'If you make happiness your goal, then you're not going to get to it… The goal should be an interesting life."

Dorothy Rowe

Sunday 27 February 2011

Cutting and sticking.

Having spent the best part of an insomniac night making a basket which ended up in the bin this morning, I decided to play around with collage this afternoon.

I was inspired by a statement in one of BBC4’s art programmes, that contemporary art seeks to convey the artist’s feelings [I paraphrase]. That led to a discussion of how you convey ‘confused and uncertain’.archipelogo2

So after reading up automatic drawing [which led to some very odd websites], and wanting to play with my graphics pad – I tried to draw ‘confused and uncertain’.

It certainly wasn’t automatic, because after the first few tentative wobbles, I was thinking about it.

Looks like archipelagos to me.



Today I collaged some archipelagos – and some negative archipelagos. This was a piece of paper with a rather odd pattern on it, that had been hanging around waiting for its time to come. I think they need a bit of computer manipulation to make them more interesting.collage1

That led to another experiment, with a piece of painted disposable tablecloth [can’t remember why I painted a disposable tablecloth – it may have had something to do with Creative Sketchbooks], some Bondaweb and some hand-dyed fabric. 

These two I really like – although I think I may have been under the influence of the hyperbolic coral reef at the time.The tablecloth bonded to the fabric really well [or it did when I remembered to take the release paper off], and the texture shows up well. These may get some stitch – when I can decide what sort.blue_diamonds-1


Following on the theme of collaging my computer ‘drawings’ – this 








morphed into these two  -sort of.




The base of these was a scrumpled, painted, paper bag, [I think – it’s a long time since I did it]. Not sure about the dimensional paint on the one above, but - ‘they're only samples’. I wish I’d scanned the bag before I cut it up.





I did also fulfil my promise to try making kirigami in Sumopaint – but I think that may be another post. 

Friday 25 February 2011

All’s Well that Ends Well…

as someone once wrote.

Yesterday started badly but got better – and today was good all the time.

We usually look after Babybel on Thursday mornings, before taking her to nursery in the afternoon. But she was ill on Wednesday morning [probably norovirus] and although she was over the worst by yesterday, it was clear when she woke up that she wasn’t perfectly recovered. Let’s just say quiet and passive – two words not usually associated with Babybel.

So she spent the morning on the sofa, watching CBeebies, and drawing. However she ate a good lunch and was sufficiently  recovered in the afternoon to consent to a little duck feeding at Whitchurch Silk Mill. And a bit of fresh air made her well enough to go round the mill, inspect the machinery, which fascinates her, and sample crisps and orange juice in the cafe.

In the cafe we were privileged to share the moment when she discovered that rainbows don’t just stay in the sky – sometimes they come down to earth.

The sunlight was refracted through the edge of a glass display cabinet [the one with the art bras in it] and if you stood in just the right place it shone on your hands, your clothes, or – if you pulled your T-shirt up to experiment - your tummy. Then if you persuaded gran to stand in just the right place, she got a green nose and a rainbow in her hair. We had ten minutes of delight and magic, which the grown-ups will never forget.

After all this, we decided she was better – especially as she talked non-stop all the way home …

Today we decided to revisit a couple of exhibitions before they closed – the Pat Hodson show at Walford Mill [and the craft materials sale there as well] and, in the dusk, Bruce Munro’s work at Salisbury Cathedral.

Both were as good as before, but it was surprising how different the Munro exhibition was – not just because the lights show so much more in the dark, but because it was very busy, and that changed the feel of it. The music, which was so important for us when we went before, was almost lost at times in the sound of voices and feet – which meant that we couldn’t sit and watch the way the lights responded to the music. I'm not sorry we went tonight – but I am very glad we went in the daytime too, because I think I got a great deal more from the exhibition by seeing it in daytime and dusk.image

I remembered my camera this time. but it struggled with the conditions. However, unlike many of the visitors, I did remember to turn the flash off – which meant ht majority of my images are like this -





and this   - not quite as magical.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

I’m feeling a little more positive…

image after a bit of playing around, starting with the thing top right in the photo. It is the plasticky cover from a used up WH Smith’s sketchbook – too good to throw away. I knew I'd think of something to do with it eventually.

I cut out the corners – and they looked useful so I rounded their corners, punched a hole in the corner and added a clip. But that wasn’t the main plan.

I sliced the sides up and punched holes in the ends of the slices – those piano-key-like things bottom right.IMG_4552

Can you tell what it is yet?

Then I found some goodies – sari silk goodies. I bought some more recently from Simply Sequins – so much temptation!



And in a departure from my usual round basket – I made a rectangular one.

OK – it’s not flat – but nobody’s perfect!


