Gallery of past work

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Happy Christmas

Greetings to all who follow my blog regularly and to those who visit only occasionally. It is always a pleasure and a source of amazement that you seek me out from all corners of the world. What an extraordinary institution blogging is.

This year, I'm posting a series of winter photographs of Scotland to bring good wishes. My husband and I took them around Braemar during a visit to Aberdeenshire at the end of October 2018 during two days of crisp winter weather following a freak early snowfall.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse of the homeland of my husband's family in the Dee Valley west of Aberdeen. The cottage we stay in has been lived in full time by members of his family or, more recently, has been at the heart of holidays for us all for almost 100 years.

It is a welcome focus in a world where we move around and live apart from one another most of the time. Over the 46 years of our marriage, we have spent so much happy family time here, with our children and grand children and with friends, swimming in rivers, walking, talking and climbing mountains, exploring the many castles and the history of the area. We have many traditional places that have to be visited each time we go. The area is part of the fabric of our lives.

Yet, although we visit several times each year between March and early November, till this visit, I had never seen it covered in a blanket of snow. It was a new pleasure for me.

My husband and I created these cards together. Working in this way has become traditional for us at Christmas. We both took photographs during our visit and chose three each for the cards. They were then adjusted slightly in Photoshop (I couldn't restrain myself), printed out and mounted with a greeting.

The photos we included range from bright and sunny to cloudy, bleak and moody and perhaps even threatening. I'm not sure which I prefer or which sticks most in my mind as I write. Each gives a particular flavour of the place. The small selection is, perhaps, a sample of what makes this area so special to us.

I hope that you spend Christmas and the New Year in whatever way you choose, with family, friends or alone, and that it brings you joy and companionship if you want it.

Good wishes and thanks to you all.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Colorising green

Onto the pure, stark, manipulated, black and white images shown here, I've put colour using the colorise function on hue/saturation in Photoshop Elements. When applied to black and white images, it is very useful in producing pure, uncomplicated colour. I use it quite often when I'm experimenting.

In this case I've added a vivid, acid green.

The results with their limited colour palette, take me back almost to the less abstracted, more complex images stitched for the Gardens Gallery in Cheltenham. In other words, by reintroducing colour, I've now gone very nearly full-circle - but with the colour simplified and abstracted as the images themselves have been.

This feels right, everything stripped bare of detail so that the simple images tell the story.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Tricks of light

The cut out trees mentioned a couple of posts ago held up in bright sunlight against a cream paper background produced more extraordinary photographs that may lead nowhere but have given me pleasure.

And they now sit in my work journal with the thoughts they’ve sparked so perhaps they’ll lead somewhere after all. 

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Things left over

While making recent Chenonceau pieces, I produced unexpected ‘ghost’ versions of the images. These came from the backing papers which were left over after the process of printing onto fabric for stitching and the cutting out and were then found in a random curled up heap to be thrown away. Fortunately, I stretched these out before they went in the bin and realised their possibilities.

I had cut out the images together with their stiffer backing papers to make the cutting easier. Sometimes this had happened while the fabric was still stuck to the carrier papers for going through the printer and sometimes once the images had been ironed on to Bondaweb.

This produced papers of different weights which I overlaid and glued onto black paper. I played also with which papers to use and how they should be layered.

Fine Bondaweb backing paper shapes 

Bondaweb backing paper and heavier paper carrier for printing 

I’m left enjoying the unexpected results of using up leftovers and am now adding the effects produced to the set of ideas currently playing in my mind. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Going back to black

The developments on the new work linked to my visit in the summer to the chateau and gardens at Chenonceau in France have gathered pace this week.

I have been manipulating further the rose tree images I photographed in the garden of Catherine de Medici who lived in the chateau in the 1560s. I have returned to my enjoyment of the contrast produced by black on white and distorted the images further.

I printed out onto paper the five rose tree images that were previously used in the long piece shown here. I then cut out each one and held them in several different positions to explore the posibilities of the shadows they cast. I made use of some sunny weather and the excellent light in our conservatory and set about taking a variety of photographs.The distortions were developed through photographs of the shadows. They were then further manipulated in Photoshop as usual.  

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Through the window

I’m collecting photographs of unusual views through windows, some with reflections, as I begin to develop some new work.

At this stage, subject matter is not important. I’m looking for images where intersections, meeting points, shape and line offer the possibility of abstraction and where objects are placed interestingly off-centre. While on holiday in the last few days, I’ve found shapes and patterns formed by doorways and window frames, fence posts, field boundaries and interwoven lines of barbed wire down a wall at the Prison Museum in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire.

