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Wednesday, 3 July 2019

A Drawing challenge for 30 Days Wild

Horse Chestnut Leaf

The Wildlife Trusts have been running an initiative in June called 30 Days Wild, encouraging people to get back in touch with nature and discover what a positive impact contact with nature has on us. I meant to take part last year but it never really happened so this year I was determined to get involved. The natural world is such an important part of all our lives and our connection to it is at the heart of my artistic practice.

Snail shell after a thrush had dinner

Found wasps nest

A swarm of barrel jellyfish washing up was an interesting highlight!

I sent off for my pack and was really excited when it arrived, complete with wall chart, stickers and seeds. The 1st June was a lovely sunny day and I was out enjoying the self seeded wildflowers in my garden. I did a quick sketch of some poppies blowing about in the wind and decided that I would tie in my 30 Days Wild observations with a creative challenge.

Poppies: Day 1

Buttercup

More poppies: Day 26

I started off thinking that I would make it a creative challenge; the aim being to create something each day either inspired by or made of natural materials I'd collected but in the end it ended up being a drawing challenge. This fitted in well with my (more or less) daily drawing practice and has given it a bit of a focus over the past 30 days or so.

Shells

Shells

An unusual shell

I really enjoyed doing my 30 Days of Wild Drawing (which you can see over on my instagram feed if you'd like to.) It gave me a strong incentive to draw everyday which is what I always aim to do but when it gets busy, as it was this month, my daily drawing is often one of the first things that drops, despite the fact that daily drawing is one of the things I find really helps with my well being!

Swallows and house martins flying high

Thrush

Birds in the garden

It also encouraged me to look more closely at the natural world and I saw lots of small creatures and noticed details I might otherwise have missed. I like to think I'm a fairly observant person and I've always been interested in wildlife but however 'good' we are at something we can always do better and learn something new. Doing this challenge also gave me a good excuse to get out everyday and collect more treasures; mostly feathers and shells!

Trying new media

Feather: Pen, chalk pencil and iridescent oil pastels

Feather: Pen, chalk pencil and iridescent oil pastels

Trying different media: ripped tissue paper

Doing the challenge and sharing it online also encouraged me to try doing things a bit differently. For instance, one day I found two beautiful iridescent feathers on the beach. I wanted to draw them and I wanted to try and capture some of that iridescence so I dug out some iridescent oil pastels I knew I had stashed and had a go with those. I combined them with my usual pen drawing and was really pleased with the result. It's quite subtle but is an effect I would like to explore further.

Carrying on into July!

Feather: Pen, chalk pencil and iridescent oil pastels

Detail
Feather: Pen, chalk pencil and iridescent oil pastels



Wednesday, 17 April 2019

New Beginnings

Beach treasure

I haven't posted on here for quite some time because, as those of you who follow me through other channels will know, I recently moved house. In fact I moved to another country. Whilst true that makes it sound overly dramatic; I've relocated just over the border from Cumbria to sunny Dumfries and Galloway in South West Scotland. Typically it coincided with a particularly busy patch at work and so blogging has taken a back seat but today I thought I'd write a quick post to show you my lovely new HQ.

Lambs!

Beautiful colours and textures

Beautiful colours and textures
Beautiful colours and textures

I'm so happy to be in my new location; I now live by the sea which has been a dream for a long time and I love my new house and location. Although we've been here less than two months I feel like this is home, I feel so comfortable and relaxed here. There is so much wildlife around and the area is so beautiful I feel very inspired, I'm looking forward to having a bit of time in my new studio to get stuck into some new work.

Dramatic lighting and colour inspiration

Dramatic lighting and colour inspiration

Dramatic lighting and colour inspiration

On the subject of my new studio it's pretty much the only room in our new house that's finished! I have a bit more space than in our old house and as we were moving I've had a bit of a sort out too. From my drawing desk I can see the sea and there's also a large tree which is often full of birds. In the morning I like to come and sit in here before I have to go out and watch the birds, see what the tide is doing and have a little draw. I can also see the sea from my studio sofa and am looking forward to many happy hours sewing and knitting here whilst gazing out.

Studio

Studio

Studio: Sofa and Gallery wall

Studio: Shelf of Sewing stuff

Over the past few years being close to the natural world has become more and more important to me, both in my personal life and in my work. Being here feels like a very positive step forward, it's a great place to connect with the natural world; to collect treasures from the beach and the woods, to see the changing rhythms and patterns of the tides and the seasons and to just enjoy being here! With that in mind, I'm off for a walk on the beach!

