Portrait using fast flow acrylics

I haven't used these paints for a portrait before. They are quite expensive but fortunately go a long way - a few small brush-fulls did this A3 sized portrait on cartridge paper. A second applications may get rid of the brushstrokes you can see and give the more uniform appearance this style of portrait needs (in my mind anyway!)


This is my daughter Sarah. She quite likes it, so for me, that's success!

Post Christmas sketchbook work

I like to work on a large scale so I suppose it's unusual that I've started a new little sketchbook. I've had a go with bits and bobs cut out of magazines etc and made collages on the inside of the covers.


It's a good place to keep copies of lino prints and odd things like beetles.


A pen and ink drawing of one of my volunteer "Leamington People".


Christmas mincemeat

Here's a great recipe for Christmas mincemeat!


A few years ago, Delia Smith made mincemeat on her TV programme and said that once you'd made you're own you'd never settle for shop bought again.

I made some as an experiment one day when I wasn't doing much and have made it again every year, proving that Delia was quite right! This recipe has similarities to Delia's but is my own take.

I couple mine with orange pastry (rich sweet shortcrust flavoured with orange zest - recipe under the mincemeat)

1 pkt veggy suet (or beef - a pkt in the UK being about 7/8 oz - don't be tempted to use less as it's necessary for a long shelf life)
2 small bramley apples (or 3 large cox) peeled and chopped into small chunks



10 oz raisins
10oz sultanas
8oz currants
4oz candied peel chopped finely (I like to use just candied orange peel but a mixed tub is fine)
2 oz dried apricots, chopped
2 oz glace cherries, chopped
12 oz soft dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 grated nutmeg
2oz ground almonds
grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
grated zest and juice of 2 oranges

Simply combine all the ingredients into a large oven proof bowl, and stir. Leave covered overnight for the flavours to develop, then cover with foil and bake the whole bowl at 110C 225F for 3 hours.


Remove from oven and leave to cool. Don't be tempted to skim off the melted suet which will have risen to the surface. Simply stir occasionally as the mincemeat cools to mix in and coat the fruit.

Pack into sterilized jars and seal. (clean your jars and bake in the oven at 100C for at least 10 minutes) I've kept mine for a couple of years in the cupboard and it's been fine.

My orange pastry


1 lb self raising flour
8 oz butter
1 egg
1 oz sugar
grated zest of one orange
juice of one orange for mixing.

Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor. Use the orange juice to bind the pastry instead of water. If it's too dry use water to make a firm enough consistency so you can roll the pastry.

Line patty tins with the pastry and fill with your homemade mincemeat. You can either cover with more pastry (don't forget to glaze with milk and sprinkle with sugar) or grate some marzipan on top. Bake at 180C for about 10-15 minutes until golden.

Talking heads - an update

Here's a couple more pieces of fabric which I've overprinted.


This one was done with a very old Indian print block that was almost worn smooth - it did a great job considering!

This makes 4 prints.
I have begun to piece the fabrics into the background, adding a little colour here and there.


One of my Talking Heads (there are 5) will have the phrase "A Little Bird Told Me" stitched onto it, and I've made a body for the head by cutting holes in a piece of bondawebbed fabric. A little bird yet to be drawn, will sit on the shoulder of the body and be moulting feathers. The idea was to put pieced cloth under the holes, but I've decided that looks too fussy, so will go with something plainer.  My inner trypophobe is much happier with the pieces that cut out to be honest, so I might change my mind about which I use at some point!




Talking Heads - Printing 2 of 4 fabrics for new work

I need to take some portrait photos before I can progress with The Last Vision, and in the meantime am making something which will involve a great deal of piecing. The background will be fairly neutral and I have decided to print some fabrics for it. I need 4 pieces altogether in the light to mid ranges of grey.

The first piece is printed onto white so that it will fit in the light range I hope. Below - preparing the print table. To do this I put a sheet of wadding on the table before covering with my cloth. This cushions the stamps as they print ensuring a good contact.



Using the Messy Mats to keep my space clean but also to mix the Open Acrylics that I'm going to use for printing. The mats are wonderful - one of my 2017 best buys!


Dab a sponge into the paint to get an even covering but ensure it's not too heavy or lumpy. Cover the stamp with paint using the sponge - gently. To print, press firmly but not too hard onto the cloth and lift off. My fabrics are going to be cut into slices so I didn't line up my printed leaves, and chose to print at random.





For the second piece of cloth, I used high flow acrylics. You can buy these empty "felt tip" type pens to put the paint into, so I filled mine with black and white and swished around the pen to mix (you can just see ball bearings in the tube).


Again, the text needed to be random as this cloth is being cut up, and I didn't want identifiable text. Guess what the piece is going to be called?!!


So for today, I have one light and one light/medium fabric.


Christmas Pudding


I'm a bit late this year with the Christmas Puds but here's the recipe I always use.

4 oz shredded veggy suet
2 oz self raising flour
4 oz breadcrumbs
1 tsp mixed spice,
1/2 tsp each of cinnamon and grated nutmeg
Grated rind and juice of a lemon
Grated rind of an orange
8oz soft brown sugar (muscovado)
14 oz of sultanas, currants and raisins - in a mix that pleases you.
1 oz of candied peel, chopped
1 oz ground almonds
1 bramley apple, chopped small
5 fl oz of guinness or similar stout
2 large eggs

Measure all the ingredients into a bowl and mix. Cover and leave overnight. This makes 1 large pudding but you can divide into 2 smaller ones - adjust the steaming times - and make sure you fill the bowls nearly to the top. Grease the bowls with butter and cover with greaseproof paper and foil before cooking.

