Friday, June 23, 2017

Invaluable Feedback

ArtWalk 2017 - Columbia Bank Venue - not the order I had in mind but it works
It has taken me all week to decompress from and process my interactions with everyone who came out for the ArtWalk opening reception - really quite well attended and fun (but also draining) for me. It's always scary when you go in a new direction with your art, at least it is for me. No matter how excited one may be about it, the unfamiliar makes one question, "Is it any good? Am I on the right track? And will people like what I'm doing, want me to continue in this vein or return to my tried and true that they are used to and love?"

Some of the viewing public - as you can see, a casual affair.

These were my thoughts going into ArtWalk with the new series. It turned out my worries were unwarranted. These Leaf Cluster variations were enthusiastically embraced, and nearly everyone who passed by wanted to ask me questions and/or tell me which was their favorite and why (which is often not the case at these receptions). Much of what was noted confirmed what I already knew or felt, some were good ideas I had not considered, and in one case I received a fairly thorough critique that finally gave me some concrete reasons why I was so unhappy with one of them. I got excited again about the series, ready to continue as many said they hoped I would, armed with feedback that should help the next pieces be stronger. Here's how the feedback broke down.

Framing
I was a little surprised by how many noted the framing, though I've known for a long time how framing up smaller textile pieces can give them more presence in an exhibition. It leaves no doubt that they are art, and as the critiquing fellow artist pointed out, "It makes them look more like art than (very long pause) craft." I think she hesitated so long wondering if using that term "craft" would offend me. But I totally agree. I think having them all the same size framed identically also contributed to their impact.

That it was a series
Again, I was surprised at how many people remarked that they liked that I did more than one using the leaf cluster motif. Several also shared that they could easily see two or three of them hanging together. One twenty-something woman voiced that because they had such a modern look, they would look good hung vertically, one over the other - something I hadn't considered, but found exciting to consider. And best of all, one of our "elder statesman" icons of the Sandpoint arts community came up to me with a big smile, grabbed my hands and said, "I am SO GLAD you are working in a series!" Well, yes then, I guess I must continue on with it!

Leaf Cluster III - a crowd favorite due to all that quilting

Fabric and quilting choices matter
I was not surprised that Leaf Cluster III drew so much attention and was often stated as a favorite. I had an excellent location on the third floor tier with lots of natural light from the ceiling which is like one giant skylight. It accentuated the quilting on all of the pieces, but especially on this one. Everyone wanted to know how I did it, what kind of machine I used, and then after my explanations, was I crazy. Why yes, just a bit! I think I could use that garnet stitch exclusively and no one would tire of seeing it. Leaf Cluster II (below) was a close second, that wonderful batik drawing people in just as it had on Leaf Cluster I. Many couldn't decide between the two and I feel the same way. It was obvious from the many comments that people were being drawn almost as much if not more by my fabric and quilting choices than by the leaf motif, and that in the case of the two favorites, those choices went with and enhanced the image of leaves.

Leaf Cluster II - that batik made it a favorite

Imperfections are assets
As you probably remember, it took me some time to get comfortable with the way my leaf clusters had printed up. Initially all I could see was failed prints because the paint had not transferred evenly. My blog readers, my art group and some distance from those first looks at them finally brought me around as people pointed out how much they liked the unevenness in the printing, especially where it allowed the fabric to show through as in Leaf Cluster II above. And more than one non-artist looking at Leaf Cluster II remarked how much they liked the varying lines and texture in the paint across some of the leaves, and even those little carving marks outside of the leaves that I tried so hard to keep from happening because, and I quote "they add interest." Ok, ok, I've got it!

Leaf Cluster V - the camera caught more of the sparkly beads. Click to see.

Not everyone likes the same thing
Poor Leaf Cluster V. Even in this excellent light, it remained a very dark piece, but at least the beads were picking up the light. Very few people commented on it, except maybe to ask about the beading. And then one man steps in front of it and loudly announces that it is his favorite, that he likes the colors, the beads, he just likes everything about it, and seemed ready to argue its merits with anyone who disagrees (and a few standing nearby weakly said they liked different ones but he stood firm - hysterical!). So the lesson here is that variety is good, because not everyone's taste is the same. I did ask two women who had described what they thought was going on with the other leaves (those are floating in front of tree bark, that one is coming down a wall) what was going on with this one. The first women furrowed her brow and said she didn't know. The second one described my vision perfectly - a leaf that has landed on the water. We all see differently too.

