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August

2018

August has probably been one of the best summer months with long days of sunshine and warmth. However the odd thunderstorm or rainy day has been a most welcome break to the continuous dry weather. We have a waterway running through our property and I always get anxious when the level drops; I worry about the water-life, especially the young fish that need the flowing water over gravel and not become stranded on mud banks. A few days ago we had a tremendous storm and that helped swell the levels again. The muskrats, especially the kits, are always amusing to watch as they swim and play around in the water.

 

Despite the lovely warmth of August there is now a hint of the change in seasons with the light and air becoming different. The leaves are now beginning to change colour too.

 

With these subtle changes in mind I have been inspired to do a few different needle felted pictures, especially with an art show coming up in 4 weeks!

 

"Apples and Art" is an annual art show, now in it's 5th year, that is held at the Town Hall in Kimberly, Grey Highlands. It is running from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd September. www.kimberly-applesandart.com

The artists involved in the "Apples and Art" show are putting together a group of turtle inspired pictures which will be displayed collectively. My contribution is featured below. I have set out the process from start to finish.

 

First the design is sketched in pencil on the wool fabric, then the colours are added and 'felted' into the fabric using barbed needles. Once I'm happy with the picture I will the add the embroidery to define and add texture to finalise the image.

 

Whilst turtles are very common in Ontario their numbers are dwindling and there is great concern for their survival as natural habitats decline. We have such a wonderful world full of diversity but changes in climate, air, habitat, and appreciation of nature etc., all have a dramatic, and sadly, negative impact on the survival of many species that we are all so familiar with.

 

We can all do what we can to protect our local flora and fauna by providing good habitats for them.

Finally I am sadly having to announce that we have had to say our farewells to one of our beloved cats. We had two Maine Coon cats that have regularly featured in my news letter and journal over the years. Sylvester was just short of 15 years old and will be greatly missed. Fortunately we still have his brother.

July

July 1st was the second day of an Art and Craft show at Feversham, then on July 21st I attended a one day event in Eugenia. It takes a lot of organising to attend an art show but it is nice to get out and meet so many different people, and have the camaraderie of other vendors.

 

To these shows I took my female Wild Boar sculpture and that got a lot of attention! I have been working on a commissioned wire squirrel and have finally finished it. A squirrel takes at least 20 hours to make; hard to believe for something so small!

 

Wire sculpture is a relatively new art form. Thousands of years ago the Egyptians used wire to make jewellery but the first artist to be recognised for their wire sculptures is Alexander Calder (1898-1976) who exhibited some sculptures in the 1920's. Since then it has been used in many different forms.

 

I taught myself how to make sculptures after I need to demonstrate the size of a Wild Boar that I'd photographed. Whilst it is a hard medium to use it is satisfying to create something lifelike out of an inert roll of chicken wire!!

Next are some photos of some birds that arrive each year and nest at some point around our house. It is lovely to see first hand the development of the chicks once they have hatched, and watch just how busy the parents are bringing food to feed them! We have watched the parents swoop through the air to catch the insects that the chicks so hungrily take; their stomachs seem like bottomless pits!

 

I think this bird is of the flycatcher family and possibly an Olive-sided Flycatcher but unfortunately I can't find any referenced pictures that have enabled me to identify it with any confidence.. I found it quite remarkable that the nest withstood the weight of the the growing chicks and was able to contain them for as long as it did. It was lucky that they flew when they did as the nest was falling apart and wouldn't have lasted much longer!

 

The last photo of the chicks in the nest was taken literally half an hour before they flew out into our woodland!

Finally, I have to include the wonderful Hummingbird! Whilst I was taking photos of the fledglings above, these were swooping passed me as one rival was chasing another form the feeder! They never cease to amaze me how fast and manoeuvrable they are, plus how much noise their wings make!

June

The month of June was very hectic! I had an art show to prepare for at the end of the month and organising for this takes a long time. I had to ensure I had plenty of material and interesting items to display and sell.

 

For this show I also wanted to complete a number of needle-felted pictures as it is a medium I really enjoy working with and is where my new interest lies. Combining natural fibres on natural fabric to create a scene that could be a watercolour is challenging on one hand, but immensely satisfying on the other! I have always enjoyed sewing so to add machine embroidery to the finished picture seems a very natural path to take.

 

Before I go further I must mention the reason for the first picture. This is the cover of our youngest son's first album! It is also a photograph that I took so I am immensely honoured that Sebastian chose a picture that I took to be on his debut album. Here is the link to his website: www.sebastianellis.com

So, with the thought of 'sunsets' fresh in mind, the first needle felted picture was created to capture one of those glorious skies that we see throughout the year. In the wintertime I feel that they are more stunning as the stark contrast of the leafless trees against a sky of wonderful hues is a welcome splash of colour when the world can otherwise seem somewhat dreary during those winter months.

 

I took numerous small pieces of the colours I needed and blended them to make the sunset sky. I then took another batch of threads and combined them to make a stone wall, with the appearance (hopefully!) of moss growing on it's surface. Once I was satisfied that there was enough felted wool I set too and embellished with machine stitching.

Coming to the next two pieces hopefully evokes the wonderful brightness of fresh spring and summer colours. Recently we have had the most intense of blue skies which is a wonderful backdrop to trees and flowers.

 

I did have the passing thought asking, "Why is the sky blue?". So I had to look it up! This is what I learned. As we know light admitted from the sun appears 'white' but is in fact made up of lots of colours of different wavelengths. Violet has the shortest, then blue, with red having the longest. When the light reaches earth it is scattered or deflected by the molecules in the atmosphere. These molecules are smaller than the wavelength of the light so the amount of scattering depends on the wavelength of the light. As blue has the shortest wavelength it is scattered the most, also our eyes have receptors predominantly for blue, then red, then green, so our eyes pick up the blue light easier. The sky should really be violet as this has a shorter wavelength than blue but apparently not much violet light is in the sunlight to begin with and our eyes , as mentioned, have a greater number of receptors for blue anyway.

 

When we see a sunset we see more of the yellows, oranges and reds as the sun is closer to the horizon so the blue light gets scattered even more as the sunlight has more atmosphere to pass through. This extra scattering of the blue wavelengths allows the other colours to become more visible to us.

 

I imagine that our world is incredibly more colourful than we see it purely because of the way our eyes perceive light. Can you imagine how much more vibrant our world could be if we saw more than we do already!

This picture represents a forest glade and I have included lots of colours! Nothing is ever one colour. As children we tend to paint blue skies, green grass, red doors (for example) all as solid blocks of colour. When we really stop and look there is hardly ever just one colour; everything is made up of lots of colours with purples in the shadows and yellows in the bright areas.

 

It's quite fascinating how light is made up of a spectrum of colours and then depending on how the objects around us absorb or reflect those colours depends on what colour we see those objects as. We certainly live in a beautiful and incredibly clever world! Especially if you think how plants convert sunlight to energy and grow leaves which we are then able to eat either directly or after an animal has consumed it! Remarkable.

Here I've put needle-felting to a further use and created little bags. On the front is a design (flowers, trees or a sheep) and the reverse is the opening with a felted flower as the 'button' fastener'.

In May we were lucky enough to take a trip to Europe. The joy of going to Europe is first seeing family and friends, and secondly to enjoy the immense history and glorious architecture.

 

We started our trip in Kent, England. One of our first encounters with historical buildings was a visit to Leybourne Castle. A wooden castle pre-existed the stone one which was built in the mid 1200's by Sir Roger de Leybourne. The majority of the castle is a ruin but a large farmhouse was built (probably in the Tudor times) adjacent to the castle remains and is now a privately owned residence. Sir Roger also served under King Henry III. Parts of France were under English ownership through the marriage of Eleonor of Aquitane and Henry II. However there were constant troubles and Sir Roger helped build a bastide giving it his name Libourne; the town remains one of the most important towns in the Gironde.  It was ironic to go from a small village in Kent called Leybourne to the Gironde area in France (near the Dordogne) and see 'Libourne' on the road signs!

