Monday, 21 December 2015

The saga of the tree

We have our Christmas tree all dolled up and twinkling at least a week earlier than normal. It's 'The Amelie Effect' - no one should underestimate the persuasive powers of a three year old! As you read this I hope you have a nice cup of tea and a plate of mince pies to hand - I'll try to be brief but I'll probably ramble on a bit and I think you'll need sustenance to see through to the end!

We actually had the tree for a couple of weeks before decorating it and granddad had the bright idea to keep it fresh and hydrated by plunging the lower trunk into the margins of the garden pond. There it lay for over a week during which time we had very wet weather. Ever practical, and not wanting a dripping tree on the sitting room carpet, I suggested we might want to put it undercover to dry out before it came into the house. The tree was duly carried to the garage and propped up, still tightly encased in its mesh bag. That's when the toad was spotted! He slowly crawled out of the lower branches and headed towards the door. I didn't see the incident myself you understand - it was just recounted to me after said toad had been safely returned to the pond. Two days later, when Amelie helped carry the tree from the garage, was when the second toad made his appearance. Now granddad said it looked remarkably like the first one but I'm sceptical. One toad looks much like another and unless we've discovered some hitherto unknown species of Homing Toad I suspect this was a completely different individual.

The tree was carried into the house and ceremoniously positioned in a corner of the room. We didn't have to completely rearrange the furniture, just shuffle a few guitars out of the way and for once we didn't have to cut the top off to make it fit - a first for us!

We have a fair division of labour about these Christmas things - he makes the tree stand up straight and I decorate. So, why is it I ask myself that tree lights work when you test them in a heap on the floor but 5 minutes of careful arranging later there's nothing doing? Time to pause for lunch while he wiggles the wires, changes the fuse and fiddles with the bulbs.

May as well have a mince pie or two while we're waiting. These are from the third batch I've made so far - don't suppose any will make it to Christmas!

Still no sign of life in the lights so, not to disappoint our grandchild, we carry on regardless with the baubles and all the naff but sentimental bits and bobs. That's when we spotted the frog! Now I love wildlife as much as anyone but I prefer it out of doors rather than in my sitting room. There ensued a lot of squealing (me) and hilarity (them) as the by now warm and very lively creature was corralled into a corner. It involved crawling on bellies with head torches strapped to foreheads to encourage him from behind the grandfather clock and finally to capture him under the cupboard. David Attenborough would have been proud as the captive was released safely back to his more natural habitat.

This is the stuff that family memories are made of. I have learned from this episode and thought I'd pass on a few words of wisdom;

1 NEVER immerse a Christmas tree in a garden pond. Find a bucket - it's easier in the long run!
2 NEVER expect tree lights to work on the tree even after you've tested them just minutes before.
3 NEVER go barefoot in your sitting room unless you are confident there's no risk of frog and toad infestation.
4 NEVER attempt to put a new set of tree lights on after all the other decorations are already on the tree. Aaarggh!

Apart from that it was all good fun!

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and peaceful holiday and I hope you are looking forward to a creative 2016!

And don't forget you have until December 31st to send me your favourite Art Diary page - I'm loving seeing what you've all done!

Happy Christmas Everyone!
Linda x

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Art Diary Challenge Final

It's hard to believe but it's been more than 3 months since I challenged DMTV viewers to work alongside me as I kept a visual diary about events that happened during that period.

3 months sounds like a goodly length of time to fill a sketchbook with creative ideas but in reality it simply flies by and it takes commitment and energy to find the time you need. We all owe it to ourselves though don't we? Life is hectic and often stressful so we all deserve a few quiet moments of sanity in a busy day - making art provides that!

So whether it was recording the glorious leaves and berries of autumn......

Or the rare, red moon during total eclipse.........

Or the winter landscape that inspired this little quilt, which I've just started to embellish with paint and stitch, there was always something that caught my eye and my imagination.

I hope those of you who decided to have a go have enjoyed the experience and have also found the video updates we've offered on DMTV helpful.  What I'd like now is to see some of your pages! Please send me an image of your favourite open page spread, together with a few words telling me what you like about the page and what, if anything, it taught you.

