Hook a Portrait: Marilyn Monroe

Line drawing onto hessian.

Line drawing onto hessian.

This weekend I am teaching a workshop on Saturday about using the traditional technique of ‘Hooky’ matting or Rag Rug to make portraits, at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle. I have used this technique before to create the portrait of my Mum, Nan and Great Aunty in my ‘Matriarchal Trefoil’. So I decided to have another play with a new portrait, using much bolder colours and blocking of fabric – like a Pop Art screen print.

I decided to make a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, as it fits into the style I was wanting to play with: Pop Art and it’s the 90th Anniversary of her birth next year – so why not!

Rather than to sew the hessian onto a mat frame – as this would be quite restrictive for a one day course – I decided I would recycle an old wooden frame and staple the hessian straight to the back. I then free hand drew the portrait on to the hessian – though for the workshop I will show fellow makers how to use a cheating method of using net and printed portraits.

'Line drawing' with hooky.

‘Line drawing’ with hooky.

Hooky mat technique can be a little like creating stained glass windows and that was how I approached this portrait. I ‘drew’ a line with the hooked black strips of wool – I will create a video/photographic ‘How To:’ sometime soon…

Filling in the colours.

Filling in the colours.

The next stage is to start filling in the colours. I wanted to keep it very much in the genre of the pop art screen print, so used blocks of colour rather than attempting shading. I have used recycled blankets, velvet children’s clothes and old dresses.

Completed background.

Completed background.

The fun part was choosing which colours and fabrics I wanted to use, with what I had at hand and I wanted to keep the colour palette small.

Painting the frame.

Painting the frame.

Now, this may seem like I was painting the frame at the wrong point in making the portrait but, in my defence, I was hooking straight onto the frame and was worried I would damage the newly painted wood with the hook; plus, until the picture was finished, I really didn’t know what colour the frame needed to be to enhance the picture.

Finished Marilyn Monroe 'hooky' mat portrait.

Finished Marilyn Monroe ‘hooky’ mat portrait.

A couple of coats of paint are needed to completely finish the picture so that I’m happy with it. but this has been such a brilliant, fun project to do. The finished picture is about 70cm square, framed. I am so looking forward to seeing what the the workshop participants create!

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‘Hook a Portrait’ textile workshop at the Biscuit Factory.

Louise Underwood

‘Hook a Portrait’ Textile Workshop

Saturday 4th July 2015

£40 per person

10am – 4pm, 1 hour lunch

Matriarchal Trefoil

Matriarchal Trefoil

Suitable for beginners, this workshop will teach you how to use the traditional North Eastern technique of ‘Hooky’ matting to create a portrait of your choosing (family member, self-portrait or famous personality – it’s up to you!) Tools, hessian and other materials will be provided. Hooky would have traditionally used old clean clothes from family members and you are welcome to bring fabric which you may wish to ‘hook’ into your design. Using distinctive garments which you associate with a person may add extra meaning to their portrait, although this is not essential).

Aunty Wilma

Aunty Wilma

10 places are available on this workshop, adults only. No experience necessary – come and get creative! Lunch is not provided. You are welcome to bring a packed lunch however, a discount voucher for use in The Factory Kitchen will be available for participants.

Mum

Mum

To book please email Louise Underwood – louise.underwood@blueyonder.co.uk or call 0787 949 5031. Cash payments can be taken at the gallery reception in The Biscuit Factory prior to the event.

Nan

Nan

Before the workshop, please email a suitable close up portrait photograph to Louise, which shall be prepared for the workshop as a template. Just a head and neck image will do! Participants please note: your contact details will be added to The Biscuit Factory mailing list. If you have any objections, please state at time of booking.

Centenary of the death of Rupert Brooke

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is for ever England.

Extract from The Soldier, 1914.

Today, at 4.46 pm, 100 years ago, the poet Rupert Brooke died of septicaemia on a French hospital ship, moored off the island of Skyros, where he is buried. He was on his way to  Gallipoli to fight in that historic First World War battle.

Embroidered portrait of Rupert Brooke.

