Friday, August 29, 2014

One minus (with side benefits) and one definite plus

Last year started with me drifting somewhat, and so I signed up for two external stimulae: the first was A Letter A Week 2013
I largely failed at that discipline, but I found that indeed the thinking did stimulate me, and I still have an ongoing project (in a layby at present) which partly grew out of that. I also learned again what I already really knew: that regular deadlines and my creativity just do not coincide!
The other stimulus was the Bookmark project.  I have always loved bookmarks and over the years have amassed quite a collection.  When on a strict budget, they are usually the item affordable in museum and gallery shops, and it is fun trying to match the bookmark to the book being read. 
I also print my own bookmarks for friends from time to time.  So this project fitted right in, and with it comes the bonus of receiving a whole bundle of other folks' bookmarks!
I have received my copies of this year's batch
which includes my own, and two of my favourites are by printmakers whose blogs I follow: Elizabeth Banfield and Jacqui Dodds.  All the bookmarks in this current project: XII will be put online next month sometime (here is a link to project XI's participants and their bookmarks).  The whole experience has been such a positive one for me that I've signed up again for the next bookmark project.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Discovery and anticipation

Out to lunch 2007 (private collection)
Flying tonight 2009 (private collection)
Although I usually have no, or scant features on my faces in my work, being more interested in exploring the communications of body language, I am nonetheless fascinated by portraits in general.  Recently, while looking for something else (as is so frequently the way) I found the work of printmaker Ellen Heck,
(image from here - individual 'Fridas' can be found here)
also discovering at the same time that she has work in an upcoming exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London next year - news of which I have not been able to track down elsewhere.
Mary Cassatt: The bath
Ellen Heck's work immediately brought to mind Mary Cassatt's prints which I admire greatly.
The National Gallery of Art in Washington has several.
Mary Cassatt: The coiffure
Ellen Heck: The edition and the open window
Ellen Heck: The bath and the towel
Ellen Heck: The letterpress and the light
I am attracted to the breadth of Heck's work.  (Here and here are two more links to her work.)  Her work is not solely figurative: she has made some fascinating, mesmerising, inspiring colour wheels as can be seen in detail on her site, and also at the Wally Workman Gallery blog where I found this image:
In Ellen Heck's predominantly figurative work, like Cassatt she avoids sentimentality with her gentle humour, and there is that certain thoughtfulness - stillness - contemplation which I try to capture in my own work.  Best of all, however, I enjoy her examples of the printmaker at work as shown in the images above from her Place and Process series.  I find myself returning to her website every few days to savour the delights - and I look forward very much to the exhibition Facing History: Contemporary Portraits next year.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


The first stuffed animals I ever saw were birds which had been shot by an uncle.  The taxidermy had been done by a friend of his and the poor things were beginning to disintegrate in the Greek heat.  I hated what had been done to them - and them too, especially as they seemed to be staring at me as I lay down for my siesta every afternoon.
Then of course there were the stuffed specimens in museums.  (The ones above are part of Kelvingrove Museum's collection.)  Such animals, shown in their environment fascinated me, despite the moth-eaten aspects of many of them.  The nascent designer in me wanted to get fixing those dioramas!  But in this day of wondrous wildlife films do we need stuffed animals any more?
And then there is art - or is it?  These kittens-in-tableau are by Walter Potter, the picture from here.  But there is something perhaps much more serious here:
Klaus Pichler: from Skeletons in the Closet project.
I have just posted an article about taxidermy in art - with more links on Ragged Cloth Café.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The edge of chill

Definite change in the weather - and the morning sun is lower in the sky: the view out to the garden at breakfast is distinctly approaching Autumn.  The holly is full of green berries, and the hawthorns' berries are reddening quickly.  The hazel on the way to the post office has lost all its nuts to the squirrels who can be seen from time to time running along the electricity wire with something suspiciously nut-like in their mouth.  Soup will be warm now.
Catch the fall: working design for linocut

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Delicate balance

There is something immensely satisfying to me about the balance of formal and informal, straight line and squiggle.  In gardens such as Sissinghurst's I love the transition from hard architecture to the balance of shaped living containers of potential disorder to the 'wilder' growths.  Of course the wilder are just as controlled as the formal hedging, but visually it gives me a thrill.
Recently I encountered that same thrill when I encountered the delicate balance in Nif Hodgson's work.  Such beauty and calm, which entices this observer to drift into contemplation and meandering thoughts.
Nif Hodgson: Here and There #3c, multiple-plate etching with screenprinted charcoal powder, 19 x 30 inches (image from here)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Envy - or inspiration?

Livia Marin: from Broken Things 2009 (image from here)
In looking for illustrations of Livia Marin's work I encountered an interesting blog which presents a treasure house of artists.  The Jealous Curator has a subtitle: Damn.  I wish I thought of that.  This made me think - I very rarely feel envious in that way, and can never understand when folks are envious of anything I'm doing.  We all have and do interesting and lovely things - we are so lucky to be able to enjoy and appreciate such a broad spectrum of activities.  
There is always something to learn from the work of others - learn, not copy directly - even if some technique or other aspect of the work can influence one's own work.  I so often am drawn to the work of those whose approach, style, or techniques are close to what I am trying to do; but I often am inspired by something apparently completely different.
Heather Shimmin: Lost II (image from here)
One such artist whose beautiful work and interesting techniques are intriguing me at present is the printmaker Heather Shimmin.  There is an interview with her here.
I am fascinated that these works are large linocuts on fabric - felt or organza.  The images have the same kind of appeal to me as maps of many kinds, the fine lines, the discovering of elements, the richness of using black and white, the intricacy, and the fun - and the depth and breadth of meaning / interpretations.
Heather Shimmin: A faithful friend (image from here)
Heather Shimmin: Suspended Anima - Minerva (image from this review)
Heather Shimmin: Swarm (image from here)
Heather Shimmin: She can skip (image from here)
Image from the exhibition The Wisdom of Birds - from here. Heather Shimmin's piece is at the right of image.
I find all the work so invigorating - this is what I call inspirational: it makes me want immediately to get down to my own work!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Late Summer gleanings

It's that delightful time when the untidiness of Summer's lush growth begins to turn into inklings of Autumn's glories.  These are just a few elements which caught my eye in the garden as I passed this morning.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Lazy days

I always think of August as an in-between month: the decline of Summer, when days perceptibly become shorter although still hot.  Here the beans and courgettes are flourishing, but the tomatoes only just beginning to ripen, so I have to buy tomatoes in order to cook and freeze the surplus greens.  Not yet Autumn, but the annuals are turning untidily, and any rains bring out the most revolting large slugs.
But August brings the run-up to tennis's U.S. Open.  This week the Rogers Cup is on in Toronto, and I have a pile of stitching as accompaniment.  As further self indulgence I have just finished reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling).  Much enjoyed, as I have all her books so far.  I am also enjoying vicarious bathing with Susie Parr's The Story of Swimming.  While I was growing up I used to spend August swimming round the coast from Thessaloniki.  Then when I was working August would be spent in the city.
 Summer in the city (design in progress)