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 ...

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Nightingales and a cuckoo

On Tuesday evening, we spent a lovely couple of hours on a walk organised by the Cotswold Waterparks Trust at a site near Minety in Wiltshire, close to where we live. The point of the evening was to listen out for the wonderful male Nightingale which sings with such exquisite volume in the evening in the breeding season in late April and May - if you are lucky enough to hear him.

We did indeed hear him, deep in this thorny thicket, hidden from view to all but the most expert of eyes (fortunately supplied out by our guide, Nick), and sitting on the branch indicated by the white arrow. He sang as can be heard on this YouTube clip, intermittently at first. Later in the evening, he had moved to the large ash tree on the left of the photo and as it grew darker he sang continuously with the most extraordinary intensity and volume. The tree was fortunately not in full leaf and with binoculars we could see him clearly, his beak opening and his throat swelling with his song - wonderful!


Nightingales ( Luscinia megarhynchos) are surprisingly small - only slightly larger than our European robins - and are shy birds preferring to hide in thick bushes, and to nest close to the ground in dense brambles. In the UK they are rare and in Wiltshire here we are on the northern edge of their range so it is very unusual to hear them. During the evening we heard at least four different males, some at a distance since their song can carry a surprisingly long way.


So also can the call of the cuckoo. These birds are declining rapidly and only the other day, my husband and I were saying we hadn't heard a cuckoo for several springs and were wondering whether we would hear one this year. As we climbed over the stile at the beginning of the walk, a male called and continued to call throughout our two hours and through binoculars, we saw him perched on top of an isolated dead tree.


There were also many other birds calling in this wild and overgrown spot - including song thrushes (declining in numbers in the UK), blackbirds, warblers, and a whitethroat (the latter identified for us).

It was a wonderful evening. Our thanks to the CWPT for organising it. We will look out again for the dates next year.

* Both bird photos are from the excellent RSPB website.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Paper cut trees

I've experimented for the last few days laying down tracings of a tree outline in various sizes over one another and then cutting round the outlines and between the trees to create lines within the shapes and draw attention to the outlines ...


to work with shadows ...


and to cut out look-throughs ...


Last of all, I began to abstract further, colouring in some of the shapes within using graphite sticks and a paper blending stick. 


This is very much work on-going and I hope the strange lighting conditions I seemed to need to produce shadows I could photograph allow the work to be seen adequately!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Folding a colour photograph

I've been playing this afternoon with the colour potential of my new A3 printer ... just a little bit so far.

Two photographs of a stream bed, each slightly different but stuck back to back and enhanced, with marks added and overprinted, folded and partially cut, gave this:






A book of pictures, an unfolded box, a random 3D structure? The different forms that are possible with this fold are themselves an entertainment!


Saturday, 15 April 2017

Black, White and red and Stitch

I've been playing around with the idea of stitching on top of the hedge images I've posted on several occasions over the last two months. For this experiment, I settled on using parts of the image in the simple accordion fold book shown here. I'm hoping eventually to achieve a pair of pieces to be hung one above the other and using the complete versions of both the positive and inverted images in that book, though time will tell.

Two experimental versions have followed in my evening stitching time. Both are shown below, very much as work in progress. On each, I've kept the stitches simple, using only a basic satin stitch for the trunks of the trees and small single-wound French knots to suggest leaves. In each case, I've been working on the placing and density of the stitching as I don't want to lose the original images by covering them in stitch.


The first and, I think, so far the most successful, shows a black image on a white ground with red stitching in No. 12 pearl cotton to pick out some of the individual trees. I've played with the position of intense stitching and which areas to leave completely unstitched. I don't yet feel I have this right but this trial has been most useful.

The inverted image, white on a black ground, has seemed much more difficult so I've worked several stitching alternatives on the same piece.


Red stitching appears to jump forward too much and white stitching disappears, leaving only a vague feeling of texture when viewed from a distance, even when I used No. 8 pearl cotton. Another alternative I tried was to use a variegated black / grey / white thread but again this gives much less impact than in the first piece above.

I don't yet feel the two pieces would work well together. I'm still considering alternatives as I work further on them both.


Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Digital Mark making

I spent time earlier this week playing with digital mark making - enhancing and printing to A3 a photograph I'd taken recently which included strong abstract marks when enlarged and cropped. I then put the image through the printer for a second time to overlay it with tree outlines which I placed and printed randomly - at least as randomly as I've so far found to be possible within Photoshop Elements print options. I folded the sheet using a simple structure that involves partial cutting into thirds and then a form of accordion folding.






In May I'm going to do Pixeladies Course 3 which with luck will help with this overlaying issue (and many others, hopefully) and enable me to have more control over what happens when I undertake this kind of mark making. If the quality of previous courses with these two ladies is anything to go by, I'm sure it will be excellent.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Cloudless spring sun, wildflowers and beautiful scenery

What a lovely day we had yesterday. We went up to Winchcombe in the Cotswolds north of Cheltenham. The sun shone from early morning and it was cloudless and warm (an unusual 20+ c). This is always a lovely area and it looked especially good with the sun on the pale ochre buildings and the trees casting gentle leafless shadows. It was a lovely way to welcome in spring.

In the morning in fact, this was a trip with a difference since we walked round Winchcombe completing a 'murder mystery' trail that my husband had been given for Christmas. This was great fun and deciphering the 23 clues forced us to look hard at the old buildings, read the information plaques on the walls and drink in the history and prettiness of the place, including this delightful row of cottages leading down to the river ...


... and to spot small instances of quirkiness, including a pair of metal posts either side of a short flight of steps up to the church which were topped by little elephants the size of my hand - very tactile - but it was hard to work out their purpose or the reason for their choice.


Then there was a dog gate beside a stile with an almost canine face on top (the whole lifted up to allow the dog to pass through rather than climb the stile) ...


... and particular doggy nonsense, these gems on dog mannequins in a pet shop window.


Everywhere there were spring flowers, hedges bursting with blossom and sunlight glinting on water ...




All in all, it seemed a most unlikely setting for a murder!

After lunch, we completed a short section of the Cotswold Way that we hadn't done before. For those who don't know it, the Cotswold Way is one of the Uk's sixteen long distance National Trails. Each one takes the walker through examples of the country's most beautiful rural scenery. This one is about 100 miles in length, all along the top of the Cotswold escarpment. Over the years we have walked many sections and the views are always spectacular and every mile a pleasure to walk. 

This time, our goals were very modest. We were heading for the neolithic long barrow of Belas Knap, a round trip of a mere 1 1/2 miles. We walked up the steep face of the escapement from a small roadside car park and through a wood ...


... and out onto open grassland and beside a stone wall for panoramic views.



Then the walk finally took us along a sunken, tree-lined path to reach the Knap.



  The long barrow was hard to photograph as the enclosure around it was small but further details and much better photographs can be found here on the English Heritage website. 


Tomorrow the weather is forecast to return to normal - cool and showery - and more typical of  a British April. I hope we've not just had summer!


Sunday, 2 April 2017

Hedges Book

Yesterday, I finally completed the version of star accordion artists' book that I first posted about last month.





Before adding covers, a closure and a title, I photographed the piece from a variety of angles. The more sculptural of these no longer worked after the addition of the covers with their extra weight but I've chosen one to show here, mostly because of the shadows it cast in sunlight. 


This has been an excellent learning experience, although I still have some issues to resolve for future books of this kind - mostly to do with the strength of spine where I feel the structure is very fragile. 

However, for the moment, I have plans for something rather different ...