Sunday, 28 November 2010

Winter Landscape - Reindeer Lapland Bracelet - A Haiku

I kept this rather clumsy watercolor sketch of winter birch trees as a reference for future work using this pallete.  There is something very calming and restfull  in the contrast of the cool greys and blues (paynes grey, neutral tint) and the warmer earthy colors raw sienna, burnt sienna, sepia and burnt umber.

Winter landscapes provide a remarkable variety of color - subtle, shifting and almost elusive during the darker days.  In this dormant but nonetheless beautiful time of year there is a stillness which leads to inner contemplation and a restfullness after the hectic activity of the previous months.

 I was delighted when I ordered some white reindeer leather from my supplier.  I had expected it to be really white and brash but instead it is a natural white color with a grey/blue tinge like the reflection of the winter sky on snow.  I was reminded of an episode in one of the Clan of the Cave Bear books where Ayla tans some leather to make for her wedding dress. She bleached the leather white by soaking it in urine - nowadays I suspect the principle is the same but probably with a refined form of ammonia rather than raw urine. I had this leather for months not quite knowing what  would do with it until now,  the icy Northern winter has set in and given me inspiration for this piece of jewelry.  I combined sepia colored leather to represent the color of the bare trees on a dark blizzardy day. The pewter wire shines bright like a frosty morning.

Just as I´m writing this a snow blizzard is blowing. This haiku by the master Matsuo Basho  is in essence what I´m seeing from my studio window at this moment..

Winter solitude--
in a world of one color
    the sound of wind.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Autumn Inspired Lapland Bracelets

Whether creating a painting or a piece of jewelry, color is my main inspiration.  Living here in the forest one is alwas surrounded by the colors of nature and aware of the changing of seasons.  Nature provides us with a remarkable pallete, which like fashion changes with every season.
I love the way in Autumn when the green vegetation becomes faded and takes on more gentle softer tones  than the bold brashness of Summer.


This wonderful reindeer leather is vegetable dyed and I love using this particular green color.  The color shifts from an earthy browny green to a delightful moss green, depending on the light.  Because of this, it is hard to describe, it can be the color of pine trees or like the moss that grows so thickly on the forest floor and the highlands around me.

With these two bracelets I have added heather colored elements.  Heather is one of the last flowering plants before the hard grim winter sets in.  As I beekeeper my long Autumn walks are taken up by discovering how much heather is growing in my area.  Heather not only yields the most fabulously tasting honey but it is the last natural food for my bees before the winter´s syrup feeding.

No color represents Autumn more than this tawny tan color. Autumn leaves, faded bracken and the creatures of the forest who become more visible as the leaves disappear.  The silent forest becomes alive with the frenetic activty of the red squirrels. Foxes stealthily watch their prey knowing that they face a long winter of near starvation.  The roe deer  bravely movemore closely to human habitition enjoying  the delights of a cultivated garden. My favorite sight is the magnificent coppery foliage of the beech trees.  The leaves stubbornly hold on to the trees long into the winter so bright, cheerful and comforting on the darkest days.

Autumn is also time for the rich abundance of berries that grow so prolifically in Sweden. The forest is carpeted with jewel like lingon and blueberries.  Aromatic juniper berries are collected for a warming seasonal stew.  For me there is nothing like my own blackcurrants made into jam, cordial and frozen to make pies, cakes and even smoothies during the Winter.  These underestimated fruits are fantastic packets of vitamins and energy, perfect for revitalising a tired body on a sunless Winter day.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Making Lapland Jewelry

I started making these bracelets a few years ago. Although I love painting sometimes I need a break to refresh - artists need a hobby too.  These days the hobby has taken over and there is not so much time left over for painting projects.

The craft of pewter embroidery was developed by the Sami people who live in mostly in Northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Penninsula in Russia.  Traditionaly the Sami people live by reindeer herding, fishing and hunting.
Hundreds of years ago the Sami people travelled to Norway to trade at the markets there.  Here they bought pewter which came from Cornwall and Ireland.  The Sami developed a method of spinning the pewter into a thread which could be used to decorate clothes, jewelry and other objects such as knife sheathes.

The problem with pewter is that when the temperature reaches under 15C, the pewter crystalises forming a grey powder.  Nowadays 4% silver is added to the pewter which prevents this process.  When the wire is new the metal is a wonderful frosty white color.  With use and wearing the wire takes on a lovely silvery patina.

The pewter tread is a fine material to work with.  It lends itself to plaiting or braiding and amazing designs can be made by combining different braid patterns.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Upcylcled Chair, Decoupage Project

I bought an old school chair from a flea market on a trip to Norway. I was actually looking for a chair to paint folk art style but I also found some vintage Donald Duck and Micky Mouse comics at the same time and it seemed a good idea to make this a decoupage project instead.

The hard work was preparing the chair for decoupage, sanding by hand and filling dents with wood filler. When the surface was clean and smooth I applied 2 coats of gesso.The gesso acts as a primer and surface to glue to.  Then I set about cutting out sections from the comics. I glued the comic pieces to the chair with acrylic gloss medium (it was what I had at home at the time). Then sealed the decoupage with 3 coats of the same medium.