I think if I had to choose my own favourite page it would have to be this one - not because it's brilliant drawing or painting - it has none of that. What it has done though is make me think - it has stirred something in me. While I was pasting these old and faded photographs to the page I have had time to cogitate on time passing. On family past and present. On the way roles in the family change as we age. Once I was that little innocent with my grandmother, running amok round her garden whacking everything with a wooden spoon, and now I'm a grandmother myself. I'm not sure yet how I can capture all that in my work but it's already made me get the paint brushes out and attempt a self portrait - it's a start I guess!

Once I have all your favourite images I will make what will no doubt be a very difficult choice between the submissions and decide on a winner! You have until December 31st to send me your images and words. I shall announce the winner and give details of the prize during the first week of January.

Please don't be shy - send to me here as soon as you are ready and I'll file everything safely ready for judgement day. Good luck to everyone who enters - I can't wait to see your what you've been doing!

Linda x

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Shaping up

Just a quick post today to let you see the outcome of the latest painting session.

The drying time between layers of oil paint is the worst thing - I'm always impatient to get on with it! Trouble is, if you work it too much it gets muddy and you're also tempted to put in fiddly detail far too soon.

At least I managed to finally get the top off a tube of blue yesterday! Stood it upside down in very hot water for a couple of minutes and then resorted to pliers. There were three different blues in the paints Laura gave me and although I realise you shouldn't choose your colour palette by which tube you can actually open!!! sometimes you just have to go with what you've got don't you?

The paint is getting thicker now and that will increase drying time between sessions - since patience isn't my strong suit I'm lining up some new canvasses. Maybe if I work on a couple at once I can switch from one to the next! Laura tells me I am still painting like I'm using watercolours so my plan is to start the next piece in a very different way. We'll have to see how that goes.

Bye for now,
Linda x

Thursday, 10 December 2015

New challenge

I don't know why I've never got to grips with oil painting - might be something to do with growing up in the 50s and 60s when acrylics were the new and exciting medium and everyone thought oil paint was old hat. I have dabbled a little bit in the past but the results were nothing to write home about. It's surprising really because I think it was the smell of oil paint and turpentine that started me painting in the first place! When I was in my early teens I used to go into the old Art School building in West Bromwich and the smell was an assault on the senses, followed immediately by the magnificent sight of ranks of wonderful studio easels. If you ever get breathless with excitement in an art shop you'll know exactly how that made me feel - and it wasn't the fumes making me breathless by the way, I just hyperventilate when I see massed paints and brushes!

I had no intention to take up oils again but this week Laura gave me all her paints and mediums - she isn't happy to use them with Amelie around. I decided to give them a go and having recently finished my 3 month Art Diary Challenge with a self portrait thought that was the way to go. (Better than offending a different model anyway). Painting with oils is completely opposite to everything I'm used to with watercolours or even acrylics. I'm having to learn from the beginning! This is really only an underpainting and will change quite a lot as I add more layers of glazes.

I shall probably blend a lot of the brush strokes out while the paint is still so wet and malleable.

And I am aware that I need lots more shadows and dare I say it, wrinkles!!! The hair also looks a bit too voluminous - I'll give that some attention next session and then let you see how it's looking.

Not to be outdone on the Christmas preparations front, I snaffled the leftover salt dough from Laura's recent video for DMTV and made these tree decorations last night. There's a second batch drying out in the oven as I write this so plenty of fun painting and gilding to come later today. I love any excuse to get the Treasure Gold out!

I'll be back with details for the Art Diary Challenge competition next week. If you've been keeping your own visual diary make sure to visit my blog to find out how to enter. There will be a prize!!

Talk to you again soon - Linda x

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Who will I talk to today?

I really admire people who don't prevaricate, hesitate or put things off till another day!

No-one could call Trixie a slouch - she sent me this photograph a mere 3 days after I posted my fingerless mittens on this blog! What a great job she's done with a bargain yarn from Dunelm. Sounds like a girl after my own heart!

When I open my email each morning I never know who I'll be hearing from and from what part of the world. Yesterday, Anita wrote to me from the Netherlands with pictures of the 2 purses she has made after watching Laura's humbug purse video for DMTV.

This one is made by recycling a quilted patchwork block.

And this one is from hand dyed, quilted fabric. Lovely work Anita!