Embroidered portrait of Rupert Brooke.

I decided to start of my series of portrait of First World War poets who died during the war, last year. I was actually trying to find the right inspiration for another project and I could never get the right idea. The ideas and imagery for the portraits came to me whilst on a long car drive. Since I was a teenager, I had loved reading the poetry of Rupert Brooke, my favourite poem being ‘The Beginning’. As a teenager, the fact that Brooke was a beautiful man, dying in tragic circumstances, also aided my admiration for him. By it’s an admiration for his work, that has never waned.

Hand stitched, the poem 'The Beginning'.

Hand stitched, the poem ‘The Beginning’.

The portrait of Brooke, was the first I completed. I have decided to keep the portrait quite ethereal, through the simple line drawing of the sewing machine to the delicate hand stitched details of his life. Upon his tie, I hand stitched the words of the poem ‘The Beginning’. Behind Brooke, as though a school map on the wall, is stitched a map of the World, with the words of ‘The Soldier’ stitched around it.

The poem 'The Soldier' hand stitched around the map of the World.

The poem ‘The Soldier’ hand stitched around the map of the World.

Throughout the portrait, I have stitched metaphors of Brooke’s life. Framing the picture is the olive leaves which are found in the olive grove where Brooke is buried. Hibiscus flowers and hollyhocks, symbolise his lost loves in England and Tahiti and the lilac flowers represent his famous poem ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester.’

Hollyhocks and hibiscus flowers.

Hollyhocks and hibiscus flowers.

This weekend, there will be many events to commemorate Brooke’s life in Grantchester and Cambridge andThe Second I Saw You: The True Love Story of Rupert Brooke and Phyllis Gardner’ and new book written by Lorna C. Beckett is having it’s official book launch.

Close-up of Rupert Brooke portrait.

Close-up of Rupert Brooke portrait.

In Newcastle, the Biscuit Factory, the UK’s largest contemporary art gallery, is currently exhibiting my portrait of Rupert Brooke, alongside that of Wilfred Owen, to commemorate Brooke’s death.

Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen portraits, exhibited at the Biscuit Factory.

Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen portraits, exhibited at the Biscuit Factory.

New Portraits

I have been itching to get on with starting some new portraits but time and other work commitments have been getting in the way. But over Easter, I have managed to start two. I thought, due to the way I work on them, it would be much easier to have two pictures running along each other, so whilst one is drying or I’m planning the next section I can get on with the other one.

Intensive preparation for my portrait of Isaac Rosenberg.

Intensive preparation for my portrait of Isaac Rosenberg.

The first one, I have been planning since completing my portrait of Wilfred Owen in November. It is a portrait of Isaac Rosenberg , a First World War poet and painter who died on the 1st April, 1918. He is to form part of the series of portraits of War Poets, I am making. He is a fascinating character but at the time I didn’t know much about him, so I spent most of January reading the very in depth and interesting biography of him by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.

Isaac Rosenberg, machine line drawing.

Isaac Rosenberg, machine line drawing.

Within Rosenberg’s portrait, I intend to capture images of the Whitechapel Library, images of dancing women to evoke his poem ‘Daughter’s of War’ and other elements I have to finalise. As with the portraits of Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen, which I have completed and are now hanging at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle, I intend to sew parts of his poetry into his clothing adding texture and visual metaphors.

My second portrait I have started working on is of William Morris. Morris has always inspired my work and way of thinking. The Arts and Crafts movement during the Victorian  period placed great importance on quality of fabrics, beauty in design and the quality of craftsmanship.

William Morris, the beginning.

William Morris, the beginning.

I work, initially creating the portrait using a sewing machine to ‘draw’ the lines and then I continue the portrait using hand sewn stitches which are slow and laborious but also very meditative. The portrait of Morris, will also be painted in acrylic then over stitched, using similar techniques to my recent picture ‘Portrait of a Green Man’.

Sewn line drawing complete.

Sewn line drawing complete.

Over the next month or so, whilst working on commissions for the Hancock Museum and printing some more lino prints, I shall also be working on my portraits, which bring me great enjoyment.

