The Knitting & Stitching Show (Harrogate UK)

I went to this the Saturday before last (24th November) . It is a huge selling and exhibiting event which is held in 4 places every year & Harrogate is always one of them . I actually last went to it more than 10 years ago so it has changed quite a bit . It used to be a wonderful place to get serious textile art supplies including combed fleece for spinning and felting , many kinds of dyes including hard-to-get effective natural dyes and raw materials generally . Now the leaning is towards kits , particularly those where you need to have nothing else whether appropriate tools or any creative input whatsoever .The textile equivalent of painting by numbers – for children . Given the name of the show it was surprising that most stalls seemed to expect people who could neither knit nor sew nor even choose wools or thread by themselves . There was even one stall where a woman passed by saying to her friend “I didn’t come here to buy clothes !” . I know what she meant . I was actually tempted by some 3rd world earrings but remembered in time what I was there for !

The second thing they always have had at K & S were wonderful textile art galleries . These were well worth it . As usual I was interested in some individual artists and the Quilter’s Guild and Royal School of Needlework displays . I found a lot of the Embroiderer’s Guild work disappointing this year . To my mind it was less embroidery and more let’s show how much we can make stitch look like ‘real’ art . When this is basically copying contemporary work on fashionably distressing subjects – dementia , anorexia nervosa – the result adds unoriginality to stuff most don’t enjoy seeing in the first place . The other subject which has been de rigueur this year is WW1 . The embroidered hearts were not too bad – I just happen to dislike the heart shape – but the memorials to soldiers in the form of partial uniforms , kitbags , medals , poppies etc. did not seem to be an evocation in the form of embroidery at all . What is so courageous about this ?

Rants over . Here are some images of things I really did love .

Libby Vale’s black on white machine embroidery

She was working on a project about women’s lives . She put out paper for us to contribute words which she will sort and may stitch as commentary on her pictorial embroidery – all , she hopes , to be incorporated in a crinoline which she will make for next year’s 4 exhibitions . She has a website and is on Instagram either as Libby or Libbertine Vale . Instagram has more images – the website being a bit sparse generally as yet .

Quilter’s Guild

Firstly this is one of the copies of a 1718 silk quilt which is the oldest in the Guild’s collection and the oldest known dated quilt from England . They showed the original along with various inspired copies . I think this is the one trying to recapture what it looked like 300 years ago with bright colours on a white ground . (The original is now both faded and brownish) .

Next some of the prizewinning modern quilts which I really liked :

This is ‘Harvest Moon’ by Laima Whitty which took 1st prize in the modern category .

This is ‘and the sky danced’ by Jean McLean and took 1st prize in landscape .

This is Cachemire by Sandy Chandler which took the 1st prize in the traditional category .

They were also showing quilted type work from the Studio Art Quilt Association which has headquarters in the US although it describes itself as international and some of the work was certainly by Canadians . They describe ‘art quilts’ as necessarily involving layers of fabric and lines of stitching . Although most of the work shown was framed as pictures are I would regard all of them as textile works . They were showing works on the theme of ‘Concrete & Grassland’ . The original exhibition must have been huge since there were far more on the SAQA website than we ever saw in Harrogate . Here is a quick flavour :

Electric cooling towers as seen from a train somewhere in the UK by Elizabeth Barton (I can’t remember the correct title) .

‘Rift’ by (someone)  Jazkowski .

Yes I know I should have shown more images but the quilted ones especially take up a lot of space . Also I should do hyperlinks but they take ages and I often get them wrong . NB the SAQA website is best searched for using full words – otherwise you get endless links to a South African website about qualifications (!)


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Florence & Venice

Well I wanted to go to see the quattrocento masterpieces in the Uffizzi Gallery in Florence and many of my friends had been more than enthusiastic about Venice so we did a 2-centre holiday which was , of course , exhausting .


One of those places everyone should go to – like Paris , Istanbul ? Firstly if you know anything about art history or English literature a lot of what you see will be familiar – the tall buildings with classical proportions neatly plastered and painted in warm colours , the red tiles on the slightly sloping roofs above the many roof gardens/terraces and lifting your eyes further up , the Tuscan landscape so often seen in the background of Renaissance Annunciations & portraits . And yes it looks just as good in real life as in many an English watercolour or as described by Elizabeth Barret Browning . A surprise was that the obviously modern buildings also exhibited classical proportions and thus fitted in and managed to be pleasing to the eye – even concrete blocks of flats . In fact my son said he had not seen so many examples of the Golden Ratio all together before .

Secondly the Uffizzi is (as it boasts) one of the greatest Art Galleries in the world . Of course I went to see the obvious Botticellis ;

Primavera (Spring)

The Birth of Venus

Both of these are bigger than I imagined and luckily were hung high up so that you could see most of each despite being  several feet deep in people listening to tour guides while endlessly taking photos . Anyone would think that there no photographic images available anywhere ! Or silly non-information about these 2 very pagan icons if that is what you want . Most importantly they are so much better in real life than in a reproduction – they are indeed staggering to contemplate . Unfortunately the Uffizzi has no seating where the paintings are , so looking properly (ie for long enough at a time) is difficult . There were many other Botticellis ; my son particularly liked this fresco from a villa –


and I this with yet more pagan/classical references !