And the same day I heard from Jennifer in Denmark with pictures of her gorgeous little appliqués inspired by the Art Diary Challenge and her sketchbook pages.

Jennifer made these for a Christmas market - I hope the snow didn't keep people away and they sold really well. Beautiful work Jennifer!

My artistic efforts of late have been quite therapeutic! Laura has designed a new 'We Print, You Paint' fabric and I volunteered to make a sample using my favourite Jacquard Lumiere paints in combination with some gorgeous Liquitex Acrylic Inks.

Here I'm only just making a start - I'll show you the completed piece next time. Laura has been working with the same design using fabric marker pens to achieve a completely different effect. We always like to try out various products so we can recommend techniques with confidence. We both worked on the panels as Storm Clodagh raged outside on Sunday afternoon. It was a lovely way to spend a few hours although the noise of the wind was quite scary again. Fortunately it was short lived!

Maybe you'll be tempted to get some art therapy too when Laura releases the new fabric design for sale?

Talk to you soon - bye for now,
Linda x

Monday, 23 November 2015

Fingerless mittens

I really love a bargain and half price yarn is right up my street. Trouble is, the best deals usually mean  rummaging through an 'end of line' bin for odd skeins. There's a limit to what you can create with just one odd ball but if you can find two that match......................

I like a mindless project to work in the evenings without having to think about it too much. These are just what's needed now the weather has turned colder. I used Rowan cotton yarn in a lovely flecked indigo colour and size 3.75 pins - that's an imperial 9 for us old folk!

A rectangle of garter stitch doesn't look very promising I know.

I cast on 44 stitches and just kept going until I almost used a ball for each mitten. I didn't have a pattern so I simply folded the knitting around my hand till it was long enough.

You'll notice from one of the pictures that I left a tail of yarn at opposite corners of the rectangle so that I could pick each one up and close the seam to make a tube. The thumb pops out of a little gap which I left unstitched. The knitting took hardly any time at all and if I can bear to give them away, these would make someone a nice gift for Christmas. I may yet decide to embellish them with a few buttons or I might leave them absolutely plain.

Linda x

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Stormy weather

Storm Barney blew through here last night - I can't remember such scary high winds! The power went off twice during dinner and we kept torches beside the bed just in case.

Turns out high winds are just what you need to fetch apples down from the top of the tree. We'd been looking up at these for the past couple of weeks thinking they were out of reach and just for the birds but this morning I could collect as many as I wanted from the ground!

It's still a bit wild this morning but after wending our way through debris and fallen branches we reached Laura's in time to start recording video for DMTV. There's always a bit of preparation and setting up required before we record and I don't like to be idle so I found time to stitch the binding onto the thorny, red moon panel I quilted recently. Here it is waiting to be attached to its canvas panel ready for display. It's very satisfying to finish something even if it is only small. This piece is 30cm square and was really quick to quilt on the PowerQuilter. I hate unfinished business so I'm really happy to be able to tick one more off the 'to do' list!

I mentioned last time that I was having a sale of work. Here's another quilt I would love to find a new home for;

This first version I made of 'To The Brim' measures 63cm x 98cm ( 24.5inches x 38.5 inches) It's constructed using hand dyed cotton, silk and linen fabrics. I've added raw edged appliqué and printed text with metallic gold paint.

The quilt is mostly free machine quilted.

And there's a little bit of detail added with hand stitch.

No, I haven't put this photo in upside down! The design runs all around the outer edges of the quilt as inspired by Paul Klee's painting, 'Ad Marginem'.

If you'd be interested to have this piece please drop me a line. It costs £195 plus postage at cost.

Thanks for reading today. Linda x

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Bonfire night

The local fireworks display was spectacular!

It's an annual event but the first time we've attended.

Wish we had sound on here so you could enjoy the complete experience - my ears were still buzzing when I went to bed hours later! It had rained heavily in the morning but by afternoon the skies cleared and the evening weather was perfect. Lovely food, lovely company, live music and dazzling pyrotechnics.

So far November has been unseasonably mild so it has been difficult to find the opportunity to get much wear out of my latest infinity scarf. On a trip to Knutsford and Liverpool yesterday it was 18C and we even sat in a courtyard outside the restaurant. Of course, now I've said that temperatures will no doubt nosedive!

