Friday, 6 July 2018

Looking at Colour

“Colour can be a lifetime of study, the more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know!”   
 Julia Triston

Last week Dia and Bernice joined me on one of my organised workshops with Guest Artist Julia Triston. The workshop is held at a local community centre in Yate (near Bristol), my home town and the centre has been part of the community since 1840 first as a Union Workhouse, then a War Hospital, a Care Home and then finally handed to the community to be used as a centre with preschool, nursery, dance school, physiotherapy, conference centre along with rooms for hire. It is a fascinating place full of history and stories (including ghosts!) and I fall a bit more in love with the place every time I visit! This time was no different, look at the gorgeous lavender leading up to the entrance!

Julia was teaching a design skills workshop on “Analysing Colour” and it was a way for us to spend a bit of time re-investigating colour and looking at ways to use colour in our sketchbooks and in our own work. We started off with a discussion on colour – what is colour?; How is it used?; What words describe colour? And finally, what words describe shades of green – wow so many!

We each painted six 4” squares with a specific shade of green (Jade, Mint, Emerald, Olive, Lime, Parrot) from memory and once dry, Julia laid the squares in colour lines first without labels and then with:

My 6 squares of green

Labelled green squares
Dia painting her green squares

It was fascinating to see how we each perceive colour and in fact, how very close we were from memory!

Moving on, we looked at the colour wheel, learning how to create primary colours and then using these created colours to create secondary and shades of complementary colours. We’d all made our own colour wheels before but using purchased primary colours so learning how to create our own was new to us and I can certainly see myself using this technique for my own work in future.

Making a primary red using Koh-i-nor watercolour paint

Making primary colours and secondary colours

Shades of complementary colours

Using magazines to provide colours, we created two collages, one of warm colours and one of cool colours. We extended the collages by matching each colour with paint chart chips. I had a bit of extra time first thing on the second day and had a go at matching the colours with thread.

Bernice has her right hand in a support cast while her hand heals.
It was a struggle but she managed to create her warm collage.

Warm colours

Cool colours
Dia's warm collage and paint chips

Dia's cool collage and paint chips

On the second day we started to look at how we could use the techniques from day one within our own work starting from gaining inspiration for a new theme.

Like many artists, when I start a new theme, I gather sources of inspiration and create a scrapbook of images that fit the theme or make me go “oh” in relation to how I am intending to work. I use a sketchbook, keep a folder of images on my laptop or on Pinterest and I look at the colours but I don’t tend to study the exact shades or the proportions of each colour etc. This is what Julia asked us to do using a source of inspiration we had each bought with us.

Isolating a section of our images, we each worked out what the colours were and in what proportion. Using matching coloured threads on a piece of card, we created a thread chart in the exact proportions that was determined. I found it difficult to match my threads accurately so chose to have a go using paint chart chips, which was surprisingly accurate!

Inspiration Photo and Colour Proportions

Inspiration Photo with thread and paint chip charts
Bernice's inspiration photo, paint chart chips and colour proportion list

As on day one, we used magazines as a source of colour and this time chose colours that matched the image colours as close as possible and created a collage using the same colour proportions. My image is of graffiti on a brick wall so I chose to make my collage more landscape like as I felt the colours worked really well for that type of picture. Once we had completed our collages, we took the exercise into fabric, creating a fabric collage using the as similar colours as possible. Stitch could be added to complete the collage further and I do plan to do this if I have time.

Collage using Colours from the inspiration photo

My inspiration photo, paint chip and thread colour charts, collage and fabric collage

Bernice's inspiration photo, paint chip chart and collage

Finally we moved on to the last exercise which looked at creating new designs from a collage. Using my warm collage, I isolated a small square and made 6 copies of the square by just following and simplifying some of the lines. Using 3 colours in light, medium and dark shades, I was able to create new designs by crossing the boundaries of the lines I had drawn. It is a very simple exercise but very effective. Julia also suggested ideas of how to extend this exercise further and I plan to have a go at these in the next few weeks.

Creating new designs

It was a packed two days and we came away feeling we had learned something new and with more confidence in using colour in our work. I’m keen now to get going with looking at colour more!


Tuesday, 26 June 2018


Hi, it's Becca here, I thought I would pop in and say hello as I've only been part of Traverse since May! After finishing the Experimental Textiles course with the rest of the Traverse members, I went on to do a mentor led course at the Windsor School of Textile Art and used my time to start working towards the new theme "Revealed".

My chosen concept (for "Revealed") is "Making the Invisible Visible" in relation to invisible disabilities and health conditions. I wanted to use my art to get the message across about how these hidden conditions affect you, whether physically or emotionally. It's not an easy concept to show I have to say! 