Dachshund cushions commission

After the recent Open Studios, a lovely lady asked me to create some cushions for her daughter’s Christmas Present, as she loved the Schnauzer cushions but they were the wrong breed of dog!! I had a glorious time choosing the fabrics and patterns that would compliment each other best.

Dachshund applique cushions

Dachshund applique cushions

I have used woven silk fabrics which I buy from the silk mills in Sudbury and they are appliqued with floral cottons.

Red and white woven silk and black floral dachshund

Red and white woven silk and black floral dachshund

Blue/green floral woven silk and green leaf dachshund

Blue/green floral woven silk and green leaf dachshund

In the cushion above, the dachshund looks like he’s out smelling the flowers. He makes a lovely silhouette against the light background. This was the cushion the lady choose, so I will need to find a home for the two red cushions…

Ouseburn Open Studios starts tomorrow

Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen

Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen

It was great today to finally get both my portraits of Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen, both poets who died during World War One, up on the outside wall of my studio, number 11 at the Biscuit Factory, Newcastle upon Tyne. It’s been a busy couple of weeks tidying, cleaning my space as well as getting everything finished off.

Inside my studio - cushions, crocheted hats and chocolates!

Inside my studio – cushions, crocheted hats and chocolates!

Opposite my studio, there also a number of rather fabulous jewellery makers whose studios I enjoy popping into when I get a chance.  inthesilverroom is contemporary silver jewellery by Michelle – check out her fabulous website for distinctive designs.

The Biscuit Factory Studio corridors.

The Biscuit Factory Studio corridors.

'Matriarchal Trefoil' and 'Caretakers of the World, UNITE!'

‘Matriarchal Trefoil’ and ‘Caretakers of the World, UNITE!’

Both of the pictures above have been made using ‘hooky’ mat technique. I finally framed up the ‘Matriarchal Trefoil’ yesterday, as it had been tricky to source someone to cut me an oval board to mount the heavy picture on. You can see a link to the stages of this picture here.

Embroidered Love Birds

Embroidered Love Birds

Really pleased with these two little fellows! So cute! I do enjoy embroidering, very relaxing and again, another job finished. A deadline is always good to have and the Ouseburn Open Studios, is a great one!! I am so looking forward to getting down there now as it’s a great opportunity to meet people, show what you’ve been working on, get feedback and maybe even sell some things!!

And just a reminder for anyone in the area: it’s on this Saturday and Sunday 10-5pm.

Open Studios prep

In two weeks time on the 29th and 30th of November it will be the Ouseburn Open Studios event in Newcastle upon Tyne. My studio is based at the Biscuit Factory and we shall be open to the public both days 10-5pm. It’s a great event, always very busy and great fun. It’s lovely to get feedback on the work you’ve been doing over the year and I also like to make up small gifts which are available for sale – as Christmas is coming soon!!

This afternoon, I’ve had fun and started to make some cushions to sell for the event, using scraps of leather and decorative fabrics. The fabric I chose helped me decide which creatures I wished to decorate the cushions with!

Squirrel and fox cushions

Squirrel and fox cushions

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be busy tidying my studio and hopefully getting lots made!

Today, I popped into the picture framers to hand in my Wilfred Owen portrait and saw my portrait of Rupert Brooke framed for the first time! It looks lovely but I’m having to leave it there are the framers are going to paint the frame of Wilfred Owen’s the same as the vintage frame I’d originally bought for Rupert. Still, I can pick them both up in two weeks ready for Open Studios.

Rupert Brooke portrait, framed.

Rupert Brooke portrait, framed.

Jingle Jangle Bracelets

Brown bangles Red bangles

Inspired by yesterdays creativity at the jewellery making workshop, I decided to make some bracelets ready for Open Studios at the Biscuit Factory in November. The bracelets are made from a mixture of recycled, broken jewellery and lovely new glass, handmade and wooden beads. I must admit, in the past I have made loads of these, as I just love the mixture of textures and colours, plus wearing four bracelets around each wrist looks great and makes a wonderful ‘Jingle Jangle!’