Look! You can see the stitches! Wait - don't look at those stitches!

The value of a good critique
Leaf Cluster IV looked so much better hanging in this spot of natural light plus some additional light from the nearby sconce - the quilting actually showed up, and yikes! I also noticed that you could now see the thread too, which means my uneven stitches could easily be seen (I really did have some places where the stitch length got long in comparison to the rest of the line). It got more comments than Leaf Cluster V but I think only because it was easier to see. I still felt uncomfortable about it, felt it was the weakest of the four but thinking it was mostly because of the quilting. I had nearly 3 hours of reception to stare analytically at the group and consider the comments I was getting, and I still wasn't 100% sure why some were working better than the others. As the crowds thinned, another artist wandered over, another local icon who, with her partner, received POAC's 2017 Artist of the Year Award. She looked at my pieces for a bit and then began a critique that told me why some worked better than others and declared Leaf Cluster IV the weakest of the lot. She kept glancing over to see how I was taking what she was saying, but I assured her that her comments were very helpful and that I totally agreed that IV was the weakest but didn't understand why. Well, in her opinion it was the one leaf, the way it was turned, how the paint on the stem faded to nothing at the end and did not "attach" in any way to the outside edge. To her it looked lost and like it didn't know where it belonged. None of the other pieces had that problem to her eye.

Leaf Cluster IV in a different and better orientation

I decided to ask her if it would improve it if it were turned a different direction. Maybe, she said as she cocked her head to one side. Well, let's turn it then, which put it back in the original orientation I'd had in mind when I printed it, but changed when considering how the four pieces would look together. She sounded quite surprised at the change that turn made, said "yes it's better and here's why. Look at how that circle of quilting now seems to hold the leaf up. It knows where it is now." It's still the weakest of the lot, but better in the turning, which led us to talking about often you do have to turn your work this way and that, depending on where it hangs and what it hangs with. As for Leaf Cluster V, she sounded sorry for it because it needed better lighting, was not getting its due down there, didn't really go with the other pieces, all things I agree with. I so appreciated her taking the time and being so candid with me, pointing to specific things that I will know to avoid in the future, giving me tips about design that if I pay heed, will help me create stronger pieces as the series continues. Because, after all, that's kind of the point of working in a series.   

Thursday, June 15, 2017

ArtWalk Opening Receptions

ARTWALK 2017

42 Locations in downtown Sandpoint!

Over 125 Artists!

Receptions start Friday, June 16 at 5:30 p.m.

Pickup a brochure at participating locations and at the POAC Gallery, 302 N. First Avenue

After party at Evans Brothers Coffee starts at 8 p.m.

Pickup an ArtWork passport at any participating downtown venue, get it stamped at 10 locations before September 7 then bring it to the POAC Gallery to win prizes including tickets to the 2017 Performing Arts Series!

Click here for more info: http://www.artinsandpoint.org
 

I'll be at Columbia Bank, 414 Church Street, on the third floor. Hope to see you there! But if you can't make the receptions, ArtWalk runs through September 7th.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Deadline Met!

Leaf Cluster variations in the order I hope they get hung
I just finished transferring my several pots of flowering plants into their planters on the deck because . . . drum roll please . . . I delivered my four pieces of art to my ArtWalk venue for hanging yesterday and am free to putter without guilt. Based on info on the application form, I was thinking I'd have Monday to fiddle with pictures and paperwork and anything little thing that might still need doing, but midweek I got the e-mail from my "handler" that it would be Monday, not Tuesday, that work must be dropped off. I know, just one day's difference, but I'd already proven that at each step of the way, each week I'd left my intended work to the last minute. Ok, time to move the game plan up a day and indeed, it was late Sunday before I could put my feet up because all was ready to go.


Here's how I got there. When last I wrote I was all excited about adding beads to the last quilt, but a little concerned about the extra time it would take. And it did take longer than I'd hoped, even though it looks like so little. But I found myself truly enjoying the process, scattering the red beads this way and that in a manner I realized was a lot like the chicken scratch quilting stitch that has become so popular. I have to give a shout-out to my teacher and now friend, Mary Stori, who taught me everything I know about adding beads to quilts and who I think is still the best source of information on that subject. Any of you who have tried taking photos of shiny things will understand how hard it is to get the camera to focus and to catch those glints of sparkle, but I hope you get the idea and trust me that in person it glints nicely. Couple that with the camera getting confused about the true color of the fabric (it says blue, the fabric says greenish blue) and the red that sits on it (either too dull and dark or too bright) and well, this is as close as I could get.


