, completing them has had me thinking hard about balance and line and quality of mark in my work.

In line with much that I seem to be doing at the moment, many of the exercises are to be completed in black (paint, pencil or charcoal) on white paper. I have some leisure time coming up and plan to try a few more.

Friday 24 May 2013

Bluebells, a stile and a happy husband

In between showers this week, the countryside has been looking lovely. We had a visit from some very dear and long-standing friends from the US this week and took them out exploring.

We found several wonderful bluebell woods, of which this one near Royal Wootton Bassett was one of the most beautiful, though I don't know why photographs taken with my compact camera so often bleach out the colours.

Bluebells under hazel coppice

Then we drove home via Ashton Keynes where we walked through between the lovely Cotswold stone houses towards the church. On the path, as we came to the churchyard, we found this extraordinary stile ... or gate ... not sure what you'd call it really. I've never seen anything quite like it before. 

A happy husband with old friends
and an extraordinary stile
To pass through, you press down on the knob on the right and move it to one side. It's on a spring and takes the other side with it to give a very easy, person and dog-friendly passage through. If anyone can tell me what it's called, I be delighted to know.

We had a lovely afternoon.

That bluebell wood must be a colour inspiration if nothing else ....and what joy it is to spend time with friends you've known all your adult life. There's nothing quite like it for fun and joyous companionship and rekindling all those memories.

Monday 20 May 2013

A line of Hills

The weather was fine and the garden called yesterday - so, no stitching in black and white occurred.

However, I did have time this morning to search out and revisit an exercise I'd had in my mind when I was doing my cutting and sticking earlier in the week.

Perhaps suggesting hills and a lake in the Highlands of Scotland ... or wherever you like ....

This was done in a weekend workshop with Sandra Meach up at Farncombe Manor a while back and involved several of my photographs manipulated and enhanced in Adobe Photoshop to render them in black and white. These were laser printed ahead of the workshop.

We were then asked to apply Brusho (the reason for laser printing as ink jet printing is not colour fast when wet) and tear and stick and add stitch.

Another useful and enjoyable exercise and I think it will be useful somewhere down the line as I evaluate things .....

Saturday 18 May 2013

Black and White paper

I've been playing with black and white again, cutting up squares of paper, moving the pieces apart and repositioning them. I have done similar exercises many times in the past but it now seems right to revisit them, following my recent explorations in black and white.

In the first few, I maintained the integrity of the squares....

Then I deliberately disrupted the integrity....

And last of all, I played with the shapes in a linear way, depicting something as I worked - perhaps the line of the Cotswold escarpment, with suggestions in some of the block-like shapes of Cotswold stone walls or of the mill chimneys near Stroud ...

Tomorrow, unless the weather is good and the garden calls, I plan to add stitch....

There are activities like this to be found in the excellent book, Finding Your Own Visual Language, by Jane Dunnewold, Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan.

This is a book I really enjoy dipping into from time to time for its stimulating and practical activities which seem able to be adapted to any subject matter.

Thursday 16 May 2013

Sudden Green

I was told by a friend the other day that the human eye can detect up to forty different greens but only twenty different reds. I don't know how true this is but I can well believe it. The Wiltshire countryside and our garden seem to have them all just now.

With the sudden green of spring around me, my post on green is organic in inspiration and mostly from my garden - with the exception of the first photograph.

This is a piece of work completed by my daughter for a school exam project in art when she was 16. It was based on a photograph she took of the greenhouse at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. One of my most treasured possessions, its colour made it seem so right for this post.

It contains blue-greens not found anywhere else at the moment, as all the vegetation is young and fresh.

In our garden, there are the  pale only-just-greens of newly furled fern leaves. So fleeting, they have a wonderful fragility about them.

Then there is the deep, dark green of the ivy on the old yew trees behind the house (darker and richer than this in reality) ...

and all of those 38 shades in between....

The surprising and sudden growth is dominating my thoughts and I haven't focused on much else. Even driving to an art group meeting this morning, I spotted this lovely simple green bench surrounded by fresh grass and daisies. How English and spring-like is that!

If you're not sure what this is all about, Julie B. Booth's threadborn blog will explain!

Wednesday 15 May 2013

A taste of Green

Spring has sprung here in the UK with an extraordinary suddenness and a profusion of blossom and young green growth everywhere you look. This year, after the cold weather of March and April, it has all come at once - two months compressed into two weeks.

Our garden in the spring seems to do green better than any other colour, so here is a taste of green before tomorrow's main post. It is a photograph of a lovely country plant, Jack-by-the-Hedge, a plant of soft and gentle habit which gives succour to the Orange Tip butterfly. Both are now increasingly hard to find with the effect of pesticides. I was so pleased to find in in our garden. I shall watch out for the butterflies.

Jack-by-the-Hedge in the shade
beside a fence in our garden

Sunday 12 May 2013

In or out of Focus

I recently came across an article via Anni Hunt's blog. Posted on, it says all sorts of things about focus - some unexpected.

Mostly though, it's a great comfort as it justifies beautifully all those hours spent playing.

You'll notice I don't say 'just playing'. It seems that rambling through thoughts and ideas and trying random things out as I do when I'm doing that thing I call play is just what ought to happen ... so that's all right then fact more than all right, a vital part of the process.

What a relief - and no more guilt!

The view left is of my work area after a play session. (Nothing was said about clearing up ...)

