Saturday, 29 May 2010

Figgy Pudding

I rather liked this old fig tree at the Walled Garden.
But what really attracts me are the figs.

I photographed them and did some on the spot sketches

This led me to play about with their shapes and draw them in pen

I thought they would look good as a lino print

(Whoops - that last one looks quite good up-side-down)

I don't know what the weather has been like with you, but here it has been rather chilly and wet, so it was a good opportunity for me to practise my free embroidery skills.

I am finding free embroidery a bit of a thrill - take off your foot, drop your feed dogs, and put your (other?) foot down - hard!!  The trick is to run the machine fast and move the cloth slowly. It is a bit like learning to drive. At first I just watched the line I'd drawn and tried to keep to it, but that is a bit like driving with your eye on the kerb - I am beginning to look ahead and follow the line a bit more instinctively, but I broke the cotton umpteen times (thank goodness my machine as a built in needle threader!). The damp weather also gave me the opportunity to have a play with Photoshop Elements and a technique featured in this months Digital Photo magazine.

"Oh excellent! I love a long life better than figs"
William Shakespeare - Antony & Cleopatra

This was the best 'fig' quote I could find - most of the others were long and Biblical, but perhaps it indicates how highly prized figs were, in fact even now fresh figs are something to be relished when they come into season. (I don't care for the dried varieties too much but Mr T hankers for fig crumble like he had at school. Does anyone have a recipe? I can only find 'posh' ones)
Mr T is cooking dinner this evening,  but no figs or pudding!
ERRATUM - it's date crumble he wants not fig! I've still no recipe.

Let us hope the promised fine weather returns tomorrow for the holiday weekend. Luton Carnival is on Monday and so much effort is put into it, it is a shame when the weather is wet. (A couple of years ago it rained so much they had to cancel it). Last year I took lots of photographs, but not sure whether I shall go this year, but it is a wonderful colourful family day out for anyone in the area.
Hope you are having a great weekend, Jill

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Happy to be cool

How pleasant it is today, warm enough to be out with bare arms, but not so hot I break into a sweat emptying the compost bin (Just adding to my green credentials).  It is MrT's birthday so we have been out to lunch, he is watching some cricket he recorded and I am fiddling about. As I have been posting a lot of photographs lately I thought I'd do something different. Firstly some embroidery. This piece I finished sometime ago in April, the last of my colour doodle stitchings.

The scanned colour has not come out very well, what looks orangy/brown here is much paler and the real colour range is  from deep acid yellow to pale straw.
After this I thought I would try something more representational and took this doodle -

and turned it into this
My embroidery skills are improving, but Cathy at Menopausal Musings has set the embroidery bar high so I am still reeling in admiration of her work.
Emma is a more recent blog friend. She lives on the Isle of Skye and creates all sorts of lovely art pieces from what she has around her. No popping down to Hobbycraft for her. She has a significant birthday in June and to celebrate being fifty she is arranging a fifty postcard swap. It is always fun to send and receive so I was more than happy to join in and this week I received this -

 A great little multi-media piece of art. Emma's blog is A Little Bit of Everything and I am sure she would be delighted if you took a look or even joined her in a birthday quest.

I have also been doing some art journaling and working on my 'Garden Book', but more of them another time. I hope the sun is still shining with you, Jill

PS. Blogger is really messing about today with positioning pictures - so if it is happening to you, you are not alone!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

In my garden today...

I actually took this picture last year on the 10th of May. The yellow poppies, aquilegias and knapweed have only opened this week so I guess everything is still a week to ten days behind after our late spring. 
Since I have received my bumblebee chart all the little 'b's' seem to have disappeared from the garden and if I do spot one by the time I have got my chart it has disappeared! Hopefully they will be back later. The garden is full of flowers but not the sort they like. 
I was pleased to find several frogs in the garden although we have had no frog spawn this year. I managed to snap this one before it hopped away.

