Archives for July 2014

David Prentice

I was sorry to read last week that David Prentice, the artist, had died. I was rummaging around in The Guardian one morning and there was his obituary. He was one of the best contemporary artists of the British landscape. I love his paintings, although I have only ever seen them in reproduction (but I do possess a rather good catalogue from one of his exhibitions). Here’s an example of his work:David Prentice: Above Llanberis Lake

This watercolour painting is entitled ‘Above Llanberis Lake’. I know that, obviously, it’s of Llanberis Lake, but it reminds me a lot of Ullswater in the Lake District which has the same wonderful shade of purplish blue when seen, as here, from above. I think one of David Prentice’s great strengths was the ability to convey the impression of light, and this is a remarkably fine example. Just imagine being able to paint like that….

And here’s another:Belle Vue Climb Malvern by David Prentice

This is an example of one of David Prentice’s favourite subjects: the Malvern Hills in middle England. I think it’s wonderful. If I could have afforded to buy one of his paintings I would surely have done so.

I’ve not posted here for almost a week. I’m keeping rather too busy on the work front at the moment, so there will be something of a skeleton service on the blog. But I’ll try to write a bit more before the end of the week….



Regular readers may remember me wittering on a few weeks ago about my proposed entry for the Carrefour Européen du Patchwork on this year’s theme ‘Imagine’. If you read that far, you’ll know that I failed to make the deadline for this (26th June) and was consequently somewhat downcast. Since then, the unfinished piece has been sitting around in the spare room as I’ve not felt motivated to get on with it, and indeed, I hadn’t decided whether or not it would be worth finishing. Last week my stitching friend Bren came over for one of our stitching day meetings. These are supposed to take place about once a month, but it’s more like every eight weeks as we both have lots of other things to do. I didn’t have anything on the go for the stitching day, apart from my ‘Imagine’ quilt, so I got to work on it. Bren said she thought it was lovely and recommended that I should finish it, as I could try exhibiting it elsewhere. Good idea! It would be a lot of wasted work to abandon it now, and I feel re-enthused by getting some positive feedback on it. So, since then, I’ve been doing a few minutes of stitching every now and then, and as I’ve found in the past, if you do this regularly, even a large piece will sooner or later get finished.

My interpretation of the Imagine theme involved the use of lettering. I’ve not previously used lettering and was keen to have a go, especially after reading the Sara Impey book ‘Text in Textile Art’ that I reviewed a while ago on this blog. I thought I’d imagine a meadow full of flowers and stems, using the letters I, M, A, G, N and E. So this is what I did. One of the ideas I developed during the City & Guilds Diploma was using quite stylised images to create the image of a meadow with intertwining stems and stalks, so I’d already done some of the thinking. I did quite a lot of sampling of various techniques (spending too long on the sampling was one reason why the piece didn’t get finished) and decided to use a kantha-style technique for quilting. It’s a whole cloth quilt made using linen (no particular reason for this, except that I really like linen). Here’s an image of the I flower:The I flower in the Imagine quilt

I’ve chosen quite a limited range of colours – mostly greys with some yellows. I made plastic templates of the letter forms I wanted to use, then drew out the design in pencil, using the templates as stencils, on a piece of lining paper of the right size. When I was happy with the arrangement I pressed the linen, laid it out on the kitchen table, and drew the design, again using the stencils, in a very hard, fine pencil. Then I set up the sewing machine and filled in the shapes using free-motion machine embroidery. This bit didn’t take as long as I’d thought it would. The thread is Madeira rayon, which I like very much. Then I put together the quilt sandwich, using cotton batting and a plain calico backing, and started the hand embroidery. WELL…. what a massive job that has turned out to be. I am making a line in running stitch around each coloured shape, and then quilting the background using, not Kantha stitch, but seed stitch. This gives a very nice nubbly effect to the quilt. Here’s another close-up showing the texture. You can see a little bit of the M stem at the top of the photo.

Close-up of Imagine quilt

I’ve mostly finished outlining the shapes but there is lots of the ground work still to do. Perhaps I’ll finish it, perhaps I won’t…. if I do, it will be largely because of Bren’s encouragement. So… thank you Bren!

Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft

Well, I’m pleased to report that I did manage to make the trip to Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft, although not without getting lost near the M25 at Leatherhead. What a vile thing it is (the M25, not Leatherhead) but, sad to say, it’s very useful for getting round in the South East. Ditchling is a little village on the edge of the South Downs, about 8 miles outside Brighton. If any of you are familiar with Sussex you’ll know that, despite being so close to London and so heavily populated like almost everywhere in the South East, it remains gorgeously, sumptuously, beautiful. Ditchling, the village, is a little gem, full of delightful traditional English cottages, with hollyhocks and other cottage garden flowers adorning their sweet little gardens. I suspect, however, that the museum may not be an altogether good development for the village. The museum website points out that it has no parking, and suggests using the (free) village hall car park. When I got there at around 10.30 in the morning, the village hall car park was full. The village has charming but narrow lanes and parking is obviously a problem. This will presumably get to be an even bigger problem if the museum becomes more popular.

The museum is a lovely building comprising an extensive modern addition to an existing traditional building. As you can see in the photo below, it’s a modern interpretation of a traditional barn (at least I think that’s what it is).Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft

The day I visited was extremely hot, by English standards, but the building is cool and very pleasant inside. The collection on display is quite small, but that’s sometimes preferable to a massive and overwhelming show. I spent time going round it slowly, then went outside to sit in the shade, then back in for a second look. Various artists and craftspeople lived in and around Ditchling during the 20th century and the collection is of their work. The most famous artist, by far, associated with Ditchling is Eric Gill. Here’s a lovely piece of his work that’s on display:Eric Gill

Anyone who’s read the warts-and-all biography of Gill by Fiona MacCarthy will know that he was a decidedly odd and somewhat unsavoury character. However, the man was multi-talented and his best work is remarkable. But many less well-known artists are represented in the museum. I was especially struck by the work of Ethel Mairet who used natural dyes in her workshop in Ditchling. In 1915 she published a book: ‘Natural Dyes: Being a Book of Recipes and Other Information Useful to the Dyer’. This is, amazingly, still in print. One of the displays at the museum claims the book is available on Kindle but I can’t find it, so I’ve ordered a print copy. If it’s useful, I’ll let you know in a future post.

The other set of exhibits that really resonated with me was the painting by Louis Ginnett of his daughter as a little girl, and, most of all, the letters to that same daughter which he wrote from the front during the First World War. One or two of these are exhibited under glass, but in the museum’s library there’s a set of photocopies of the full set of letters. They are heart-rending. Fortunately, Ginnett survived the experience and went home to his family at the end of the war. Here’s the painting:Louis Ginnett

So, in summary, well worth a visit if you’re visiting Sussex. The staff are pleasant and helpful, there’s a high-quality shop although the range of objects for sale is quite small, and I had a really excellent cup of tea. The cakes looked good, but I don’t eat cake so can’t review that aspect.



Some coloured triangles

Some coloured triangles: the latest stage in exploring triangles has been to add colour. I’ve used watercolour for the illustrations below of what I’ve been up to. I could have used gouache or acrylic, but actually, I really like the transparency and slight variations you get with watercolour. First, here’s a photo of my watercolour box:My watercolour box

I’ve been adding to this box for the last ten years or so. Often, when I visit an art materials shop, I come away with a pan or two in a different colour in the Winsor & Newton range. I discovered a long time ago that with watercolour it really is worth spending the extra money on artist quality materials. It doesn’t make much discernible difference with many media but artist quality watercolour is vastly superior in most colours to student quality. The problem is, of course, that it’s expensive, but watercolour pans last for ages and if you buy only one or two at a time over a long period you don’t notice the outlay so much. Having said that, there are some colours that I end up replacing more frequently, including Payne’s Grey and Davy’s Grey and pretty much anything in the yellow range. The yellowy/orange that’s almost used up there is the original version of Gamboge. Winsor & Newton have replaced this with something called ‘New Gamboge’. I don’t know what its constituent parts are but presumably it does not include gamboge which is the resin of the garcinia tree which is found mostly in Cambodia (gamboge is a version of the name Cambodia). I read about this in Victoria Finlay‘s book Colour: Travels through the Paintbox. She says that ‘Winsor & Newton have been receiving small parcels of gamboge from their South-East Asian suppliers since before anyone can remember and probably since the company started in the mid-nineteenth century’ (page 245). Sadly, not any longer. (Incidentally, I can recommend this book; very interesting and full of information and anecdote. The link above is to VF”s blog, which I’ve only just discovered). I love the original gamboge and was fortunate to find a little horde of the original W&N watercolour gamboge in a closing down sale in an art shop in Kendal a few years ago. I’ve still got a couple left, but then after that I’ll have to go for gamboge substitute.

