Wednesday, 31 October 2012

In which I organise a cat

Tess, the howling cat beast, has some complex needs.  She takes medication for her arthritis, for her diabetes, and is on medicated diet food as well.  Mr P and I adopted her a few years ago, when she'd already had surgery to remove a lump in her kitty-boob - she now has only five nipples.  She's now 11 and just the best kitty ever.  She head-bumps my face and gently bites my chin when she's really happy. 

With her diabetes, Mr P and I have to inject her twice a day with insulin.  And we need to make sure we do this, and let the other know so she doesn't get injected twice in one morning.  We'd been keeping track on scraps of paper, but I made a little blackboard chart for the kitchen which looks a bit nicer. I got the blackboard from Hobbycraft, and wrote the days etc on with a white paint pen.  I then found a bit of thin plyboard, and cut and filed it down to the right size, and stuck it on with wood glue to make a shelf for the chalk. 

So tidy!  Tess couldn't care less. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

In which I print a Gormley

In the summer Mr P and I went to Crosby beach and saw Anthony Gormley's installation Another Place.  I took lots of photos, and when we got back, made some sketches from them, and finally this print:

It's a Gormley man!  Gor-man?  Anyway.  I like the colour of the muddy sand, it just didn't work as well as I'd hoped as cloud.  Perhaps I should have used less of it there.  And the sky's a little too vibrant, maybe? 

Monday, 29 October 2012

In which I want to go to Brazil with Michael Palin

I watched the first episode of Michael Palin's Brazil last week.  Dear old Michael "the lovliest Python" Palin stopped by São Luís to see some Bumba Meu Boi action.  Bumba Meu Boi means 'jumping the bull' - it's a folk dance thing where people make a big old embroidered bull costume, and act out the bull's story on the street.

Whut?  Embroidered bull costume?

Oh yes.  It was amazing!  You can see the episodeon iPlayer here, with the bits on Bumba Meu Boi starting at 3 mins and 12 mins. And here's the best screen grab I could get of the bull - I think it's mainly done with beads and sequins - and it looks fab.  

I want to go to Brazil!  Ideally with Michael Palin, I think we'd get on.  Failing that, I want to learn more about Brazilian embroidery.  Anyone got any ideas where I could start?

Monday, 22 October 2012

In which there is a third figure

I've been carrying on with the stole, here's the third figure.  The colour's a bit wrong, the background is redder than that.

And a bonus shot of Tess cat sleeping.  I love cat toes.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

In which a lady jumps

Here's Ms Top Left, jumping on the stole. 

It may look like a ghostly hand is fondling her knee, but that's just empty space for the next figure.  He and his neighbour will be done in a slightly darker gold thread, and the two at the bottom in a darker shade still.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

In which I geek out like a big geeky geek

I'm going to be meeting three of my heroes this autumn.  I'm getting a bit overexcited.

Mr X Stitch is going to be at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate from 22 to 25 November.  I think it's the first time he's done the Harrogate show!  His site is a proper good resource for stitch art and he's done loads in bringing embroidery to the public attention.  He's also involved in Fine Cell Work which is a brilliant organisation, taking embroidery into prisons.

I'm going to pull up my big girl panties and go to a comic festival for the first time.  Thought Bubble is in Leeds from 11 to 18 November, and John Allison and Kate Beaton will be there.  Holy cow.

Kate Beaton's Hark a Vagrant is just the best comic website out there.  She is a fabulous illustrator and her jokes are always funny.  Full stop.  But John Allison... his comics Scarygoround and Bad Machinery have been a huge part of my life.  I've read them every day (Mon - Fri) for nine years.  I identify so much with Scarygoround's Shelly Winters - she's a tiny maniac.  This comic expresses so much of my own anxiety - when I read it for the first time I had tears in my eyes.  And his current Bad Machinery stories are just some of the best stuff he's ever written - his plots and characters are great.

So, heroes.  I just hope I don't make too much of an eedjit of myself in front of them...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

In which I stitch like a bastard

I really cracked on with some stitching last night, and decided to time what I did.  I stitched most of the next figure for Fiona's stole in three hours ten minutes.

That's pretty good!  So, assuming it takes me about four and a half hours per figure, fourteen figures, plus a few extra hours to make the stole up, it should take me seventy hours to make this baby!  Fiona, you might get it some time in 2017...

Monday, 15 October 2012

In which I pick up the needle again...

Aaah, embroidery.  I've missed you.  If I don't go a couple of weeks without the old needle in my hands, I get withdrawal symptoms.  I've been working hard on my print course, but it's time to take a little break and start work on Fiona's stole*.

My friend Fiona is a priest, and I've made her a few stoles before.  She wanted a red one with golden saints throwing their haloes in the air, like graduates throwing their mortarboards in celebration.  I had a go at one on this theme about a year ago, but it was pretty shitty.  I'd done it with gold fabric paint and the design and execution was just shittens.  I was pretty embarrassed about it.

So I'm having another bash - albeit rather late - I promided this to Fiona months ago.  Sorry Fi!  But I've finally started work.  Here's the sketch - the design will be repeated on the other panel of the stole*.

I'm using fairly traded cotton from Fair Trade Fabric, in their Christmas red shade.  And here's the first little jumping saint.  As you can see, he's Mr Top Right corner, silk shading stitch, couched around with gold.  Sweet as. 

