Blog

General, painting

#the100dayproject 2021

Hello Dear Readers. Long time no speak. The last time we met it was Christmas and now Spring is here, hurrah! It’s also that time of year when thousands of creatives publicly take part in a personal project and this post is background to what I’ve been doing for my 2021 commitment.

Keeping busy in Lockdown

Lockdown 3.0 has flown by for me. I’ve been one of the lucky people driven to action during these weird times and I’ve been using the extra hours while my business is closed to work on my creative muscles.

Furiously drawing and painting, productivity has been helped by the annual #100dayproject. If you are new to it, it’s a free to join in, annual event where participants are encouraged to pick an art/creative project, publicly announce it (for accountability) and post updates daily on Instagram. More information on the project itself can be found here if you are interested in the nuts and bolts.

Those of you who follow my art will know that my usual subject of choice is most likely to have four legs and a tail. Well, this year I thought I’d surprise everyone. I’ve chosen #100daysofquirkypeeps and you can find it in my @nickybarfoot Instagram account here.

Why People?

I find animals easy to recreate in a quirky, expressionistic way (years of doodling those wished for pets from childhood) but when drawing and painting people I tend to get caught up in realism. That’s fine if I’m practicing drawing from life but doesn’t really work when I try and put a person with one of my quirky animals. They don’t fit together.

See what I mean? Either end of the realistic/expressionism scale and not really compatible.

So, this project is all about trying to free up my Peeps and find a style I’m comfortable with somewhere on the scale of realism to expressionism. If you read on I’ve provided a bit of background on what I’ve been up to to fill in the gaps around the daily pictorial Instagram posts.

When the project first started we had short days, not something conducive to daily production and good photography of the resulting artwork. My solution was to immerse myself in digital drawing, using the very versatile Procreate app on my i pad. That way it didn’t matter if I finished in the dark as no photography was required to post the outcome.

I found myself researching illustration from the early 20th century, a period of style that I am really drawn to (no pun intended). I’ve fallen in love with the fracturing of Thayaht (Ernesto Michahelles 1893-1959) and the oval heads and extra long necks of Eduardo Benito. And both of these artists were well known for their fashion illustrations which sits nicely with my love of textiles and knit design. Oh, and did I mention Benito’s greyhounds… so many boxes ticked!

“De La Fumée – Robe de Madeleine Vionnet,” plate 13 from Gazette du Bon Ton, Volume 1, No. 2 by Thayaht (image in the public domain, Museum of Fine Arts Boston)
“La Dame au Lévrier – Tailleur, de Beer,” plate 29 from Gazette du Bon Ton, Volume 1, No. 4
By Eduardo García Benito (Spanish, born in 1891), Illustrating design by House of Beer (French, founded 1898), Publisher Librairie Centrale des Beaux-arts
April 1921 (image in the public domain, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

#worksonpaper

I love the convenience of digital illustration but do find it way too easy to undo stuff that goes “wrong”. That might sound like a good thing, but it is also very limiting. I’m most happy with the results of my art endeavours when there has been a struggle and a problem solving aspect to it. It tends to push me in a direction that I hadn’t planned. New horizons and all that….

So as the days have lengthened I’m now playing with paints on paper while continuing my research into the 20th century greats. I particularly love the distortions of Pablo Picasso and the colour schemes of Paul Klee.

“Paul Klee, KN der Schmied” by f_snarfel is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Most recently I’ve continued my colour studies (I’m currently doing a fabulous online course with the super talented Ardith Goodwin) inspired by Modigliani’s stylised paintings of seated people.

Study of a Seated Nude
Attributed to Amedeo Modigliani (Italian, 1884–1920)
undated (image in the public domain, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

At the time of writing I’ve posted day 58 of the project and I’m not quite ready to settle on a style. Although there is definitely some muscle memory adding to a consistency of eyes, noses and mouths as well as the head shapes, necks and other body distortions, I’m sure there is more to come as my research continues.

Here’s a small selection of my favourite days so far. If you’d like to see more please head over to Instagram, @nickybarfoot where I’m posting the project in it’s entirety.

