31 March 2009

Illustration Friday - Poise

This is a paper collage I've made for Illustration Friday this week. The theme is 'Poise' and I've created a graceful Japanese Geisha from Chiyogami and other papers on rice paper. It's quite a long, narrow format which didn't fit in my scanner. The photo turned out reasonably well, though do click as it is best viewed large!

27 March 2009

26 March 2009

Illustration Friday - Subtract

He loves me, he loves me not.

This is a page from my sketchbook with my ideas for this week's theme 'Subtract'. I had wanted to choose just one and work it up in watercolour but couldn't make up my mind which one to go with and being a bit late in posting this week, decided to just outline the drawings in ink and 'quickly' add colour with pencils. I should have known better - it probably took four times as long as one little watercolour would have!! Click to enlarge the image.

16 March 2009

Illustration Friday - Legendary

Click to enlarge the illustration

The legendary Marlon The Claw. Hunter Extraordinaire.

14 March 2009

Homing Instinct

Look what landed in my mail box today!! A Pigeon! This beautiful hand painted envelope was sent to me by the very talented Laurel Gaylord. When Laurel made this for Illustration Friday's 'Instinct' theme she decided to have a 'give away' draw on her blog and pulled my name out of the hat! Thanks so much Laurel, you are so very talented and generous and I am honoured to have been lucky enough to win this beautiful piece of art. Homing Instinct Pigeon has taken up residence in my studio here in KL and feels right at home. He is keeping a wary eye on the cat!

13 March 2009

Batik and Pottery fun - part II

Another week flies by and I've spent over 6 hours of it at the art centre. Fun, but tiring too in this heat! I fretted most of Tuesday about what I should paint, but eventually came up with an ocean theme with lots of fish, coral, shells etc. An hour before the class I decided it was way too complicated, so quickly drew up another much simplified version and decided to save the first design for when I am a little more confident with the process! Just as well, as the route to producing Wednesday's batik was rocky enough! That tjanting is a devil to control - yes, I know, a bad workman blames his tools and all that, but hey, I did discover that perhaps one of the reasons I'm having so much difficulty controlling that fiendish tool is because the spout was bent over too much .... so the wax has been flowing out at an extra fast rate of knots and I've found it quite frustrating that I am unable to get my hand close enough to the fabric to get any real control. Been using it like that for two lessons and now they tell me!! Fingers crossed then that my next attempts will be an improvement! The pic above shows my painting drying before the second application of wax and more painting. By that stage I was wondering if it wouldn't have been better to have left well alone as it looked even more like something a child of 6 could produce! No photos of it now, but if it is not a total disaster, all will be revealed next week!

Here is last week's painting hanging out to dry after the process of fixing the dye by soaking the fabric in a water and sodium silicate solution, rinsing in cold water and then adding the fabric to very hot water with soda ash to loosen the wax. Finally another rinse out and it's done. Phew, creating batik is not for the faint-hearted, that's for sure!

Here are the experts at work again. That's better- this is how it should be done!

This week's pottery class saw us making yet more pinch pots (got to get the basics right!) and then having a first 'go' at throwing on the wheel. That's Mr Lam in the pic above showing us how it should be done! Then it was my turn, which was lots of fun but I have new found respect for all you potters out there! Centering the clay is really difficult, never mind controlling it as you try to form something.

LOL !!! I ended up with this odd 'vessel' which went straight back into the rejects bag for recyling!! Ah well, only another 20 years of practice then!!

Leaf or Butterfly?

Isn't this amazing? Here's a butterfly masquerading as a leaf! When it opens its wings it reveals its amazing colours. Sorry about the poor quality of the pics, but the butterfly was so high up that I had to stand on tip-toe, hold the camera over my head and just shoot at what I hoped would be the right moment it would open its wings! Click for a closer view.

10 March 2009

Timbuktu Revisited

You may remember that in a recent post, I wrote about Timbuktu, a story by Paul Auster, adapted and illustrated by Julia Goschke. Julia has been in contact with me and I thought you might be interested in reading what she has to say about the book:

'First I was happy that they (Penguin) did it anyway but I´m really sad about the work or no work penguin did. This project was one for my heart because i loved the novel of Paul Auster. I never thought about a childrenbook. It´s maybe a book for lovers of the novel… or adults who collect picture books and who wants to, can show it to their children. Everyones decision. I did everything by my own, contacts, production etc. and I didn´t understand why they are selling it in the children section. But they did what they did. There was no chance to intervene. They don´t ask you.
I´m really sad about this because it was hard work from start to publishing. Not only for the bad mood people get, but you don´t sell it if it´s not in the right shelf. And selling is hard enough. I did another picture book with them, Langley Longears, and it´s totally different. This is a childrenbook.'

Thank you for your input Julia, it is interesting to learn that Timbuktu was never really intended as a children's book and, incidentally, that in Germany you cannot just buy the book in a shop - it has to be ordered.

