Sunday, 17 December 2017

Christmas cards

All my Christmas cards have been printed and posted, so I can now reveal how they were made.

Using white gesso, I printed my image onto Frisk Black Pad  paper.  As I intended to cut round the figures I didn't bother to clear away all the excess lino (particularly round the heads).  Once dry, the prints were randomly coloured with acrylic inks, plus a bit of gold splatter.  More detail was added with gold and silver gel pens before the images were cut out and glued to A6 card blanks.  A computer printed insert included the seasonal greeting and our address.

I produced about 24 hand-printed cards, but still needed a few more.  As time was getting on, I finished off with a computer printed version to which I added the gold and silver gel pen details for a bit of sparkle.

Lino print - white gesso on black paper, with acrylic inks added when dry

 Design layout, lino block and some of the finished cards
Close-up of the finished image - "Three Kings"

Friday, 8 December 2017

Expressive Textured Winter Landscapes in Mixed Media

I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday's workshop with Soraya French.  With some careful packing, I managed to fit all the suggested materials into a rucksack and a shopping bag so my journey on the bus was not too fraught (apart from delays with rush hour traffic and road works).

Soraya's teaching style was relaxed and easy to follow and she was able to advise and encourage each student individually.  Her first demonstration painting was split into two parts so that we could prepare our paper or canvas surface with various textures (gels, gesso, pastes, collage etc.) and a base wash, before we forgot that part of the process.  This also allowed our work to dry before following up with painting, over-painting, glazing and refining with heavy body acrylic, ink, pastel and wax crayon.

I changed my mind about the sketches I was going to use as my reference.  The first was from a small study of the Neolithic stones at Avebury.

Avebury Stones - pen and watercolour 3" x 5"
I find it quite difficult to relinquish my "watercolour" mindset when using other mediums, so these workshop efforts are quite rough, but I did feel I managed to overcome that to some extent.

Ink, collage, texture paste, gesso, pumice gel, acrylic
and some final touches of pastel and wax crayon

This was my next reference sketch:

On the Polar Road from Narvik - pen and watercolour  5" x 5"
This interpretation was definitely a bit messy!
Ink, texture paste, gesso, acrylic, wax crayon
For my final attempt I decided I might have more success if I followed Soraya's second demonstration piece more closely.

Ink, texture paste, acrylic, with some wax crayon and pastel
I used Hahnemuhle Britannia watercolour paper (approx. 9" x 12") for these acrylic paintings and it certainly stood up well to the battering it got.  The only downside was that the low-tack masking tape I used to attach it to my painting board pulled away some of the paper surface when I tried to remove it.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Urban sketch outing

With several of our group busy on the run-up to Christmas, only a handful of us turned up today's sketch meeting.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed beverages and savouries (plus inspirational ideas) at the National Trust cafe at Swindon's Designer Outlet Village, taking advantage of our window seats to sketch the outside views.

Pen and mixed media sketch on a pre-prepared page
of the Hahnemuhle Grey Book

Afterwards, we visited the Christmas Market at STEAM Museum where all the various craft stalls were laid out in between the various steam engines and other railway-related exhibits.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Hahnemuhle surprise parcel!

An early Christmas present from Hahnemuhle - certainly a lovely surprise!

My package contained a tin of 30 watercolour postcards (approx 4" x 6"),  a Faber-Castell water brush and watercolour pencil with extra thick lead, all with a nice hand-written note from the Hahnemuhle team.

All wrapped up in red tissue within a red bag

The water brush is only 5" long, which makes it a useful addition to a small pencil case for outdoor sketching.  In addition, the cap is designed with an angular edge which can be used to scrape lines into damp paint - very neat.

