Thursday, 16 June 2016

Travelling Sketchbooks - The Pre-Raphs

Call me old fashioned, and as much as I like contemporary art, my real love is the Pre-Raphaelites.  The Pre-Raphaelites were a secret society of young artists led by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt who were opposed to The Royal Academy's ideal as exemplified in the work of Raphael, a medieval Italian artist. I am lucky enough to live in a city that houses the most important collection of Pre-Raphaelite art anywhere in the world and that is held at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.  I have often wanted to recreate a Pre-Raph painting in some form, so that is what I have done this time for one of my Travelling Sketchbooks ( I now have two on the go which all gets very complicated when it gets to swopping time). 

So how do you recreate a famous painting?  The answer I think is just to get an essence of the original and not to follow it too slavishly.  Here I have used dry felting so I have put my own interpretation on it by using a medium I love working with.


For the base I used a square from an old Whitney Woollen Blanket (remember those awful scratchy blankets from years ago before the advent of soft duvets). Using a dry felting tool I felted strands of merino wool tops and for the sheep I have used actual scraps of sheep fleece collected from several country walks.

And this is the original painting that inspired me - 'Our English Coasts' (also known as Stray Sheep) painted in 1852 by William Holman Hunt.

For anyone who would like to know more about the Pre-Raph Brotherhood I can highly recommend watching Desperate Romantics which aired on BBC in 2009 and is available on DVD.  Having watched it when it was broadcast I am currently giving it a second watching as it stars the gorgeous Aiden Turner (aka Cap'n Ross Poldark another gorgeous hero) as Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Watch and enjoy!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

A Voyage Round My Garden

Nothing like a warm sunny day to get me out in the garden with my camera and start snapping. It's like every time I have gone out there this week I find something new in bloom. However, some of the flowers aren't there long so it's best to capture them when they have just opened and before the storm showers.  I suspect some of the bigger and more delicate blooms like the poppies will have come a cropper from the rain tonight. If I know the name I will write it on but here's what I found in my garden today...

The magnificent Red Poppy

Geranium - 'Johnson's Blue'

Geranium Oxonianum - 'Wargrave Pink (Cranesbill)

More poppies but these are much larger blooms that tend to suffer in the rain if it is heavy and then flop over if not staked. 

Cerastium (Snow-in-Summer) forms a blanket of snow on top the rockery



The Aquilegias (Columbine) always the first of the summer flowers are sadly all fading now and going to seed but they do tend to self-seed everywhere for even more flowers next year.

My first Clematis Jackmanii bloom - as big as a saucer (or a tea plate I think).

An old dug up root of a tree waiting to be put in the border to add a touch of sculpture

The lesser-spotted plumbers stopped for lunch

And who should I find down at the end of the garden trying to get some shade but next door's cat - a regular visitor to our garden especially when we are having a barbecue oddly enough.

A lovely climbing rose which at last after at least 10 years has only now started to climb.  Lots of food for thought here then in terms of inspiration for watercolours, embroidery, or some mixed-media work. 

Ahh yes. More boys in blue. Everything stops for tea! 

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Travelling Sketchbooks - Flowers for Lia

Last month I came across a discarded shopping list in a supermarket trolley.  To be honest I have found quite a few of these lists  recently so have started collecting them as they give such an insight into how other people live their lives and what they load into their trolleys. Very often while I am patiently waiting in a queue at the supermarket checkout I study what the person in front of me has loaded onto the conveyor belt. It gets the mind going as to what kind of social situation they are in - single, students, OAPs budgeting on a pension, married with 2.4 kids, what they might be doing at the weekend, will it be a BBQ, dinner party (or these days food for friends), an intimate meal for 2, brunch with friends too drunk to go home from the night before or Sunday lunch with the in-laws and out-laws? All very intriguing to say the least!!

So this is the list I found:

flowers for Lia 
cream x 2
still lemonade
bottle fizz pink x 2
shower gel
bag potatoes
salmon steaks
green beans 
white onion

I picked this up on a Friday but judging by the amount of items on the list, this is not a cumbersome drudgery of a big shop, but maybe a Friday end of the working week quick dash round the supermarket in my lunch hour thing. Quite a celebration by the look of it. Flowers top the list. Flowers for Lia! Who is Lia? Is the shopper a man or a woman, Lia's mother, father, son, daughter or her lover?  Is the shower gel for a quick freshen up (perhaps after work) before Lia arrives and while the pink fizz is chilling?  So, a date night, birthday celebration or family get together?  Lia must love flowers and pink fizz that's for sure.  Will she get the steak and chips or salmon, potatoes and green beans? Dinner for 4 perhaps with 2 non-meat eating friends? One thing is for sure though,  that there will be more than enough pink fizz and rose wine to go round.  

