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, 13 August 2017

Abstraction, Modernism and a pinch of Surrealism

I've just remember I haven't told you about the last 2 day workshop I did on encaustic collage.

This combined my love of collage with trying wax, so of course, I had to sign up!

I decided I would do an abstract using a beach sunset as inspiration. I also thought I would not use any paint (apart from a quick under painting), and all the collage pieces would be rectangular - I do like to challenge myself!

I used watercolour paper, which with hindsight is not really robust enough for adding a lot of wax. When I cut it off the support board it becomes quite difficult to handle. I need to think about what kind of frame to put it in.

The wax we used was a mix of beeswax and Damar resin, which strengthens the beeswax.

After doing a quick watercolour under painting, I started cutting up various bits and pieces, including speciality papers, cardboard, fabric, hessian, bookprint, and laid them out as my initial thoughts on construction.

As you can see, it is very rough at this stage, and I took a photo to remember placement, but I knew it wouldn't turn out like this!









Next, using wallpaper paste, I starting sticking everything down - quite tricky to get the order right!













I used the wax to stick the corrugated card and hessian, and started layering wax is a few places. I also spattered some wax for a bit of sea spray.












Finally, after several layers of wax, and a few more additions - including orange for the sunset reflection, and a rockpool (bottom left) using seed beads and abalone shell, I finished with some gold paint through a fossil fish stencil. You will have to enlarge the picture to see them properly.


I liked using the wax as it provides another dimension, but I need to get to grips with the technique a bit better!

This week I had a day trip to Charleston and Farley Farm - fabulous day!

Charleston, home from 1916 to Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, was the country retreat for the group of artists, writers and thinkers known as the Bloomsbury group.


I loved this house, and wanted to move in immediately. Every room was decorated by the artists, with murals on all the furniture, fireplaces and walls. It had a beautiful atmosphere, and the studio was to die for!







Not allowed to take any photos inside so if you want to explore further I'm sure Google will help.

The gardens were stunning too.

















Then on to Farley Farm, which in 1949 became home to Roland Penrose, Surrealised artist, and Lee Miller, American model, photographer and WW2 correspondence.

Another stunning home, full of artworks ... many created by their friends and visitors, including Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, and Max Ernst.












You may recognise this one by Roger Penrose, of his first wife Valentine, entitled Winged Domino.












The gardens were extensive ...

















... and full of  modern sculpture.

I was quite taken with this one - Sky Seed
by Mark and Rebecca Ford (2017).



















I bought a couple of books and some postcards.













I was fascinated by the stories regarding the Bloomsbury Group, so I'm going to get some books from the Library and have a good read!

Friday, 4 August 2017

It's not about what it is ...

... but about what it can become!

Recently the Fearless Four got together for a Powertex play, using empty Horlicks containers.

We used bits of fabric, string, wood shapes, shells and other found stuff. Also included in our ingredients lists was Bister, acrylic paint and ink sprays. Because the Horlicks containers are plastic, we wrapped masking tape around them so the Powertex would stick.

So, here are the results ...apologies for the quality of most of the photos, but I forgot to take my camera, so used my phone.

Lin used ivory Powertex, with ric rac ribbon around cotton fabric, and embellished with some wood shapes. Bister and gold sprays used too.



















Linda used bronze Powertex on cotton fabric, with some string, and a skull (Linda is a little bit Gothic too). She also used Bister and silver spray for colour.















Monica seems has a never ending supply of shells! Some have been incorporated into the cotton fabric, together with lace and string.

Bronze Powertex also used with  silver spray.



















Every Halloween I'm on the lookout for likely stuff to use in projects, and I found a bag of plastic skulls one year and still have loads! I had to saw the backs off so they could be incorporated into this project.

I  have always been a little bit Gothic and fascinated by skulls, so I put three on my pot, but the other two are round the other side!

I've used some t-shirt fabric, with hessian, string and dishcloth material.

I also thought the plastic cross added to the look!

I used black Powertex, and dry brushed some blue paint, and also used Linda's fabulous silver spray (I've now bought some too!).

I'm using my pot for some of my (rather large) stash of paint brushes.



So, another fabulous day. We've already booked the next get togther, and guess what - yes - we will be using Powertex again!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Pieces of silver ...

I started this painting about 3 months ago, and then lost my way. I've gone back to it about half a dozen times, and finally finished it last week.

As usual, I was experimenting! I drew the outline of the trees then covered them with tissue paper, wrinkling it as I stuck it down. I then wondered if I could get away with covering the tissue with masking fluid while I did the background, and then get the masking fluid off successfully.

You don't know unless you try! So that is what I did, painting the background with a dark blue watercolour mix - I did about 4 watercolour washes.

