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Pen and ink wash workshop at Compton Verney Art Gallery

Compton Verney Art Gallery regularly run courses of various kinds, and I signed up for this one after attempting my first watercolour a couple of weeks ago. It was a leisure course and was good fun - I learned a bit too!

The idea was to do some botanical painting from life and make a few Christmas cards. The day course from 10am to 3pm was £60 and included unlimited coffees/tea, biscuits, a pack of blank cards and a drawing pen. It was very well organized and the staff were extremely welcoming. There is a cafe for lunch and of course the galleries to wander around after the course had ended. The course was in a dedicated artists studio with plenty of space for about 20 people.

We started with an introductory talk and were given handouts with help on creating a composition from the huge variety of things collected that morning from the Capability Brown landscape that surrounds the gallery. There were fungi, leaves, berries, pine cones - all sorts as you can imagine - and a collection of dried Christmasy things such as herbs, spices and dried fruits.

After arranging the bits we'd garnered, we set about drawing our collections in pencil directly onto the watercolour paper. We used a cut out frame to help get the scale and placements right. (See below). There was plenty of help from our tutor who also gave demonstrations and individual support.

The next step was to ink in the outlines, going over our pencil marks with a steady hand, and using a handout copy some of the marks such as stipling and cross hatching to add a small amount of shading. There were no shadows or base ie a table, drawn in.

A light watercolour wash was added after wetting the paper (wet-in-wet technique). The paints, brushes etc which were provided were artists quality.

I really enjoyed switching off for the day, and trying something new, and would certainly try another course if one caught my fancy. I can recommend Compton Verney as a venue (no affiliation).

The most useful thing I took away? To draw a leaf by doing the veins first not the outside shape. If you put the veins in you can easily draw round them to get the shape. Perhaps that sounds obvious to you but it was a first for me and helped a lot.

Stir up Sunday

We made our Christmas puds on Sunday and I spent most of Monday boiling them! Here's my recipe.

I've exhausted myself making a few more hand painted cards in the pen and ink wash too. Once you've done one, it's easy to trace the outlines for inking over - the wash just takes a few moments. The problem is not it's difficulty but the boredom of doing the same things over and over!

Have you ever heard of cotton reel art? Pinterest is full of images of people who've done the most amazing things with them - scissor stands, pin cushions, decorative trees and flowers. They key to success I think is to use old fashioned cotton reels - I have several. I began to see if you could decorate them by adding felt and ironing on bondawebbed fabrics that were cut with the Xcut press. It worked well, but no idea what I'll do with them. The robin one would make a good Christmas decoration, so maybe a Christmas tree will emerge. Don't like the flowery ones much as I think they'll look better with the cotton on show instead.

Pomegranite collage part 2

So you know that you have to kiss an awful lot of frogs to find a prince don't you??? Well apparently it's the same with collage - it's obviously going to take me lots of goes to get something useful, but that's what sketchbooks are for and I'm ok with sharing my failures!

Things I really liked about it: I liked the idea of having a separate shape in the layout which could be a focal point or just be an area of difference. I liked the balance of an offset shape and the addition of interest at one side. I liked the madness of the background texture.

Where I think I could improve: lesson the madness of the background texture. I should have concentrated and not gone down a well worn path and realized less is more. Use a graphic instead of a cut out image, and make sure it has some interest of itself ie a sketch/print. Make the side interest relate to the main image. Be a bit more delicate!

I started off with this:

Adding background papers 

Adding gesso

 Adding ink and posca pens

Adding paints to redo the pomegranite which looks more like an orange ball! No time to do anything meaningful here as I decided to abandon and try again.

Close up of background textures.

Finished thing!

Pomegranite collage - stage one, with print drier.

(Idea from Design Matters TV with Linda and Laura Kemshall. Step by step here: £1.50 for 32 mins run time and lifetime access )

Making a start, choosing a motif, and printing some papers for collage.

I've been having fun just recently with collages built up with random textures right at the start which I've then been drawing into with Posca pens etc

(Picture left) The start of the collage in an A3 sketchbook before the drawing stage. I was going to draw a building into this but then I watched the above and changed my mind, in favour of a new approach for the next piece.