Pallas (Athene) & the Centaur

But there were also Fillipino Lippi , Giotto and Uccello’s wonderful battle scene which again was much bigger than I had imagined . Downstairs they had later stuff which was less to my taste – especially a whole room devoted to decapitations ! But also many portraits and Titian’s Venus – beautiful .

If there were no paintings the Uffizzi would be worth a visit for the marble statuary – including Roman originals and the long wide corridors largely housing them (the paintings are in rooms off to the side) . These corridors or galleries also looked a little familiar and then I realised that almost every “country house” I have ever visited in England was trying to imitate the painted ceilings , the inlaid marble floors and the processions of marble statuary…..but the original is just better – or maybe the climates clash too much !


I fear I was less entranced here because oddly it was again familiar . I have read so much in the way of romantic nostalgia for its faded glories and ‘raddled’ beauty and lately also about how it will sink beneath the Adriatic due to faulty engineering or (more likely) climate change , that the dilapidated state of so many buildings was no surprise . Indeed Venice is so obviously largely dependent on tourism that I suspect things are kept at just the right level to ensure romantic decadence but prevent complete disintegration . Me I don’t like decay , sorry .

The most glorious thing I saw in Venice was St Mark’s Basilica and this was unexpected . All the photographic images I had ever seen made it look like a more than usually OTT wedding cake . But , no . In real life it is sumptuous , magnificent and clearly a case of Venice showing off when at the height of its power – but not OTT . If you get the chance spend some time looking carefully at the façade before going inside . They have lovely scale models explaining its building and repair at different times . You can see these by way of stairs which are more reasonable than most English church towers’ – I never did get all the way up St Paul’s ! – and also let you up behind the horses on the façade . But not behind the lion which is St Mark the Evangelist’s symbol and so all over the place . The best reasons for going inside ? The gold mosaics on the walls and inside the domes and the floor which can only be described as marquetry in stone . Some of the sections were put together to produce a trompe l’oeil effect which was positively Escheresque !

And here is Jen-Li Shih’s beautiful stainless steel rhinoceros  which we found in a park near where we were staying . It is currently the Venice Biennale for architecture and a sculpture exhibition was part of it . My partner’s photographs :


Artist’s first page of his website



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July exhibition at The Healing Clinic , Merchantgate , York

2D pieces framed by HJP

These 2 collages and 2 drawings were the only new work shown in the end because I had great difficulty finding stuff I had already made , never mind getting new stuff done !

The exhibition was originally going to be for 2 weeks , then until the end of July – now it is going to be up until someone else books the space or I want to take it down .

Here is the usual stuff I exhibit – looking better than usual in this venue !


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More oddments : GDPR & exhibition

Firstly re the GDPR law coming in to force on May 25 & originating in the EU :

I was alerted to the fact that it might affect blogs by EU citizens by this blogpost . Note particularly his reply to the 1st comment :

Since I do not sell from my blog nor do I own the website it seems unlikely that I am intended to be included in the new more stringent data protection regulations however it is worth saying that I do not see the email addresses of my followers or commenters . If they are visible on the old admin. page as nannus says then I undertake not to look – supposing I could find it ! So I cannot share or use the information and WordPress is responsible for storage . I hope all of you out there are satisfied with this and are happy to continue commenting & following .

Secondly I have an exhibition coming up at the end of June – the dates are not yet final . With the venue I will have to concentrate on 2d stuff so I hope my son will find time to do a few more of his nice frames for some of my large collection of drawings & collages – all as yet unshown . I also hope to complete another tile panel a bit like this one –

It would be a bit more complicated because I used the tiny amounts of test ash glazes to do it and there were far more than 3 as here . I may also have time to do another felt or two . I have some ideas……..

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Oddments – exhibition , watercolour , musings

Nine nude figures

Pendant in Egyptian style

Ceramic plate

Left – seated man . Right – dancing figure .

The exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds until February 18 is “Becoming Henry Moore” which shows many early works (1914-1930) juxtaposed with sculpture felt likely to have influenced him – contemporary , classical and ancient/non-Western – the British Museum category . I’ve only had time for a quick look as yet but I was intrigued by these early (1921) pieces :



















Firstly I have only ever seen sculptural designs and his famous drawings of people from WW2 in air raid shelters by way of 2d work before . Secondly I wondered why he largely gave up colour ? Anyway I’ll go again when I have more time .

The watercolour learning process continues . Well I hope that is what is happening . Here is my uncompleted sleeping cat , Memphis as it happens .