In this case, each photo was taken from the inside of the building looking out. Looking in detail at the structure of windows and buildings from the outside would provide another interesting perspective. I’ve taken this approach on modern buildings in the past. Perhaps this time I might look at buildings with more history. 

Friday, 20 September 2019

A wood and standing stones

Up here in Aberdeenshire for the third visit of the year, on a wet Wednesday, we drove north to Peterhead on the coast and then west to Aikey Brae. This is a small stone circle at the top of Parkhouse Hill just off the B9029 south of Old Deer.

It is reached through a densely wooded copse of pine trees and on a windless day was a place of extraordinary stillness and quiet. I paused several times to take photographs and the only sound I could hear was of fine rain dripping very occasionally through the pine trees.

The trees were packed tightly together in rows to form a dense canopy which shut out much of the light, preventing the growth of any underbrush on the forest floor. This resulted in a pleasing restricted colour palette of coppery browns, umber and acid green lichen.

The stone circle on the top of its hill is in a quiet and rural location and it was particularly atmospheric in the dank and misty afternoon light. It is a recumbent stone circle (i.e. its largest stone is lying down) and is described as ‘the most original, complete and “unimproved” stone circle in northern Aberdeenshire’.  It was built by a farming community some 4,000 years ago, probably to chart the passing of the seasons by plotting the lunar cycle.

In the drizzle, and with the stone damp and covered in lichen, it was easy to imagine that very different past.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

In Bloom in Cheltenham

The Brunel Broderers’ exhibition is now over and work has been taken down. Sadly, we were only at this excellent, well-visited gallery for a week.

Three of my pieces are shown below as they were hung in the gallery.

The work was derived following my currently preferred process. I manipulated the photos shown in previous posts using Photoshop Elements and printed the resulting images onto light cotton before stitching.

This time, for the main piece one metre long, I added in an extra step as I wanted to apply the images to a cotton backing before stitching to give more texture. I chose to use a length from an old white damask table cloth of my mother’s which was too badly stained for use. I applied each of the printed images to Bondaweb and cut out each one carefully before applying it to the cloth. This seemed to give more life to the piece as well as being the only practical way to get all five images onto the cloth.

I then stitched with the chosen restricted palette to develop the imagery of the piece. I used French knots and satin stitch in the main and stretched it around a shallow artist’s canvas.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Chenonceau Gardens

Speedy progress is being made towards completion of my work for Brunel Broderer's exhibition at the Gardens Gallery, Cheltenham, in early September - which is just as well as the date for submission is fast approaching!

As explained in a previous post, my main piece explores the imagery found in Catherine de Medici's garden at Chenonceau in France's Loire region. The work is a metre long and develops studies of small sections of the planting in the Chateau's formal gardens.  Below are two of these studies, which have evolved from photographs taken during my visit in July.

In developing this work, the first thing that intrigued me was the height difference in the garden between the standard rose trees planted at intervals along the borders and the smaller plants beneath. The planting seemed to symbolise the wealth and social class differences between Catherine de Medici as wife of Henry II (and therefore Queen of France) and her subjects.

The colour imagery in the garden and in my pieces tells a far more complex and dark tale with its planting in black (or near-black), and white flowers with acid green foliage. Catherine is known as the Black Queen or sometimes the Black Widow and the inclusion of the colour in the garden marks at its simplest level her life after the king's death when she wore black trimmed with white as a sign of mourning everyday until her own death in 1589.

From Google archive

However, as well as its association with death and grief, black is said to symbolise power and authority. Although largely shunned by her husband in his lifetime, Catherine had considerable power and influence after his death which she exercised ruthlessly as the mother of his sons. She has been described as probably the most powerful woman in 16th century Europe as she fought for the rights of her sons to govern.

Black can suggest evil and cruelty and throughout this time, Catherine is known to have been callous and at times brutal. In her later years, she was linked with the excessive persecution of the Calvinist Protestants (or Huguenots) and was blamed, perhaps wrongly, for the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572 in which thousands of people lost their lives.

Black, being the absence of colour, is sometimes associated with mystery and intrigue. Catherine was known also as the 'Sinister Queen' as she was supposed to have an interest in the occult and there was the suggestion of witchcraft. There is much mystery behind the true nature of her involvement.

The shadowed and flipped repetitions of the rose trees and their under-planting in my pieces are intended to suggest this mystery and to hint at the many deaths that may have resulted from her ruthlessness.

Although I was aware of these sinister undercurrents as I walked around the garden, strangely the overwhelming feeling that I was left with after my visit was of calm and order rather than horror and darkness. Perhaps I was reacting only to the garden on a hot summer's day with its orderly plants and unusual colour palette.