Testing out the water brush cap on some watercolour swatches

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Winter landscapes

Next week I have booked a place on a day's workshop with mixed media artist Soraya French.  The theme is "Expressive Textured Winter Landscapes in Mixed Media".  I am already sorting out what I need to take with me - it seems like a mountain of supplies - acrylics, inks, oil and soft pastels, gesso, texture paste, glue, collage papers, palettes, paper, brushes, pencils, etc. etc.  These are all the materials I have on hand at home, but the thought of hauling all these on public transport (at least for one leg of the journey) is quite daunting.  Maybe time to think about an old ladies' shopping trolley!

In the meantime, I have been sorting through my sketches for some suitable reference images and will include two or three from a winter Norwegian cruise we took some years ago.

Stockmarknes - pen and watercolour

Snowy Nesna - pen and watercolour

Turf-roofed fisherman's hut, Saltstraumen -
pen and watercolour

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Latest circle book complete

I have now finished the circular book mentioned in my last post.

When open, the booklet measures 5" across and 2 1/2" high, fitting into the quadrant box when closed.

Materials used: 100 gsm cream paper,  computer printed text, hand-printed with acrylic tinted gesso foam stamp, edges cut with "deckle" scissors and stained with acrylic and gold ink.  Quadrant box - cardboard covered with red mulberry paper, decorated with gold ink and collaged stamped image.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Circle book in progress

I have been busy on my Christmas card design - it will be a simple lino print image again this year - but more about that nearer the festive season.

Meanwhile, I have  a couple of special birthdays to make booklets for, so for the first another circle book is in production.  I have used this peony design before, but needed to make a larger foam stamp, allowing enough room for the computer printed text on the 5" diameter pages.  The cover will probably be decorated with the peony bud image.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Life Drawing

My local art society held a 2 hour life drawing workshop this weekend.  The first half was with the model clothed, the second half unclothed.  Despite quite a short time span, those attending managed to produce quite a few very good sketches.  It's definitely something I could do with more practice at.

We started off each session with a couple of 5 minute warm-ups, followed by two longer poses of 20/25 minutes.

Three of my 5 minute warm-ups:

Charcoal pencil

Charcoal pencil

Conte pencil

A couple of the longer poses:

Charcoal and pastel pencil

Charcoal and pastel pencil over
acrylic sponged background

Sunday, 5 November 2017

November sketch outing

Despite early rain, we had a good turnout for our November urban sketchers meeting, with three or four new people joining us.

The venue was the town's first municipal cemetery (dating from 1881), but now closed to new burials. The area is a quiet green space and designated nature reserve surrounded by streets of Victorian terraced houses originally built for the expanding workforce of Brunel's railway workshops.  The chapel is now only used on special occasions, but the caretakers kindly agreed to open the building up so that we would have somewhere to shelter should the weather deteriorate.

All comforts provided!

The Gothic Revivalist style chapel

I used the Hahnemuhle Grey sketchbook, which I had already prepared using soft gel medium to add a piece of randomly painted tissue paper to one of the pages.  The resulting surface proved to be rather slick for the watercolour I tried to add to my pen sketch - perhaps acrylic or ink would have been a better choice, but I enjoy experimenting with different approaches.
The Chapel, Radnor Street Cemetery 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Miniatures Gallery

Some images of my miniatures have been posted earlier in this blog, but I have now started a gallery page (here) to show them in one place.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Flower sketch

A couple of years ago I acquired a packet of nasturtium seeds (a free gift with some magazine, I think).  This spring I decided it was time to use them to fill in a few bare spots in the garden.  In a couple of areas they grew and flowered as expected, but in the third patch they've spread like some monstrous triffid overtaking the lawn and existing plants.  Naturally, they have been the subject of a few sketches.  This one is pen and wash - the colours are nowhere near as vibrant as they should be, but in this instance I was more concerned with capturing their fantastic shapes.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Collage Gallery

I have just added a few of my collage images to the Pages section of this blog.  In due course, I intend to add more categories.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Holiday sketches

A few more drawings from my recent holiday.  These pen and wash sketches are quite tiny as my current watercolour travel journey is only 6" x 4" and I like to use about half the page to write up the day's events.