One of the hidden disabilities I have chosen is deafness - I am deaf, not that you would know if you met me, yet ... I am profoundly deaf. It is an invisible disability that affects 1 in 6 people, it is a disability that isn't understood even by those who know and it is one that creates frustration, irritation and loneliness for everyone with hearing loss whether mild or profound. My own and other people's experience of deafness is what inspired me to explore ways of making the invisible visible and as a result I'm currently exploring the hidden layers beneath the facade, showing the frustration and irritation that lies beneath.

Experimenting with wire and tape.

This past weekend has been my first full weekend at a Traverse group meet up and it has been fascinating to see what everyone has been up to!

 Deb is working away, shaping and adding stitch to her embellished felt.

Dia is looking at Stained Glass Windows and experimenting with ideas.

Cath has been exploring different ways to finish off her vessel. 

Bernice currently has one hand in plaster as her fingers heal after a nasty fall. Nevertheless, she had a go at working left handed on these Khadi paper zig zag books - pretty amazing result I have to say!

I've been using paper modelling to explore new ideas.

Becca x

Friday, 8 June 2018


Looking at something – anything – is more interesting than doing anything else, ever…

                                                                                                                   Patrick Heron

I wasn’t sure about this quote when I first read it last week at Tate St Ives – my love of music means listening is also very interesting for me – but, in relation to my textile art, many of Patrick Heron's  words aptly describe my own impetus and inspiration. His approach to painting came from direct visual responses to the world and his belief that all painting is abstract to some extent also resonates with my own inclinations. I love the way he manipulated flatness, space, colour and line when depicting what he saw when ‘looking at something’.

(N.B. - all images are my own photographs from the exhibition, as photography was allowed. However, some are not quite straight due to external factors. All italics are Patrick Heron's words)

Window for Tate Gallery St Ives : 1992-93 – one of the largest unleaded coloured glass windows in the world

The picture is not the vehicle of meaning: the picture is the meaning …

For someone who struggles sometimes with the concept-based approach to art, trying desperately to decide what my work ‘means’ (if anything) I loved this quote. I could really relate to his belief that the impact of the work on the viewer does not depend on it describing the world outside and that any meaning comes from the balance between the different forms, shapes, light and colour within it. 

And what colour there was - everywhere - I revelled in it!

… the reason why the stripes sufficed as the formal vehicle of the colour, was precisely that they were so very uncomplicated as shapes … With stripes one was free to deal only with the interaction between varying quantities of varied colours…

Green and Mauve Horizontals : 1958

The organisation of the exhibition highlighted several recurring features of composition in Patrick Heron's work. I found the following few most interesting:

Each colour-shape or area, however large or small, is as important as any other.

Orange and Lemon with Small Violet : 1977

Balance is often created by bunching forms along an edge and by the inter-relation of different sized shapes.

Square Green with Orange, Violet and Lemon : 1969

I was fascinated by the significance given to the edges in a painting and the way he managed to achieve a sense of balance through asymmetry.

Dark Purple and Ceruleum : 1965

Painting should resolve asymmetric, unequal, disparate formal ingredients into a state of architectonic harmony which, while remaining asymmetrical, nevertheless constitutes a perfect state of balance or equilibrium …
Big Complex Diagonal with Emerald and Reds : March 1972 - September 1974

I noticed that the painting above took him over two years to complete and then was amazed to read this quote beside the following huge, glorious canvas and I understood why …

My fifteen-foot canvases, involving sixty or more square feet of a single colour, were painted (in oil paint) from end to end with small Japanese water-colour brushes. But one doesn’t hand-paint for the sake of the ‘hand-done’; one merely knows that the surfaces worked in this way can – in fact they must – register a different nuance of spatial evocation and movement in every single square millimetre.

Cadmium with Violet. Scarlet, Emerald, Lemon and Venetian : 1969

Patrick Heron's work is much more varied than it appears here but I’ve concentrated particularly on these large colour canvases as they are the works which speak with the most power to me - colour is certainly the most significant feature for me in my own work. However, the various composition features identified above also gave me much thought – and continue to do so now we’ve returned home and I begin to think of my own work again.

I did find myself looking a little more carefully as we wandered around St Ives later – specifically at rust in all its glory. I needed some photos as inspiration for a workshop later this year – more on that later.

Watch this space and keep looking ...


Saturday, 26 May 2018

Down in Dorset with Cath

Last week, I was lucky enough to go on a four day workshop with Lynda Monk – in Dorset, which is a very long way from Leicestershire! It was a challenge for me to travel so far and there are not many artists I would do that for but I had attended a day's workshop with Lynda a couple of years ago and it was so good that I jumped at the chance.

