24 Feb 2013

Sheep & Laphroaig

Clear blue skies and a fluffy white solitary cloud – who says it’s always raining in Scotland? It’s been so tranquil up here – every colour, sound, and even smell, seem to have more clarity. We are burning peat on the fire, a proficient generator of very fine dust, the colour of burnt sienna – a nightmare for the house proud, but a potential art material for me. The peat itself looks like dried elephant dung – so perhaps I could use it in the manner of Chris Ofili or the dust as a substitute pastel pigments! Peat has a distinct smell, and I dare say we smell of it, a bit like Laphroaig – an unusual perfume, but one I think I can live with. Breathe in deep down on the beach and there’s a wonderful smell of the sea – rotting seaweed, lovely. Perhaps I’m a bit odd (no comments necessary!) but something else that gets me going is the smell of sheep. I’ve finished my first fair isle knitting pattern at last and, in anticipation of my next project, I have received some colour cards of Shetland wool in every shade you can think of. They are delicious, smell of sheep and are as pretty as a new box of pastels. I was even more delighted to discover that I can use Excel to design fair isle patterns – all of a sudden those dull text books I’m reading have become far more interesting!

17 Feb 2013

The Amazon Fairy

The Amazon Fairy has grown new flight feathers, discovered where we live and delivered two exciting Step by Step books – one on Excel and the other on Microsoft Project – yippydee, how riveting! Alas, my fear of spreadsheets must be overcome if I am to contribute to the building of our new house. Both books are severely lacking in aesthetic stimulation so I have assigned a magnificent wibbly-wobbly froggy bookmark to brighten up the pages!  In order to postpone reading such dull books I’d started sorting out my digital photos .With digital cameras we no longer have to think about the cost of processing, but then they linger in their thousands on the laptop, waiting to be sorted. This sort-out included cataloguing images of my paintings – a worthwhile and thought provoking exercise for me. I’m not really sure that I have a strong style, a consistent pallet or a preferred subject. There’s a montage below of some of my paintings and illustrations I can certainly see some development over the last few years but not an emerging style. Amongst my e-folders is a collection of work by other artists, artwork that captivates me. I’ve shared some of these on Pinterest and stared at them frequently over these last few weeks (a further absorbing distraction from reading dull books!). For me there are some striking common themes in terms of colour pallets and composition, which aren’t necessarily reflected in my own work, but more on this later.

10 Feb 2013

Learning to sketch

It’s taken me a while to realise that there is a difference between sketching and drawing – my old sketch books are full of drawings! I’ve tried a number of different materials in the past – pastels, water soluble pencils, Indian ink, water colour, soluble graphite pencil and even oils. All have been purchased as the answer to my plein air sketching needs, assigned a suitable bag and taken out into the field. But none have helped me make a habit of it – perhaps the setting up and putting away overshadows my need to be spontaneous! But at last I think I’ve found a kit that works for me. Black and grey Pitt Artists Pens give me the effect of an Indian ink drawing without the inky fingers or threat of spillage! I now have two sketchbooks – an A4 reserved for indoors ( sketches of Henry and the puss cats ) and a neat little A6 moleskin for outside – the creamy coloured smooth paper is perfect and it fits in both pocket with no need for a dedicated bag.  I’m getting more confident about using it and perhaps a personal style of visual shorthand is starting to emerge. But can I read it back and turn my field sketches into paintings? Mm, we’ll have to test that one, but in the meantime I’m enjoying being able to capture an idea without any mess or pre-planning!

3 Feb 2013

Assessing One's Boggy Bits

I had drafted a post about my sketchbook for today – but yesterday’s events were much more exciting, so I’ve decided to share this with you instead. I’ve mentioned that we have bought a building plot………well, yesterday saw the arrival of a big yellow digger and our very first guests. It’s in a coastal and remote location, and although fully accessible by road, our guests came by other means to examine some small holes dug by said digger! These stills give you an idea, but do watch the movies (it took me ages to work out how to get them edited and then on to this blog!). The ground is adequately solid below its boggy exterior, the rock is extremely hard and the house footprint fits nicely on the boggy bit without having to break up the hard bit – so all is well at this early stage in our big adventure!