Sleeping because they stay still longest like that – I’ve never managed ‘action shots’ of any cat . Unfortunately I didn’t get enough detail on the initial crayon drawing and then got too interested in mixing the colours . She looks too gingery in this photo but it isn’t bad for the background to her tabby patches . I should have sketched out the decoration on the background cushion too – I was too pleased that I got the dark brown accurately of the velvet one on the right .

Since I have not succeeded (yet again) in being accepted for a PhD course I have been wondering why I keep trying ? Here are some possible reasons :

1 I’m still trying to impress my deceased parents – and competing with my father who never completed his .

2 I’m a glutton for punishment – you can spend months on application forms and drafting research proposals which is a waste if you don’t get in .

3 I’m not used to failing applications for courses – jobs are a different matter !

4 It would be an excuse for not getting on with work and trying to sell it ie spending 3 years writing 1000s of words which perhaps no one will read is less scary than exposing myself/my work to gallery owners .

5 It would somehow validate my choosing to be an artist at all .

Yes they all sound pretty bad !

Incidentally I cannot disrecommend York St John University enough . If they thought I was utter crap they could have told me at once instead of getting me to repeat information which I spent hours entering carefully on their online application form and depending on me to record their own email correspondence . So if you apply there keep screenshots of every page of the form and save all emails from them . It might save some aggravation . You might even get in and then be able to see their facilities finally !

Posted in Drawings, other artists, paintings, Plates | 6 Comments

….& downward – when it comes to watercolour at least

OK I did this some months ago while staying at my son’s place so I just had watercolour pencils to draw the leaves’ positions and the tiny box of Winsor & Newton half pans to complete them .

Sweet pepper leaves – Sept 2017    

I then also did this to try and get some control over merging and distinct colours . Perhaps a silly idea ? I can’t get the hang of ‘wet on wet’ and don’t understand how the layering works when it does . If I’m only doing this to provide myself with raw material for collages – my current obsession – maybe I don’t need to get the hang of anything . However my best collages have been put together from pieces which weren’t rubbish to begin with .

I’ve looked at others’ work and even the odd book – the last one actually said that painting was drawing with paint ! At least I’m clear on that – I know I can draw but not paint – despite endlessly being told by tutors that it is ‘just marks on paper’ – has that ever helped anyone , I wonder ? I was attracted by watercolours because of great familiarity with watercolour crayons (Caran d’Ache) and wanting to do backgrounds and colour mixing with the same or better brilliance & transparency . All I had at school were poster colours/gouache which were of course matte & opaque . Later at Art School we had the cheapest possible acrylics mixed only with water so they had a similar disappointing (to me) effect . At a proper Art Shop I realised that many different media have been developed for acrylics so that many effects are possible in fact . But watercolours are very compatible with the equivalent crayons so I went for that .

As to my idea of doing garden studies as the plants & weather changed , that really hasn’t worked out . I’m not good enough or don’t actually like what’s there that much . I got in the habit of taking snapshots rather than drawing anything . In the end I had more than 20 so-called reference photos but didn’t want to turn them into drawings or paintings . I’ve done one which probably exemplifies the problem .



I don’t know when I took this or why exactly . When I draw things I always start from the centre with whatever is the most important bit to me . A photograph shows up all the irrelevant bits which a drawing (and ideally any resulting work) would leave out !



As to the attempt to draw and then paint this – oh dear !





So photographs are not at all helpful to me in drawing or my struggles with painting . No more snapshots because it’s too cold outside or I can’t be bothered to get a chair out of the garage . Anyway what is our lovely sunroom for ? Not just breakfast !

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I’ve been meaning to post about an exhibition in York and my continuing attempts to learn how to use watercolours for some months . However a rather grim Autumn and winter culminated in a 2-week stay in bed over the festive (supposedly) bit and a currently slow recovery .

The Exhibition

Nash, Paul; Winter Sea; York Museums Trust

It was entitled ‘Paul Nash & the Uncanny landscape’ and curated by John Slezack . The best thing about it were the examples of work by Paul Nash and  his brother John in the left hand inner room . This included graphic work and photographs as well as the paintings which for both , followed on from their WW1 work . I wasn’t convinced by the association of the quotation from ‘The Uncanny Landscape’ (essay or book?) with Paul Nash or any other of the interwar British landscape painters . Landscapes are often uncanny , not because of war but because artists find what they are looking for in them as in all other subjects (cf Goya , Dali , Fuseli , Caspar David Friedrich) . And British landscape painters are not and have never been any more romantic or realistic than any others (NB Constable who was neither) . Slezack must have been chosen for his eminence (he cut up black & white photos of Hollywood starlets at the RCA in the 1960s) but I don’t see why he was particularly suitable to curate this exhibition -altho’ anyone would jump at the chance of being associated with Paul Nash , obviously .

Just look at these !

The exhibition continues until the 15th of April this year .


Don’t Forget the Diver – drawing with newsprint


  The Corner 1919

Harbour & Room 1930

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