My latest crochet blanket…

I’m such a lazy crocheter – I make nothing complicated or fiddly, just stick to plain simple patterns that come up quickly with DK yarn and a large easy-to-handle crochet hook. It soothes me to find a comfortable rhythm and create something practical while sitting on my sofa. And the great thing about making a blanket is that it keeps you warm while you’re making it!

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This one is a simple ripple pattern blanket made with Wondersoft Merry Go Round Double Knitting acrylic yarn in Pastel Rainbow – it’s not really pastel colour, more muted rainbow shades, but so far I love the overall look – and a 5.5 hook. I started it yesterday and am really enjoying getting back into the flow of it all. Once it’s finished it’s going to sit on the back of the sofa to keep me cosy all winter 🙂

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Playing and Zooming

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It’s a dull grey day today, rainy and windy and anything but bright. So I decided to play about with some indoor zoom-bursts again to create some colourful images to cheer myself up. It’s fun to do, and the fact that I have to focus and concentrate and stand very still takes my mind off all the difficult stuff of life that has been dragging me down lately.

I placed an ordinary vase of everyday flowers on the floor in the middle of a colourful rug, and looking straight down from above took loads of same-but-different shots, holding the camera as steady as I could and zooming my kit lens from wideangle to telephoto as smoothly as possible while the shutter was open.

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I set my ISO to 160 an my aperture to 13, as after brief experimentation I found this gave just the right amount of exposure time for me to zoom comfortably from wide to tele in one smooth movement, creating that wonderful wooshing effect. The thing is that I have no idea exactly what I’m going to end up with, and that’s all part of the creative fun.

Some turn out way too muddy and dark, some are too washed-out and light, some I zoom too fast, some I zoom too slow, some I’m simply too unsteady – but also some I just fall in love with, and these are the ones I keep… probably only about one in ten are acceptably balanced for my tastes, so it’s quite a high attrition rate but with digital photography I find it really doesn’t matter 🙂

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Experimental Autumn – Motion Blur

 

This week’s photo challenge from the guys at the Daily Post is Experimental, so I went out for a walk with my camera this afternoon to try to capture the inevitable abundance of autumn leaves in a slightly differently way than usual, by experimenting with motion blur.

I initially tried to get some shots of leaves moving in the breeze, but I just don’t seem to be able to get the hang of using an ND filter to slow down the exposure time – I only got one reasonable shot out of a lot more than I’d care to admit to…

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Then I thought I’d experiment with the HDR setting coupled with still having the aperture closed all the way to see if that worked any better, but no, the end results just look weird…

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So instead I experimented with trying out a zoom-burst effect in a dimly-lit leafy tree-lined lane – no ND filter, no HDR setting, just ISO-0160, f/22 on Aperture priority, and zooming as smoothly as possible while the shutter is open. I’ve tried this technique a couple of times before, indoors, each time on a bunch of flowers in a vase, but I’ve never tried it outdoors before…

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As ever it took several attempts to find the right spot along the lane – no light at all made the final images too dull, but too much light blows out the highlights – and I also had to find the right rate of turning the zoom, and in the right direction. Now I’m home I can’t remember whether turning steadily from telephoto to wideangle, or wide-angle to telephoto was best – one gave the above result, the other created a lighter, finer streakier, less recognisable image, like the one below…

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Liquid Rainbows…

Liquid Rainbows…

A colour-wash of memories tint my brain

A million shades I’d love to recreate

I hold too tight, imagination reined

Convince myself I’m too old, it’s too late

‘Not good enough’, spits out its bitter pill

Expecting me to swallow down dream’s death

I challenge habit’s thinking – time stands still –

Anticipation waits with bated breath…

Yet once I start to paint, I find my flow

My brush an inked extension of my hand

My eyes begin to sparkle with warm glow

As liquid rainbows blend, soft strokes expand

Released in coloured undulating swirl

I sense my creativity unfurl…

Daily Prompt: Unfurl

Base Layer: Watercolour Flower Take II

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again…

Much happier with the feel of this one so far – I took my time and have kept my touch lighter but more controlled, and already the flower looks altogether more delicate and three-dimensional than in my previous attempt.

Letting it dry thoroughly now before adding any detail, but I think I’ll probably keep it reasonably minimalist all the way through… 🙂

Back to Basics

I think I got so excited at the idea of actually putting paint to paper again the other day I pretty much just took a deep breath, threw caution to the wind and plunged straight in at the deep end without really thinking through what I was doing. I suppose it was a necessary leap of faith for me to prove to myself I could still do it, and it was definitely a success in the sense that I didn’t drown, even if things didn’t all go swimmingly on my first attempt. It’s fair to say that the painted flower representation I ended up with was not at all the image I had envisaged emerging from the paper.

But nevertheless I learned a lot – or perhaps I should say remembered a lot – from completing that one little trial-and-error flower painting. I had forgotten how unforgiving watercolour paint can be if you don’t use it correctly. How important it is to get the particular balance of water and pigment just right for whatever specific technique you are using at any given point, and just how crucial your timing has to be when blending your paint. You either have to work each small section immediately before it starts to dry, or let it dry out completely before adding another layer on top .

