Wednesday, 21 June 2017


In an effort to get back on track with my weekly art project, this week I chose to do TWO projects in one (and a bit!) days.  As they have some similarities, I thought it would be fun to pack them neatly into this one blog post!

Sometimes we need other means of seeing to REALLY see!  This is as true in life as it is in art.

That was the case whilst working through the process of the last weekly art project. I noticed a section of leaves in one of the photos that had distinct possibilities for a little textile oriented exploration!!  When I went to take specific photos of the plant, I was overwhelmed with the possibilities that light & shadow had to offer me, so I took several photos.

Back inside and at the computer screen, I shortlisted my favourite spikey-leaf photos down to 4, printed them off on a single sheet & took them into the workroom to begin the process of design .

What interested me were the shapes created by light & shade.  Initially, I just used my black copic pens to create a few linear & mass observations.  From those I chose one to play with further, but as you can see, I could easily have taken each observational drawing onto the next level.  For the chosen one, I added a little colour.  That particular area of the photo had shown a yellow/green in that one spot, as opposed to the grey/green of other leaves.

Out came the green scraps!
I do have a lot!

I wanted my background to be a mish-mash of greens, so with that in mind, I collaged together a few different green scraps to form my background 'fabric'.

With the design stitched through the sandwich of layers, I used my white iron-out pen to mark where I needed to cut.  There were only a total of 4 layers (including the black top), so there really was very little cutting required.

This is the result.  Whilst I would certainly make a few changes if I were to do it again, look what this becomes when I use it as a repeat pattern....

...pretty cool huh!
So that was my first WAP done & dusted for the day.  Now it was time to get on with the next one!

Inspired by another spikey plant, I used this photo of our flowering cactus as my source of inspiration.
I realize that the eye catching feature here is the flower!  However, I am actually enamoured with the spikes, especially the curved ones!

But what to do to express the essence of that photo!  Out came my usual mapping tools to note down in a visual form WHAT I saw.  Those notes/marks became motifs & eventually a pattern.

Raiding the scraps again, I came up with this combination of fabrics.  The piece on the far right, is the sleeve of a mans shirt & those white splatters are similar to the white layer of star shaped spikes under the brown ones on the cactus.

This was the fabric I started with as my base & the first thing I did was create some of those white spike stars!!

The top layer this time was a composite 'fabric' again, made up of stripes much as I had done earlier in the day when I created a green one to use as a background.  I chose to have a multi coloured top layer, because if you scroll back up & look at the brown cactus spikes, you'll see that they are different shades of brown.

This is how it looked once each layer was cut back.  I am very pleased with the effect of the multi-coloured layer & think it looks very effective.  Whilst I am very happy with how this looks, I do cast my mind back to the original photo & wonder how it would look if I DID insert a flower!

A quick snip with a few scraps & I place these circles on my spike-inspired piece to see if it works. doesnt!  That's okay though, because look what happens to my newly made  design when I turn it into a repeat pattern...

....much more interesting wouldn't you agree!
I must admit that I was having so much fun with my 'layout' app that quite a bit of time rotating, flipping & multiplying my design & came up with LOTS of potential options!

Two WAPs in one day means that I have successfully caught up! Yeehah!

Till next time folks!

Saturday, 17 June 2017


'Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.  
Always work with it, not against it.  
Make it your ally, not your enemy.  
This will miraculously transform your whole life.'
                                                                                 Eckhart Tolle

Well....I'm waiting for that 'miraculous transformation' to happen, but I must admit that having a more 'go-with-the-flow' attitude the past few weeks has helped me tolerate the fact that I am two weeks behind on my weekly art project!

Some people refer to these commitments as 'weekly art challenges', in fact I probably have at some stage.  That is because  choosing to maintain a disciplined practice IS a challenge.  Sometimes other priorities just have to supersede the discipline though and that has been the case for me. 

Friday afternoon saw me attempting to make up for lost time.  It coincided with a number of buds appearing on one of our cacti/succulent plants. They are a fabulous shape, which inspired me to take a closer look.

 I was immediately attracted to the hill-like patterns, reminiscent of scales on an armadillo.  It also intrigued me that each 'scale' was trimmed with such a dramatic colour contrast. That closer look inspired me to have a go at developing a little 'something' from it.

It was time to get the pens out to play.

