Tag Archive | drawing

The start of a Ronald


I blame Alison.

She fancied coming out sketching, and close to her is Skipwith Common. So off we went and started wandering. The rest is legend.

“It were a fickle day of bright July, in the heart of ancient Yorkshire.

Dismounted from the loyal steed, Polo of Volkswagon, our brave hero ventured forth into the vast unknown expanse named Skipwith with her noble companion Alison of CraftyWytch….”

Enough of that – too exhausting – we settled down to sketch in a birch wood, and then began the oddest of sounds. We thought it was bird-like, almost the chuckling and honking of a grouse – intermittent and conversational. As usual I try to make a character- anxious, dithering, peering glasses, pot belly, spindly legs, and the gentle mad humour of Bernard Cribbins. As we drew the noises changed, it became squeakier, more guinea pig than bird. And was immediately named Ronald. At this point we realised how the weather had deteriorated, the wind was strengthening and rain settling in, so beat a retreat back to the cars leaving the Ronald/Bernard Cribbins behind. Our unromantic, everyday explanation was of two birch trunks rubbing in the blustery wind.img_20190719_144815 But I prefer the idea of a mysterious playful identity lurking in that singular place.And this has led to a new project, instantly called Ronald Cribbins.The back clothis heavy calico elegantly dribbled over to suggest the birch wood. Areas of wet fabric soaked up the colour to make the broad coloured places, the dry fabric repelled the water so made the dribbles for the tree trunks – good fun. It is the only quick thing about this – it is 2metres long so the stitching is going to be an epic.

The pictures show the first 4 hours of work.



Just so much to do!!!  This is only the first layer- Ronald’s underclothes……


Garden II

Great things are happening! Huge progress made!! It looks fab! You will be amazed!!!

Well, I would be too.

In other words – status = fairly normal. But in a big way.

There are elements that are coming together – I am not trying for an identify the flower, walk that path, kind of image – too obvious?  My garden is about growiness not rigid control or any form of ‘aren’t I clever’. It tends to happen, mostly without me. I let things grow to find out what they are and also let them stay long past their ‘best’. It is this chaotic nature I want, the mixture of shapes and forms aswell as colour. At the moment a native geranium is wrestling for world domination with the ladies mantle while the bugle knows it is still king, the rebellious  forget me nots  are in colonising mode, and the giant poppy plants – new arrivals this year- who have seeded in weird places  currently looking like snooty lettuces…..

I sit and watch and just dwell. The individual plants are not important, it is the whole, seen from the corner of an eye,  how it moves in the wind, the sounds, the light catching foliage edges or reflecting off raindrops, glimpses of form and colour. That is what I want on cloth.  Not too much?img_20190526_085215897

So layering, cutting away, drawing shapes and patterns, multiple layers of colour and stitch, incomplete edges, suggestions and hints. And this is the beginnings. The shot velvet is a menace but also gives alot, I have found that I can pluck it with the Pointed Tweezers of Doom and create areas of a smooth soft brick red. The thread colours are gobbled up by it but remerge if enough stitching is done. The laid fabric goes into a strange perm-like frazzle if pushed. All in all it is an adventure.  img_20190526_085241263

At present the purples dominate but the next colours are going to be other brights, pale blue, mauves, hot pink and an orange or two, to create more focal points. Then more green and blues and deep colours to disrupt or emphasise those and then….. don’t know. Everything is changing as the idea gets its corners worn off and new opportunities arise.  Bit of a roller coaster actually, and not a gin bottle in sight!

Painted scarves

These are fabulous, but dinky.  I wanted to get bigger again but to keep the pace  and the challenge without getting trapped by the scale or technicals,  so I decided to paint, of course! Let’s make a scarf, or two.

Matt acrylic and textile medium? Brusho? Indian ink?

Brusho is a powder – often used as a watercolour- and is often used on fabric. Problem would be making it wash-fast. Do not want a scarf where the colour rubs off on to skin or gently dribbles into your clothing.

Indian ink – waterproof ink – more liquid, very strong but will it stay where it is put?

Acrylic paint plus textile medium is tried and tested. Just mix the two and paint it on. It needs to be heat fixed (ironed) before it is washable. It can be clumsy, can create hardspots and can sit on the top surface.


Play time. results – the red is brusho- far too enthusiastic even with the medium- red everywhere. The black is Indian ink – so strong but better manners.