Odd though that one woman's tangled and difficult life and its aftermath should have produced such mixed feelings. I hope that my pieces hint at this ambivalence.

* Details of the exhibition are given in the sidebar of this blog.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Catherine de Medici and black and white

I may not have posted much this summer but I have been busy stitching and holidaying - and holidays set me off working in a surprising way. 

During a visit to France in early July, we visited the Chateau at Chenonceau in the Loire Valley region. This extraordinary building, surrounded almost completely by a moat, is in fact on the banks of the River Cher, a tributary of the Loire and has a unique history.

Known as the Chateau des Dames because of its association with a series of powerful women (often the wives of kings) from the 16th century onwards, it is a beautiful and surprisingly intimate chateau with an arched gallery which completely crosses the river.

In the mid 1500s, it was presided over by Catherine de Medici, wife of Henry II of France, and, in his life-time, by his mistress and favourite, Diane de Poitiers, both of whom made alterations and improvements to the original structure. They both also initated work on formal gardens on the banks of the river either side of the chateau.

It was these two features that caught my eye, particularly with Brunel Broderers' upcoming Bloom exhibition in mind, but I was especially amused by the fact that the mistress's garden was several times the size of that regarded as belonging to the wife! After the king's death, Catherine de Medici didn't hesitate to bannish his mistress and regain control of the whole property.

I found the simple structure of Catherine's garden delightful. At the time of our visit, it was planted out with a very restricted colour palette. Black (or as near black as is possible) and white-flowered bedding plants were laid out along with acid or blue-green foliage between the permanent standard rose bushes. I found the height difference fascinating and the predominantly black and white colour scheme calming and original.

The colour palette was chosen to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Catherine de Medici's birth in 1519. She is known as the Black Queen, partly because of her habit of wearing black throughout her life after her husband's death but also, perhaps, referencing her (disputed) reputation as a harsh and manipulative queen.

Visiting this garden diverted me from my original thoughts for Bloom onto a much more rewarding and interesting path. I fortunately took many photographs. These have formed the basis of a small series of work exploring shape and the imagery of the height difference and the colour palette.

More will follow soon.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Work in Bloom in Cheltenham

The work to be seen in The Gardens Gallery in Cheltenham shows the wide variety of approaches and outcomes developed by the members of Brunel Broderers.

Carla Mines is particularly concerned in her work with issues of pollution and the environment. She has chosen to focus on the effects caused by microscopic creatures as they multiply at a furious rate to produce the extaordinary surge of growth that is described as a bloom.

She has used machine stitch on disolvable fabric to describe the skeletons of those tiny creatures that live in their billions in water across the world. Shown below is a small length of her piece, ready to be dissolved.

Liz Harding has developed work using striking colour to explore growth in gardens and has looked at flowers from unusual persopectives.

Carolyn Sibbald's small folded books and structures incorporating delicate stitch provide a
fascinating miniaturised perspective. These pieces are no more than 3 inches tall.

Linda has revisited her favourite haunt of Marrekesh and based her work on traditional flower motifs found in buildings.

Corinne Renow-Clarke's work looks afresh at plants we bring close to home in a series of small richly coloured turned-edge appliqués.

And I, finally, have pursued further my interest in repeating pattern and form in landscape and the use of photographs to develop imagery, in this case used representationally.

I was struck on a recent trip to the Loire Valley in France by the beautiful garden of Catherine de Medici found at Chenonceau and have developed a small series of pieces from photographs taken in the garden (further explanation to follow in future posts). These explore aspects of the early history of the chateau.

Details of the exhibition can be found in the sidebar of this blog.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Brunel Broderers in Bloom in Cheltenham

I will have new work in this exhibition with Brunel Broderers at the Gardens Gallery, Cheltenham, from Wednesday 4th to Tuesday 10th September. Our theme has been growth and flowering and gardens under the title Bloom.

As always, members have approached the subject each from their own perspective. Further glimpses of our work can be found on our blog at - and in subsequent posts here.

The Gardens Gallery is an excellent community venue situated in Cheltenham's Montpellier Gardens. The building was built in 1900 as a companion to the nearby bandstand where summer concerts are still held regularly at weekends. It was extensively refurbished and repurposed in 2006 -7 thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Cheltenham Borough Council. 

Car parking and a café can be found close by. We will be stewarding on a rota throughout the exhibition - and very much hope to see visitors a-plenty! 

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Poppy drawings

Following our recent visits to various gardens here in Aberdeenshire, I spent a miserable, grey and occasionally drizzly afternoon (that wonderfully expressive word dreich in the local dialect) drawing poppies in preparation for some new work. I annoyingly had only a pencil, sharpie pen and some oil pastels at my disposal, having left my watercolours at home.