My first exploration was an effort to get to grips with the form & the context from which this bud arose.
My 2nd attempt was a focus on pattern.
Keeping in mind that I was aiming to produce a 15cm square piece using contemporary reverse applique, I needed to be mindful of what was physically possible to produce within that space...& what was not!  
As you can explorations took me further away from the overall shape of the bud, and closer to the patterning.

The colouring of the bud was quite dramatic & I had a few fabrics which colour matched well.  Earlier in the week, a friend had given me a pile of curtain fabric swatches.  One had a bold leaf pattern, so I chose that as my background.  It  coordinated & gave relevant interest.  The top layer, which would provide the creamy outlines of the 'scales' was calico.

Once I had sewn the pattern through the sandwich of layers, I used my air erasable pen to prepare for the first lot of cutting back.  This is my favourite part of the whole process!

You will notice that I have cut back more than one layer here!  Once the 'scales' had been revealed, I then drew on the edging shape of my bud & cut all the remaining fabrics back to the background.  This ensures that the form is maintained.  You'll see what I mean with the next photo.

After cutting back a few more times, this is what my bud looks like.

I am very pleased with the colour choices & it's off-centre placement.  However, I'm not so happy with how it's edges melt into the background instead of popping out.

I COULD have edged it all in the cream, but I think  the shape would actually have been lost in the process of doing that.  It would have been all about the pattern.  By not having the whole form outlined in cream creates variation & therefore more interest.  Another thing I could have done, is create a second 'outline' layer, which is something I have used before to good effect. That would certainly have worked here too.

But...I didn't choose to do that, so what other options do I have?

I chose to outline it with fabric marker pen!
It has popped the bud, so that it is clearly in the foreground against a more definite background.

What a fun little exploration to get myself  back into my weekly art project.

Monday, 29 May 2017


 Life is a bit discombobbled at the moment!
The living area of our house is being I type... & in the past few days I have been systematically emptying cupboards in order to move furniture.  Consequently my house is a MESS!  I didn't realise that I had so much STUFF! There is furniture stacked in every possible walking space & my current mantra is a reminder as to where I've put the teapot!  Layered on top of that, I'm still coming back down to earth after a wonderful holiday.

When I sat down to do my weekly art project yesterday, I  kept thinking about how magical it was to see so many Robins & Wrens hopping around when we were in Tasmania.  We have neither (live) in our garden...

...and have to resort to fake ones instead!  And so it was, that because we do have a fake Robin, I chose to have this bird as my muse this week.

Where to start????

With a blank page divided into sections & a few photographs to work from.  Out came my copic pens & paints & a blissful period of total absorption!  This is definitely a good way to take a break from the worries of everything else going on in ones life!!

The results of my efforts were these.  I had noticed that the leaf shapes of the plants surrounding my little bird were a similar shape to feathers, so tried to incorporate this idea into an abstracted version of my Robin.  I like the nest effect & wanted to keep that as part of the composition.  It was also fun to play with colour options.  We had seen both red & pink breasted Robins in Tasmania, whereas the Robins we had seen in the UK (where we lived for a few years) had been a more orangey red.  All of these thoughts & memories visited me as I sought to create a design that could be achieved in contemporary reverse applique, within a 15cm square & not take the rest of my life to complete!!!!!!

When I got stuck, I did consider just having the brush cleaning paper as the 'result' of this week's project!!!

Finally I did decide on a design & then had to consider colour options from my fabric stash.  I chose the third combination from the photos above.  It provided some interest & also incorporated the rusty colour & the plant greens from my original starting point.

Fabric cut & ironed, layered & the first lot of lines sewn in & cut back.  I had used the spotty fabric as my top most layer for that wonderful curvy nest, before stitching in the next lot of lines, I made the most of my left over fabric to tuck in behind the top black layer.  You will see why soon!! You will also notice that I have traced my sewing lines on with a white iron out fabric marker.  These pens are a god send.  I don't know what I would do without them.

I am very happy with how I've used the spotty & black fabrics here.  The photo doesn't show the dimensional effect, but there are 3 layers here, not 2!  The plain, textureless red was doing nothing for me though, so I got the scrap of red that I had previously cut away and layered it in top.  Using the curved line of the red breast from my earlier explorations, I drew them in with the sewing machine & then cut them back.

This is the result & I'm very happy with it.  It may not obviously say 'Robin In A Nest', but that's ok!
This is my 32nd WAP & I have really enjoyed this week's efforts!  It has also reinforced to me the value of preliminary work, which is so useful as a piece progresses, to refer back to.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017


It was Monday evening and my husband had just come home from work.

