Monday, 22 September 2014

Fuzzy felt and hot wax

Oh it's been all go in the Ballistic Owl studio since my last blog post! I approached the Craft shop at Newcastle Arts Centre to see if they would consider taking some of my work and they said yes :-) big smiles all round. 

So I've had all my felting things out and have been producing some gorgeous brooches, cuffs and necklaces for the shop. It's been great fun and I've loved sitting stitching, inventing new designs and finding my collection of beads and bits. Each brooch is unique and although I may use the same shape the finished product is different. They will make a great gift for a loved one or a fabulous treat for yourself, pop in store and take a look at the whole range.

This weekend I was really pleased to have the opportunity to go on a Batik course with the lovely Heather Gatt, who is a highly recognised artist and lives in the wonderful Whitby. Heather's course was great as she started us off with a demo of how we could use all the tools and how to set up our frames and also an alternative way to use the wax resist for a more painterly image. After a busy week in the art shop this was a fantastic was to unwind and get messy!

 This one and the one below were made using wire shapes and the canting pen. The top piece I decided to crackle to produce the fine veining.
This next one was done using the more painterly method of drawing onto the cotton and then building the colour layers up one at a time, blocking each colour off with wax as you went along. I really liked this technique and enjoyed making my echinacea, although now I've removed all the wax I would have preferred my background to have been a little darker.
 Heather also had lots of stamps and I loved this delicate rose one. It was made of tiny metal wires and similar to a printing block. It took some practise to get it to leave the right amount of wax behind, but in a way I liked the imperfect ones too.
 First attempt with the stamp above and several goes later below. I might now stitch into the not so good ones and see what I can make with them.

So what fun I've had and guess what's going to be on my Christmas list this year :-)

Reading- Still making my way through "S" which is like 3 books in one. Also making a start on Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Brancepeth, leaded glass and cloud watching.

Thanks to a tip off from Stitch in Tyne we visited the fascinating Brancepeth Castle on Sunday to see the craft fair and an interesting building and surroundings. Stitch in Tyne's stall was gorgeous and her bookwarmers and prints seemed to catch many a persons eye. We are now the proud owners of one of her paper cut prints which has pride of place on our mantle piece.

Besides looking round the craft fair, were explored the castle and the surrounding area. The castle has an interesting history due to it having several owners, two of which had the castle confiscated by the crown one for planning to depose Queen Elizabeth 1 and the second for a poisoning scandal. In the 19th century it was restored  and some Victorian Gothic elements were introduced into the structure. It was also a hospital for recovering soldiers from the first world war. It also has a connection with the well known local ditty about Bobby Shafto as Bridget Belsayse who's family lived in the castle in 1701, whose heart was said to have been broken by Bobby.

Here are some photos taken from our little exploration of the grounds.

 Lovely windows set in lovely Gothic inspired stone work. Even the windows for the basement are pretty.
 I just loved the font on this no parking sign, and the fact that there was a motorised wheel chair parked underneath it!
 The delicate web adds an intriguing pattern to this old door bell surround.
 The church next to the castle had some amazing leaded windows all along one side no two were the same. For more pictures of these gorgeous windows pop over to Ballistic Owl 

 On the way home we decided to drive over the moors and go the long way rather than up the A1. The clouds were fantastic and we just had to stop and watch them for a while. 
I've quite got into cloud watching and have taken a few photos of ones that have caught my imagination, these hot summer days sometimes seem to produce the best cloud formations.

Reading at the moment: S by J J Abrams and Awakening by Sharon Bolton

See you next time thanks for stopping by :-)

Monday, 7 July 2014

The land of green beauty

I've been struck this last week at the beauty of and the many shades of green nature has to display. We've just spent a lovely week in the Southern Lake District, in a log cabin surrounded by big trees in full leaf and peace and quiet, no phone or data connections! So the mobile was switched off and the pad and time was spent enjoying a book, walking and taking lots of photos. 

 Bunnies were abundant around the site and it was lovely to take a photo of this little fella having his bedtime wash.
I was struck by the gorgeousness of the greenery and the reflections in Loughrigg Tarn that was a short walk from where we were staying. Perfectly still bar a few ducks floating around and the light was just right to create this complete reflection below.

I thought the pattern potential in this insect house was great and took pictures of the different styles of bug house within this box.

The fabulous owl sanctuary at Muncater Castle, I must say I could have stayed all day just in that one bit. This shy looking owl posing in this lovely setting will fight most things off and away from it's nest including humans, so don't get too close.

Below is a close up of the beautiful markings on the Fishing owl, he sat very patiently on his perch, casting a glance to passers by.

I'm still building up my collection of old and worn images and some day I will do something with them. I loved this old bench, reminded me of ones we used to see when we were small in parks everywhere. This one a little tired looking and covered in lush green moss was near the waterfall up the hill from Ambleside.

This sign, which I'm determined to decipher caught my eye at Muncaster, another shade of green blue against the vibrant green of the beech leaves of the ancient tree.

