Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Silver Birches 3

Today's versions of Sunday's cropped black and white Silver Birch image, involving selective cropping, selection of negative spaces and filling with black to varied tolerance to increase contrast.

I think No 2 has the most appeal for me because it retains some of the texture but still has good contrast, but there may be more to come ...

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Silver Birches 2

For the last few days, I've been working further into the negative spaces between silver birch trees on a fresh print of the image I posted on 30 October. I have yet to add coloured stitching to suggest leaves but was interested in the black and white effect I was getting around the trunks below. I was experimenting with using thick and thin bars of stitching and considering carefully which negative spaces should be stitched and how much of the dark grey space should be covered.

As I worked, it occurred to me that it would be interesting to photograph the image and crop, perhaps giving thought to a piece of weaving.

Next, I rotated through 90 degrees and then cropped again - not sure whether this adds anything or not, but I like to consider all possibilities that occur to me ...

There is much more to do before I could begin a piece of weaving, not least to work out the black / white balance which is not right here. I also need to experiment with ways of achieving the contrast between the thick dark grey / black stripes and those very fine white trunks and maybe to consider the inclusion of some colour in some way. Perhaps a combination of weaving and stitch might be the best route. 

My next move will be to work in pen and ink and also pencil on paper, working on small parts of the image and see where that goes. I will post further if anything interesting results. 

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Landscape in brown, orange and yellow

We've just returned from a cold but mainly sunny week near Aboyne in eastern Scotland. Regular readers of this blog will know that we visit this area frequently. This time, we walked, visited favourite haunts and met up with friends, but above all, we enjoyed the wonderful autumn colours. This year seemed especially beautiful. The bracken (not usually my favourite plant) combined with the beech, silver birch and larch trees to give the most extraordinary range of browns, oranges and yellows everywhere we looked.

I took, as usual, lots of photos. The birch trees especially caught my eye following those we saw in western Canada in September but the coppers and oranges of the beeches were equally magnificent. First of all is a group of photos taken while walking around Loch Kinord in the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve, between Aboyne and Balleter. It was a lovely 5 mile walk which we were lucky enough to do on a wonderful cloudless day:

On the last day of our visit, we visited the grounds of Crathes Castle, a magnificent National Trust for Scotland property east of Banchory. Just as you enter the grounds, there is a beautiful pool on the right, always good for photographs of reflections on a still day. On this occasion, with the sun shining again, hardly a breath of wind and the browns, oranges and yellows of autumn, it was unmissable. 

Finally, as we left to come south over the Cairn O'Mount, the weather was cloudier, but the browns were no less striking.

We won't be back in eastern Scotland now till the spring. We always go south with regret as we miss the wildness of the mountains but family is too far away and the climate less kind. Our first visit of the year, usually at the beginning of April, is always something to look forward to.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Silver birches

In Scotland for a few days this week, between walking and visiting friends, I’m stitching this trial piece on cotton using perlĂ© 8 and 12 threads from DMC. I’m playing with positive and negative shapes and adding a smattering of colour to suggest leaves, using small French knots ...

It comes from this photo of silver birches taken recently in the Kanaskis valley, Alberta, (where autumn was turning as we watched) and via Photoshop Elements where I enhanced the image and converted it to black and white.

 I've printed out a second copy of this small image (12.7 x 17.8 cm) and intend next to try another colour way. Such small images are quickly and easily completed and are great for exploring ideas. Scaling up later, however, can be more tricky!

Now, on a completely different topic, is anyone else having problems with Blogger? Following recent Windows and Apple updates, on my PC I'm unable to access most of the features on Layout so I can't make any changes, I find viewing on my iPad has minor glitches, posting this post on my iPad was fraught with difficulty and the Blogger app is unusable. I suspect Google have stopped supporting it ... Am I right?

So, I might just be about to change blog provider - any advice?

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

MAO Space Tapestry

When I was in Oxford recently with textile friends, we popped in to Modern Art Oxford, enticed by the promise of black and white images (I was certainly) and work on an epic scale.

On view was an exhibition of collaborative work by Aleksandra Mir called Space Tapestry: Earth Observation and Human Spaceflight. Three huge panels filled the walls and each one represented a new chapter in a long term project exploring aspects of man's exploration of space and its impact on our daily lives. The whole Space Tapestry of which these panels are just a part is 200 m long in total and its presentation was inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry.

