We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
"Little Gidding"
T S Eliot

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Forever in my heart ...

Towards the end of last year I created a piece with my sister, Laura (see here for a reminder).

She recently gave me another collection of turned wood discs, which I thought about for a little while, moving them around like draught pieces!

Then (lightbulb!) - I've recently acquired some Powertex Stone Art, which I've been wanting to try, and thought it would make a great background for the wood.

I used a wood box canvas again, for complete stability, and covered it in Powertex (a mixture of black and ivory), and then applied the Stone Art, which is weird stuff; I think it is made from paper.

After several layers of the Stone Art and Powertex I was happy. I then sprayed it with Bister (3 colours), and once that was dry I knocked it back with more ivory Powertex.

I waited about 48 hours for it to thoroughly dry, and then added the wood discs. I had already worked out the order and pattern of the discs, but it was tricky to place them precisely. I think I held my breath for the entire time, as I so did not want to make a mistake!

We have called it Heartwood, and it is now in Laura's Etsy shop (see here).

Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul.
It is daily admission of one's weakness.
It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.
Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, 16 June 2017

Going round in circles ... (story of my life!)

I did a three day coloured pencils workshop last month, spread over three weeks. I wouldn't have thought there would be much to learn, but as I seem to have collected quite a few sets of pencils I decided it would be good to start using them!

I was amazed at how much I learned over the three days. I'm not usually into detail work, but using coloured pencils became quite compulsive (and very therapeutic!) and I just became lost in the moment.

My favourite set of pencils are my Prismacolor ones, and I've used them on these two pieces.

We learned about different ways to colour - hatching, cross-hatching, and going round in tiny circles (my favourite). It is possible to use just primary colours to create any other colour, and there was also blending and polishing too. Like watercolour it is all about slowly building up in layers (without the drying time).

For this one we had to bring in some fruit and/or veg as subject matter. So I did a stir-fry that evening!

Using white  hot pressed watercolour paper (A4); after sketching it out I did a light coloured watercolour wash over each piece of veg.

The onion skin is created using an embossing tool to deboss the lines before any colour pencil is added.

My mushroom is a little wonky - but hey - what mushroom isn't!

For this one I borrowed a vase as all my stuff was packed away during some decorating work.

The paper is a grey pastel paper.

The vase neck is a bit off, but I got the colour right!

It is surprising how long this took (the paper is also A4 size).

Really enjoyed the workshops, and now I need to remember to add coloured pencils to the list of possible media to use in a project!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

A rose by any other name ...

Time for the Craft Barn's twelve month challenge - half way through now, and still waiting for summer to really kick in!  June's couplet is

June brings tulips, lilies, roses;
Fills the children's hands and posies.

Additionally we have to include a bunch of flowers ... don't think I'll have room to fit in anything else!

Rummaged through my scrap box and made some die-cuts, then decided a black background would be perfect.  I'm learning that the postcard size needs to be kept simple, and I'm not fighting that premise now!

A friend has an absolutely stunning rose in her garden, which has inspired me to write a haiku -

Many petal beauty
Pale rose - softly scented cloud
Dreams of languid days

Thursday, 1 June 2017

I'll take cake with that - oh and some clotted cream!

Recently had a really enjoyable all day workshop with HobbyArt, which involved making a few cards using their stamps.

Ir was good not to have any real challenges but just create some nice cards. I think there were about 24 of us, and so much food was provided throughout the day I think it should be called a "food fest and by they way, make some cards too"!

I'll be providing a menu guide for the day!

We used Kuretake Clean Color brush pens (water based) to colour the images. I've never used these pens before, but I was really impressed how easy they were to blend. Though I don't think I'll be buying any, as I've go sooooo many different types of pens and pencils already ...

On arrival, coffee and biscuits.

For the first card we used a magnificent "monarch of the glen" stamp. Isn't he beautiful? This was my first go with the pens - not bad! Also used a fern stamp for a border.

I know exactly who I'm going to send this to as a birthday card!

Tea break, with more biscuits!

The second card was was a little more adventurous.

Stunning bird stamp - with my fantasy colouring! Think I'll call him a pink chaffinch!

A few cone flowers (decoupaged).

Lunchtime! so I opted for an egg and cress sandwich, but it came with a lovely salad and crisps. Then the hot stuff came out (sausage rolls, spring rolls, quiche and more).

Followed by pudding - either apple crumble or fruit salad. I went for the fruit ... but had to include a dollop of clotted cream.

Back to work (!?!).

