Thursday, 31 December 2009

Tunisian Berber Textiles

Back from 12 days touring around Tunisia with Explore. Lots of Roman remains (and spectacular mosaics) contrasted with mosques, desert oases and camels. As anticipated, lots of wonderful doors too (took over a hundred photos!). Meanwhile I'll start with some textiles. Tamazret is small berber village in the South (unlike Morocco , they are in a tiny minority). We visited a small museum with an enthusiastic curator who explained the various traditions . There were local textiles displayed including this traditional scarf (bakhnough). It looked knitted rather than woven (now I'm wondering whether it is Tunisian crochet?). In trying to ask about it in French , I asked 'combien' and found it was for sale ,bought it and had it tied around my head in traditional manner
Several people were rather envious as they hadn't realised anything other than some handmade necklaces were for sale.
There was a recreation of a traditional marriage room (complete with bride) . In Tozeur, Ian and I were dressed up in marriage clothes in the small museum there - I'm still debating whether you really want to see that!
I wish this gorgeous dyed cloth had been for sale...

Friday, 25 December 2009

Xmas Greetings from Tunisia

Here we are in Tozeur, desert oasis, on Christmas Day -in internet cafe struggling with French keyboard.Having a great time,if a bit sore from our camel ride.Ian got his revenge by eating one in kebab form.I have developed a taste for dates.Sketched this morning in the folk museum.
Catch up on our return

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Doors or Vistas?

So which combination of this years Journal quilts do you prefer as a 'foursome' for display next year? Vistas or Doors?
I'm torn - the 'doors' are more interesting individually but there's some intriguing
dynamics going on in the combination of sea, water and landscapes and it works better as one piece.

SouthBank Xmas Activities

Having missed ( due to swine flu' ) hearing Haydn's 'The creation' when it was performed at the Proms , for our Xmas music treat we went to see the Orchestra and Choir of the Age of Enlightenment perform it at the Royal Festival Hall. What a sound! - really appreciated the individual instruments and the swelling crescendos of the choir compared to hearing it on CD. A packed hall too (including David Dimbleby - it must be so hard to go out of an evenings entertainment when you're recognised and followed by lots of whispers )

Beforehand we'd gone to Somerset House to see the exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery on London Building Sites 1952-62 by Frank Auerbach. An interesting combination of powerful impasto oil paintings with the preliminary sketches and also photos. The video podcast of those based on the Shell Building Site gives a good overview. My motivation for going was based on my interest in the building sites around here- particularly the cranes but here was a rather different view: " not drawn to the spectacle of modern buildings reaching the sky but to the primal qualities of the earth displaced in their wake"

On our way back across Waterloo Bridge towards the SouthBank (and an early dinner at The Canteen) I had more choice of subjects for practising 'digital fireworks' ( moving my camera when capturing image in nightscene mode)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Patched Door - December Journal Quilt

My December piece for British Quilt List Challenge is a different shape as I've made it up as my Contemporary Quilt Group Journal Quilt( 6 x 12"), saving having to do 2 in a busy month!
The technique was mosaic - applying scissor cut pieces of fabric to a sandwich of fabric, wadding and backing: stitching and quilting all in one - I like that!

I really enjoyed cutting up scraps and applying them to a photo of a Greek door printed on fabric - and it was so quick! The raggy edges of the scraps lend themselves to the textures of rough stone and wood.
As a non traditional quilter, taking part in the BQL challenge greatly added to my repertoire of skills even if sometimes the projects weren't really my thing ( thinking of these handbags for instance) But that's the idea of challenge isn't it, to do something you wouldn't normally tackle?

Now I've reviewing which group of 4 CQ JQ's I shall put together for display - doors or landscapes? I'll post some combinations and you can choose!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Journal Quilt Catch-Up

Finally catching up on CQ Journal quilts! I've actually got quite a few in various stages of completion- the decision was about what to finish off. I decided in the end on those that most linked to what I was up to in the relevant months - like looking at sketchbooks it brings back memories when you look at them again September was Moss Month - both a moss identification course at Flatford Mill and joining the British Bryological Society and participating in their annual conference and field meeting. This was held at Wakehurst Place with special permission to enterTilgate Wood with its' wonderful exposed tree roots and 'lower plant' assemblages on the sandstone rocks.

I wanted to test out some new fabric sheets from Craftycomputerpaper - they worked a treat with high density of colour. I also had some offcuts of mosses printed out on fabric from a much earlier project which I added for a change of scale. I also tried out 2 new threads for the quilting : Madeira 'polyneon' in neon pink and Madeira FS metallic no 20 in Emerald colour.