The result was most impressive and made absorbing viewing. The work is not in fact a tapestry but was described in the exhibition notes as: ' an inquiry ... realised through the analogue medium of drawing'. It was drawn entirely with a sharpie pen and it was fascinating to see the huge range of marks Mir and her assistants had managed to achieve with this simple medium.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of this work was the fact that it was collaborative. Mir had invited a team of assistants aged 18 to 24 and at the start of their working lives to draw the panels collectively in her studio. Each one completed a small section of the work under her guidance. Their individual styles and responses could be seen within the work, yet it retained its collective whole.

This inspiring exhibition can be seen at the MOA in Pembroke Street until 24th November and is well worth a visit.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Photos and design

I've now downloaded, sorted and begun to process all my photos from my recent trips - no mean feat given that I took a giddying 6,000 plus over the summer! It will take me a long time to absorb them all and to take from amongst them images that I think have potential for textile work.

I know some different approaches will be prompted by all this but for now, while I consider my options, I've worked in familiar ways on two pictures I took of playground equipment in Port Alberni, BC. The shapes I saw in the structures and the ease of turning them into silhouettes appealed to me very much at the time.

I'm showing what I've done with them so far (much manipulation in Photoshop Elements), together with the original images.

The original images ...

I added the small amount of text prompted by a need to practise some of the skills I learnt on the online course with the Pixeladies I took earlier in the year. I see these images perhaps as part of a book project, which gave the inclusion of text some point - though for now, I'm really enjoying the experimentation.

It's good to be thinking artistically again. I've found it hard to concentrate on anything over the summer ... but I have missed it. It helps me to feel rooted!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Away a longtime

I know I've been away a long time. The excuses are many. Among the most significant was that Photoshop course in May which took up so much of my time and seemed to send me off course a little, followed quickly by a very busy summer with many trips away of both short and long duration. Most of all though, I felt the need of a blogging rest. I'd blogged pretty much continuously for the last five years and had reached a point when I felt I had nothing new or worthwhile to say. Worst of all, writing a post had become a chore and an obligation (not sure to whom) rather than the pleasure I had felt in the past. 

On our return from our most recent trip away, I suddenly realised how much I was missing the contact with blogging friends and the sharing of thoughts and art work so I'm testing the waters and making a return, for the moment at least.

Since May, we've spent time in Scotland, had 3 weeks in France much of it with our daughter and her family, and then taken a recent trip to western Canada (first picture above) where I lived for two years in the early 1970s.

This last visit was something of a pilgrimage. It was a long planned return to old haunts on Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia and Alberta and a reunion with two sets of old friends, but also a chance to visit places I'd missed for some reason all those years ago. In total, we were away for 4 1/2 weeks and covered more than 2,500 miles in a hire car.

For the first three weeks or so when we were on the west coast, the weather was wonderful. Hardly a drop of rain fell and, day after day, the sky was cloudless and it was hot. Photography was easy ... but now I'm home, choosing from the myriad of photos (over 4,000!) is hard. I'm including here only a tiny taster of everything we saw.

There were jetties, and docks aplenty ...

The jetty at Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, BC

... harbours, boats, and reflections  ...

The harbour in Powell River BC

... numerous ferries ...

Ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay, North Vancouver BC

... peaceful coastal hikes with wonderful sea views ...

Hiking at Rebecca Spit, Quadra Island BC

... panoramic ocean views ...

Looking west out to the Pacific Ocean from Amphitrite Point on the Lighthouse Loop trail, Ucluelet BC

... dramatic waterfalls on rivers of extraordinary length (why do waterfalls always look so insignificant in photographs?) ...

Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial park, Central BC - with Canada's 4th highest single vertical drop

... mountains everywhere, some higher than others but always dramatic and often snow-capped ...

Driving south on the Icefields parkway in the Canadian Rockies towards Lake Louise, Alberta

... glaciers, barren moraines and ... cold ...

The Athabasca Glacier, Alberta

... extraordinary colours ...

Grassi Lakes, Canmore, Alberta

... and glass-like reflections ...

The rather unattractively named but very beautiful Backswamp, Banff, Alberta

... and last of all, the ultimate place to enjoy a drink or a meal with good friends - the point of it all surely ...

View from our (definitely) unconventional accommodation at Heriot Bay, Quadra Island BC

I suspect there is much more to come following this last trip, now I've got going! While writing this, I've realised how much the blogging process helps me to reflect on things I see and do. 

Now I need to pick up my sketch book work and begin stitching ...

