Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Little Art Journaling

I managed to lose my bad attitude about the last couple of Positively Creative Art Journaling exercises that I refused to do. I'm glad I waited because it gave me time to mull things over and come up with an approach to the journaling prompts that I felt comfortable with. It also gave me a chance to get out of my mood and be more open to the process. Part of my frustration lately has been the lack of new methods to try to get paint on the page in preparation for the journaling. So this break also allowed me to think of some things I wanted to try on my own. Could I create some texture by sponging paint over a piece of netting? And flipping the net over to the other side like a stamp to remove the excess paint?

Yes! This is the netting that bags of oranges come in and this particular one was quite stretchy and springy, unlike others that I KNOW I have stashed somewhere but couldn't find. This would have worked a little better had I taped or clipped the netting in place, but I was kind of in a hurry. When I flipped it, it bounced all over the place so I couldn't get a net impression and struggled to get the paint on the page, but basically it worked.

Of course, I had lots of paint on the sponge still and a second lesson I had skipped so prepared a second spread. The sponge I used is just a simple household sponge with small pores which when dabbed lightly gave very nice subtle texture. Where I dabbed a bit too hard I just got a blob. I went back over this in a second color, then painted vertical strokes with a scrub brush with very diluted white paint. The bristles created these fine lines that I liked very much. Looks much better in person than in this picture, trust me. I made the same brushstrokes over the previous spread, thinking to lighten up the green, but the paint was so thinned that the opposite happened; the green showed through to make the white now look grey.

I don't know yet what I'm doing with the second spread but here's the beginnings of the first one. The prompt was about giving yourself a hug, which at the time was not going to solve my problems or make me feel better. Maybe a hug from someone else, or being able to give a hug, but hugging myself and finding magazine pics of people hugging to paste on my page was just making my eyes roll that day! So after days of random returns to this idea and my reaction to it, this is the start of what I came up with. The heck with hugging myself! I tried out my new set of Sharpie pens, which struggled, frankly, to write over the paint. 

I played with this over several days, adding some dark shading around the large letters and finally journaling on the opposite page yesterday. I started in one corner, writing down a ways, then turned and started in the next corner until I had text starting from each corner. By the time I was done, I'd worked out my issues with this hugging yourself thing and my greater need to hug and be hugged. There - I feel better. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Remembering a Friendship

Supermoon Judi & I howled at in 2011
It's been a year since my artist friend, Judi, died. She had a thing about howling at the full moon. So I found it fitting, as I stood gazing up at the sky last night, that at midnight the current full moon went into full eclipse, as if in tribute to my friend and her passing. I thought that if she were still alive, she'd be gazing up at that moon and howling, and I'd feel compelled to join her, just like when she visited me a few years back during another full moon. I was tempted to give out a little howl last night, but I'm living in a development now, one that was oh so quiet at midnight, save for the noisy frogs. So I gave a silent howl in tribute instead.

Mini signature friendship quilt I made for Judi

I recently ran across this reflection by Mark Vernon about the nature of friendships and this seemed a good opportunity to share it. He starts with Aristotle's take on friendship, much of which I bet you will find rings true in your own friendships:

"Friendship, he proposed, is at the very least a relationship of goodwill between individuals who reciprocate that goodwill...He looked around him and saw three broad groupings of relationships people called friendship. The first group are friends primarily because they are useful to each other – like the friendship between an employee and a boss, or a doctor and a patient, or a politician and an ally; they share goodwill because they get something out of the relationship. The second group are friends primarily because some pleasure is enjoyed by being together; it may be the football, the shopping, the gossip or sexual intimacy, but the friendship thrives insofar, and possibly only insofar, as the thing that gives the pleasure continues to exist between them. Aristotle noted that these first two groups are therefore like each other because if you take the utility or the pleasure away, then the chances are the friendship will fade.

This, though, is not true of the third group. These are people who love each other because of who they are in themselves. It may be their depth of character, their innate goodness, their intensity of passion or their simple joie de vivre, but once established on such a basis these friendships are ones that tend to last. Undoubtedly much will be given and much taken too but the friendship itself is independent of external factors and immensely more valuable than the friendships that fall into the first two groups."

