Friday, 19 September 2014

There's sometimes beauty in destruction

The bright green caterpillars that have made such a meal out of this obviously loved the plant as much as I do.

In the face of such destruction I couldn't help but think it might inspire a little embroidery worked on water soluble stabiliser. (If you've watched this week's DMTV video you'll know exactly what I mean!).

The poor thing is still producing beautiful trumpet flowers but it smacks of desperation!

The saddest thing of all is it should by rights look like the one we saw when we took Amelie to Dudley Zoo. It was in a tropical house and had monkeys climbing through its branches - don't think we can run to that but we'll try to be more attentive to it in the future.

Leaves have been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe because the first signs of autumn are in the air and plenty have already started to fall. Although I don't welcome the approach of winter I do love the colours beginning to appear in the trees right now. I painted this from a leaf I picked up in Laura's garden a couple of days ago. It's a mixed media study in my altered book but because we've had so many requests for more information, the techniques I've used will also feature in next week's DMTV show.

Yesterday was very busy - we recorded a video first thing in the morning before we had our annual verification visit from City & Guilds. It will be our last official visit now that we have decided not to offer C&G courses again. We have decidedly mixed feelings about the changes this will bring but I can't help but confess to a huge sense of relief that there'll be less time spent on all the paperwork and filing! More time for sewing and painting - yippee!

Talk to you again very soon - Love Linda

Friday, 12 September 2014

More altered book, adding to the collections and Sue's appliqué

It's all been a bit of a blur over the last couple of weeks. Although we have as much work as usual we've also had time for family parties, much baking, a house guest, and a day out at the zoo. Amelie's birthday celebrations can't go on forever so, now that things are getting back to what passes for normal around here, I am trying to make progress with my latest altered book.

I gessoed over the text on this page before leaving for Laura's this morning. The only original part of the page remaining visible was the illustration of the orchid at the bottom left. It only takes a minute or two to spread a generous dollop of Liquitex Heavy Gesso with a big hog brush, purposely making loose, textural marks. When I got home this evening I only had an hour or so to spare before meeting up with friends for dinner. I could easily have frittered the time away painting my fingernails but spurred on by Laura's challenge to make a drawing in her sketchbook every day I felt compelled to make an effort! No time for a detailed drawing tonight but a quick watercolour was doable.

I applied the watery paint to create the shapes of the petals and while still damp I worked into it with Derwent Inktense pencils to make those fine yellow and pink lines. Once the watercolour was dry I took a brush dipped in clean water and lifted some of the paint away. I think this helps give the impression the petals are quite delicate and almost translucent. There's still work to be done but I'll hopefully have a bit more free time over the weekend to finish this page.

We get hundreds of emails every week and amongst the routine and often frankly boring ones we have to deal with we get some that really brighten our day! We're always pleased to receive images of work inspired by DMTV so many thanks to Sue for sending in this lovely appliquéd blue tit. What a lovely character - I love the gleam in his eye!

I'm an inveterate collector of all kinds of interesting bits and pieces. Kitchen implements fascinate me so I couldn't resist these vintage sieves. They'll never be used for culinary purposes again but they'll look great hanging in my kitchen.

A tactile, carved crocodile and a lovely wooden glove stretcher just had to come home with me too. I am a lost cause when it comes to bargain buys at a flea market. Want and need are two completely different conditions aren't they?

Hope you are enjoying this Indian summer - long may it last! Love linda

Monday, 8 September 2014

How long can you make a birthday last?

Amelie celebrates her second birthday this week but it's impossible to limit it to just one day. We had to organise a family party at the weekend for everyone who wouldn't be able to visit on the actual day. Sunday was gloriously sunny and 26 of us enjoyed a great barbecue in the garden. You can't see everyone in this photo but I suspect the rest of the guests were at the far end of the garden working the calories off on the trampoline! I thankfully was excused such exertions as official photographer!

We're having a small lunch party on the day itself followed by a trip to the zoo next day. I can't wait to see how excited she'll be about that!

 In my free time (when I'm not busy baking birthday cakes!) I'm continuing to work in my latest altered book. There's a lovely old illustration of a bunch of grapes in the book and since our own grapes are looking almost ready now it seemed a good idea to make a drawing of them.

Ours are black rather than green but you can't have everything can you?

I'm drawing with Derwent Inktense pencils onto a layer of Liquitex Heavy Gesso. Once the drawing is done I add a wash of clear water to intensify the colour of the pencils making sure to preserve white areas as highlights. I'll be making more of the deep shadows next time I find a few spare minutes. By the way, if you haven't seen what Laura is doing with her Daily Drawing Challenge you really should have a look at her blog. I'm so impressed that she's sticking to her guns so far - no one works as hard as she does so if she can fit a daily drawing session into her busy day anyone should be able to do the same! As her concerned mother I do notice that some of the drawings don't get posted till after my bedtime!

Much as I loved being in my workroom drawing this morning the garden still beckons. Today's priority was picking and dealing with the enormous crop of tomatillos. I'm going to grill them till they're charred then blitz them in the processor with chillis, coriander and lime juice. The resulting paste will be used to cook chicken to a tender deliciousness!

And although the carrots aren't desperately calling for attention and will stand quite happily for some time yet, Amelie seemed to enjoy grabbing a few for dinner today! It's lovely that she already knows about how food grows and doesn't imagine it comes shrink wrapped in a polystyrene tray!