I can see in my first little flower painting I was way too enthusiastic with the initial amount of pigment I used, and way too impatient to wait for what I had already put on the paper to dry thoroughly before adding even more paint. My unintentionally heavy-handed and rushed approach meant that what I ended up with was far too solid-looking, with flat muddy colours and absolutely no luminosity whatsoever. So while I’m pleased with it in the sense that I actually painted something after all these years, at the same time I feel frustrated and disappointed at how many basic mistakes I made.

So today I’m going back to basics and starting again with the same flower shape and the same brush on the same size paper, but this time I’m going to apply far less paint and far more patience, and see just how much I can improve on my initial attempt.

Watch this space for watercolour dog-rose take two…! 🙂

Inspiration, Interpretation, Imagination…

Hmmm… I know so far I’ve only done one simple flower colour study so it’s very early days, but I’ve been reflecting ever since on how it felt this afternoon to be painting again after all these years. Physically I absolutely loved the feel of the brush in my hand, the steady flow of the paint, and the diluting wash of the water, however clumsy and awkward my technique may have been to begin with. I know that technically, patience and practice and perseverance (as with everything else in life) will help me improve in time.

But emotionally I can sense I’m still too tied up in how I feel something ‘should’ look when put to paper, as if the only criteria that mattered for judgement was to reproduce a near-photographic representation of my subject matter for scathing critique under extreme scrutiny. As if true-to-life matters more than true-to-me. Of course, if the purpose of my painting was indeed to achieve that level of accuracy (for example if I were painting someone’s portrait for them) I suppose then it really would matter?

But I think I simply want my subject matter to provide the baby-steps beginnings of my own creativity, be a spring-board point of inspiration that I can choose to interpret in my own way, letting my imagination decide what to do and where to run with it. After all I’m not 17 any more, I don’t have a set syllabus or class curriculum to follow, or for that matter a teacher or parent to please. Rather, I have the absolute freedom to please myself. I can be as abstract and off-beat and making-it-up-as-I-go-along as I want.

So why do I struggle so much with recognising and accepting that artistically creative adult reality? Maybe the question I need to be asking myself is – who am I actually painting for? Because maybe that’s partly what has been blocking me for all these years, maybe at heart I’m still that insecure little girl always yearning for approval from others, trying desperately to feel good enough but all the while knowing I will never be enough for some people no matter what I do…  🙂

In for a penny, in for a pound…

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In for a penny, in for a pound! Well, nearer £20 actually, all in all, but it’s a good investment for my creative/ artistic future – I now have new watercolour paints, a couple of new brushes and some watercolour paper, and I’m determined one way or another to make a start of some sort today…

Partly what holds me back is the emotional insecurity of uncertainty – what if I’ve completely lost my touch? What if I’ve forgotten altogether how to paint? What if my imagination fails me and I look at the blank page in front of me and don’t know where the hell to start? What if I do make a start, then mess it all up? What if I fail…?

But logically I know that whatever I’ve forgotten, I’ll remember eventually. I know inevitably I’m going to be really rusty, and clumsy, and my painting is likely to be clunky and heavy-handed rather than loose and flowing to begin with. Thirty-six years is a long time in which not to have lifted a paintbrush – and I have to remember that whatever skill I may have had while I was at school developed only after a lot of practice…

I know as usual I expect far too much of myself, but I also know that if I don’t just strike while the iron’s hot and give it a go, I’ll be forever wondering what might have been if only I’d found the courage to try… 🙂

Daily Prompt: Prickle

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These are my old watercolour paints from school – well, what’s survived of them, anyway! I haven’t actually done any watercolour painting since 20th May 1981, and the reason I can be so confident about the date is because that was the day I sat my Higher Art practical exam, just before I left school… I found the old exam paper with my paints 🙂

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I never intended to give up painting altogether, because although I wasn’t ever great at it I really enjoyed it, but after leaving school I worked for a while, then got married and had a baby – actually three babies, one after the other – and somehow there never seemed to be time to paint. I carried on tentatively drawing (mainly simple pencil sketches) for a while, then that too dwindled away to nothing.

Over the years I have occasionally picked up my drawing pencil every now and again, but never my paintbrush. In fact, although I still have my paints I have no idea where my brushes even went, or my watercolour paper for that matter? There were more tubes of paint initially, but sadly after close inspection these nine were all that were salvagable – mind you after 36 years of total neglect it should probably be more surprising to me that any are still usable!

Recently I’ve been feeling the stirrings of creative curiosity again though – that prickling sensation of anticipation that comes with a renewed desire to have another go, just to see how it feels after so long to wield a wet paintbrush on heavy paper, feel the flowing undulations of diluted colour spreading out and tinting the pristine page beneath. I think that’s why I like using watercolours so much – there’s a delicate softness of touch to it, a gentle fluidity that resonates with me emotionally.

My mum was an art teacher before she got married, and she always used to paint with oil paints, and my eldest daughter moved on from the bright acrylics of her teens to the pastels she uses now. But my favourite medium was always watercolour paints – whatever else I experimented with along the way I always came back to watercolours. And now here I am at 53, itching to pick up where I left off 36 years ago.

The thing is, starting painting again requires an initial outlay – fresh paints, and replacement brushes and paper. Nothing too fancy, I don’t need to equip an entire studio, just get the bare minimum to give it a try. But if I’m actually going to do this then I need to commit to starting somewhere, so I guess there’s no harm in picking up a few basic supplies, and taking it from there – how exciting…! 🙂

Daily Prompt: Prickle