20 February 2018

Drawing Tuesday - V&A

We went to different parts of the V&A and gathered for lunch at in the Members Room, which was veryvery busy, on account of it being half term. As we left the museum, there was a queue outside - it was judged to be so crowded that admission was restricted. Gosh; a victim of its own success.

Up on the 6th floor it was quiet. Primed by shop windows on the short walk from Knightsbridge
I was looking to draw chairs, and left behind the temptations of the ceramics study collection, these enticing ladies among them -
 for this tableau in the Furniture gallery -
1870s at back, 1860s for the miniatures,
and the "tutti-frutti" stool is 1990s
Lots of rejigging was needed to arrive at this, but even so the hind legs of the chair just don't work -
Looking at it "afterwards" gives a better idea of what needs adjusting. At the time, there's a reluctance to, eg, rub out an entire section so that it's in a better relation to the other objects - "too much work! my careful [=fussy] details wasted!" 

Next time: get the major shapes in the right place, first...

Joyce, after travel nightmares (it's half term, wot) found "Anger" in the ceramics galleries, one of the set of seven deadly sins made in the early 1990s by Janice Tchalenko, based on designs by Roger Law (of the Spitting Image workshop) -
She went back after lunch and carried on -
Jo too had just a brief drawing time, and quickly rendered several items in the glass gallery; this one caught the transparency of the glass -
 Judith, in the Chinese gallery, found this "foreigner" - he dates to about 600AD -
Janet K was in the British galleries, collecting images of birds -
And Michelle was roaming the museum with a camera, looking for inspiration for her next project; we await developments...

19 February 2018

Spot the difference

 The footballers have been lying on the floor for the past week, and today they made it up onto the table. It was time to baste them to the background, and at the end of a long day all the little bits were held down by stitches, ready to go "under the machine" -
Up close to it for long hours of stitching, you get so used to seeing the various bits, you don't really "see" it after a while -- but it's obvious from the photo that the brown bits were just not working. There will be some unpicking tomorrow! This shows the brown areas covered up, but they need to come right out -
Nor is it quite ready to go under the machine - the backing needs to be done, an extra layer that will make it just that bit firmer, hopefully to hang better.

Even though there seem to be more questions than answers, I'm enjoying the making process. Listening, as I stitched, to many consecutive episodes of History of English podcast, was pleasant. I learned about "the anarchy" in the 12th century, caused by the dispute between Stephen and Matilda about who should rule England; goodness what a terrible time, 20 years of civil war...

18 February 2018

Neatening the quilt back

My plan for "the footballers" was to darn in the threads - a nice quiet occupation, with a definite end to it and pristine, if painstaking, results.

It's time to think again about this! Yesterday I quickly put together another sample, 8" square. The lines of quilting perforce are interrupted when they come to a figure -
About half the threads are yet to be cut and pulled through to the back.  I worked on the darning-in for about two hours, with this result -  
You can just about see that there are a lot of threads that have been pulled through, but not yet darned in during that session. It is Very Slow Work, and Very Frustrating.

Plan B involves cutting and gluing the threads. Three possible adhesives are on hand -
The white paint looks sloppy; the Fray-Check hurts my eyes; the Gel Medium ("an excellent glue for collage", as it says on the label) seems to work well. It's best if the threads are tied, which can also be a frustratingly fiddly thing to achieve... 1. locate both ends; 2. tie once so the ends lie flat; 3. apply a tiny dot of medium with a paintbrush; 4. cut the ends short; 5. leave undisturbed till dry.

It still takes time, but only a fraction of the time for darning in. The work of about 15 minutes produced about half as many thread-ends as yesterday's two-hour session -
The quilt will be 15 times the area of the sample. It will take quite a while to neaten the back! 

Why not fuse on a false back, you may wonder - well, I just don't want to do that... nor do I want to leave the ends dangling. Thinking this through, I find a nice tension between the "traditions" of what the quilt depicts and the methods and materials used to make it. Quilting is So Not Football. It's miles away from "sport". And yet -- both need precision.

17 February 2018

Unabashedly floral

Returning home yesterday, I found it warm enough to spend, door keys in hand, a few minutes in the garden, doing a little (one-handed) tidying. The bulbs are shooting up, and the miniature irises are actually in flower, so they needed the weeds clearing around them so that they can be seen. 

My keys were in the non-weeding hand and no hands were free for taking photos ... but I do have lots of other floral pix available from the past few weeks of walking around and looking around -
Hellebores etc at Estorick Collection

Old tiles on pub at Highbury Barn

Outside a florist on Highbury Park

Semi-floral - hanging baskets at Sable d'Or, Crouch End

Gorgeous (huge) Chinese plate in V&A ceramics gallery, 6th floor

Victorian tiles, Green Lanes

Flowers of light! Through a steamy bus window

Sad sight, a ghost bike, Seven Sisters Road

Japanese textile design seen at Works on Paper fair

Floral table decoration ...