Thanks for reading. I'll be back again soon - Linda x

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Feels like harvest festival

I love this time of year. All of the efforts made by 'He who Gardens' come into fruition - quite literally! At dinnertime I just walk up the garden path and choose what we'll have that evening. Of course nothing ever arrives in modest portions - it's always all or nothing.

Looks like we may have tomatoes again tonight!

Better make that Ratatouille!

And a side order of beetroot. No one can say we don't have our 5 a day!

We spotted these on our walk yesterday, they may be edible but decided not to risk it!

In between all the cooking and eating I am making time for the latest altered book. Here I've started to invent bits of the tulips that didn't exist in the original illustration. They now have ridiculously long stems and some rather elegant leaves. The beauty of drawing over gesso is that the paper surface has so much more character than when it was smooth and shiny. The graphite pencil picks up on the texture of the gesso and helps make even the simplest mark more interesting. I am getting through quite a lot of Liquitex Super Heavy Gesso in this project but I know where I can get more!

Thanks for dropping by - Love Linda

Sunday, 31 August 2014

If you can't join 'em, beat 'em

I went into my favourite dress store last week to enquire about a gorgeous dress in the window. On discovering that although it was a simple shape and sleeveless, so it would need a long sleeved T shirt or sweater to complete the outfit, it was £249 - I decided it might be time to do a bit more dressmaking!

Having recently treated myself to this new Vogue pattern I ransacked my fabric stash to see if I had anything suitable. It had to be 2 way stretch and although I didn't have enough fabric to make the single colour version, by combining two different jersey fabrics I could make the contrast view B.

I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out and will definitely use this pattern again.

Next time I think I'll make the sleeveless version - it'll be great for winter worn over a polo neck sweater!

Thanks for reading! Love Linda

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Day out and latest printing project

We had a lovely day at Attingham Park again a few days ago. It's a local National Trust property we often visit. We took Amelie but she's not impressed by grand houses so granddad entertained her with football in the grounds while I did a whirlwind tour of the house and its treasures. The stewards are always keen to regale anyone who's vaguely interested with all the history but because of pressure of time I did my best to politely evade them.  I whizzed from room to room and I never expected this photo to turn out so well because the light levels are kept really low to protect the paintings and other treasures

They record the prized cattle of the estate - makes me think I should do something inspired by the excellent beasts who inhabit the field opposite Laura's house!!

The glass cases in the same room house an extravagant number of exotic birds from the day when it was considered acceptable to catch and stuff rare and sometimes endangered species.

I've been working with my altered book again this week. No birds for the moment - I'm focussing on plants and fruits now.

The leaves have been printed using compressed sponge and acrylic paints. After the paint dried I added  a wash of watercolour and love the way the colour sits in the bubbly shapes made by the sponge. I'm thinking I may ask Laura and Jamie to print some of these pages for me in a larger scale. They would be brilliant made larger than life size!

The technique works just as beautifully on fabric as DMTV members will see from this week's video. I'm having great fun stitching into this right now and will let you see the finished piece very soon.

Thanks for reading - love Linda x

Sunday, 17 August 2014

So much for good intentions

I had every intention of spending the whole weekend in my workroom cooking up something new and fantastic. We have some very exciting exhibition opportunities planned for the next year and it's not too early to start getting to grips with new work. Unfortunately everything conspired against me. The garden was the worst offender. Never turn your back on courgette plants for a week in August!! What should have been tender little fingers of deliciousness had so loved the warm weather and frequent showers they'd swollen to mammoth proportions and me being so mindful of waste had to make soup. Lots of soup! The freezer is beginning to groan with it all but we'll be glad enough come autumn. As an antidote to the time spent slaving in the kitchen I did finally make my escape to start a new altered book.

Now I know those of you who were raised by parents who discouraged scribbling in books will surely not approve of such defacement but I make no apologies. I love to take an existing book and make it my own. I was never the sort to write notes in the margins when I was a student so I'm not sure how I've become so liberated.

I'm starting by eliminating all the stuff I don't want to keep - the modern photographs and the text. The pages are a soft creamy colour so I've added a squirt of yellow ochre to my white gesso and applied it in a rough layer thick enough to almost obliterate the original images and words. The hint of ochre will also suggest age.

Some of the illustrations are gorgeous and will be kept. Pomegranates are one of my favourites, beautiful to look at but in my experience, very difficult to paint! I don't mind a hint of text remaining visible but will consider adding more paint and/or gesso as I work through the book.

Many images have been cropped to fit the page layout or they've been framed in a little box, but I plan to fill in any gaps created by the labelling and extend the images by drawing into them. The gesso will provide a lovely surface for the drawing.

Being impatient to make some progress, I couldn't wait for individual pages to dry before moving onto the next - hence the improvisation with the water pot and gesso tub. Note to self - make sure to move pots before they glue themselves to the acrylic!!

I'm looking forward to filling these pages with lots of drawing and painting - I hope you'll drop by again soon to see how that goes.

Linda x
PS I can't even begin to tell you about the cucumber situation - he who gardens presented me with 10 yesterday! Needless to say we are having Raita with everything and anyone who pays us a visit leaves with at least one. My poor mother left with 2 this afternoon and she doesn't even like cucumber!