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Fabric Xmas Wreath - last minute quick make

I reckon this took me about 35 minutes and children will find this pretty easy too! I'm not a great one for spending time hemming bunting etc and am always looking for something quick and easy to do.

The front door needed some festive last minute cheer, so I found some Christmas fabric scraps (about 6 fat eights) and an old wire coathanger.  Don't take the top off the hanger as it makes a good loop to hang from a door knocker.  Use your hands or a pair of pliers to shape the hanger into a rough round. The fabric will cover a multitude of sins so don't worry if yours isn't accurate. 

All you need to do is cut your jolly fabric into 6-8 inch lengths by about 1inch wide. You can alter these measurements to suit yourself and your fabric stash, but that's the measurements for the wreath above.

Above: strips of cut fabric. Below tying them onto the coathanger with a simple over and under half knot.

Use your hand to push the cloth to the front of the hanger and twist any that aren't sitting quite right. Bunch them up good and tight.

Monoprint with collage via a dolls house, farm, and several bedding sets.

Well, I have finished the farm board, and also painted a dolls house that G and I found in a local charity shop. It was a little grubby and unpainted and just needed some tlc, and we thought it would make a great thing for our granddaughters to play with if we spent some time renovating. Since the photo, it's been wallpapered,  carpeted and furnished. I'd live in it.

My smallest granddaughter loves to put things to bed, so in addition to a small collection of wooden dolls for a Christmas stocking gift, I've been sewing mattresses, sheets and pillows. Crikey, I had to give up when I hit 9 sets - couldn't face one more bright pink wadded lump.

I was going on to paint the portrait of my daughter in my "special" A3 sketchbook, but decided to have another go at monoprint with collage (see the last penultimate posting of a tree) and have had a lovely afternoon with glue and caligo printing inks. It's not dry enough to do the white painting yet, as caligo takes a few days to dry, but I'll be back soon with the results.

Inspired by Matisse? No, not really.

I've just started to work on a new large painting and Whatsap'ed the image below to show my family, along with the line "Can you guess what it is yet?" To me it was obvious of course, but I loved the replies including " Dancing Lady Sneezing Out A Blue Kidney". Perfect.

It is, of course, the base board that I'm painting for a farm layout for the grandchildren when they stay over Christmas. I found my old farm set at the back of a wardrobe and figure they're old enough to get some use out of it. This board folds in half and fits my coffee table so should be easy to tidy away. The blue thing will be a pond, the grey will be roads, brown will be farm tracks and pathways, and the rest green fields with trees and fencing.

Sketchbook tree with thanks to DMTV

Laura Kemshall has inspired this sketchbook page with her latest DMTV tutorial. Can’t share how it was done as it wouldn’t be fair, but here’s a link. https://www.designmatterstv.com/

It's still a bit wet and I've caught the wrinkles where the paper has been glued, but it looks a lot flatter irl. Next stage is to add a bit of colour.

BP Portrait Awards 2018 - Wolverhampton (part 1)

(Left - I thought this would make a good one to try and paint!)

I love painting portraits, I think! - it's a real battle to get anywhere with them and I always want to give up when I'm in the middle of one, but force myself to persist to the end! It involves much groaning and many cups of distractive and strong tea - occasionally a biscuit. (When I'm anxious I like to attack the biscuits and have been known to go through half a packet without realizing - the only evidence is the crumbs pebble-dashed down my front).

So how wonderful that the BP Portrait Awards are visiting Wolverhampton Art Gallery (until the end of November) and I can go and see, and admire, and be inspired.

So what is it??

The BP Portrait Award is an annual competition of contemporary painted portraiture, and attracts entries from all over the world. This year, 2,667 entries were received from artists in 88 countries. Initial assessment is digital in order to whittle entries down to a longlist of a few hundred, and then those are viewed physically and reduced to the selection of 48 finalists. These finalists are judged anonymously with each judge justifying their choices - 1st prize is a wonderful £35,000.