The next card had a Brusho background, and a couple of lovely peacock stamps. Now I'm not one for fussy cutting, so I think I did quite well!

The card opened out like this.

Tea break - with cake!

Our final card was reasonably simple - which was a good thing, as after all that food my body wanted an afternoon siesta!

Distress Inks for the background, a little embossing too.

The dandelion clock is stamped and embossed onto parchment, and cut out.

Very pretty.

Fabulous day, and I have some lovely cards for the next few birthdays.

I wobbled home very content!

Thursday, 25 May 2017

City lights

I wanted to have a play with Powertex, and see how it worked with stuff I've already got. It was first formulated as a fabric hardener, but you can use it on so many other things.

I've used corrugated cardboard, cotton threads and microbeads for the textures, and Dylusion sprays, and gilding waxes for the colour.

I first spread ivory coloured Powertex over the box canvas, then placed all the elements, using more Powertex as they were added.

I left it overnight before applying any colour.

When dry, everything is quite solid and secure. Powertex do their own sprays, pigments and varnish, but you only need to use them if the item needs to be weatherproof. I'm not likely to put a canvas outside, so I wanted to try the sprays I already had. Decided to use the Dylusion ones, as the colours are so strong and vibrant. I then used some gilding waxes for the highlights, and sprinkled some mica flakes too.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Today ... I shall frolic

We are up to May with the Craft Barn twelve month challenge, and the next two lines of the poem are:

May brings flocks of pretty lambs,
Skipping by their fleecy dams.

and there are no compulsory components this month, although there is not a lot of choice with that couplet - maybe a lamb?

The best thing about doing postcard size is I can use up the small scraps in my ever expanding scrap box.

I started with a small piece of watercolour card that I think I created using Brushos. I then found a piece of handmade paper, which is very easy to tear if you create the tear line with water, and it does look a bit fluffy! I also tore round the head after drawing it, and then a few sticks for the skippy legs!

I've named him Frolic ...

Still in the middle of decorating the living room, so I'm camped in the kitchen. Looking forward to getting stuff back in its rightful place, as I'm already starting to mislay things!

At last, I can feel some warmth in the sun (when it makes an appearance), so happy frolicking ...

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Another bluebell wood!

As I've spent most of the past couple of years in watercolour classes , I thought I would get the acrylics out and attempt my bluebell wood - again!

I did find it hard going to start with, and obviously the finish is totally different to a watercolour, but I did find it interesting that I used my brush in a different way to how I used to paint with acrylics, so it turned out to be a bit impressionistic. Also, I realise this is the first painting I've done with just acrylic paint, and not mixed it up with collage bits and pieces.

I used a canvas board which I found lurking at the back of my cupboard, and the acrylics were the heavy body Basics by Liquitex (the student quality ones).

Still waiting for summer to arrive so I can throw off the jumpers and coats, so ...

a little summer something from Emily Dickenson while we wait ...

A soft Sea washed around the House
A Sea of Summer Air
And rose and fell the magic Planks
That sailed without a care -
For Captain was the Butterfly
For Helmsman was the Bee
And an entire universe
For the delighted crew.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Powertex, pattern and perfume

I've still not caught up with everything! Currently in the middle of having some decorating done, so everything has to be moved out and distributed around the house - no wonder I can't find anything! Then there are decisions to make on colour, design and what I'm going to replace ...

Anyway, took time out recently to do a Powertex workshop. Powertex is basically a fabric hardener, but can be used in so many different ways. This was a three hour workshop, and I did remember to take photos along the way, mainly to remind me what I did, and in what order!

First, arrange the pieces on the canvas until happy. Take a photo as a reminder.

I've used some open hessian (or burlap), cotton threads, cardboard, honesty seed heads and a cedar cone.

Next, everything is taken off and some ivory coloured Powertex poured onto the canvas, and spread around with a large palette knife. Working the knife back and forth also creates texture.

Then all the items were coated in Powertex and placed onto the canvas.

The cone was backed with some scrunched up hessian to stabilise it.

Whilst everything is still wet, applied some Powertex Bister (a coloured waterbased spray ink), and then heated with a hair dryer.

The Powertex will crack - the thicker the Powertex the bigger the cracks.

At this point, the canvas should be left to continue to dry naturally, but we had limited time, so I used more heat until most of it was dry.

I made some adjustments by applying more Bister, before moving onto the pigments, a dry powder mixed with the Powertex or a varnish and dry-brushed; I used some blue and copper. I don't think the seed heads worked as they are too delicate, so I tried to highlight them. I liked the cone, but it is in the wrong place!