Octobers JQ was based on enjoying my drawing evening classes, getting to grips again with pencil and ink. On a gessoed section of old Durham Quilt , I drew some honesty seed pods directly in ink and Inktense pencils.
In November, visits to Kew revealed the wonderful textured doors of Queen Charlotte's Cottage in the Conservation Area ( best visited at bluebell time but the autumn leaves were pretty good).
On a sheet of fabric treated with 'Golden Digital Ground' I printed a photo of the old oak door(un manipulated in Photoshop) then stitched it with Madeira FS Metallic no 20 in gold/bronze. It really shimmers! Just goes to show that crumbly door subject matter can be found nearer to home than Greece!
I'm still deciding what to do for Decembers JQ - probably a door again so I can hang 4 pieces together for exhibition. I'm sure I'll find lots of inspiration in Tunisia over Xmas but as we don't get back until 29th that might be cutting it rather fine - just have to anticipate.

After a days interviewing for next years sandwich student I was too late ( and too tired) for my evening class so went instead to preview of 'Craft in Focus' in Richmond. There were so many things I coveted but settled on another sculptural scarf from Tammy Childs - this time in red (Christmassy treat!) . So nice to talk to maker in person - she doesn't have an industrial overlocker/sewing machine but her machine mechanic probably wished she did!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Digital Firework Effects

It started off with trying to take night shots of Brentford from Kew Bridge on my way home from work(below) But the screen kept showing the shaky hand symbol and the picture was blurred so I thought- what if I deliberately shake the camera during image capture. Result- fireworks!!

I promise, no editing in Photoshop, just dodgy digital photography!

Thames Valley CQ Group Meeting

Another splendid Thames Valley CQ meeting organised by Sandy. Linda Seward talked to us about publishing ( I knew she'd written some books but so many.....!! ) After a quick lunch we had a tour around South Hill Park. Being among creative folks, we found inspiration everywhere -the views of trees outside from the printing studio( above).

The tools in the jewellery studio

A scratched light box in the printing studio

The contrast of metal and wood on the 'acrobat ' sculpture

I couldn't resist giving a test run of my sketching gear for Tunisia with my home-made watercolour sketchbook and in discussions over tea,received lots of advice from people who'd done bookbinding courses on how I might achieve what I want. And that was besides all the textile related stuff! This group is such a find.

Friday, 20 November 2009

In the style of Rothko

Best evening class yet- a lesson in use of colour and easy abstraction , sort of Rothko-esque meets MondrianWe started off with a sheet of newspaper (Evening Standard in this case) and then placed a piece of tracing paper over it and drew round some of the blocks of text, banners or pictures. Not the same bit of newspaper shown here but you get the picture. Then we transferred the traced image onto watercolour paper by scribbling with pencil on the back of the shapes of the tracing paper and then tracing over the shapes again from the front - I can't think how many years it it since I did that!
Meanwhile using acrylics in primary colours we painted over the newspaper page itself. I rather like how the text and ghosts of images show through the paint ( some people who had the sudoko or crossword pages had some interesting results) Then picking out the areas liked/disliked and using in my case a more restricted colour palette, painted on the watercolour paper with the transfered shapes, thinking about layers and quality of paint and brushstrokes The results were so varied - some people had picked out tiny little squares (and were then cursing at the amount of tracing involved!) , some had concentrated on large blocks but all were based on the newspaper layouts . It was a great way to produce abstraction fairly painlessly and in a restricted time frame . Worth further exploration.
We have a break next week as our tutor has been nominated for a teaching award but then we have 2 weeks to work on our own project - what to choose?!!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Collage - Art Every Day Month

I was looking for a photo montage programme to show what I've been working on so far for Art Every Day Month and look what I found!
I think I could have a lot more fun with Shape Collage - does it count as art?

Monday, 16 November 2009

Sewing Circles

Saturday we had an outing up to town to see Moctezuma exhibition at the British Museum ( and for me to stock up on some art materials at Cornelissons) As we came out of Tottenham Court Road tube station, the rain was horizontal and we decided to dry out first over lunch at Savoir Faire. ( our favourite place to eat in Central London). Having visited museums in Mexico City , the exhibition didn't interest me so much as it did Ian. More to my taste is a printing course associated with the poster exhibit' Revolution in Paper'
Sunday was spent catching up with my backlog of Journal Quilts, starting off with the current challenge for BQL - Drunkards path based on circles. I've enjoyed acquiring new skills ( and revising old ones) through these monthly challenges - this month I had a go for the first time with invisible thread and the applique foot on my sewing machine ( tho' I gave up on invisible thread and went for the 'rustic' look' )

Someone had given a link to this method of making circles by wrapping fabric and template in foil and pressing with iron- magic!

