Gallery of past work

Monday, 24 December 2018

Happy Christmas!

This comes to wish Seasons Greatings to all who follow my blog in such surprising numbers, even when I only post intermittently.

For me, as for many, this year has been mixed. There has been much pleasure with grandchildren (and their parents!), holidays and a summer of wonderful weather. However, there has been worrying illness in the family which has kept me away from my work and sometimes from home for much of the Autumn.

Then the world has seemed to be an increasingly uncertain place. There are the mystifying and unpredictable goings-on across the Atlantic, and trouble and strife in so many places abroad. For us here in the UK, there is the seemingly impossible to solve conundrum of Brexit.

Despite this, I hope for all those who celebrate Christmas that it may be a happy one, however you choose to spend it. To all, I wish a safe, prosperous and happy New Year.

PS This year for my Christmas card, I needed to keep things very simple as time was short following family commitments. I drew this simple image with a cola pen and Liquitex sap green ink on white cartridge paper, photographed it, manipulated it in Photoshop Elements and then printed multiple copies using my Epson P600 printer.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Random mark making and tracing

Random marks made with a black graphite block (Derwent XL Graphite 6), imaged smudged, then selectively traced twice. Marks added with a fine black felt pen. Tracings then laid one over the other and repositioned.

Now cropped, top tracing repositioned and all turned through 90*.

Then cropped again and all turned through a further 180*. 

And it all came from this random sweep of the hand with a graphite block, a sheet of tracing paper and a black felt pen.    

Back home tomorrow ... and access to more art materials ... but with many lovely images of a Scottish autumn in the snow.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Stitching along a hedge

This is my current focused hand stitch piece - I always have one that I work on usually for relaxation in the evenings or on holiday (as now). It features a length of hedge near my home in Wiltshire. The colours across the whole piece represent the changing seasons.

This small section represents summer and the time of maximum growth.

This is proving surprisingly challenging. There is a need to maintain colour cohesion over the whole piece whilst at the same time staying true to the main theme of colour change.

Then there is the sense that growth climaxes through spring into early summer then diminishes towards winter when branches are largely bare. I’m finding this effect difficult to achieve whilst at the same time achieving a balanced piece overall.

So ... much may yet change. I’m keeping scissors and unpicker tool handy!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Monochrome hills

My last few posts have featured the beautiful landscape of Aberdeenshire. At times we have found a riot of autumnal colour; at others, a very early fall of snow that has muted the colours to near monochrome. As I’ve said before, we never come north here in winter so the latter has been a particular delight for us.

Today, the weather remains cold and there is still snow on the mountains and in the higher valleys of the Cairngorms. We went in search of this today up Gairnside to the north on a cloudy morning and found a great, cold emptiness that was beyond anything we’d expected. Under snow, the gently rounded mountains and moorland offered unique patterns and forms and their own particular sense of bleak remoteness that was beautiful but forbidding. It was easy to sense the battle for survival in the harsh conditions of winter.

We go home on Saturday to a very different landscape. In the densely populated south of England, even under snow, such forbidding remoteness is largely unknown. We are cosseted and live in a gentle landscape with neighbours close by and help easy to summon. When we hear that the snow gates on the A939 Cockbridge to Tomintoul are closed, we will understand more fully! 

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Wild and wintery weather

The last two or three days have seen a blast of cold air from the arctic and the disappearance of those mild sunny days and lovely autumn colours of my last two posts.

There was a hint of this in Aberdeen on Friday. After a brief shopping trip, we headed to the sea front to drive along the esplanade as we like to do. Looking east as we drove all seemed relatively peaceful if cold.

Then we stopped, parked and got out of the car hoping to walk a little along the sea front. Before that, we turned to look west at the outline of the city only and were met by a sudden blast of ice cold wind and sleet and these dramatic clouds. 

Yesterday we drove inland along the Dee Valley, heading for Braemar and beyond. It was cold and sunny and there was a very slight suggestion of something icy on our lawn. We should have guessed what was in store for us. As we drove, the snow gradually increased until in some places it was covering the road and the trees were weighed down with it. 

By the time we reached Braemar, the temperature was 0*C and roads were slippery. While this is not cold by the standard of many places, for Scotland at the end of October, it is exceptional. We are never here in the winter so for us this was a rare and beautiful treat. The town looked enchanting. 