Everywhere we looked despite there being reports of the lack of rain in the Lake District was alive, blooming, lush and vibrantly green. The rolling hills and forests were such a refreshing change of scene and hoofing up to the top of some of those hills was definitely worth it!

Currently reading as part of our book group: Instructions for a heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell, brilliant so far.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Snaps from my city.

I'm really loving my journey through Newcastle and down to the Arts Centre and each morning I will either take lots of pictures or if I'm laden down or time is tight I will plan images for the next trip. Doing a project like this makes you look at the city you live in, in a new light. You start to notice the small things or things that you step over every day and other people's routines. I'd also not realised that we had so many plaques commemorating so many great people who built or influenced our gorgeous city. 

I'm now going to incorporate some of these finds into my drawing project. 

Another thing I'm going to do is explore how many routes from my starting point there are down to the Art Centre and investigate interesting architecture and details along the way. I have two routes at the moment and there at least two more I can explore.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Decorating, experimenting and exploring.

Hello all, sorry it's been a while since my last post. The art shop has been keeping me busy and I've also been decorating the house, well the hall, stairs and landing to be precise which was a fairly big job! Anyway that's all done for the time being and I can get back to Ballistic Owl and creating beautiful pieces.

My favourite bit of the landing after the redecoration.

While I've been painting walls I've been thinking about what I can be doing for my next project and mapping out ideas and collecting images. I've also been out and about with the camera taking snaps of lovely things to inspire my new project as well as future ones.

I've also been experimenting with various techniques and also working on some embroideries, here's a snippet for those who haven't found my facebook page yet.

The three images above were part of an experiment using cyanotype, which is a fun technique to try out on a warm sunny day. I have then selected certain sections and embellished them with stitch. The birds linking them altogether, but they don't have to be together as will stand alone quite nicely.

This rather fun and you never know what's going to happen technique is done using photo paper, dye and ink. I loved the depth it produced and the gorgeous mini images you find within the piece. I'm now working on how to incorporate this into a piece.

My new project is looking at an old favourite, architecture, but looking at it from a different view point and trying out some of these new techniques I've been exploring. My one of my first drawings is this one exploring the angles of the Co-op building in Newcastle town centre.

Keeping it simple, but with a ping of colour.

Alongside a friend from work I'm also exploring my journey to work and taking pictures of things that catch my eye that day. It may be a road sign, a tree or a building, but all form part of my journey. Myself and my friend's destination is the same, but reached from different parts of town, so it's interesting to see the pictures as they're gathered.

My first few pictures taken on Friday 16th May.

So as you can see I've been pretty busy and  I have not been neglecting the creativity, just nurturing it a little bit and giving it some tlc.

Keep in touch and keep popping by, see you next time.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Gambia, the smiling coast.

The blog has been a little quite over recent weeks as we've been preparing for our holiday, the first one in a wee while, so a lot of preparation had to be done before hand. As we were going to The Gambia one of the jobs to be done was to organise injections and ordering malaria tablets. This was my first time to Africa and not really knowing what to expect was a little daunting. You see lots of images on the news and in books and on the net, but seeing first hand is an experience you won't forget.

Gambia is a country surrounded by Senegal on three sides and the Atlantic on the forth and named after the river that it surrounds. We travelled to a small place called Kotu which is close to the coastline and one of the quieter destinations in the area. The second map shows the Kotu area and our hotel is where the "A" pin is. We were lucky enough to have a lodge room facing the golf course and would watch the pigs walk across it each day!

The Gambia -

Kotu - Google maps

After flying over the Sahara I was surprised at how green Gambia is, lots of woods and forests and along the main road to Kotu there was even a nursery selling plants and flowers. The end of February is heading towards the end of their summer and the rainy season is fast approaching. Even so the many trees and plants are still green and lush.

A view across the fields not far from the hotel. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

On our first trip out we followed a cycle path that led to bustling Sene Gambia a small town with shops, banks and places to eat. Here we spotted our first market with many brightly coloured fabrics and bags. We weren't brave enough to go and have a proper look, so carried on to the beach.

Local market Sene Gambia. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

 Palm and coconut trees are all over Gambia as are mango and cashew nut trees. I loved the way the branches on this tree had only been partially cut away to reveal a lovely pattern, something I will explore once I get my drawing things out.

Palm Tree. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

This cute little fella was enjoying a free peanut in a reserve we visited. He is a Green Vervet monkey and is the same species as the ones that visited us in the hotel. At the hotel if you left a banana within reach they would steal it! They mummy had several "toddlers" and one tiny baby that clung to her as she made her way through the trees.
Green Vervet Monkey. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

One of our trips was to Makasutu a forest and mini resort a short drive away from us. The forest was found and preserved by two English guys who then set it up for visitors. As part of your visit you go on a boat trip around the mangroves, past the oyster farm and then to base camp an area that serves as a relaxation for the guests at the grand Medina lodge (a very posh hotel). From there a guide takes you on a walk through the woods and points out birds and gives interesting facts and stories about the trees. 