Once the beads were on, it was time to measure, mark, cut and sew up the corners on the last 3 quilts so that they could fit over the stretched canvas with the excess pulled around to the back and stapled into place. (See this post for a bit of a tutorial of the method.) I'd already done that with Leaf Cluster II quite awhile ago so once I treated them with a UV protectant spray, all four pieces were ready to mount in the floater frames and hanging wires attached. Just that part took over 2 hours and I couldn't help thinking it was taking longer to get some of these pieces framed up than it took to make them! But when I flip them over and see the results, it is totally worth it. I ink label info on the back of the quilts before putting them over the canvas, then ink it again on the back of the canvas. A business card also gets taped to the back of each, meeting the exhibit requirements for labeling.

Now to take pictures and yes, the fight with the camera, lighting, accurate colors continued. The quality of the pics didn't have to be perfect for the paperwork (just an insurance requirement), but these are going to be gone til September (maybe one or two forever if they sell) so I tried to get some fairly decent shots before they were gone. Most have been tweaked to get the colors closer to right, but seriously, I can't figure out why each of these presented problems. Anyway, pictures taken, I printed out the contract and inventory sheet and a group photo, filled everything out and was done. I feel a bit like I have my life back!

Leaf Cluster II ©2017 Sheila Mahanke Barnes

Leaf Cluster II detail

This is the one I finished to submit with my application, cropping and adding a frame in Paintshop Pro. Does Leaf Cluster II not look like you remember? Could be that while I was working on the others, and its now wrapped onto canvas self leaned against the wall where I could see it, I kept turning it this way and that, wondering if a different orientation would look better. When I studied all four versions together to decide how to orient the last two, I decided this one needed flipping. Any of these, I think, would work in any orientation which is only slightly weird.

Leaf Cluster III ©2017 Sheila Mahanke Barnes

Leaf Cluster III detail

My not lazy art by virtue of that pebble quilting. I wanted Leaf Cluster III to look like a leaf resting on the ground, perhaps on a gravel trail or a cement sidewalk.

Leaf Cluster IV ©2017 Sheila Mahanke Barnes

Leaf Cluster IV detail

Still finding Leaf Cluster IV a disappointment. The quilting hardly shows, not even a shadow of it, and belatedly I'm remembering a different way I'd thought I might quilt it. I really want to redo it in a slightly darker thread and a different style because I do like how the leaves printed and how they are arranged. Ask me again after seeing it on display for 3 months; I may have a totally different take on it by the time it returns and decide it is just fine. By then I may have used that quilting idea on another variation. Lord knows, I still have unquilted squares and even unprinted squares to work on.

Leaf Cluster V ©2017 Sheila Mahanke Barnes

Leaf Cluster V detail

Alas, next to the others, even the addition of bright beads failed to lighten Leaf Cluster V as much as I would like. It's very much a night scene, really is still quite dark even in person. Think leaf floating on water in the moonlight. Again, I am anxious to see how it looks in the gallery. It may be just fine out of my studio. If nothing else, the beads and the sliver thread really do catch the light.

As always, you may click on any photo for a larger version if you would like to inspect details. Opening receptions are not until a week from Friday (June 16th). More on that as the date nears. 

Thursday, June 01, 2017

June!

Another month begins, another spread in my pocket calendar colored in. I went over those swirls about 4 times with different colors of pencil before ending up with something that looked like it went with the rest of the design. These are the same swirls that showed up in the first spread, and they definitely wanted to be green in that one. I didn't want to use green here but just brown didn't look right either. I finally managed to get an orange tint to them that was different from the other brown combinations.

I bought some plants for my deck "garden" two weeks ago and they are still waiting for me to put them in their pots. I'm have a hard time getting motivated to gather what I need and dig around in those pots to make room for the larger than usual flowers - I rarely get the ones so far along that they come in gallon pots like these. In the back of my mind is the frustration of last year when the deer came and ate all the blooms off my carefully nurtured geraniums and some kind of yellow flower that had taken forever to get to that point. This time I bought blue bachelor buttons and pretty pink columbine (quite a different color combination from my calendar spread), hoping the deer won't be as tempted by them but knowing I should figure out some kind of barrier just in case. Even though it is June, I'm just not ready to deal with it. But the warming weather says I must. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Lazy Art

This is NOT lazy quilting
As I quilted Leaf Cluster II, following the lines in the batik as I had in the first version, the thought came to me that I was making lazy art. Is that a thing or did I just coin a phrase? It's not the first time I've worried that I was not being inventive enough or complicated enough when designing and then quilting an art quilt. I love the texture that builds when a lot of stitch is used but I also worry that on some pieces, too much stitch will take over and overwhelm the main design element. Strike that happy medium, I tell myself, plus feel confident enough about one's stitching skills to execute a more demanding laying in of thread in the background. When in doubt, when feeling timid, the amount of quilting often diminishes, and even when minimal amounts following texture or line in the fabric is called for, I wonder if I am just being lazy. When I launched into the next one, quilting circle after circle in a small pebble stitch (see above photo), I felt excited and sure. Nothing lazy about THIS quilting, was my thought.


But now I was faced with additional squares to quilt, and the timidity and doubt returned. After shuffling the squares (I'll do this one next, no this one...) I chose the dark blue one. I knew I wanted to give the feel of water so hoped some ever widening echoing around the cluster would imply ripples that form when something hits the water. But was I remembering that right? Apparently not, once I looked at some photos on-line. There they were, leaves floating on water, and not a single ripple next to them, but larger circles starting quite far from them. Ok, I can do that, but I think I need to put a couple of echo rounds around the leaf anyway. That red looks so dull (don't believe the photo). And while I think of those circles in the water as being white and shiny, in the pictures they were dark and not shiny. So I opted for a dark green and black Ultra Twist rayon thread and stitched away. I thought the sheen of the thread would catch the light but it didn't. I stitched next to it with a blue YLI Sliver thread and instead of being too overbearing as I feared, it sparkled just right.


So I had done what I so often do, adhere to reality instead of going with my imagination. And sparkly thread or not, I was still underwhelmed by the results - it simply needed more, and I wasn't sure quite what that more was. Perhaps a few sparkly beads in the wide space between the cluster and the first circle. Yup, that definitely helps. And then as I rifled through my bead box, I came across the brilliant red seed beads and laid the strands over the leaves. Ohhhh, that got my heart racing! I won't be beading them on that solidly, but doing more of a scattering of them across each leaf, the paint from the stamped image peaking through. When finished, I will not be thinking that this one is lazy art.


Before adding those beads though, I decided to quilt up what would be the 4th square for my ArtWalk submission, thinking I'd be less stressed about the extra time needed for the beading knowing three were definitely done. I did a bit of back and forth again about what kind of quilting to do - am I still thinking floating on water or just getting some texture in there? An article in a quilting magazine reminded of a bubble pattern I used on this quilt, and as I dug out my reference material, I also unearthing an interesting grid pattern I've meant to try that may be the answer for how to quilt another of the leaf cluster squares. Kicked myself a bit for not having paged through my many resources first  but instead only looking through the dark and cobwebby recesses of my mind. I'm not a hundred percent on board with how it turned out, especially that the thread may as well have been invisible thread for all it shows. But the "bubbles" do show up when the light hits it just so and the leaves pop enough that they can stand on their own pretty well. Not quite lazy art - I DID put some effort into it. :-)

Bubble quilting from the back

While all this was going on, all this mulling and uncertainty about the series and how to keep myself as well as my audience engaged in it, this Painter's Keys showed up in my mailbox under the unlikely heading of "Artistic License" since this is what it started with: 

“If you want to be an artist — try being artistic.” This deceptively minor slip of info was given to me by a fellow painter, Maurice Golleau, somewhere in Provence many years ago. I’ve come to realize that it’s the life breath of our business. In other words, don’t just paint the boat, paint the most expressive boaty-boat you can drag out of your reference or your imagination.

