22 August 2014

New caf on the block

At one corner of the Arts Building(!) in the big John Jones redevelopment is, newly opened, a bakery/cafe -
Through the windows, in the photo, you can just about see the teeny-tiny minicab office across the street, and the rail yard beyond that - very scenic... Not to forget the Hair Port salon, just out of view...

This pic, presumably of the High St Ken cafe, from their website shows that trendy-area prices are seeping along to up-and-coming Finsbury Park - £3 for a capuccino, £2.25 for tea. Ouch!
This area could definitely do with some more places to buy good bread. I'm a big fan of the 5-cereal loaves from the organic shop, but don't happen to be passing by it all that often. Whereas this cafe is open early and late, and requires only a slight swerve on the way home from the tube station.

Outside the swish new building, reality kicks in -
The teeny-tiny minicab office, with rail yard behind

"Hair Port" and the hand car wash, with Finsbury Park underground behind

21 August 2014

Poetry Thursday - The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Portrait (and raven) by Schin Loong (available on Etsy)
The 108-line poem starts as it means to go on, rhythmic and alliterative, with many internal rhymes -

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
''Tis some visitor,' I muttered, 'tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more.'

The famous "Nevermore" appears in the 9th verse, after the bird is sitting comfortably on a bust of Pallas [goddess of wisdom] that is positioned over the chamber door -

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
'Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, 'art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'

The next nine verses end in "Nevermore", until the poem ends -

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted- nevermore! 

Read the entire "Raven" here. It's brought "to chilling life" in this video (though you have to suffer a 30-second advert first). The setting is greatly inspired by German expressionist cinema; the video is about 11 minutes long. Or, have it read to you: in this video, the reader isChristopher Lee - it's all about the listening; the words on screen are a distraction.

The poem is set in context, and dissected, here - and elsewhere. Manet and Gustave Dore are among its illustrators, during its long life - it was first published in 1845.

As for Poe (1809-1849), writer of mystery and horror ... he "was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story, and is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career." That comes from Wikipedia, where you can pick up the rest of the story of his life. "The cause of his death is unknown and has been variously attributed to alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other agents."

The "Allan" in his name was not given to him at birth, but by the family in Richmond, Virginia, who fostered him after his father skedaddled in 1810 and his mother died a year later of tuberculosis.

20 August 2014

Keeping track of journal quilts

CQ's JQs this year are 8"x8" and what a lovely size that is. Now and then I've been producing one or more in the "High Horizons" series, and putting them in a stack, intending to upload them to the yahoogroup photo site "soon".

The upload deadlines are 30 April, 31 Aug, and 30 Dec - four quiltlets at a time, if you've not been uploading them month by month. Which means there can be a lot of confusion if you haven't labelled them as soon as they're ready (made and edged/bound, photographed and edited)  - confusion not just in terms of title, but also in terms of which month they're intended for. Or even ... "did I upload this one already? surely ... but I can't find it in the yahoogroup files..." - nor can I find it on my computer, oh dear....

So much confusion! Time to devise A System ... yet again - but by writing it down, I can avoid confusion next year.
It makes sense to have all high-res photos of quilts in a big folder called Quilts. This is in My Pictures, and is not to be confused with the folder called "quilts" in the ready-to-upload-to-the-blog (ie, low res) folder, which is on the Desktop.  (What to do with those low-res pix is a matter for "later".)

(The size of the photo - high res or low res - can quickly be discovered by hovering the curson at the bottom right of the photo, but it's easier to separate the "print" versions from the "web" versions - or at least to label them, eg Title_highres, when renaming.)
Back to the 11 JQs, four (or more?) of which are in the yahoogroup Albums already. My own files show just two, Feb and April, with titles that indicate this, and the titles of the others show that some of the quiltlets - all of which are in the Quilts folder - haven't been properly named yet. 

First step, then, is to get some bits of paper, write the names, and pin them to the quiltlets. Add the months, found by checking through the Albums. Order is starting to appear. The "new" quiltlets can be assigned to months and uploaded to the relevant Albums. All shall be well...

Ah but what about the filename - which becomes the title of the quilt in the album? It's best if it includes the maker's name as well as the title of the quilt. As well, having the month in the filename is useful for me.

I decided on the format of [Month]14_TitleOfQuilt_MyName. This leaves out the series name, High Horizons, but keeps the filename short(ish).
All the 2014 JQs, uploaded, titled - or not - went into a new folder within Quilts called 2014jqs High Horizons, and while I was there I made folders for other years of JQs and various other categories of quilts. It now feels Very Organised!

But on uploading the first of the new bunch, I realised that I'd forgotten to check whether they were low res, and sure enough they weren't. It was the work of a moment to "Save for Web" into the  ready-to-upload-to-the-blog folder and from there into the Albums. 

Which leaves the loose end of those low-res pix in the blogging folder... Simplest thing would be to rename the "quilts" sub-folder there something like "quilts on web", to avoid confusion. 

Basket case

Started in the Contemporary Crafts course - trying to replicate what looked at first like boat-shaped baskets, but turned out to be based on the shape of weaving shuttles -
It's humbling to compare my laborious, lumpy structure to the ones in the book (maker not noted, alas). I used paper string to finish off the ends, which hopefully look a bit like a stern and/or prow ... to get back to the boat idea.

19 August 2014

Home sweet home

... amid the butterflies and gnomes ... what would it be like to live there?