I still had the macro lens on the camera and had to hand hold it so only its further eye and mouth are in focus. This one is better but the iris leaves were in the way.

Click on the photos for a really large version.

Several of you have mentions my new banner - the clematis bud. I must say I am very pleased with it. It has also gone 'ballistic' on flickr. If you are familiar with flickr you will know that they have a page called Explore which has several hundred of the millions of photographs which are uploaded every week which are designated the most interesting. The clematis bud made it to Explore a week a go and has had continual views and comments made on it all week - it sort of snowballs.

Marvin like most cats hasn't really been enjoying the heat but here is a snap from the archives for Jane who I know is a Marvin fan. He has been spending most of his time dozing in the shade.

Meanwhile I have been doing a little bit of sewing, I've half made some curtains for the bathroom, and been experimenting with some free form machine embroidery. I've also working on a few ideas for my walled garden project, but everything is a bit unformed at the moment.
So today I sat in the shade and tried to finish 'Wolf Hall' by Hilary Mantel which my friends and I are supposed to be chatting about next Friday. It is taking me an age to read but this week I have managed a few good long chunks which makes the story much easier to follow - I am enjoying it.

Tomorrow I collect my photographs from the Walled Garden Exhibition, and Sally tells me that one of them has the red spot!! 

Wishing you all a good week, and hope you are able to make the most of the gorgeous weather.

Thursday, 20 May 2010


No photography tips today but I have been searching through the photograph files on my laptop as they really need culling and I came across this group from last year. I took them for a flickr photography challenge on - guess what - the colour blue! This little group features two of my Bakelite pots, a bottle lid, periwinkle and bluebells. I have been in the creativity doldrums this week so it is good to look at the archives for a bit of inspiration.
For this still life I looked at some Dutch masters whose still life paintings are fabulous in detail. Very often they would feature some draped fabric and a bowl spilling its contents. I must say that mine is a very humble interpretation. I set up my little still life in a box with lots of blutac and masking tape.

With this final composition I was playing with shape. It may have been better if the crease in the cloth had been vertical. At the time  you don't notice how important these details are.

I went to the Walled Garden art exhibition  Private View this evening and I am pleased to say that my photographs had been selected. The venue was fabulous - an enormous marquee in the walled garden called the Conservatory, which is being used for wedding receptions. There was quite a mixed selection of work and some of an exceptional standard. Organising and managing such an event is a minefield and they had said that everyone that submitted would  have at least one piece hung so some pieces were of a dubious standard. The boards used to display the works were rather wobbly and my pieces were rather in a corner (well somebody's had to be). I am not expecting to sell, but I hope the organisers manage to make sales as it is a fabulous idea and the garden is desperate for funds for the restoration work. It is always great to be part of such an event and my friend Sally, who has helped with the organisation was interviewed by the local press. The publicity will be too late as the exhibition closes on Sunday, but let's hope they get enough interest to decide to repeat the event.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Jill's photography tips

Thank you so much for your lovely comments about my photographs I really appreciate it.  Because several of you said you wished you had time to do a photography course I thought I would pass on a few pointers which help me. I hope that is not too presumptuous of me.
Firstly I think that your best friend is the crop tool. Even simple editing programs have this facility. I will take you through my thinking in cropping a picture.
Here is the originally photograph of some honesty flowers  I took with the macro lens. It is quite pretty, but not very exciting.

I use the crop tool to try to find a better composition using the usual rules. With flower pictures I often find a square crop works well. As the flowers that are in focus are in the left hand side that is the area I will use. Firstly I found this crop which gives strong diagonals. It also shows up the green seed pod which is sharply in focus against the darker background.

The rule of thirds is also a very useful compositional tool. I look for elements which fall on a line dividing the rectangle into thirds. As you can see with this composition the lines are only a loose guide but they do help balance your composition.

Here are both pictures without the lines - do you have a preference? 

Another composition pattern I look for is a triangle.