Decided on the devil I know- the acrylic plus medium, the first a fairly neat mix, the second more dilute to get more flow.  The pieces are 2m x 1/2m muslin.  Far too easy – so dyed over it to give a  warm dove grey. The paint is resistant. Great fun to do even if the room and sink area look like a battlefield and the only place I had to hang them to dry  was the stairwell. But then comes the finishing- hand rolled hem.  It is only 2m. Then 1/2 m across, 2m back, and another 1/2m to complete. Now hate rolled hems, and muslin. (been out and bought 3m more)

Still have a few Wednesday evenings and Friday mornings left if you would like to come round to play with creative textiles. York Open Studios is approaching fast – 6-7th and 13-14th April and I will do more formal workshops after this. Also have a piece at the gallery in the Ryedale Folk Museum on the North Yorks Moors, in their Open Exhibition – things are getting busy…..

Sketching for stitching

This isn’t about making pretty pics but about reducing the landscape into a manageable form and language ready to take to the sewing machine. I work in pen for these- it gives an even line, more like a sewn line than pencil does.

And just for fun I’ll put the process in reverse.


Spot the differences. OK some are sloppy draughtsmanship, but others are intentional modifications.  The foreground hedge is sharper to give more umph to the composition,  the spaces between the horizontal hedges are greater – I’ve given the Vale of York a new hill!  but I want these hedges to be seen separately so something had to give. The heavy dark of the foreground  is reduced – it shifts focus to the middle ground. The foreground shadows are omitted as clutter but some may make come back as colour. Some areas I don’t like (trees to the left) so they will be edited further when stitching. Doing the sketch highlights problem areas, lets me work out, or at least work towards, solutions. Beats taking photos.

Five minutes earlier –


All the main areas are there but the image is unbalanced. The background is more solid and clearer than it should be, where the hatching is lighter, has fewer directional changes, it is more successful.  Will add lines last to give definition and emphasis where needed.




5 minutes before


Established the middle ground. Using smaller marks to help sense of distance – just the major lines at the present, no outlines (they would  fix the shapes too soon) Mixing areas of diagonal hatching with the vertical to create shadings of tone and texture.



After the first 5 minutes.

P1060713I like strong bone structure  for my landscapes – single point perspectives,  bold masses and spaces  contrasting with lines.  Tiny detail will get lost in stitch, so I don’t bother. Let areas fade in and out, it isn’t a tracing.  The mark making is important, it is experimenting with creating the different textures and tone. Most are variations of cross hatching, tight, scribbly short blocks  on the tree in the foreground, looser and smoother in the middle distance or directional hatching, such as the vertical lines starting to describe the front face of the hedge.  These first layers set the  shape and form of the image so I  leave them incomplete. As the image builds more density and definition can be added. This is how the sewing will start, working onto a very loose frame and working lightly until the whole is established and then getting more intensive. I have already  filtered out fussy bits or annoying things. I don’t want the image to get congested,   as the image is built I will see where to simplify.

Preparation. – Clear the head. You can not go out worrying about the washing. This can be helped by the acquisition of jelly babies or fruit pastilles. I also like to walk or cycle even a little way, I guess it is part of that separation process. Take time to stand and stare, we are not cameras, it takes a time to absorb detail, understand  relationships, to get beyond mere recognition. ‘Ooo it’s a tree’ just won’t do.  Move about, see how slight shifts in angle or eye level give different emphasis. You have control, exaggerate or edit at will.

And yes, it did take 20 minutes. Didn’t even have time to open the pastilles.


The textile piece will happen next week. Will be interesting to see how alike they end up. Usually the same reduction and simplification process will happen again during stitching, especially in the distance,  but the basic ideas will remain true. Wonder how many trees will magically disappear?



New-ish Beginnings have begun.

Still arguing with myself about what I want from this, how should I approach it, what qualities do I want it to have.  The conclusion reached so far is  that I don’t know. Solution is to stop thinking and do.


1st option, scratchy, questing


couldn’t bear option2 so more of the 1st style!

The drawings come into 2 categories – 1, scribble until find a line,  2, find a line and stick to it.

I like the 1st option, it is about asking questions rather than knowing the answers. But how to translate this on to textiles?

Effort 1.reverse applique and lots of stitching. This is part way in.