Casting around the house for inspiration for a shape/motif I could use, I came up with this slightly withered pomegranite from the fruit bowl. Honestly, I have the hugest fruit bowl known to man and it's impossible to fill, and if you did fill it you'd never eat enough fruit to reach the bottom before there was a compost scenario.

Slightly withered pomegranite.

What fab colours!

I used the above photos to print a copy as a starting point and stuck it into my sketchbook.

For collage you need things to stick on your page and mysteriously I couldn't find my folder with the collected gems I've been saving, so I had to print some more and used a gelli plate with deli paper, which is nice and thin for sticking onto things. There's plenty of examples of how to do that on my blog - here for example if you're not sure.  (Below - making a start.)

I definitely didn't want anything considered, just a mad collection of textures and shapes in a limited range of colours that I thought might sit well with a pomegranite! It all may change later into the process but I've made a start and will finish for now in favour of a bit of early Christmas baking. Back soon, and thanks for tuning in!

BTW, do you like my print drier? It's invaluable if you like to paint or print onto papers. All I did was get a length of batten about 3cms wide and 1.5 deep, which I screwed cheap cup hooks into (start the holes off with an electric drill). I then found some really small pegs (not for clothes I think, but for hanging cards. They were from the £1 shop, and were a £1!) 😂 which I then screwed holes into one side of the top bit so they would slip over the cup hooks. This was a lot easier than it sounds with an electric drill. The whole batten with fittings was then stuck underside of a shelf with No More Nails. Voila! It's also above a radiator so things dry really quickly - if you're stuck you can hang your socks up to dry as well.

The Blackwood Cardigan - Helen's Closet

 (No affiliations)

A few posts ago, I shared the experience of downloading my first pdf pattern  Yesterday I used the pattern to make the Blackwood Cardigan. I thought you may be interested in how I got on with the pattern, and if it worked.

First of all, I love it!! Although a faff to stick all those pages together, in all other respects it was the same as any other pattern. The instructions that also needed to be printed off were comprehensive, well illustrated, and easy to follow and I'd give a 10/10 for that! There are plenty of little speech bubbles in the instructions filled with extra little beginners tips. I'd be very happy to use another pattern from Helen's Closet if and when I come across them.

The front page says this is for an advanced beginner, but I think anyone could have a go at this - the only slight caveat to that, is the front bands as they go over the back neckline, need a little easing to get in the fullness at the back*.

The pictures of people wearing the cardigan, in the instructions and those online show it to be edge to edge but not terribly full, so at best, the edges only meet as shown in my photo above. I didn't twig this until after it was made. This isn't a problem and is quite lovely, but if you're expecting something a bit fuller or if you want to wear a jumper under it, you might like to make a bigger size.

The pockets were stitched onto the front of the cardigan using a piece of tissue paper between the fabric and the machine. This, and lots of pins, were recommended so that the pocket stayed flat when you sewed and didn't buckle. I tried this and it worked very well. I think it also helps to have the right needle in the machine - my fabric is sweatshirting, and I needed one for stretch stitching. As the pockets are on show, it's worth taking time over this. You could leave them off of course, but where would you put your tissues, pieces of string, conkers etc.

Sewing through the fabric layers and tissue paper.

Removing the tissue paper after sewing.


* I find the best way to ease in fullness is to either slightly gather, or if it's not much, then just fold all the layers over your fingers as you pin, making sure the extra bit of fullness is on the outside so it takes up more fabric.

I did like the sleeve construction; the sleeve top was sewn in along the armhole before sewing the sides, (above). This is easier than fitting it in after the sides have been sewn - it doesn't take much juggling this way because the armstic and sleeve head are the same size.

The sleeves are then finished by making a continuous line of sewing along the side seams and into sleeve seam (a little pivot at the turn). There's not much else to add - just a question of following through the instructions.

Nerine - a painting

Watercolour on A3 paper  (Painted after watching a video by Linda and Laura Kemshall )

I decided to splurge on a small set of artist quality watercolours. I chose Sennelier as they seemed best value at the moment.

Having the right paints has made a difference of course, and these ones are quite soft and full of colour which makes painting with them much easier than acrylic.

