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Sunday, 18 June 2017

SUMMER 2017 TRIP PART 1


We have just returned from our summer camping car trip to the Loire valley and the alps.  We started at Briare where there is a renowned canal bridge over the river that we had wanted to see for some time.


Here is a photo I took of the canal bridge with a boat passing over the river.


We took our orchid houseplant away with us as the neighbour who normally cares for it was away on holiday at the same time. It travelled in the shower room and sat on the dining table when we were parked up.



As we drove down the motorway my eye was caught by the tall slim trees overtaken by mistletoe, I love the shapes that show up before the new spring leaves come out and hide the clumps.
This looks like an interesting possibility for a needlepainting.



We cycled into town on Sunday morning and sat in the shade of the parasols outside the café with a coffee before going to look at the canal bridge. The cathedral at the end of the square was an interesting structure but impossible to draw so I decided tp concentrate on a small section.


We had a lovely pitch by the river and a view of the trees and wildlife.
My new sketchbook is made with a combination of 2 different papers, A rough Arches watercolour paper and some very smooth Vivaldi drawing paper.  It was really nice to have the contrasting surfaces to work on


The Loire valley has many cycle paths along the river and the canals which are perfect for exploring the area, being mainly flat.  We took advantage of them while we were at Briare to visit other villages and enjoy the wildlife we saw along the way. This is the otter we stood and watched for several minutes as it swam along the canal.



The campsite had a large shower and toilet block with open rafters where a flock of swallows had taken up residence, building their nests in almost every nook and cranny they could find, even on the light fittings.  I spent some time just watching and listening to them chattering to each other as they worked collecting twigs and mud to make their homes ready for their families.  I would love to have been there when the eggs hatched and the fledglings came out for their first flying lessons!

 Another day we cycled to Gien along the paths through the countryside for a tasty lunch out and a visit to the town where Bob had bought the first pieces of pottery that began my collection 45 years ago. 


Friday, 12 May 2017

A BIT MORE NEEDLEPAINTING.






After a while using my sewing machine for needlepainting, I felt the urge to do some hand stitching relaxing on the sofa instead of bent over the machine buzzing away!  We had spent a lovely evening with our friends and Luba gave me a bag full of scraps from her dress designing days.  Michel and Helene were also there and Michel was telling us about his latest photographic exhibition at Caen.  He showed us the catalogue and a light bulb went off in my head, here in one hand I had the exactly right coloured fabrics and wonderful abstract images in the other.  I couldn't wait to get started the next Morning.



Michel takes beautiful pictures of the light shining through stained glass windows as they reflect on ancient stone church walls.  His website is:  www.michel-follorou.fr if you are interested in having a look, I feel sure you will be as bowled over by what you as I am.



I made a collage of blue silks and linens with some black velvet all stitched to a black needlecord base with a selection of cotton knitting yarns which were all I had to hand at the time.  When it was finished I pressed it and backed it with iron on interfacing and then made a frame of the rest of the blue/green shot silk backed with interfacing.  The last touch was to back the whole picture with some plain black lining up-cycled from an old skirt and make a slot along the top so I can hang it on the wall.
I'm very pleased with my first hand stitched abstract piece of work and the second one is already under way.  What do you think?
I'll share the next piece with you and hopefully lots of sketches too when we come back from our summer camping car trip which starts tomorrow morning.


Saturday, 6 May 2017

2017 SPRING TRIP TO ENGLAND



 
W have just returned from a lovely but very full time in England visiting the family.  We rented a log chalet on a site in the Surrey hills between Guildford and Dorking.  This is the view from our front window of the wonderful trees that were growing all over the site.




From the side window we has this lovely view over the roof tops across to the distant hills of the North Downs.



On the first Sunday we had a delicious lunch with Mum and Ivor and Janet, Bob's brother and sister-in-law, in a restaurant at Gomshall Mill.










We were really close to some beautiful countryside and one day Justine came to spend the afternoon with me walking through the bluebell woods.  She knows the area very well as she lives nearby and goes cycling with a friend through the lanes every week.




Our next stop was at Whitstable where we spent the night with Jo and the two Jameses.  Young Jimmy was very pleased to see me and show off his brand new trainers as he put them on ready to go out.




We went to a local wine bar for a drink and a joke!



Lovely to see my girls even though we don't have a lot of time together we do make the most of it!




Next stop was the annual garden party at Justine's house near Guildford where she has worked very hard to prepare for this special occasion.  My brother Christopher and sister Juliet make the effort to come despite the distances they have to travel.




I managed to get Justine and Jo together at the end of  a very busy and successful afternoon.




Even the 3 gorgeous granddaughters posed for a few photos!



Here I am with my stall of goodies for sale, I nearly sold out and was able to donate £100 to the Woking Hospice.
All together we raised over £600 on the day and Kevin, Justine's husband added another £200 as a personal donation.




And finally a sketch from my handbag mini moleskine sketchbook by Jimmy of me on the left and himself on the right although I had to help with the logo on his teeshirt!

Thursday, 20 April 2017

41 CATCH UP!

 
Time to catch up on my sketchbook 41 nature journal with a few recent drawings of the nature in and around my garden.  These violets are growing in the lawn at the moment since I persuaded Bob to let them grow instead of spraying with weedkiller and what a picture the are, just imagine a green and purple carpet all over the garden.
 