Saturday 11 May 2013

Pointillist Stitching

I've just had a lovely day with Chris Cook - a great teacher - on a Malmesbury group Embroiderers' Guild workshop.

We spent the day machine stitching what Chris called Pointillist surfaces - after George Seurat and Paul Signac. The idea was that we stitched and restitched and over-stitched with primary colours so that they blended and worked with one another to shimmer and even to create secondary colours when viewed from a distance.

Reflections in stitch
I worked from a photo of reflections I had taken on a boat trip in Thailand - with rich colours and strong contrast. I found it a most interesting technique, though I'm not sure I really got the colour mixing. But then perhaps, given my inspiration photo, maybe I didn't really want to ....

Reflections of a river boat taken from the water in Bangkok
The piece here is very much work in progress and needs finishing and developing ... but I can see that the machining technique will be very useful for the next big project I have in mind.

Friday 10 May 2013

Cotswold Stones again

I blogged in my post on 2nd April about my stitching of a sample in preparation for a further piece in my Geology Series, this time representing the gravels of the Cotswold Water Parks south of Cirencester.

Hand stitch sample
I've picked this up again in the last few days, keen to complete it before I begin some new and really different work.

I need thinking time for that and working further on this  has bought me that time as well as giving me the satisfaction of finishing off  an unfinished piece. I don't like having those hanging over me. They seem to cloud judgement.

I hand stitched further, playing with scale and colour over the silk painted ground ....

Cotswold Water Parks sample
Running stitch and machine quilting
on silk painted ground

Then today I experimented with free machining to provide contrast in scale and weight of stitch ....

There will be some changes to be made as the large piece develops, but I'm quite pleased with this as a sample.

Next, I will prepare and paint the large version and complete it to make a companion piece with the Geological Section work completed for the exhibition in Malmesbury last February.

I will take the piece with me when I next visit Scotland. I stitch on long journeys (my husband likes to drive!) and I always take some hand stitching to do when I go away - it's soothing and therapeutic and being away gives me time to think and work out ideas in a more peaceful way.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Stitching on paper

I've been so caught up recently with my circles sketchbook. I've felt a real need to complete it before I could focus on anything else - or even on developing some of the pages into more finished pieces which I really want to do.

There hasn't been so much as a sign of any stitch in my recent posts. For some reason which I don't quite understand, I have been especially reluctant to machine or hand stitch any of the pages, even though this was one of the things it was suggested we should do on the course.

Machine stitch on paper
Acrylic paint applied with a cut credit card
Finally, last evening it felt right and I sat down at my sewing machine for the first time for over a month. I did spirals and arcs, loops and circles and
here are some of the results.

The first is on scrumpled paper as Dionne had suggested. It was amazing how soft and fabric-like the paper became when I gently worked it before stitching.

Colours of image enhanced and changed in Photoshop
And then of course, I couldn't resist the temptation to play around with the colours in Adobe Photoshop. It never ceases to amaze me what a difference the colour change makes - in this case from warm to cool, from lively and vibrant to the acid green of spring....

Then I stitched into cartridge paper, spattered and dripped with ink ...

Paint-spattered and dripped background
ovals added with ink
.... and altered the colour balance again. This time I think it was especially effective as I felt the initial colour choice had been rather insipid (the photo here is more positive and concentrated than the original).

Colours intensified and hues changed in Photoshop

I've almost finished now ... and then it will be time to start on something new.....

Tuesday 7 May 2013


While browsing the internet recently (as I sometimes do on a wet afternoon), I discovered the work of graphic artist John Maeda - and what extraordinary images I found. 

He is a Japanese-American and, as well as being an artist, he is a computer scientist, leadership guru and academic. His work explores the area where all these fields merge. The interesting things about him for me are that he uses computer technology in his art, that his work is very graphic ..... and that there are circles to be seen in many forms!

Manongraph John Maeda
Simplicity and Complexity need each other?
He especially describes what he calls his Laws of Simplicity.  There seem to be a total of ten of these laws, many of which are more appropriate in a business context but two of them are really relevant to art. 

The first of these is Law 5 - Simplicity and complexity need each other - perhaps shown in the first example here. 

I find so often when I'm working that I need to balance an area with lots going on with another area of calm, to give the eye a rest.

And the second is Law 10 - Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful. 

These two pieces seem to illustrate this beautifully.

Tao John Maeda

For me, there is so much to think about in all this. If nothing else, the ideas link to something I've noticed about the artists I admire and like to look at: they are all simple and pared down in their approach.

I've blogged before about the work of Roanna Wells and of Donna Watson. The work of both these artists shows a (deceptive, I'm sure) simplicity. Donna is interestingly also half Japanese. 

There must be something there for me ....

Friday 3 May 2013

Blacks and Whites and Brights

This week, there has been more playing around with black and white and bright colours - and adding in a nod to circles and ovals ... with maybe a vague reference to mosaics with a future exhibition requirement in mind.

I think I've recently been trying to develop something I've unconsciously had in mind for sometime - the possibility of juxtaposing black and white and bright colours and working in stitch in a more graphic and abstract way. 

Though the colour reproduction is disappointing here, I feel  this is a step nearer to what I'm after and see this possibly as a large wall piece. The solid, dashed and dotted lines give an ordered contrast to the 'scribbled' colour in the tiles and there is a good interplay of shapes. 

Now I need to complete some small experimental tile shapes to work out the stitch lines and some possible ways to represent the blocks of colour.... interesting times.....