 

Nearby to Leybourne is the lovely market town of West Malling. Parts of West Malling date back to 1550. There is a lovely Queen Anne house and numerous Tudor and Georgian era properties. The age of some of the buildings is betrayed in the misalignment of their doors, windows and walls. Whilst on this trip I was looking out for inspirational views, buildings and ideas for future art projects. When drawing, the art of perspective is employed. Briefly, this is the method used to portray solid objects drawn on a 2 dimensional surface. Correctly used it gives the right impression of height, width, depth and position when the subject is viewed from a certain point. The two windows on the left of this Georgian house caught my eye as they defy the 'logic' used in perspective and if the real subject wasn't known, anyone drawing this house would be criticised for incorrect lines!! Further down are photographs of streets in Bordeaux which are perspective delights as they demonstrate how buildings change in size as the eye goes towards the horizon.

After a week in England we took the Eurostar to Paris. We then changed to one of France's amazing high speed trains - the TGV. At one point we were travelling at 318 km.p.h (198 mph)! We took the TGV from Paris to Bordeaux which is situated on the west coast of France (about 2/3rds down when you look at a map). When we exited the train station we were faced with this lovely facia of the Cafe Du Levant; immediately the style and architecture was French!

Bordeaux is built on the river Garonne and has a rich history spanning 2000 years. From 1154 to 1453 it was under the English crown, the last king being of Henry VI . In 1453 King Charles VII of France won his last battle against England ending the 100 years war.

 

Bordeaux underwent a radical transformation in the 18th century and many of the monuments have become iconic to the city. Bordeaux underwent large scale renovations in the 1980's and 1990's and now has over 5000 renovated homes from the 18th century. The streets are certainly clean and the buildings magnificent; you certainly feel that you have stepped back in time. We only saw the 'old town'. There is obviously a very modern Bordeaux too and we saw quite a bit of construction, but apparently, due to the weakness of the subsoil Bordeaux will not have skyscrapers.

Below are two of the 'iconic' monuments in Bordeaux. The fountain featured is duplicated on the other side of the monument. The 'Age of Enlightenment' came in the 18th century. then in the 19th century Bordeaux finally and proudly became a republican city. An Art competition resulted in the"Bronze horses of the Girondins" on the Quinconces square. They are to celebrate the lives lost during the time of the revolution and the guillotine... There are several stories about the bronzes in World War II. One says that the bronzes were taken by the Germans to be melted down for armaments, the other says the were hidden from the Germans to prevent them being melted down. Either way, the bronzes in these fountains were removed in the 1940s and were returned in 1944. The fountain was fully restored in 1968. (dates are not necessarily exact as I found numerous references in my research but not all dates were the same....)

 

The other iconic monument is the Gross Cloche (big Bell) that was built in mediaeval times. It originally had 6 towers and one storey. The two remaining circular towers are 40 metres high. After a fire, the small lantern tower was added in 1775. The present bell was forged in 1755 and weighs 7800 kg. On the inside of the bronze corolla is written in latin, "I call to arms. I announce the day. I indicate the hours. I chase away the clouds. I celebrate the festivities. I mourn the dead." It was also rung to announce harvest time and to warn of fire. The bell is still rung on special occasions.

Near Bordeaux is an area know as the Dordogne. In this region, and ones nearby, are wonderful Bastide towns; one as mentioned above, called Libourne.  We travelled to stay with friends who live near St Etienne de Fougeres. As we'd hired a car and had no physical map, we set our Sat Nav for the destination. After an hour and a half the device proudly announced "You have arrived at your destination". As we sat in the car admiring the small country road and rolling hillside, with not a house in easy view, we knew that we hadn't......When I think that Sir Roger de Leybourne travelled to this area in the 1200's, which is over 840 miles by land, I think his method of navigation using stars and compass was infinitely more reliable!! For that reason I love real maps!!

 

We visited Monflanquin,  Monpazier and Pujols. Monpazier was founded in 1284 by Edward 1st of England and is one of the best preserved bastide towns, the architecture recapturing time 700 years ago. It was once surrounded by thick defensive walls with a few gateways. After the uniformity of the buildings in Bordeaux, the diverse style of the buildings and widow designs were lovely to see. So easy to imagine life in this town all those years ago.

 

Once again, I love the diversity of these designs , and have returned home with inspiration!!

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