Sunday, 30 November 2014

Beginning to paint a bit too

I decided to split the stitching with the painting, just to vary things a bit.  I'm beginning to build up the roots which is quite fun now I've sorted out what I'm doing and how I'm going to do it!  I was really worried about this one coming together, but then just after lunch I looked at it and smiled, knowing the plan was possible.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Still stitching!

I'm still stitching names on the roots. Probably will be for some time! The photo shows the reverse which is plain white cotton.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Apple cake

I thought, to start off with, that I was very excited because of the new work I've got planned and the ideas running through my head for the 2 exhibitions Through Our Hands are having next year. But, I realize now, that although that's treeeeemendous fun, the rush of good feeling is caused by an overdose of Apple Cake.

DH not being around yesterday - off to Highgate to eat pies (nothing to do with the cemetery) - I was alone for the day and being relaxed about such things, decided to make cake for my dinner instead of sensible vegetables.   I ate half for my tea and another great wodge just now, (it's better cold I think).

Here's the simple recipe if you'd like it, with a few Rainbow additions.

Apple cake (8" round cake tin) 180C, 160C fan, Gas 4

7oz sr flour
3oz caster sugar
5oz soft marg/butter
1 egg

1 large cooking apple - peeled cored and sliced
2 spoons sugar
mixed spice
handful of sultanas.

Line the bottom of the tin (gets squishy in there)  Put flour, sugar, marg and egg in a bowl or food processor and mix until combined.

Use 2/3rd mix in the bottom of the tin.  Add sliced apple on top. Add sugar and sultanas.  You could add lemon if you like.  Give a good dusing of mixed spice if you like it, or perhaps cinnamon.

Dot the remaining mix on top. Don't try and spread. Fill the gaps with apricot jam or a spot of marmalade. Maybe even strawberry jam?  Cook for 1 hour (about 45 mins for fan) until golden and firm.  If you have trouble spreading the mix in the bottom of the tin, lift out the lining paper onto your worktop to spread, then pop it back when done.

Delicious hot; soft and moist the next day when cold.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A small charity shop challenge

I found this in a charity shop yesterday.  I like the idea of altering an altered book!

I'm not sure how to alter it to take best advantage of the already folded pages.  I've thinned it out a bit, so it folds flat, although I may need to take out more pages as I go along.

When it's shut there are interesting spaces left and I'm considering filling them with something.

Nothing dynamic has come to mind yet.What would you do?

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Having fun with Life 15 - Mitrochondrial Roots

 Things in massive closeups aren't flattering for the stitcher, but it's necessary to increase the scale to show you the names I'm stitching on the roots of the woodland.  I've had enormous fun choosing them.

There are controversial names as well as the worthy.  I'm not sure how many I need so only have 50ish so far.  Of course Jane Austen has to be in there as does Malala Yousafzai. I was amazed at how many female scientists there are/were that have made really important discoveries, yet I'd not heard of....not just because of my ignorance either, but because they haven't had their work acknowledged properly.  I hope you'll have fun reading them all to see if there's any you know, or might want to find out about.

Also making a panel advent calendar.  I didn't have time to do anything spectacularly inventive but there we go.  Perhaps Laura can print me off some stockings or similar for future advent calendars!!

Friday, 21 November 2014

A final canter around some portraits

I loved this one.  Obviously Judi Dench!

A white coat and grey hair against a large white background - which has absolutely nothing else in it.
It's a massive painting, and the bare space focuses your eye on the victim sitter.
 A complete contrast.  Flattened people stuck to the wall.  They do have individual features though. They're all lavishly dressed with halos around their head (but placed so it doesn't interfere with the features I noticed)  Does this mean that what you look like is more important than your role in the church.  Probably not!! 

Isn't this stonking?  Again a neutral background but not empty.  Cups of tea float around out of perspective and with the tea remaining in the cups!  
 I liked this one for the excessive amount of pink.  My own feeling is that apoplexy is just around the corner. 