Of course there are many compositional devises; a single diagonal, inverted triangle, vertical lines, horizontal lines and you could probably name more. By using the crop tool you can use these lines to strengthen your composition. Sometimes you only need to crop a little off one or more sides of your photograph to make all the difference and draw emphasis to your subject. This comma butterfly I took works quite well. I hand held the camera and was using automatic focus so I had my subject dead centre in case it flew off.

But a simple crop makes all the difference. I have used the rule of thirds for the crop below.
 (The rule of thirds gives a pleasing balance and is close to the Golden Section - but that is another story)

I think that many people shy away from using these simple editing tools. At first I thought it was 'cheating' to change my photographs, but of course photographers who develop their own pictures in the dark room have many 'tools' to help them make the most of their photographs. If you have never played with the crop tool, I hope you will give it a go and let me know what you think of the outcome. 

Have fun!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

It's love all over again...

Love of my camera that is.  So I am going to share a bit of photography info with you. I picked some clematis montana and lilac from the garden (the lilac is my neighbour's) and thought I would get out the macro lens and set up a little photo session. It was bright but overcast in the  conservatory giving a gentle soft light and I set my little vase of flowers on a piece of green card to add soft reflected light. Then it was time to set up the  tripod and start snapping.
I may of told you all of this before, so forgive me but I started taking photographs seriously in 2007 when I got my first digital SLR camera, something I had wanted to do for many years, but hadn't the time for or the money. However with the availability of digital cameras and a gift from my Dad after we lost Mum I was determined to learn to use the camera properly. I took a course with the Open College of Arts as I was still teaching full time and the college offers a totally flexible course and as long as you keep in contact with your tutor you can take as long as you need over your assignments.

I really did not know how much I didn't know about photography and really enjoyed the assignments. The course was called the Art of Photography so as well as learning about the technical aspects of photography the tasks were concerned with colour, composition and conveying a message.
I had enjoyed taking close-up shots of flowers with my point and shoot digital camera and so I treated myself to a second-hand macro lens.  You really need to have your camera on a tripod with a macro lens as you often use a slow shutter speed and need to eliminate camera shake. Focusing on the right spot is also crucial and really only possible with a tripod.

Although I normally use automatic focusing, when you are using the macro lens the area in focus (depth of field) is very shallow so it is necessary to use manual focus. 

In this clematis you can see that the furthest stamens are out of focus, it takes me a lot of concentration to focus on the right spot.

With a high resolution camera it is also possible to make a tight crop to give an even greater close-up. My lens gives good quality clarity does not allow me to get really close, so by cropping I can get the details I want.

When I see photographs like these, I still can't believe I took them! They still give me such a thrill which is why I love my camera so much. Don't you love these lilac buds?
For those of you interested my camera is a NikonD80.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Exhibition at The Walled Garden

There is to be an art exhibition at the Walled Garden in Luton Hoo next weekend, which will also give anyone in the area an opportunity to  visit the gardens. I am submitting four photographs to the exhibition so I hope I shall have at least one accepted. It is the first time they have organised an open art exhibition so I wish them the very best luck as I know they have had quite a good response and I know that selecting and hanging the exhibits is a mammoth task.
Details of which photographs I have selected are on my flickr page here.
Here is the publicity for the exhibition

More information on their website here

I have had a busy couple of days, but hope to catch up with you all over the weekend.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Come into My Garden

I thought I'd show you what I had been doing in the "Come into my Garden" book I had started at the Frances Pickering workshop, just to show I am not a total flipperty-jibbert and can see an idea through (that is my image of myself, not yours, by-the-way. Well it might be, but you are too polite to say so) .

This double page spread with the little half page, uses one of the vintage  flower labels my sister gave me.

I have been collecting garden and flower quotations.
The flowers are all mine, but the butterflies are customised scanned images from a chart.
I was a bit disappointed with the book to begin with, but it is beginning to take on some character now. I may well add a bit more to some of the pages.