A selection from #100daysofquirkypeeps by Nicky Barfoot

The benefits of accountable daily art production

This annual project is definitely a big commitment and an endurance event. However, it is so worth it. The volume and daily practice encourages a step out of my comfort zone to experiment as I’d soon run out of things to post if I did the same old every day. The quick time frame is not conducive to procrastination and perfectionism, and the end result of such a long project is a body of work that can inspire more developed pieces later on.

I thoroughly recommend it as a practice and it’s not too late to start your own. You’d get 40 days out of it if you start straight away, or you could continue beyond the official finish date for your full 100. A commitment for sure but worth it.

What do you think? Are you ready for your 100 day project? Are you doing one already this year? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time.

General, poetry

Christmas 2020

A poem for December by Nicky Barfoot

Smokey breath on frosted pane.

Precious light and driving rain.

Noses drip and lips turn blue.

Fingers freeze and toes do too.

Quiet calm and heavy skies.

Plants retreat before our eyes.

Wrapped in gloves and boots and coats.

Scarves wound tight around our throats.

Icy roads and careful tread.

Extra blankets on the bed.

A time to pause and contemplate

While Mother Nature makes us wait.

And while we do let’s raise a toast

To everyone we love the most.

Turn on the lights, put up the tree.

Give thanks for friends and family.

©nickybarfoot 2020

A gift for you

For those who like to colour or embroider, I have drawn this Reindeer for you. I hope you have fun with him. I reckon he’d make a good Christmas card?

I wish you a safe and peaceful Christmas.

Nicky x

General, knitting patterns

Halloween Knitting

Halloween wasn’t a thing when I was a child. I knew it happened in the US but in 1970s England we didn’t really pay it too much attention. There was the odd cartoon on TV (usually Charlie Brown) and young children got a dress up day at school. Other than that it was an understated event and often the poor relation to Bonfire Night a few days later.

Not so much now though. Young and old use it as an opportunity to dress up, indulge in treats, and generally have a party (although it will be a tamer affair in 2020 with many parts of the world operating a form of social distancing to manage the spread of Covid-19).

The Origins of Halloween

It is thought that the origin of Halloween is the Celtic festival of Samhain. The actual word “Halloween” means “hallowed evening,” and was previously known as All Hallows’ Eve. The word “hallows” means saints and All Saints’ Day is November 1. Makes sense, right ?, although the Pagan and Christian celebrations didn’t always sit back to back.

Self Portrait

On 31 October, at Samhain, seasonal change was celebrated. It was also thought that the boundary between this world and the next was at its thinnest on this day allowing the living to connect with the dead. This explains some of the modern day symbolism of harvest and ghostly spirits.

Halloween Hygge

While our parties may not be as effervescent in 2020 as in usual years it doesn’t mean we can’t embrace the changing season and celebrate the occasion. There are plenty of craft opportunities to get us in the mood. With the evenings getting darker who wouldn’t want to carve out a pumpkin and turn it into a lantern. Or bake some spooky cookies to munch while watching Carry on Screaming (for the 20th time) under a blanket in the living room. Maybe do a bit of research on line to find the perfect Halloween cocktail to warm us up.

Perhaps this year more than ever we need some child like escapism and there are plenty of ways to indulge in a safe and socially distanced way. For the knitters amongst us there are lots of fun and free patterns available. I just love the Amanda Berry decorations available on Gathered https://www.gathered.how/knitting-and-crochet/knitting/knitted-halloween-decorations/ . I’m going to give them a go myself, particularly the cute bat.

Free Spooky Knitting Chart

If you fancy practicing your double knitting (or intarsia skills) then I’ve created a spooky chart for you to try.

Work these motifs separately or put them together in a garment or cushion.

I’m quite tempted to start a Halloween Sweater trend. I shall be checking my stash when I’ve finished this post to see if I’ve enough yarn to put something together. What ever you choose to do this Halloween, I hope you can embrace the Hygge in a safe and fun way. Have a happy Halloween friends.

poetry, Stitched Art

Inspired by Autumn (a poem for Fall)

Air as smooth as silk on skin and boozy to the nose.

Leaves receive their gilding and the nights are drawing close.

The Earth gives up her bounty as the farmers tend their land.

The light is low with golden glow as spiders make a stand.

Diamond dew adorns the grass and sparkles in the sun.

A carpet forms of golden brown to mark the leaves as done.

Chlorophyll in short supply as nature starts to yawn.