This was a fun workshop, and as I love doing canvases, I'll be exploring Powertex more in the not too distant future!

Must just mention a recent trip to Hatfield House, where there is the most magnificent wisteria.

View of the original house where Elizabeth I spent her childhood

 Just love the little door - think I might have a go at painting it.

And here is my wisteria - not so magnificent, but the perfume is just as stunning!

It has turned really cold again, so I'm getting impatient for some warm sunshine.

Happy May!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Togetherness: (noun) the pleasant feeling of being united with other people in friendship and understanding

I've been a bit slow with my blogging of late - no excuses, just not enough time. Sometimes I just want to shout STOP EVERYTHING while I catch up!

Anyway, recently the Fearless Four got together for a crafty day. Linda had a pack of 4 box canvases, and Lin provided some hessian ...

To start, I painted the canvas with pearlised paint and set aside.

The main panel is a piece of mountboard that I stamped and embossed first, before adding some texture paste at the bottom. Next, a sprinkling of Brushos, spritzed with water. I coloured the flowers with Inktense pencils (used with water). I then intensified the colour over the paste, and finally used some pearl glaze (a Fresco one made by Paper Artsy).

When dry, the mountboard was layered with the hessian onto the canvas with PVA glue.

And the other masterpieces ...

Linda didn't quite finish.
The mountboard was cut into four after stamping, and there is a bit of decoupage there. Love those flowers.

Lin also didn't finish.
The canvas has some texture paste on it, and I like the matching canvas and mountboard colour.

Monica did some decoupage too, with an effective monochromatic look.

Another enjoyable day.

Love Spring, when my garden is at it's most colourful -

My tree peony, with blooms as big as dinner plates!

And one of my camelia's - so pretty.

It's going to turn cold again next week, with an arctic blast, which will probably wreck havoc on the flowers, so I'm enjoying them while I can!

Thursday, 13 April 2017


It's time for the Craft Barn's monthly challenge using the Sara Coleridge poem The Months of the Year.

April's couplet is -

April brings the primrose sweet,
Scatters daisies at our feet.

We also have to include either a primrose or a daisy.

As I've already mentioned in previous posts, I am struggling with the postcard format, but I am determined to stick to it!

I've used a piece of Yupo as the background, which was created with Brushos and clingfilm (see previous post here).

I then gesso'd a book page, cut out some petals, and added a bit of sparkle for the daisy centre (cut from another scrap).

Less is more with this size, so I'm not going to fret about trying to get too much into these small pieces.

Really enjoying all this sunshine, though it is a bit chilly in the mornings. But ... I did wash the car today and did the inside too! Not sure what came over me - it must be Spring!

Happy Easter!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Unmasked ... and a revelation!

The last exercise on my watercolour and mixed media course involving using masking fluid in several different ways, when we were asked to do a bit of experimentation!

We were given a reference of blue poppies to work with, so firstly I made an outline drawing, then I completely masked out the poppy heads with neat masking fluid.

The background is created in several layers, using diluted masking fluid 50/50 with water (I use Pebeo Drawing Gum).

The dilute masking fluid can be applied by brush or by spattering, but I decided to try it in a spray bottle.

The several background layers are made up of various watercolour washes, spraying the masking fluid at various points between the washes, so I could build up different densities/colours of wash. Once I thought the background was complete I removed all the masking fluid. In some areas I applied further washes until I was happy.

I also used some masking fluid on the stems and leaves too. Most of the stems and leaves were painted with my Inktense pencils and water.

I removed the masking fluid from the flower heads, and then added more masking fluid for the stamens before I painted the flowers, wet on dry in several layers. Finally, I painted the stamens.

Using dilute masking fluid was a revelation, and I so love the sprayed effect, but although I tried to thorough wash and rinse out the spray bottle, it did gum up the works, so I need to find very cheap spray bottles!

I've been taking my art courses for nearly 2 years now, so I'm taking a break from them while I consolidate what I've learned - which is an awful lot! But ... I've already signed up for a short course in May!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Recipe for a good time ...

Yupo Paper
Alcohol Inks
Smoked Salmon
A good friend

Had a session with all of the above last week. I tried Yupo paper some time ago, but I recently got together with a friend for another go!

 Here is all that I produced, and I'll go through some individual pieces in more detail.

Doing a landscape with alcohol inks is fun. For the sky I used a cotton wool ball with some blending solution and swirled it around.