 Oyster Farm on the banks of the mangroves. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

Pretty flowers on a canopy. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

As my other half enjoys bird watching we went on a few trips to see some of the many birds of Gambia. It was great being able to use my new camera and get some shots of the pretty birds. My favourite is this one the Abyssinian Roller, with it's beautiful aqua and lavender coloured feathers. Another amazing bird was the Hornbill with his big red beak.

 Abyssinian Roller. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

 Hornbill. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

Oh you know those pigs I mentioned, here's one crossing the road!

Piggy crossing. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

On days off e.g: when not on a trip, we would walk along the beach and enjoy the sunshine, collect shells, watch the fishermen and avoid the bumsters! Bumsters are people who approach you and try and befriend you, asking your name, where you're from and how long you are staying in Gambia. Mostly harmless, just annoying and often want to sell you something or want you to go and visit their market stall. 

Everyday as we sat and ate lunch at the beach side cafe, we would watch the fishing boat come in and haul the net in. Then the freshly caught fish would be sold right on the beach, to locals and to the cafe and restaurant owners. Marek had fresh fish for his dinner most nights. 

 Kotu beach. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

The sun rising over the hotel, while we're eating an early bird breakfast before a trip to Brufut woods. The garden of the hotel was very pretty and lovely to sit in after a trip out. The maids who cleaned the rooms would leave fresh flowers on the bed every day too.

 Bakotu hotel, Kotu. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

Tanji beach watching the fishing boats coming with the days catch and the women preparing the fish. This was a fascinating place to watch local life. The long boats were stuffed full of men and nets and would come in at this time everyday laden with fish. Boys and other men would help bring the boat in and then pass buckets and bowls along full of fish. The locals would wait on the beach ready to buy or to take the fish to the market area and prepare the fish. A place full of hustle, bustle and colour.

 Woman preparing fish. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

I found the trees and plants fascinating and often asked the guide what they were called. This one he wasn't sure what it was called, but I loved the seed pods and the leaves so took a picture anyway. Once all my washing is done and out the way I will sit and draw it.

Pods in Gambia. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

I hope you liked my mini tour of Gambia and perhaps one day you might want to visit. It was a lot greener than I thought it would be and we saw every type of housing from cobbled together shacks to brick built mansions. The locals are friendly and smiley and say the more you smile the darker your skin gets! At markets you have to barter for everything nothing has a price, so it's a bit daunting, but we had a go and have now got some lovely pieces to remind us of our time in The Gambia.

Books read while on holiday
Like this, for ever by Sharon Bolton. A gritty murder mystery that has you on the edge of the seat. (strictly speaking I'd already started this one and just finished it on holiday)
Sister by Rosamund Lupton. Written as a letter to a missing sister a murder mystery with a difference.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Murmuration of Starlings.......and other things

I have had a great day drawing today, keeping warm in the studio with my cat, Snow for company. She decided that an old shoe box by the radiator was a good place for a kip.

Snow in a box!

I've been fascinated by birds for ages as regular followers will know. Today I've added a new one to my favourites list....the lovely spotty starling. Yes they can be noisy when there's a whole gaggle of them, but if you look closely they're beautiful birds. On walks around dusk you will see many of them doing their mesmerising patterns in the sky, called a murmuration. The other day we had a few visit our garden and watching them flit through the branches of the tree from my studio window was lovely.

My first picture started as an experiment using oil bars and oil paint sticks. I've had the the oil paint sticks for a while and have used them for a couple of things, but decided to give them another go. The oil bar was a sample from work, that I thought I'd try out and compare the two types. Oil bars take a while to dry so you have to be patient especially if you lay it on thick. The oil paint sticks are slightly more user friendly and dry in a couple of hours rather than days and can be used on fabric too!

Starling Dear- first step waiting to dry, Copyright Tracy Bidwell 2014

Once I was sure the oil was dry I then began to add to my image. I love geometric shapes and especially circles, so added some for a contemporary look rather than placing him in a garden setting. Mixing my two loves nature and science, well sort of!

Starling Dear, Copyright Tracy Bidwell 2014

For my next bird I've had a great time with my paint box and getting all those paints out that have felt a little unloved of late. Sitting with Snow for company a good tunes from my ipod I've had a great time painting this little guy, with all his spots and dots. I used a mixture of media from ink to gouache.

All the spots starling, Copyright Tracy Bidwell 2014

I'm now thinking how I can further develop these guys and the little grey cells are working on the next phase.

The piece I started over the Christmas period is now finished! Using a combination of hand and machine embroidery and introducing different stitches, needle felt, beads and paper, this piece is full of textures and I'm really please with it :-) Now all I need to do is find some where to hang it.

Dusky meadow, copyright Tracy Bidwell 2014