... and the real thing, at Works on Paper fair

Floral portrait inside the envelope, one of a series by Margaret Mellis

Drifts of snowdrops and aconites, Hyde Park (on a raw day)

Spring flowers at 136A earlier this month

And this? ... it's one of those photos the camera takes when you're
not looking - my floral quilt

16 February 2018

Then and now, etc

Getting my library books ready to return, I weighed up "Hornsey Past" and after a quick flip through, decided to keep it a while longer. This photo, from the top of the hill with Alexandra Palace mistily on the horizon, is a road I know well, and nowadays the W3 bus goes along it. Also in November we watched the Guy Fawkes fireworks at Ally Pally from this spot.
 The postbox is still there; the trees are not. People don't seem to be standing around quite as they did 113 years ago, but the hedges are still flourishing, here and there. I do wonder about the changed rooflines...
Some of the library books, to dip into at the coffee shop - 
and then, walking home the long way, past the recreation ground, at dusk -
Still a few weeks to enjoy the silhouettes of the bare trees.

15 February 2018

Poetry Thursday - an astronomy poem by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn'd astronomer

When I heard the learn’d astronomer, 
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, 
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them, 
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, 
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick, 
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself, 
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, 
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

- Walt Whitman

Found via the discussions in the excellent online astronomy course "In the night sky: Orion", which has been a source of insight and of astonishing information - did you know that there are 170 billion galaxies (or maybe a trillion) - each containing millions or billions of stars, and their moons and planets, incomprehensibly many; some are millions of light years away, incomprehensibly far.  From the dust between them, some flung out by stellar collisions in the 13.7 or 13.8 billion years of the universe's existence and the rest a remnant of the Big Bang, more stars continue to be made as the dust particles, tiny as they are, are attracted to each other by gravity.

Other great sources highlighted by participants are this tool to see the Milky Way in light of different wave lengths - http://www.chromoscope.net/ - and a series of videos from the Hubble Telescope: the one on the Horsehead Nebula is so good - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LL5L4VFgkdo, and the 3D technique explained in that video has been applied to the Orion Nebula -
Of course in the still, you miss the 3D effect - have a look at the video, it's spectacular!

14 February 2018

Starting and stopping

It being half term at Morley College as well as at schools throughout the land, instead of printing woodblocks I am stuck at home with The Footballers. The piece has been lying on the floor for a week, and six scenes are still to be painted, plus there's the tricky matter of laying out the fabric in between the scenes, after which it will be quilted in parallel, narrowly-spaced straight lines, avoiding the figures. So, it's a long way from being finished, at the moment.

The quilting will lead to a lot of loose threads on the back, like in this sample -
I intend to darn them all in. And I'll keep checking that the backing fabrics behave themselves. Adding the backing as a facing, with just a bit of stitch to hold it in place, is getting to be an ever more attractive possibility, though.

As the morning slides past and lunchtime approaches, everything is ready for the painting - but here I am at the computer, pursuing other objectives: booking tickets for talks, answering overdue emails, doing a few "lessons" in the current online courses (music notation has been started, palaeography awaits). I wonder why I'm so avidly "filling the time" - to have an interesting life, right! - and am concerned that still, in the wisdom of age, I'm not able to do the important things until they become urgent. Deadline? oh, it's more than a week away ... no need to panic just yet - even though one of the delights of not having a day job is that tasks can take as long as they need ... panic is supposed to be a thing of the past. (As for emotional panic, that's another matter, and mentioned only in passing.)
So there it all is - several tubes of useful new paint, and lots of brushes, and three images off to a good start. 

The great insight that hit me is this - having it lying there is a disincentive. The ritual of getting the materials out, and putting them away after the session, is so important. Going into the studio to collect the paints, brushes, palette-plate, etc takes only a minute - and that action is the start of the actual work, it's like starting the flywheel turning. One thing will lead to another - the paint will be squeezed out, the brush will be chosen, the first mark will be made, and another and another.

Then there's the difficulty of stopping. I like to have a time in mind, even though this harks back to the day job and subverts the dream of having allllll dayyy in the studio. "Little and often"? And the putting away of materials - good studio practice! - is part of the stopping; time has to be allowed for cleanup. 

Stopping in the middle of a sentence, as it were, has its advocates - it's easy to pick up the thread, they say. Tidy people, though, might want to finish the task, and have in mind what needs doing next.

These are on my list for today. You can see from the pixelation, and the rough cutting, that they are quite small - about 2" high, if that. 

13 February 2018

Drawing Tuesday - Petrie Museum

In the Petrie Museum is a large table with various books, and also baskets of drawing materials. One of the books was about the Fayum portraits found by Flinders Petrie and held by the museum; after my latest brush with "faces" in the painting course, this seemed like a good subject, or a good way to try to get a likeness. In the end I did seven - this is my favourite -
Some of the portraits were in a somewhat damaged state - after all, they're about 2000 years old. This lady with the pearl earrings is also wearing a hairpiece. Looking at it after some time has passed, I can see where my proportions are wrong, but couldn't see it at the time -
All in all, my renditions are rather grotesque! Overworked? ("She meant well"...) -
 Jo's bold pots -
 Sue's bronze aegis of Isis, from Saqqara
 Carol's colourful pottery shards -
 ... and her complete pot, which she quickly made into shards -
 An array of pots by Mags -
 who brought along her extracurricular work - photos of the "train stitching" piece, now finished and hanging in wonderful swooping loops -
 and an altered book, from a collage course at City Lit -

Subtitle: Mainly for the non-racing man