Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Making Headway Towards Christmas!

Well, my artificial Christmas deadline still stands (just about). I've finished my Christmas shopping and I'm ploughing my way through my list of jobs that have to be done before Christmas which is Friday (my artificial deadline). My jobs today included sweeping the chimney so it's nice and clean for Father Christmas to come down. I hate this job. It's dirty and I'm always anxious that I'm going to lose the brush up there. I need ten rods to get to the very top; had assembled and pushed up 7, then pulled them back to see how much soot was coming down. As I was pulling the rods down through my makeshift cardboard barrier, they seemed to be coming down much easier than they had gone up. "Gravity!" I thought, until I pulled out the rods minus the brush. I admit to exclaiming a 4 letter word (and it wasn't 'Xmas'), then realised that two of the rods were missing as well - double 4 letter word. I removed my dust sheets and cardboard barrier, thrust my arm up into the dark ( thoughts of James Herriot here) and joy of joy, grasped the errant rods and pulled - hurrah!  I was very brave and reassembled them to push them up another 2 times and with great relief have now packed them away until next year. I'd love to have a proper sweep come and do it, but I have just saved myself £45 for 10 minutes' anxiety. Of course I've now had to have a bath because I was covered in soot which is weird because the room and fireplace remained unsullied.
Next job was icing the Christmas cake. Each year my offspring expect me to come up with exciting creations for birthday and christmas cakes. The birthday cakes have included a wrestling ring, LFC logo, skateboard, sheet music, karate GI according to their interests at the time. The Christmas cakes have been christmas pudding (very easy), snowman, christmas tree; last years was a present:

Which was quite easy to do.

This year my eldest requested I make a christmas cracker. I'm not sure, I think it looks more like a sweet, what do you think? If I'd done it in black & white it could've been a humbug - get it - Bah Humbug! Ho, ho, ho!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Christmas is Coming!!

I should learn to practice what I preach about stretching time.. It seemed that almost the whole of last week was spent in my trying to organise the local art network's Christmas sale and I don't know what took me so long, because it seemed to be over in a flash. This was the first time we had done this; we were allocated a space in the local shopping centre & had to provide our own stall. Translated, this means me borrowing tables from the park over the road, transporting them to the shopping centre (up in the lift was interesting - so much so that I decided to make the return journey ( complete with tables) down the stairs - which was even more interesting!!) I now have muscles on my muscles. It had been hard getting people to commit - why do people not respond to emails telling you that they won't be there? Along with the headache of organisation, I decided I didn't have enough low cost items for the stall so decided to expand my greeting card collection and frantically produce linocuts on handmade paper:

And guess what, not one of them sold!
Here's a couple of shots of us when we've just finished setting up the stall:

My stuff was spread over the ends of two tables.
My friend felted house did very well on the day, as did Maggie with her jewellery. In fact I purchased this lovely copper ring from Maggie with my meagre earnings; it's so me and so comfortable, I love it

The day was brightened by my youngest little pixie face coming to visit and her meeting Peppa Pig

The words "Never" and "Again" may have crossed my mind

Friday, 4 December 2009

Stretching Time

I'm currently reading 'Power Thinking' by Caterina Rando having been seduced by the illustrations. One thing that I am finding really useful this week that's in this book is the view that tasks expand to fill the time allocated to them. She says you can allocate half an hour to get ready for that meal tonight, or you can allocate an hour and a half, either way you will get ready and it will take that long- how true! She recommends setting artificial deadlines in your day by which you have to have completed tasks. well, I've been using this since Tuesday and I'm getting through stuff at a rate of knots I feel almost as productive as Fairysteps. I've decided that Christmas is a week earlier than it really is so I have to have everything done by 18th December. The reasoning behind this is, every Christmas I think "if only I had another week, I could relax and enjoy it all". So that's the plan this year, let's see if it works....
So, I've made myself lists of things to do and I'm approaching my tasks like the proverbial bull in a china shop. I'm also trying to let go of my perfectionism and finding that some things will just 'do'. so the linocut that I carved for cotton gift bags...

 Has also been used for my christmas cards...

& I found I'd freed up enough time to make some Christmas cookies for the local Arts Network meeting


Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Happy Advent!

Well, I succumbed to pressure and reframed my lino reduction for the Christmas exhibition. When I saw it, the scratch was quite noticeable and I can't see how I could have missed it; I wonder... Still I went to the private view and drank 2 glasses of wine to compensate me. The exhibition is a mixed bag as per usual with some rubbish alongside some excellent pieces. The smaller pieces are all shoe-horned in together, which is a shame because it's very distracting, but practical, I know.
Christmas is never far from my mind, and at this time of year it seems to burst out of me, infiltrating everything I do. As this is the first of December, my Christmas cake is in the oven (I know, very late but the first frost today and it seemed fitting), I'm drying orange slices for decorations and the first advent bag has been opened..

This is our advent calender. I made it twelve years ago out of red and green hessian with the numbers sewn on in felt. My three children take it in turns to open one each day. My challenge is to find gifts that aren't sweets, are small and not too expensive. Today was a USB - ipod shuiffle connector so that Phoebe can now use her shuffle  again after treading on her old charger.
Anyway, the fact is my artwork is turning decidedly wintery. A small linocut that I did earlier in the year,

seemed to have distinct winter possibilities...

when printed on black stonehenge paper.

