Friday, 25 December 2015

Recent work

Christmas greetings to everyone. I hope you all have/have had a good day.  I had hoped to get this post done yesterday but Christmas tends to bring unexpected tasks.  This year I have received a wonderful number of e-mails from friends all over the place and have been quite busy replying/sending mine out.  However, Christmas Day has dawned very gloomy here so I have time to write this post.  In fact it is so gloomy that here is a photo of Penzance taken on Christmas Day last year.  Please note the rainbow!  We will not be going out today!

Although 2015 has not been a good year for my textile work, I have not been entirely lazy.  My main project over the summer was a lap quilt as a sixtieth birthday present for my sister-in-law.  As I no longer quilt large pieces it went off to be long arm quilted.  I have not been able to post it on here until now as her birthday was only last week and I know she reads my blog.

If this looks vaguely familiar it is because the top is made from left over blocks from my own bed quilt.  As my bed is so big I had to buy two packs of jelly rolls and two packs of squares but only used a few of the second packet.  I had enough left over (with the addition of a few from my stash) to make a lap quilt.  The border is the fabric that backs my quilt but the backing is not the same.

Recently I decided that I should make a determined effort to use up some of my stash and that the time has come to make quilts for charity.  I have a lot of 'children's fabric' from many years of making cot quilts.  I do not normally buy quilting magazines but on a recent trip to Sainsburys I found a new quilting magazine,  Today's Quilter which had a pattern for a quilt with dogs on it.  The author said she was inspired by the London  quilting shop 'The Patchwork Dog and The Calico Cat' which existed over thirty years ago.  That really took me back as I remember the shop well.

So I have started to make a quilt that uses up some of my children's fabrics.

It is very much a 'work in progress' as Christmas intervened and you can see that I am still making the dogs.

My problem is that I resolved not to buy fabric for this project but find I have almost no larger pieces.  As the blocks have sashing between  them I am going to have think carefully as to whether I can manage without buying anything more.  We all know that not having enough fabric for a project is a perennial quilter's nightmare and is one way in which people build up stashes.  My aim is to reduce my stash!

I am not a neat worker so doing more 'traditional' work like this is a slight challenge. I tell myself it will do me good and that I will get back to art quilting in 2016.  So Happy New Year everyone and happy stitching to those of you who are quilters.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Tehidy Country Park

Tehidy Country Park is a great place for a weekend walk, if you can cope with the high noise level!  This is the result of its being the nearest area of open space to Camborne and a very popular place with families, especially those with small children as it is buggy friendly and ideal for learning to ride a bike.  We went there on Saturday and went for a short walk round the lakes.

The reflections in the lake were lovely.

There are miles of paths and it is possible to walk right down to the the north coast but there are some  paths that are easier than others and that is what we use these days.  Even so, it can be difficult to find places we have visited before and on Saturday we never found this interesting area with a terraced stream.

Another attraction for families is the wildlife. There are swans and ducks on the lakes and a lot of other species although they are not easy to see when the park is busy.   Within minutes of starting our walk we saw two grey squirrels and then a water rat emerged from the lake.  As you can imagine the wildlife is very tame due to all the visitors.

Tehidy has an interesting history.  It was the home of the Basset family who owned a number of mines (tin and copper) in the area of Pool and Redruth and were extremely rich as a result.  The park itself is in Illogan which lies between the A30 and the North Cornish coast.  The Basset family Basset family can be traced back to the Norman Conquest.  There have been various houses on the site, including one that was built between 1861 and 1863 when Cornish mining was at its height.  As is well known, tin mining began to decline around the 1870s and this effected the family badly.  The result was that during the First World War the family sold the house and it became a TB hospital.  The hospital was completely destroyed by fire in 1919 but then rebuilt and remained as a hospital until 1988. In 1983 the whole property was taken over by Cornwall County Council and turned into a country park.  The original house is now very upmarket apartments and there is a small estate of upmarket housing around the house.  There is also a golf course adjoining the park.  A trip here is a nice contrast to coastal outings.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

The battle of Chunuk Bair (Gallipoli campaign) and family history

This post is somewhat 'off topic' for this blog but it is the centenary of the Battle of Chunuk Bair next Saturday (8 August) and I feel that I should remember it.  Most Australians and New Zealanders see 25 April, 1915 as a very important day in their countries' histories but 8 August is equally important and it is now suggested that this is the day that forged New Zealand's identity.

