Gallery of past work

Friday 29 November 2013

More card play

Those wandering lines in a simple landscape have caught up with me again - this time on Christmas cards. I seem to be compelled to make lines wander whatever I do just now. It seems almost beyond my control.

Although I've added a star, I'm not sure how Christmasy these cards are, but maybe it's helped by the later colour choices. The family censor seems to like them and they've got his vote so they're an accepted choice for this year and I making a batch.

However, they don't seem to me like the end of the road for this year and I may well get bored with repeating the same design many, many times so there may be others to follow. I will blog them if they seem like they might be interesting.

How did I make them? I printed the papers with acrylic paint, a roller and a print block, then tore and stuck the shapes. A simple punch cutter gave me the star, I added the greeting and here they are ... very simple but perhaps that's their appeal ... for now ...

Monday 25 November 2013

Never dismiss a doodle

Following on from the post on Outsider Art from two days ago, I've been thinking.

So much of the work we saw seemed to be about the recording of a stream of internal thoughts as they poured onto the page. The techniques the artists used reminded me so much of what I do when I'm doodling - just working idly in an unpressured way and enjoying myself.

I've posted several times about doodles and, as regular readers of this blog will know, I doodle regularly in stitch. The word is not ideal and seems trivial and unconsidered but I don't have another word for what I saw happening as these untutored artists worked. They seemed to be finding the same great feeling of freedom I find in doing them.

Judging from the programme on BBC 4, doodling can lead to extraordinary places if you are sufficiently uninhibited and willing to go with your feelings.

So now, I made a rule for myself - never dismiss a doodle or idle playing, in pencil or stitch. You never know where it may lead ...

Another thought occurs to me - if you can doodle on paper or with stitch, can you doodle on a PC? I've been playing again (another word not to be dismissed!) and these are the results.

... some doodling over black and white work done a while back (itself a doodle) and playing in Photoshop...

... more Photoshop play on some cut outs ...

... inverted and then edges found ...

and the with polar co-ordinates applied ...

So, are these doodles? I guess it all depends on how you define a doodle. That sets me thinking still more ...

Saturday 23 November 2013

Outsider Art

Yesterday I watched a wonderful programme on Outsider Art with Allan Yentob on the BBC 4 arts channel. This was a whole new idea to me. All the artists featured have had little or no contact with the mainstream art world and are largely untutored. Many have psychiatric problems and began to work in art as therapy. The result, judging from this programme, is amazingly spontaneous and uninhibited - all of it extraordinary, both in its inspiration and its execution.

Getting access to images from the programme was not easy but I've included here a photo of a piece by a Romanian outsider artist Ionel Talpazan whose art is an attempt to make sense of an encounter as a child with what he thinks was a UFO ...

... and this extraordinarily detailed drawing by Johann Garber who lives at Gugging in Austria, which is home to 14 psychiatric patients  ...

Much, much more was shown in the programme - all of it amazing - and some disturbing - but if you can't access the BBC channel, much is to be found at the Henry Boxer Gallery and on the website - and more still from Art Brut and Outsider Art at

... including this painting by Mark Ashton Vey who paints trees in extraordinary colours - I couldn't resist all that exuberant colour ...

All of these artists are largely self-taught and their work seems to pour from them in profusion - incredible, inspiring and to me, much of the work resembled doodling ... I'll think about that  ...

Tuesday 19 November 2013

On trying to make art that sings

"To make art is to sing with the human voice. To do this you must first learn that the only voice you need is the voice you already have". 

David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear

I follow avidly the work of Fiona Dempster on her beautiful blog Paper Ponderings. She describes herself as a book and calligraphic artist but her work also includes wonderful prints which seem to demonstrate all the things I would so like to be able to do in my own work. It is the (deceptive, I'm sure) simplicity of her work that particularly attracts me, together with the stunningly controlled execution. 

Every Thursday, she posts a quote that focuses on some aspect of creativity and the creative life. This week, she posted the quote above, of which I have only taken a small part. I did this because I felt that the comments she made herself in response spoke to me even more strongly.