Petworth House (run by the National Trust) has been home to descendants of the same family for 900 years and contains an impressive collection of art, including works by Gainsborough, Titian, William Blake, Joshua Reynolds, van Dyck and JMW Turner who painted several views of the grounds and the house interior for his patron the 3rd Earl of Egremont.  The house sits in 700 acres of landscaped deer park with a couple of lakes.

Winkworth Arboretum
 The Arboretum is set in a steeply wooded valley leading down to a lake with its boathouse.

Pendean Farmhouse,  originally built in 1609 -
Weald and Downland Museum
This is an open air museum of some 70 acres where over 50 historic local buildings, threatened with demolition, have been painstakingly reconstructed in either a village or rural setting within the site.  A really interesting visit and well worth the full day it took to explore.

Our self-catering accommodation
We stayed in a converted oak-beamed barn on a farm near a small village.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Arundel Castle

We had glorious weather at the end of September when we were on a week's holiday in West Sussex. Arundel Castle was on our list of places to visit and, although we didn't take in the complete Castle tour, the Castle Keep, the 14th Century Chapel and the stunning gardens were enough to keep us occupied for the day.

Arundel Castle - pen and wash

Stone water pump - pen, watercolour and gouache

Arundel Castle

Water feature in the Castle gardens

Castle Gardens
The wild garden

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Another circle concertina book

I wanted to try out this book structure for a wedding anniversary greeting.   I made a smaller foam print so my computer-printed message would not be obscured.  The quadrant box was covered with scrunched tissue before being painted.

It's an easy book to make but care is needed to align the sections when sticking them together.  Using the eight pages, I find there is no need for anything to hold the book in its open circular position, but that might not be the case with fewer pages.

Friday, 29 September 2017

The Bookmarks XV Project

I participated in the 15th and final year of the Bookmarks Infiltrating the Library System project organised by the Centre for Book Arts at the University of the West of England in Bristol.  Over 50 artists took part and I have now received my contributor's set.  In addition, a number of sets will be sent out to institutions in Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, USA as well as the UK.

Details of the scheme and the various contributors over the years can be found here, with this year's bookmarks itemised on this page.

I started planning my contribution in October 2016 and worked on it in between other tasks.  I finally sent off my 100 bookmarks to the University in March this year.

I used full sheets of hot-pressed 140lb Bockingford watercolour paper, acrylic paint, inks and gesso. For each new full sheet I used a different set of colours to randomly paint and stamp an abstract  background.  These were subsequently hand printed with a linocut of a flower in white (a mixture of gesso and slow drying acrylic), plus a collage element designed to clip over a book page.  I couldn't resist a bit of "bling" and highlighted the flower petals with pen and gold acrylic ink before hand cutting, assembling and numbering the final bookmarks.

Deciding to produce each individual bookmark by hand involved a fair amount of work, but I enjoyed the challenge.

 Softcut printing blocks

To help line up the printing, I cut the large sheets into strips
 just a fraction over the height of the main lino block



Thursday, 21 September 2017

The Sketchbook Project

Our local urban sketching group has decided to participate in this project  (see details here:

 A sketchbook has been purchased and we have until the end of March 2018 to complete and return it to the Brooklyn Library, NY.  The book measures 5” x 7” and contains 16 pages (i.e. 32 sides), this will be passed around the group with each participant using 2 or 3 sides. 
The paper is rather thin so care is needed if using watermedia – an alternative is for contributors to supply their sketches on separate paper which can then be glued into the book.
I wanted to include something particularly relevant to our locality, so decided to use the information and a couple of images I gathered when putting together my booklet on the fritillary nature reserve.  My third was a pencil portrait with added collage.

Left - collaged lino print on mulberry paper
Right - pen and watercolour sketch

Pencil, watercolour, collage and acrylic print