A time to snooze and cuddle up until the Spring is born.

a poem by Nicky Barfoot September 2020

a textile portrait of an Autumn Goddess
“Karpo” hand stitched and hand painted fabrics on linen

Stitched Art, Workshops

Intuitive Textile Portraits Workshop – a brand new online workshop

“You do You” hand stitch and paint on repurposed textiles

Have you ever felt stuck in a rut with your textile work and lacking fresh inspiration? Or maybe you are used to following other people’s patterns and projects but would love to start creating your own art work? Or perhaps you are someone who likes to play with different media and are looking for a way to bring them all together? Then this workshop is for you.

Over four lessons, delivered weekly to your inbox (including access to an hour and a half of video demonstrations) I’ll guide you through:

  • Drawing a simple portrait from your imagination (no drawing skills or art credentials required),
  • Creating colourful and unique painted fabrics on repurposed textiles,
  • Putting the two together intuitively,
  • Using simple hand stitching to create a unique piece of textile art.

This workshop is suitable for all levels of stitcher. If you can hold a pencil/paintbrush and can do a back stitch then you can create fun and expressive textile portraits using this process.

Please note that this workshop isn’t a step by step class teaching you how to recreate a piece of my work in my style. Nor does it cover the technicalities of embroidery. Instead you are encouraged to work playfully and experimentally with the skills that you have to create imagery and art work that is unique to you.

For those on Facebook, there is also the bonus of a private group for the workshop where you can share your work in progress, ask me questions and be inspired by what other students are doing.

This brand new workshop is currently at a special introductory price of £30. If you would like to sign up please follow this secure payment link. If you have any questions please drop me an e mail at nicky@nickybarfoot.co.uk.

a picture of some knitting, needles and wool
General, poetry

The Tragedy of the Menopausal Knitter- a poem by Nicky Barfoot

a picture of some knitting, needles and wool

The needles are out, the wool has been wound,

A pattern picked out, a comfy seat found.

The TV turned on, a coffee on brew,

The dogs in their beds, John Nettles on queue.

Midsomer is ready, the stitches cast on.

The murder has happened and row one is done.

The weather’s turned cooler, I’m skimpily clad.

The window is open, the door just a tad.

A breeze may be blowing but all in a rush

A fire has started! Here comes the hot flush.

My face has gone beetroot my hands have turned slick,

The needles are slipping, the wool starts to stick.

The sweat starts to puddle I’m starting to melt.

Where once I had knitting I’m now making felt.

© Nicky Barfoot August 2020

General

How to take better photos for your textile practice using your phone – the basics you were never told

How to take better photos for your textile practice

You have an i phone with an amazing camera on it. So why do your snaps leave something to be desired?

Sound familiar? In my knitting and stitching workshops I often suggest folks get their cameras out as there are many ways this wonderful tool can help us e.g. planning colour schemes, checking contrast, recording WIP etc. And sometimes you might want to upload images to your social media accounts or enter your work in a competition via an online application.  In these circumstances you won’t be doing yourself any favours with a photo that doesn’t do your work justice or doesn’t seem to be a true representation.

While the simplicity of point and press is very seductive, there are a few simple steps you can take which will really transform your photos.

Turn on the Grid

You will probably have heard about the rule of thirds if you’ve looked into the basics of composition. It says that if you divide your image in to two horizontal and two vertical lines, you would look to place the important part of your photo on one (or more) of the points where these lines cross.

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Image by Susanne Schwarz on unsplash.com

The photo above is a great example of this. The photographer could have chosen to place the poppy in the centre of her shot but instead makes much more impact by placing it a third in and a third up.

 

Your i phone (or i pad) has a handy grid to help you do this. Go to “settings” on your device and scroll down to the camera icon. If you tap on this, you will see that there is a button for “Grid”. Turn this on and you’ll have the rule of thirds at your fingertips.

Good light is everything

Without resorting to buying a lightbox or setting up a fully lit photography studio, the best thing you can do for your snaps is turn off your flash and use a good source of natural light.

Get whatever you are snapping as close to a window as you can or better still go outside to take it. Bright sunshine is not your friend here so if you are planning a photo shoot the best day is a light cloudy one. Alternatively in summer, finding some shade will work but see below regarding “white balance”.

