Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Grey Unveiling

Port Clyde
Today is the Big Reveal for the 12 by the dozen group. This international collection of fibre artists sets a challenge every three months. Our first series was inspired by a word, like "Jubilation" or "Structure", and the pieces measured 12" x 12". You can see the results on the group's website.

Our second series is inspired by a colour, and the pieces measure 8.5" x 11", or A4 for our European members. We have already completed six of these challenges, with the most recent, Grey, being published today. You can follow the excitement on our blog.

This June, while traveling down the Maine Coast, I visited the tiny town of Port Clyde, best known as the ferry's departure point for Monhegan Island, established more than 100 years ago as an artists' colony. The atmospheric fog left no doubt that I had found the perfect subject for my Grey challenge. I especially love the web of overhead lines.

Port Clyde #2

I later used the same scene and imposed sunset colours on the composition.

And below is the original photo on which the two pieces were based. I would like to use the image again, in a larger format. Colours? To be determined.

original photo

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lakeshore Artists show, September 6 - 7

Every year, the Lakeshore Artists Association puts together "Art by the Lake", an art show and sale on the beautiful grounds of Stewart Hall in Pointe Claire. This year almost fifty artists will set up their tents to show and sell their work, and I've been invited as a Guest Artist.

Part of the proceeds will go to the John Abbott College Foundation. In the event of rain, the circus will move into the big tent of Stewart Hall.

I have followed the group for the last few years, and have some friends among the members, but I'm not eligible for membership because of their residency requirement. They set the bar very high, so it's a Big Deal to be showing with them.

Please drop by to say hello!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Another small Cityscape

Camden Town #3,
analogous colour scheme

Here's the latest of my small works, made as an affordable choice for my booth at the upcoming Lakeshore Artists show.

It measures 8.5" x 11", and is mounted on a 10" x 12" canvas.

I've used this image twice before, in an 18" x 24" format, first in reds and violets, and then in yellow-and-orange.

original photo,
taken from the back of the Amy Winehouse Museum

It's easy to see how I've taken the lines and shapes of the photo (its "skeleton"), removing the texture and the detail, and transformed it using my own palette of hand-dyed cottons. I often adjust the values to suit my purposes: to add more depth, to create a focal point, or to help the viewer's eye move around the composition.

What I like most about the photo is the syncopated rhythm of the windows, and I wanted to capture that in this piece. Perhaps more value contrast in the windows would have made them a more important element? Given the piece more sparkle?

Just to compare, the first two pieces made from this photo are shown below. I've used the yellow version for my current business cards, website banner and as a large banner for my booth at the Lakeshore Artists show.

Camden Town #1,
split-complementary scheme
Camden Town #2,
analogous colour scheme

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Through Our Hands magazine

The second edition of Through Our Hands magazine is now available to read on-line. Produced by a team of notable British fibre artists, this issue has over 80 pages of dazzling, inspiring and thought-provoking material. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fibre Content show, Burlington, ON

Camden Town

I am excited that all three of my submissions to the Fibre Content show have been accepted, giving me a most welcome opportunity to find an audience for my work in the southern Ontario region.

Open Window, Cesis

This juried show will be held in the Art Gallery of Burlington, from Tuesday, September 9 to Tuesday, September 16. One hundred and twenty-four works will be on display (and on sale), including quilts of all kinds, weavings, rugs, and felted and mixed-media work.

Water Tower #2

Admission is free. Hours are
Monday - Thursday, 9 am to 10 pm
Friday - Saturday, 9 am - 5 pm and
Sunday, noon - 5 pm.

A fully-illustrated catalog of the show will be available for sale.

The AGB is located at 1333 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, ON. For more information, please go to their website.
Or see the poster, below.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Something a little different

Castle Donington

I need to make some small pieces for an upcoming show, and decided to try combining my usual hand-dyes with commercial, patterned fabric. These three pieces measure 8.5" x 11", and are mounted on black, painted gallery canvas, 10" x 12", like my challenge pieces for 12 by the dozen.

original photo

First, from an image taken in England last summer, using a "Stonehenge" cotton from Northcott for texture. Some of the hand-dyes are gradations of olive or scarlet, and others started out as various intensities of scarlet, overdyed with olive to produce something murky.