So in conclusion, I have a couple of messages. One to Paul Auster fans and picture book lovers - Julia's Timbuktu illustrations are a delight - you will not be disappointed if you buy this book! The second to booksellers - please put Timbuktu on the appropriate shelf - it's not meant for young children.
Thank you!

The Art of Lam Le Siang

Going Home


Love of Robin



Beauty by Lotus Pond

I promised to show you some oil paintings by my pottery teacher Lam Le Siang. These vibrant, colourful works are from Mr Lam's last exhibition entitled 'Down Memory Lane' and depict memories of his childhood and kampung (village) life in Malaysia in the 1950's and 60's. I like the contemporary feel he brings to these traditional scenes through his bold brushstrokes and plane and spatial treatments.

9 March 2009

Illustration Friday - Intricate

Here's my take on this week's theme - Intricate. I couldn't face another really intricate painting like the little nest and birdsI did last week, so decided to make a collage for something different. I must admit this was pretty fiddly to make too, but it was made in a few hours unlike the nest that took all week! This little striped cat is sleeping on a quilt made with Japanese Chiyogami papers. Puss is cut from rice paper with black card stripes, some graphite pencil detail, and whiskers of fishing line dipped in gesso. Unfortunately the scanner hasn't quite done justice to the beautiful silver and gold designs, but you can get a better look at the intricacy of the hand printed papers if you click on the image!

Look who's been helping out again! Tia enjoying the creative process with me yesterday!

5 March 2009

Batik painting and pottery classes

I've recently started taking lessons in batik painting and pottery - two things I've always wanted to try my hand at. And what better place to learn than here in Malayia? Just look at the environment! The lessons are held in covered outdoor studios in lovely surroundings not far from my home. Admittedly it's pretty humid and there are a few mosquitoes biting but otherwise it's a real pleasure to be creating surrounded by nature!

The batik classes are actually held in a working studio - my teacher is Malaysian fashion designer Azizi of Zizi Design, who creates beautiful, exclusive silk garments decorated with gorgeous hand painted batik designs.

In his workshop several batik artists recreate his designs on huge lengths of silk. Fascinating to watch and learn from these experts!

Batik is a process of resist - portions of the fabric (usually silk or cotton) are coated with melted wax and the fabric is then submerged in or painted with dye. The dye does not penetrate areas of fabric that are covered with wax and they remain their original colour. The wax is applied with a traditional tool called a Tjanting. This little metal holder with spout is attached to a wooden handle and is dipped into the (very) hot melted wax. Lines are then drawn with it to create the design. The trick is to avoid getting blobs of wax on the fabric whilst keeping a steady hand and not forgetting, of course, not to touch the hot metal. Believe me this instrument is hard to control at first and potentially lethal!

First we practiced drawing lines with the Tjanting - quite tricky to keep a steady hand, and ensure that the wax is just the right temperature. Too hot and the wax flows too fast creating blobs and thick lines. Too cold and the wax won't penetrate the fabric. A bit of a challenge next - we had to come up with a design and draw it straight onto the fabric which has been stretched on a frame. The wax was then applied to our designs with much muttering about blobs, wobbly lines and blocked tjantings! A good thing we are not using pure silk for our first attempt!

At last came the magical part - colour! Juicy dyes applied with brushes which spread quickly to fill in the design. It's a little like trying to control watercolour and can be rather unpredictable! The photo shows Evelyn at work on her banana trees with brush and dye.

Here is my first attempt! Lots of very thick wax lines where they shouldn't be there (oops!), but I'm quite pleased with it - I think the dark blue background sets off the hibiscus flower and butterflies well.

Our work drying in the sunshine. Next week we will find out how to remove the wax and fix the dye before attempting another design - on real silk this time! I've brought the stretched silk home so that I can prepare for the lesson in advance and hope to show you the design in due course.

Here I am in the pottery studio! I've spent two lessons learning how to prepare the clay and how to create basic pinch pots. Not very exciting, but you've got to start somewhere! Kneading the clay is pretty hot work and I'm finding new muscles in my arms! As for the pinch pots, well, I have to say that my first attempts at these little pots are pretty awful, but my pottery teacher Mr Lam is very encouraging - so maybe there's hope yet! Mr Lam, by the way, is also a very talented oil painter who paints colourful nostalgic scenes of Malaysian life in the 1950's and 60's. I hope to show you some of his work in my next post.

3 March 2009

Illustration Friday - Breezy

Here's a little watercolour for this week's theme - Breezy. Thought I'd try something a little less detailed this time!

2 March 2009

Nest and birds

I am finally able to post this watercolour painting I started for Illustration Friday last week. Having been cut off from the outside world for 3 days with no internet at home ( a major problem in our area, apparently) I was beginning to get withdrawal symptoms and very worried when I heard it might not be back before Thursday! Well, fortunately, the fault has now been rectified so here is my nest with hungry baby birds. This took take me all week to paint - don't think I'll be attempting another nest for a long while!


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