Steam or boil (put a saucer or similar in the bottom of the pan so it takes the bowl off the base). Keep the pan filled with boiling water during cooking (it should come to about half way up the bowl)  Steam for 4 hours for small puddings and 6 for a large one. Allow to cool and wrap in clean paper. On the day of eating, steam again for about 1/2 hours to heat through.

Geometric overpainting of a monoprint - style of Robert Kushner.

Quite a long while ago I did some digital drawings from a photo of heleniums in my garden. I was really pleased with the results despite forgetting to put in the stems!!

 
Since doing this, I've used this and similar images countless times in sketchbooks as a motif, and as something I can go to when I wish to experiment with various new techniques but don't want to spend ages finding a new subject. They are always there for the spur of the moment ideas!

Here they are again on a collaged backgroud and behind an acrylic pour.


And as a monoprint with printing ink on paper.

I'm a fan of the work of Robert Kushner who I occasionally come across when posting on the Through Our Hands Facebook page. Click here to see some of his work with Camellias.

I thought I'd use the monoprint above to see if I could get a feel for some of his work. I divided my paper with the monoprint into 4 vertical sections. I used watercolour to make a rough painting filling in with colour, but more or less keeping to the straight dividing lines. To make it interesting, I swapped the colours in each strip. I used yellow, grey, blue, black and green.

The monoprint bled a little as I guess the ink wasn't completely dry, but I liked the effect. I decided to go over the outlines again to make them stronger.


New Work - The Last Vision

As soon as studio space is cleared and everything is back where I can find it, I want to start work on a new quilt.

I've been recharging the batteries for a bit since March, probably having done too much, or too many things all at once. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should, especially if you're on the wrong side of 60 and a bit poorly. I'm better now but it's taken a few months to regain my energy.

But you can't switch ideas off, and if your brain has a ping-moment, there's nothing you can do to ignore it! As I seem to think in quilts naturally rather than any other medium, I'm looking forward to starting again on a new large piece which will be part of the Life Story series but moving forward a bit.

I like a title. It's often a starting point and if it isn't, I'm not comfortable until I've found it. - this piece will probably have the title of The Last Vision, or simply, Vision. It'll be portraits but not sure yet how the technicalities of the rest will be - I'm not sure if I want to make this a huge piecing thing, or if I'm brave enough to forget the technical side in favour of seams and loose threads.

I have an image library (2 images below) but unfortunately don't have the artists names for these pieces which have inspired me.



Kilner Jar makeover

I'm continuing the studio makeover to make it a shared space, and was trying to find a way of making the paintbrush collection a little nicer to look at.

I had 3 boring Kilner Jars, so once they were thoroughly cleaned, I painted them with chalk paint. I put on two coats as I was concerned that the brushstrokes showed a lot, but I don't think I'd bother again - one will do!




Once the paint was dry (I left mine overnight) I sanded off the bits where the writing was and around the glass screw at the top.


I decorated with some twine, and hung a few baubles that were to hand, around the neck.



These should look ok on the new dressers.


Decorating a craft box

Things are slightly chaotic at the moment as the time has come to clear out the studio cupboard. I'm having to have a bit of a jig round to get more space in the house and am getting 2 new small dressers in place of the wardrobe I currently use.  We've all got pictures like this, right??! That cupboard really held a lot more than I realised.


Amongst this lot is a small collection of children's crafty stuff - feathers, wax crayons, wobbly eyes etc - and I wanted somewhere safe to keep them together but that didn't look ugly or too childish. I found this Ikea box in the loft and decided it might do so set about making it more interesting. Apologies for the photos - they were taken at night (nothing on the telly again) in low lighting.


I used chalk paint on the outside of the box. 


And coated the box drawer fronts with a layer of gel gloss.


Then I stuck some papers on the box fronts. You could really get some lovely effects if you used your own printed papers, but I was in a hurry and had limited space, so used a pre-printed book of papers.


All the box fronts being left to dry (nb not cut to shape yet)


Using a scalpel to cut to shape once dried.


Finished box front.


Finished box. I may wax the chalk paint....it's recommended on the tin. Quite jolly results I thought and perfect on the new white dressers.


Gourd - Small Applique and Stitch piece

Although summer is over, the autumn colours make everything seem warm and cosy. I was out and about a couple of days ago and came across some gourds for sale and I thought they'd look great on my garden table, popped into a few plant pots.

Couldn't resist bringing one inside for a spot of drawing!

I decided to make a small textile piece just for the fun of it. I've drawn the gourd onto freezer paper. To get the shapes you can see, I just looked at a photograph of the gourd and decided which were the dark bits (the dark green) and which were the light bits (the white). I drew these shapes directly onto the freezer paper, but you could photocopy your photograph and enlarge if you wish, and then trace directly from that.


Here's the freezer paper outlines again being auditioned against some orange home-dyed fabrics to give me an idea of size etc.


To keep it simple I've chosen to do my gourd in greens but you could choose any colours as long as you had a dark, a medium and a light fabric. You will need to iron on some bondaweb to the reverse side of the fabrics.


The easiest way to tackle the next stage, is to cut out the entire gourd shape in the mid tone green fabric.


Once the basic shape is cut, peel off the bondaweb backing and iron the shape into place on the background.

 Now it's a matter of repeating the process with all the shapes on your freezer paper,


 Until you have the image fixed firmly to your background cloth.

I've added a spot of extra darker fabric at the base of the gourd to look like shadow - this stops the gourd "floating" in the space and grounds it. Layer up the front piece with wadding and backing fabric and pin in place.


 I've added some 1/4" masking tape to give me some perspective lines for my free motion machining.


The completed piece.


I like free machining but I think this looked better in just fabric - interesting!