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!