*If you don't know what a stole is - it's the scarf-y thing that priests wear in services.  They are different colours at different times, depending on whereabouts in the calendar we are.  Red is worn during Holy Week, Pentecost, and can be used on All Saints' Day or any service focussing on the Holy Spirit. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

In which I print Alice

This weekend I cracked on with my Alice print.  As I said in my last post, I wanted to do this on two bits of lino as I didn't think the blues and the fawn colours would work well together.

So, I started off with the blues, then added the fawns.  Light blue first, then I cut away on that lino to print the dark.  Same process with the fawn lino sheet.

Then, I cut up my two bits of lino and stuck them together to make a Franken-lino.  My thinking was, this would reduce the amount of empty lino that might get a smudge from the roller.

And it worked pretty well!  Here is the finished Alice.

If I were to do this again, I'd make the black lines around Alice's face and arms thinner, and leave the grassy area blue rather than fawn.  I started out with 20 copies of the pale blue and got 11 finished prints at the end of the process.  Not bad, I only need 2 for my course.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

In which I sketch Alice

I love Alice in Wonderland - in fact, I prefer 'Alice Through The Looking Glass'.  I've not been very imaginative for my printmaking course so far - I've been making prints of things that exist in real life - so I thought I'd add in a print of something from my own imagination.

So I decided to do something about Alice and the Fawn from 'Looking Glass'.  Alice moves into the wood where creatures forget their names, and meets a fawn.  Neither of them can remember what they are, so it's only when they leave the wood that the fawn knows what it is, and that it should be frightened of humans. 

That passage has always struck me as something Edenic, with the loss of innocence of both Alice and the Fawn, as they realise humans and animals cannot live in harmony. 

I started out by sketching a fawn, from a picture in a nature book and some images of deer from “4,000 Animal, bird and fish motifs” by Graham Leslie McCallum.  I wanted Alice and the Fawn resting in the wood - even though they don't do that in the book, it gives them a little more time together?  So I tried to draw Alice reclining on the right of the fawn first.  It didn't work.  I'm not great at drawing human figures, so I lay down on the floor, hugged a cushion as though it were a fawn and got Mr P to take a photo that I could sketch from.

I didn't really like the design of this - Alice looks a bit clingy, and the overall shape is low and flat.  So I tried again, looking at the Tenniel drawings in my copy of 'Looking Glass' and trying to find one where Alice is kneeling.  I did, and adapted it so she's on the fawns's left.

Then I thought about background and colour.  I knew it had to have a limited palette if I were to do it as a print, I'm really only up to 3 colours at the moment!  I wanted the woods to be a bit dreamy and dark, so I went for blue, which is the traditional colour for Alice's dress.  I added a couple of bats because I like bats, I think they are friendly.

I took a pic, uploaded it to my computer and tinkered around with the colour.  I tried it as green, but I think I prefer it as blue.

So the next stage is to transfer the design onto lino and start cutting.  I want to try doing this as a reduction print, where I print the palest colour, then cut away more lino and reduce the surface as I print the darker colours.  But I think I'm going to have to do this with 2 pieces of lino, one for the dark blue and light blue, and one of the light fawn, dark fawn and black.  I don't think it would work laying the fawn over the blue or vice versa.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

In which I talk to an inanimate object

I used to be pretty scared of sketching.  A blank page was a bit alarming - worse still was the first page in a new notebook! I think it's partly being a perfectionist, and partly having been put off art at school.

My OCA Printmaking tutor Niki White helped by pointing me to this blog post about sketchbooks.  I love the idea of a sketchbook being a friend you can bounce ideas off.

So, this year my sketchbook and I have been to Southport, Blackpool, Oxfordshire, Liverpool and Leicester.  We're starting to be pretty good friends.  Like any friendship, you need to put some time in together - sometimes I don't talk to my sketchbook for a week, and that's not good.

But the more time I spend with it, the easier it is.  I'm more confident about using paint, not just pencils.  I've even done some cut paper sketches.  Might have a play with some collage some time.  Who knows?

So, I'm going to show off now and post a couple of sketches I was well proud of, both from photos of statue 20 in Anthony Gormley's "Another Place" at Crosby Beach. 

The first is a watercolour.  Anthony Gormley has a big willy.  Hee!

The second is pen and coloured pencils.  Anthony Gormley's head isn't really that lumpy, it was encrusted in little barnacle-y things. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

In which I assess my aims

Back in January, I made five crafty resolutions for the year.  It's now October - where is 2012 going?  So I thought I'd check in and see how I'm doing.

  1. Finish the OCA Textiles 1 course.  Woo!  I've done this!  I got a mark in the 2:2 area.  I'm a perfectionist, so I was a bit unhappy with this.  But reading over their course materials, the OCA say they're pretty strict with their marking and a 2:2 is ok.  Ok then. 
  2. Start (and do most of) the OCA Printmaking 1 course.  I have started this, and am 2/5ths of the way through.  Loving it.
  3. Tidy and organise my studio into a pleasant working space. Aaaargh!  I painted the walls white, but that's about it.  I need to clean it, make shelves for the recycling bins to sit on, and properly sort out all my crafty supplies.  The table in the studio is well wonky - the top got bent in the great washing machine deluge/sauna of the new year, and it's pretty impossible to work on.  Need to shell out many moolahs at Ikea to buy a new table top.
  4. Blog more.  Well, I started the year well, but it's tailed off a bit.  Keep on blogging, kid.
  5. Draw more! This has been a success!  I am keeping 2 sketchbooks and enjoying drawing.  Need to do a bit more, but have at least cracked my fear of drawing!  Here is a drawing of some fawns I did last night.
I also said back in Jan that I want to get a bike and do more exercise.  I have not done this and am still as fat as butter.  Yum!