27 November 2006

Landscape with new eyes

Well, what a weekend! Courtesy of an old friend who couldn't attend, I got a last-minute place in the Rex Backhaus-Smith mixed-media landscape course, run by the Artists Society of Canberra. In sweltering heat, we gathered at the Sea Scout's hall in Yarraluma last weekend.

Rex was an excellent instructor, and showed us his techniques openly and clearly - he wasn't 'precious' about sharing his methods with us. The basics lie in developing a rich underpainting, in staining paints, and using such resist techniques as oil pastel, masking fluid, or wax, which is then painted over in pigmented (non-staining) paints. This top layer can then be wiped back with a sponge to reveal rich colours and patterns underneath, adding incredible depth to the top-level painting.

Rex was really encouraging us to do more than simply paint a landscape, painting what was before our eyes - but to add our own interpretaion to the scene, add layers of meaning, add abstraction in colour or shape, and so on.

This is the first major exercise I did - we had to develop a rhythmic pattern / design with rich colour washes and resist - I designed an off-centre square, with other rough squares tumbling along, and wavy lines. None of us had an end destination in mind, the initial paintings were very abstract. I've never used so much watercolour paint - huge gobs of the stuff! Eeek! I used half-sheets of paper (300 gsm Fabriano) to help conserve my resources...

After much work, this is the end result - my initial painting ended up suggesting an ocean pool to me (you know, the built-up pools at the edge of the ocean)... so this view is a bird's eye view from above, with a path and bushes surrounding the pool. Rex said that this was a daring composition, with such strong angled elements, but that it worked well.

Ocean Pool

Our second exercise was to paint a more literal landscape, with 'new eyes' - I chose a view of the Deua National Park through to the Great Dividing Range, which I'd photographed from a lookout site near Bateman's Bay. This is my initial (bit too loose/uncontrolled) rough wash, over my pencil drawing.

Mid-way, drying in the sun outside...

And after much work, this is how it ended up! I might make the panel at the left a bit darker, not sure - but Rex felt that it was finished. He said that my work had a "refreshing naivity", which was hard to capture in watercolour, and I mustn't lose, as it was what made my artwork uniquely mine.

Deua Ranges

Here's Rex in full spate, discussing our work - we had regular 'viewings' during both days, when we'd all prop our work up outside, and he'd comment on each piece, suggesting changes, and so on - this was done really well, so that no-one felt upset, and we all learnt from what he was saying about all the works as a whole... It was pretty full-on - concentrating soldily for 7 hours each day, working, trying to understand exactly what Rex was trying to get through to us, thinking about how we could change our own work to incorporate more interpretive elements. It's was VERY valuable, and really great to spend a whole weekend being arty - I also met some old friends and made some new ones :)

For those of you who are able, Rex and his wife Judith Laws are having a special art show at the Solander Gallery, 10 Schlick St, Yarraluma, opening TONIGHT at 6pm, then open from 10am-5pm Tuesday 28th and Wednesday 29th this week only, before they return to Queensland. Worth seeing!!

Happy Birthday to ME

It's my Blog's first birthday - how'd have thunk it? It's been fun, on the whole, more fun than I was expecting - and I've made new friends, so that's a Good Thing TM. Well, that's all I really wanted to say.

25 November 2006

More lemons

At last I can show you this - it was a gift for K, so I couldn't put it online until I'd given it to her, which I did yesterday. I'm really happy with this composition, much stronger and more interesting than my first lemon painting.

And this weekend I'm doing a 2-day workshop with Rex Backhaus-Smith (via the Artists Society of Canberra), which is proving to be fascinating, a very different way of approaching landscape painting - more impressionistic / abstract - and really exciting. Will post pics when the class is done!

24 November 2006

Toddling off

Last night I finished the Toddle scarf for my nephew Ben in London (so nice to have a winter baby to knit for!)... it's his first birthday next week, can you believe it? The scarf is in a nice interwoven cable pattern, and has a hole in it so you can pull one end through, and it won't fall off. I used 1-and-a-bit balls of Paton's Jet, and made it only 18 stitches wide, rather than the 26 specified in the recipe.

