Saturday, May 14, 2022

chipping away

still messing around with ice, this time using paper and cloth

trying to capture light and shadow, sparkle, cracks, roughness 


I began with cmc collage as it's what I know best

an interesting surface for added stitching, good enough, but I want something different, something more abstract

a challenging idea that is pushing me into the unknown

it's been baby steps all the way

I found a piece I had made a couple of years ago while working on something inspired by cattails

close, could work, but not still not quite 

I question the three rows, the vertical strip-effect


 branches laid along those straight lines did look rather interesting so I haven't ruled this format out entirely 

next was to take the essence of the "three rows" piece and break that visual up a bit

this time adding in some of the paper I painted

I still need to add more painted paper to the bottom but this is promising

next is to re-do it in a horizontal format

the crinkled silk is a favourite - it hearkens back to the grooves of the branches in the ice, and the branches themselves, when they are all frosted white, sparkling in the sun

lightweight Japanese papers with thicker fibres trapped in the paper

taking a break from the ice the other day, I began to paint paper I can use for wood

dark brown, light gold, stumbled texture, scratches of white... trying to capture the essence of the branch forms, partially,  or sometimes even completely, embedded in the ice, the exposed areas stripped of bark, bare wood exposed, frosted white

there is such a vulnerability in that, the effects of exposure on what is extending from the surface of the ice while at the same time you can't help but notice the wood trapped below that looks as it did when it fell

it's haunting and beautiful

and not so very easy to capture in paint, paper and cloth

but I am determined to try

Saturday, May 7, 2022

trapped in ice...

spring may be sprouting all around me but my head, and it seems my heart, are both still trapped in ice...

one of the things talked about in the "Inspired by Nature" course is "pockets of time" and how to make the most of those

I've known of this concept since my children were tiny tots; an article in mom's magazine called it "found time"... the minutes here and there, throughout your day, when you're waiting on something

potatoes to boil

a child to pick-up

bath time to be over

and how you could use that found time to work on small portable projects

to that end, my children still remember my needle case and a piece of stitching, sitting on the table morning, noon and night and me picking it up several times each day and adding a stitch or two

in that way, I accomplished a lot of stitching without having to dedicate specific time to it

pockets of time is the same, knowing what to work on and taking advantage of short periods of time to do it... and the results pile up

I've been making use of all sorts of found time lately - this week it's still all about ice and paint

working out presentation ideas for a concertina book showcasing all the techniques we've covered in the class
{I think this is a brilliant idea and will do it for each class I take from now on - a small book with a sample of each technique/idea; there are always off-cuts and small pieces that don't quite fit in but have value and keeping them all together in a small book format as a reference to a particular course or technique would be a nice thing to look back on for quick visual reminders}

painted paper with embossing

painted paper with embossed strips

collage with embossed strips

the one above is a sample done long before this course but it's giving me an idea for a way of abstracting the ice which I am working on today

gelli print on tissue paper

the images above and below were done with the last of the paint on my tray - roughly brushed onto the gelli plate, thoughts of sun on water in my head

the one above is the first pull, below is the second, also referred to as a "ghost" print

ghost print on copy paper

the print below was done with thoughts of the branches frozen into the ice

I made a printing plate using branches I picked up the day I first went down there for a late winter wander; glued to a piece of book board and sealed with gloss medium, a fabric handle affixed to the back, I can press it onto the inked/painted gel plate 

before using it I pressed crumpled tin foil onto the paint first

and this last one is using the tin foil only

as you can see, it's happy, busy days in the studio and the stack of painted and printed papers continues to grow

using my own papers to create with is one of the most satisfying things I've done in a very long time; it's another layer in the creative process and allows me to make work that is even more unique to me

it's sticky and messy, the results are always mixed, and it's just plain fun

I've a little more I want to try in my ice explorations and then I'll break out and try some branches

then rocks
and trees
and of course, sky
flowers - can't forget the flowers

Saturday, April 30, 2022


whilst in Calgary I spent a few quiet moments cropping various photos I had taken of branches trapped in the ice along the shores of our little lake

I sent the image files to a printer and picked up the results a couple of hours later

the results were nothing short of thrilling... 

{the one below is the first one I took, the view that captivated me}

below is the crop... even more beautiful, the frosty branches highlighted and high on the right, a maple samara (commonly, a helicopter) frozen into the ice as well... so much to look at, to think about

since we got home this past Monday I have been busy in the studio, making a mess, having a most enjoyable time

to loosen up and get over the 'I don't know where to start" syndrome, a quick splash of paint and ink on a small piece of card laying on my worktable

then an experiment in texture using tissue paper and cmc glue with a smear of Payne's Grey watercolour paint mixed with my new liquid charcoal

I tried my hand at painting some of the branches trapped in the ice using watercolour but in my usual fashion I worked in a very representational way, trying to capture every detail exactly - on completion, in my also usual fashion, I realized they were not exactly what I had wanted... 