The sun was out this morning so I managed to cut the grass and do a bit of tidying up in the garden, so much nicer than housework!
Hope your week is going well, Jill

Saturday, 8 May 2010

That's nice!

 Happy Birthday Dad!
Here he is with Mr T enjoying a bit of April sunshine. I took this a couple of years ago on a visit to the Isle of Wight where he lives near my sister. We are at Bembridge.

 I am sure he won't mind me saying he is 88 today. Sadly I won't be seeing him for a while.

And talking of the Isle of Wight, any of you who are members of English Heritage will be getting this magazine this month

and if you look o  page 34 you will see a feature on Osborne House, which is on the IoW

and who do you think took the picture of the Glasshouse at the bottom right? Yes you've guessed - ME

Here's the original on Fickr which is how they found me. I had an e mail from the picture editor a couple of months ago asking permission to use this image. No fee, but I get a credit in the margin opposite. I guess they rely on people like me feeling flattered at being asked - no matter I am flattered. By the way, if you ever are on the Isle of Wight, Osborne house is well worth a visit.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Over the rainbow ....

I woke up in an odd mood this morning. I don't know if it was the thought of the unknown political mayhem ahead - I am not going to discuss politics here - or the fact that it was very grey and damp and chilly - or that my whole body was crying out OLD AGE PENSIONER, but I was not very happy. There are many jobs I ought to do, many creative activities I could indulge myself in, but I don't feel like doing anything at all! However after a few 'ought to's ' some laundry, voting, paying bills and so on, the sun came out, so I took the opportunity to tour the 'estate' to see if I could spot any bumblebees. Walking round the veg patch I glanced down into an empty pot and there I saw this -
one of our Mid-wife toads, living in a hole! What an existence! I thought "Living in a hole in the bottom of an empty pot - that's a bit how I feel today,"    (shhh, I know it's not true). I thought I'd move the pot to make sure the toad had got up through the bottom and not fallen in and got trapped - and there I found...

...toad number two - right under toad number one! So all of a sudden the empty pot looked quite a cosy spot.
I got them both to pose on an old frog plant label, which was also under the pot, before they shuffled off to the shade.
By now I was feeling a bit more cheerful and took a few more photographs round the 'estate' which I am going to share with you. 

It is great how a few carefully taken photographs can make the most of your patch.

First here is our first row of peas with a few temporary sticks. They have got bottles on so Mr T doesn't poke himself in the eye. He had a stroke about 12 years ago and his perception down one side is effected, he can see, but is sometimes unaware of what is on his right hand side so inclined to bump into things. (He has made a near full recovery - he just can't read or write a lot - but that is another story). However with other health problems we  sometimes feel we are living in a hole, but we do have each other, a bit like those toads! 

Anyway back to the garden -

Here is a pretty little wild flower/weed, Herb Robert, which has seeded itself round the garden in the last couple of years. One of the cranesbill/geranium family with lovely feathery red foliage, I only pull it up when it is in the way.

Lots of honey bees in the Spartan apple, but no bumblebees just now.
(My Bumblebee Conservation Trust membership material has arrived and I have challenged myself to be able to recognise the most common bumblebees.)
Only a wretched Spanish bluebells which are everywhere in the garden. I pull them up by the handful, but they can look pretty.

Two sorts of lichen on the apple tree  - a Newton Wonder - which must be nearly a hundred years old - our 1930's house was built on the site of an old orchard. When we first moved in 20 years ago, you could still line up the trees in neighbouring gardens, but sadly most of them have gone now. 
My family of watering cans, a favourite subject of mine,
and a pretty shrub...
Exochorda 'The Bride'
...and finally after this rather long post - my 150th  and a celebration of a year of blogs, I will finish with one of last year's photographs and the inspiration for the title of this post, because a little bit of sunshine and a little bit of nature took me out of the gloom and over the rainbow today