Friday, 23 January 2015

Finish Me! Art Journals - Getting Started on Finishing

Well this is pretty much how my desk has looked all week - piled high with stacks of papers!

These are pages for the latest batch and I spent a happy morning spray can in hand.. Really liking them, mind you, I'm finding I like every book even more than the last. I've had to close orders for the books for a short while, just so I can catch up on those already on my request list. As soon as they are done, I'll make a new batch and let you know here when they are up for grabs.

Getting Started on Finishing the Book

I promised to share some ideas and tips to help finish the book. Today's might seem simple, but I think it's a really fundamental thing - get to know your book! A conventional shop-bought sketchbook will usually use the same paper throughout. There are no surprises. The Finish Me books are quite the opposite, I've tried to use all sorts of things and now's the time to get familiar with what's in your book. 

Get a feel for the papers that I've included: thick, thin, translucent, plain, printed...have you got drawings, prints, photos, rubbings, stencilling? Maybe there is text or images which suggests a theme? Perhaps there's a combination of colours on a page that suggests a colour palette?

When you look through the book, does it bring to mind things that you've saved and have stashed in a drawer somewhere? I'd suggest spending some time over the next couple of days finding out anything that you think might become relevant to the book. Perhaps you have your own prints, drawings and other bits and pieces that are currently homeless. Pull them out of the drawer, folder or heap and keep them handy. This book has started out as my work, but now it's time for it to become yours.

I'll be back again soon with the first hand-on tips for working on the pages.

Bye for now,

Monday, 19 January 2015

Drafting in help

Well, turns out the "Finish Me!" journals are more popular than I'd anticipated. I confess, I'd made 8, one to keep for myself and one for Linda. I thought if I was lucky, that I might have takers for the others. I'm delighted that they, and more, have all sold. I've raided another drawer in the plan chest and have been busily making books. If you've ordered one, then a big thank you for your purchase. I'll get your book out to you as soon as is humanly possible!

As I've been binding them, I've been giving lots of thought to ideas for things we can do to finish the books. I've come up with some suggestions that I hope you'll think will be a lot of fun so do check back to the blog over the next week or so for the first post. (I'll pop a link on Facebook and Twitter too).

I wanted to make some new printed papers for the next batch of books and so I've drafted in some extra apprentice hadn't done monoprinting before. Luckily she's a quick learner...

We started with a bit of block printing. You can picture the scene - I'm trying to be super-productive and have several sheets of lovely clean white paper ready, clean roller, a plan in mind, then a little voice chirps up "I'll try!". The only place for her to go was on the table. She commandeered three sheets of paper and of course, the dirty roller, clean roller system lasted about a minute.

Next up, monoprinting. I showed her the technique where you ink up the plate, pop it face down, very lightly, and draw on the back to make the design (we'll be doing this one at my monoprint workshops this summer!). 

A little drawing with the left hand... and a little with the right...


Thanks for visiting today. Better go cut up some more papers (and scrub the paint off the table).


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Finish Me! Art journals

I've started a new sketchbook. I know, I can't help myself! This is a sketchbook with a difference though. Instead of working in a blank book I've bound a collection of interesting pages to make something really special to work in.

I couldn't make just one - I have lots of lovely papers - so I've made a small batch and I wondered if you might like to work along? I'll be posting ideas to try over the next few weeks and I hope you'll find these little books make an ideal sketchbook or art journal, maybe even a diary.

The books are a manageable size and I've included all sorts of papers. You will get lovely quality  blank cartridge, watercolour and tracing paper, vintage maps and pages salvaged from books including antique papers from the 18th and 19th Century. Alongside these pages I've raided the drawers in my studio and you might get original monoprints, etchings, painted papers, linoprints and more. 

Pages are 15cm x 15cm. approx. 58 sheets (116 pages) per book with hardback covers (black front, white back). All books are hand cut and spiral bound by me.

"Finish Me" Art Journal/Sketchbook from £15 including postage.

The first batch is all sold, but I'm making more - there will be a slight delay while I cut paper!

I love how the random nature of this binding technique means that a vintage map can end up facing an original page of beautiful 18th Century print.

Also in the books you'll find original 19th Century newspaper pages like this one.

Maybe you'll get an original monoprinted page by yours truly.

Or maybe even a page of vintage atlas showing the place where you live.

You might also get some funky monoprints.