I did the watercolour studies whilst in Edmonton, at our son's house and one of his tenants happened by as I was painting the image below 

 on looking at it, and the reference photo, he said

 "they look like bones"

I replied

"they kind of are - they're the bones of the trees"

I think I've taken that thought a step too far in the painting below, and somehow have lost most of the essence of the branch

in my frustration I took the leftover paint and prepared papers and quickly brushed a large amount of paint on the paper, and then using a new silicon shaper tool I had just bought, I pushed the paint here and there, drawing the tool through the puddles of paint sharply

 "that's the way to make the branches" I thought

better, but the painting below is a step too far the other way

I'll be working on finding some middle ground over the coming days

next up was to partition a sheet of acrylic paper and do quick studies on that

I enjoyed that process very much and am delighted with a few of them which I have set aside; the three remaining will get worked into a bit more and even if nothing comes of them they'll be good practice

this last one is my favourite of all... 

a crop taken from a larger sheet of painted white copy paper:
 acrylic paint scraped, smudged, brushed and pressed on the paper first and then quick dashes of ink made using a stick from the lake

two minutes, more or less, from start to finish

yesterday was collage

torn strips from painted papers, both copy and tissue, as well as a few pieces of handmade (not by me) art paper

this is held together with small stitches and I am now considering what comes next... I want stitched branches, I think... just letting the ideas settle first

I have many other photographs from that day - the one below showing a part of the ice that was very granular, this taken a few days after the original one and the weather had warmed

I love the shadowy effect of the branches underneath the ice

this next one shows some interesting textures and patterning, especially in the lower right

the ice is very textured here, and dirty, almost like mud

more frostiness with lots of delicate branches

I like the messiness of the next one

I'm enjoying myself immensely, trying new things, learning a lot about what works and what doesn't, losing my fear of wrecking things... I have learned over the past year that a lot of what gets in my way is a a fear of ruining things 

it rears it's head when I'm doing something and discover I really like what's happening but don't know quite what to do next - I'm afraid whatever I do I'll get it wrong and ruin everything so I set the project aside in the hopes that someday I'll know just what to do and it will be perfect

I realize now the magic happens as much when you don't know what to do as when you do, maybe moreso

and now I know nothing is wrecked until you stop

Sunday, April 24, 2022


it's been a playing kind of week... first in Calgary with a 3 year old

blocks and towers, castles and cars

and now in Edmonton with paints and brushes

I treated myself to something new... Liquid Charcoal

made right here in Canada

I began my trials with swatches, just trying to get a sense of how the charcoal behaves in a wash, working light to dark and then seeing how much I could fiddle with it before ruining the effect

it has granulating properties which I love but am not very familiar with

after the first couple of swatches I switched from watercolour paper to vellum and then, playing with the brush stroke a bit, painted a sort of flower

after it dried I glazed it with mauve watercolour paint mixed with a small amount of the liquid charcoal - a very light wash to give just a hint of colour

it reminds me of tinted photographs 

I also mixed the charcoal with a bit of Payne's Grey watercolour and did some quick washes with that too

it's a bright, sunny day here so not great for photos

I know nothing at all about liquid charcoal but yesterday I happened to stumble on a video from a near-by art shop that demonstrated this one by Nitram as well as three by Schmincke - they also look very intriguing but are expensive so I settled on the one by Nitram 

I have an idea though... the Schmincke liquid charcoals are made from grape seeds, peach stones, and cherry pits

and I just happen to have two cherry trees in my backyard and a serious penchant for experimenting with making ink and watercolour paint

Saturday, April 16, 2022

on doing...

  in my continuing quest to learn more about painting I had a very strong urge to slap paint and ink on paper 

not for any particular outcome, just to discover how it felt to randomly work on an abstract painting

as that is new territory for me I cut my paper into four pieces... the thinking was if I worked on four at once I wouldn't get too "precious" about them and start over-thinking, or even worse, planning

something I am very disposed to doing

(I have no process photos to show as I didn't want to interrupt the flow by stopping to take photos - this was meant to be an "in the moment" thing with no intention of even posting about it)

beginning with black ink, moving on to paint, a variety of brushes, scrapers and skewers to make marks and push the colour around

the more I did the uglier they got... not exaggerating, they were awful

I wasn't bothered by it that much, this was just for fun, no intended outcome, but my goodness they were bad - I thought if I added some collage that might help break up the paint a bit