Here's a quick canter through what I saw and particularly liked.

The whole portrait was this eye.
Derek (I am) by John McCarthy, Acrylic on panel.

Dad's Last Day
Nathan Ford, Oil and pencil on canvas.

(Look closely)

Sunday, 10th September was Nathan Ford's father's last day. Suffering from bowel cancer, hernias, Hodgkin's lymphoma and prostate cancer, he continued to work rather than retiring. On the Sunday morning, the artist sat with his father and drew and painted. The mantelpiece has a mixture of anniversay and "get Well" cards, above hangs a portrait of his parents on their wedding day 47 years before. Stan Ford died at home at 10.30pm.

An Existential Crisis by Megan Roodenrys, Oil on linen

The portrait is of Maeve, the artists daughter, who suffered depression, and creating the portrait helped the artist understand how this affected her. Surrounded by symbols of beauty and joy, the artist is hoping her daughter will have positive not negative days.

I've got to be honest, beautiful portrait though it is, I couldn't help feeling the eyes were looking in slightly different directions? Maybe they were irl - we'll never know!

Girl with Long Hair by Annalisa Avancini - oil on canvas (detail - I thought the painting of the eyes and fall of light was beautiful)

This portrait is of the artists sister in law. "The clash of the pattern on the old sofa on which she sits, her embroidered t-shirt and her long hair was an interesting compositional challenge".

 Mrs Anna Wojcik by Monika Polak

Those who love textiles and have perhaps been painting on them for years (!!) will appreciate this one. It's the bare outlines of a body painted onto a cloth (no stitching) and then the face and hands beautifully rendered in oil paint.

I have always understood that you didn't use oils on fabric because the paint will eventually rot the fabric without a layer of gesso - perhaps there's some acrylic gel in there somewhere!

The fabric shows through the paint but doesn't interfere with the tones and shading, which is interesting, and I love the way that it looks like it's 2 fabrics and not one.

Here's the winner of the £35,000 prize.

An Angel at my Table by Miriam Escofet - oil on linen over panel. 
The portrait is of the artists mother "who has a wonderful inner stillness and calm that I really wanted to convey in this work" The perspective of the crockery is to a vanishing point within the body.

(below, detail)

Fair Isle David by Shona Chew, oil on linen

Finally, Mr and Mrs Cooper, Separated by Mark H Laurence, oil on canvas

This portrait is of Mr and Mrs Cooper. The work is part of an ongoing series looking at adults with learning disabilities.

These are a few of those portraits I loved, but are just a section of those exhibited. There were many different styles of painting and media, but I felt drawn to these.

Round and round the painting

Starting a new portrait of Laura. Laura has very fine pale skin with hardly a wrinkle in sight, so is quite difficult to paint.

There are many ways to paint something, and the way I was taught was to block in the whole canvas roughly with colour blocks, and then to go round and round gradually refining shapes and adding more accurate colours.

On the left is the first round, and below is the second.  It becomes a gradual process of correction and detail, and seeing it like this,  I'm anxious to start the third round.

Just the jumper to do

Still painting but with a huge break for family stuff!  Back soon, but here's an update.

I wanted to focus and highlight the eye. The faded pencil drawing throws the painted bit into sharp relief and I'm trying to direct you to look at that part of the face and hopefully the eye in particular.

It's a portrait of my mother who is 92, and I've called it "The Final Vision" for reasons that I hope are obvious but if not, looking at age and a person who is fading away; clinging to a memory of them.

Pear warm-up

One of my "YouTube heroes" advises lots of simple paintings to warm up each day. Whilst that's a little excessive imho, I do agree that you need to keep your eye and hand in, and a little practice never goes amiss!

So, I've been having another blitz at painting pears. You'd think it would get a bit boring painting the same old things, but it doesn't - it's great fun. I try not to spend more than 10 minutes on each painting so that I keep it loose, and I only use a biggish brush.