It goes on to list some ideas of how to do that, a list that perhaps all of us should post in our studios. Pattern integrity, or composition, is one of them and that is the main thing I have been playing with. But I could consider more on that list . . . (In a similar vein, this Painter's Keys arrived a few weeks later, sharing the author's checklist of things one needs to do and think about as one creates and concluding "This stuff is all about a personal search for truth within one’s own vision. Getting there is half the fun. If it were a recipe, everyone’s truth might be the same. Only you can make your checklist and join the search for your own truth. Start your checklist now.) 

The stumbling onto the idea of adding beading felt like a breakthrough in the midst of concerns that in spite of my minor variations, my efforts were a bit repetitive and verging on lazy. (If I were hand appliqueing those clusters, would I feel less lazy about the end result? I hate to admit that I would.) As the opening to the letter says, I need to not just reproduce this leaf cluster over and over, but I need to make the most expressive, artistic versions I can drag out of my own references or imagination. "Unless things modify or become other things, or in some way interact through colour, shape or line, they’re merely the straight goods, which tend to be boring to both artist and observer. Don’t be boring." See? That's exactly what I've worried, that I could easily get boring with this series. The beaded version feels a definite step in the right direction, not the straight goods, not lazy art, and not boring. Now to keep that up. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

May Art Group Meeting

I'm late in sharing my art group meeting from earlier in the week. Here's what I took along, less progress than I had intended on my leaf cluster squares for ArtWalk. I discovered that I had not 4 but 6 10 x 10 canvases and the floater frames to put them in so got to thinking if things moved along, maybe I'd have more for the exhibit than I'd originally planned. But my acceptance letter came this week, instructing me to submit no more than 4 pieces as if it had read my mind about having that many for sure ready to go. As the clock ticks down and I've at least stitched around the leaves of four more squares (seen here center and left), I'm thinking which two of those will complete the set begun by the two on the right that are done and framed/ready to be framed. My question to the group was about background quilting to fill in around the leaves, and of course, which thread to use. My mind has gone a little blank on what I could use, but I've been researching what leaves look like floating on water and have some ideas about circles. The group agrees with that tact. I also broached the subject of how to keep a series interesting, so that when the viewing public sees new work they won't instinctively think it's work they've seen before. I'm not far into my exploration and I'm already feeling its loosing it's interest. I have more to say on that topic but will save it for a future post. We also spent a little time discussing the article "Here's When You Should (And Shouldn't) Ignore Other People's Feedback" - since giving feedback is the core purpose of our group. Definitely worth the read.


We met at Vickie's new place of business - Art Place Sandpoint - a very large space for art classes that also provides gallery space for the instructors who will be teaching there. Sandpoint has needed a place like this for quite a few years since the Arts Alliance shut down. This is a much nicer space and also has studio space for rent - 3 of the 5 spaces already have tenants! She has over a dozen teachers lined up and classes are up and running with the usual mixed interest. You just never know what class will fill and which won't. At any rate, Vickie has been sampling some of the workshops and has become enamored with encaustics. She shared small tile samples and some larger pieces that are in various stages of completion. We told her that because of the colors she's using and the marks she is making, these do not look that far off from some of her textile work, her style showing through in this very different medium.


Rebecca is still mending from breaking her wrist a few months ago. While she is no  longer in a cast, you may be able to see she still is wearing a brace and says she's still quite sensitive to any pressure being put on it from either direction. Thus she hasn't been able to rotary cut or do much sewing, so she decided to share her very first quilt from a class she took along with a friend. The colors belie its age but we agreed it is still a very pleasing and soft color. I particularly liked this set and the use of smaller nine patch units than you might normally see on a beginner's quilt.


She used it to practice her quilting on her longarm machine. Below is a little color catcher she had thrown in with her snow dyeing and that came out with flower-like images. So while she can't do much with that braced arm, she did try a little thread painting on this. Click on the photo for a larger version that shows the stitching better. We suggested she introduce some darker thread to add contrast around the "petals".