This one was part of a larger picture featuring Queen Victoria. I just thought it was beautifully done, and I loved the glow of light on dark skin.

 Just beautifully painted - like porcelain.

Very dramatic and loose paintwork.  I liked the use of red and green (opposites on the colour wheel)

Finally my favourite for today. Part of a much larger picture.  I loved the green in the face, the intense look in the eyes, and the use of text mixed in.  I shall remember this one!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

5 more portrait styles to consider

A few more interesting styles of portrait and painting.  I will try and do something more abstract as an experiment, but I imagine I'll find it difficult to forego the likeness part of making a portrait!

 By Tom Phillips (1985ish) of Brian Eno.

Apparently Tom Phillips is also a composer and taught Brian Eno.

I like the mark making of red lines which lift the turquoise colours.

Could you recognize Eno? Does it matter?

A slightly easier one to understand. By Duncan Grant in 1912. Oil on panel.  It's of George Mallory who was a mountaineer and a friend of the Bloomsbury writers and artists.  He made 3 expeditions to Mount Everest, and died on the last one trying to reach the summit.  His body was recovered in 1999.

 By Robert Bevan,  Oil on Canvas 1920.

It's a portrait of Stanislawa Bevan. Also an artist, she painted landscapes and still lifes, concentrating on colour and form, and throwing in a bit of folk art.

She's exhibited in England, and is in lots of collections now, but didn't sell much during her lifetime....probably a bit overshadowed by her husband, Robert Bevan.

 By Michael Ayrton. Oil on canvas 1948.

The painting is set in Capri, where the subject, Sir William Walton went to recover from jaundice. Ayrton accompanied him.

 By Patrick Heron.  Oil on canvas 1949

It's of T S Eliot, and was painted in the year after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Heron and Eliot had a lot in common and enjoyed being a bit radical and were concerned with abstration.

Apparently it's the meeting lines and interactions between the blocks of colour that's important.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Continuing the stroll around portraits

As well as the Portrait Gallery,  I paid a short visit to the National Gallery too.  It's just amazing the amount and quality of work you can see for free at both of them. I'm mixing the images from both together. The first one blew my socks off for sheer technical ability - no idea how glue on linen works though! 

Andrea Mantegna (1430-1506)

The Introlduction of the Cult of Cybele to Rome  (Glue on Linen) 

In 204 BC the Romans brought the cult of Cybele, the eastern goddess of victory, from Asia Minor to Rome. Cybele is represented by a round stone and a bust with a mural crown. The painting was designed as a frieze - hence the imitation of sculpture, used in antiquity for friezes.

And by complete contrast!

Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-73)

Oil on millboard

Landseer was friends with Callcott and they collaborated on many pictures.  The 6th Duke of Devonshire commissioned Landseer to paint the Scene in Olden Times at Bolton Abbey, and Landseer persuaded Callcott to pose for the head of the abbot.

The label said this was painted and finiished in a sitting of 3 or 4 hours.  Sorry, but I just don't believe that!
And finally for today -and to add a modern one into the mix,- this was not at any of the galleries but one I came across on the interweb and is by Nick Gentry.  Can you guess what he's made it from? Possibilities there for patchwork fans!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

2nd portrait - Girl with Bananas On Her Head

Today's experiment was to use a thick brush and work quickly again.  Meh.

Very interesting though.  I've learned a lot even though I've had to fight against the urge to add detail. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Here's today's experiment

This morning I said I was off to have a play with a portrait following my visit to the Portrait Gallery yesterday.

So I timed myself.  This took 2 hours and 20 mins.  Of course, I can see bits I need to alter already (putting stuff on the screen does that - very useful)

Quite enjoyed my experiment but am not sure if it's a style I like.

Colours: Blood red, raw umber, white, indigo and oxide green. Acrylics on canvas.