Well, that was a unplanned and nerd-y digression. Sorry.

Back to the triangles. First of all, I drew some identical triangles on a sheet of watercolour paper, then had fun colouring them in using different shades of mostly yellow, but also some blue-ish and purplish greys. Have a look: Triangles on watercolour paper

Mixing the blue-ish greys and yellows together, not unnaturally, gives greenish shades. I thought these colours looked lovely together. The next stage was to cut them out using a steel ruler and craft knife. Then I spent quite a long time putting the triangles together in different ways. Here’s an example:Coloured triangles experiment

And another:Coloured triangles experiment

Eventually I stopped playing with them and stuck them down onto a page in my sketchbook.

This exercise was very absorbing and interesting, and I discovered, not for the first time, just how much variation you can get from mixing one predominant and one subsidiary colour. Brilliant.

I’ll keep on posting about the progress of this sketchbook but the next post had better be about Ditchling Museum which I visited last weekend. Please keep reading!

Planning a day out…

I’ll be away for a few days after today in various parts of England for various reasons, some to do with work and some to do with leisure. I’ve got a couple of days free when I can pretty much please myself what I do and as I’ll be in Sussex for a couple of days I’m planning a day out to Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft in the South Downs near Brighton. I’ve read about this place, but never been, and I’m really excited at the prospect of going. Click on the link or the image  to see some of what I’ll be seeing …..Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft

Of course, I’ll be writing a post about it when I get back, sometime next week.


More on triangles

Today, a little bit more on triangles. Over the last few days I’ve been busy, as usual, with other things. The weather has been wonderful and I’ve spent some time trying to beat back the enormous weeds in the garden. However, I’ve found time for a bit of playing around with triangles. Here are some of my monochrome, or largely monochrome efforts:Triangles - monochrome

This is s simple drawn grid, coloured with three different greys in the Karismacolor range of coloured pencils. These pencils, incidentally, are wonderful – waxy and highly pigmented. I bought a large supply several years ago when they were still available in the UK. I think they may still be sold in the US – any intel on where I could buy some more would be very welcome. I’m gradually running out of colours and I’m being very parsimonious with myself in the use of the greys in particular.

Triangles - freestyle

This is a freestyle doodle of joined up triangles. I cut the sketchbook page into a triangle shape so you can see some of the drawing underneath. I really like this trick – you see an image with hints of other images around it.

Finally, another freestyle set of triangles, with some shapes emphasised. This is all great fun to do – none of this takes a long time, but it’s really useful to see what can be done with just one shape.

More freestyle triangles

Pantone mugs

The other day I ordered some Pantone mugs, which arrived today. It’s been a delight: I enjoyed the process of selecting the six colours I wanted from the list of those available, and I enjoyed unpacking the mugs today, seeing and appreciating the colours. An unexpected bonus was that each mug has a little label on it in sturdy cardboard which exactly reproduces the colours. Here’s a picture of the labels:Labels from Pantone mugs

Aren’t the colours lovely? My favourite at the moment is the acid green (top row middle). I shall have to try very hard not to smash any or all of them. The other day I broke a rather unusual mug (Prince George satirical christening mug) which I felt bad about. I felt even worse when I found out that it can’t be replaced as it was one of a limited edition. At least if I break one of the Pantones I can easily replace it. And I’ll still have the labels which are too beautiful to throw away.

I think I feel the need for a cup of tea coming on – but which of the gorgeous mugs shall I use?


Good news!


Some good news this week: I’ve received the Student of the Year award from Stitchbusiness (the textile arts school in Durham City, UK, where I studied the City & Guilds Certificate and Diploma). This is for 2013, the year I completed the Diploma. I am so proud to be awarded this, the more so because I know what a high standard of work is achieved by the Stitchbusiness students. If you’ve not seen it, do have a look at the latest Stitchbusiness newsletter – they’re always interesting.

This is just a short post as I need to go and get some lunch ready in a moment. I’ve been doing some more work in my triangles sketchbook – will report back soon.