I used the solution in a mister to add texture, and the corner of a credit card to create some grasses. The edge of a coffee stirrer moves the ink around.

The moon is a drop of silver mixative.

Similar techniques used here.

I thought I could use this as a background and stamp some fish on it!

A little more random using Isopropyl alcohol in the mister (which is a bit stronger than the blending solution), and dropping in some Isopropyl too.

I'll probably use this for a background.

Now to Brushos - I spritzed plain water onto the Yupo and sprinkled the Brushos. I then just left it to dry.

Makes a very subtle background for stamping.

I love using clingfilm on all liquid media but I can be impatient.

As Yupo is completely non-absorbent I had to be extremely patient! But I do love the effect.

I sprinkled the Brushos on dry, then spritzed before applying the cling film. I have a tendency to peek under the film quite regularly, but I had to wait til the next day before removing it!

On this one, I created a Brusho background, then added a couple of drops of water and Brusho on the bottom edge, before taking my trusty straw and blowing.

The paint moves very freely on the Yupo so not much puff is needed!

And here is what Linda W created with Alcohol Inks too.

Great colour combinations.

A fun session getting reacquainted with these materials!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Hello Spring!

Another month has passed and its time for the Craft Barn challenge, using the third couplet in the poem by Sara Coleridge The Months of the Year.

March brings breezes, loud and shrill,
Stirs the dancing daffodil.

And the extras to include this time are daffodils and hares.

I'm finding my choice of a postcard format quite restricting, especially with the specific additions that need to be included. Anyway, this is supposed to be a challenge, so I press on  - I can only get better ...

I drew some daffs in pen before doing a quick background watercolour wash, then coloured the flowers with Inktense pencils.

Surprisingly I found a hare stamp!

I love this time of year, especially with the warm sunny days we are having. I just love to see the yellow daffodils with the pink cherry blossoms against a brilliant blue sky. Such a joyous sight!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Introducing Molly ...

You may recall I did a portrait of a friend's dog called Tia (see here).  I thought I would have a go at a cat, so this is Molly, sadly no longer with us.

I was asked to use pastel colours, so I did the background with very dilute acrylic inks, wet on wet, and just let them mingle.

I then used a photo as a reference. The outline is drawn in acrylic ink, and then I've used a combination of watercolour, Neocolor II crayons and coloured pencils. Quite tricky getting the fur colours and patterns!

This formed part of a birthday present to Molly's owner, who now has a black cat - which could be a little trickier to paint methinks!

Whiskers and tails
And thousands of frails
Lion-like nose
With an angelesque pose
Silky pattern'd fur
O'er heart-touching purr.
Terri Guillemets

Monday, 27 February 2017

Mix it up!

Following the experimentation with textures in my art class (see here), we spent a couple of weeks on a project using textures and mixed media.

This project had many layers, and I luckily remembered to take stage photos!

Stage one was drawing the outline and laying down some tissue paper pieces with PVA glue and resin sand (a gel medium with sand).

When dry I then did a pale all over wash.

Light coloured oil pastels were used next in some of the foreground areas and over the resin sand on the tree and shrubby areas. This was followed by background watercolour washes. The oil pastels act as a resist.

Then I concentrated on the tree using watercolour.

Next I strengthened some areas of the watercolour background, and added some gouache (greens and purples).

Finally, I used more oil pastels in the foreground and on the tree, Neocolor II pastels in the background, and acrylic inks and watercolour pencils for the extra twiggy bits.

This combination of almost every media I own made me realise even more that anything and everything can work together.

This project has taught me so much, that I'll no longer be afraid to use something if I think it will give me the effect I'm after.

I encourage everyone to have a go with paint, pencils, inks - whatever you've got!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Happy Big Birthday Little Sis!

Yesterday was my little sister's 60th birthday, and I had a go at book folding for this auspicious occasion. I found a free pattern on the internet, and then found a book with the requisite number of pages in a pound shop.

I think it turned out quite well -

The folding is relatively easy because you are using the pattern measurements for each page. I did this over a few sessions; just remember to mark on the pattern where you last stopped!

You Tube has some good tutorials.

Another thing to remember is that each page on the pattern is equal to 2 pages in the book (front and back), so remember to double the number of pages when looking for the right book. Hope that makes sense!

I also wanted to decorate the cover with some appropriate photographs, printed onto wood veneer (my sister is a woodturner).

I designed the grouping of photos and words on the computer, then used the backing sheet from some sticky labels, which is completely non absorbent. Remove the labels first!

