Living by and working with ideas around water

During my life I have lived by water. I am fascinated by how the light plays on the surface, the movement and the patterns that are created.

I grew up near the Thames at Wallingford and as a child we used to visit Abingdon where I ended up living for 25 yrs. During uni a I was in London and up in the North East at Newcastle upon Tyne. I suppose living on a small island you are never very far away from water…

Now in Edinburgh there is the water of Leith that winds its way through the city. I travel over the the Forth of Firth regularly for work and visit the North Sea at North Berwick.

Recently in Bristol I was interested to see that architects had incorporated elements of water into a foot bridge in the quay area and some railings on Temple St.

My latest ripping/ hand sewing into a mandala/ blue abstract on paper is reminding me of water this morning

I wrote into it today about mandalas, their cultural significance, how to draw them and their meditative values with Hindu and Buddhism.

I started weaving in some text from yesterday’s writing about art making

And watery concepts popped into my head. I have been making lots of layers using digital imagery this month so I needed to attack this in the Image Blender app

I attached the piece to another mandala which peeps through the gaps – I’m not sure about the text and patterned strips they might come out.

more Image Blender stripes

β€˜Home sweet home’ teabag quilt

I have been enjoying hand sewing very much recently, so I decided to make another tea bag quilt. A few people have asked how I made my first one so I thought I would do a step by step. My friend Fran Halperin and I have been experimenting with joining techniques. Fran has been using her sewing machine.

On the left zigzag stitch, on the right she has straight line stitched along the edge of the teabag and then jumped over the gaps.

On the left I used blanket stitch on the right for my new quilt – I back stitched the tea bag onto material. NB try and use something with very little ‘give’ – I used an old linen nappy and it’s very difficult to sew neatly on top of.

I decided to make my ‘ Home sweet home’ quilt have a more quilt like feel- the last one was a bit abstract. I printed some tea bags blue/ purple and others pale blue/ white. With my doors and window hand carved stamps .

The tea bags were a bit higgledy piggildy on the linen so I decided to add some strips of kitchen towel ( dyed with tea during the drying of teabags process) with writing on between the rows and buttons at corners. This stitching held on the back piece which is a white tea towel

I am edging the quilt with a sheet of used colour run paper/ fabric that goes in the washing machine. It needed 3 rows of running stitch to keep it flat. I used white sewing cotton throughout. I think I will print over this again when it’s stitched all around

Nearly finished. It needs a few more buttons and I haven’t stitched the edging all the way round but you get the idea.

I wanted this quilt to be a bit more obvious that it was teabags. I haven’t used any glue on the joints so that it feels much more like fabric

I think I need to do a bigger one ……

New Moon Meditation illustration ( attempts)

We are staying at the Omassim Guest house in Portugal again. It’s a surf and yoga retreat on the Atlantic coast near Ericeira. We visited last year too. The day is divided into food, yoga / surfing. In the evening there is a Yin yoga session and a meditation – which I have been doing to the best of my ability with a twanged ligament in my right knee.

Omassim has lots of fab Buddha statues …..

Last night was a new moon and the yoga/ med teacher Bella did a fab meditation which ended with us all lying in a circle, thinking about light coming down from the moon into the top of our heads and lighting up our bodies.

The weather has been a bit miserable this year and I haven’t felt like making art. After the meditation I had a picture in my head of what I could do in response to the session. I only have limited art supplies so it will be a challenge.

My first go is too dark and I didn’t leave enough lightness around the moon. I also over sprayed the image with water .

I wanted to use a moon that was similar to one I remembered as a child. I found something on Pinterest

I liked the way this one showed a bit of the dark side too.

Above is my first layer. The figures look as if they are robots from a Sci-fi movie attached to a central flower/ moon – the circles on the bodies are supposed chakras with lines of energy swirling around.

I used this image as research http://michellespalding.com/following-your-souls-calling/body-filled-with-lifht-depositphotos_9140952_original/

I made three figures, a male, a thin female and a chunky female one to represent the mixed shapes of those present. I made little stencils so that I don’t have to draw them from scratch every-time. ( I might have to do a few more copies before I get it right)

In my rough – it looks a bit like a dissolving mummy (πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚) but I quite like the effect

I sprayed the first layer with water, because it’s what I am into at the moment. Hopefully it won’t all disappear . It’s got to dry over night, so we shall see. I like the way the water disrupts the lines and adds interest – the figures are still a bit robot like and don’t really fit in with the cartoon moon…….

Sometimes things just go wrong ……

I decided to go over the design in turquoise rather than black. When I started to draw the mandala design again it didn’t really show up. So I got my child’s brush pen out

Not really liking it so I sprayed it and then ran it under a tap ……

I took a print- before I washed it and smudged the moon

I quite like the print

Loosing all the details on the 2nd attempt in the process ……

I think the paper is too over worked by the pen ………

I like the effects but will need to work on these two back home with acrylic paint πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

What have I learnt?