If you'd like to have a go yourself, then don't forget there's a how-to on the blog here.

I am preparing to get out a canvas and do something a bit bigger - perhaps another portrait or a still life.

Gelli print concertina sketchbook finished

I've had enormous fun printing in my gelli concertina sketchbook.

I had no driving force other than to just let myself go choosing colours, patterns and techniques as the mood took me. It's completed and I have a rather large collection of backgrounds now to do something with. Not sure what though! Perhaps a diary? Perhaps a place to stick little sketches?  Here's the last pages.

I also experimented with using the gelli plate to make a landscape, but can't claim success! It's a little too heavy handed, but of course has potential! I'll try again another day.

Fineliner quilting - the results

Yesterday afternoon was very blustery and I decided it was too stormy to be out in the garden, and stayed firmly tucked up in the studio giving the fineliner quilting a go. Here's the results!

I think it took a couple of hours to do and to mount onto a canvas, and I really liked getting in to the tiny stitching, but wished I used a darker thread for the blue bits. Maybe next time I'll run a quick line of stitching around the edge to help with the cut ends that you can just see, although they are not going to unravel as they are held in place with acrylic gel. (Maybe acrylic gel before cutting to size?)

A good and fun experiment though!

"Fineliner quilting" by Laura Kemshall

I can't give you a how-to on this one, because that would just be wrong.  I watched a video yesterday of how to do Fineliner Quilting by Laura and am itching to have a go myself. If you would like to know more about this technique, here's a link to their online design website.

First thing I need to do is to find a suitable sketch from my old workbooks. Here's 3 options:

A fishy lino print.

A sketchbook teapot and random backgroud.

 The sketchbook page with my Talking Heads - which was going to be a quilt series, but I never quite got there!

Monoprint - an easy picture to make using oil paints

The above monoprint (blue/black)was made with oil paints and the orange with Caligo printing inks. They were very quick and easy to do, and a pictorial how-to follows.

You need a very little amount of oil colour. Squeeze a little (I've used indigo and prussian blue) onto a small sheet of polythene. I have large sheets of this to cover my table, but an old bag or some packaging would work. Spread the paint using a spatula, scraper or a piece of card. It doesn't need to be smooth!

Here's my sheet of polythene covered with a thin layer of oil paint.

Next, tape a piece of printing paper or whatever you wish to the table to stop it from moving. Put a frame over the top to give a crisp edge. I've used an old card mount.

Tear up some light cardboard into shapes and put them over the paper. Small pieces work better than large.

Lift the polythene and carefully begin to press it over the card (which will probably move a bit). The idea wasn't to get a complete covering but just to press some paint into the background.

Here you can see how much paint was pressed into the paper and the shapes left behind by the torn card pieces.

Gently, with a sponge or piece of cloth etc., blur the edges of the shapes.

I used the end of a paintbrush over the painted polythene to give some movement with lines.

A final bit of blurring of the lines.

Below: the finished piece.

Gelli plate - Using embossed paper and the Xcut to create texture

There are lots of ways of getting texture into your prints - stencils, stamps, freehand drawing etc., but I thought I'd have a go with embossed paper. You don't need a Xcut for this, as there are plenty of wallpapers out there with interesting patterns, but I thought I'd make my own.

The Xcut machine and the embossing folders which you can buy at most craft suppliers

Opening the embossing folder to put a sheet of paper inside. I used thickish paper as it was to hand and was robust enough to deal with lots of paint.

The embossed paper. I set the machine to 6.

A pile of interesting textures to print with.

Preparing the gelli plate. I'm using golden open acrylics.

Magenta and orange paint being rollered onto the gelli plate.

Pressing the papers into the wet paint to get textures

2 prints on paper

And one using gold paint on black fabric. This would have worked better with a nice crisp cotton rather than the soft artificial fibres. Interesting though.