These are the things that excite me : well chosen words, vibrant colours that sing of summer , the compelling rhythm of nature's patterns, blank pages pregnant with possibilities. These are the things that I love: my family, creating, painting, writing, laughing, being.
I’ve been discovering the joys of ecoprinting on vintage woolen blankets. I’d already been working with silk and cotton but had been wanting to try some wool which is either very expensive if new or difficult to find if recycled . Vintage blankets are a good way to get a decent amount of yardage at a reasonable price for the beginner. They’re hard to come by so when I get my hands on one it’s exciting planning what to make with it.
I’ve done capes…
as well as bags and clutches…
I have two freshly washed and folded blankets sitting in my stash at the moment and I’ve been waiting impatiently to start layering them with leaves so tomorrow could be the day!
I can’t believe it’s been over 4 months since I last posted! What have I been doing with my time you might ask.
A big chunk of it was spent travelling to the US and Canada again . Some highlights were:
…. getting caught in the big Montana snowstorms which was a bit scary for someone who never drives in the snow. It was so beautiful and sureal it almost made up for the giant stress monster sitting in the pit of my stomach as I drove through the horizontal snowstorm.
There were some great moments with wildlife…
and I absolutely soaked up the autumn colours .
Then there was the coast…even the overcast days couldn’t dampen my spirit as we hiked into Shi shi Beach and watched the big waves pounding in along the coast.
I managed to get some painting in as well…my favourite time was in the misty rain at Heather Meadows. The colours seemed to really glow in the overcast conditions. It was cold but so lovely.
After we got home I was straight into an epic round of custom paintings for Christmas gifts which took me right up to a week before Christmas. I just finished my last order yesterday and for the first time in 5 months I have no commissions on my waiting list and the amount of time I have for other projects is pretty exciting!!!! Of course it won’t last so I’m planning on making the most of it. I’ve already been out foraging for leaves and doing some pre mordanting of my stash of fabrics ready for a bout of eco printing. I’ll keep you posted….
I’ve been dabbling with my eco printing again. I invested in some timber and built a small bench and shelves outside the laundry area so I can keep my soaking leaf collection and dye pots in some sort of order! It should be complete ORDER but I get too carried way with the excitement of making new discoveries and it all ends up bit of a jumble…still the new shelves do contain it somewhat.
I finally found a smoke bush tree in the neighbour’s garden and he kindly allowed me to harvest the autumn leaves so I dried then before we left on our travels and now I’m using them…I’m a bit like a miser slowly and grudgingly depleting my stockpile because they’re all I have until spring brings the new leaves…But am loving the results.
I’ve also tried some natural cochineal dye which ended up giving a lovely watecolour effect when overprinted with leaves.
…and I collected onion skins for a few weeks and dyed some silk scarves with them…sunshine in a dyepot! Photos to come at a later date.
And let’s not forget the humble gum leaf which gives such lovely results when sandwiched between 2 silk scarves and steamed for an hour.
So not a lot of posting’s been going on but my dye pots have been getting a goodly amount of attention and I’m learning as I print and dye.
It’s been awhile since I posted so thought I would share a few pages from my current travel sketchbook. I’m swanning around the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts for a few weeks and enjoying all the sun, sea and swimming. In between I’m snatching a few minutes to do some watercolour and ink sketches to remind me of the beautiful places I’ve been visiting on those cold winter days back in Tasmania!
I’ve spent a few days doing some eco printing this week. Mostly scarves and upcycled cotton tees. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve discovered some new ways to mordant to get different results so it’s been educational as well.
Here’s a few of my results
It was a fun week!!!
Now I have to soak some more leaves because I used them all up!
A couple of weekends ago I was a student at a Maxwell Wilks pastel workshop. I had a great time and broke out the hard pastels which was a bit of a novelty for me. Have never owned any Rembrandts before but bought a small box of half sticks and reallly enjoyed working with them. The tin of 24 Derwent hard sticks was a sensational buy – only $35Aus and I like them better than my conte sticks and MUCH better than those hard Faber Castels which just do not want to lay down any colour – well not for me anyway! Wish I’d bought the larger tin.
Also used the smooth side of Canson Mi Tientes ( not the gritty, textured paper) . I’ve used it occasionally in the past but was still surprised by how many layer of pastel it will take! I’ll be more prepared to use this paper in the future instead of always using my favouritre Colourfix textured paper. We used a lot of colour and everyone had a blast.
I’ve been trying out a few new gels and pastes lately in my acrylic paintings and having some fun. Here’s a 30 x 30 cm canvas I just finished using some clear tar gel and molding paste to help create that tangle of flowers and weeds in the foreground. Will be trying a few more ways of using the gel I’m sure.
On Saturday I realised that I was supposed to hand in a painting to the Art Society of Tasmania’s March member exhibition the VERY NEXT DAY. The theme is “From my Studio” and I’d been putting off deciding on my entry because I don’t really have much of a view from my little studio room. Both windows look out onto the side path which has a large concrete retaining wall a few feet away. I painted it with a mural years ago but it’s a bit faded now so the view is not so inspiring.I’d been wrestling with the idea of not taking the theme literally but instead thinking of it as a prompt.
“From my studio” I :
imagine dreamworlds of abstract patterns and shapes
reach into my memory and paint from images past
travel to far countries via my photo records
dip into my sketchbooks and reinvent a scene
but somehow this time I did want to represent something literally seen from my studio. It’s been niggling away at me and I just couldn’t make up my mind so on Saturday when I was tidying up my photos on my laptop I came across some great sky photos – they were taken outside my studio and I can see that sky through my window!