ME: Hey darling, come down to the workroom and see what I did for my weekly art practice today.
HIM: Ooo what did you do...did you do the possum?

He looks at it.

HIM: Ohh. Mmmm.  That's different.

He turns toward me.

HIM: I thought you would have done something about the possum.
ME:  Well actually...I did!

He was referring to the little furry visitor he had unearthed in the garden over the weekend. Annoying rodent that it is also VERY cute.

But how did I get from this cute little native critter to that dark & foreboding blob design at the top of this blog post?

I began with a sketch....yes, I'm predictable!
The proportions were wrong & I had limited time, so I...
... used my computer to copy the photo into grey tones & then draw outlines over the top, which I then printed off & traced.

Not content with outlines, I started mapping the different colour zones, much as one would were I wanting to recreate this possum using fabric collage technique.

But I'm attracted to line & I was enjoying these line combinations for themselves, as opposed to what they represent.  There were WAY to many for a 15cm contemporary reverse applique piece in limited time though!

Out came the view finder, ie; a few scraps of paper to both block & frame small sections to highlight a potential composition!
The enlarged composition was interesting, but still too complex.

A few more enlargements & I settled on this.

A palette of colours were chosen and the sewing began.

Cutting back the first layer revealed a delicious shape & my inner minimalist would have been happy to leave it there!  However, I'd made a plan & I was going to stick to it!!

Cutting back the patterned fabric highlighted something that... in my haste... I hadn't taken into consideration.

The pattern print  doesn't go all the way through the fabric!  The underside is dramatically lighter than the top.  This means that when raw edges of cut material are left raw... as they are in this technique... quite often the paler underside shows.  Now this can actually  be used purposefully to create an effect, but it can also look awful.  It certainly wasn't a good look in this scenario, but...HEY...this is an exercise & we live & learn!!

The finished piece could have had some stitch added, but my time was short & I was happy with this curvy abstaction as it is.  It would have been interesting to enlarge & abstract even more.  It was a FUN process & a good way to get back into the discipline of practice.  It also distracted me from the dark, wet & cold misery outside!


Being an artist, I've found,  is not just a 'job', nor a 'hobby', nor even an 'activity'.  Being an artist is part of who I am, and like breathing is part instinct & part process and I can't (nor do I want to) do without out it. So when I tootle off  traveling, I take a few tools  to enable me to keep art making, in some form or another.

This morning I calculated that, in my 52 years,  I have traveled by plane 79 times!  Most of those trips have involved international flights.  What an incredible privilege each has been, yet as I am getting older & my tall body is getting wider...I am actually finding flying somewhat stressful...even, at times, near panic attack level!  The fact is that there is a lot of me to squeeze into an economy seat & as I am usually seated alongside at least one other bigger body, flying now tends towards the torturous!

I have, however, found a coping strategy!

 I doodle!

In my hand luggage, I now take a large pencil case which contains; an A5 size blank sketch book, a few copic waterproof black drawing pens of various nib sizes, 3 water pens ( I cannot begin to tell you how valued these are!), a small gluestick,  a 4 layer tower of Koh-li-noor paints and a paper serviette to wipe the brushes on!

When I get to my seat on the plane, this is tucked into the pocket of the seat in front, alongside the packet of mints, which I tend to consume in flight!  Once up in the air, my tray comes down & I start creating a doodle.  Being able to focus on this distracts me from my physical discomfort.  Phew!

It also means that once at our destination, I have those tools ready to sketch, or paint if I should feel so inspired.

Because I am textile oriented within that whole art spectrum....I also like to take something to stitch!  Some people enjoy inflight stitching, but I am too paranoid that I will lose a needle that I just don't even go there!

For the recent two week trip to Tasmania, I had a specific stitch project in mind (I'll post a blog about it when it's finished!) & took a small variety of fabrics, some blanketing & a minimal variety of threads.  In an old glasses case I take scissors, needles & an air erasable pen.

Sometimes very little of my art supplies get used.  Other times they all do! 

Regardless, I am always prepared, so that when that moment comes, that I can wrap myself up in a blanket, sit on a porch in the sunlight, and stitch, whilst robins & blue wrens hop about, and a little Bennets Wallaby nibbles away at a nearby bush... I can!