And I’ve got another two sketchbook covers and a whole heap of sari silk.


I also had fun with these. 

At Hobbycraft yesterday I bought a tiramisu kirigami calendar in the sale – as you finish with each page, you fold it, cut along the dotted lines and end up with a paper snowflake – or something. I thought it was a bit expensive even at sale price, but I like paper cuts, so I decided 5.99 wasn’t a lot to pay for 365 days of fun. [Turns out there are only 6 designs per week so it’s not quite such a good bargain…]

Of course it started on January 1st and today is February 23rd, so I’ve got a bit of catching up to do.

I had to decide what to do with the paper cuts after I’d cut them– so I stuck them on some paper – along with the negative spaces – which, as you may be able to tell, was a rather more challenging task.image But I do like negative spaces.

And all that despite a bad night – which I turned to some purpose by playing with GIMP, and the graphics pad. I even braved the lasso tool, although I can’t work out why sometimes it did what I wanted it to do – i.e. lasso the internal shapes of my squiggle – and sometimes it just drew triangles.



Thanks to Karen for pointing me towards this article on Melody Johnson’s blog – I do dip into it regularly because I love her work, and her use of colour – but I hadn’t read that piece. I have printed it off and will refer to it often. I particularly liked this bit ‘Play with your fabric and make what the fabric motivates you to make.’ 

I’ve been feeling that I ought to be ‘doing designing’ before I start making – but I much prefer to play with my fabrics and threads and see what emerges. In theory I know my way is legitimate – but as I used to tell people when I was working, there is a big difference between knowing something with your head and knowing it with your heart. I don’t yet know it with my heart.

I shall continue to draw on the computer every day, even if what I’m drawing [especially if what I’m drawing?] has nothing to do with embroidery! Sumopaint has a fun feature which draws symmetrical patterns – so maybe tonight I'll find time to draw some kirigami …

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Mind the gap …

between two semesters, that is. Although it is hard to believe, the first semester of my degree course has finished. This means that for the first time for nearly 18 months, I’ve got nothing to do, until after the university exam board meets next week. Then, assuming I haven’t been thrown out for insubordination or [perhaps more likely] being useless, we start a new theme – ‘past, present and future’.

I can’t settle on anything to do in the mean time. I start one thing – dryads, books, bit of purple embroidery – drop it, and start another – knitting, playing with computer programs. Today I was all set to make a basket, until Wensleydale declared it was a day for going to Hobbycraft. [A man who likes to go to Hobbycraft!!! Or maybe it’s the coffee and cake at Haskins afterwards…]

Of course, it is half term, and the place was full of half term offers – so in addition to some boring things for me [PVA, black dye to restore some faded T shirts] – I ended up with several rather more interesting arty things for Babybel.

Part of my not settling to anything was due to a crisis of confidence – I’m half way through but I’m not convinced I’m any further on than I was when I started this degree. Yes, I’ve learnt stuff – but am I actually doing anything constructive with it?

Why can’t I decide on an approach or a style changing my mind all the time? [Did you see the programme about the sculptor David Nash last week? I want to attack wood with a chain saw! I want to set fire to things!]

I know I need to draw more, so why can’t I make myself do it?

But after a conversation with the ever-supportive Wensleydale, I came to the conclusion that all this fiddling around with computer programs is sort-of-drawing, and that, as I feel more willing to do that than pick up a pencil – I should stick with it. And do more with the graphics pad which Cheese Major and his partner so kindly gave me for Christmas.


So here are my first efforts – with a little help from Sumopaint. Don’t laugh.

Snowy trees





- circles [OK, I didn’t draw the circles free hand, just the lines and dots!]






- and the ravening bugblatter beast of Traal.

I’ve been reading about automatic drawing, so that’s what this is – although the sources I’ve read are a bit vague about how you actually do it.


I liked the circles best, so I played around with them in PostworkShop.


As you can see, some of the filters change the original image beyond all recognition.

Cheating? Maybe, but I do like some of the results.

Now i need to decide what to do with all these ‘drawings’.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Necessity is the mother of invention.

When I finished the not-angel, I thought that the head and neck needed work – and in the chilly fastness of an insomniac night – I thought ‘Why bother having a separate head at all?’ IMG_4540

Which led to the idea of a tall cone. 

So I made an armature from six junk CDs and some rolled up magazine pages, measured it, drew a pattern. tried the pattern on the armature, cursed – and made a bit of liberated patchwork for the fabric.

I wasn’t sure I really liked the patchwork [which means of course that really, I didn’t like it] but I machine quilted it to a piece of wool felt and stuck it in the washing machine to shrink.

IMG_4539 Which it did – in fact it shrank so much it was too narrow fro the intended purpose - which solved the problem.