Drunkards Path A
Drunkards Path B

I spend an absorbing half hour trying out different layouts of 'Drunkards Path' - which do you prefer, A or B?

Friday, 13 November 2009

Leaves like Georgia O'Keefe

Another interesting session at my drawing evening class. We'd been asked to bring leaves in and I'd collected loads at Kew but not as many as the tutor-the tables were smothered with them, quite a sight. After a brief exercise in using complimentary colours for shading, we had about an hour to choose some leaves, look at the colour and paint them in either watercolour or acrylic. While we could have observed just one leaf in detail, she encouraged us to do a layered leaf study in the style of Georgia O'Keefe whose work she had some images of. I wasn't so familiar with these as the close-ups of flowers and desert imagery and eagerly took up the challenge. I liked that it was moving away from botanical accuracy into abstraction. More of that next week - we'll be doing Rothko-esque colour fields but with newspapers and acrylics. Can't wait!
Great Quote from O'Keefe: "I hate flowers - I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move".

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


A trip to Kew Gardens on a bright Saturday morning with Ians parents resulted in collection of lots of different coloured leaves for my drawing class on Thursday but also another appreciation of the quieter Southern part of the garden. The raked gravel gardens around the Japanese Gateway with an occasional leaf sprinkled on could be a piece of Land Art and I was intrigued when looking through the camera how the shadow of a tree cast its' shadow. It wasn't so obvious 'in the flesh' - something to do with the camera emphasising contrast or framing the view?

And to think such amazing doors were on my doorstep and I didn't realise! These are oak doors on Queen Charlotte's Cottage - the brown wood is I think non-original from where they have restored them so you can distinguish between old and new.

Low Water

Would you believe that this is the Thames?! At Brentford, the river has islands ('Aits') in the middle and as the tide changes the main part flows down the Kew bank. This is the same spot where Ian and I had lunch at the Watermans a few weeks ago watching the tide change but I never imagine the water level could be quite so low, it looks like someone's pulled the plug out!
I loved the patterns in the mud and gravel - I'll have to look at the tide charts to see when I might get an opportunity to sketch

Another colour wheel

Another colour wheel, this time in Golden Fluid Acrylics. I haven't used them much but I can see why they're popular - they're so pigmented, a drop goes a long long way!

Having finished my 'breakthrough' piece at the beginning of Novemember , I signed up for 'Art Every Day Month'. I know from my Journal quilts that quantity can indeed lead to quality, even if some of the the efforts along the way are trivial or abysmal so I've been content to attempt something , even if its' just 20 minutes doing a colour wheel. It all adds up - at the weekend I'll post what I've done so far.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Colour Wheels and Paintboxes

Appropriately enough for bonfire night, this weeks drawing lesson was on colour theory. I've made my own colour wheels before but not for a long time and not with acrylics so it was a fruitful exercise and absorbing after the initial struggle with a recalcitrant school compass. I've never been good at filling in paint neatly between lines so it was good for me! It got me thinking about the various colours that would result from a range of media and combination of different primaries so today I've been experimenting with watercolours(below) I will have a go with my Golden fluid acrylics which I imagine might work out somewhere between these 2 examples.

It's a while since I've done much pure watercolour as opposed to mixed media so when I fished out my Holbein metal palette(used with tube water colour) , 2 of the blobs of paint had gone mouldy!! Time to scrape it out and replace with different colours! When I painted more seriously in this medium, I got fed up of plastic palettes and invested what seemed a huge amount in this Japanese enamel metal folding one but I've always gained great pleasure in using it - it's lovely to mix colours on and feels balanced in the hand
My main watercolour box used on my travels is this Winsor and Newton 'bijou' (it's only 8 x 6cm large!) It takes 1/2 pans and I tend to have 9 standards and then ring the changes with the others - my current new trials are with light red , oxide of chromium and cobalt green .
This folding'Rembrandt' metal box holds the rejects from the bijou- either colours that have almost run out or that have been ejected for various reasoms eg failed attempts to find a substitute for my beloved brown madder alizarin which is discontinued. This box lives on my studio table so ironically probably gets used more than the 'proper' ones more recently.
There might be some swapping of pans before I go to Tunisia. My main concern is trying to find the right format of watercolour sketchbook - the A5 bound ones I prefer are no longer made, might have to attempt making my own. Why is that despite the plethora of art supply companies (currently drooling over the recently arrived Jacksons catalogue), you can never find quite what you want?!