I started with a sketch I did a while back in one of my sketchbooks - it's a nerine.

I have nerines growing in the garden at the moment, and they bring a lovely shot of colour at this time of the year.

I transferred the drawing to my paper, and then began to apply colour quite carefully.

I built the colour slowly, darkening by dropping in colour where I thought it was needed. I did pick one nerine from the garden as inspiration, but I've got to be honest, they are just basically pink!!

I haven't done a background on this as I wasn't sure where to go with it, so for now I'll just leave this as finished.  It's quite a quick process and very satisfying.

A3 sketchbook collage, Baddesley Clinton

I really like the speed of these collages as its a painless and easy way to keep a visual diary. This afternoons entry in my sketchbook was Baddesley Clinton.

Putting in the base collage, and adding ink.

 Knocking back with more gesso. Adding more papers and collage.

Finished drawing - water soluble pen, posca pens, pencil.

Fabric shops - a couple of useful links

New fabric and patterns.

I've bought some sweatshirting for the pdf cardigan pattern I downloaded. As you can see I got a bit carried away but couldn't resist the lovely orange and gold of the other fabrics. I also bought 2 new patterns to have a go at.

A local shopkeeper gave me the names of 2 dressmaking shops that have a wide selection of fabrics. Neither are particularly cheap (I'd really recommend a visit to the rag market in Birmingham for value for money) but they did have some good quality brands and modern colourways.

I'm sharing them with you because out of curiosity you might like a look, and they both do online sales (no affiliations, just for fun)  Here's a link to the Guthrie and Ghani blog which has tips and ideas. This shop is in Moseley - a lovely part of Brum

The second recommendation given to me was The Fabric Godmother  I've had a look at the shop and the blog and will be visiting online fairly soon - after I've used up a little bit of my existing stash! They seem to have a very wide range to choose from.

Non watercolour, watercolour flowers

From an idea by Design Matters TV  (If you go to the home page you can find out about all sorts of stuff - there are some free videos too)

I've not tried watercolours lately (I had a brief experimental spell about 20 years ago, but it didn't work out!) and felt rather inspired after Linda's workshop and itched to have a go.

Well, you know me, I didn't have the right paints, and no watercolour paper, but that didn't stop me. It was pouring with rain but I donned my new mac (100% absolutely waterproof) and toddled to WHSmiths shop to buy some paper - they didn't have any watercolour paints and anyway, it's a bit near the end of the month to be indulging in a lot at this stage.

So I thought I'd try hi-flow acrylics.  These paints have a very high pigment content and are water soluble. They stain the paper immediately, so the trick is to wet the paper with clear water or dilute paint first, and then drop the paint in with the tip of your brush using undiluted colour. The results are very vibrant!!

Photos aren't always accurate, and the area on the right is very shiny as it's gold leaf.  Call this one an experiment; the brain is brewing a thought or two about this idea. As a beautiful watery, sploshy, deliciously coloured watercolour painting, I know this leaves a lot to be desired, but it's a start and I'll try again soon.

Update - 2nd go, still not the effect I'm after. 


My last post about the Stylearc tunic top explains how I got on with the pattern, but I did add an extra step - understitching - here and there. Here's a step by step about how to do that so you can improve how facings/pockets etc sit a bit better.

Understitching is a line of sewing that doesn't show on the front of the garment but holds facings flat.

1) Attach your facing in the normal way (below: a neck facing stitched to the neck of a tunic top) Press the seams towards the facing. It's easier to do this from the right sides.  The neck facing and seams will then be together and away from the rest of the tunic etc.

Pin the facing to the seam behind it to keep it all from moving when you sew.

From the front, sew along the facing and through the seams. Keep as close to the edge as you can.  I have used an 1/8 inch seam but it can be bigger if it's easier. I use that little red dot on the machine foot as a guide.

You will end up with this. Your new second row of stitching will be below your seamline.

Fold over and press. Your new sewing will be on the inside and won't show on the front.

Excuse the odd colour of this photo!! Here you can see the neckline after pressing with the understitching tucked to the inside. This means the facings will be kept in place and the finish is much neater.