I had bought the purple Jet to make myself a cabled beanie, but I needed to use what I had, so figured I can buy new wool for myself next year. Yeah, I know, awful, but true.

Lulu has been most contrite this week, after the mohair-nibbling incident last week, so I've allowed her to model the scarf, and she has more-or-less behaved herself. Trying to put her best hoof forward, although I'm not convinced.

Also picked this up yesterday - who can resist those beautiful knitted pears?! Some other nice patterns in this one, including some lovely shawls, and a lovely bag by Nicky Epstein.

22 November 2006

Tomatoes sitting still

These three tomatoes were gracious enough to sit still for me this evening, while I tried out my new easel and brushes... finally I can eat them (I've been meaning to paint the one with the stems attached for a week now, after an abortive first attempt).

Bought the patterned scarf at Salvos this afternoon... along with a few others which will feature in future paintings :)

20 November 2006

Stormy painting

This is a painting exercise I did last week, out of the No Experience Required - Watercolour book by Carol Cooper. Spattering the white paint at the end was good fun :) Still having trouble getting the skies to look the way I want them to - need more practise!

19 November 2006

The Cat Empire ROCKS

Just back from an utterly mind-blowingly fantastic Cat Empire show - open air show at Commonwealth Park... haven't been to a live 'loud music' concert for far too many years. Even spent an hour at the front (officially on the edge of the mosh pit, according to my teens), jumping and yelling and dancing away. SO MUCH FUN. Just great.

17 November 2006


I just LOVE this Sam and Fuzzy t-shirt, which my cool teenage son sent me the link to. This is the Non-Disclosure Agreement enforcing Robot, from this comic strip. Must. Get. One.

16 November 2006

Dad's Hat

Here's the beanie for my dad's birthday next week... I used Jet, and did a 2 x1 rib. Just basic, but nice. I wasn't sure about the colourway (there's that word, Bells!), but everyone else seems to like it, so I just have to hope that Dad agrees...

Well, you were expecting some ridiculously attention-seeking antic from Lulu, weren't you? She nabbed the beanie, rolled up the brim, and insisted that it fit her. I don't know, that lamb has wool for brains. Literally.

15 November 2006

Rearranging the furniture...

Don't worry, it'll all settle down soon! I've moved over to Blogger beta, and it's easier to change the look of your Blog (eventually)... and here's a tiny hint for you, if you're considering making the change too : make sure you copy ALL the HTML code for your sidebar additions (eg graphic buttons, percentage bars, javascripts etc) BEFORE you click the 'New Template' button!!

Seemly seams

Finally the Jet Jumper Extensions are done! As time consuming and messy as a house extension - really!

Here's what you get when you are bloody impatient aren't careful with your seams! The lumpy seam at the top, where I skipped up 2 stitches at a time, and my 'ladders' across the seam went sort of diagonally, are from when I first put the jumper together, some months back.

And what you get when you read your nice new Finishing Techniques book, work on a table, and sew really slowly and carefully, only stepping up by 1 stitch at a time, and with 'ladders' that are horizontal, is this amazingly invisible seam (which stitches the 'extension' part of the jumper together).

Now I feel like I should undo the side seams on hubby's Jet Jumper and resew them - but he assures me he doesn't mind. It fits REALLY WELL now, too, with an extra 15 cm length - and he wore it all day, staying cozy on this unseasonably cold day.

12 November 2006

More painty things


Field of Flowers

These are the not utter crap okay little watercolour paintings I did this weekend... the Jasmine one uses negative painting (where you paint around the shapes of things). The impressionistic Field of Flowers is an exercise from a watercolur book that actually went right. And we won't talk about the Still Life with Tomato... drawing was good, initial painting worked well, final painting was shit. Oh well. It's all learning!

The Cabled Wrist Warmers are all done, as of this afternoon - not much else happening on the knitting front, apart from vowing I would sew up the side seams on hubby's Jet Jumper (the only step remaining in the Great Lengthening Drama), and not doing it yet... it's going to be bloody cold on Wednesday, apparently, so it's worth getting done so he can wear it once more before summer hits us.

