Sunday, 2 July 2017

butterflies and bracken at Birtley

Four lovely ladies came along yesterday for a sunny art day on the beautiful Birtley Estate. The sun shone, and the woods were full of butterflies. Fiona told me that the small brown ones we saw everywhere are called 'gatekeepers' because you find them around field gates. there must be an interesting origin to that name- maybe they congregated there because the cattle trod the mud down and water collected? One of the nice things about meeting new people is the fascinating things you learn.

They all took to monoprinting straight away and were soon trying out their own ideas. the day went so fast that I didn't have time to take many photos.

Fiona creating a misty landscape print.

Clare made some stunning prints using bracken, which she is going to frame for her summerhouse.

We all enjoyed a very inspiring day!

Saturday, 24 June 2017

an elegant tern

Other people's hobbies always seem a trifle mad if you don't share their passion. Why on earth would anybody sit fishing under a wet tarpaulin for hours, and then throw the fish back in? Or build model planes you can't fly in?  Or (like me) buy a lot of fabric, cut it into little squares and sew them all back together?

Last week I went to paint with friends at a lovely coastal nature reserve, and I was surprised to find that not only could I not get into the car park, but I ended up leaving the car about a mile up the road, perilously perched on the verge. It was a beautiful day for a walk, though, so that wasn't a problem.

When I arrived at the shore I discovered the reason for all the crowds- LOTS of twitchers! Apparently they were all watching a single 'elegant tern' who should have been in California but was snuggling up to one of our common old British terns with a view to creating a nest full of not-so-elegant babies!

The nature reserve warden said that men (and they were 99 percent men) had come from as far away as Glasgow for that elusive 'tick'.

What an opportunity for a fun painting, though!

We didn't see the elegant tern, but I hope it has a happy time on the British foreshore. It seems a shame to treat it just as a statistic, though, rather than enjoying the beautiful weather and atmosphere of the place.

Monday, 5 June 2017

thinking about drawing

For me, drawing is a kind of meditation, and every new drawing is a journey of discovery. This week at the life drawing session I found myself thinking about the sensuality of making marks on textured paper, and the joy of making varied marks in response to what you see, trying to capture movement and gesture.

Drawing on brown or coloured paper means you can show the lights and the darks of the subject.

Sometimes its good to isolate part of a drawing, or turn it upside down. These marks could be a landscape, or something completely abstract,

or part of this lady's ear.

Three minutes of mark-making:

Make this quick drawing of a wonderful dynamic model.

I know its just my preference, but I think one thing that stifles creativity is the dead hand of a neat box of pencils (or any other medium), all arranged in colour order, so you are scared to actually disturb them. Here are my favourite pastels/conte crayons:

The best thing about them is the element of surprise, not knowing until you make a mark if its going to be grey or bright blue or purple, and then letting the rest of the drawing take off from there.

I'm looking forward to making some 'surprising lines' at the next art day at the Birtley estate, drawing and monoprinting in the woods.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

new season's art days at the barn

I'm getting excited about this summer's art workshop days at the beautiful Birtley Estate in Surrey! I'll be leading small groups of up to six participants, enjoying the peaceful woodland and trying some simple drawing and printmaking techniques.

The poster above shows some of the work produced last year. Birtley is a magical place to be when the flowers are out, and the trees are full of birds. Sometimes there are other 'woody' activities going on too- charcoal burning, or the resident woodsman Merv teaching a pole-lathe turning class.

The days are suitable for adults of any ability, using a monoprinting technique which is easy to learn. At its simplest, water-based ink is rolled onto a smooth surface, paper laid on top and marks made on the paper. When its peeled off, the print is revealed on the ink-down side. It produces unpredictable results, which is part of its charm, and allows each person to produce work that reflects their personality. Other elements can be added too- for instance collaged paper, over-drawing in pastel or pencil, etc.

Maybe you'd like to come along? I still have availability on some of the dates above. Contact me on for details.

Friday, 24 March 2017

giving in to temptation (a tale of slapdashery and swearing)

So, every now and then I am struck with the temptation to make something to wear. Enough time has passed to allow the memory of the last bout of swearing and grinding of teeth to have dimmed and I succumb to the lure of a gorgeous fabric, like this barkcloth from the fabulous emporium that is the Eternal Maker:

Curse you, lovely shop, for being just half an hour away, and for your general fabulous-ness...

The problem with dressmaking is that the finished object has to actually fit, if only after a fashion. You can get away with a lot if you're making a bag or a purse, or even a 3D fabric sculpture of the Eiffel Tower, no doubt. But a skirt has to fit.

As barkcloth frays like the devil, I thought I'd add to the challenge by exhuming my overlocker. It has been gathering dust since I last switched it on months ago, found the tension was all up the swanny, and flung it back on the shelf where the cat has been using it as a climbing frame. Well, maybe it just needed a large black cat to tangle its threads because when I revved it up this time, away it went without a hitch!

Having decided on a very simple skirt, I then entered the seventh circle of hell that is 'How big is my stomach?' Am I the only person who can't decide whether its better to allow a little 'eating room' or to have a more snug fit? And will it be even more snug next week, or if I leave it slightly looser will the whole thing spin round during the day until the side seam is at the front? Aagh.

You wouldn't think a skirt with two seams and four darts could cause such mental agony. I've made this pattern before and actually achieved a skirt I really like and wear a lot so I made sure I used the same seam allowances as before…. and…. it came out too big. 

Aagh again. 

Back onto the overlocker, SO satisfying to chunter away, eating a nice further half an inch off those pesky seams. 

Time for a nice cup of tea.

Repeat all of the above with the lining.

Sew in the zip. Make a hash of sewing in the zip. Unpick stitching. Sew it in again.

More tea.

Getting there. Sew on a bias strip to finish the waist. (Liking the contrasting fabric). Realise I haven't caught in the skirt fabric to the waistband all the way round. Sew it round again. Topstitch.

Tea. BUNS. Swearing. Mr P goes out to his shed and stays there for the rest of the afternoon.

Hem! Button loop! BUTTON!

Finished! And a blind man would be glad to see it, to quote my late Mum.

I bought another piece of irresistible fabric too, so further slapdashery and swearing is on the cards but there will have to be a period of dressmaking cold turkey first…..

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