You go past the same places all the time, on the bus or in a car or walking, and there's something about some of them that grabs your imagination, and you find yourself checking to see if anything has changed.

A photography project along these lines is Tom Phillips' 20 Sites N Years - it was going to a presentation of that project that got me noticing (and photographing) details in the neighbourhood, though not as systematically as he does.

18 August 2014

Quilt photography no-no

...usually... but here it's charming ...

Digital doings - getting the colour right

Getting the photos to look like the original painting isn't easy, and green seems to give the camera a lot of problems.
As it came out of the camera - cropped
After cropping, it needs adjusting it to fit into the rectangle (the keystrokes - on a PC, using Photoshop - are Ctl+A to Select All, then Ctl+T to transform, and holding down the Control key while dragging out the corners). Then the colour adjustment can start. Some people use Curves but I'm sticking with what I know, which is Levels (Ctl+L).

First, "tightening" by moving the little triangles to the point where the histogram starts -
Without "empty pixels"
To adjust for lighting conditions, hold down the Control and Alt keys and hit the B key -
Adjusted for lighting
Then I go back to Levels (Ctl+L) and choose individual colours, in this case Green, and move the sliders till the colours look like the painting, which is propped beside the computer.
Individual colours adjusted in Levels
On my screen at least ("your milage may vary") it pretty much matches the original ... and is certainly a far cry from what came out of the camera.

17 August 2014

Sign of the week

Five evenings of painting class

"Materials and Methods of Painting" was the title of the course. I took it in order to get some knowledge, practice, and confidence about using paint ... and hopefully an idea or two to move me away from the stripey painting. It was not plain sailing, but I'm glad I stuck it out.

Day 1

A scale of greys - so easy to get the mid-tone wrong -
 After trying to capture the grey tones of the plinths (too boring to show!) we had a go at the plaster bust -

Day 2

Drawing with charcoal, trying the fit the model onto the page -
Then the fun began. Everyone moved two easels along, and followed instructions.

Adding blue acrylic to indicate the darkest areas -
Using yellow for lighter areas; it mixed with the still-wet blue to give a mid tone -
Work in progress -
Light yellow added for the highlights -
Finally, we could touch it up and/or add background -
Not sure that's the one I originally drew, but it's the one I finished up with and that came home with me ... Which just goes to show, it's not the outcome that matters, it's the experience that counts. In any case, it was quite liberating to work on an image that wasn't your own - you just did what you could with what you had.

After the break (these are three-hour classes), using blue again, but on a midtone ground -
 Adding "real colours" -
 Very colourful in some cases! -

Day 3

Still using acrylics, but first some quick charcoal drawing - two sketches of three  minutes each, rub those out, then another without looking at the paper -
 The model took two different poses, and we were to fit them both onto the same sheet of paper -
 She moved back and forth between the poses as we added colour, one colour for darker tones and another for lighter ones -
 My figures are all tangled up ... I was still working on the "fit the model onto the whole page" instruction ...
 Other people laid out their page more sensibly -
 After the break, the panels we had gessoed earlier went up on the easels, and an underpainting of acrylic was applied -
 Looking at this now, I can see the fatal flaw (in fact, I can see nothing but the fatal flaw!) -
 Most people used two colours, as the previous day -

Day 4

The messiness of getting out the oil paint nearly drove me to distraction, as did the messiness of using it. The only thing to do was ... persevere ...
 The fatal flaw is of course the proportion of the legs - and the small matter of the displaced kneecap -
The colourful dress wasn't much fun to paint, especially as the pattern changed every time the model had a break and sat down again -
As for the pink cardigan ... we weren't allowed white paint so had to use the transparency of the paint itself, or else mix what we could -
The colourful backgrounds look great -

Day 5

We brought in a photograph. An almost-random dip into my pre-digital files pulled out these -
With the help of some enlarged photocopies, I set to work on the Weston-super-Mare pier, first by using paint under tissue paper for the boards -
 Then a wash for the sky, another for the sea, and thicker for the pillars etc -
A few details (some of the white was applied with the side of a palette knife) and it was done; time taken, 2.5 hours -
But haste makes mistakes ... those pigeons could be better placed ... I was following the photo rather than thinking about the painting. And aren't they huge! Hey ho, "next time" ... or I might have to mix up some brown and do a bit of touching up. Oh to have a scrap of that brown tissue to hand, for pasting over to make the birds disappear ... painting is magic, after all.

Looking back

It was a quiet class, with eight of us turning up for the final session, and a lot of concentration rather than chat. The course was well structured, and the tutor was definite in timings, which helped ("in three minutes, stop painting and walk around and look at everyone's work" ... "30 seconds left..."); he told us about cleanup methods and also about learning how much painting you could actually do within a certain time, which seems obvious but isn't something I'd really thought about.

The final painting was only possible because of the liberation after the hard slog of three sessions of working from a model, one of those in the "strange" medium of oils. Getting back to acrylics, and working from a photograph, was a delight! Racing against the clock to finish was a challenge ... fun ...

16 August 2014

Glorious chewing gum

Usually chewing gum is far from glorious, distorting the face as it is masticated, providing unwelcome sound-effects, appearing in pink bubbles in front of already-bloated, glassy-eyed visages, then pock-marking and defacing pavements as it is carelessly, thoughtlessly discarded.

Ben Wilson has done his bit to change that - and yesterday we passed him on Millennium Bridge, hard at work. Here are a few of the results.

Cross the bridge, and you'll almost certainly be stepping on artworks. See more of Ben's work here.