Gallery of past work

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Blogger app for iPad

As I'm about to be a blogger on the go while on holiday, I'm trying out the free Blogger app for my iPad. It does not have good reviews but I felt I should give it a try before paying for a different app.

So far so good! It's definitely easier to type in my message than it is when going into through Google and trying to do it on the Blogger site. Now, to try and upload a photo ...

Yes! Success! 

It's simple and VERY basic - but it's done the job, albeit with no frills. 

Does anyone know any better?

Monday, 27 July 2015

Playing with pixels, windows and bridges

I'm going to eastern Scotland and the Orkney Islands soon and I'm going to take print outs of some images that I've generated as a result of the Pixeladies classes. The weather forecast is not very summery and I'm sure there will be days of rain so some small experimental stitch projects and my drawing equipment will be vital for my sanity and enjoyment.

Today, having finished the Photoshop classes, I've played with a couple of favourite photos, experimenting with ways to use the techniques I've learnt. I can see that it's going to take a while before they are fully integrated into my practice. I need to find out how to use them in a way that looks unselfconscious and natural, rather than just too clever and that they're being used because I know how to use them.

First of all, there is a soft, subtle image generated from a photo of a broken window in a garden shed. I've adjusted the hues and distorted the image slightly. I think this will be fun to stitch, and I might just be able to use some of the delicious threads in the photo that follows.

I recently found myself buying a small selection of threads from Patricia Wood of Mulberry Silks. Her pure silk threads with their vivid colours are always irresistible and that luscious, rich bright pink was more so than most (albeit in very small doses!).

Last of all, there is an image generated from a favourite photo of a delightfully elegant footbridge taken last autumn in Pennsylvania USA, and previously shown here. Distortion and changes of colour have exploited the lines within the photo in a very different way from the original. 

I'm still trying to work out how best to stitch on the strong images I find myself drawn to produce. In these experiments, it will be fascinating to see how well stitch will sit within them. It will also be interesting to see just what type of stitch I decide to use. 

I am planning less rather than more ... but I'm not very good at restraining myself. 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Twirling, cloning and filtering

Absorbed as I am just now with the Pixeladies' second Photoshop course (which continues to be excellent), I've had no spare time or brain space for my own work - stitching or drawing.

Again then, I'm posting some of the images I've generated as we've covered the use of filters and distorting, cloning and spot healing images. These are the fun ones that may just provoke stitching activity, even if not in this form or colourway ...

I provide details of how the images were achieved for those who use Photoshop regularly and might be interested. First is an old fashioned straw baler in a field in Wiltshire with hue and saturation changed and the twirl filter applied ...

Then comes two versions of  old military flags in a church in Dorset with filters applied - fresco, cutout and sketch with graphic pen (this time with foreground and background set to black and white) ...

... and then using the same filters but with foreground and background set to green and yellow ...

Last of all is an image of sunflowers with cutout, fresco and dry brush ... 

... and then the same image to which polar coordinates was applied (polar to rectangular).

I did many other variations of each of these photos as I came to grips with the possibilities and it was just extraordinary how different each image could look with different effects applied - such amazing possibilities - Great Stuff!!

PS ... and I couldn't resist playing again with the colours on that last image. I kept wondering what it would look like in blue!

... Like a huge cascade of falling water?

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Pixeladies Course 2

Just before I went to France, I began the Pixeladies second Photoshop course. As before, it is excellent and I'm learning a great deal. The main thing we have been working on so far this time has been the use of the selection tool in order to work on sections of an image. This like the use of layers is a revelation to me.

After completing the exercise set on the course to learn the techniques, I took a favourite photograph of a (dead) tree, selected parts of it and then dropped in different vivid and contrasting background colours in a series of experiments.

Initial selection and duplication of the image

Image with vivid colour choice

Image further simplified and with gentle colour choice

I know this is only the beginning. I'm really beginning to realise fully the enormous power of Photoshop as a design tool and the speed with which one can achieve changes to images. It's really most exciting ... and I'm only half way through this course!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Twinning in France and subtle hints of violet

I mentioned in yesterday's post that we had been to France recently visiting the Champagne area and then the region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais for a twinning get together. I include here a small selection of the photographs I took on the trip, all of which have hints of violet (or purple). I hope they also give an idea of the pleasure of our visit.

First of all from the Champagne region, there are rows of newly planted vines with their plastic sheaths and supporting poles, conveniently purple and and with suggestions of violet.

Two glasses of Champagne awaiting us at our B&B. We sat on those purple chairs in the warm twilight and drank overlooking the vineyard where the grapes were grown - such pleasure. 

