St Laura and the Nuits blanches

On Friday night I found myself completely unable to sleep: wide awake, thoughts racing through my head.  I tried all those relaxation exercises, but after a while I gave in and got up.  I went downstairs and make some instant Horlicks.  We must be the last people on earth that either a. do this, or b. even have Horlicks on the premises.  I have no idea if it works, but I like the ritual.  You feel you are doing something about the insomnia.  Anyway, while I had been tossing and turning I had been thinking about a new quilt for the Laura Ashley project which I want to be on a big scale to match the Anita Roddick quilt.  The problem is that the tiny Laura Ashley prints really only lend themselves to traditional pieced patchwork and doing anything on any scale is hard.  Then I started to think about another project which has long been on the back burner with my lovely friend Beatriz on contemporary occupational saints.  Beatriz is interested in South American practices such as taxi drivers having their saints prominently displayed on their dashboards.  I am fascinated by the project but have found it hard to start.  Then I began to think about Laura Ashley as the patron saint of patchwork and patchworkers – well, Saint Laura at least.  I don’t want to be creating creepy things about an actual person.  So, I thought I could do a medieval job on this and have a generic face rather than a portrait, and then no-one would be offended or upset.

I started to make sketches in my workbook based on drawings I had done in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, National Museum of Catalan Art which is in Barcelona and which I have blogged about before.  It is the Medieval Historian’s idea of paradise.  I really love the Romanesque fresco collections such as this, which is probably the most famous image:

So you can see that these were taken from the interiors of Catalan churches and preserved (against theft, apparently) in the museum.  I love the boldness of the painting:

I know of old, though, that they never have the image you want in the bookshop, so I do a lot of sketching.  Here are the pages from my sketchbook which I intend to use for the project:

While I was having the sleepless night I decided to experiment with a technique I haven’t used before – contour drawing with closed eyes.  The idea is to develop spatial awareness in your drawing and to free it up.  It is really tempting to cheat and open your eyes.  So you just draw the outlines of whatever it is but don’t look.  When you have done that you can work on the drawing in any way you like.  I coloured in the outlines and was really surprised to find the fifties feel to the drawings and the Cubist echoes.  I can’t use them for the project but I enjoyed doing them:

The drawings weren’t too bad, but the detail was always off-set which gives it the Cubist feel:

There’s a hint of Picasso in it:

More on the project as it gets going, but it felt like a surprisingly productive way to spend a sleepless night.

Oh, and it turns out that there is a Saint Laura – this from Wikipedia:

Saint Laura of Cordoba’ (SpanishSanta Laura de Córdoba) (died 864) was a Spanish Christian who lived in Muslim Spain during the 9th century. She was born in Córdoba, and became a nun at Cuteclara after her husband died, eventually rising to become an abbess. She was martyred by Muslims who took her captive and scalded her to death by placing her in a vat of boiling lead. Her feast day is on 19 October; she is one of the Martyrs of Córdoba.

But the position of patron saint of patchworkers appears to be vacant.

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