I suppose you could call it a creative retreat. It was located in the beautiful setting of The Kingcombe Centre, part of Dorset Wildlife Trust, and we felt very much removed from the outside world, particularly as the internet and phone signals were rather unpredictable. It was very well organised by Maria Swain and Ann Emery and they certainly chose a wonderful place to be.

Having broken my long journey at Bristol, it took a couple of hours more to get there and the closer I got, the narrower the roads became, until I was driving along single track lanes brimming with wildflowers. Breathtakingly beautiful ... and I pulled into the gate at Kingcombe just in time for lunch – the first of many delicious meals.

After a quick introduction from Lynda, we spent the afternoon producing resources to be used during the following days – surfaces with layers of Lutradur of different weights, tissue, various mediums and adding colour with paint, ink or dyes, with some liberal sprinkling of salt.

Crumpled Tissue Sample

Reverse of stencilled moulding paste sample

A section of the right side of the above

I was particularly pleased with the stencilled moulding paste sample and would like to try it on a much larger scale.

We also had a messy time with Modroc, which I’d seen in school in my former teaching life, but had never had the chance to use myself. We layered it over a balloon to make a bowl.

After another delicious meal (I won’t mention any more meals!), we returned to the studio for the evening session - a very interesting talk from Lynda, about her personal journey into the textile art world.

Day 2 dawned bright and sunny and we continued working on the surfaces we’d made the day before and producing more, using painted Tyvek paper, layered in various combinations with acrylic felt, foil, fabric, thermofax screen prints and bubble wrap! I was so busy that I completely forgot to take any photos so these were taken later.

We also printed both sides of a large sheet of cartridge paper, using stencils and thermofax screens, which was later made into a book (which was a surprise and a source of amusement for some Traverse members as they know that I'm not usually into making books). However, I did enjoy the serendipity of assigning the pages, tearing the paper up and sorting the signatures randomly. The idea is to work further into these pages, when inspiration comes ...

Difficult to choose but I think this just might be my favourite ...

I made a mistake when making the holes for the binding, as can clearly be seen here ...

We had the option of working on into the evenings until at least 9.30 and most people chose to do that, fortified with wine and chocolate. I certainly needed to if I had any chance of keeping up!

The following morning, we had an interesting little added extra as the Kingcombe Centre had kindly set up the moth trap overnight and we had a little look at the various specimens inside. Unfortunately, I can't remember the names of these two lovely creatures.

Day 3 in the course notes was flagged up by Lynda as ‘busy' – we smiled and wondered what the previous day and a half had been in her eyes! Joking aside, she is an excellent tutor who caters for all - fast workers, who finish every activity quickly and those, like me, who take a lot longer.

We removed the balloons and covered our Modroc bowls with a layer of gesso, which I used to attach some scrim, both around the top to soften the edge and to emphasise the spiral line going around it. This was followed with a layer of white acrylic paint. When it was dry, I drilled holes in it to enable me to stitch later and then painted it with contrasting layers of Golden fluid acrylic paint. I rubbed back the top layer to reveal the bottom layer in places.

I must confess to losing track of exactly when some of the many activities were started or completed but between the morning of Day 3 and when we left after lunchtime on Day 4, I managed to achieve the following:

  • An unfinished vessel which will be painted in a similar fashion to the bowl. It needs some work as I’m not sure about the Xpandaprint ‘lumps’ which look a bit like popcorn stuck on. White acrylic felt, with various layers underneath, was free-machined in random wavy lines, cut with a soldering iron and then sewn around a tube, before application of gesso and aforementioned Xpandaprint. Heat was applied and there you have it – popcorn!

  • An unfinished hanging of cotton duck, layered with a woollen blanket, using a very similar technique to the vessel to produce a raised area in the centre. The photo shows it at a very early stage. It will have more stitched lines and be covered with gesso, white acrylic and painted with fluid acrylics as before. As you can see, it has been heated and burnt but all will be hidden!

  • The stencilled piece was prepared to make a small sketchbook by attaching it to a layer of felt, adding some free motion stitch and gluing it to book board. The holes are for the (lost) book screws which will hold the pages when I find where they are hiding!

Book Cover

  • A folded pocket book out of the painted layered scrumpled tissue paper sample, which was first protected with acrylic wax.
Folded Pocket Book

It has to be said that several people on the course finished a lot more than that; some stitched and framed their samples or used them to make different book covers, while others went away with patterns and plans to make bags or small decorative shoes.

However, I was well and truly happy with what I achieved; the whole experience was fantastic and I felt very lucky to have been there in that concentrated, creative environment with a wonderful tutor and such talented, friendly people. I sat in my Bristol hotel on the way home, stitching my bowl - very tired but with a huge smile on my face.