I could see a few things where I had gone wrong... all the colour and marks were almost entirely in the middle of the pages with the white space all at the margins... and I worked wet in wet with the paint the whole time so a lot of muddy colours happened

when they dried I thought they looked even worse; they didn't even deserve to pasted into a sketchbook as a reference of what not to do so I decided to throw them away but for reasons I still don't understand I had the urge to tear them up first and so I did

as I tore I noticed some of the smaller versions looked pretty good... and after further tearing some looked very good

and so...

I straightened the edges of all the pieces and made a nice little pile of very interesting abstract gift-tags

because of the roundabout way they came into being the tags are all different sizes, some rather narrow, others quite chunky

I've looked at them often since then, always noticing different things - it's interesting to be somewhat analytical about why I like some very much and others less so

they're one of the best examples of random I have ever done but that's not just limited to the paint and mark-making part of the process... randomly tearing things created things I would never have achieved if I had tried to do it purposefully

I did like the torn edges so for many I left the lower edge torn rather than trimming it straight

couldn't decide which colour of thread for the hanger so a strand of each worked just fine

I'd intended to glue a piece of plain paper on the back to cover the smudges of paints but as I turned them all over I decided I would leave it... 

a lot of new lessons learned and old ones reinforced, most especially, don't over-think, just notice what's in front of you and respond to that

Friday, April 8, 2022

a slow one...

handmade books are a wonderful thing to hold in your hands...

especially ones that are slightly imperfect

books that are filled with that beautiful Japanese sensibility called wabi sabi

as I've said before, I have a hankering to make such books, books inspired by water, wood and stone 

 and along with that a desire to make bespoke boxes to keep those books in

something special, evocative of what might be found within

before I dove deeply into designing pairings of books and boxes, I wanted first to gain an understanding of the construction and workings of these boxes - there are three varieties in my Japanese book-making book and true to form, my first attempt was with the most complicated

a four-sided box with an inner and outer lid

I started it last summer, carefully planning the size (one that would hold three small books side by side

I found fabric scraps in the desired palette, pieced them on a fine muslin base, added simple embroidery, selected lining papers, and mused about closures - traditional Japanese book boxes have purpose-designed closures but I wanted something different

initially I wanted driftwood but after trialling a few small pieces I realized it was just too fragile in nature to be reliable so I finally settled on broken twigs gathered on the shores of our little lake in the midst of town

today I finished it

many of you will remember me working on the featherstitching, trying to get it to look fragmented and achieving that by stitching the rows and then cutting into the embroidery and unpicking


below, the outer lid with a little leaf-stitching and kantha to the right

I left most of the fabrics free of stitching, as always, striving for simplicity

the inner lid, with the featherstitching wrapping onto it along with  little more kantha

and finally the inside

I learned a lot and am making notes of all the things I will try doing differently next time around though I'm still rather pleased with this first effort even though some of the joins are a bit clunky

next up is try a simple wrap-around book box - I've already selected the fabric and cut the board, and as before, I'm making the box before the book

as for the contents of this box... the wheels are turning

Saturday, April 2, 2022

random things...

a quiet house again

it will take a day or two for me to re-group and familiarize myself with where I left off... what I was working on, what direction I had wanted the work to take

where to start

yesterday we took the little ones down to "The Little Lake" and poked around to see what we could see

one thing I noticed right away was this patch of small flowers - not quite as dramatic as an English Bluebell Wood but I'll take it just the same

I do love it when I see tiny flowers scattered through the grass, it really is the stuff of storybooks

come Monday I'll wander down there again and spend some time on my favourite rock - the ice is all gone now so there are no more branches locked in the ice but there will be no shortage of other interesting things

I am hoping to make it a weekly trek, weather permitting

after putting the house to rights this morning I spent some time in the studio familiarizing myself with a few things, enjoying a long look through a growing stack of gelli-prints and came across these two:

I think they are a bit darker than they appear here but it's not the colour that captured my attention, it's the marks that resulted from the printing process

I had dabbed a few colours of paint on the gelli plate, rolled them with a brayer to mix and then pressed copy paper on top - nothing fancy, yet it still resulted in some interesting marks

in the one below I see a mountain

and in the next one I see the ghostly outline of a cabin, with what look like crosses on the hill behind

turn either one and they look completely different

such an interesting process!

time to get busy then...