We have all had enough doom and gloom for one month so I thought you might like to see some Autumnal colour. These are some of the things that have lifted my heart. To begin with a visit to Little Moreton Hall, a magnificent Tudor house close to my home, set amongst beech trees and surrounded by a moat. The older I get the more important these simple pleasures are to me.
I am writing this whilst waiting for an exhibition called "colour" to open. The Sunday opening times at The Fitzwilliam in Cambridge are from twelve noon so I am taking advantage of a quiet morning to catch up on updating my blog. I have heard good reports about this exhibition and I am looking forward to learning more about colour in medieval times and the work that went into creating paints and pigments.
Earlier this year I worked on a gilded painting and have been trying to create another version to offfer as a digital print. I managed to change some of the golds to reds and worked out a way to reproduce the illuminated effects. White Hart is now available as an open edition print in my Etsy shop.
November already and I have slowed down, almost to a halt but not quite. Despite some truly wonderful days with our family my spirits and productivity have been woefully low, possibly due to falling ill with some nasty lurgy. Now everything has turned wet and cold and gloomy.
We did manage a cheery day out to our nearby parkland with grandson George and enjoyed visiting the farm, this year they had. Ronald Dahl theme. Can you guess who lived in the Den?
I have been getting rather obsessed with hand carved stamps, their accessibility and usefulness intrigues me. Here are some examples I put together as demonstration pieces for a workshop I shall be running shortly. So far I have concentrated on paper but would be interested to hear from anyone who has stamped onto fabric, in particular which inks to use?
We travelled down to London to see the exhibition at The Mall Galleries. Two of my paintings won awards. The little Jack Russell painting entitled "Millie's Garden" won the Elizabeth Meek Award and the border terrier painting "Beautiful Dreamer" was awarded a "Gold Memorial Bowl Honourable Mention".
The awards were presented by antiques expert Lennox Cato who will be familiar to anyone who watches The Antiques Roadshow.
If you are in London do visit, there are some 700 or so miniatures on show including portraits, still life subjects and landscapes and miniature pieces of sculpture. You might even buy something special for a Christmas gift and the wonderful thing about investing in miniatures is you don't need too much room!
Tony and I recently celebrated our Ruby Wedding anniversary in Normandy with our family; just one of the reasons I have been very behind with my blog posts. It was wonderful to spend time with our nearest and dearest, the sun shone brightly and the sky and sea were bluer than blue.
When we had enough of the great outdoors we lazed about indoors in the very spacious farmhouse we rented. Our grandchildren George and Edie found a book in the local supermarket which had been illustrated by their uncle Patrick. Of course we had to bring it home with us, it inspired many new works of art.
One of the places we visited was the Christian Dior house and garden in Granville. This beautiful pink villa housed a collection of the designer's work alongside photographs of the famous women who have worn House of Dior creations.
There were dresses worn by Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Jacqueline Kennedy to name but a few. There is something very personal and immediate about people's clothing, like seeing handwriting it evokes many sentiments. Viewing the exquisite Galliano creation worn by Diana, alongside the bag, shoes and jewels she wore, displayed next to her photograph made the experience very poignant. The tiny suits worn by Jackie and the sensuous black silk worn by Marilyn, such beautifully clothed women forever photographed and admired. I wonder how many of us would really like to choose their destinies?
When we returned I began a new series of animal portraits, this is little Millie who sometimes comes to stay. She and Ted were good companions and enjoyed walking together. People ask me why I haven't painted Ted, the answer is simple; every very time I look at his photograph my eyes fill with tears and I am finished! Maybe one day. The Anthony Browne book is one I have owned for some time, it is a little gem and worth rooting out if you love beautifully illustrated books. I decided to add some topiary details to my border, I hope Millie approves.
Another member of the pack, Ash the Weimaraner contemplating life.
Thanks to all of you who left comments in my last post and shared your thoughts on life long learning. As promised a winner has been chosen and the first name out of the hat is Weaver of Grass. I shall be posting a copy of The Dream Quilt to her in due course.
The weather here has been wonderful and warm, everything in the garden has grown and we have been kept busy with hedge clearing and other chores. We found time to visit our favourite garden in Wales. Bodnant garden is situated in the Welsh hills near to Llandudno, so a visit to one always entails a visit to the other. Bodnant has many different features including magnificent lawned terraces and lakes filled with water lilies, rose gardens and laburnum arches, but my favourite part is the woodland walk where magnificent Japanese Maples and Giant Redwood trees mingle with our native species, if you haven't yet visited you must put it on your wish list!
I finished a medieval inspired illuminated painting which I have called "White Hart". I made good use of some of the lovely new art materials purchased on my last trip to London. The fern areas are gold leaf and the tiny silver coloured dots are shell Palladium.
I have also been trying my hand at silverpoint drawing, using a tiny piece of silver wire and a thicker angled piece of silver set in a wooden holder. If you fancy having a try you need to either buy a piece of specially treated paper or you can prepare your paper using a ready made off white ground. I used one by C.Robertson and Co. All of these marvellous things can be bought from Cornelissen in London or online.
Silverpoint is a very subtle technique, similar to drawing in graphite but more even in tone. It produces pale grey marks which develop over time as the silver oxidises. Unlike graphite it will not easily erase and therefore is a more archival technique, one which was favoured by the old masters and now seems to be having something of a revival.
The White Hart painting is now with the gallery "Art of the Imagination" (Books Illustrated). The two silverpoint drawings are in my Etsy shop, see the link in my sidebar.
I hope the weather is being kind to you too, once again thank you so much for visiting my blog.
My old dad left school at the tender age of fourteen to begin life as an apprentice engineer. He used to say "you are never done with learning" and he was right. The very last thing I did for him was to return his library books, he was ninety seven when he took out books on European history. I guess I inherited his sense of wonder and a desire to learn. Much of my recent activities have been wrapped up in education.
I attended a one day workshop run by The Prince's School of Traditional Arts, the venue was in a very beautiful building-The Art Workers Guild and the teacher was Farkhondeh Ahmadzadeh.
We learned so much in one day; how prepare the paper and how to paint in the style of traditional miniature painters. Here is my humble effort, a flower painted on paper stained with walnut ink, burnished, sized and burnished again until the paper looked and felt like vellum. We used tiny paint brushes to draw the image and then we used water colours made from traditional minerals and stored in shells. To complete the image we used gold paint applied with a ruling pen. Of course this was only a taster which served as an introduction to the art of Persian Miniatures, a truly inspirational day in the company of wonderful people., I wish I could do more.
I enrolled on a slightly longer course with my local calligraphy group, starting with Uncials. As many of you will know, the art of calligraphy is as old as civilisation and as broad. I have only dipped my toes, or should I say dipped my pen into this vast subject. You know how it goes, the more you know the more you realise how much you don't know. I found that using some of the materials from the miniature class worked very well, the walnut ink and a lovely gold gouache have been pressed into service.
My husband has been doing some work connected to The University of Cambridge and was required to attend a meeting there. Of course I jumped at the chance of keeping him company, especially as we were offered accommodation in a beautiful Arts and Crafts Building called Westminster College. I sat at a desk overlooking the garden and practiced my Uncials- still a long way to go but the peaceful ambience of the building was very conducive to study, neither of us wished to leave.
The little gallery in my home town has started to run workshops and I was asked to teach a lino printing class. I have run two classes and have had full bookings so far, meeting some old friends and making new ones. We used Japanese green vinyl rather than lino and printed and burnished by hand using wooden spoons and a marble rolling pin. The results were impressive, many people had never done anything arty since leaving school and a good time was had by all. I did find it a little strange to be the instructor after having taken part is a multitude of workshops in the past.
Whilst on the subject of lino, I was thrilled to have one of my lino prints included in this gorgeous book on owls called The Elegant Fowl, available from Mascot Media. They publish a series of printmaker books alongside other art titles. I have a small selection of prints available in my Etsy shop if anyone would like to take a look. You will find a link in the sidebar.
And last but not least, the giveaway! Well two actually. The July edition of British Patchwork and Quilting features my book and fabric "The Dream Quilt" The magazine is giving away a book and a fabric length, one yard is enough to make a mini quilt. I am also giving away a copy of the book, all you have to do to enter is leave a comment below and tell me what you have been learning or what you would wish to learn. If you would rather not enter the contest please leave a comment anyway, it's always nice to hear your thoughts. I shall announce the winner on the 22nd July.
You can find The Dream Quilt book in my Etsy shop and you can buy the fabric in my Spoonflower shop. I would recommend Kona Cotton if you are considering making a purchase. One yard will make a mini quilt and the fabric is printed in such a way it needs no piecing so you can quilt straight away. The fabric is printed to order so allow a couple of weeks, if you live in the UK the fabric will be printed in Germany, otherwise it will be printed in the USA.
I know I promised a giveaway in my last post, forgive me for my prolonged absence, the giveaway will happen soon when I have caught up with myself.
It has been pleasant to spend time outdoors to enjoy the delights of spring. We have made several journeys, the first being up to Scotland to Gatehouse of Fleet, where we stayed in a small hotel by the river. The hotel was a great favourite of Dorothy L Sayers and I am told she wrote Five Red Herrings there. We travelled to nearby Kirkudbright and met up with Ruthie Redden, it was a great treat to chat with a fellow artist whom I met via this blog. There is so much to see in the hometown of Jessie King, there are art galleries a plenty, in fact Ruthie was busy preparing for a family show at The Harbour Gallery when we met.
We revisited the house and garden of E A Hornel, the garden was looking particularly splendid and we enjoyed strolling down its many paths. Broughton House has a rear view which overlooks the river whilst the front garden is in the town, so it has the best of both worlds. I pictured myself living there, well, we can dream...
Shortly after our scottish trip we took another journey, this time down to London where we saw more botanical treats. This time at the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace where we saw an exhibition of Maria Merian's Butterflies. It was my first ever visit to the gallery and I was delighted to find this exhibition as I have admired this artist's work for many years. The exhibition runs until October, if you love exquisite detailed paintings of insects and plants combined with fabulous design skills, this exhibition will not disappoint.