Thanks for visiting, I'll be back soon with a look at how my book is shaping up. In the meantime, why not head over to Linda's blog where she's already made a start on hers.


Friday, 16 January 2015

What Dreams May Come

Quilting has been a bit lacking here on the blog in recent weeks, but I have been working and here's the evidence...

'What Dreams May Come', 2015
48cm x 124cm
Digital print, reverse appliqué, hand written text, machine quilting.

If you'd like to give this quilt a new home please email to reserve. 

Thanks for visiting today,

Monday, 5 January 2015

Sky Arts and NPG info

Just a quick catch up post tonight. Thank you for all the comments on recent blog posts here and on Facebook. I thought rather than answer everything separately it made sense to pop some info here all in one place which'll hopefully help:

Sky Portrait Artist of the Year
This series was shown on Sky Arts channel which we get here in the UK by subscription. Not sure if it's available in other countries. Here's the website with more about the shows:

There are also clips on You Tube:

including this one:

And they've done a book called A Little Book of Portraits, but I've not seen it, so I have no idea if it's worth a look.

The winner was Christian Hook and his website, Facebook, Twitter etc. is here:

Some of the paintings from the series are on display at the National Portrait Gallery. Here's their website:

where you can browse the collection and see thousands of portraits and video clips.

All that left me thoroughly inspired to pick up a paintbrush and have a go. I've just primed a panel with gesso so as soon as it's dry, no excuses!

Bye for now,

Drawing table

As the house renovations progress outside, finally I feel as though I can start to dream about tackling the interior of this house. Redecorating, organising and finding places for things. Last weekend we had to clear out the spare bedroom for some work to be done there. It's where I'd been keeping all the artwork to go on the walls. I so miss having the paintings, prints, antique samplers and vintage mirrors up on the walls. The house seems so bare without it, but it'll have to wait a while longer.

The first room to be tackled is Amelie's bedroom and so I've been looking for ideas wherever I go. Just before Christmas we all went for coffee, hot chocolates and milkshakes at a nearby cafe. It's a retro, shabby-chic kind of place and brilliantly one of the tables we sat at had been painted with blackboard paint. There was a little pot of chalks and Amelie was happily entertained. She has been using an old Ikea coffee table as a drawing table in the studio. I thought this would be perfect for the blackboard treatment.

Here's my apprentice all ready with her apron. As you can tell from the background, it really is chaos here at the moment!

The little chair was to get the treatment too. First we had to wash off the paint that Amelie had added one day...

We used Annie Sloan chalk paint which is perfect for the lazy decorator as no prep is needed and it's waterbased so clean up is easy, luckily. We painted the legs and sides of the table and the frame of the chair.

It says on the tin that one coat is often enough, but we found that two was better. Once the white was dry, and Amelie was in bed, I painted the top with blackboard paint. It takes two coats with a light sand between, but it water based and really easy to use.

It dried overnight and was put to the test first thing the next day. It's going to be perfect up in her room! Like the idea, but don't have a small table to use? Why not frame a piece of MDF or hardboard painted with blackboard paint to make a funky drawing board for a child's bedroom? Or perhaps you could upcycle an old wooden tray, that'd be just perfect too.

Thanks for dropping by,

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Contemporary Portraiture

So after yesterday's post of 500-ish-year-old portraits, today I'm sharing some of the contemporary work that we enjoyed. Have you been following the Sky Portrait Artist of the Year programme on TV? I have looked forward to it every week. There is something so fascinating about watching someone paint. When I used to catch the train to uni a woman used to get on at the same stop as me. She got on the train barefaced, but over the course of the journey would apply full make-up. I found that daily transformation strangely compelling too.

The absolute star of the Sky series has been Christian Hook and for once the right person won these things and he was commissioned to paint a portrait of Alan Cumming for the Scottish NPG. Paintings from the three finalists were on display at the NPG yesterday. His work faced the two runners up. They were all excellent of course, but his was just in another league. I was so pleased not to be disappointed by them when I saw them for real.

Portrait of Amir Khan, Christian Hook, details below.

He said in the TV shows that he liked to paint by taking risks, making things wrong and then pulling it back. That approach could be risky in so much that the swipes, gestural marks, drips and smears could look like a gimmick, but they don't. They're balanced by the deliberate marks which are brilliantly economical. It's loose, exciting, but perfect all at the same time.

Self portrait, Christian Hook, detail below.