I think it will make a book cover, one day – or I might try cutting it up and  - er, no, make that a book cover.





Plan B started with making another, better pattern – but while I was fossicking in the cupboard for the Vilene to make it, I came across one of those bits of fabric you keep because you just know it will be useful one day. Well, I do – a sane person probably wouldn’t keep something like this - a bit of calico I’d used as a drop cloth when I was painting something with blue Quink [judging by the colour] – although there are several varieties of paint on there as well.

I forgot to photograph it before I got to work on it, so just imagine it without the embroidery, OK? The radial blue bits are recycled from the 3D drawers – the stuff I was going to cover them with before I decided not to.


And this is the machine embroidery I don’t do.

I seem to have a thing about leaves – I saw leaves in the blotches, so I outlined them. I will probably add some hand embroidery before I assemble her – I think she’s a dryad – or a naiad – not sure what the difference is [or even how to spell them].image




My recent computer games have involved taking an image I made in Sumopaint - and playing with it in PostworkShop [I did splash out and buy the artists edition, – even more filters! - but I managed to find a discount download so it cost me a bit less].



Some are jusimaget for fun – but others are definitely embroiderable.

In the helpful help pages I’ve just reached  combining filters – the top image was made in Sumo, the bottom has PostworkShop’s ‘Speed Painting’ and ‘Dark Magic’ filters added – definitely more interesting. [Adding them the other way round was much more boring – flat and drab.] One of the advantages of the paid-for version is that you can save combinations you like, so I’ve saved that one.



You will escape being bored with my computer excesses tomorrow, though, as tonight is Danish detective drama night and all I can do when that is on is knit, as it needs intense reading.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

And now for something completely different…

I’ve discovered a new [to me] program – PostworkShop. The basic program is free, although I’ve been having such fun with it that I'm thinking of upgrading to the ‘Artist Edition’, which gives you access to a lot more ‘styles’ [effects/filters in my terms].

So far, all I’ve done with it is explore the different styles. The helpful ‘Help’ section [not all Help sections are helpful, as I’m sure you know] suggests that you start by uploading a photo and then click on the die at the bottom of the screen which lets you try random effects.IMG_4442

So I started with this image of Bournemouth, and began to play.





darkchalk and pencil

This is ‘Dark Chalk and Pencil’































in the dark

and ‘In the Dark’.







I also played with this picture of Babybel from last summer.IMG_7242

I’m a member of the group blog ‘Ideas of Inspiration’, where the current prompt is the letter ‘N’. Well, I went through all my photos – and the only N word I could come up with was ‘nappy’. [Sorry!]

You can see the version I chose to post over on the other blog, but these are some of the rejects -

andy's pop



‘Andy’s Pop’






‘Expressionist’ – I really like this one -








and one called, appropriately,  ‘Grandparent’s Photo’.







You can adjust some of the styles but not all of them – for some reason the one called ‘Caravaggio’ just produces an unalterable image in shades of brown [not what I associate with Caravaggio]. You can, apparently, combine styles, but I haven't got that far yet. I could also have done with an ‘Undo all’ button – although there may be one which I haven’t found.

You can’t ‘paint’ over the images as you can in Painter Essentials, but if you just want to play around with photos, it’s worth trying out the Basic program.2011-02-16

When I wasn’t playing with PostworkShop [well, there was nout on telly last night], I carried on tackling the UFOs in the work room. 

This is something I started when we were doing the 3D samples, but for some reason didn’t finish. It is one of my first pieces of Cas Holmes fabric, with added hand and machine embroidery, on an armature made of old CDs and a rolled up magazine page – although you can’t see those.

The pattern wasn’t quite right, despite my careful measuring – too short, too wide at the bottom and too narrow at the top – and the head and neck need work – but I’m quite pleased with her. [She is not an angel, despite what Wensleydale says. I don’t do angels.]

Oh – and I did remember to make the soup – Jamie’s tomato bean and pasta soup, in the electric pressure cooker we gave ourselves for Christmas. [You may think an electric pressure cooker is an unnecessary extravagance, but it wasn’t much more expensive than a non-electric one. It has the great advantage that it brings itself to pressure, turns itself down, and in due course turns itself off – and it is a lot quieter than my old pressure cooker.]

And to Carole who laughed at yesterday’s tale of forgetfulness – good! I try to cultivate my ‘talent to amuse’.

Just Googled that – and it is amazing how many people have recorded it  - it’s from Noel Coward’s ‘If love were all’, in case you are wondering.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

When I got up this morning …

I knew that there were four things I had to do, in addition to al the usual chores:

  1. Make some soup
  2. Empty the waste paper bins
  3. Get my hair cut.IMG_4532
  4. Go to Holland and Barratt for some stuff.