All this should have spurred me back into the studio to finish the quilting on my squares but it's been one of those weeks when all I could do was stare at them and maybe run a finger over the fabric in tentative stitching designs but couldn't take that next step of making decisions about any of them. But I always mull these things in the back of my mind and think I know what to do when I head to the machine this weekend. None of my ideas should take long to execute. In the meantime, the syringa has been blooming behind my house, visible from livingroom, dining room and a bit from the studio if I'm close enough to the window to look down on them. Each year more seem to bloom up and down this wooded area and I'm loving it.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

More Printing

Quilting from the back - Leaf Cluster III
I had sort of a punky week, but still got something done toward my ArtWalk goals. Over the weekend I had finished quilting the square I showed here. That garnet (some call it pebble) stitch leaves just the sort of texture I wanted but boy, does it take a long time. I think I spent about 3 hours over three days covering the 15" square, and used up almost 3 bobbins filled with the lighter weight Aurofil thread. After about 40 minutes I'd start getting rummy and have to take a break. I haven't mounted it yet as I am going to start a stack from which I will choose the "final four" to be framed. Two down, two to go.

Printed with slightly thinned Liquitex Acrylic paint - Naphthol Crimson

I did have one more square printed with the reddish black paint but it is a possible reject. Time to print some more leaves and try unadulterated red paint. While out walking, the wandering mind prepared for the session, considering which of my variations to use on each fabric, and surprising me with a couple more variations to consider. When I got home, I grabbed my paper prints and worked the placements out. I was quite pleased with all four squares I printed, including the two new variations, and a bit surprised that the red did not pop as much off the darker fabrics as I thought it would. Still, all very usable.

This one didn't photograph that well - much better in person

And of course, there was paint left to expend elsewhere. I pulled out some white muslin that I'd printed up during my first linocut class. The paint was poor, the instruction poorer, and I really didn't know what to do with this big piece that I'd covered with the wavy block a la Cynthia St. Charles. Let's print some big red leaves on it and suddenly that background printing looks like water! The red squares were an attempt to jazz up a secondary commercial stamp I'd superimposed with little effect. The paint pretty much covered it up but if I use this piece, I'll have to figure out something to make those squares look like they belong.


On the other end of the muslin I'd printed a smaller section with that wavy stamp and it got a single leaf cluster. I like this one too. But I'm thinking I'd like to give both of these a dip in a little dye to get rid of that stark white.

I'd intended to get the four new squares layered for quilting yesterday but as I said, I've felt a little punky all week and after standing at the ironing board heat setting everything with an iron, I decided to save that task for another day.

Monday, May 01, 2017

May Day!

It's the first of May, and my pocket calendar spread is full of roses. Hmmm...it will be some time before roses bloom here. Heck, the first bulbs of spring are barely blooming. But no matter, it should be an easy page to color in, right? We'll go for red and yellow roses. But my red pencil showed very pink when lightly applied, and still fairly pink even as I applied more pressure.  That would be the big one on the right and left. Hmmm again. In the bottom right corner I tried blending it with blue with not much luck. Moved to the bottom center one and tried mixing violet. Oooo - a lovely color but not rich dark red. I gave up and gave in to the limitations of my red pencil and enjoyed the lovely pinks it was giving me. The yellow roses got tinged with a bit of orange.

So roses . . . we all know what a blooming rose looks like, right? But right away I realized I do NOT know what a bloom looks like for sure. Are the petals darker on the front than on the back like a leaf? I thought to ask this as I darkened the turned over edges of a petal. Well, if not, too bad. I liked what was happening here. I also thought perhaps I should go back over the large light areas for more solid coverage, but then remember some close-up photos I'd taken of a rose long ago, and how I had marveled at the network of tiny veins running through the petals. My light touch with the colored pencil left a surface that looked much like those veins, so it stayed just that way.

Happy first day of May. Wherever you are, I hope you find a few blooms somewhere to celebrate the shaking off of winter.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Wrapping up the Week

Yes, I bought yet another sketchbook. It sat on my coffee table for a week while I thought about how I might use it. Then it came to me - the anything goes sketchbook.


And yes, I signed up for a Sketchbook Skool class. Right in the midst of deadlines, I added something else to my plate.

What was I thinking, you well may ask? Well, in my constant quest for the "perfect" sketchbook, the video demoing this one implied it could very well be it. It's not recommended for wet media, but I trust the gal at Joggles who produces these videos of the products they sell, and she said as long as you went lightly, the pages could take some paint and ink. This has been my struggle with the sketchbooks I've tried - if they take wet media, then they don't work as well with pencil, and if they are great for colored pencils and pens, they will buckle with the least bit of moisture added. Frustrating when I want to spark up the colors or do blending when using the Inktense pencils or water soluble graphite. There are other features like that elastic band to keep it closed, and the size looked close to what I prefer, but I will not lie; the fact that it came in my signature teal green sealed the deal.