To the Portrait Gallery

Yesterday was one of those occasions when your directionally dyslexic author does battle with the vagaries of public transport and fights her way to London.

A bit of research on portraits was needed. I thought I'd share some images with you interspersed with other postings in the next few weeks.  Left: Apparently Her Maj was expecting me and very touchingly thought to send out the army to do a 21 gun salute.  How kind.  I don't quite know how to tell her really, but her chaps were awful shots.  3 great cannons at almost point blank range and not one single shot hit home on the buildings opposite- not even a window was broken.  Apparently it was also Charles' birthday, so she's asked that we pretend this was all for him - he'll only sulk otherwise.

The poppies are being removed from the Tower - a huge job.  Between 9 and 15 million people were killed in the 1st World War, and of course this display doesn't cover all of them, just the deaths in the British forces. Spectacular to look at en masse, but I didn't need to see how many 888,246 dead bodies were in poppy equivalents, I can imagine that all by myself without too much problem. DH wasn't overly impessed but as an art installation I thought it was striking and glorious!
one for every death in the British forces in the First World War. - See more at:

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. Created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, with setting by stage designer Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies fill the Tower’s famous moat.

 So to portraits at the Portrait Gallery:

Left is Arthur Scargill with a suitably red palette.  I was looking at technique/brush work on my visit and this is the first one that struck me. Not only the colour but the energy of the brush work fills the painting with movement and fire.

A complete contrast to this one of Diana.  Calm, pretty colours, elegant.

Chris Ofili - one of Britains leading artists.  .  It's a self portrait when Ofili was a student in 1991 and is oil on canvas (although his work often contains collage, resin, glitter and multiple layers of paint)

Another painting with bags of energy.
Self portrait by RB Kitaj called Hockney Pillow.

The artist is in bed. He has darkened features and reddened eyes which gives an intense emotional charge..........  could be he had man-flu?!!

All of the portraits are likenesses of course but they are conveying something else too about the sitter and their character or where they are in life.  I really need to try and be more expressive in my brush work.  We are what we are and it comes out in the way we paint, but it's always worth a try or you'll never know!

Finally can I leave you with my favourite paintings in the whole world - at the moment anyway.  Such wonderful colours. I'm sure you can guess that it's by Vincent Van Gogh.  We were listening to a free concert (piano and violin) in the National Gallery and were sat staring at his work. Truly moving.

Friday, 14 November 2014

There are many types of portrait

Back in the day, it was about getting a likeness down in paint or pastels etc.  The closer it looked to the sitter or the better the technique was all that mattered.  Making someone look good, perhaps being honest about what you saw, making religious illustrations for those who couldn't read were some of the reasons.

Today we have photographs for exact likenessess, and  although we still, of course, appreciate the skill involved in accurately portraying someone, and there's nothing to me as gorgeous as a clever bit of paintwork, we are free to play with the idea of a portrait. We can bring in different ways of painting, or extend the meaning behind a piece.

What I love most is juxtaposition.  In my quilt work, I enjoy making something which has many layers of meaning.  You look once and see one thing, but you can look again and again and see different things.  It's enormous fun to do and something I shall be exploring a bit more in the future.

I don't especially like the pre-raphaelites, but they have sparked off some thoughts about painting and quilting and how one can make a painting better by adding to it with stitch.  It's something I'll be thinking about over the coming months.

The two images you see here were painted by me a few years ago and they were the only ones I've ever done using oils, but I found them easier and more effective than acrylics, for tthis type of painting.  You can't really use oils on fabric because over time they will rot the fibres, but we now have a way around this, by painting first and printing onto fabric. Something I shall also explore.  The point to me of doing this would be to then add to the portrait, or indeed take away from it, adding layers of stitch etc to make the quilt more than the painting.

Quilting/textiles can be so much more than a painting!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Bit of a rant - Marks and Spencers

What has happened to M&S? 

In an effort to make a huge profit in a difficult market, you have to look at your business strategies, and think about shaving costs a wee bit.  OK I get that.