My maternal grandfather, William Cunningham fought in the battle but like most people he did not really talk about it.  As a child I knew that 8 August rather than 25 April was the day he used to commemorate and that he had been shot and had the bullet in his shoulder until the day he died. I also knew the name Mustapha Kemal Ataturk (commander of the Ottoman forces).  My grandfather was carrying a small bible in his backpack when he was shot.  The bullet grazed the bible's cover and it was a very precious object which I inherited.  I am not a historian so the other details passed me by.  When I lived in Australia in 1968 I realised that Australians consider Anzac Day to mark the foundation of the Australian nation, as it had originally been settled as several separate colonies and they saw the Gallipoli campaign as the first time they were 'Australian'.  I do not think New Zealand had the same feeling in my youth but in recent decades, as the country shed its colonial past, it became more like Australia in its view of the birth of the nation. Now 'going to Gallipoli' is considered a very important part of young New Zealanders' 'OE' (overseas experience).

It was only this year that I began to find out more about Chanuk Bair.  At the Anzac Day centenary commemoration at the Cenotaph in Whitehall the BBC interviewed the family who had the most descendants present (there were almost forty of them).  When they said their name was Malone and mentioned the Wellington Regiment the penny began to drop and I rushed to find out what I had on the computer as that was my grandfather's regiment.  Now several of my school friends have been in touch to tell me about the exhibitions that are on in Wellington this year and to point out the role my grandfather played in the battle.  It was a horrendous battle and much has been written about it.  My grandfather was second-in-command to Colonel Malone and when Malone was killed by friendly fire my grandfather took over only to be seriously wounded some hours later.  Apparently everyone who was in the trench with Malone apart from my grandfather and one other, were killed and Colonel Malone collapsed into my grandfather's arms.  The Wellington Regiment held the ridge but two days later the Ottomans under Mustapha Kemal Ataturk counter-attacked and they lost it again.  Of the 750 members of the Wellington Regiment who reached the summit, 711 were killed or wounded.  Photographs of the ridge show it to be  incredibly steep and they must have been extremely fit to climb it.  Colonel Malone was 56!  And we always thought of my grandfather as being older than most of those who fought. (He was 31.)

Of course there were other regiments at the battle in addition to the Wellingtons and these also suffered terrible casualties.  The Auckland regiment was basically wiped out because they ascended the ridge in daylight.  Colonel Malone refused to do this so the Wellington Regiment went up under cover of darkness and reached the ridge about 3 am.  There were also very heavy casualties in the Christchurch regiment.  But the battle was not fought just by New Zealanders.  There were also English and Sikh regiments. There were 417 casualties among the 'New Army' Welch pioneers and 350 casualties in the Gloucestershire regiment.  If you are into military history (you can tell I am not) follow the links to read the details

It is interesting looking at what has been written in relation to our knowledge of more recent conflicts and how battles and wars are reported at the time and them much later.  Letters, including those written by my grandfather, turned up decades later and led to a reassessment of the battle, there are books and a play by Maurice Shadbolt: Once on Chunuk Bair.