So after the usual chores I emptied my workroom bin – and then got distracted into tidying the room a bit more. In the process I came across the materials I’d gathered to try something from Lois Walpole’s book – and got distracted into making a useful pot to put things in.

If you think it looks as if it’s made from a plastic bottle and a plastic bag – you’d be right.

Walpole uses coloured plastic bags, but we don’t have many of those, so I used a transparent one – and I like the result. However, I think she also uses bigger bottles, and this one [1 litre] was really too small to work properly. You bend the uprights back down under the weaving, and they needed to be longer to stay in place.

Then it was lunchtime – and I remembered about the soup. Reach for the can opener…

After lunch I went upstairs to get ready to go to the hairdressers – and fell over the bins I’d put on the landing for emptying and forgotten about.

And on the way down town I realised that I’d forgotten the shopping list.

I did remember to get my hair cut – and I went into H&B and got what I thought I needed – luckily I was right – and I did the bins when I got home. Still cross about the soup, though – canned is not the same as home made.

Of course, I haven’t forgotten to play with Sumopaint in the evenings.


This is the usual blurred and smudged gradient – very moody







- with two more layers stamped with brushes -







- and different filters added – like Sphere Designer here, on the second layer. I love this one, it is very – er - spacy.





Just for fun, I tried applying the same filter – Kaleidoscope – to each layer in turn – this is the last layer I added -






the middle layer – [‘doyleys in space’?]






the background -








and all three merged together – definitely the least interesting.







But this one is my favourite - Wave Lab applied to the background to make wonderful flowers.

I think it would make a great starting point for a [restrained] touch of embroidery.

Sunday 13 February 2011

And yet more.

Tidying, that is. I hope you are suitably impressed – it’s not something I do very often!

I decided it was time to tackle the scrap box – I have far too many scraps for a mere bag. I hauled it out from the bottom of the cupboard [I knew all that upper body work at the gym had a purpose] and threw out all the small, ugly or boring scraps. I now have a bin bag full to be thrown away – and the scrap box looks no emptier than it did before.

Something productive did come from it however – IMG_4524I sewed all the larger bits of navy fabric, together at random [a.k.a ‘liberated patchwork’], quilted the result, added the unfinished embroidery I found during the last spate of tidying, and finished - and made a cover for my contextualisation file [i.e. the place where I shove all the interesting arty bits I come across but can’t find a better home for].

I wish now I’d used more interesting thread to apply the embroidery, but I had forgotten that the quilting would shrink the fabric and I was convinced it wasn’t going to be big enough so I did it in a bit of a rush. Sort of like knitting quicker because you think the wool is going to run out.

Apart from that – I’ve been playing with Sumopaint. Again.

My plan is to getpsp cow confident with Sumo, then go back to GIMP, which has more bells and whistles, and then when I am more confident with that – try Paint Shop Pro, which I have had for ages and which confuses me utterly. I did open it by mistake the other day – in the course of making this [bet you can’t guess who it is for] but closed it very quickly. As I say every time I use Word 2010 – it is possible to have too many choices…

But I digress. With Sumo I think I am beginning to get the beginnings of an inkling of a sort-of-understanding of layers.


I started with a gradient and attacked it with the blur and smudge tools so it went all – er - blurry and smudged.




New Layer!


I added some blobs with the Custom Shape tool, set to Smoothing mode and a highish mode value [50+]. The shape tools all fill in the shape they make with a gradient, so you can make them tone with the background.


New Layer! purple3jpg

I added more blobs with the Polygon tool, setting it to 8 sides, and with ‘Shape Trails’ ticked. If you swirl the cursor round and round and in and out, you get these shapes. I’m not saying what Wensleydale said about them.

Then I started playing with the Filters, which is when it dawned on me that, provided you haven’t merged the layers, the filters only work on the layer you have open, not all of them. [I’m sure you know this, but I didn’t.]purple4jpg

Suddenly, the filters in the 3D Effects group,which I had thought were boring – weren’t.

Like Reflection -




and Cylinder Designer








and Perspective Tiling.







Of course I didn’t stop there.purple8

This is one of the Wave Lab settings – I can't remember which.






This is [I think] Pixelate – Pixelate – but I could be wrong.







This is Pixelate – Mosaic – Cube. If I still did patchwork, I think this would look great in hand dyed fabric.




I made several more, but I think I have delighted you long enough.

I think the reason thepurple_14se work so well [well, for me they do!] is partly because of the background, and partly because the layer I applied the filters to has gaps in it. Oh, and they are purple.

This is Pixelate – Mosaic – Cube applied to the whole image. OK, but no banana.


There’s nothing on the telly tonight, so guess what I’ll be doing?