My friendship with Judi definitely fell into that last category. It was our mutual interest of quilting that initially brought us together. It was something a bit deeper that found me giving up my own direction temporarily to support her dream of starting a hand-dyed fabric business. When I moved away, the friendship did not wane but pointed up how much we needed each other beyond the sharing of quilting interests.

"Personally, I think that Aristotle is on to something in his belief that the closest kind of friendship is only possible with a handful of individuals, such is the investment of time and self that it takes."

Capturing a bittersweet celebration

So we worked at it, finding ways to keep connected, finding ways to support each other. In 2000, my birthday fell a little over a month after I lost my husband. I was pretty alone at that time, but Judi vowed I would not spend my birthday alone. She made what was for her a physically dodgy 5 hour drive to be with me on that day, taking me to dinner, making me laugh, comforting me as I poured out my heart and my tears. Friends hold each other, physically and emotionally, providing shelter if only briefly.

Yes, there were "selfies" even back in 2006

And six years later when I gathered myself up to move to Idaho, and was planning the "last time" things I wanted to do or visit before leaving, Judi agreed to spend a weekend at the races with me at my husband's and my favorite track, Road America. Granted, she'd always been into motorcycles, but I deemed it such a favor that I didn't have to take this walk down memory lane alone, but with my best and most understanding friend.

Judi Kane, Rhonda Harris, Mary Stori, & me, with Sherrie Spangler taking the pic

So I moved, and then a year later she moved out west too. We were still 5 hours apart but that beat the previous distance between Idaho and Wisconsin. When I'd visit, Judi generously shared her other friends, like in this chance convergence of former Wisconsinites and a new friend from her now home of Hood River. This gathering that Judi orchestrated led to my making fairly deep and lasting friendships with these powerfully talented ladies.

Judi's first solo exhibit

With our moves, our personal artistic journeys grew. Our styles and subject matter were different so we were never in competition with each other per se, yet our support of each other sometimes took on that feel, but in a good-natured positive way. We pushed each other and were happy for each others' successes, willing to join the analysis during the failures to see what we could learn.

Judi & me along Lake Pend Oreille

As I mentioned, our mutual interests as friends went beyond just quilting. We both had a love for nature, for the mountains and lakes and rivers, for getting out in them, drinking them in, photographing them. We didn't share exactly the same religious beliefs but we did share an abiding spirituality and a trust that whatever happened was meant to be for good reason. We loved to drive through old neighborhoods admiring late 1800 houses or wander through beautiful gardens. We didn't always agree on things, which only expanded our thinking and made us grow closer. She was often the kick in the butt I needed. She told me I was the calming influence she needed.

On a road trip with our signature Bailey's

So is it any wonder, that when she faced her biggest challenge of all, fighting for her life, I'd drop everything to be at her side? We once took many road trips together, sharing laughs and Bailey's Irish Cream. I'd missed those extended times with her. Now we were off on our biggest road trip ever, to Mayo Clinic, and although we wished it was under better conditions, we treasured that opportunity to spend so much time together. I considered it a blessing to be able to give back some of what she'd given me through the years.

Little known side effects of radiation treatment

Those were some of the most difficult months I've lived through, keeping up with the rigorous schedule of doctor appointments, tests and treatments Judi required, and my caretaking duties at the end of each day. All while having to watch helplessly when she was in pain or reacting adversely to medication or had reached the end of her staying positive reserves. (Many more times difficult for her, of course.) And yet, it was not all gloom and doom. Judi had a great sense of humor and we found plenty to laugh at, including this unplanned juxtaposition with these pipes when we grabbed some lunch at a sidewalk cafe. Had to take a picture so she could see what I was laughing at, and she gleefully captioned it, "This is a rare side-effect of radiation treatment."

Judi & me waiting to get in for my birthday dinner

We got through those months, we thought with success, closer than ever and thankful for the time together. Before we left, my birthday rolled around, and once again, we could share it, albeit under bittersweet conditions, with a smile. Less than 4 months after getting home, she got the news that the cancer was back and had spread. A few months later, she was gone.

"Aristotle wrote: ‘The desire for friendship comes quickly. Friendship does not.’ The implication is that the best kinds of friendships are only possible between people who properly value it and who understand how many things from the personal to the political can compromise, undermine and destroy it. There is an art to friendship."