10 November 2006

Cabled Wrist Warmers - NOT a sheep jumper

Well, this is the first of the cabled version of Voodoo Wrist Wamers, that I'm making for a woman who's been wonderfully helpful with my son at College.. and - OI - LULU!

Maaaaaaaaaaaaah, miiiiineeee!

I don't know, she sees something vaguely the right size, and - yoink - on it goes! And what makes her think it's a sheep sweater anyway? There's only 1 arm hole!

Humph. Anyway. The cable I've added is a C4B, with an alternating 6 & 8 row repeat, to make the nice long-twist-short-twist pattern. Patons Totem, deep aqua blue. Second one has been cast on this morning, and will have a C4F cable, twisting in the other direction to the right handed warmer. Now, please excuse me while I go and do battle with a naughty lamb...

08 November 2006

And now for something completely different...

I've been teaching myself watercolour painting... I've dabbled over the years, but have recently decided to work at it more regularly. Hubby's Uncle Paul is a fantastic professional watercolourist (a member of the Australian Watercolour Institute no less) and he is a great source of inspiration to me.

This is what I painted last weekend.

A bright and cheery and above-all FAST painting, an exercise from a 'How to' book, with Windsor & Newton pan paints on 300 gsm rough laid paper.

This is a still life I set up, drew, and painted all by myself, with lemons from my mother's tree. Took about 4 hours in all, I guess (when I'm drawing and painting I lose track of time). Fairly happy with it, although the contrast and composition could be better. This was painted with Venezia tube paints on 300 gsm rough paper. I'm currently working on a second version of this still life.

03 November 2006

Lulu meets the ladies

Well, last night Lulu insisted on coming along to SnB, planning to use her lamby wiles on the unsuspecting Canberra knitters, to win them over, but plotting chaos at the same time!

First of all she snuck into Kylie's basket, and rummaged around in the yarny goodness there...

Then, after cozying up to Monnsqueak, she tried to sneak off with this divine skein of her hand-dyed yarn...

She insisted that this delicate lace shawl-ette by the incredible Miss Spidey was hers - it was clearly the right size... it took some very tricky distraction techniques to get it off her and back to its rightful owner!

Margie's new Victorian Cabled Wristlets (courtesy of Taph!) became a delightful tutu for Lulu, so she played the "oh so innocent" ballerina for a while.

And finally, Taph put Lulu's seemingly boundless energy and potential for mischief to hopefully good use, and gave her some knitting lessons. But maybe this will only teach her enough about knitting that she then knows how to unravel my work more effectively?! Only time will tell...

Tree ahoy!

Yesterday was a rather dramatic day... Canberra was hit by a massive storm, and our suburb took a fair battering. We had no power for about 7 hours (which gave me a nice excuse to not work, and do some knitting!), and a third of the huge gum tree out front came crashing down - luckily it didn't hit anyone or anything - but we still can't get our station wagon out. Hopefully the nice and overworked tree clearing bods will be around to take it all away today.

And on to more challenging things... this lamb. What am I going to do? She gets into everything! This is a beanie I'm making for my dad's birthday (yeah, yeah, I know we're coming into summer - he can save it for next year)... Lulu somehow managed to get into the WHOLE ball of Jet, drape herself in it, and then try to knit for herself. I'm lucky that I caught her before she pulled a needle out... sigh. The worrying thing is that she isn't trying to be helpful, she's just doing her best to be naughty!

Lulu accompanied dotter and myself to SnB last night, and much fun was had by all, despite her trying to steal HappySpider's lovely little lace shawl... lots of photos pending!

01 November 2006


This is my new blue Patonyle sock! I'm making the Crusoe pattern off Knitty for the top (ie rolled rim, and stranded pattern, adapted to smaller needles/thinner yarn) and then a standard sock for the rest.

And this is my mango peach sock wool dyed by Dear Dotter... OI! Lulu, PUT IT DOWN!

Pressies in the mail, pressies in the mail (happy dance)...! Mindful Knitting has finally arrived from the US - it's a fairly small compact book, with simple patterns, and lots of good mindful ideas.

LULU! Put that pencil down IMMEDIATELY!