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Finding the natural light, photo by Dan Gold on unsplash.com

Holding your phone

Be mindful of how you hold your phone to take your photo. The two most useful orientations for recording your textile work are vertical or horizontal (flat lay). Anything in between these two creates distortion (and potential issues with focus).

In the examples above I have taken a flat lay photo of a textile self portrait. In the first I  held my phone horizontal to the work, and in the second at a sloppy angle to the horizontal. You can see how much it distorts it.

On an i phone you have help to get the phone on the horizontal as there are two cross hairs in the centre of the screen (yellow and white). If you line them up so that the yellow sits on top of the white you are exactly horizontal. Yay!

Focusing and Exposure

Did you know that you can focus your phone camera and adjust the exposure? if you hold your phone to take your picture, placing your point of interest according to the rule of thirds perhaps, if you touch the screen a yellow square appears. This is the point of focus. If you move the phone the focus comes off (the square disappears or moves to another auto focus point). If you want to keep the focus locked, touch and hold for a second or so and the focus square stays put (tapping anywhere on the screen will take it off lock if you want to take another shot directly after with a different point of focus).

You will also notice that when you touch the screen to focus, a little yellow sunshine appears on one side of the square. If you touch this and slide your finger down you’ll see the exposure reduce. If you slide your finger up you’ll see it increase.

Try not to jab

If you want to take great photos with crisp focus then getting used to holding the phone steady (both hands!) and pressing the button smoothly is a good thing to practice. It really does help particularly when you are trying to capture textures and fine detail. Wobble is not your friend.

Sometimes taking the photo on a long exhalation helps as does keeping your arms in to your sides for support. If you are taking an important shot and you can’t hold the phone steady enough there are plenty of affordable mini tripods that might be worth investing in. They often have a blue tooth remote so you don’t have to touch the set up at all. If not you can use the timer on your phone to let any slight movement from touching the button settle before the photo is taken.

Editing

The last thing I want to mention in this post is editing. There is no shame in editing, professionals do it too! It is the “polish” and fine tuning that you use after you’ve taken the shot. The skill is still in taking a great photo to start with as no amount of editing will make a bad photo good. But a bit of editing can make a good photo better.

Some photographers and social media influencers have certain styles which they achieve with editing. But for the purpose of this post, i.e. taking realistic photos of your textile/art work, a few tweaks may help.

On your phone, when you bring up your photo there is an edit function. This gives you a way to adjust exposure, crop, add certain filters. I recommend you have a play and see what all the buttons do. You won’t ruin your photo as there is a “revert” to original option if you don’t like what you’ve done. Saying that, the most useful button on here is probably the magic wand or auto correction if you don’t want to spend too much time on editing (it can be a very time consuming activity if you let it).

A special note about white balance

I mentioned white balance in an earlier paragraph. Simply put it means the colour temperature of your photo. You’ll see this practically when your photos look too blue (often when you take it in the shade) or too yellow/orange.

IMG_8076
A photo taken in the shade

Going back to my previous example, this photo is a picture taken in good natural light on a sunny day in the shade. It is too blue/cool and not a good reflection of the original piece.

I can use the editing functions on my phone, particularly the “warmth” function, adjusting the amount applied by using the slider, until it reflects the colours of my original art work more realistically (see below).

IMG_8079 2
Adjusting the warmth slider on the phone editing menu

It’s still too blue really so I would take this one again in a less shady spot to get a better reflection of the colours. But it does serve as a good example of white balance issues.

Get snapping

I hope that this post has given you some tips on how to take good photos of your work. There is so much more that your camera phone can do for you but the basics I describe above can transform your photography using just a fraction of them.

Happy snapping.

 

 

General, Stitched Art, Workshops

World Embroidery Day 2020

30 July

In 2011 in Vismarlöv, Sweden, a local group of the Swedish Embroiderers Guild came up with an initiative to “Make 30th July a day filled with creativity for the sake of Peace, Freedom and Equality.” Well I’m certainly up for that and as I often forget to post about recent work, I thought today would be a good day to share with you what I’ve been up to lately.

Seasonal Influences

As a multi media artist I’m equally at home with knitting needles, paintbrushes and needle and thread. Living in the UK we have seasons (which I love). I like to embrace the fluctuations in weather and energy and find I gravitate towards certain media at certain times of the year.