If you have the opportunity to watch the final programme please do. The way he approached the sittings with Alan, he was clever, thoughtful and brave, and seems to be a really nice guy. The portrait that he gifted to Alan was just amazing. Genius. I think this is my new favourite painting.

Thanks for visiting,

Friday, 2 January 2015

Making my heart beat a little faster

2015 has begun and I am already filled with inspiration. Today Jamie and I headed out far too early in the morning to catch a train to London. My treat was to see the Tudor paintings at the National Portrait Gallery. I love this period of painting and I knew I'd love them, but still, when you walk into the room surrounded on all sides by The Ditchley Portrait, Phoenix portrait and two Armada portraits, I can't deny that my heart beat just a little faster. Photography wasn't allowed which was a real shame, so you'll have to make do with these pictures that I've pinched from the web just to help set the scene...

'Armada Portrait', c.1588

'The Phoenix Portrait', attributed to Hilliard, 1575

But honestly, these images do the originals no justice at all. They are not just paintings, but fascinating historical objects. Just perfect.

Seeing painting for real rather than in books or on the internet is so important. These portraits might appear to be photographic in their detail and realism, but up close, a pearl is suggested with three swipes of paint, so thinly applied that the painting beneath shows through, but step back slightly and I'm thoroughly convinced.

We wandered around the rest of the Portrait Gallery and also next door, for a whistle-stop tour of the National. Photography is mostly allowed in these galleries. Here are some of my favourites...

'A Young Princess', Jan Gossaert, c.1530-2
I thought this portrait of a young girl to be exquisite. Quite small in scale, the painting was so beautifully done. Something which stood out amongst most of the paintings we looked at today, was how beautifully the painting of the fabrics had been executed with such a lightness of touch and economy of brushstroke.

'Cornelis van der Geest', Anthony van Dyck, c.1620, detail below.
This captivating portrait was so at home in this wonderful frame. I love it when the painting and the frame belong so well together as a complete object. Photography does something to these paintings that deadens them, you really must go and see them for real.

'Portrait of a woman of the Hofer family', artist unknown, c.1470, detail.
This was another beauty. I love the almost monochromatic colour palette.

And now for something quite different but equally compelling. I'm so fascinated by this piece of work. I have a photo of it stuck into a sketchbook from years ago and I often come back to it. Could there be more of a self portrait than this? 

Terrible photo because of reflections, here's a better photo of another version of this piece from the web...

'Self', Marc Quinn, cast of the artist's head, the artist's blood.
You know when you go to see a wonderful movie and at the end you walk out of the dark and out into the car park and the world is just going on as normal? It was a bit like that today, we stepped out of the gallery and all of London was bustling away. 

The National Gallery, London
I don't think I will sleep much tonight. 


Thursday, 1 January 2015

Bring it on

Last night as we ate our New Year's Eve treat takeaway pizza, Jamie asked me what life-changing things I thought were going to happen in 2015. I gave him a look, glanced at the new windows which are stacked against the wall behind our dining table and suggested that finishing the house would be life-changing enough thank you.

It's been a gloomy few weeks around here as the whole house is draped with layers of hessian and tarpaulins. This is to protect the exterior walls from the weather as we add the insulation and layers of render. It's not the ideal time of year, but for one reason and another, we had to have the work done now. I for one, will be very glad when the coverings come off and the scaffold comes down. This house, which was getting a bit old and tired will be renewed again and can open it's eyes.

So while it feels like the list of jobs to do is still incredibly long, a lot was achieved in 2014. We have tried to make the house as eco as possible and have fitted solar panels to generate electricity and heat our water. We're trying not to get obsessed with checking the meter to see how much power we've generated! The new windows will be much more thermally efficient and the insulation is already doing it's thing and keeping us toasty.

Progress is more obvious on the pavilion. It was at the point of falling down before Jamie took it apart piece by piece, remade the base and put it all back together again.

We've managed to salvage lots of the existing structure and re-roofed it with shingles mostly saved from the house roof which was very satisfying. It's just waiting now for a lick of paint and from the outside it'll all look done.

Inside of course is a different story, but it's insulated and plaster boarded, it'll be plastered next week (fingers crossed) and I'll soon be able to crack open a big tub of white emulsion. It's such a cute little building from outside, inside, the space is light and airy and I know is going to be so pleasant to work in. I'll be holding workshops here from March onwards and I hope you'll want to join me. Lots to do between now and then, bring it on!

thanks for visiting,