Run that backing sheet through the printer and the ink stays on the sheet, completely wet. Handle with care!

This is the tricky bit, lay the sheet face down on your piece of wood, and without moving it, press down all over. The ink will be transferred.

Oh, and remember to flip your pictures on the computer first, otherwise you will transfer it back to front! Yes, that was my initial mistake!

I also made this, as I found the lights at the end of last year, and then had to think of how to use them!

A perfect day!

Friday, 10 February 2017

Love reigns in my heart ...

The second part of the Craft Barn's twelve month challenge (based on Sara Coleridge's poem The Months) uses the next couplet -

February brings the rain
Thaws the frozen ponds again

and must also include a cherub and heart somewhere.

Sticking to my personal challenge of the postcard format, I used the last piece of the painted textured paper that formed the background of January's postcard (see here). I also found a small picture of a couple of delightful cherubs, which I must have had for many years in my 'maybe collage' box of treasures!

Finally, I cut out some clouds and added some heart-shaped raindrops ...

The postcard size is certainly making me think differently, but it also feeds a bit of my abstract soul too!

Cherubs fan our foolish fires, filling hearts with mad desires.
They prick our pride and haughtiness with quick, angelic naughtiness.
John Biccard

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Disaster alert ...

My art class session on mixing greens and using gouache allowed me time to have a go at another painting, which turned into a bit of a disaster.

I finished it at home, but I found it a bit boring. I had read about a technique of putting an extremely dilute colour wash over the whole painting to provide some unity, so decided to do a dilute pink wash.

What I didn't know was that gouache is very readily reactivated with water.  I carefully put the wash on and then before my very eyes the whole thing started to run! Shock, horror, and a bit of panic ensued ... I quickly mopped everything up and was left with a bit of a washed out picture.

Never daunted I tried to rescue it by redoing some areas, including the gouache ones.

I decided to let you see the finished item, so you can learn what I've learned - don't re-wet gouache and a rescue job isn't going to really work!

Though I'm quite pleased with my (albeit rescued) clouds!

Friday, 27 January 2017

A pinch of salt and the sublime Monet

At the moment I am into a 3 week art class project using textures. In the past I have tried many texture techniques, but with acrylic paint; I have not considered using textures with watercolour.

Our first exercise was to try several different textures, and this is the result.

If you click on the picture you can enlarge it. Starting at top left and moving down the columns -

Pieces of tissue paper with starch based glue (e.g. wallpaper paste).

Pieces of tissue paper with PVA glue (acts as a bit of a resist compared with starch based glue).

PVA glue dribbled in a pattern and left to dry before covering with paint.

Resin sand - a gel medium with sand.

Glass beads - a gel medium with glass beads; a strong resist.

Salt sprinkled into wet paint, and let dry before brushing the salt away (rice will also work).

Clingfilm - in two layers. Let the first layer dry before removing the cling film, then apply more paint and cover with film again.

Using watercolour paint mixed with wallpaper paste, which enables patterns to be drawn into it whilst it is wet (also known as glue painting).

So now we are working on a painting using texture and watercolour with other media, but there are 2 more weeks to go before I finish it.

This year I have a National Art Pass which allows free entry to many museums, galleries, stately homes and castles, or a reduced price entry to special exhibitions.

Used it for the first time this week, when we visited The Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House (on The Strand in London). The Gallery has a fabulous collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings, as well as from the Renaissance.

These are some of my favourites:

Frank Auerbach
Carreras Factory, Mornington Crescent 1961

Loved the very thick textured oil paint and monotone.

Paul Cezanne
The Lac d'Annecy 1896

Limited colour palette and the lines drew me to this. Very atmospheric.

Claude Monet
Antibes, 1898

Still my most favourite Impressionist! His work is instantly recognizable and they way he paints light is breathtaking.

There were some very small sketches by Georges Seurat, known for his development of pointillism. I was very struck by how good they looked grouped together.

So I'm going to collect some small ornate frames for my own (yet to create!) paintings, which I can hang on my wall.  Probably a very long term project!

We just had to visit the shop (well it would be rude not to!) - lots of lovely stuff; could have spent a fortune but restrained myself, and bought this fabulous book ...

well, it was on special offer!

I want the unobtainable. Other artists paint a bridge, a house, a boat, and that's the end. They are finished. I want to paint the air which surrounds the bridge, the house, the boat, the beauty of the air in which these objects are located, and that is nothing short of impossible.
Claude Monet