As for the class, I've passed up several at Sketchbook Skool because of timing. I just knew I had too many things going to devote to a class and that the class would probably be offered again when I'd be less busy. I'd watched the promo for this one (Exploring) and thought that yes, I could probably get a lot out of it but really, running mid April through May when I have this early June ArtWalk deadline, I'd be silly to sign up for it. And then the marketing genius e-mail arrived just days before the class was to begin: Did we mention, we'll NOT be repeating this class? It's now or never! I reviewed the course description again and checked to see what would be involved. Ah, it's an at your own pace class, with pdf's you can download, videos to watch, and all the material is available to students FOREVER (or at least as long as Sketchbook Skool exists on the internet). And again, I succumbed to a pitch.

Pencil and Pen hatching practice

The class includes sections using both wet and dry media so it didn't take me long to decide the anything goes journal would be used for the class assignments where, as the title of the class states, we will be exploring, and supposedly learning "fresh directions" for our sketchbooks. The paper in this sketchbook is quite different from any of my other sketchbooks. It almost feels coated and is very smooth yet the ink from my fountain pen flowed perfectly over it, not sitting on top of it; a Pigma pen works equally well. And a graphite pencil also likes the paper. Haven't tried erasing yet. I do love the size.

So I knew I could ignore the class while I worked toward my first ArtWalk deadline last Friday, and could then take a break to start reading through the materials. I suspected that the first section on creativity might be a lot of things I've already discovered and worked through, and I was right. Still, I found the material a good review, and there was at least one suggestion that was helpful enough that I drew a simple stick figure sketch in my sketchbook as a reminder -"Build a wall with a door between two parts of yourself, the maker and the judge. Shut the door and make stuff. . . open the door to show the judge what you've got...worse case scenario it's all junk, in which case you can close the door and go back to playing." Even in play, I often forget to silence the inner critique, and when something's on the line, like my printing session, the critic (or as the teacher calls it, the judge) looms large!


The meat of this lesson though was hatching/cross hatching. I've only worked with hatching a little and usually gave up on it to revert to regular shading. I did a page of practice hatching (see photo a few paragraphs up) after watching the teacher use various kinds on a drawing of a teacup. I was not quite prepared for my visceral reaction to teacup as subject, but after a month of drawing the mugs in my cupboard back in October, I find I cannot face another cup to draw! It was interesting though to watch him pointing out many things that I discovered on my own while drawing all those mugs.  Best of all, I can see how this lesson can be applied to the thread sketching I hope to do soon. I've chosen a different subject for my "homework" sketch, and might get to it this weekend.


I'll have to look at the lessons for this week as well, different teacher, different medium. But first I have to finish up the quilting on Leaf Cluster III. I opted for the lighter thread with the green cast and am very pleased with how this is working up. I pretty much need to finish one quilt a week, plus do a little more printing, to have the options I'll want when making the final choices and framing for what I'll submit to the exhibit.


Not a Sketchbook Skool assignment, but I've been wanting to add something to my Comforts Sketchbook for quite awhile. Having succumbed to yet another marketing ploy - the pies were on sale at my grocery store - I'd been working on this cherry pie for over a week (eating it, not drawing it). Was about to polish it off so took the time to do this sketch with colored pencils. This is a good example of paper that does not match the medium. Meant for multi-media, wet and dry, it's a little too textured so I can't get that smooth solid coverage that I can on a smoother paper. It helped to go over most of this with a colorless blending pencil. The pie pan is a bit out of shape but otherwise, I'm pretty pleased with my cherry pie slice.


Speaking of slices, surprising news came in the mail this week along with this photo. That slice quilt I participated in has won it's 3rd award in as many shows! The other two were 2nd place in its category but look at this, a blue ribbon at the quilt show in Muckwonago, WI! 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Meeting the First Deadline


Friday was the deadline for submitting my ArtWalk application, so that was the focus of last week. I got a bit of a boost from my art group on Monday who encouraged me to keep working on this series, that what I had done so far was showing promise. Like me, they especially liked the "I don't care" prints and I assured them I planned to do something with them once I got the four 10 x 10's done. I chose to finish quilting the orange batik leaf print for the application since it was about half quilted already and would finish quickly.


