Posted on 2 Comments

Looking closely

Looking Closely

Working from the enlarged prints of the purse clasps I have made a couple of drawings in a little A5 sketchbook. Pencil is fine but the drawings were a bit delicate and didn’t have much visual impact on the page. I do like to use pencils because they’re so portable and because they’re not messy it’s something I can easily do curled up on the sofa when I’m too lazy to go into my workroom or when there’s something unmissable on TV. I soon recognised though that I’d have more drama if I went with my favourite watercolour paints. Taking one of my printed images I chopped it in half and glued one half onto the left hand page of my sketchbook. Then the challenge was to complete the image in paint. I chose to work with Paynes Grey watercolour as it has a slight bluish tendency that I think suggests the metallic sheen of my subject quite well.

My first attempt at painting the clasp shows how I left parts of the paper unpainted to suggest the reflections and highlights of the shiny but slightly tarnished surface. I wanted to be a lot looser with the paint though so for my next effort (using the other half of the print), I used an oil pastel in silvery white to record all the pale areas before washing over the marks with watery colour. An oil pastel is a blunt instrument so I couldn’t be too precise with the marks but they were effective at shrugging off the subsequent layers of watercolour and that meant I could flood colour over the page without needing to paint carefully up to a line. The pierced metal is one of my favourite bits of the purse so I’ve tried to suggest the holes by drawing dots of black Inktense pencil into the still wet paint. I’ve used the same pencil to add more depth of tone into the shadows of the clasp but this is being worked onto dry paint and is not yet complete. I’ve also started to add a white highlight to one side of the dark holes to match the light falling across from one side but the paper is too damp right now so that’s something I’ll need to go back to. It’s suddenly becoming quite a mix of mediums!

You may wonder why I do all of these studies on paper if my intention is to create a piece in fabric and thread. What I want at the beginning of a project is to get to know my subject really well and I think there’s no better way to achieve that than to draw it. From these close observations hopefully I’ll get design ideas for textile work that isn’t simply a copy of the inspiration but does express its essence in some as yet unknown way. I’ve got those delicious fabrics ready and I really can’t wait to get stitching!!

Thanks for visiting my website today – I love to hear from you if you have questions or comments – Linda x

Posted on 5 Comments

Finding Inspiration

Finding Inspiration

I’ve been looking more closely at my metal purse and focussing particularly on the clasp. I’ve made some sketches of the clasp and the hinge and I already showed some of the prints and rubbings last time I posted here but after watching Laura’s video “Finding Inspiration” on DMTV I wanted to try some of her great suggestions for playing with a change of scale. My purse is tiny and anything inspired by it wouldn’t have much visual impact worked life size. The images here are much enlarged photocopies of the initial photos I took. I printed them out A4 letter size. It’s surprising how they change the effect of the decorative elements  – don’t you think they look almost architectural now?

Most of my early sketchbook pages have been black and white but I wanted to involve some colour and the rich purple/blue velvet lining gave me just what I wanted. I’ve added washes of watercolour of those colours over some of the prints but first I rubbed a silver oil pastel across the edges of the pages. The pastel shrugs off the water based colour and I hope those little pale dots give a similar effect to the perforations found in the main body of the purse. At the moment I still don’t know where this is leading me – there’s lots of thinking and pondering to be done! I’m imagining a small, heavily stitched panel but who knows – might be something quite different when push comes to shove. Might even be a precious evening bag. If I’m enjoying myself I could do both! I have jumped ahead of myself though and searched through my crates of fabrics to find stuff that seems to represent the essence of my subject. Thinking of the perforations in the metal I’ve found out several nets and tulles of various mesh sizes. I’ve painted a few bits of old lace with mixtures of blue and purple fabric paint because the flower motifs on the clasp and hinge have very similar designs to those in lace. I found an old lace motif that is completely the wrong colour but I can overlay it with net to tone it down. Finally I found a scrap of metallic crinkly fabric that might fit in there somewhere. To me working on a sketchbook page or playing with scraps of fabric is much the same thing. If something is kind of right but not quite the right colour I can adjust it whether it’s on paper or cloth!

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Thanks for visiting my website today – I love to hear from you if you have questions or comments – Linda x

Posted on Leave a comment

Printing today

Printing Today

Laura gave me this precious little metal purse some time ago and I’ve been thinking it might be nice to use it as inspiration for some new work. It’s a little worn and shows glimpses of some colour that has eroded over time but it’s still beautiful isn’t it? There’s a decorative clasp at the front and these images show a similar hinge at the back – I think they are worth a closer look! I have no idea where this might lead me – it may indeed be nowhere, but I’ll do what I always do which is to make some studies in my sketchbook. I could just begin with drawing but I had a hankering to make prints for a change. As we continue to build the new designmatterstv website I’ve been looking back at some of our  workshops and the great printing techniques we’ve covered over the years got me really excited. I decided the first step was to make a lino print block and to test it by doing a quick rubbing with a solid graphite pencil. You can see the lino block and the rubbing alongside each other here. Having tried a rubbing I think I’ll need to make the cut marks a little deeper for a well defined print but that’s the reason for trying it out with pencil before getting all the print paraphenalia out!

My next step was to make a second print block – this time with self adhesive foam onto a scrap of sturdy card. After gluing the shapes I trimmed away as much of the background card as possible. This ensures the edges of the card won’t print and it also makes registration easier if repeats are part of the plan. I’ve already made a heap of prints on several different paper types from this block and the lino block but I’ll show you more next time. Some of the prints were made by applying acrylic paint to the surface of the block using a small foam roller. When pressed to the paper these prints produce a direct contact image. I had to work very quickly because we are in the middle of a heatwave here and the paint was drying almost as quickly as I put it on – 30C is not ideal for this kind of activity! The double print you can see here was slightly different from that though. This time I covered a gelli plate with black acrylic and pressed the second block onto the wet surface to make an impression of the shapes. Placing a sheet of  paper on top, applying gentle pressure, and lifting it off immediately gave this quite soft print which I rather liked. The visual texture is the imprint of both the foam roller and also the pull of the paint as the paper is lifted off the plate. Of course it won’t stop there – I’ve already started working into the less successful prints to see if a bit of colour can redeem them. It’s early days but I’ll let the ideas percolate and think how I might involve some lovely fabrics soon!

Thanks for visiting my website today – I love to hear from you if you have questions or comments – Linda x

Posted on 2 Comments

Pencils on Fabric

Pencil painting on fabric

If you’re like me and love to work in sketchbooks  you’ll come up with loads of lovely pages that you’d also like to see in fabric and thread. If something looks good on paper it will almost certainly look good on cloth. It might involve a change of medium and probably of scale but the same visual effect will be achievable. The great thing is though, that if you’ve enjoyed using watersoluble pencils in your sketchbook you can work in exactly the same way on smooth fabric. I’ve drawn a lily from my garden here. You know how much I always find inspiration from nature! I’ve used Derwent Inktense pencils which are permanent once water has been added and then they’ve been allowed to dry. Other watersoluble pencils can be used to colour fabrics but if you are intending to launder the item in the future the colour will probably wash away!  I have no particular connection with Derwent but I just like their pencils! Check out their website if you want more specific information. You can use a textile medium instead of, or as well as water, but I haven’t found it necessary. Sample both and see what you prefer. The medium might help prevent ‘creep’ of colour but that doesn’t bother me as I like a painterly watercolour effect.

