Thursday, 28 May 2015

Orchards and Pathways

I have recently had a wonderful week in the garden of England with girl friends Gill and Lynne, we stayed in a cottage in the village of East Stourmouth, a lovely rural spot but which is very central for visiting the sights in Kent.  There was a footpath sign right outside the cottage, so you could go for a lovely walk in the countryside but you weren't far from Canterbury, Margate, Whitstable or Dover.  We packed in so much - Canterbury Cathedral, Goodnestone Park, walking the white Cliffs of Dover, tried to visit the Turner Gallery, went to Sandwich and Deal, had a wonderful day bird watching at Stodmarch Nature Reserve, dyed fabrics and caught up on films every night. 

We took lots of photographs and Gill and Lynne each compiled a journal which they updated everyday but I decided to wait till I returned home to consider what I had seen and its relevance.  I had been about to start a new sketchbook but felt a reluctance to make the first mark, not sure whether I should change direction.  But looking at my photographs I saw a familiar theme - pathways and, a familiar sight in Kent, orchards both of which again put me in mind of Alfred Wallis. 

The new sketchbook cover.

There is an Alfred Wallis picture titled Sailing Ship and Orchard - I have replaced the sailing ship and sea with a row of houses and garden paths - I love the way he depicts an orchard the white spots being blossom I presume - and of course this was just how I saw the orchards when we were out walking.  There was also an assortment of cottages along the road through East Stourmouth.

The fields in Kent, as in Essex, were very yellow with rapeseed and I seemed to take a lot of photographs of pathways.

The colour theme of the greys and yellows would make a good combination for my third piece in my "On the Edge" series - moving from winter to spring.   And I very much like the idea of an orchard.  When dying the fabrics I experimented with using Buttercup yellow and Lime with Bronze together with Manutex used as a resist.

We visited Deal and sat in the cafe at the end of the pier to wait to see the ball rise and fall at the Timeball Tower  -  The Deal Timeball Tower is a Victorian Maritime signal located on the roof of a four-storey tower in the coastal town of Deal.  It was established in 1855 (same year as the birth of Alfred Wallis) by the Astronomer Royal.   I like the colour combination of the sand and the pale blue and Deal has a lovely seafront full of little houses.

Above  is my version of White Houses by Alfred Wallis and which together with the photographs I took of Deal seafront could be an idea for future work and a variation on the subject of Rolling Landscapes.  Next year I am giving a workshop in Yorkshire on Rolling Landscapes and this could be an alternative - rolling seafront!! 

Above is a photograph I took in Canterbury Cathedral (the part where you are allowed to take photographs) which reminded me of the Angel that I found in the Antique Centre in Sawbridgeworth.  I had turned the flash off on my camera - I was quite amazed that I got this fabulous shot.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The Billericay Girls, Still Life and Cornwall

Back in April the Billericay girls - a group of ladies I have been going to for fourteen years and who don't necessarily all live in Billericay but is where we meet - wanted to do some free machine embroidery.  They had given me a list of subjects earlier in the year that they wanted to have a few sessions on and, although at the moment I am mainly using hand techniques, I used free machine embroidery for some work I did on some still life pictures that now hang in my kitchen.

This picture of the bowl of fruit is inspired by a painting by Jessica Cooper, the original of which is owned by my friend Rene.  By loosening the bobbin case in your sewing machine (I keep two bobbin cases, one I never alter which is used for more practical applications) you can get the thread on the bobbin to give a more shaded effect on the surface stitching.

The picture of the jug is machined onto calico and the sides of the picture were machined separately and then applied to the main picture before stretching over a canvas block.  The little jug in the picture actually sits on my kitchen windowsill and I did several drawings of it before I was happy with the image which then I traced onto the calico.  Four things you definitely need to do this type of work is good light, good eyesight, a good sewing machine and plenty of thread.

It has been really nice looking closely at these pictures again, we tend to take things for granted when we pass by them everyday, and it has made me revisit the subject that perhaps I wouldn't have done.  So whilst on holiday in Cornwall I got out the sketchbook and limbered up with a few drawings to see what I could come up with, some of which are below.

The cup and saucer I found in a junk shop in Penzance (I think I prefer the first of the two pictures) and the cider bottle was part of the complementary food hamper left by Julia and Tom who own the apartment where we stay in Praa Sands.

Whilst in Cornwall I love to visit the Cook and Book Shop in St. Just and round the corner from there, there is a lovely junk shop where I found the couple of old wooden butter paddles pictured below which I thought I could use to make marks.  

Below is a landscape which I started by using the butter paddles to make marks (as we drove down to Cornwall a lot of the fields were turning yellow with the rapeseed) -  the finished effect reminded me of some pastel drawings by an artist named Shirley Foote.

And finally I used the butter paddles to finish of a painting I did of the posy of flowers Don's cousin Jenny had picked from her garden and gave to us when she visited us for tea with her sister Janette one afternoon in Praa Sands.