I am sorry this post has no illustrations but I have been defeated by the problems of copyright in using photos from the Web and I notice that the relevant Wikipaedia entries to not have photos either.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Wheal South Frances

On Saturday we went to the Great Flat Lode.  This is a long distance trail through the mining area behind Camborne and Redruth.  We had only been there once before so we got a bit lost and found ourselves driving in a circle through the village of Carnkie.  However, in the end we found the car park where we had stopped last time and saw that it had a map of the immediate area and that there was a mine just down the path.  The whole of this area became a World Heritage Site a few years ago so it is very well sign-posted and the paths are in a generally good condition.  Today I have also discovered that there is a wealth of information about it on the internet.  For a good introduction go to:

One advantage of a place like this is that it is off the tourist trail, despite all the publicity.  Since there are a number of walks there were plenty of people about including cyclists and a couple of teenagers on horses, but it was a great contrast to the A30 which was totally clogged up and at a standstill in a couple of places.  (First day of the school holidays to everyone was arriving.)  The views looking north from the car park were great: all the way to the coast.

On the last occasion we walked east from here along a path that I can now see from my photos was wide and in good condition but the mine lay to our left.  As I have to be very careful about walking on rough ground (and this certainly was) we aimed for the mine workings and wandered around some of them.  The mine was South Wheal Frances.  I was slightly surprised to read that it had belonged to a woman: Frances, Second Baroness Basset.  The Basset family are very well known in these parts but a woman!  It turns out that she was an only child and inherited the title by a 'special remainder'.  She lived from 1781-1855 and died childless so the barony then became extinct.

Like all mines in this area, this is a set of ruins but in the nineteenth century it was a highly productive copper mine and then produced tin.  One thing I have learnt is that mines in this area began as copper mines and then turned to tin when the copper streams ran out.  That is because copper is higher in the rock than tin.  I knew copper had been very important because my Cornish ancestors worked for the Cornish Copper Company in Hayle and can be traced there as early as 1800.  There are lots of references to this firm on Google.

A pumping engine house was built at Marriott's shaft in 1847 and also served Pascoe's shaft.  Copper began to run out in the 1860s and then the tin and this is largely what led to the huge exodus of miners to places such as the USA, Australia and South Aftica.  The mines were huge businesses.  In some cases they were closed down but this one was reformed in 1892 as South Frances United and was then amalgamated with Wheal Basset in 1895 to form 'The Basset Mines Limited'.  It continued to work until 1919 when it folded because the price of tin had dropped so much during World War I.

We approached the mine from the eastern end and found a lot of ruins with 'Keep Out' signs in places.  I am a little uncertain as to where we were because I thought Marriott's Shaft was the building in this photo

but I think we may have been in the middle of  the Marriott's shaft complex and that this shaft was something else!  More homework was obviously needed.

What attracted me though, was the 'gothic' style arches everywhere.

This is the Miners' Dry: a large shed where the miners changed and got clean at the end of their shift.  This is the entrance/exit to the Dry 

and here are arches in what appeared to be the main building.

I liked the way some views showed rows of arches:

I could see a lot of design potential in the ruins.

There were also plenty of wild flowers around.   I noted common things such as these 

and these foxgloves

and I particularly liked the buddleia

There were also ferns growing in the walls which is very typical of Cornwall: we even have them in the wall that marks our boundary with the street.

As we returned to the car we could see Carn Brea with its memorial.  It is the highest point in the area and a distinctive landmark as you are driving down the A30.

There was also the beginnings of a 'mackerel sky' although we had a much better one last night.

A mackerel sky occurs when there are rows of thin high level cloud.  It is usually a sign of approaching bad weather.  You can just see it here below the fluffy cloud at the top of the picture.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Why do some of us buy art?

This post has been prompted by Elizabeth Barton's post: Why don't people buy art?  and the comments that people made on it.  As someone who has reached the stage in life where there are numerous framed art works stacked around the house 'resting' because we do not have enough wall space for everything, this post set me thinking as to how I came to have so much: one or two 'real' paintings, quite a few limited edition prints, framed small quilts and larger quilts which used to hang on the landing but came down when we had the landing redecorated.  Not to mention all the things, including a lot of framed photos, which we have hung in the past.