It wasn’t enough on it’s own even though I liked the pattern of the trees against the sky so I gave it some more thought as I sanded back an old frame I’d just bought home from the recycling centre. I decided to use the frame dimensions as the painting dimensions and to do it in pastel. So there I had the bones of an idea, the format, the medium and size worked out and now I needed to flesh it out a bit more.
The format was a bit unusual ( 2:1 ) and it presented a few challenges. First I needed to crop my sky photo to fit whilst keeping the feel that had attracted me in the first place.
I felt the foreground would need
something of real interest in it to make the painting work and that a few
diagonals would help to lead the viewer up into that wonderful sky. It must be
interesting , be able to connect the strip of grass in the foreground with the
trees in the middle and distance , fit in a narrow space and importantly , it
must thematically connect as an idea with the sky- not a lot to ask
right! One of my students had used a reference photo of mine with an old
fence post during Friday’s pastel class and I’ve used that post before so I
pulled out the photo and used it to block in a post on the bottom left which
would stop the down hill run out of the corner as the eye followed the diagonal
line of the sloping paddock ( we live on a fairly steep 5 acres).
I did a little value study to see if the shapes
would work and decided to add in a little extra grass in the foreground.
Having kept the viewer in the painting I really
wanted to reward them for staying with me! There are a lot of birds around our
place and they’re a constant joy so a bird seemed a good idea. I have a
collection of reference photos I’ve taken but none of them seemed right.
The Black Cockatoos were big enough, I had photos of them in flight but they
seemed too dark . The parrots were too small and too bright. Then I hit on the
idea of a wedge tailed eagle , wings outstretched , landing on the post. I did
a trial sketch of the eagle, thought it looked right and started on the
My first go at the eagle wasn’t a success! It
looked the right size in my sketch but when I blocked it in with charcoal I
could see it was too small. There was no real connection between the grass and
the trees..so out it came!
In my final version I removed some of the
trees behind the eagle so I could highlight it against the golds of the sky,
the tail connects to the grass, the head to the sky and the wings lead up into
the trees and onto the sky. I feel I’ve set up a good dynamic ,flow and
counterpoint using the diagonals of the post, paddock, legs, wings and
treelines. The old post stops the viewer from leaving via the bottom left
corner. Although the eagle is fairly dark against the trees there is enough
light and contrast from the white feathers and the golden glow of the back
feathers so that he is easily seen. Looking at it now I can see that perhaps
I’ve split it too neatly in half with the light and dark values but that’s a
lesson learned for next time!
And that’s how
I was able to come up with a concept to fit the brief, paint it, frame it and
deliver on time. From the initial idea to the finished framed painting took me
6 hours and I’d been procrastinating for weeks! Sometimes it happens when it
Life has been pretty busy for me lately which will come as no surprise to those of you who have read a few of my posts! I keep taking on new projects and beefing up existing ones because I want to make the most of my time and talents while my mind is still sharp ( well…semi-sharp!) and my limbs can do as they’re told. I was slowed down this week as my Mum was unwell and I spent a few nights at her place with no internet connection and a lot of quiet time to reflect. Here are some of those reflections…
Often I can’t see the whole picture and I build up “truths” from the broken fragments I can see. Maybe I should be a little less sure of my view of the world and a little more willing to consider someone elses “truth”.
Rock is a solid substance yet sometimes it seems to flow like this river of rock on the Mt Carmel highway. Even those people who seem to have their lives and views set in stone can have a vulnerable, kinder side if I take the time to get to know them.
Water is beautiful, refreshing and restful but it can also be a force that can sweep you off your feet. People have many sides – I should be grateful for their complexity .
The evening glow is a lovely, but maybe it’s not so lovely for some of the older people we know and they need some help to enjoy it, to feel safe and protected so they can have an opportunity to reflect on their lives and share their wisdom.
It’s not always smooth sailing. Enjoy it while you can!
Don’t forget to look below the surface! There are some beautiful hidden treasures I will miss if I don’t dive a bit deeper
Memories are precious. Share them before I forget them!
I found this sitting in my Draft bin and realised I’d never posted it – so here’s a little story form Dec 2017.
Early December amongst the manic finishing of Christmas commissions I got a very professional and pleasant email from someone purporting to work for Etsy in Australia. She asked if I would agree to loan a small painting for a photo shoot at Australian House and Garden magazine. I just needed to send it the next day to reach Sydney in time for the shoot.
My first reaction was that it was a scam. Someone was trying for some free Christmas presents! The email looked legit but I knew that Etsy had closed it’s staff office in Australia earlier that year so my suspicions were fueled. The IT Geek checked it out and assured me it was definitely a scam.
Donning my figurative deerstalker I started my own little investigation. First I asked around on the Etsy teams if anyone knew of a Sarah who worked for Etsy. Straight away someone replied that there used to be a Sarah who worked in PR – maybe it was her? Next I googled the company name on her email and that seemed to be a legit PR firm. I google earthed the address she’d asked me to post it to and that was a photo studio complex. Lastly I phoned up reception at the PR company and asked them to put me through to Sarah , and they did.
With all the evidence in I decided to send off the little painting, the IT Geek was still sceptical.
Two weeks later it arrived back, well packed and a thank you note included.There was no mention of when or if it would appear in the magazine and I assumed they didn’t use it.
Then a couple of days ago I got tagged in an Instagram post and there it was, my little seascape sitting on a bedside table in a beautifully styled bedroom. And 1 day later the painting was sold!
Maybe I wouldn’t have sent it if it was a more valuable painting but I’m glad I was willing to take a small gamble, do a bit of due diligence and cough up for the post. Now to go and check out that legacy I just need to send my passport to collect…..