ACS_0123
My preferred Winter media – embracing the hygge

Perhaps it will come as no surprise then that in the Winter months I like nothing better than lounging in PJs with knitting needles in hand and an audio book and a snoring dog for company (maybe a cheeky whiskey too).

Spring and Autumn are high energy seasons for me and are often when I get most excited by the physicality and alchemy of paints, glue and paper.

IMG_7906
“Kindred Spirits” by Nicky Barfoot, mixed media on paper

But Summer is definitely my time to indulge in the slow, relaxing, and absorbing world of hand stitching.

ACS_0144
My Summer colour palette

A Cunning Plan

The challenges of a pandemic and the resulting cancellation of all face to face teaching, exhibitions and other sources of income for the foreseeable future meant that I, like many other artists and creatives, needed to come up with a cunning plan in order to pay the bills this year.

Stitched Selfie Workshop

Thank goodness for the Internet, right? Luckily I had a decent phone camera and a Vimeo account so when a friend contacted me to see if I had anything that her textile group could participate in remotely, I made my fingernails look presentable, set up the tripod, gathered up my embroidery supplies and took on the challenge of recreating one of my workshops in a self study format.

The workshop in question was the Stitched Selfie.

Stitched Selfie workshop low res
“Get your trout pout out”

While I had plenty of samples already finished, I wanted to work through a piece from scratch to show the various stages in the workshop videos. The end result was a reflection of my love of popular culture and Sci Fi.

IMG_7640
“Eight of Ten” by Nicky Barfoot. Hand stitch, fabric and acrylic paint on linen.

The wonderful thing about working with self portraits is the ability to become whatever you want to be. If you’ve always wanted blue hair, go for it. If you’ve dreamed of fuller lips, you don’t need botox. If you want to be part robot, why not?

And the stitch goes on

This reconnection with stitching portraits, at the right time of year, inspired further by the wonderful creations that the amazing participants on the workshop have created so far, has meant that I’ve been rather productive on the stitching front.

This piece I stitched in response to the Southampton City Art Gallery Open Exhibition (this year on line), “In Search of a New World”. Local artists were asked to respond to the themes of migration, the sea and journey. Fingers crossed it gets in…….

IMG_4880
“The Arrival” by Nicky Barfoot. Hand stitch, textiles and paint on linen.

If you are interested in finding out more about my Stitched Selfie, self study workshop (pdf and video based instruction with private facebook group classroom) for your textile or art group please get in touch. nicky@nickybarfoot.co.uk 

 

 

 

General, Journaling

Creative Block – a poem by Nicky Barfoot

ACS_0109
“Not Essential”, a journal page by Nicky Barfoot

Creative Block

Today I can’t be arsed.

Woke up early this morning,

I’m not even yawning.

The birds are all singing,

Coffee machine pinging.

But today I can’t be arsed.

My paints are all out,

There’s no one about.

Radio’s on,

They’re playing my song.

But today I can’t be arsed.

Teetotal all week,

Should be right at my peak.

Been productive for days,

In so many ways.

But today I can’t be arsed.

At the tip of my tongue,

The rhymes don’t want to come.

So I’m sat on my bum,

The remote under my thumb.

Gratitude to the few,

With key things to do.

But today I can’t be ……

by Nicky Barfoot, May 2020

General

A Poem for Lockdown

A Poem

Lockdown

When the world goes topsy turvy

And your life gets put on pause;

When baking is the pressing task

And cleaning out your drawers;

When friends become a Facetime chat

And wine time starts at 3;

The garden’s never looked so neat

And entertainments free;

PJs become an all day thing

And hair concerns abound;

Birds take back the trees and sky

And planes stay on the ground;

Rainbows appear on window panes

And deer on parks and greens;

Cars sit still on driveways

And “foot” is now the means;

When blame becomes a bitter need

As impotence takes hold;

Hindsight is the literal proof

Non believers must be told;

Some days are filled with anger

And others end in tears;

Today you wake with hope filled heart

Tomorrow filled with fears;

There is no textbook guide for this

When all is said and done;

You’re gonna feel all of the feels

But it’s OK to have none.

by Nicky Barfoot 7/5/20