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Life Drawing 4.2.19

Layered continuous line drawings

It's hard to believe but we're already in to the second month of the New Year. I wrote in my last post about Life Drawing that having changed the day to a Monday meant I had more energy for the sessions. That wasn't so true for this session as it had been a very long day at work but by the end of the session I definitely felt calmer, even though I was very tired.

Blind drawing

Continuous line drawing

Continuous line drawing

I find Life Drawing endlessly fascinating because it's so different every time; depending on the model, the artists who attend and so many other factors it's never quite the same. Each model has their own way of working and this is one of the biggest factors that affects the sessions. Our model for this session had lots of poses planned and sketched out and it was interesting watching him choose and adapt which poses to use throughout the session. There were also some impressive props, including a large sword (I bet no one argued with him on his way home!)

Layered blind drawings

Layered blind drawings

Layered blind and continuous line drawings

I wasn't particularly pleased with my drawings this evening but I enjoyed the actual drawing process. The poses were quite challenging, providing some really interesting shapes and I had to work hard to try capture them (with varying degrees of success.) I use blind drawing (not looking at my drawing at all, only at the model) to help me understand each pose and I find that the drawings that come after the blind drawings are generally more accurate as I've given myself chance to properly observe what's there.

Continuous line drawing

Blind drawing

Blind drawing

Life Drawing gives me the chance to just enjoy drawing; I don't think too much about what I'm doing or what it looks like. I spend much more time looking at the model than at my paper and letting the drawings emerge. Because it is so time limited I feel like I want to make the most of it and get as much information down as I can as in a couple of hours the model will be gone (home, not gone forever you understand.)

Continuous line drawing

Continuous line drawing

Continuous line drawings

It was good to have some new faces this evening as well, having run these sessions for so long now it's great having a mix of people that I now know quite well as well as new people who come in and give a fresh perspective on things. The next session is Monday 4th March, let me know if you want to join me!

Continuous line drawings

Continuous line drawing (pencil)

Continuous line drawing

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Flutter by, Butterfly: Dissolving Fabric and Machine Embroidery Workshops

Butterfly Brooches
Machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric 

When I first got really interested in textiles as an art form (in my early teens) I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a whole range of exciting media and techniques by a relative undertaking their City and Guilds qualification. She was very generous with her time and materials and I still use a lot of what she taught me today. One of the things I was introduced to was water-soluble fabric. Not very helpful for fabric to dissolve in water you might think but artistically it has many possibilities; particularly when combined with another of my passions which is free machine embroidery.

Creating leaves with machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric 

Creating leaves with machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric 

Leaves created with machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric 

I've always been fascinated by transparent and lacy fabrics and water-soluble fabric enables me to create intricate, unique fabrics and pieces with embroidery. In essence the process is very simple; draw with the sewing machine onto the water soluble fabric (making sure the stitches all join up) and then dissolve the fabric in water, leaving the delicate tracery of stitches.

Small bowl created with machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric 

Small bowl (detail) created with machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric 

It's a material and a technique that I've returned to repeatedly over the past 20 years (writing that makes me feel very old) and I'm still fascinated by the challenge of using it to create a self supporting and unique textile. Towards the end of last year I was asked if I wanted to run some workshops that expanded on the skills I teach in my basic machine embroidery workshop. Working on water-soluble fabric immediately popped into my head and over the past few weeks I've finally had a chance to get up into my studio and work up a few samples and ideas.

Work in progress

Camberwell Beauty
Machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric

When designing workshops it's often helpful to have a 'finished object' outcome and this technique lends itself really well to making textile jewellery. With this in mind I decided to develop some brooches (a good one size fits all object) and decided that the beautiful jewel like colours of insects, specifically butterflies, would be a good subject matter. So, I got out my books, my sewing machine and my threads and I started creating.

Adonis Blue
Machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric

I've really enjoyed making my little flock, refining my technique and thinking of how I will share this with participants. I want my workshops to be 'jumping off points.' I want to share my skills and knowledge but more importantly I want to give people the confidence to take what I've learnt and bend it to their interests and to take it further, try things I've never thought of and see where it could lead.

Large White
Machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric

Butterflies
Machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric

If this has sparked your interest and you'd like to join me to learn the techniques I've used to create my butterflies and to have a go at making your own unique textile piece then I will hopefully be running a workshop at Holm Sown, Castle Douglas on 15th February (TBC) and one at The Eden Workshop, Plumpton on 3rd April (TBC.) Please contact the respective venues for more details and to book a place. I hope to see you there!

Purple Hairstreak
Machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric