Tag Archive | landscape

Playing with imagery

All of the current pieces are tied to opportunities lost due to social distancing…. so time to start anew and work with the restrictions. I am going to try to be true to who I am for as long as is responsible – who wants to be dictated to by a bug? but I imagine that time is coming …

This has no deadline, no purpose or goal, it just is. It is about being in the landscape, about being alone with that landscape and how perception shifts given time and space. Interpretation and response rather than fact.

I went out sketching, not expecting much from it other than an excuse to be outside, for head space really. It is a spot I know and have worked from before, between two villages west of York. It is a secretive landscape, a battlefield site of deceptively ordinary farmland, looking open and honest. I watched a man walk down one of the farmtracks and he promptly disappeared and re-emerged, and again, and again. There are dips and pleats that are hidden, boundaries and areas that are unknown as you drive past but it looks so flat. It must have been a devil of a place to fight over (Marston Moor – 1644, English Civil War – Royalists(Cavaliers – long haired romantics) v Parliamentarians- (grumpy frumps inc Oliver Cromwell as a calvary officer)).

At first it did not excite, but after a wander and a giggle at the info board about the battle I settled down with some charcoal and drew. It was meant to be bold and incredibly messy – even took some babywipes!- but it become precise and more about the patterns made by cultivation fitting onto the land and with in its structures. A lot more thinking happened than drawing. The sketches were ok but not focussed enough. I still get caught trying to make a “good” drawing, what ever that is, rather than a useful one.

Change of scale, change of media, change of location. Away from the source so I didn’t get caught up in making a likeness, in the studio – which is bigger than the ground floor of my house- and a neutral space, and with simple media, black and white slap it on paint and charcoal on brown paper. Fun morning playing, making layers, painting in and painting out. Bigger, more gestural, less inhibited, yet far more focussed and precise in their purpose. These are the two I got most out of doing, not perfect but they were never meant to be – they are stepping stones to a textile piece. It is now at fester zone, thinking, plotting, defining before doing, and probably redoing and redoing before it feels right. I am planning on going back in later today to take another look and make some more mess – the handwashing directive comes naturally when working with charcoal and bad habits like finger painting.

Of course, for various reasons , certain parts appeal more than others! The next questions are about how to translate into fabric.

This blog is about my work and I want it to be that still. I am sure that many will be writing and posting about the pandemic etc, that is not my way of dealing with the situation.

If you are a bored creative, feeling a bit isolated and frustrated try out the York Textile Artists public facebook page. We are planning to post challenges and projects for you to get involved with, some as daft as a brush, others more proper and textiley. If you don’t do facebook go onto our website and sign up for our newsletter – we have plans……….

Let’s play Spot The Difference… again.

Well, here goes….picture one

picture 2

Answers – temporary lines showing the path in the foreground.

re shaped the right hand side of the wall to emphasise the dip into the valley beyond.

Tempraory lines on the right side hill

Broken up the orange fabric at the base of the trees

started building up the tree trunks.

Each of these is quite minor but the final shape of the whole composition is emerging, and, thank goodness, it is working!. Still lots to do – establish the path properly – I am not sure how much work I want to do on it? A solid surface like the road in Sprout, or suggestions of travel lines as in Winter Walks? And the hill side will need careful consideration ( in other words worry about it, then get fed up and just do it, but with a pair of scissors close to hand in case emergency surgery required.( normal approach)). There is a lot of texture to add in the foreground – or perhaps not- it may depend on how the path and hill work out – again compare Sprout and Winter Walks.

I had hoped to put a couple of hours in today but have been thwarted! So sulking at home writing this …. does it count as a silver lining?

Excitement builds, but…..

remember, this is a VERY long project so no breath holding please.

At the last post the initial idea of the tree trunks were on, pinned and temporary. Since then the fields behind have had a layer or two added, the rough ground at their base is begun and some of the trunks have been made more solid. Of course each task meant more to do on the next one, so it is easier to say than do, and certainly quicker.

I have other tasks that are taking priority at the moment which means time spent on this is like a holiday – rare and to be enjoyed. Having the studio space is such a good idea- by the time I have cycled there and climbed the stairs all the pressures have been left behind (or I am too puffed out to care). It is a bit of a haven, very basic, minimal equipment, and no need to tidy up, just open the door and walk in then walk out and shut the door. Bliss.

Those other prioities –

Urban Decay – a mixed exhibition at Blossom Street Gallery, York. Me and 4 other artists – Jill Tattersall, Sharon McDonagh, Simon Sugden and Linda Harvey. Opened on the 18th and running until the end of February.

Film and Fabric – an informal York Textile Artists ‘show’ through February and into March, at The City Screen in York . This is not a gallery but an independent cinema which has artists showing through out their public spaces including a rather nice cafe.

There is of course the Company of Merchant Taylors banner to make. Samples have been done, plans and sequences ignored and I am started on the big curly foliate flourishes ( acanthus leaf (?) moustaches), the helmet and lion mask – all at the same time…. well, what did you expect? Logic? Self discipline? Rigid scheduling? Where’s the fun in that?

Can’t wait to do the cameleopards!

And a talk and workshop for the Durham Embroiderers Guild, and teaching and tutoring at home and at the Viking Loom shop, and… it sounds busy, but I am constantly amazed by my powers of distraction and inertia.

I think my goddess name would be “She Who Says ‘Nah, Do It Tomorrow'”.

Yorkshire Gothic

The big one has progressed. The patience required to work like this, at this scale , is beyond me. Getting sequences right when building an image is as essential as in dressmaking. Do things in the wrong order and you end up unpicking or just making more work for yourself. So I have had to sew and sew and sew (gritted teeth) and sew (grim determination) and sew, to get to this point…….and it was worth it. This is a temporary layout – pinned knitting ribbon – for the trunks but at last they are there!!! A proper milestone moment, and it begins to make sense.

Behind the trunks is the wall, so it had to be done first. This is a simple, quite graphic pattern effect, that can be built and layered or unravelled and faded out, but the problem is stopping it becoming too formulaic and neat. I am trying to explore how I see landscape and realised long ago that my true focus is very narrow, that large areas fade into ”pretty”, and cease to be important. This wall is one of those areas, important in the composition and context, but a bit part player not the star. Breaking up the lines, breaking up and varying the pattern, breaking up the colours and the fabric surface should all help. So off with the glasses and attack at full speed, multiple single lines work better than one heavy perfect one, irregularities better than perfection. And when in doubt try bleach. Or tea stain.

The whole of the wall is not done, it will be left until I see how sharp and defined I want it to be, only the section behind the trees, and even now it can be adapted quickly. And no, I still do not understand why it had to be pink. Just trust me, it was the only way it could be. But time for the trunks and planning the other areas around them…. Why was it so much easier doctoring a photo than actually doing? The general idea is on the mark though, soften wall tops, add rough at its base and get big and bold about the area at the base of the trees. Wonder if the colours will be the same?

Very Big Beastie

I shared his beginning a couple of weeks ago, but then got distracted by the York Textile Artists’ Winter Show. This is his evolution so far….

This was the start, calico, 2m x 1.5m, the scene is of Wharfedale, just very rough, pinning blocks of colour and pattern until confident of the composition.

This was time consuming, moving and refining masses, but most of these areas will be buried in stitch or cut away to reveal the underlying painting. The stitching begins. It is a menace using a hoop, having to move it every few minutes, but it makes handling the fabric under the needle so much easier. Stitch patterns are going to be kept simple, happy squirms and manic shreddies (not their formal names, but as they are varieties of scribble vermicelli and cross hatching seem rather pompous).

At the end of hours of sewing over several days this is him so far- at 9.00am and then at 12 o’clock.

More filling with dark, and then bright and light, the background skyline, the distant hills, the wall line (pink), the midground, trunks, path and foreground. So not much left! I guess it won’t be done for the Open Day next Sunday….

Yes? No? Yes. Waiting.

Exciting times!  Group ( York Textile Artists) evnts both large and small are looming ever nearer, we are putting work up in Helmsley Walled Gardens in a couple of weeks and the big group exhibition in in November. Work is still up in a local hotel and 2 pieces are now awaiting selection for an Open Art Exhibition in a neighbouring town. Today is deadline for another big Open Art Exhibition ( online submission thank goodness!) in the other direction and I still have a contribition to do for an exhibition celebrating Anne Bronte.  And don’t forget the workshops to do. One is for the Hornsea Art Festival,  it was booked months ago when I thought October looked empty!

While it is exciting, trying to remember what is going where and for how long is a juggling act of the highest order. Every event wants things done in their way, from information on forms, the file size and resolution of images, labelling work , even down to hanging hardware.  Get it wrong and it will cost you. This is a competitive place,  refusals are commonplace and detailed critiques of why you aren’t selected are rare. It can be  whether you fit their idea of a theme, whether there are other similar pieces offered, if  textiles is “serious” enough, or perhaps they just don’t like it, or it is the wrong size, style or colour it fit in.

dappled2019well, we shall just have to see how this one gets on. After an age of pondering I have finally finished it – adding paint to the ground, adding some sharper contrasts and colouring in the “sky”.

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……