I left the underside undecorated to preserve the chair´s history - I love the pencil scribble mark made by some child.  This was a fun, easy and low cost project.  It´s a great way to add color and life to drab and worn furniture.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Watercolor Monoprints - Autumn Birch Leaves

The exciting thing for me when I make these prints is the tension between abtsract and realism and control and spontanaity.  My need to play with paint is satisfied at the same time the paintings have a subject or theme.  Here I have added quinacridrone magenta to my usual pallete.  The pigment explodes when dropped onto wet paper and spreads itself beautifully.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Mandala - Watercolor Monoprint

I made this painting last summer. Here I´v arranged the objects into a circle.  I didn´t want the finished piece to look too haphazard or random  - this is my attempt to make a composition and I am pleased with the result. I have used a flower head in the center and was surprised that  the delicate and fragile petals printed so well. Fern leaves are very satisfying to print because they have such a well defined structure - but it is worth  experimenting with all kinds of  plants.  The larger rounder leaves come from a garden birch tree. They refuse to lay flat on the paper and there is a hole in the middle where the leaf does not touch the paper. At first I was irritated by this but I think this also adds textural interest  to the overall picture.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Monoprinting With Watercolor

Fern Monoprint

Like many artists, the nature around me and my relation to it, is a source of inspiration.   I live in a forest in the middle of Sweden and spend alot of time wandering around with my dog and just being.  Ferns grow in abundance here, a reminder of our primeval, prehistoric past.

The technique of monoprinting is a very exciting one because one cannot predict the final result. Here´s how I do it:
I select plants and leaves - sometimes small twigs when I meander in the forest. When I come home I take a piece of heavy weight, fine grained watercolor paper and stretch it.  I spray the surface with water and let it soak in.  The paper should be damp. Then I take a large brush and saturate it with color - a lot of paint is used in this technique. Just drop pools of color onto the paper.  When the paper is full of color I arrange the leaves and other objects on the paper.  The pigment should still be soaking into the paper.  I study this process for a while because different pigments react differently.  Here I must help the painting along by adding more pigment here or there or dispersing color with a water spray.  When I´m satisfied I cover the objects with stones so they lay flat and are pressed onto the paper. The stones are also part of the composition they leave wonderful fascinating marks and add another texture to the painting.

Now it´s time for a cup of tea and a long wait.  I usually let the painting dry overnight - it might even take longer. I sometimes help it along with a hair dryer. Now the exciting part - removing the the stones and leaves and seeing what lies underneath.

You can see in this painting, by pressing the the leaf on the paper, wet paint is pushed away under the fronds leaving an almost ghostly photographic image. The outline of the fern is defined because the pigment collects there.

I love to experiment with this technique, it makes me feel like an alchemist looking for the definitive combination of paper, pigment, water and objects. Waterford paper lends itself to sharp well defined images whereas Fabriano leaves more diffuse marks.  Paper and pigments have their own characters and it´s my way to learn more about these wonderful materials.

Sometimes the results are not how I expected. The pigments can blend too much leaving muddy colors or the object did not print as I wanted or quite simply the composition is not good enough.  I keep these " mistakes" because the colors and textures are very interesting.  Here I´v used one of these unsucessful compositions  as a kind of collage,  I was intriged by the play of color the bottom right hand corner. It acts as a backround and frame to another work.

Here is a series of ACEOs I have made with birch leaves.

I picked these leaves from the forest floor at the end of autumn. I have kept mostly with earthy colors and greys; raw umber,burnt sienna, paynes gray and neutral tint.

Raw umber is a grainy pigment and leaves a kind of gritty texture on the paper . See on the top left hand side of this first picture.

When I can, I incorporate neutral  tint in these kind of painting.  It has a very special character - it spreads itself very easily over the paper and when it dries it leaves a well defined contour almost like an etched line.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Folk Art Bird Painting

An original acrylic painting 10 1/2" x 8 1/2" 27cm x 22cm
The diamond shapes are collage pieces from a gardening journal - I love these little clicks of color, with tiny details, they make the painting sparkle.
I usually have a very rough sketch of the compositional elements in my paintings, I add details as I go along and see how the painting develops. To help me be more spontaneous I paint a layer of burnt sienna over the white gesso - this way I feel free to mess up. Sometimes it´s a bit scary to paint on a virgin white canvas. I don´t mind too much if the brown shows through, I don´t always want my work to see too polished or artificial.
The decoration on the right hand side is derived from penny rag rugs. I often like to use motifs from traditional crafts, quiltmaking, embroidery, rugmaking and knitting. I am fascinated by these home crafts, these crafters have a long creative history of making wonderful works of art, often with limited means and materials. For me, they are the true heroes of the art world who bring design, color and imagination to ordinary homes.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Folk Art Painting - Tulip Bird

An acrylic painting on canvas 9 1/4" x 12 3/4"

I used to be a quilt maker and it shows in this painting. It reminds me of applique work. I enjoyed painting this. I limited my palette here to mostly shades of red and blue but the overall effect is very colorful.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

This is my dog Honey, 8 years old and still like a puppy. Most artists live an isolated life because of the nature of the work. Honey sits beside me when I´m painting - I never feel lonely. It is also a sedentary life and she makes sure that I get out and take regular exercise.

"She Knows What She Wants".

Honey was the inspiration for this painting. Acrylic paint on paper.

I wanted to depict her happy and colorful nature. My dog is a little bit spoilt and has a determined and stubborn streak - she knows what she wants.

Here is a moving poem by Rudyard Kipling which describes the attachment owners have with their dogs. It´s kind of sad and sentimental and has old fashioned values - but I like it anyway.

The Power of the Dog
Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart to a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find--it's your own affair--
But ... you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long--
So why in--Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

The Power of the Dog
Rudyard Kipling

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Two Birds Yellow

Acrylic painting on canvas 9 1/4" x 12 3/4"

I finished this painting a couple of days ago. Now I can start another one - just waiting for the gesso to dry.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Mom is Home

A new painting listed on Etsy. While I was painting it it reminded me of when I was little. my brother and sisters and I, used to wait for my Mom to come home to make our tea. She said we looked like baby birds.

Acrylic on canvas
9 1/4" x 12 3/4"