Elizabeth's post was mainly about quilt art which here in the UK seems to be extremely difficult to sell unless you are a 'name' or on the road to becoming one.  I was very interested in the reasons she gave as to why people do not buy art and how it is not 'done' to discuss it and compare what you have in the way people do with other possessions.  Like the reader who said they bought a painting from someone who later became famous, we have one painting by a contemporary Cornish artist who now commands huge sums but we bought it over twenty years ago when he was little known and therefore affordable.  I was also interested in the people who said they had other forms of art work such as glass.  We once had a lovely collectors' piece of pottery by John Leach but a cat knocked it off the dining room table so I realised that cats and breakables don't mix!

Like several of the people who commented, I grew up in a house where we always had art.  This watercolour is the first picture I remember:

My paternal grandmother bought it for my parents and it hung above the sitting room mantlepiece in several houses.  It is a very New Zealand scene of pohutukawa trees beside a river and is by John Gully who was the great grandson of a famous pioneer artist, John Gully.  Eric Gully was born in 1900 and worked as a draughtsman and surveyor until serious illness forced him to stop working and he turned to painting. This painting was done in 1947 and I am pretty sure my grandmother bought it from the Napier Art Gallery's annual show.

I cannot remember my parents buying any art work during my childhood other than a print of a French street scene but we certainly did not have blank walls as Elizabeth mentions in her post.  Both sets of grandparents also had art on the walls including the paintings I wrote about in my last post. As children we used to be allowed to share out my grandparents' 'used' Christmas cards, (This was in the 1950s when reproductions of famous paintings were popular with people who had their cards professionally printed) and my father used to frame them with passpartout so that we could hang them on our bedroom walls.  That is how I learnt about people such as Constable, Reynolds, the Impressionists and the Dutch school.  I do not remember going through a 'poster' phase.  I think this is partly because we were home-based university students and did not have students rooms or flats to decorate.  Also I think the poster revolution happened a bit later.

It was when I first left home at the age of 22 that I realised you could buy art and hang it on the wall.  I moved to Canberra, Australia and within a few weeks I went to Sydney for a weekend and bought four prints from an up-market furniture store so that I had something to put on the walls of my room in a university hall of residence.  I had them framed.  Two of them have bitten the dust but we still have this one.

It is a linocut of a Sydney 'lace' house by Doreen Folkerts but I have not been able to find out much about her.

It was in Canberra that I bought my first 'proper' painting.  There is quite a story behind its purchase.  There was a branch of a Sydney Gallery which had a sort of auction in which they asked every artist who had exhibited with them to supply one painting that could be sold for $70 Aus (this was 1968).  There was a private view on the Friday evening where you could 'choose' the painting you wanted but you had to queue up for the sale on Saturday morning and your chances of getting the painting of your choice were determined by how near the front of the queue you were.  I was in a group of four so we got up very early and queued outside the gallery as though queueing for theatre tickets or a football match. After the private view we made a list of  four paintings, one for each of us but we did not all want the same one.  I think this was probably a good thing. There were only two people in front of us in the queue so we knew we had a good chance of getting what we wanted but there was a chance we would get something one of the others had chosen.  It was mid-winter so we had to wrap up warm and I think we took a flask of coffee with us.  There was also a complicating factor in that it was the day of the Hall of Residence's Ball (well it was 1968!) and we had all arranged to have our hair done.  Fortunately the leader of our group knew the gallery manager so she gave her the list of the  paintings we wanted, we all went off to the hairdresser and did not find out until the evening whether we had got what we wanted.

All worked out well and we still have the painting.  It is called 'The Way' and it is made of gesso and very thick paint with what appears to be a metal cross so I suspect it has a religious theme. The only problem is that I cannot decipher the artist's name. I was told at the time that he was a South Australian and a couple of years later, by which time I was in the UK, I heard that he had died and the value of his paintings had increased.  I think the signature may be in Greek.  Over the years I have scoured books on Australian art in the 1960s but have never found anything that looked as though the style and the signature  could be this person.  Now I have turned to the internet but I am not hopeful as the signature is almost illegible.  However, I am learning a lot about Australian art, a topic I knew about in the short time I lived there but have not kept up with.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

My Cornish/New Zealand paintings

Early in the New Year I found myself in correspondence with an art historian in New Zealand.  This came about because of my brother-in-law's grandfather, Charles Hay-Campbell, one of whose paintings appears in my post of 9 February.  (I am afraid I do not know how to create a link to an earlier post!)  The art historian is Pamela Gerrish Nunn.  It turned out I had met her as she once gave a talk about the New Zealand artist, Frances Hodgkin, at the St Ives festival.  As a result of this I was aware that there were connections between New Zealand artists and the St Ives and Newlyn Schools at the beginning of the twentieth century.  Pamela published a paper: Between New Zealand and Newlyn: New Zealand Painters and Cornwall in the Summer 2014/15 issue of Art New Zealand in which she discusses the long tradition of New Zealand artists coming down here, sometimes just for short periods and in other cases for much longer.

My sisters and I have all inherited paintings done in this area by New Zealand artists.  The story goes that my great-grandfather, who was from Penzance, had 'a significant birthday '.  This might have been his seventieth in 1927 but possibly his eightieth in 1937.  An artist named Gwyneth Richardson had a short exhibition of watercolours of West Cornwall at a private gallery/dealer in Wellington early in 1928 so this sounds the most likely connection. The family decided to buy up several of the paintings so that each of the children could give him one.  My great-grandfather lived with my grandmother and her family after his wife died so we became very familiar with them as she had inherited four of them.

We had no idea what was being depicted, however, apart from one of St Michael's Mount.  In the course of time, my grandmother came to live next door to us and the paintings were on her walls.  Unfortunately the ultra-violet light n New Zealand is very strong and the St Michael's Mount painting has faded badly.  The one above is of Smeaton's Pier at St Ives.  I remember it being in my grandmother's drawing room when I was young and that room faced south (the equivalent of north in the northern hemisphere), so it did not fade.  It was many years before I knew it was St Ives, though.  My mother was very fond of these paintings and they went with her to the old people's home.  When she died we had the frames removed, brought the paintings 'back' to Cornwall and had the frames refitted.  I have two of them and one of my sisters has the other two, including St Michael's Mount.

My other one is of St Just, the last small town/village in England and the place where my great-grandfather was born.

The church is instantly recognizable in this, the mine shafts on the horizon less so because all the mines have now gone.  My sister has a small one of Kegwin's House in Mousehole and the St Michael's Mount one.

What do we know about Gwyenth Richardson?   Pamela was able to fill in some of the information for me.  She was born in Dunedin to an English father and a New Zealand mother.  Like most New Zealand artists at that time, she received her art education in England.  She and her whole family were living in London at the time of the 1911 census.  She paid a second visit in 1927 and studied for a short time at the Harvey-Proctor school in Newlyn.  It seems to me that this is probably when she did our paintings.  I was fascinated to learn that there were a lot of these little schools in both Newlyn/Penzance and St Ives but I am not surprised.  After all, artists have to pay the rent and there are still a number of them today. Gwyneth Richardson was never a famous artist and the paintings we have are not worth much, just 'sentimental value'.  She had a number of exhibitions and was included in the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition in 1940.  She died in 1980.  I was able to find another couple of her English paintings on an art auction website but it appears there is not much written about her.

There is also another Cornish painting in our family.  My other sister has this.  It came from my father's family and is of seagulls perched on rocks at Lands End.  It is by an artist called Charles Worsley who was born in Christchurch but seems to have spent a lot of time in Europe. At least I always thought the painting was of Lands End but I had no proof of it.  I think this whole exercise points out how important it is to make a note of a painting's provenance!  My sister thought it was a New Zealand scene but when I looked up Charles Worsley the first painting I found was of Godrevy lighthouse at the entrance to St Ives Bay.  This is the lighthouse of Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse.  Although she set the book in Scotland, everyone knows it is based on St Ives and Godrevy.  The second Worsley painting I found on-line had a bland title but to anyone who knows this area, it is obviously of The Towans - the sand dunes that stretch from Godrevy to Hayle.  Charles Worsley was much more successful than Gwyneth Richardson but died relatively early in Italy.  He seemed to love travelling.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Another map quilt