This was my friendship with Judi, a person that took me down paths I would not have traveled otherwise, who considered me part of the family, who worried about me and nagged at me, offered advice and taught me things...and yes, loved me. And I did all that back at her. This is the friendship I lost, that cannot be replaced because each friendship is unique. I miss her presence, but her influence on me lives on, her words of wisdom and prodding surface often, and I am grateful for that. I think we mastered the art to friendship.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Playing the Artist

Old Sandpoint City Hall - 1910
Ever since that night I was captivated by the old downtown buildings I walked past, I've felt an increasing pull to start sketching architecture. No time like the present, with the weather warming, brand new sketchbooks waiting, and the new permission to allow myself an hour each week for "whatever". As I pondered which sketchbook to take, I settled on the 5-1/2 x 8 Strathmore toned tan art journal and decided too that it would be designated solely for my architectural explorations. Time to play.

I threw in several pencils and pens and an eraser, thinking that I would be doing most of the sketching in this book with pen, but also thinking I may not be ready to tackle this challenge without being able to erase and correct. Boy, was I right. Do you know how difficult it is to draw a symmetrical arch? And to make things even more difficult, I couldn't position myself directly in front of the building, so I was trying to sketch a straight-on view from an angle. It was good practice anyway, focusing mostly on relationships and proportions. Once you start drawing, you definitely see things that don't register with more casual observation.

The building in question was once City Hall, designed by S. W. Foster and completed in 1910. It's a large building, taking up half the block, and as I suspected, not nearly as interesting in daylight as it had been cast in streetlights after dark. So what to draw? When I first settled in on the bench kitty corner from it, I was thinking to draw the whole thing and then on another page perhaps, specific features individually. Maybe it was that thing about getting something on the first page of a new sketchbook being the hardest. Maybe it was how plain the building now struck me. Whatever, tackling the entire building was too overwhelming for this first time out, so I went right to the detail, becoming totally absorbed in my task. And in about an hour, I was done with these two details - the arch over the main entrance and a window at the corner of the building.

I used a 4h pencil for the sketching and found that it erased cleanly from the page without marring the paper, which is 30% post-consumer fiber. Some of that fiber is visible and created some confusion with my lighter marks and cross-hatching, and the toned tan could be a smidgeon lighter for my taste. But in all, I found this journal easy to use for this type of sketching. When I got home, I added the highlights with a white chalk pencil and shaded in the bricks in the lower sketch with a prismacolor crimson pencil. This is supposed to be one of the advantages of the toned paper, this ability to add light and dark value to a mid-value base, and I have to admit I like it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Faces in the Fabric

I'm back to ironing hand-dyes again and in this particular group of blacks, I'm seeing a lot of faces staring back at me. Thinking about fussy cutting them out to combine in a top.

And I'm definitely developing a pen fetish...blame Staples for their periodic good sales.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pulling It Together

As hoped, I rallied on Monday, made the final positioning decisions, fused everything down and marked my quilting lines. There, that wasn't so hard, was it? Not when you're in the right frame of mind, feeling better and tired of your own indecision. To mark the lines to extend the truncated part of the kaleidescope, I first traced that part of the design and transferred it to freezer paper to make a template. I could line it up, iron it in place and trace around it with a primacolor verithin pencil. I've used the silver one of these for years to mark dark fabric; they sharpen to a fine point and the lines remove easily by rubbing with a piece of cloth. I now own a range of colors in these so picked one close to the color of the thread I'd be using. Once the rest of the marking was done, I used 505 spray baste to hold together the quilt sandwich. At approximate 20 x 22, it's small enough for the spray baste to work well, and avoids pin holes that safety pins would leave in the hand-dyed fabric. That was a good day's work for Monday.

