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by Julie Brooks

Polite notice. All designs are copyright protected. I hope you will be inspired by my designs but please do not copy them. Thank you.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Silver Bells and Cockle Shells and Pretty Maids all in a row

Hi folks, hope you're all managing to keep dry in this damp and miserable weather. June? Feels more like April to me! Mind you, if it keeps on like this I will have no problem at all starting my Christmas makes next month!

Anyway, onto today's make, and I'd like to share another canvas piece I finished a couple of days ago. Perhaps the title of this post gives it away a little! This is quite a lengthy post (when are they not!) so you might like to grab a cuppa and a biscuit, get yourself comfy and enjoy the story!

I wanted to use fabric somehow, and I wanted to use bright colours and had recently bought some lovely bright colours of acrylic paints. I had no plan in my head at all and it really was one of those creations that kind of evolved as time went by.


I tore some strips from an old cotton sheet and played with them until I was happy with how they looked, then glued them onto the canvas board. (The fabric strips are the three horizontal lines you can see dividing the bottom half of the picture, plus the two trees.)

I then tore up some sheets of kitchen towelling and placed pieces on the board and glued them down. This was to add more texture and interest. I also added a length of ric rac. So, so far I've got three dividing lines, some kitchen towelling, a strip of ric rac, and two tree-like objects on there.

What to do next? Hmmm. Well, I painted it all with white gesso - I think it had two coats. The gesso stiffened the fabric really well which meant it would be easy to paint later. Now I just had to figure the rest of it out! And I had to leave it for quite some time before all the ideas finally came flooding in - life doesn't half get in the way of creativity sometimes I can tell you! My head is so full of so much stuff all the time - my autistic son's needs, my husband's erratic work schedule, chores all queueing up to be done, meals to plan, sourcing products for our on-line shop, and so on, that I often find it quite hard to actually focus on the things I want to create and indeed get any time to myself to be in my creative space. There are hundreds of ideas all jostling for space, time and attention in my head all the time - it's never quiet up there! And so I have to sort of flick through them all, a bit like looking at lots of photos in a huge album, and try to work out what of those ideas I can actually use to make something! I bet you're all the same too, aren't you?!

Anyway, I digress. I finally got an idea of where I was going with this piece and set to gathering all the other bits and pieces I needed, which were all in my stash already - the biggest benefit of having built up a stash of crafting goodies over several years and using very little of it LOL!

I placed the apples, cherries, foliage and flowers (all laser cut wooden shapes) and once happy glued them all down.

At this point I decided the sky needed more texture and so randomly added some texture paste to it, but I really wasn't happy with how it looked when finished and so had a quick rethink on that. I'd been looking at some impasto technique paintings and loved the effect and so decided to do my sky this way instead, using heavy gel medium with my acrylic paints to give them more body and keep them fluid for longer for playing around with, and just daubing it on with my palette knife until I was happy with it. I did an ombre effect sky, starting light at the bottom and gradually getting darker as I went further up. For this I only used one shade of blue paint and just mixed in varying amounts of white to get the graduated colours. I was really pleased with the effect once it was dry and will use the impasto technique for something else at some point in the future. It actually took on the appearance of oil paint - fab!

Once the sky was dry I painted on the sunshine and used a finger to do the sun's rays and felt like a kid again! Fun!

Next I added some texture at the base of the picture to represent soil. For this I used Finnabair Mini Art Stones. If you haven't seen these or yet bought any for your stash, they are TINY! I'm not kidding you. They're like micro beads, so small and they get everywhere, under your nails, they roll all over the place! But they work to great effect and are well worth fiddling about with!

Tip: Have a creased piece of paper underneath your project to catch any art stones that escape and so that once you're art stones are glued in place and set you can carefully tip your piece over so any loose art stones fall onto the paper, then you can pour them back into the jar.

Once they'd set in place I mixed red and green acrylic paints together to get brown (great fun and saves the cost of a bottle of brown paint too!) and then painted the "soil" and the tree trunks. Next I painted the apples and cherries, and once the paint was dry I gave them a thin coat of the gel medium for a glossy finish, since apples and cherries have lovely shiny skin. Then I painted all the flowers and foliage and finished painting the two trees, and then I had the fiddly task of painting all the background! (Yes, I know, I should have painted that first, but really I didn't know where I was going with my colours until I'd got all the other bits in place because it was only really at this point that I could "see" the whole finished thing in my head! What am I like?) I used lovely greens and yellows for the background sections, with a tiny bit of dry brushing with white and brown here and there.

The birds were some I'd bought years ago and which can be purchased in all the craft shops. I think they're designed more for use on wedding stationery and I probably bought them originally thinking that's what I'd use them for, but they'd sat in a little draw ever since. Anyway, I decided they were perfect for my piece and I gave them a thin coat of white acrylic paint followed by a very light brushing with a dry brush and the tiniest amount of my brown paint to bring out the embossed detail. I made the nests in the trees from some garden jute string split into its strands and messed up, fixed my birds in place (one is cheekily eating one of the fallen apples), added black micro beads to the centres of my "pretty maids" and then fixed the shells and bells in place. Finito!

Here are some close-ups.






And here's the whole piece again to save you scrolling back up to the top!



I really love how this came together in the end. Working with fabric and trying the impasto technique with my paints was fun and I will definitely do it again. I think it's nice to have something different in the mix from time to time, don't you?

I hope you like it!

Bye for now
Julie xx