I like using found items of ephemera in my work and stitching words and text, so this seemed the perfect opportunity to recreate the shopping list as an embroidery with a touch of embelishment for a bit of added fizz. So Lia, wherever you are and whoever you are, I hope you had a damn good night!    

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

British Stitch & Quilt Village 2016 @ Uttoxeter Racecourse

So last month I was at the British Stitch & Quilt Village held at Uttoxeter Racecourse. This is an ever expanding quilt show showcasing the work of many of the UK's top quilters and textile artists. It's also a chance to meet some of the artists, see demonstrations and with dozens of textile traders there, an ideal opportunity to see what's new in the textile world and stock up on fabrics. As always I took lots of photos and here are just a few of my favourites. 

It's hard to believe this cute little piglet is embroidered.

I love Gillian Travis' great Nordic jumpers of our time

Solihull Embroiderers showed a preview of work from their forthcoming Patterns in Nature exhibition due to take place at the Core Courtyard Gallery, in the newly re-designed Solihull Library Complex in October this year. 

 Kathy Mander's Lace Cap Hydrangea was created using potato printing on a variety of fabrics and hand embroidered with silk threads

One of Margaret Dale's A Trio of Butterflies 

Finally an amazing demonstration of a long arm quilter. This would certainly take the elbow grease out of quilting and I would have loved to have taken one home but unfortunately I would need quite a few more grand in the bank and also a bigger house as it would probably fill the entire space of my sewing den.  So, another great show this year with plenty of inspiration to go home with, not to mention a few more fat quarters to add to my burgeoning stash. 

Monday, 9 May 2016

Travelling Sketchbooks - Fabric Collage

For my April pages I took inspiration from the fabric and mixed-media collage of textile artist Cas Holmes who uses found objects and items of ephemera in her work such as tickets, stamps, snippets of text from old book pages and scraps of vintage fabrics to which she adds paint and stitch to create layered atmospheric pieces. 

I layered scraps of light coloured fabric onto a paper support along with scraps of text from the pages of an old book, applied gesso, acrylic ink, stamped lettering and motifs, then added free-machine embroidery to bring the whole piece together. I thought about using the missing page I found (see my previous post) for my next piece.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Found! The Missing Page

Catching the train one morning I happened to bizarrely come across a single page of a book lying on the platform at Shirley station and immediately The Missing Page sprang to mind from Hancock's Half Hour. As a lifelong fan of the great Tony Hancock (he is a Brummie to boot, born in Southam Road, Hall Green no less!) I remember so well the episode when Hancock borrows a book from the library called Lady Don't Fall Backwards by Darcy Sarto.  When he gets to the end he is mortified to discover the last page is missing so attempts to track down the last person to borrow the book before him and the author himself  to find out the conclusion. Chaos ensues of course. 

I felt intrigued though by the thought that someone, somewhere possibly on their way to work in Birmingham or in the other direction towards Stratford-upon-Avon was missing a vital page from their book. Anyhow, never one to miss a creative opportunity I couldn't just leave the page there to get trampled on, so pocketed it with the intention of using the actual page in my sketchbook and journal work somehow. I would also love to know what book the page comes from too so if anybody knows then please let me know. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Put a Cork in It!

Well 112 bottles of wine later, here is the corkboard I made out of the recycled corks and let me tell you it was worth every drop.

However, I did have a few contributions from other thirsty friends.

So the easiest part was drinking the wine, the hardest part was cutting the corks in half with good old Mr Stanley Knife (good workout for the triceps) and I used an old box canvas as the base. 

Such a pity that these days most bottles of wine have screw tops which it has to be said are much less hassle to open. No more rumaging among the kitchen utensils for that elusive corkscrew but there is something quite ceremonious and thrilling about drilling down into the cork, then the welcome sound of the cork popping to announce the arrival of the most tastiest of beverages. Am loving my new corkboard so much it seems a pity to cover it up with notices, appointments, calendars and invitations.  It deserves to be displayed unhindered like an artwork which means I will just have to get on and make another one. Cheers to the next 112 bottles!