Our native bluebells have been splendid this year, in between the very many showers, we managed to enjoy several walks through our nearby bluebell woods. It always amazes me that so few people know of their existence. Two years ago we scattered our little dog's ashes in a quiet corner of the wood so it is always something of a bitter sweet experience to return. This year however I did feel his determined, self assured and inquisitive little spirit walking alongside.
Last but not least, I received a copy of this lovely book by Ann Benson- "A History of Coton Manor and its garden". Ann used a modified image of my artwork on a special bookplate and she very kindly sent me a copy of the book as a gift. Ann told me that she and her mother enjoyed visiting Coton's Bluebell Woods and both enjoyed the therapeutic atmosphere. Sadly I don't live near to Northhamptonshire but I am enjoying reading all about it and it is already on my wish list. You can make a virtual visit here on the website.
Next time I write I will tell you all about a wonderful workshop I took with a Persian Miniature Painter, bye for now.
I have been putting the finishing touches to a small fabric collection to enable home sewers to recreate the quilt featured in the book. I am just waiting to approve some fabric samples and then I will share a link to my fabric store. The fabric will be printed as a complete panel all ready to quilt, so no piecing will be necessary, instead you can enjoy stitching and maybe adding a few decorative stitches of embroidery?
One of these days I will learn to use a thimble, the quilt shown here was stitched entirely by hand- my poor hands are in bits!
If you wish you can order a copy of the book here in my Etsy shop, it is £7.99 and you can have it signed and dedicated if you send me a note first.
If the little pink hare in the foreground looks familiar it is the work of Stephanie Boudazin who has a delightful blog here
I'll be back soon with news of a give-away to celebrate the eighth birthday of this blog!
Before I go any further I would just like to say how very touched I was by all the kind words of comfort and condolence. Life moves on wether we want it to or not, although life will never be quite the same again.
Work has been difficult, there have been so many things to take priority, but it has been a comfort to sit back at my desk again. I managed to complete a new miniature of a Little Owl.
A dear friend invited me to accompany her to a bookbinding session. This time we made a French link stitch book sewn directly through the leather. It makes a nice criss cross pattern on the spine. You can see my attempt below; (the brown leather book). The tiny book below is a very simple folded structure which needs no glue or stitching although I did add a bit of sewing on the cover for decoration.
You may have guessed by my prolonged absence that my dear mum did not make the recovery we hoped for. She passed from this life to the next in our local hospital, never to return to her beloved flat and home.
My mum had a simple faith, one which she passed on to me. When I was little she would recite this prayer before tucking me up in bed for the night-
Lord, keep us safe this night, Secure from all our fears; May angels guard us while we sleep, Till morning light appears. Amen
This painting by Edward Hughes reminded me of my mum and the prayer she recited. We saw the painting in Birmingham whilst visiting an exhibition called "Enchanted Dreams".
And now, I am no longer the baby of the family, I am Mandma Val. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.
The Hooded Crow was a recent commission for a star gazer in the Netherlands, she tells there is a recognisable pattern in the stars I have drawn. What those stars have to say is a mystery to me, perhaps yet to be revealed. Can we see into the future when we look at the stars or are we only observing the past? "Que sera, sera, whatever will be will be, the future's not ours to see..." My mum's favourite Doris Day song and one which she sang to me in the fifties. Most of this month so far has been dominated by my mum's health issues. She sustained a very nasty fall and is now in hospital, my thoughts go back to those words as we contemplate an uncertain future.
I have been grateful for small diversions; afternoon tea at Chetham's Library provided a welcome break and a chance to explore a magical and ancient library right in the centre of Manchester. This is the oldest public library in the English speaking world, founded in 1653, although I think the building itself is far older. It certainly had a very Gothic feel and as the January afternoon became darker the mood intensified. We took afternoon tea in the Baronial Hall which was every bit as grand as its name suggests. There we were welcomed by our friend Sue who is the Heritage Manager for the library, better known to bloggers as Mouse from Mouse Notebook. I can't imagine a more interesting workplace.
I have also been happy to loose myself in the gentle art of hand quilting, the slow and rhythmic pace of hand stitching has helped ease the anxiety of caring for an elderly loved one. I have been making a start on making an actual fabric version of "The Dream Quilt". After trying several digital printers and after much tweaking and adjusting I now have some actual printed fabric. The designs on the fabric are from the recent book I illustrated, words by Adele Geras. Co-incidentally, the lovely little heart shaped pin cushion is also the work of Mouse. BBC Radio 3 recently broadcast "The Pearl Fishers" which was performed at The Met in New York. I stitched this little fish square transported to another place by the famous duet, sobbing and stitching in equal measure.
And now, I must wish you all a Happy New Year, may all your dreams come true. x
My name is Valerie Greeley. I am an artist, surface pattern/textile designer and illustrator. I have a special interest in the book arts including illustration, bookbinding, printmaking and artist books. I also have an interest in quilting, nature and bumblebees.