 

I’ve only used a few pencils for this painting – fuschia, light olive, shiraz and tangerine. I’ve found by trial and error that it’s most effective to draw onto damp fabric rather than dry and to overlay two colours. Once the initial drawing is done I then add more water with a paintbrush and ‘tickle’ the colour around to soften and blend it. Because I like a watercolour look I’m generous with the water to encourage the colour to bleed. Of course quilting transforms the whole thing. I’ve free motion quilted quite closely, following the contours of the petals and leaves and then stitched the background with columns of pale stitch. I like the contrast this creates against the flower and of course, it adds texture and controls all the baggy, pale fabric. Once the quilting is finished I enjoy adding more detail with the pencils. A nice sharp point means I can target small areas such as the stamens. I used that shocking tangerine onto wet fabric for that punch of colour. Lilies have such pronounced stamens don’t they? I believe they are toxic to pets but I often snip them off before they drop and stain everything around them. I had quite a few emails asking for more about Inktense pencils so I hope this post has been of interest – don’t forget we’ve got lots of videos about them on designmatterstv!

Thanks for visiting my website today – I love to hear from you if you have questions or comments – Linda x

Posted on 4 Comments

Painting with Pencils

Painting With Pencils

Lots of people tell me they don’t get on with watercolours because they are too difficult, too unforgiving, and they have a mind of their own. They are actually my favourite medium – I think they just need a bit of practise but if you identify with that statement then I urge you to give watersoluble pencils a go. For these examples I’ve used Derwent Inktense pencils but any watercolour pencil will give similar results. I think the most important thing to bear in mind is that they do need plenty of water to achieve a painterly effect. Hopefully you can see in the apple here that the pigments of the pencil have completely disolved and been allowed to flow across the paper just like paint does. It may seem a waste of time and effort to make colour swatches as I have but pencils have to be layered and mixed on the paper. They can’t be premixed in a palette like wet paint. If you only have a few pencils it’s very useful to try them out to see how many colours you can achieve with limited options. I’ve scribbled two colours allowing them to overlap in the middle and then I’ve dragged a wet brush down the centre to see how they mix. It’s surprising to see the difference it makes if you then change which is the top layer of the two colours.

 

I’ve done the same trial mix with a few pencils for my study of green grapes. I often find many paints, pastels and pencils are rather too ‘raw’ straight from the tube or stick. Mixing more subtle colours is much more effective. Don’t you find green colours of paint and ink etc are a problem? The greens in nature are usually much softer and less strident than those I find in my pencil or paintbox. I always have to modify them to suit my taste!

I didn’t need many pencils for the grape painting – just a lemon mixed with leaf green for the fruits, dark indigo and charcoal grey for the shadows and mustard with charcoal for the stalks and the brown paper bag. Hope if you’ve got water-soluble pencils you’ll dust them off and have a play soon – I think you’ll have fun!

Thanks for dropping by. Linda x

Posted on 4 Comments

Red Sun

Red Sun

I’ve been experimenting with landscapes this week – not something I’ve seriously attempted before. I wanted to create a painting with drama so I started by layering cling film over some washes of intense acrylic colour with a few garden leaves. I’m working onto a rough watercolour paper and after peeling the plastic film away from the almost dry paint I had some interesting organic patterns. This visual texture seemed like a good background for a landscape. I’d purposely kept the acrylic paint to the lower section of the paper so the textured colour would suggest undergrowth or maybe a rocky foreground in the composition.
When the initial layers were completely dry, I added the winter trees. I used a rigger for this – the long, tapering brush let me make quite narrow lines where I wanted the branches to become more twiglike. Some of the finest twigs were made by dragging the wrong end of the paintbrush out of the wet paint.

To increase the texture, as you can probably see, I scraped a little inktense pencil onto spots of water to make speckles of colour in the indigo watercolour sky.

The setting sun colours everything with a warm glow so I flooded intense colour onto the sides of the trees facing its light. You’ve probbly gathered by now that this is not a real landscape! I usually work from a source of inspiration but I was just playing here and having fun with my imagination. I loaded my brush with luscious paint and let the reds and yellows mix together on the paper. Finally, I popped a white mount onto the painting to see how it would look when framed.

We’ve been having very changeable weather here in the middle of England – I snapped a quick picture of some of our garden trees when the sky was a deep Paynes grey but the setting sun caught all the lime green of the newly opening leaves. It’s a complete change of palette but might be my next subject to paint. Nature always does it best!