And in honour of the full moon...

Happy Advent!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Feeling Cross But Christmassy Too

Well the gallery only accepted one of my pieces for its Christmas exhibition - the mixed media honesty seed heads. The reason I'm cross is that they rejected my linocut reduction because of a scratch on the frame. Now I know that when I handed the picture over to them, the frame was absolutely pristine ( I've past experience of their fastidious approach to framing and displaying in general - not always my cup of tea but don't start me off on that one), but I have no proof and that's why I'm cross- I do so hate injustice! To distract myself from this wrong doing, I just had to add snow to my blog. And here's a picture I took this morning when I was up well before the sun (thinking ruminating, bad thoughts about someone damaging my frame...)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Oh That Old Thing!

With an exhibition looming and needing to submit 3 pieces for maximum value, I couldn't think of what to do that was suitable (see 'Doodling' post). So I'm offering my snowscene oil painting and Hemlock Hedgerow lino reduction, but was lacking in inspiration. My friend happened to visit and noticed a picture hanging on the wall upstairs. She asked if it was one of mine and said how lovely it was (thankyou Louisa), to which I replied: "That? I did that years ago". She pointed out that it had a bit of a wintry feel about it and thought it would go well in a Christmas exhibition. I smiled politely and thought her soya milk had addled her brain somewhat (sorry Louisa); but a seed had been sown. It was in an awful clip-type frame which didn't do it justice, so I took it to my newest friend, the lady at The Frame Game. together we picked a dark blue mount and almost black frame. This came to £34 - which is why I hate to get things framed that then go into an exhibition and I have to pay commission on top. However, my new friend offers artists a whopping 25% discount, bringing it down to £25.50 which, for an A3 size picture is very reasonable. I've just picked it up and I'm really pleased with it. I might just keep it after all...

I just had to stick this cereal packet in my 'resource' sketchbook. Apparently the company commissioned a linocutter to produce the imges on their cereal boxes. If I ate cereal, it'd have to be Mornflake for me so that I could admire the beautiful packet every day.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Er, Mayo Anyone?

Whilst making my mayonaisse today, I deviated slightly from my usual ingredients. Instead of using white wine or cider vinegar, I happened upon my bottle of balsamic. Now I love balsamic vinegar in a big way, so much so that, blinded by this love, I forgot about its deep rich colour. This is the finished product:

(The PVA wasn't an ingredient, by the way, I was multi-tasking and trying to combine artwork and cookery). The mayo tastes delicious even if it looks more like a latte.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Life's a Beach

I've been struggling with this painting for a number of weeks now. It's a commission of a seascape and I must admit I've ended up painting something that isn't really me; in fact I've grown to hate it. I've now realised how tricky commissions can be. Previously, I've done portraits and they're fairly straightforward if a bit nerve-wracking, but a nebulous commission is one to be avoided at all costs. I'll post the progress of the picture just so you can see why I'm so fed up of it.

At this point, I'm quite pleased with the sky, the sea's coming on but not quite dramatic enough for me (the customer wants calm) and I'm really struggling with the colour of a beach at night. Living so far from the coast, I can't go and have a look, and I don't have much reference material, so I'll just have to use artistic license.
I've now realised in my adjustments, the skyline isn't level -aargh! After much fiddling (which you're not supposed to do if you're a proper artist), I've popped it into its frame and I'll let the customer decide.

After this fiasco, I need some artistic soup for my soul, so have spent some time looking at other creative blogs. One Pink Goose has some inspirational stuff featured in her blog and I loved the cushions from Rustique Interiors so a shifty around the local charity shops' bargain rails produced the following:
...a selection of skirts, shirt and trousers to be cut up and made into something to rest my weary head upon. That's if they turn out ....

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


With a chance to exhibit in our local gallery fast approaching, I'm struggling to decide what to offer. People of Hinckey are, shall we say, careful with their money and have an eye for a bargain. So far I have sold linocuts and collagraphs through this gallery, but to be honest by the time I've had them framed & taken off the gallery's commission (35%), I'm getting paid a pittance for the work that's involved. So I decided to experiment with doodling on top of hand marbled paper:

This was the paper before I doodled on it. I looked for shapes within the marbling, and then accentuated them with Inktense crayons:
I could see celestial beings in this one

..and a horse / flames in this one.
I'm not happy enough with them though and I'd still have the cost of getting them framed AND it's Hinckley, not Glastonbury.
I've shied away from my medium of choice: oils, because I tend to paint on large canvases and the cost of the finished product with or without the 35% commission would be too high for most Hinckley folk. But I had an image in my head that I thought would be perfect for a small canvas. It only took about an hour, so if it's dry by next week, I'll submit it for the exhibition.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Linocut Reduction

Having seen fab stems poking out of the top of cornish hedgerows during the summer, I knew I wanted to represent them in some way using linocut. I thought this would be a good opportunity for my first (and possibly last) attempt at a linocut reduction. A reduction is simply a way of printing more than one colour. As a picture paints a thousand words, it's easier for me to show you what I did.

The first impression is printed with the lightest colour. here is the carved lino with ochre rolled over it.

This shows where I'm starting to carve away more of the lino. The bits carved away will remain white or yellow.

The next two impressions were a dirty green (sounds great doesn't it - I'm so technical!), followed by more carving and a final printing in a very dark blue.

Here's the finished product: