Monday, 25 May 2015

When the going gets tough .. or what to do when you bugger it up

It is SO annoying when you mess up a piece that you like and has been going well - really really annoying. So much so that it is tempting to stay safe and not risk something you are not sure about. But then this would mean you never grow and find new ideas - and most cock-ups can be recovered ... ask me how I know!! So in that spirit .. 

Hopefully you remember this piece from an earlier blog post? - we left it blocking on the design wall many weeks ago - and that is where it has stayed until the last week, when I finally got it off the wall and transported to Wales with me. It looks quite vibrant in the image, as it is till wet, but when it dried, the images had been knocked back quite a bit from all the stitching, and needed the imagery pulling out again. So out with the neocolour 1. These are water resistant (unlike neocolour 2), so I can use them secure in the knowledge that they wont start running when I seal this piece with matt medium. The set below are actually called 'portrait' - but to my mind they are just perfect for my coast piece

I like to work slowly (well - slowly-ish .. it is still me after all) and just re-intensify the colours - starting with gorgeous Dixter ... darks first

then lighter greys

and then working into his dad - again darks first

all four images needed pulling back to the foreground

I also used the neocolour to start blending the edges of the images with the surrounding collage

this is really effective in helping to make the piece flow nicely ..

I like to take the surrounds into the photos and the photos out into the surround - using the old finger to blend and soften

hers is a before and after of the same section - hopefully you think the latter is more integrated ..

so all going well at this stage so I  coated the whole piece in a 50:50 mix of matt medium and acrylic wax

Maybe I should have bound and mounted this at this point ... but I felt it was still just too flat for me (i know I know ) .. and the other pieces in this series had appliqued grasses around the edges before mounting. This would also have worked on here, but having done it twice, I was bored of that idea (more I knows) .. so decided to try something different. I had some more images taken on the day, of bare branches and skeletal grasses (it was Christmas Day)

and thought these could make a good border design. I also didn't want to add them as applique again (boredom threshold of a knat here) so decided to draw them on with water resistant artist pencils ... I have quite a few ...

using the photos for inspiration I started drawing in branches along the edges - farts quite softly (this should say first ... but I loved the spello suggestion too much to remove it)

then firming up a bit with black 

seems to be looking ok I think ...

one of the joys of coating with acrylic mediums, is you can then erase pencil lines made on top .. so adjustment quite possible

I added branches right up the left

then tried some out on the bottom right

which seemed to balance things out, so I darkened them and reduced the height a bit on the left

Dixter assisted throughout with hints and ideas ... not 

and got to this point - not 100% happy ...

 ...  so decided to over-stitch all those branches 

I also added some of the grasses in a wheat coloured rayon .... very delicate

 and reached this point ...

and had a good look at things ... hmmmm ... delicate grasses completely overpowered and branches looking very thorny and actually a bit sinister and dominant ... oh. 
At this point, I was completely uncertain what to do next - if anything - and frankly, very pissed off too - so left it for a couple of days. Came back and confirmed for myself that I needed to knock back those branches - a lot. Now you may not agree - and it is easy in this situation to spend days agonising over what others might think, especially when you have become a little uncertain yourself. But I always say when teaching that it does not matter at all what anyone else thinks - only yourself .. and this piece was no longer about Sanctuary for me - it had mixed messages. Another option would have been to keep it for a different theme - maybe one looking at danger and safety; security and insecurity .. but I wanted this to be a happy piece about a lovely day - so I got out my branch altering kit ..

opaque setacolour paints and I mixed up a lovely pale blue/grey colour

and subdued the beasts ...

definitely less threatening

all softened and my boys are safe again 

all this terrifying stuff had knocked the colour out of the lads a bit - so they got another colour up - with pencil this time

and I am happy again ... 

I shall now add lots more soft grasses in beiges and a few metallic threads ... and then I think I shall stop!! So although I did think I had really spoilt a nice piece - it is always recoverable in someway - and frequently more interesting than before your botch-up ... well I think so anyway ...