Thanks for dropping by. I’ll keep you posted – Linda x

Posted on 2 Comments

Watercolour Grapevine

Watercolour Grapevine

I’m enjoying painting my watercolours again this week. The hard frosts have damaged some of the early flowering shrubs in our garden so although I’ve loved painting the emerging flowers of the magnolias their poor, delicate petals were now a sorry mess and were never going to open fully. I like to paint from life when I can but faced with sad, brown blooms I decided to revisit my photographs instead. Laura planted a few young grapevines last year and they produced the most glorious coloured leaves and I couldn’t resist. That’s my finished painting on the right.

The sheer number of overlapping leaves was quite a challenge so, to get started I sketched the main shapes using a water soluble pencil, knowing this would disolve into the wet paint later. What I love about watercolour is how it floods and bleeds across the paper but of course, this is also what you don’t want to happen when you are trying to paint separate shapes and keep colours also separate. The obvious answer is to paint leaves that don’t touch each other first, let them dry and then paint the gaps in between. Hopefully you can see how that is beginning to work in the photo below. I added a bit of negative painting in the background to suggest the small leaves that weren’t part of the vine but were growing below it.

The third image shows the effect of flooding water into semi dry paint to create ‘blooms’. They may not be exactly what I was seeing on the vine itself but I think it adds lovely, organic texture and it’s one of my favourite ways of adding interest  to a painting.

Although watercolour paint dries quite quickly you still need to be patient between layers of colour so what better thing to do than to start a second painting? While I was wading my way through the thousands of photographs I have I fell upon some I had taken of an ancient fishing boat seen on holiday years ago in Brittany. I’ve always loved these pictures and in fact have made three quilts inspired by the boats combined with quotes from Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. Words and song lyrics often conjure images in my mind and have always been a kick start for me and my quilt designs!

It’s something of a departure for me to attempt a landscape/seascape subject as I tend to favour nature as inspiration but it’s good to step out of your comfort zone every now and again isn’t it? I hope you’ve liked seeing work in progress and my finished paintings. I shall add pristine card mounts to these and maybe even frame them for sale. A mount makes all the difference to a watercolour painting – it’s like adding a crisp binding to a quilt!

Thanks for dropping by.  Linda x

Posted on 2 Comments

Watercolour Still Life

Watercolour Still Life

I’m flipping between projects this week as usual. I’m still in watercolour mode but also fitting in more machine patchwork between painting sessions. The scrap quilt is growing quite quickly but I can’t resist the lure of my paintbox so it’s great to be able to multitask. You need to picture me in my studio as I paint the first layers of colour of the fruit and then scoot my office chair across to my machine to make a quilt block while that paint dries. I knew there was a great reason to have a chair with wheels!

It’s easy to find inspiration for the painting – I love to surround myself with lovely things even if they aren’t particularly precious or valuable. Many people might think my collections are somewhat eccentric (I won’t share the weird things) but they give me joy whenever I see them. What better things could there be to include in my paintings? The fruit bowl is a very ordinary dish we found on a bric-a-brac stall at the local market. It is huge and holds such a lot of fruit. The shallow black bowl behind it is papier mache decorated with birds and rich pattern. We’ve had that for years and I can’t quite remember where it came from but I love it. It normally lives on the mantlepiece next to the carved wooden crocodile with the poppy seed heads in the blue troika pot alongside. I bought that pot for £6 nearly sixty years ago before it became collectable. Simple pleasures!

I thought the twiggy stems of the bunch of grapes were more interesting than the grapes themselves, which is lucky because there were more of them as I munched on the fruit while painting. It’s a good job watercolour is quicker than oils as they won’t keep much longer! I hope you can see the effect of letting one layer of paint dry before adding a second wash of colour. I’m not attempting complete realism with my paintings. Whilst I obviously want things to be recognisable as what they are, what I really want to achieve is to let the paints speak for themselves. Working wet onto dry stops the colours blending and creates the lovely edges that I like. The initial paint is wet into wet for general overall colour, that’s allowed to dry and then more washes added wet onto dry. You can understand why a second activity like quilting is such a good idea. Without my patchwork to divert me I’d end up fiddling too much with the paint.