At long last I have finished my second map quilt.  I see I posted about the first one in September last year which is an awfully long time ago.  For my second one I decided to work from some old OS maps I have of this village.  Easier said than done.  I really could not repeat the street pattern so I decided I needed more practice at doing 'fictional' maps.  However, I did choose colours that reflect the architecture of the  houses (sombre Victorian granite cottages) and the nature of the moors around here in winter.  I cannot remember when I started work on this one but I do know that it has been kicking round the studio half-quilted for weeks.  This week I have made a big effort to finish the quilting using Madeira rayon threads which work well on a small piece like this.

When I came to do the binding today I realised that my sewing days are numbered.  The degenerative neuromuscular condition I suffer from is beginning to affect my fingers.  Fortunately (although contrary to what the consultant has told me) it seems to be attacking my non-dominant hand (the right) at the moment but I am beginning to have problems tying knots in thread and threading the needle on the machine although that is not helped by the fact that I have never really learnt to use the automatic needle threader in the sixteen years I have had the machine!  I tell myself that plenty of people of my age have to contend with arthritis when they sew and that I should be able to draw/paint for some time yet although I do not think of myself as an artist.  I now realise how many muscles we use when sewing, far more than you realise.  In order to use a sewing machine you need two hands that work and also a fully functioning right foot for the pedal!   I had to give up driving last October because I was having trouble feeling the brake pedal and I now have the same sensation when I use the machine.  However, I am not likely to hit anyone when using a sewing machine.

Over the winter I have made one other thing: a small wall hanging with farm animals like the two I made last year.  This one is for my hairdresser's new daughter.  It is very small with only four animals but my hairdresser has started quilting herself and made the baby a quilt.  I prefer to make smaller things these days so here it is.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Water soluble pencils

Following the half-term sketchbook challenge I realised that I needed to practise using some of the many different colouring mediums I own.  It has been easier said than done to put aside time to do this but I have managed a couple of sessions.  I decided that I should concentrate on water-soluble coloured pencils.  I have three types: Derwent Watercolour Pencils, Derwent Inktense Pencils and Caran d'Ache Neocolor 11 series pencils.  The first thing I did was draw the same picture with the Derwent Watercolour Pencils and then the Inktense pencils (and they are pencils, not sticks).  I have 24 Inktense pencils and 36 rather elderly watercolour pencils.  One question I have been asking myself is whether they deteriorate with age.  I must have had the watercolour pencils for at least ten years and the Inktense for about five.  As I cannot get out to paint 'en plein air' I had to work from a photo.  I am rationalising that if I use photos I have taken myself it is better than using other people's (and does not have copyright issues).  The photo I chose was of a tree in autumn taken near where we used to live in Northamptonshire.

This is a twentieth century photo, i.e. one taken with a film camera so I was working from a print.  I am very out of practice at drawing and a bit inclined to blame my tools when it goes wrong but here is the watercolour pencil drawing:

Then I did the same drawing again but this time in Inktense pencils.

I was not very happy with this one because it was incredibly bright.  I bought my sister some Inktense pencils a couple of years ago but after the half-term challenge, she told me she did not like them because they were so bright, and at this point I felt a bit inclined to agree.  As you can see, I did not even finish it properly.

Then I discovered Youtube videos.  They are wonderful for people like me so I am now trying to learn to use the Inktense pencils properly.  I would recommend the series of quick lessons on the Derwent website    I began by working through a very simple tutorial of a tree.  As I copied it I cannot put it up here but it did look like the original.  From this I learnt some of the ways in which you can use Inktense: such as scraping flakes of the pencil, mixing them together and then adding water to create paint, flicking colour from the pencil, then wetting it and dabbing it with kitchen towel.