BUT if their wretched loaves get any smaller they'll have to start calling them rolls. We've watched them shrink from big enough for two for toast and some sandwiches to just enough for one  - if you're a midget with a stomach upset.

And their clothes?  It used to be - in the day - that M&S sizes were so generous you could get away with a size smaller.  I wasn't always a large lady (see left, pre menopause!!) and could quite often squeeze into a size 6. but my expansion aside, their trouser sizes are apparently now some of the smallest on the market, so it's not just me denying the facts of life.

Why don't people buy from you anymore M&S?  Why are you struggling? Because - a bit like me - you're not what you used to be.  

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Blocking in the first roots.

Mitochondrial Roots - I've begun to block in some roots with a wash of paint. I'm just trying to decide the directions etc and am doing this as I go along.  As with all paintings and even my quilts, I don't know exactly how this is going to turn out or even if it'll be any good when it's done.

The roots, which grow out of women, around women, and through women, will be machined with the names of women throughout history who we've remembered for some reason or other.  Not all good of course - that just wouldn't be right.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

The beginning of November already.

Progress on Life 15 - Mitochondrial Roots is unfortunately slow, but I think about it often. In my mind, this counts! Here's a sculpture that I saw recently at Gloucester Cathedral called Mitochondrial Woman echoing similar themes I think. I shall do a posting with photos of the other sculptures on show in the Cathedral shortly. IMG_1034   Progress photo update of Life 15. Working on it has had to be fitted around other things, some fun, others not so and I'm frustrated at my progress. After all, can you take yourself seriously, and can others, if you only manage a couple of hours a week? No, I don't think so! IMG_1074-001 I've been enjoying some time with the family and travelling around during this mild Indian summer. No doubt we will soon have to batten down the hatches against winter's onslaught, but for now, it's very silly not to be outside when you can be. We've also been considering moving to a new location, but are still in the musing stages. My granddaughter is a gorgeous little thing and it would be nice to be a little nearer to her. Like all small children she's highly amusing and has me in fits. Recently, she was at a Christening, and all was serious and full of quiet contemplation. The candles had been lit, handed around, and a silent prayer was said. My darling grandaughter, having seen the candles and noticed the quiet, decided that they were all waiting for her to sing "Happy Birthday To You". So she obliged with several full volumn renditions. I also wanted to take the opportunity to tell you again about the new edition of Through our Hands, The Magazine, which is due out in the next few days. It's really the last chance to sign up for the free copy delivered with a newsletter directly into your inbox. Here's the cover photo which is an amazing installation by Susan Lenz, who is the newest artist to join us at Through our Hands. She tells us all about her work in an article she's written for us. (Us, being me, Laura Kemshall and Linda Kemshall)mag3

Monday, 3 November 2014


I have a new definition of the word "Trapped".

Little Evie was coming to stay and being the good Grandma that I am, I duly prepared by making the house safe for a toddler.  DH was out for the day, so I was able to get on nicely. The bleach was secured, the biscuit tin hidden, doors had their safety wedges, and the cleaning was thorough - up to a toddler height of about 1 metre. 

The stair gate was put into place, but like many inanimate  objects it fought back, and wouldn't open properly.  I decided to sort it out and grabbed the spanner and tightened everything firmly, but sadly, the gate still wouldn't open properly.

It was then, on the last turn of the spanner, that I dropped it and it bounced all the way down the stairs to the bottom.  Bother, I thought, and went to fetch it. Unfortunately, with the gate not opening, and the nuts and bolts tightened beyond undoing with fingers, I was, rather ridiculously, trapped at the top of the stairs.  Did I panic? Yes slightly!!!

I made an escape in due course.  This is Evie btw in a dress that was given to her by Laura Kemshall - she made it for Amelie, and it's very beautiful indeed.  It's a teacup and saucer pattern, which comes in different colours I think.