Back Alley with Bicycle,
Quebec City

Secondly, a composition based on a photo I took recently in a back alley of Quebec City. "Stonehenge" fabrics were included for texture, along with the hand-dyes.

original photo

I feel that this piece is less successful, lacking unity. Perhaps I should have repeated the red and the blue elsewhere in the composition?

Open Window, Cesis #3

And last, a smaller, simplified version of a piece I have made before in a 24" x 18" format. A batik cotton was used for the face of the building.

original photo,
Lauma Cenne

It is based on a photo by Lauma Cenne, taken in Cesis, Latvia.

I think I prefer to use the hand-dyes exclusively, but it is fun to stretch a little, and introduce textured, patterned cloth along with the mottled hand-dyes. At some point I might try using patterned fabric exclusively, which would be a real challenge.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Watercolour: a humbling experience

I love watercolour, but watercolour doesn't love me (yet). This week I took a 12-hour Introduction to Watercolour class at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I figured if I was going to humiliate myself, it was better to do it where I didn't know anyone.

Many fibre artists have done some surface design with paint. We know how bubble wrap can be used with paint to stamp on an interesting texture, how to make a soft mottle with a sea sponge, how to sprinkle salt on wet paint to get a twinkling texture.

We know the basics of colour theory: monochromatic, analogous and complementary colour schemes. If we dye cloth we know about mixing complementary colours to make neutrals.

We know some fundamentals of design: odd numbers are more dynamic than even numbers, consider your negative space, use a range of value and plan out your values. Use high value contrast to create a focal point. If we've done figurative work, we know about atmospheric colour: create depth by using faded colours in the background, more saturated in the foreground.

But trying to pull this all together on a sheet of cold press paper while it is slowly warping under your hand is a different story. Wet areas dry too soon and the line hardens. They dry too slowly and then bleed into a neighbouring patch. You are attending to an area that needs work and all the while the water and pigment are puddling where they shouldn't be, in an unsupervised corner. (Not unlike teaching kindergarten!)

Jocelyne Lambert, the instructor, did a fine job of teaching a disparate group. I had the mixed blessing of sitting next to Julie, who couldn't put her brush to the paper without creating a thing of beauty. Julie claimed to be new to watercolour. Her medium, she said, was ink. By Day 3 she admitted that the label on her "inks" identified the product as "liquid watercolour". Uh huh.

Here are some things I want to learn more about: working loosely, using the white of the paper for highlights, and helping the medium make beautiful passages, transitions from one colour to another.

Meanwhile, I have a whole new respect for those who have tamed this medium to produce welcome accidents. Some day I may be one of them.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Port Clyde #2

Port Clyde #2

Port Clyde is a tiny town at the southern tip of a small peninsula in Maine. Its claim to fame is as the departure point for the ferry to Monhegan Island, a well-known artist retreat.

I took this photo there on a grey day in June, and then I transformed the image by using exaggerated sunset colours in hand-dyed cottons.

I read some advice for artists somewhere recently that said, more or less, "Push your strengths." I feel that my use of bold colour could be one of my strengths, so here is the result.

And I love the web formed by the overhead phone lines.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

ArtsHudson Journal: Featured Artist

We are so fortunate in our little town of Hudson, Quebec (pop. about 5000) to have a vibrant cultural life, organized largely by enthusiastic volunteers. We have an annual literary festival, an annual music festival, a library, two historical museums, a small theatre with a year-round program, a film club, an opera society, an annual studio tour, two fine art groups, a drama group, a musical group, an annual series of classical concerts.... It goes on and on.

We are also blessed with a quarterly journal, ArtsHudson, now in its third year, that informs us of all the cultural happenings, local and regional. It is available in a print edition and also on line, thanks to the expertise of editor Bert Markgraf, a keen observer of the local scene.

I was honoured to be chosen as the "Featured Artist" for the Summer 2014 edition, which may be viewed at