We then drove a little way out of town and towards the Devil’s Elbow (a pass over the mountains). This had been closed earlier in the day but was now open and allowed us to see the snow covered mountains from higher up. Again, it was beautiful.

I have always wanted to see this area that I love so much covered in snow so this has been a real treat. The most extraordinary thing about what we saw (perhaps not shown to best advantage in these photos) is the fact that so many of the trees were still in autumn leaf.  This gave the slightly eerie feeling of being in two seasons at once - and beautiful colour combinations, usually not seen.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Reflections on autumn

When walking in the grounds of Crathes Castle west of Aberdeen yesterday afternoon, we came upon   these lovely reflections. The lake was mirror calm and the sun was shining. What pleasure it was!

Here a couple of rogue branches imposing themselves on my photo seem to add depth and interest. 

And here, the mirror was so perfect it is hard to separate reflection from reality. 

At the end of our walk, we left the lake to walk through the scots pine and  yellowing silver birch trees and along the feeder stream to the car park. Even here, despite the drop in light levels, the reflections were intriguing and beautiful. 

We always enjoy this time of year in Scotland. The brilliance of the colours and the hint of the coming weather changes seem so much more intense. (We’re forecast 2C and sleet showers on Saturday morning).  

We know why we live most of the time in England but we also know why we come here for a few weeks every year. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Autumn in Scotland

We’re up in Scotland for ten days enjoying the glorious autumn colours, as we usually are at the end of October for our last visit of the year. Today, we went to Crathes Castle near Banchory, a favourite haunt of ours. We walked in the grounds and visited the garden (more in another post) The colours at the property were wonderful as always.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Playing with sunflowers

Bloom, the recently started theme for my new group of stitchers (Brunel Broderers) has been giving me much to think about. It has been good to be prompted to think afresh and in a different direction. I have had many thoughts in mind but, sadly, I've had little chance to do anything except think. My much used PC with all its software and thousands of photographs was completely inaccessible for nearly 6 weeks due to a major malfunction (which also explains my recent blogging silence).

However, I am now back and able to access everything (what a relief!). I spent this afternoon reminding myself of where I was going and what I was thinking about before the cut off and re-exploring all the many photos of gardens and flowers that I took in August and September with Bloom in mind. I am now relieved to be able to work on them all.

So far, I’ve been attracted most to sunflowers - their strong colour (I do do colour!), their shape and structure and, above all, their sheer size. I began simply by overlaying images of two sunflower heads on top of one another, playing with the juxtaposition of the images and their relationship to one another.

I then used layer and crop or layer and cut again to isolate small sections of four slightly different images. I selected parts of the images and overlaid layers shapes one on another and altered colour and opacity. There is much to play with as can be seen here.

It always interests me to see how changing the colour in one element can so alter the whole effect.

 And how changing the focus to a different shape can seem so different.

Whilst some thought when beginning to develop new work is not a bad thing, for me there is always a strong urge to get on with things. This business has taught me two things. First of all, just how much my processis tied up with my photos and my ability to work on them. Secondly, how important it is to backup to an external drive so files can be accessed from elsewhere!

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Stitch and shape and not much else?

These little cards have been prepared for Swindon Open Studios next weekend, 22nd and 23rd September. As I posted here previously, I will have work on show and for sale with Great Western Embroiderers in Cricklade United Church Hall and will be manning my table both days, ready to talk about what I do. It will be a pleasure to see you if you live close enough to come.

They feature tiny abstract pieces (around 3 inches square) and are a different approach for me since they are simply impromptu experiments in stitch and cloth. There has been no preliminary photographing, planning through sketchbook work or forethought of any kind - and there is no conscious underlying imagery at play. I just went to my fabric stash, chose a small selection that appealed to me and selected threads in an appropriate palette.

Thus the pressure was off and I played. My main thoughts, I suppose, were with stitch (as both construction and decoration) and with shape, although there was some conscious use of texture and pattern. I also explored diagonals and intersections and the careful posititioning of stitch. 

The whole thing has been a very entertaining break for me, though it was surprisingly taxing to do with every decision to be made on the spot. Stitch in my abstract pieces is mainly for construction and in my more representational pieces is generally for decoration and the development of imagery. It is rarely both in the one piece ... something to take forward, perhaps?

Another thought (not a new one for me) was that more is often too much and simpler is better. I always have to remember that. 