I thought I’d finish this post with a picture of the stack of finished blocks waiting to be added to the quilt top. I’ve got about a dozen here but you can see from the heap of strips I still have a way to go before I’m done. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for dropping by.  Linda x

Posted on 2 Comments

Love watercolour!

Love Watercolour!

No matter how often I experiment with all kinds of different art materials and techniques I invariably return to my all time favourite watercolour paints. There’s something magical about the way they move on the paper. All they need is a little persuasion from lots of water! The garden is beginning to blossom right now and I found plenty of nature’s inspiration for my paintings. The lovely, delicate white flowers of the Magnolia Stellata don’t last for long but are a beacon of light at this time of year. They really do gleam in the dark at twilight. I love to capture their beauty before the petals inevitably fade and fall.

I encourage those strange marks which are called ‘blooming’ in the background. They are created when more water is flooded into the wet paint, pushing the pigment to the edges of the painted shape. I prefer the visual texture rather than a flat wash even if some painters view them as a fault!

The bigger Magnolia Soulangeana is only just starting to reveal her pink and white gorgeousness but even in bud makes a great subject for a watercolour. What do you think about that hot pink? It’s called opera and is rapidly becoming one of my favourite colours. I sometimes have to tone it down a bit with violet or blue so it’s not quite so in your face but honestly, there’s nothing like it for a bit of zing! I’m training myself to be patient about drying times – hard as it is to resist carrying on painting in one enjoyable and totally absorbing session. It would probably be a good idea to work on more than one at a time – that way I can switch between paintings and not feel frustrated. If I can walk away and let the first lot of paint dry it makes it easier to return a little later to add another layer of transparent colour. I find that’s the best way to build up depth of colour and add fine detail. I’ve also made a new friend with a rigger brush. Originally designed to paint the fine lines of ships’ rigging, they are long and narrow but still hold plenty of paint. Perfect for stems and twiggy branches. I know a lot of people find watercolour difficult to handle. It’s true that it can be tricky to control of you are working wet into wet but I find painting to a dry edge prevents all that uncontrolled bleeding of one colour into the next – unless, of course, that’s exactly the effect I’m aiming for!

Let me know if you have any questions I might be able to help with. I’m always happy to talk about painting!

Bye for now.  Linda x

Posted on Leave a comment

Spring is just a rumour?

Spring is just a rumour?

Technically, meterological spring arrived on the first of March. There are certainly signs of it all around our garden but today, as I write this, it’s snowing quite heavily. I’ve been busy trying to ignore the weather and do my best to record the evidence that spring will arrive properly soon. ‘He Who Gardens’ doesn’t like me picking flowers when there are only a few early examples about but I smuggled a couple of our first daffodils into my studio this week. I find them a difficult subject for a painting. Yellow is such a tricky colour to work with isn’t it? It’s not so much the colour itself as the shadows it casts. Any colour you add to suggest shadow tends to make the flower look dirty. Colour theory tells you to add violet from the opposite side of the colour wheel but anyone who’s studied the flowers at close quarters would probably agree there’s more of a greenish tinge.

It’s also quite a challenge to capture the delicacy of the petals. I’ve discovered some of the yellow watercolour paints I have are quite opaque – not at all what you want to suggest transparency and fragility. Lots of water usually helps but, although I thought I had a lifetime’s supply of paint, I might have to get myself to the art shop asap. I shall forgive myself – there are worse sins than stockpiling paint!