The masking fluid had been on for about 48 hours, and now was the time to try and get it off without ruining the tissue paper. I rubbed it off very slowly and ... it worked!

The Autumn foliage is done with gouache, which was not intense enough for me, so I then resorted to heavy body acrylics - much better. I think there also may be a bit of oil pastel in there too!

I used texture paste for the grass area, and then watercolour,  also some gouache - oh and - heavy body acrylics!

Finally, added the dark patches on the trunks, using the tissue wrinkles as a guide.



Since I've been doing all those art courses (it has been 2 years now), I've learnt that most times when I begin something it looks awful, and I'm tempted to bin it, but it is only once I've been working on something for some time (like this one), that eventually it may come together (probably!). So not so much goes in the bin now. I'm also quite happy to use any combination of media to get the result I want.

I'm entering this for the current Paper Artsy challenge, which is all about dark to light (contrast).

Having finally finished the painting, I was inspired to write another Haiku ...

Gold red cloaks falling
Pale figures reaching skyward
Ere long silent ghosts

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Seeing red ...

I'm still on a Powertex wave!

With a couple of friends, I took part in another workshop; a good way to try stuff before maybe buying - this time I tried the red Powertex. Now, I'm not usually a red girl, but, I fell in love with the richness of this colour.

On a 40cm x 40cm box canvas, the texture is created from bits of wallpaper, hessian, cotton strings, sand, and paste through a stencil.

Also, some plaster ammonites from a mould and a couple of metal embellishments.

I also used black Bister and gold mica powder.



Followed by a good lunch ... another perfect day!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Gilly what?

All this heat addles my brain so that I can't think about anything creative, but I did complete this month's Craft Barn's Twelve Month Challenge using the July couplet:

Hot July brings cooling showers,
Strawberries and gilly-flowers.

And we must include gillyflowers, which I had to look up -

Gillyfloweralso spelled gilliflower, any of several scented flowering plants, especially the carnation, or clove pink (Dianthus caryophyllus), stock (Matthiola incana), and wallflower (Cheiranthus cheiri). However, the gillyflower of Chaucer, Spenser, and Shakespeare was the carnation. Other plants that are types of gillyflower are dame's gillyflower, also known as dame’s violet (Hesperis matronalis); mock gillyflower, also known as soapwort or bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis); feathered gillyflower, also known as the grass or garden pink (Dianthus plumarius); and sea gillyflower, also known as the thrift or sea pink (Armeria maritima).

Hunted through some stamps, and found an old one by Paper Artsy which must be a wallflower (well, it certainly looks like one!).

Stamped onto watercolour paper and coloured with Windsor and Newton pens.

So far, so very boring ... 

...looking around I found a small piece of Bondaweb (a double sided adhesive usually used to bond two pieces of fabric). I had sprayed this particular piece with ink (probably Dylusions). So, I thought I would iron that over the top, for a bit of interest and texture.



Really enjoying Wimbledon this year - nothing like spending a lazy afternoon watching the tennis with an ice cream!

Postscript: just noticed the Sara Coeridge poem I downloaded has strawberries and not apricots. So I've just done another search, and found 3 different versions of this poem! 

So, I'll stick with strawberries - especially with cream - yum!

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Wave power ...

I'm still playing with Powertex, and I found an offcut of MDF in my cupboard, which I thought I would use as a base. In preparation, I roughly cut some strips from an old T-shirt and some flower shapes from calico.

I coated the MDF with black gesso, and put some plasterboard tape down one side for texture.

I poured on ivory Powertex and spread it around before dunking the fabric bits into the ivory Powertex, and creating the flowers. I added  sand and small balls (also by Powertex) to add weight at the bottom.

I let it dry before using some bister sprays. I also added crushed glass to the centre of the flowers and a little gilding wax; although the photo doesn't really show the glimmery bits!



The measure of a man is what he does with power(tex)
With apologies to Plato

Took a trip to the British Museum last week and saw "Hokusai beyond the Great Wave" exhibition (on until 13 August). I love these kinds of exhibitions because they bring together artwork from around the world, which normally I wouldn't get to see.

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) is mostly know for his Great Wave (woodcut) - have you noticed the boats and the people?











I also love the way he did waterfalls ...






















... and this one with carp.

In fact water features a lot in both his woodcuts and paintings, as well as Mount Fuji.



















This is an ink painting I wouldn't mind hanging on my wall - The Dragon of Smoke Escaping from Mount Fuji.

I've always had a passion for dragons - probably because I was born in the year of the dragon!



















Usually our art trips start with a coffee and almond croissant, and this one was no different! Perfect day.

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

Oops-a-daisy!

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!