I love doorways, archways and entrances and think the French do them with particular aplomb so here are two from just south of Reims, first of all on the way to an excellent lunch, a door with purple ironwork and house number plate ...

... and then a cobbled entrance through an archway, purple in the shade. 

We then went north to Nord-Pas-de-Calais for the twinning. During our visit, our hosts and very good friends, Jean-Pierre and Annick, took us to Amiens Cathedral. A stunning building of immense proportions, it is said to be so large that Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris would fit inside in all dimensions with much room to spare. It was truly beautiful and I'm only sorry that my photos do not do proper justice to its size and beauty. 

The photo of this tomb is enhanced by the light shining on it and on the floor from the lovely stained glass window over my shoulder. 

We then walked round the city and managed to avoid the rain (the weather this time was not good) and found this pretty street of painted buildings. 

To finish, I include two photos of the twinning gathering held for Bastille Day. The dates of the exchange visit this time were chosen to coincide with France's national day. Those attending included our group and over 150 residents of the French host village and their families. The day consisted of a long French lunch (always good) followed by much further conversation, and then games and activities and a great deal of fun. 

Sometime on a previous visit, the members of our French host village were initiated into the delights of the Tug of War. It is now an integral part of such gatherings, for young and old, and hotly competitive! 

For those who aren't familiar with the idea of twinning, Wikipedia defines the idea as follows (I paraphrase): Twin towns and villages are formed by mutual legal and social agreement. The modern concept was conceived in 1947 after the Second World War to foster international friendship and understanding.  

This official summary of legal arrangements and aims gives little idea of the pleasure, insight and above all comradeship that twinning can bring. For us, belonging has meant new friendships formed (in both villages), enriched understanding of a subtlely different culture, and great fun - and the visits have done wonders for our French!

I hope I haven't strained the colour link too far this time, but as I took photos on our trip, plenty of violet possibilities presented themselves. I felt I could justifiably kill two birds with one stone.

As a footnote for those who have found the fixation with violet and purple confusing, I should explain. As well as attempting to represent the pleasures of twinning, the photos are my contribution to Roy G Biv, a monthly blog hop based on the colours of the rainbow organised by Julie B Booth and Jennifer Coyne Qudeen. Further details can be found here and here.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Champagne and a monoculture extraordinaire

We have just been in France for a quick visit to the Champagne region to buy some of the golden liquor and afterwards for a long weekend of Twinning ending on the French national holiday of Bastille Day. A great time was had with the Twinning, but first photos of the acres of green vines that cover every square inch of the Champagne area landscape.

The vines are to be found in every field without interruption, down people's driveways in rows, in small clumps on unexpectedly tiny triangles of land at the side of the road and even occasionally in growers' gardens. The occasional brown areas that are to be seen do not grow other crops; they are areas of replanting for the future. It is an amazing monoculture, rivalled only perhaps by the rice paddies of China and all contained within the small region of France mostly to the south of Reims. Extraordinary!

We visited the village of Cramant to buy Champagne from producer Eric IsselĂ©e - a pleasure discovered several years ago on a more prolonged visit to the region. 

The golden liquor itself comes in several manifestations but we bought the Grand Cru which we will be enjoying on special occasions for some time to come.

This post or something similar was supposed to appear on my blog a few days ago but I seemed unable to upload the photos to my iPad so we are now home with our precious load and with fond memories of France and the Twinning - of which much more later.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Graphite pencils and a drawing

While I was in Devon recently, I experimented with some new graphite pencils and sticks - of various thicknesses, intensities and lengths.

I sat on the beach and completed this quick drawing showing the fissures in the large slabs of slate all around me.

I used the pencils and the sticks on their points, on their ends and on their sides ... more mark-making which I will pursue further when I'm home for a prolonged period later in the summer.

I'm afraid all those plans to make a mark a day, every day, have fallen by the wayside - too many other commitments, but I do miss it. I will start again when my head is clear of all the other stuff of family life. How do people manage to be more single-minded?

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Devon in June

My husband and I had a recent trip to North Devon - to a favourite hotel perched right on the cliffs and looking toward the island of Lundy. It is a beautiful spot in warm sunny weather and a thrilling and exhilarating place in a storm.

Over the years, we've experienced both, but this time we were lucky. The weather was benign - warm and sunny for most of our visit. We enjoyed time on the beach, gentle walks and (tide permitting) body-surfing in the sea for me.

As usual, I took my camera and captured some memory gems a few of which I show below.

From a distance on a warm afternoon, I saw this family down on the beach enjoying a rock pool - and giving me lovely reflections.