Transferred the idea onto canvas and layered fabric on top with the intention of stitching and then cutting away areas to leave blocks of tone. Problem one – couldn’t see the design! P1160859 Reversed it and am now stitching on the back of the fabric so that what we see will actually be the bobbin thread.

Problem 2 – inconsistent tension – the side I’m stitching looks fine but there are snarls and snags underneath. I am still learning how to work with this machine but at present am convincing myself that this is TEXTURE, and leaving it will be a considered artistic decision, and perhaps I should do more of it to prove that it was a positive action……oh hum. See problem 3!


Problem 3 – the design is everything about drawing that I don’t like – all information and no life. I like the nodules and knots of the first style and need to let this happen as I machine. The design has to be guidance not gospel or it will end up sterile and flat.  Thank goodness for problem 2. (Problem 2 1/2 – difficult to sew accurately with these encrustations underneath)

P1160868 P1160870

I have begun making the first cuts and the idea is beginning to pull together more. Several more stitchings and snippings will be needed to build up the image and give it the density that I want.

Problem 3 – ran out of fruit pastilles so reverted to clock watching. Hard to avoid. See below.


Tree drawing 3, stepping out.

Okay, you’ve been carefully following the guidance and constructed wonderful trees. What next? Well, lots of trees.

garrowby (2)

Try varying the technique to give a range of tone and surfaces. It can go as light or dark as you like, or as rough. Use it to create shadows and let the  white page be sunlight.   Once you have got the idea then use it on all sorts, it is great for giving volume and weight, and once you get going you will wonder at all the fuss over drawing the perfect outline.  Take a look at some  of the great artists’ sketches – I didn’t invent this , it has very strong roots and provenance.


P1150334 This is with pencil = much softer. Try mixing it up with strong lines, empty spaces and defined detail.

So much to try, so much to do……… who needs sleep, or food?

Drawing time 2

Part 2 of the tree  drawing exercise Hope you are drawing too…..

Creative Scribbling  or how scruffy can be best.


This is how we left it,  a very stringy spider with an amazing hair do.


Now it needs to be more than an outline. The methods I use tend to be scruffy, adaptable and without anxiety. They also can translate directly into machine stitching which is where I go  after drawing.

First – the solid bits. Trunk and major branches. Do not try to be too careful – get the feel of the tree rather than try to count the branches. (no one will ever know). Handy hint and tip – don’t draw solid lines all the way along the edges.

P1160762I ‘ve just zigzagged along the lines, leaving the edges open and uneven. On the main trunks a bit more of an outline is added, but not heavily. Leave it rough and tidy up later if need be.P1160763

This will look bad close to, so set it at least twice arm’s length away from you before crying ‘Disaster!’


And then the canopy – I use  a rough cross hatching technique, sometimes with  scribbling or washes.  What is cross hatching ?  This is……

cross hatching

Layers of parallel(ish) lines set across each other. Scribble hatching at the end.

Benefits – simple idea, versatile, can be rough or very  controlled.

Second stage – Don’t bother being worried – you can add to it at any time. P1160764 Single layer done in blocks and not sticking within the outlines either!

Third stage –  Just keep going. Look for  denser and darker areas on your tree. All you do is put in more layers of hatching. Let the blocks overlap and merge.

You will end up with a  convincing tree – no outlines to make it look static and stuffy.  If it is too regular then add on more, or  if working in pencil then rub some away.



And here is my  finished beastie. Can you see that  the top has grown a bit to give a bit more height and some rough  grass has grown to suggest the ground level.  I’ve worked in pen  so that you can see clearly so the frame lines are still there. Usually I would just put dots at the key points, or  of course do the frame-work  in pencil and rub it out.


P1160766 P1160767

Easy?  A quick sketch that could be tidied up to make a more polished study,  scribbled over to change the textures, or left exactly as it is.. Most time is usually taken up by looking and worrying, just practice not worrying and practice looking more instead.

Handy hints and tips.

Work from real whenever possible – don’t rely on photos.

Relax about things –  don’t fret at things,  stages look really bad as you build them,  sort the whole image not focus on single bits.

Something like a tree is a mass not an outline. Get away from lines round things.

Do this for fun. Don’t torture yourself over minor errors. Every time the wind blows the tree will change.

In extreme cases, just blame the squirrels…..