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Looking at Bridget Riley's work, Pause

I've been to visit the Seurat to Riley exhibition at Compton Verney 3 times - it's really good and worth a visit (closes on Sunday so be quick!)  It's called The Art of Perception and features work by Escher, Bridget Riley and many others connected with the idea of playing with visual perception through colour, optical processes, movement, geometry, Moire, and perspective.

More than anything I love to see how an artist works and there were one or two preliminary sketches by Bridget Riley including one for her work "Pause" 

I thought it was interesting how your eyes played tricks on you seeing curved lines where there weren't any, and I wanted to have a go at something similar so I could see how it was done. Doing things fixes them in my mind a bit better.

So I took out my sketchbook and drew a grid in pencil on an A4 sized page. I kept the horizontal lines the same distance apart but made the vertical ones converge in the centre. See below.

Ok so they're not madly accurate - if you were doing something more considered you'd spend time getting this spot on. Graph paper would have been handy!

I then drew a circle touching the sides of each box. I filled in every other box. I used watercolour to give an idea of colour to highlight the movement.

I enjoyed exploring this idea. I may do one putting the converging lines in different places to get different effects - just for fun. Not sure how to use this idea without copying in some way, but will keep in my sketchbook for future reference.

Lothar Gotz - using his ideas for some textile work

Lothar Gotz has work in the exhibition Seurat to Riley (The Art of Perception) showing at Compton Verney until 1st October. There are a number of small pieces on show and a complete room installation.

I liked his geometrical paintings and sketches, and the colours he used in the pieces exhibited. He's a German artist who references ideas about architecture and space, with abstract geometric forms with lines and blocks of intense colour.

I had a go at reproducing a piece of his work from notes I jotted down on my visit to the gallery.  It's done just to remind me of his work, which sparked off an idea for a textile piece that I painted live at Festival of Quilts in August 2017.

I combined this idea of colours running through a design, but not in a straight line, jumping into the adjacent space, and coupled it with Bridget Riley's straight lines. As the exhibition at the Festival of Quilts was about portraiture, I used an abstract face as my design. The idea was to keep the eyes as realistic paintings though.

I put lots of heads together on cylindrical bodies, and continued the stripes - changing the positions - throughout the composition. Laura and I both wanted to use old quilts as a canvas, and to change their entire look and purpose.

Talking Heads - rough out in sketchbook.

As this was going to be painted live in the Through Our Hands gallery at Festival of Quilts, as a charity event, it was necessary to keep it fairly simple, so I appliqued the bodies and stitched into place with free machining patterns. I also made the outlines of the heads in applique strips to give a rough disjointed line.

The piece was done on an old picnic blanket - a quilt bought off of eBay - which I did lots more stitching too to texture and flatten the background.

The quilt was then stuck to a piece of MDF using acrylic gel and cut to size - leaving the edges unfinished.  Here's my chum, Laura Kemshall, installing our work before the exhibition opens.

Mid paint, and looking a bit ghastly IMHO, but more to be done.  Sadly I didn't take a photo of the finished piece, but you can see where I was going. Painting live takes a bit of courage, so not my best work, but fun and for a good cause.

Messy Mats

I just wanted to share a new purchase with you. (There's no affiliations btw - just think these are brill)

I discovered these Crafty Mats when I went on a lino cutting course recently. They're great for rolling out your printing ink, or just doing anything messy on. They're made out of bendy plastic which is thin enough to bend a bit as per the photo, but strong enough to take reasonable wear and tear. I don't think you could use them as a cutting mat as you might go through. There's a very handy grid on it and some angle lines. Best of all they're really cheap - just over £1 each. (£7.99 for a pack of 6-multi coloured)

Brilliant for children too of course!!

Footnote: I've had so many people ask where I got them from that I'm putting a link - although they are available widely!!
Baker Ross

Using the apple processor - video

Processing a glut of apples can be a right old chore, but this machine which I've had for over 20 years, helps no end!

Dorset Apple Cake

I love this time of year when autumn fills the kitchen with lots of lovely apples. In my younger days I was given to a bit of scrumping, but I'm far too old to climb a tree now - standing on a chair is a bit iffy these days.

The National Trust, bless them, sometimes sell their unwanted windfall apples and we've amassed quite a collection in the last week. They're different varieties but all cookers.

So here's my favourite Dorset Apple Cake recipe.


225g self raising flour
2 tsps mixed spice (or you could use cinnamon)
120g butter
120g sugar - brown or castor
1 large egg
milk - about 8 tablespoons
250g bramley or other cooking apples.
100g sultanas
I like to put demerara sugar on top - so a sprinkling if you have it.


Heat the oven to 160Fan or 180 ordinary, and line/grease an 8" round cake tin.

Peel and chop the apples and add the sultanas.

In another bowl rub the butter into the flour and mixed spice/cinnamon until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. Beat in the egg and milk - you should have a smooth batter.

Mix the apples into the cake mix. Put into the greased tin and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about 30 minutes until firm - you can put a skewer in and see if it comes out clean too. Eat hot or cold - can't decide which I prefer.

New Sketchbook!

I recently commissioned an A3 sized sketchbook with a mix of papers including Fabriano, watercolour and cartridge papers. I was able to ask for spacers to be left so I could make inserts now and then. I was able to choose all sorts of colours and papers but strangely kept it very simple and black!  I picked it up today from John Richards, a bookbinder from Leamington Spa and am delighted - can't wait to get started. 

Here's some process photos of the book being made. Cutting the different papers to size. 

Beginners lino cutting

 I had a lovely day out on Saturday in rural Northamptonshire at a print workshop run by Sam Marshall (SamMarshallArt)

I have cut a lino before but without any tuition and using the cheapest tools available, so it was a real treat to spend a day finding out all about it, the equipment, inks, cutters and presses. There were just 2 of us on the course so we had plenty of room to spread out and Sam kept us well fed on home made cake and hot beverages - always a treat!

Our first efforts were at mark making - using the different tools available to see what suited best. I think my favourites were the Pfeil ones as they sat nicely in my hand and were very sharp. We also used Japanese lino - a revelation as I'd previously used softsculpt, or those sheet of grey lino you buy from art shops. It's much easier to carve and great for fine detail. Here's the finished block!

After inking up was explained I had a go and this was the result. We used Caligo inks which I have a small supply of at home. I realised that I could improve my work by just using the right tools such as a proper roller, instead of the red handled brayers I use for everything. We used printed on 4 different types of paper which Sam supplied, and tried out all her presses as well as the bamboo baron.

The next stage was to make a lino cut of something that we wanted to do, and in my case I chose a beetle from a wildlife book I have at home. The beetle wasn't a suitable shape for the size of lino so it was modified slightly in my sketchbook. I then traced from this ready to transfer the image to my lino.

Adding a layer of talc helps you to see how the cutting is going. You could also put a sheet of paper on top and rub with a pencil. Here's the beetle all carved! I took a test print to see if I need to alter it before going on to print a few more using the different papers again.

We then added coloured ink to a plain piece of lino and printed this off onto paper before adding another print on top.

Here's the last one I did and you can probably see that I've scribbled quickly into the background green before printing the plate - just to see what happened.

Heaps of potential for doing more of this!

Acrylic Pour using Gin

Yep, I did say gin. Now don't be horrified at the waste of gin - I found it in the back of the cupboard where it had been for at least 2 years following a spate of cocktails made with it, apple juice, prosecco and elderflower cordial. I didn't think it would be such a good idea to drink it after all this time, and there is a paint pouring process that uses isopropyl alcohol...so I just gave it a go.

I mixed the gin with the paint to make it runny ..about a teaspoon of gin for a large squirt of fluid acrylics (half and half approximately) and then I topped it up with the same amount of pouring acrylic medium.

For the dirty pour I used Yellow Azo Gold, Prussian Blue, Turquoise, Jenkins Green and white. The cells have broken through better than when I used WD 40.

Heron monoprint.

This is a monoprint I did a couple of weeks ago of a Heron, which I'm going to turn into a painting - again just an experiment at this stage. If you have used an ink which will allow you to paint over the monoprint, then you can use the print itself. If you haven't or you want to do more than one, or even resize, use a photocopy of your print.

Having got the copy the right size, you will need to cut carefully around the outside of the image. Next, prepare the background. I achieved the effect of grasses here by putting lots of runny acrylic paint on the bottom edge of the canvas and used a palette knife to draw the paint up in sweeping strokes.

Then I used acrylic gel medium to stick the monoprint/copy of monoprint onto the base painting. Put a layer of the gel over the entire picture to avoid getting bumps and ridges.

When the gel is dry you can use acrylic paint (in this case paint mixed with glazing medium) to colour your monoprint.

I've added a layer of acrylic pouring medium to the whole of the image and when it is dry it will give a mirror like appearance to the picture.

Chalk portrait - study for a painting.

I've continued the chalk study portrait, which I may or may not turn into a painting in the new sketch book. Chalk and graphite on cartridge paper.

Beginning a new portrait

My fingers were itching to do some drawing yesterday. When the mood is on you, you need to just get on with something. So I searched through my photos of willing sitters, and began a large piece in chalks and graphite on a piece of paper.

Here's how far I got yesterday. Obviously lots to do and I will post the process in full when it's finished. I started on the eyes - it's where I usually begin!

Waiting for a sketchbook to arrive

I recently commissioned a sketchbook to be made for me by a bookbinder. It will be of mixed paper, A3 sized - and I can't wait to get started on it. It will take a while to make though, so in the meantime I'm filling my time with a few crafts and experiments. It's good to have time to just muck about a bit.

Now I'm not the best at these things, but like trying anything new so thought I'd get to grips with making a few Christmas cards. I'm using dies on an xcut machine which I'm not having masses of success with. I bought it to use as a printing press and for that purpose it's great. Cutting little bits of paper should have been a breeze but it wasn't.

I did find that using some freezer paper/waxed paper between the die and the paper you want to use helps to release the shape better. I had no success at all cutting fabric but will keep trying.

Well it's a start!

AND, the rest of the process - making it up as you go along - I'd best put down to experience!!

I wondered how you'd stick fiddly bits of card to other bits of card, and came up with the idea of using double sided sticky tape. There is probably a suitable product out there that comes in larger pieces, but this was to hand. I put the tape on the card and peeled off the backing.

I then placed the cut outs on the sticky tape and used the tape covering to press into place.

 Here's everything stuck in place. Then I wondered what to do about the background. I had some faux gold leaf in the cupboard and thought that might look nice.

Here we are, finished. Not one of life's little joys really, but at least I know how these things work and what I don't want to do!!