Spending time with this year’s daffodils made me remember this larger watercolour and coloured pencil painting I made a while ago. You may remember seeing it on designmatterstv.com. A very similar still life featuring the same vase, flowers and seedheads led me to create a couple of small applique panels. That often happens with me. I start working in my sketchbook or at my easel with no other thought in my head than to try and capture something of my subject and before I know it ideas of how I might translate the painting into fabric and thread just come popping in. As we are always saying, ‘one step leads to the next’ and who knows where a few moments in a sketchbook will take you? I hope like me you are making time to be creative while we wait patiently for warmer days.

Bye for now.  Linda x

Posted on 2 Comments

Making progress

Making progress

This might be on the way to being compulsive! I’ve got the sewing down to a fine art now – once the foundation squares are cut to size and I’ve got a heap of fabric strips all nice and pressed flat, I can whizz away on the machine and complete a block in around ten minutes. That includes time to stand at the iron board to press every seam. I’ve discovered that if I add a strip each side of the centre one I can get away with pressing two seams at once instead of having to go to the iron for each one. I’m often sitting at a sewing machine or an easel for hours at a time so the only way I can complete the activity rings on my watch is the make sure the iron is at the far side of the room. That’s my exercise for the day covered!

I’ve got 40 blocks finished so far but I’m going to need nearer 100 for a super king size bed. I’ve been deliberating on how these should go together for the best effect. Those limes and yellows are really strident aren’t they? Trouble is, without them I think the quilt would lack any kind of impact.  I kept shuffling the blocks around to decide if it would be best to group the lairy ones together in the centre and surround them with quieter colour combinations or should I go with the random nature of the technique, deal them out like a pack of cards, and just sew them together as they fall? Well, patience is not a virtue I possess so having slept on it I went for the random option. Now I know it would have been sensible to make all the blocks before joining them together but since I’m able to put pretty much any colours in this quilt I know I’ve got plenty of fabric left. There’s also a very practical reason – when the blocks are trimmed back to the foundation square it severs all the thread ends and I don’t want the seams to unravel as they are handled repeatedly. The beauty of this design is that so few seams need to match. It’s only the junction of the squares that need care. I make certain to press the joining seams of each row in a consistent direction  and alternate the direction on the next row. That helps distribute the bulk so everything lays flat. Now all I have to do is dip into those scrappy strips and carry on but I know there are worse ways to spend my time!

Bye for now.  Linda x

Posted on 2 Comments

Stash busting (again!)

Stash Busting (Again!)

You might have heard me say over the years that when I have fabric left over from a quilting project I slice it up into narrow strips. I have a huge crate full of these strips, all perfect for adding bindings to a new quilt, or for making quick work of log cabin or courthouse steps patchwork. Recently I’ve been adding to this stash with some hand dyed fabrics I bought sight unseen. These turned out to be a very lightweight cotton – too thin for regular patchwork but excellent for anything worked onto a foundation. So, I’ve cut a number of eight inch foundation squares from some cotton blinds I recently replaced. I love to recycle! The first strip is laid from corner the corner on the square and the second lined up on top of it. My strips are different widths but none narrower than one and a quarter inches or wider than two inches. I’ve also been consistent to place the first strip as a dark blue/grey on every block. I press every seam and continue adding more strips either side of the first untill the whole of the cream foundation is covered.

The block looks really untidy at first but I flip it over and use a rotary cutter to trim the excess fabrics back to the edge of the foundation. This keeps everything nice and square and stitching onto the foundation prevents distortion at the same time as making the fabric more substantial.

At the moment I haven’t decided how I’m going to join these blocks. I’ve just plonked them on the floor for the purpose of these photos. The colours are pretty randomly placed except for the consistent grey strip at the centre of each block. In the arrangement here those strips create a suggestion of a grid which I do quite like. There are a number of other things I might do with the blocks though. They could be sliced in half and sewn to plain fabrics to make half square triangles for instance. Maybe I could sash them with a single colour to make the overall effect more controlled? I think I’ll have to make lots more blocks before I can make up my mind. It’s a good job they are so quick to do. I’m always such a control freak with my quilts so it’s hard for me to use so many random colours and to have so few seams line up. Wish me luck!

Bye for now.  Linda x