On a cloudier afternoon, we walked along the headland and back to our hotel and found this riot of green in a quiet valley behind our hotel.

All around Woolacombe there are dry stone walls built from the local slate. The makers of these walls dreamt up amazing patterns by putting the slates at so many angles ... and, no doubt, time and gravity have enhanced their efforts. They were irresistible and I took a great number of photos. Each pattern seemed more extraordinary than the last. 

One the last day, we had a rather cloudy picnic on the headland at high tide and watched the waves breaking beneath us. I took over forty photos as I tried to catch the waves as they broke. I must perfect my use of Burst Shooting!

This was a lovely peaceful time - with some delicious pampering. Each time we visit, we promise ourselves we will be active and walk lengths of the coastline but each time, if the weather allows, we sit on the beach, swim and body surf in the sea, enjoy the peace of the views ... and eat far too much! 

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Fresh Air

Last week, with stitching friends, I visited Fresh Air, a fascinating collection of sculpture in the beautiful gardens of The Old Rectory in Quenington, Gloucestershire. Organised by the Quenington Sculpture Trust, it is a biennial exhibition of mostly professional work.

The exhibits included works provided expressly for this exhibition alongside a small number of pieces which form the permanent collection of David and Lucy Abel Smith, the current owners of the Rectory. It was a fascinating and varied exhibition encompassing work which ranged from the sublime to the humourous, but all of it thought-provoking. I've included here a very small selection of the many works that spoke especially to me, for one reason or another.

This one, Flight by Matt Durran in glass on steel rods, as its name suggests, represented airplanes and nestled enticingly in amongst the delphiniums. Like many of the other pieces in the exhibition, it seemed to echo the plant forms of the garden, the plane shapes for me strongly referencing leaves.

This, Chain Stitch by Helen Pailing, was one of very few obvious nods to stitch and embroidery. Made of land coil pipe and orange rope, it was an amusing investigation of giant 3 D chain stitches draped over a tree. 

 I particularly enjoyed 15 Degrees by Chris Eckersley. From every direction it was striking and the angles of the powder-coated steel plates were fascinatingly unexpected. Was it representing pages in a book, exploring the possible abstract interplay of angles, or some other thing altogether? Whatever was going on in the mind of the sculptor, it drew the eye from a long distance away and, close-up, provided fascinating variations in the angles of the plates.

I found something very different indeed hiding in a cool summerhouse in the garden (very welcome - it was an extremely hot day). This installation, Precyzyjna Sztuka by Polish duo Radek Rudniki and Jakub Hader consisted of lights projected onto sections of what appeared to be broken breeze blocks that had been randomly painted with white paint and then piled on top of one another. In complete darkness except for the projected lights and accompanied by specially composed music by Rudniki, it was most effective and I stood and contemplated the subtle interplay of light and music for some time. Since the interest in this work consisted mainly in the changing light and the music, this photo really does not capture its true essence but I include it as it has stuck resolutely in my memory. It is interesting that the exhibition catalogue doesn't feature a photograph!

Another favourite of mine was Upside Down Again by Norwegian artist Hilde A Danielsen. This was a beautiful work constructed of Nordic pinewood and metal fasteners. It consisted of a long series of wooden rectangles each slightly off set from the one before to give a beautiful and satisfyingly sinuous external form. I so enjoyed both the external shape and the structure when viewed from within that I've included photos of both.

There were so many more that I could have included in this selection, but I finish with something very different - a piece of colourful and eye-catching yarn wrapping. Entitled Summer Collection by Julie Ball, it was a collaborative project between the artist, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Cheltenham, and young people working with NADFAS. I include this in a further nod to textiles and stitch but mostly because I so enjoyed the obvious pleasure and enjoyment of all those who participated and the naive nature of much of the knitting and joinings - so very different from all the professionally executed work in the exhibition.

This exhibition sadly closes tomorrow but I would strongly recommend keeping an eye open for the next one in the same venue in two years' time. I will certainly be going.

I feel I have been away from my blog for oh so long - a recent holiday in Devon, a trip to Surrey to help our son and his family move house, a short visit to our daughter and her family and the Pixeladies PSE1 course have all been taking up my time ... and now there is the Wimbledon Tennis and then another trip away to visit friends in France at the end of next week.

Lovely though all this is, I'm beginning to suffer blogging and stitching withdrawal symptoms. I haven't visited my favourite blogs for so long I can't imagine what everyone has been doing and I have scarcely sewn a stitch for weeks which always makes me feel restless. I hope there will be a little time this week to catch up ...