Tuesday I saw my doctor again, who put me back on prednisone. So by Wednesday, I was feeling even better and full of nervous energy...time to quilt! I began by outlining each square and rectangle with fuchsia Essentials cotton thread. This is part of a bunch I ordered when Connecting Threads had a portion of their stock on sale. I remember thinking at the time it wasn't a color I'd likely use, then reminding myself how many other times I'd thought that about a color that turned out to be exactly what I needed. As I stitched around each one, so satisfied with the efffect, I was reminded too that it is important to stay true to one's aesthetic. For me, it is clean lines and often a certain simplicity. All my angst over adding design elements to those squares, even as I was marking quilting lines and remembering other art quilts with quilted spiral and sunburst motifs (oo - maybe THAT'S what I should do!), that may have been more influenced by the work of others, all the noise we are exposed to about more is more, the push for over-the-top designs, quilting and embellishments. I do try to listen to my quilts as I design, and as I added this simple quilting, I felt again my initial response as I tentatively put that first square on the background. It was one of liking that unadorned square that said all it needed to say. The feeling that it should say more came from some other place - me trying too hard, thinking I needed to repeat elements to make it look unified and more complex. Although I've done some rather complex designs that I've loved, this one did not need to be another one. So much of what this quilt evokes comes from the textures and patternings of the fabrics themselves. Let's not compete unnecessarily with them. Let's remember our personal aesthetic.

Next I moved to the kaleiscope, again using the fuchsia thread, just following the design elements. The center there is calling out for a bead - I hope I have the perfect one in my collection.

To quilt around the spikey ends, I switched to a dusty rose Sulky Ultra Twist rayon thread. Dang, I wish these were still available. This one has a bit of greenish grey twisted into it. No time to mess with it now, but I'm working on a way to color in those places that extend out onto the background fabric. I have a watercolor pencil that might be just the right color. I'm also thinking some beads might be called for along the base, just a few.

I did another round of stitching on the other side of the spikey pattern before changing threads to quilt rays across the rest of the quilt. Keying off the near white squiggle on the kaleidescope, I used an Oliver Twist hand-dyed cotton thread variegated from lightest to medium pink with some mint green thrown in. And with that, Reverberations was near enough finished for a photo shoot. Sometimes I don't realistically estimate the time it will take to do quilting so I was pretty relieved that it really did only take an afternoon.

So...I made my self-imposed deadline! This morning I took a picture, cropped it in Corel Paint Shop Pro where I also added a narrow "binding". Honestly, I've been thinking this would be faced, but as I looked at the cropped photo, it didn't look finished. That bit of border says, "done" to me. Hope I have that color in my stash...  I updated my artist bio, burned it and the jpgs of my three new quilts onto a cd (Tears of Mayo, Upward Tick & Reverberations), and filled out the brief ArtWalk application. My packet is ready to submit 6 days ahead of the official deadline - truly a relief. Time for a breather, and then back to REALLY finishing this quilt.  

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Sunday Ramblings

I had visitors this morning, a family of turkeys strolled through my backyard, feeding and strutting, and the tom showing off his tail feathers. Unlike the wild turkeys I knew back in Wisconsin, this group looked right off the pages of a story about Thanksgiving Day. I was struck by the brilliance of the red on their heads and necks.
I'm ditching my art journaling again, just have no desire to do it, or much else actually. I know what this is. I often do this when a deadline looms, try to find anything to keep me from working on what I need to work on. Normally, the art journaling would fall under that "finding anything" category but not today. I made quite a bit of progress on sizing and arranging squares and rectangles on Reverberations yesterday, fusing strips of Steam-a-Seam lite along the edges before trimming. But frankly, it was like pulling teeth to keep moving on it. I like coming up with ideas. I often don't like making decisions along the way. I quit yesterday at a point where I wondered if a rectangle might look better vertical instead of horizontal. Well, they always say to quit with something up in the air so you know right where to start the next day. But I couldn't get myself in there today. Frankly, I'm feeling a little lackluster, no energy, not sure why. I decided not to push it and have spent the afternoon reading a book and catching up on my Newspaper Blackout Obits practice. It was tempting just to lie down and sleep the afternoon away.