As ever - very long post and I was going to tell you about Freddy the gelliping flounder and house moves too - but I'll save them for next time ... here is a quick preview ..

what a boy!! ... thanks for visiting .. talk again soon xx

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Moving to a new country, a stunning coastline and a bit of dyeing

Well - here I am in Wales .. Swansea, South Wales to be precise. Hilary (another one with a lurcher) pointed out that I hadn't really updated on here about that .. and she is completely right. I have probably talked more about the move on facebook, but not kept us fully in the picture here on the blog. Mea Culpa and I shall now make recompense. That above is the view from the back of our rented house ... need I say I am  happy??

Job changes for Stephen meant that we had to move from Lincoln to Wales at rather short notice. We seem fated to make moves like this - but the time scale and distance of this move meant that we had to rent in the short term .. only practical solution. We went out for supper with our new neighbours last night, and as they said - we have really rather fallen on our feet (paws) here. WE are in Uplands - the area of Swansea where Dylan Thomas was born (I keep saying Bob Dylan - but that is just menopause and age). It is a quite fascinating city and this area is a wonderful place to live. Everything you could want close by, cafes, shops, museums, galleries, stunning parks and of course - that beach

I cannot believe how quiet it is - and smothered in treasure

which I just can't resist collecting (by the bucket load as you can see). I do have some plans of how to use this in work - so not just over excited gathering (really - it's not)

The sea from the window changes colour and shape constantly and I just cannot stop taking photos and staring ..

 The bands and strips of blues and greens have me both mesmerised and excited


 It took me a while to realise that one of the lines of blue that I can see on clear days is in fact mountains over in England

Obvious once you do realise

Beautiful views when down at the beach too 

even the odd person ..

I have an exhibition with Steph Redfern in the summer, coincidentally at the Minerva Gallery in Llanidloes .. which is called 'Sanctuary'. I have some of the work already made, but will be adding more: this place is a sanctuary for me - a place of beauty and safety when all else is change .. and I want to include some of these views and blues .. I'll keep you informed ..

We also went up the Gower coastline a couple of weeks ago .. more stunning scenery and empty beaches ..

 I spotted the perfect house overlooking Rhossili Bay .. look hard below

 here it is zoomed in - no electricity, but who cares????

 and South Wales is not just beaches - there are mountains too .. and rocks .. spectacular ones

 no wonder the Welsh are proud ... 

I do have to force myself away from all these new and exciting wonders to work .. and last weekend was sunny, and I needed some blue and sandy coloured cloth (surprise) I got a folding table out onto the terrace outside the back of the house, some old dyes and a few silk screens and got going..

 accompanied as always by the ever faithful Dixter ...

 My thickened dyes had been kept in a very ho car for nearly 3 weeks (whilst I tidied the studio - was not meant to be so long, but you have seen it). Most were OK - but some had really thinned out - still usable but a bit runny

You can see how they blobbed through screen ... but do I care?? I do not. I used mostly plain screens to just apply various blues, pinks, corals and browns to plain white cloth - messy but effective

I also used a screen that I had brushed Soy was on to as a resist - I've used it a lot and the wax did start to break down with the very wet dye .. but lovely marks just the same

I had my fabric in a big stack as I worked and let each application of dye soak through to layers below. This made only having one table much easier to manage and I love the extra marks the soak through give. The fabric was also very creased - but that just gave me more organic marks too

 All were batched (kept damp) in plastic bags overnight and then rinsed and machine washed the next day. I knew the old dyes would leach a little - especially in a hot machine wash - but I wanted the colours paler - and was really pleased with my results

You will see these appearing in my sanctuary work in due course. This was a very un-technical and rough screen dyeing session - but I got great results just the same - and it was FUN. I say this to encourage you to just have a bash and see what happens. If your dyes become liquid - well just go with that blobby look .. if they are old and faded - either utilise that or overdye ... and screens are just a great way to get marks on cloth - try them. You will also notice mine are mostly not taped up with duck tape. I just got bored of doing it really. I now have some metal screens that don't need it anyway - and the wooden ones will rot eventually .. but so what? They will do a good year or so - and they are not very expensive - I will just replace when they really won't play any more.

So - I am keen to get on with my coast based Sanctuary pieces - but first I had  a couple of Bulrushes pieces to collage and stitch. These are to go to France for the Quilt en Sud exhibition with Crossing Oceans International group ... here they are collaged and just about ready to stitch. I will show you more of that process next time

Thanks for visiting - Hilary xx