Friday, 20 July 2012


I made a lot of wire legs for the little birds we started making at our summer retreat (aka play session) at Blue Ginger.   I made them with the spare wire curled up at the top - useful if you want to make a beak or tail or just to add stability to the stuffed bird.  After a day spent trying to learn how to make a badge like Kathleen's my fingers wanted to do what they wanted to a small creature evolved on the legs.  I like to build these little beasts from the inside out and let the materials decide what they want to become.

badge for Joy, my heroic little sister
I unfurled the little loops at the top and stitched wings on.  I used small scraps of an odd slightly translucent crepe fabric which arrives in my scrapbox backed onto heavy satin - part of my treasures supplied by Sue Elliot.  These little scraps had lovely swoopy edges so I used a piece for each wing and didn't cut them to shape at all.  It means the wings are very different in shape but the same texture.

I stitched a little wadding to the body and then tugged a piece of vari-coloured velvet in place.  Eyes were added - brown buttons I got from a treasure trove of materials donated by a fellow embroider to the group when we were at Blue Ginger.

The legs are made from a wire that is moderately easy to work with but it is too springy and won't move into new shapes as easily as I would like.  Getting all the toes to hit the ground is very hard, so I think a different kind of wire will need to be found once this lot is used up.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Learning to paint

Some of you my remember I was intending to build up a sketchbook of ideas for a large wall hanging for my very tall staircase area.  Those of you that know me will not be surprised that it never materialised.  I have taken lots of photos, done lots of thinking...but without the pressure of a 'show and tell' at college nothing happens.

I decided the best thing to do was simply start painting again and see what happened.  I haven't painted for at least half a decade because of the joint problems caused by my gluten intolerance.  I still had some acrylic paints, some of which hadn't gone hard, and I bought some canvasses at the local artists exchange/scrapstore.  With a selection of photos from our trip to Venice I set to.  I started trying to paint somewhat realistically so that I could tell whether I had achieved what I set out to do.

The first image was having lunch in Murano, though I used two pictures of the foreground people and one for the background.  The figure that is intended to be me is taken from a photo on the Costa Brava, and of course the sun was bright and shining whereas it was gloomy in Murano, and the view point was different. The shot of Rod (sorry, rather terrible end result) was from lunch on the other side of the canal, so again the light was different.  Nonetheless, it was an interesting exercise in trying to get that really strange silky water you get in the Venetian lagoon.

I started with a quick sketch and then colour washed the main areas. I then kept adding detail until I felt like stopping.  Not the best painting in the world, but a very useful exercise in not giving up immediately. In the past I tended to do paintings in one sitting, and if they hadn't worked I just gave up.

The second painting was based on another photo of Murano, but this time I decided to create a scene where the two giant glass sculptures were visible.  This meant putting the red sculpture in the foreground, and in the end it just got too difficult and I gave up.  I also did a colour wash over the left hand area and hated the result. This picture was my first attempt to paint using a palette knife.  An artist friend said that clearly the palette knife was not my natural medium.

I like the right hand side of the image.  I have taken the canvas off the stretcher bars and will find some way to make a tall thin frame for this half of the picture.

When we were in Murano we had lunch and the water glasses were beautiful handblown coloured glass.  We bought a set to take home with us.  I wanted a picture of this lunch.  I had to eat fish everywhere I went as it was the only thing people felt confident about feeding me.  I didn't get ill in Italy and found the restaurant staff knowledgeable and helpful.  Very unlike the UK.

The third painting is a small closeup of lunch - fish and salad.  I am particularly pleased with the left hand glass, where the yellow light produces a reflection on the water in the glass.

Painting four ( I was finding it hard to do anything else by this time) was an attempt to abstract some of the images I had been working with on the other paintings.  Water, bridges, glass...not quite as free as I had hoped but not a bad start on the process.

Painting five was based on a photograph of gondolas near St Marks Square.  All the gondolas have a high metal prow, and I worked from a photo that showed these all in a row.  The closest one showed agitations in the surface that looked like it had been hand beaten.  You may have seen copper dishes which are shaped by hitting flat metal against a solid surface with a hammer, and it produces the same round impressions.  Because of this I decided to attempt a pointillist style painting, although I didn't start with a blank canvas and lots of little dots, but roughly blocked out the colours first.  I may try a true points of unmixed colour some other time.  It would be a very good exercise in making sure I understand how colours work with each other, as you are supposed to generate colours by managing the proportion and proximity of dots of their constituent colours.

At this point decide some housework was needed so stopped painting for the moment.