At this point I was also had some contact with Gillian Cooper.  Go to her blog and look for 'Inktense' down the list on the right to find a couple of posts where she deals with their use.  As it happens, I am still working on paper, but I have plenty of pfd white cotton in the studio so I can progress to that when I am confident.

Yesterday I took what I had learnt from the Youtube video and applied it to another of my old photos.  Again, I used a tree but I used more of the recommended techniques. This was a lone tree in the middle of a field of rape.

It is still very bright and the foreground leaves a lot to be desired but drawing the tree with dry pencil after laying down the background with wet layers is an improvement on the earlier picture.  When I had finished I had a look at the Amazon website because I think it might be an idea to buy a book on water soluble techniques but I think I should stick with the Youtube videos for now.  I also realise it would be much better using Inktense sticks (as recommended) for all the under-layers and keeping the pencils for the top drawing such as the tree.  One problem is that if you scrape off the lead from a pencil you get chips of wood as well!  Of course, if I decide I like this method, I will need to buy the sticks.  I also need try Inktense on fabric but that requires fabric fixative and I am not sure I have any at the moment.

I have not done any of these exercises with the Neocolor crayons as yet.  I only have ten colours in that range so I need to learn how to mix them.  Back to Youtube.  However, I have learnt the difference between Neocolor 11 (which I have) that are water soluble and Neocolor 1 which are more like children's crayons. Another couple of days' studies there!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Half-term sketchbook challenge

I have spent an enjoyable few hours this week drawing.  My sister set up a challenge for half-term week with a group of her friends, some of whom belong to a sketching group.  The challenge was to do a drawing a day.  We all know that artists should do this, just as musicians should practise every day, but I don't think many of us make time for it.  So having something to encourage us helped.

My sister set up a 'secret' Facebook group, i.e. one with closed membership.  This was great as it meant that people like me who live some distance from the main group, could still share in what was happening.  Of course one or two people were not on Facebook or did not know how to upload photos but that did not matter.  I found it reassuring that plenty of people were no better than me at this sort of thing!

It was interesting having to choose something to draw each day, especially as I am somewhat limited as to where I can draw.  Now that I can no longer drive or walk very far, working 'on location' is not really possible.  I also have to remember that I cannot sit down to draw because of the problems of getting up again so, particularly at this time of year, so that ruled out the garden.  It mostly had to be still life but one day I was able to draw our wisteria through the dining room window.

The cats are always available as a subject but they spend most of their time in the winter asleep in one or other of their two 'doughnut' beds.  They sleep very tangled up in each other which makes for boring pictures so I only used them on one day.

They started on the sofa but then got into the doughnut.  I managed to catch them with one arm out but by the time I had sketched it in, the arm had disappeared inside!

I decided that this week was a good opportunity to get out all my different materials and try them out.  I have a vast array of pencils, pens, pastels and paints although I also found that some things had died, and that my supply of paint brushes is very small.  I also have a book called: One Drawing a Day by Veronica Lawlor which says it is a six week 'course'.  I have not really used it but when I read through it, I realised that I could dip in and out of the suggestions rather then working through them.

So I tried using dip pens with Caran d'Ache water soluble coloured pencils

and combining coloured pencils, water colour and oil pastels.

It is interesting how we can avoid techniques and subjects that we do not enjoy or do not feel confident with so one day I forced myself to draw a person.  As we do not have spare people round the house I had to use a photo but I made sure it was one I had taken myself.  I used colour pencils for this drawing but I also tried out pencil and dry pastel.  I soon realised that I would need to practise a lot to master pastel.  The rules for drawing people began to come back from the depths of my brain because I honestly don't think I have done any portraiture or figure drawing for over thirty years.

What did I learn from the week?  Finding something to draw and half an hour to do it is not that difficult (I can be a great procrastinator in my textile work - I spend hours thinking about the design before actually doing anything).  Knowing what to include and what to simplify is difficult (the wisteria).  The week confirmed that I am more of a designer that an artist as I kept seeing the potential for design using techniques other than drawing and painting.