So, nothing is ever done completely in isolation, whatever one may think!

*Full details of Swindon Open Studios and the other contributors is to be found on their website here. 

Friday, 14 September 2018

Brunel Broderers

I have recently been accepted by Brunel Broderers, a small group of textile artists and embroiderers who (currently) come from Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol.

The work of the group is very varied and there is much experimentation with members frequently pushing at the boundaries of what is usually considered to be embroidery. For the first time in a while, I feel excited at the textile challenges ahead.

I joined them recently for a small exhibition of  work at the West Country Quilt and Textiles Show at the University of the West of England, north of Bristol. Each member chose a few pieces of recent work that they wanted to display and we stewarded for the four days of the show.

It was a good beginning for me and I have been made to feel most welcome. I am looking forward to meeting regularly with the group and exhibiting in the area ... and I'm very much looking forward to the future!

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Swindon Open Studios

I will be taking part in Swindon Open Studios with Great Western Embroiderers this year.

My work will include much that I've posted here before plus cards and some small pieces such as  these, on photographs manipulated in Photoshop Elements, printed onto cotton and hand stitched  ...

and others similar, several of which are still to be finished!

We will be in Cricklade on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 September. Details (including opening times and address) are given in the poster in the side bar, right.

I will be manning my table throughout the two days, along with 6 other members of our group. For those living close enough, it would be a pleasure to see you.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Aftermath at Tate Britain

Recently, I met a friend in London for a visit Tate Britain to see their current Aftermath exhibition. This traced the developments in art in the wake of World War 1 and evoked powerfully the horrors of life in the trenches and the lasting effects of the conflict after it had ceased. It was a most challenging and thought-provoking day. There were so many heartrending images of suffering to view and many will stick long in the memory.

Unfortunately, however, my choice of images has been limited as photographs were not permitted. I've relied therefore on those shown here on the Tate Britain website.

The first painting below was by French artist Paul Jouve and was to be seen towards the start of the exhibition. An abandoned helmet became a poignant symbol of suffering and destruction for many artists caught up in the conflict. Here the sense of pointlessness is highlighted by the cherry blossom on the tree in the background - a poignant link to the normality of the past. In a similar vein was a painting by Sir William Orpen. Standing in front of both these paintings, the desolation and sense of loss were palpable. In both, the heartless destruction of everything was highlighted by the apparently sunny colour palette.  They each evoked strongly the silence and absence of all life once the fighting stopped.

Paul Jouve - Tombe d'un soldat serbe a Kenali 1917 (Grave of a Serbian soldier at Kenali 1917)

Sir William Orpen - A grave in a Trench 1917

I found another by Sir William Orpen in my searches after I returned home. It seemed to evoke especially strongly the utter devastation and futility and the undervaluing of life in the wake of the battles.

Sir William Orpen - Destruction: part of Zonnebeke 1918

There followed powerful evocations of both the terrible wounds incurred by many survivors of the trenches and the effects of the conflict on the women and children left at home where homes and lives were destroyed. 

Otto Dix - Prostitute and Disabled War Veteran. Two Victims of Capitalism 1923

Christopher Richard Wynne Nevison - Ypres After the First Bombardment 1916

After the war, many artists returned to prewar classicism (among them surprisingly to me was Picasso), seeking the comfort of the known. Yet others reflected on the utter pointlessness of the conquest. They called into question every aspect of society, seeking to destabilise conventional gender roles and social order. Out of this questioning arose Dadaism and Surrealism, represented in the exhibition by the work of Hannah Hoch and Max Ernst among others.

Hannah Hoch - Cut with the Kitchen Knife Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany (1919 - 20)

Max Ernst -Celebs 1921

A simple piece of sculpture by Wilhelm Lehmbruck made a particular impression on me.

Wilhelm Lehmbruck - The Fallen man 1915 -16

Lehmbruck was a German sculptor. This displayed so graphically that the horror and sense of pointlessness were felt equally keenly on both sides of the conflict.

The exhibition is on until 24 september. I highly recommend it, though it was a gruelling ride. We had booked our visit as part of a package which included lunch in the Rex Whistler restaurant. This provided an excellent meal and some much-needed light relief to the challenges of the exhibition.

I suspect that this is a formula we will repeat, though perhaps next time we will find more cheerful subject matter.