She said: In different ways and in different places, you come across the idea that your voice or your making is precious and special because nobody else in the whole entire world is going to make what you make, in the way that you make it, with the dreams you have dreamt of it, with what you bring to it, with the spirit you imbue in it and the experiences that have wrought it. Nobody else can make your work and that is the gift you bring to the world.

What wonderful, encouraging thoughts and what it says about her own conviction is so inspiring. I will remember it when I seem especially to be struggling and hope perhaps that it will bring me comfort. 

My problem especially is that I feel I have yet to find anything that I can call my voice (though I would so much like to do so) and can only play on in the hope that something good and true develops ... but perhaps that is the case for most people. Finding oneself in an artistic way takes may years of hard work and, I hope, lasts a lifetime.

Between the Lines
Hand stitch on hand-dyed scrim
I don't know whether the small piece above sings or not but it's a favourite piece made a while back so I bring it to you as a part of the long work in progress. 

Sunday 17 November 2013

Playing with cards for Christmas

I've posted before about making my own Christmas cards. I block print, stitch, transfer dye, paint and manipulate fabric, monoprint or paper fold as takes my fancy. I've been doing these little cards for 15 years or so now and I know our friends and relations appreciate receiving them (or those who don't say nothing ...).

I must admit though, it gets harder and harder every year to think of something new. Still, I enjoy the playing and thinking but many of my thoughts are just not practical for producing over 100 in a couple of weeks.

Everything has to be done in a production line, completely by hand and card by card - without a press for printing or any other aids and this really cramps my style. Any tips or hints on short cuts would be gratefully received!

In the last few days, I've been trying out a few ideas and some of these are posted here. I've tried them in various layouts, some more successful than others ...

First of all, I played with some small commercial print blocks in my stash that suggest perhaps holly and mistletoe.

While I try things out, I've printed with some of the Ranger Distress Ink pads to give colour. These are produced by Tim Holtz in the USA in a range of 36 good muted colours. They seem mostly to be available in crafting shops here in the UK and give very quick, un-messy results.

Then I've experimented with printing up my own repeating papers for paper folding. Too complicated, these more ornate and fanciful ideas often end up as individual cards to be given to special people only.

These last two are indeed too time-consuming and I think there is still quite a way to go on the overall design - though I rather like the simplicity of them all.

Next I'll cut one of two print blocks of my own and try printing them on painted grounds, lightly washed with colour. I'll also try out some other, more textured papers.

Monday 11 November 2013

Black and white and framed

A small piece - on the way to a much larger one - which resulted from a recent workshop in Marlborough.

No time recently for concentrated thinking and working time. Much too busy today helping my local art group (Cirencester Art Society) hang their exhibition. This small piece - 10" x 10" features in it.

And then it'll be Christmas and card making and present buying and a long list of other stuff I know I should be doing.

I feel really impatient for some undirected creative playing time ....

Friday 8 November 2013

Colours in Aberdeenshire

I seem to have been away from my blog for ages. Busy times since I returned from Scotland have meant that I've only just downloaded my photos and thought what I wanted to post.

The silver birch, larch and beech were wonderfully rich in the soft northern light so I've chosen photos of them, mostly taken in our favourite and often-visited valley - Glen Tanar.

This year the acid colours of the larches and the rich ochres and browns of the beaches seemed especially pronounced ...

Then, there was the extraordinary pinky red of an ornamental rowan tree with its pale salmon coloured berries ...

On our way back to our cottage, we diverted to the pretty town of Ballater on the River Dee - to collect a consignment of black pudding (deliciously wicked ...) from the excellent butcher - and saw more strong rich yellows by the river ...

And lastly, there were the deep maroons and russets and the pale pinky-biege seed heads of the Rose Bay Willowherb in the ditches and waste ground where little else seems to grow ...

The weather was cold for much of our visit and hinting at winter. If you look closely at the mountain in the background of the last photo you can see snow ... definitely time to come south and hunker down with the heating switched on - more stitching and blogging and visiting my favourite sites - lots to catch up on there ...