Panida Theater - Illustration by Bill Klein

So I may not have worked on a new Positively Creative Journal page, but I sort of gave myself another hour for whatever on Friday, treating myself to a movie out. Yes, more than an hour but I don't think the point was to limit the time as much as to make sure time was carved out. I usually reserve paying to see a movie on the big screen for those that seem to deserve being seen that way - like Star Trek. A movie like Philomena I would normally wait to see once it makes it to television, watched from the private comfort of my couch with my own freshly made popcorn. However, when I saw it advertised on the marque of our old downtown theater, The Panida, I felt an unfamiliar pull to go see it there. That venue is so different from watching a movie in a modern cineplex. The airing is part of The Global Cinema Cafe series, you don't have to sit through umpteen trailers of upcoming features and the sound is set at a volume that doesn't blast you out of the room. Sometimes it's nice to watch a good movie on the big screen in a darkened theater, to spend a couple of uninterrupted hours immersed in someone else's story. And yes, I bought a big bag of popcorn even though I knew it wouldn't be as good as my own.

Time to make my own line drawings
As I walked back to my car afterwards, I slowed down to take a look at some of the details of the historic buildings along the way. I think it was the light in an upper story of an otherwise dark building that initially caught my eye. I've walked this route dozens of times but somehow the interesting architectural features stood out more illuminated only by dim streetlights than when washed in daylight. I've never been compelled to sketch any of these buildings before, but I found now an urge to do so. I plan to go back with one of my new sketchbooks and give it a go. Perhaps I'll find I need to go back after dark. Perhaps it will be my next hour for whatever.

I've been so focused on this new piece and the timeline to finish it in that I'd forgotten to do a wrap up of March and scope out possible to do's for April. While I was trying to settle down to work yesterday, I made a stab at listing some goals for the month, what to do once the ArtWalk application is submitted, but found my mind fairly blank about what I want to work on after Reverberations. In reviewing the March list, I found I didn't do too badly, but again, there were several things I could just bring forward into April. But I must admit to feeling a real disconnect between what was going down on the page and the blankness in my head, kind of like the Peanuts character that only hears indistinguishable sounds coming out of the adults - wah wah wah. Again, I think it's this self-imposed deadline that is throwing me off, keeping me from seeing past it. If anything, my thoughts are wandering off to non-quilting diversions, another sign that I don't want to face the decisions in the studio.

Well, Sunday's are traditionally a day of rest. I've rested and rambled and perhaps tomorrow I will be back on track. 

Friday, April 04, 2014


Hmm, you guys weren't much help with my last question about quilting sequence, but I figured out that I could fuse the extra squares and rectangles to the background regardless of whether I quilt the extended rays over them or not - kind of a "duh" moment. Guess I was trying to avoid stopping and starting if I decided not to quilt over them. At any rate, before doing that, I decided to take the extra square I have and test printing on it. My sunburst stamp is similar to the kaleidoscope so I thought it might work. I tried my brown and black stamp pads and neither looked right (that's the black on the right in the above photo). Then I wondered if a blue ink would blend better and cracked open a Speedball printing ink called denim. That's it on the left and it definitely printed darker than I expected. I like the idea of echoing designs in those added fabrics and think if I could find a blue ink more like the background blue, it would make the whole piece more complex and interesting. On the other hand, I'm am wondering if I'm making this too complicated, chancing taking away from my main design rather than enhancing it. Is it time to leave well enough alone, seeing the added fabrics as extensions of the kaleidoscope block, pieces broken off, the quilting over the top the only tie-in needed? I'm beginning to think so.

So that's one distraction keeping me from proceeding. The other is my loathing of waste. I just wanted to test a little of the denim color, but when I peeled off the inner seal, it was coated with quite a bit of paint. I simply couldn't throw it in the wastebasket. But what could I print with it?

I took a quick look around the studio and my eyes lit on a truly ugly piece of "art fabric" that came out of my friend's stash - The camera couldn't capture it well but it has a very muddy look with colors that really don't go well together. I won't name the artist, but she was in an art group with my friend, and I did get to know her a bit. Loved her quilts, not so fond of her surface design. So this piece of fabric had gone in the pile destined to become fabric baskets. What the heck - perhaps some stamping would improve it. And I must say, it did. I could see incorporating this into a tote or handbag sans cutting. I may stamp something else in those blank areas as well. But mostly I am showing you this so you can see how far that bit of ink on the seal went. This is where I had to start dipping into the jar to fill the last bit in the upper right corner. It also gave me the opportunity to hone my pouncing skills with the foam brush - much better than the last time I tried that. However, this was NOT what I was supposed to be spending my time on today, not not not!