 
And just in case you don't believe me, here's a photo!
 

 
The Forsythia doesn't last very long but what a delight it is when it's in bloom.

 
I have a couple of shrubs, one of which is in the shadier part of the garden next to the bank and it really lights up the corner with the bright yellow flowers.
 
 
I have interpreted a bunch in one of my needlepaintings too, such a pleasure to have the flowers on my worktable and study them as I stitched.
 

 
Many of the trees around here have lichen growing on them in such pretty shades of green.  Apparently it is a sign that the air is very clean, we say here in Brittany that it gets washed by the rain nearly every day!

 
It's surprising how dry and crispy the lichen feels when you touch it!

 
The ferns are beginning to unfurl in the garden and down the lane.
Well, that's it for a couple of weeks, we're off to England in the morning so I'll see you later, hopefully with a lot more drawings to share.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

MAGNOLIAS

 
This week's needlepainting is a magnolia inspired by the blooms in the garden at the moment.

 
The magnolia bush was already in the garden when we bought our house nearly 15 years ago.
We moved it to a sunnier spot when we realised it was in the shade of the bank and soon to disappear underneath it in fact as the ivy was growing across the lawn at quite a rate.

 
This set of drawings is in my nature journal from 2012 when I drew the same flower on the tree as it opened and died over 3 weeks.

 
I had wanted to draw the seeds as well but the birds got there first!
 
 

 
With the dark ivy covered bank behind the shrub and the flowers looking like lightbulbs shining in the sun, I couldn't resist drawing them again the following year.

 
This year again I've drawn the flowers but now as inspiration for my needlepainting.

 
I love the purple on the underside of the petals and for the picture I used some scraps of a cashmere cardigan that was no longer worn.
 
 
And finally here's a photo of one of those beautiful blooms.
Have a happy Easter!
 


 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

SKETCHBOOK 41 PART 2



 
One of our favourite meals to have on Sunday is oysters and champagne.  Bob gets up early to go to the village where the local producer sets up her stall and he buys 18 size 2 oysters.  We can trust in their freshness as they are grown on the coast only a few kilometres from here in the river Jaudy where we used to sail when we had our boat.
 

 
It's a very simple meal, we have the oysters followed by some delicious French cheeses and a green salad washed down with a red wine from the Rhone villages.  We buy our champagne from the producer who comes to Perros every year at a very reasonable price, in fact we are off to the annual wine fair later this morning to get stuck into some serious tasting.

 
I have a Japonica bush just in front of the dining room window and I love the way the orange flowers bloom all along the stems, right into the centre of the shrub.

 
The branches have lethal spines which attack my fingers when I try to cut a few stems to draw so I have taken some photos as well because I think this would make an interesting subject for a needlepainting.  I can picture the layers building up and getting stronger in colour as they come nearer to the front.

 
I have an American friend called Starr who lives in a wonderful forest who posts beautiful photos of her environment which have inspired my drawings in the past.  The latest batch have also been interpreted in brush pen and diluted inks.

 
She has a lovely collection of silver birches with interesting barks which she has also painted in watercolours. 
The name of Starr's blog is wonderland woods and I'm sure you'll be delighted with her photos too.

 
Continuing with the woody theme, we have a few tree stumps in our garden where I noticed some interesting growths appearing.  On closer inspection I discovered these colourful fungi so I photographed them straight away as I thought they might get damaged when Bob set out to mow the lawn.  As this blue-green one was about 5 centimetres across I enlarged the photo so I could see the detail more clearly.

 
This orange-mauve one had been growing slowly through the winter and fortunately I caught it at it's peak as it's now dried up since the weather warmed up for spring.
Spring is warming up and there are lots more beautiful plants to draw in and around my garden so keep an eye out for the next instalment of Sketchbook no 41!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

ANOTHER NEW SKETCHBOOK

 
I've just realised I haven't posted anything from sketchbook no 41 which I started in January with this title page combining some snowdrops from the garden with a simple numeral.
 
 
Here is the cover, a pretty batik fabric (thank you Juliet!) and my favourite pen at the moment tucked into the spine.
The pages measure 11 x 17 centimetres.
 

 
It's quite a small book made from some watercolour cards I bought last year but never used so they seemed perfect to make into a book, being already folded.

 
There were few flowers around when I started to fill the book and this page is one of my favourites, some hellebores from a plant given to me by Justine about 10 years ago.  They never fail to pop up in January and brighten up the dark winter days.

I have a few dried Hydrangeas in a vase and one day I noticed how well they co-ordinated with my little Canterbury pottery vase containing a few narcissi.
 

 
A few years ago when I cleared out my mother-in-law's patio pots she gave me the old miniature daffodil bulbs to take home and they are still going strong in a corner of the herb garden where I can see them from the kitchen window.

 
There are always bunches of tulips in the shops at this time of year and I can't resist bringing some home to draw and just enjoy of course! 
You might have seen some of these sketches recently turned into needlepaintings and there are a lot more to come too when I get around to the next batch of drawings.  I hadn't planned to make this a nature journal but that is how it's turning out although it was originally made for our trip to Italy last summer which we had to postpone.
Have a nice weekend, remember to cherish your mothers on Sunday, I'm busy drawing mine at the moment ready for tomorrow when I'll be posting it on Facebook.