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Overlaying Shapes

More Photoshop fun ... This time overlaying shapes on chosen photographs and playing with opacity. First of all leaf shapes on a black and white image of shadows in a beech wood.

Then, the same trick on a complex black and white photo of machinery, but this time without changing the opacity.

You've guessed it, the Pixeladies are onto shape this week!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Pixeladies 2

I have been so absorbed in the Pixeladies' PSE 3 course I posted about last time that I've hardly been near my blog this week. Also, apologies to all those whose posts I've missed. Once this course is finished in a couple more weeks, I will be back!

So ... an update of images, starting with the next steps for the tree outlines - now filled simply using the paint bucket tool in colour ...

Then, played with further using lots of layers, transparency, opacity and a range of brushes large and small between the original image and the drawn lines (getting the layer order right gave me something to think about!) ...

And, last of all, something different (but still trees!), this time with text and gradients, the latter both on the image and on the text itself (very tricky and involving hours of play). These consist of adding a wash of graded colour over the image - best done subtly!

Next week, we're onto shape. I wonder where that will take us!

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Photo Tracing

Photo Tracing of my images in Adobe Photoshop to get the outline is something I've done several times in the past. I've always found the process rather frustrating because I was unable to draw a straight line (hand too wobbly) and didn't know how to get Photoshop to do this automatically.

I began a new course with the Pixeladies last Monday (PSE 3: Digital Designing). Having completed their first and second courses and found them most useful, I was in high expectation that they would solve this and many other issues I didn't even know I had. They have ... and they are ... and I've only just finished week 1 of a four week taught course. If anything, I would say that this course is even better than the first two so I'm delighted!

The first week has focused on line - all in black and white so I've felt really at home. On Day 2, we explored PSE's amazing range of brushes and their settings - very useful but in my case not very photogenic.

Day 3 addressed the photo tracing issue (and the drawing straight lines) and I produced this (without straight lines!):

Which resulted in this:

Which turned into this bit of fun when I used a choice of faux finish brushes (among others) in the negative spaces and then filled the positive spaces with black.

Useful play with a capital P!

PS Writing this post made me go back to my posts of 2015. I think I need to revisit some of those techniques and effects. Where are my handouts that I printed out so carefully?

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Sinchie 1

Great Western Embroiderers, the group I stitch with, generally has a group project on the go in which I try to participate. So, from time to time, I find myself producing work which is very different both in technique and in focus from the main work I'm doing at the time.

Now is one of those times.

The choice was made by the group to produce a series of Sinchies (the stitched version, not the Aussie food pouches for children!), one every two months. My offering for this first round today (yet to be finished off, I admit) is shown above. The plan is that these will eventually be joined together in strips to make a larger whole.

Two months ago, two colours were drawn out of a hat and we were asked to produce a small piece 6 ins by 6 ins (hence the name) in whatever style took our fancy. This time the random colours were pink and green and to start us off, we were provided with a small pack of fabric, threads and beads in these colours to use and to which we could add from our own stash.

I added among other things strips of silk sari fabric, together with spun sari offcuts and fibres. I chose to put all these fabrics under the embellisher (needle felting machine) and then to hand stitch over the top. Inevitably, the piece ended up as a landscape as such impromptu pieces generally do. It is my default response when I haven't done any preliminary sketchbook work.

This sort of exercise tends to take me strangely out of my comfort zone as it is usually so different from what I am doing at the time, but it's good for me to think about other things and to work in a different way - to a formula and within boundaries, rather than freely and to my own agenda.

Right now, this formula inevitably involves the use of colour ... so definitely different and therefore probably most beneficial!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

More cut-outs and more shadows

Playing further with tree cut-outs and their shadows has thrown up many thoughts and questions. Unusual lighting conditions when photographing produced unexpected results (this first image has not been manipulated for colour in Photoshop) ...

... which gave me scope to play with colour in the Photoshop adjustment layers (there were many colour variations of this image) ...

Both of these seemed to give an extraordinary sense of depth to the image ... interesting what colour can do!

I then cropped another image and converted it into black and white, as I so often do, adjusting the contrast levels in Photoshop.

Doing this for several images gave many opportunities for cropping, rotating and abstracting which gave firstly this ...

... and then this ...
and finally this ...

It was interesting that these last three images did exactly the reverse of the first two, flattening out the images and losing that intense sense of 3D. The reference to trees was lost and the process produced graphic images where shape and black / white / gray contrast mattered the most.

All idle play right now, but may lead somewhere later ...