Fountain pens seem to damage the surface of the paper ( trying out fountain pens in an attempt to be more environmentally friendly )

Turquoise over turquoise fountain pen is not going to work if there is too much detail in the first layer

Cartoon moons and robot figures are a bit dogey

Child’s brush pens are fine if you just stick to brush pens – the colour doesn’t really go with Lamy ink

Brush pens make fab prints if you spray them

Pencil lines with cheap Argos pencil are hard to rub out

Should have brought water soluble pencil crayon

I like making mess and taking risks with my art in guest house rooms because there is – a danger that you get blue ink everywhere (πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚) luckily everything is water soluble

Preparing a found book for art journalling

I like to use second hand books for journalling. There is a comic book range in Scotland called ‘the Broon’s’. They produce cook books and gardening books( Waverley Books) that look like old journals and are a nice weight of paper and size for art journalling.

The paper is a bit smooth so I like to prepare a few pages before I start journalling

Today I added gesso to a page with a credit card and then dabbed acrylic paint through a commercial stencil. By adding the paint first it means that you can rub the paint off the page with a baby wipe or damp cloth to get a more interesting result

I like commercially produced stencils but they can look a bit samey when lots of people use them.

So I use doilies that I find in second hand shops. Lace or crochet work well. If you do use them – make sure you dry them well in-between use or they rot and smell bad .

I covered the print below with a layer of watered down paint.

I always use acrylic for mixed media journalling because I make lots of layers that I don’t want to run into each other. I am dyslexic and have trouble with upside down and the wrong way round – I added the cover design on the back of the book so all the pages are upside down …….

I always try and make paint go as far as possible so I spread what was left of the blue onto some pages with a credit card and through another stencil.

The pages of the book are such fun I don’t often add a lot more before journalling.

The cover of the book is quite shiny so I scored it with a scalpel blade before I decoupaged it.

I used a selection of different papers – the back is upside down tooo. And then added details, texture and random text from magazines

Lace doilies as stencils

As you know if you have been following me for any length of time I am really into circles, drawing them, printing , stencils etc.

One of my favourite found items to use are crochet and lace doilies. I am fascinated by the intricacy and tiny stitches. Since arriving in Edinburgh I have been amazed at how cheap I can buy them in charity and thrift shops.

This week I found a bundle of lace ones in three different sizes

To use them as stencils with paint you need to cover them in a layer of acrylic and let them dry. Each time you use them they need to be allowed to dry thoroughly or they start to smell and rot.

Yesterday I was playing with a friend using Brusho powdered pigment ( https://theartshopskipton.co.uk/brusho-crystal-colour-assorted-packs-of-8-12-or-24) and gesso. I wondered how the dollies would respond.

I am not sure I like the weight of the gesso on paper like this – the doilie covered in blue paint responded very well.

I added the gesso over one of my pink ink mandalas

It was taking ages to dry so I put it in my oven at 100degrees C – which is probably not very healthy because the kitchen stank of cooking gesso very quickly.

I wet the page with a thin layer of very dilute blue acrylic paint and sprinkled the crystal inks on top

The inks are very concentrated so I took a print from the sheet using another page with a red mandala on it. The paper I am using is recycled old printed letters so it is very thin

I also pulled gesso through a couple of mandala stencils

These were quite successful too , but I think I like the doily better because it is less recognisable as the commercially produced stencils.

If I use these in mixed media work. They will need sealing because the crystal inks are water soluble. Clear Gesso or Mat medium will do the trick dragged over once with a credit card. I think you should probably coat both sides of the paper.

Another application of this I think could be to make a printing block. If you pulled gesso through a doily onto a wooden / acrylic block it would be fun to print with paint – I am not sure how a commercial ink pad would work with the gesso.

Developing a style , A3 size part 1- step by stepΒ 

Frequently over the years, I have been asked to do bigger work. I bailing at it because I like working in my kitchen on several things at once. However, the still life style I have been producing would work well A3 ( 12″x16.5″)

Drawing a mandala that big was a bit tricky until I got the hang of it

Stage 1 – mandala  drawing using water soluble teal ink on 140lb watercolour paper and cartridge paper 

Stage 2- Spritzed with water x4 

The second one is drawn with thin sharpie just to see what happens ( my turquoise pen ran out) I always think as I do each stage – leave it here …..


I love the slight differences that you get doing a series 

Part3- adding texture and energy drawing loose spirals in a variety of different pencils , gelatos and pens 


I also added some Galeria  Matt varnish because the blokey in my local art shop said it would act as a resist …… we shall see 

Stage 4 – sprayed pink watersoluble pink ink through a crochet diolly 


I have decided that If I am doing teal and turquoise acrylic backgrounds on top and of these I need to add a bit more zing to the underneath layer. Disappointing there is no evidence of the varnish acting as a resist at this stage …..


But not too much 
Fluorescent pink and yellow is just a bit too much even for me …. ( above I spread it on with a credit card)