I'd liberated the length of velvet from Laura's workroom. It's a gorgeous piece that she'd first dyed and then applied devore paste through a silkscreen. Finally she'd dye painted and digitally embroidered quotations from Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market. The pale stripes you can see are where the pile of the velvet has been eaten away by the action of the paste. It added quite an accent of colour to my otherwise drab outfit yesterday even if, once the sun came out, it spent most of the day abandoned in the car.

Full and Fine 2006 - SOLD!

Rossetti's epic poem was part of the inspiration behind this little quilt of mine too. It's made from a honey coloured, hand dyed, cotton fabric.

The pomegranates were printed onto organza and overlay a hand painted fabric.

The quilt was free machine quilted and the title digitally embroidered.

As a final embellishment I added masses of tiny seed beads to represent the spots of colour on the skin of the fruits.

I'm offering 'Full and Fine' which measures 40cm x 92cm for sale at £100 plus P&P at cost. Although I made it back in 2006 it was only exhibited a couple of times and never displayed again. Email me if you're interested to give it a home. (SOLD)

I shall be making a number of my quilts available here over the coming weeks as I do my best to downsize! I've already added a few new bits and pieces to the Small Items for Sale page. You can find the link at the top of the page. Hope you find something you like - just drop me an email if anything appeals.

Thanks for dropping by today - It's nice to know you're out there! Linda x

Monday, 2 November 2015

Where did October go?

I can't believe it's November already. October was just a blur! We had half term of course which means more days out with Amelie. We went to the zoo one day and I took lots of photographs to inspire my art diary pages.

I know these may look like mad cartoon characters but I promise you the Bald Headed Ibis were bizarre.

There were Guinea Fowl running free and we couldn't resist collecting a few of their gorgeous feathers from the ground.

Comical looking creatures - all feet, squawks and attitude!

When my girls were young we didn't acknowledge Halloween but the American influence has changed all that so the end of the week saw suitable preparations being made. There were cherry muffins with erratic green frosting and carved pumpkins lighting up the driveway. Scary black and orange bunting decorated the hall and black paper spiders dangled from the doorways. Sadly Amelie came down with chickenpox that night so visitors are currently being discouraged. Never mind - we had fun!

Back to what passes for normal life, one of our DMTV members was kind enough to send me a number of photos from her diary pages. Barbara's loving the autumn colours we've all been enjoying over the last few weeks and her artwork, stitching and knitting are all reflecting their warmth.

I love Barbara's trees, birds and combination of techniques in this image!

I also heard from Jennifer again - she tells me she's onto her second sketchbook already. The first is full and so stuffed with work it won't close!

It's great to see the drawings are inspiring stitched work too!

Now that the evenings are drawing in the weeks seem to be flying by so what will November bring? We've got a bonfire party and fireworks to look forward to next weekend. We're hoping Amelie's spots will have disappeared by then otherwise we may have to pretend they're part of a fancy dress costume!

Talk to you again soon - Linda x

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Art Diary - October

This month seems to be all about harvest. Of course I never need much encouragement to draw and paint fruit! I'm playing with a contrast of scale on this page.

I've been challenging myself to draw in a more economical way. Mostly my drawings rely on relative tonal values and, of course, colour but it's refreshing to try a different approach and just concentrate on pure line.

I'm also mixing up the media I choose. Pen has never been something I've used much before (it's scarily permanent!) but I'm loving the Faber-Castell Pitt artists' pens I bought recently. They work beautifully on their own but are lovely with a watercolour wash too.

There's no opportunity for fiddling about when you draw with a permanent pen - you just have to go for it.

Pretty much like Laura's students at yesterday's workshop! Screen printing mixed media drawings using an acrylic medium that couldn't be allowed to dry on the mesh meant there was a sense of urgency about the work. No bad thing if it makes everyone really productive!

The techniques were very experimental and somewhat unpredictable but that's what made the results so exciting and kept me keep popping back into the class to see what was being produced.

There are more pictures of the workshop over on Laura's blog

Can't wait till the next workshop - always sends me home buzzing with ideas for my own work.

Talk again soon,
Linda x