But all in all it was a good experience and helped me to get my eye back in as they say.  I think a week was about right for the length of the project but I will try and do some form of art work two or three times a week now.  I brought all my drawing materials into the house from the studio and I realise that this sort of thing is better done at the dining room table so I plan to find a cupboard where I can keep them.  Some of the images, e.g. this last one which was a photo of pumpkins I took at a farmers' market, shout 'printing' at me so now I just need to revise all those techniques I have learnt down the years and create some new work.  As I now put myself in the category of people who do not go to workshops because they are too technique focused, I realise practice is what it is all about.

Monday, 9 February 2015

PS to knitting post

I realise I haven't posted at all this year.  My excuse is that I have not done any textile work partly because it has felt too cold to go into the studio.  However, I do have something to add to the post I did on 17 November last year about NZ women knitting in World War One.  My brother-in-law sent me a photo of this painting which his grandfather, Charles Hay-Campbell, painted in Whanganui in about 1915.  He thinks it was done in the boarding house where his grandfather lived when he first went to NZ while his family remained in England.

This scene echoes what my sisters say about our grandmothers talking of knitting for the troops.  I have very strong memories of them both knitting in the years immediately after the Second World War so I grew up believing that grandmothers knitted and mothers sewed.

My mother made virtually all our clothes - well, not coats, as sewing is what women of her generation did.  The really talented ones did 'tailoring' and did make coats and jackets for their children.  As we were all girls there was no pressure for my mother to do this and we had one or two winter skirts (with bodices) that were made by a professional dressmaker and paid for by my grandmother.  I remember going to this woman's house for fittings and being appalled at the age of about five because she kept the pins in her mouth!  Practically the first health and safety lesson I ever had was to never hold pins in your mouth.  I do not think my mother was particularly fond of dressmaking and really preferred gardening, but when her generation of women were pushed back into the home after the war, sewing, which had always been an integral part of colonial life, became something that almost everyone did.  Bought clothes were expensive but there was a huge range of fabric available.  This fabric was all imported from Britain so we grew up with famous names such as Vyella, Liberty lawn, robia voile and a fine cotton the name of which I cannot spell and which I cannot find  a reference to on the Web.  A trip to town centred on the specialist fabric shops and the department stores and I reckon I could write my autobiography in terms of fabric and dressmaking!   Fashion was approximately two years behind Europe because of the time-lag in receiving the pattern books: McCalls, Butterick, and later Simplicity and Vogue.  You needed to be an advanced dressmaker to make a lot of the Vogue designs so I was quite proud when as a teenager I began to work from the more advanced Vogue ranges.  We were not really knitters in our family and I had to rely on my aunt to teach me both knitting and various sewing techniques because I was left-handed and so was she.  My cousin tells me she also relied on this aunt because of being left-handed.

For Christmas I was given the book; Knitting for Tommy: Keeping the Great War Soldier Warm by Lucinda Gosling.

This is a fascinating read, particularly for those of us who are old enough to remember the sort of illustrations that are shown, particularly the knitting patterns  which my grandmothers were still using when I was tiny.  In the end knitting socks gave way to knitting pullovers and cardigans for the grandchildren.  I think darning died out because socks began to have some nylon in them but I have a distinct memory of my father mending his own socks with the sock stretched over an orange.  Generally his mother did this task (we lived in the same town) but I remember being very impressed with his ability to darn.  I think military life gave men of that generation some useful skills although in theory my father may have learned to darn in the boy scouts.

The book deals with the Empire and the US and there is a photo of the cover of the book I mentioned in my previous post, written by the wife of New Zealand's governor-general.

As Lucinda Gosling points out, absolutely everyone knitted because the need for knitted 'comforts' was so great.  I realised that at that time there were no garments made from man-made fibres as there were later in the twentieth century and the role of Australia and New Zealand in providing wool was very important.  I also learnt that the company we know as Patons and Baldwins was at that point, two separate companies.