Because this is going over stretched canvas, I don't have to worry what the back looks like, i.e., didn't have to spend time burying thread tails once they were pulled to the back and tied off. I still ink "label" information on the back in the event the quilt gets removed from its frame and canvas someday.


I got out my favorite instructions for mounting onto a stretched canvas (this would work for stretcher bars or panels too). It requires some marking specific to the canvas you will be using, reinforcing stitching, measuring and cutting out at the corners before sewing them up to fit snugly when the canvas is slipped in. It makes for neat and bulk-free corners and ease in then stapling the rest to the back. See this post for details.

Leaf Cluster II Sheila Mahanke Barnes © 2017

I got as far as the reinforcing, measuring and cutting out the corners when I ran out of steam. Didn't have the concentration left for that next step of stitching the corners together let alone the final stapling to the back of the canvas. I decided to work on my artist statement instead. In the meantime, I realized that this photo showing the cutout corners would be easy to crop accurately and add a "frame" to in Paintshop Pro - good enough for the application. I had planned to do the mounting of all four 10 x 10's at the same time, after all were quilted anyway, so I didn't feel too badly about my cheat.

In addition to filling out the application form with basic information, I needed to update my artist statement (which always takes more time than one would think) and edit per application instructions the file names of the other two quilts that would be submitted (they like a sampling of 3 pieces to help them in assigning venues and although they know my work well and don't require the pieces to actually be in the exhibit, I always like to submit at least one new piece with two that aren't too old). I had planned to burn my files to a cd, fill out the form I'd printed from their pdf and drop it all off at the office on Friday since I had an appointment nearby that same day. But I noted that they preferred the image jpgs be e-mailed and I had that pdf that I discovered I could fill out right on the computer and save, so I opted to attach everything to an e-mail and send it off - a day before the deadline! What a relief to have that done.

I've given myself a few days off to catch up on some other things and relax a bit, but I mustn't get complacent. I've counted it up and I have about 7 weeks til the final deadline, the day everything must be done, framed, and delivered along with a second set of paperwork. Sounds like more than enough time to complete the quilting on 3 more 10 x 10's and get them framed up. Or even to make more prints to broaden the variations of the final four. Then again, don't get too cocky - one must always account for life intervening...

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Gearing Up to Print

I had confessed to my accountability friend that I really hadn't done anything yet towards getting any quilts made; all I'd been doing is thinking and planning. Bless him that he countered with "Planning is important. It's ok that you've been planning." But as I said in the last post, at some point planning becomes procrastination, a justification for dragging one's feet. I needed to get some fabric printed up. I'd soon have justification for my dread of this next step but in the meantime, I took a deep breath and mixed up some paint. I'd taken time to review my notes from the on-line lino class I took and the part about printing in that new linocut book, and had an idea why I had problems during my last printing session. I'd also thought a lot about how I might get more of a dark burgundy color than the first time. So with lots of confidence, I began. And right off the bat I stumbled. I thought I had the Speedball printing ink in red, but apparently I'd decided not to buy that because I had so much of this Liquitex acrylic paint on hand. Ok, I'll go with that then and add Liquitex black as long as I had some, already mixed with some textile medium. I'd use no brown this time, just lots of red with some black. The black seemed to turn my red brown, but I kept adding and adding black until it was the darkness of the leaf I was trying to emulate. I viewed it in natural light and it looked good.

Test print pinned to felt for experimental quilting.

I have small pieces of fabric lying about that have been test printed on and I decided to use one of those to test print the color of the paint. Looked good to me, showing red as desired.

There's a second version marked on the flip side I've not got around to cutting yet.

And yet when I printed on my 15 inch squares, the paint didn't look at all like the test print. It was back to brown, nearly identical to the original paint mixture that started with brown. Paint coverage on the linocut was very uneven and strange. And even though I had my reference prints at hand, I managed to mess up placement of painter's tape guides on several. I ended the first session with nothing usable, not even my carefully cut and fused triangles. So much for advance refreshing of my memory.

My studio is actually the master bedroom which has its own bathroom which I use exclusively for printing.

I really wanted to junk the whole idea, walk away from this grandiose plan for the leaf cluster. I guess the muses showed ME who's in charge! But the next day I decided I just needed to get back on the horse and give it another go, armed with the new lessons learned. I tinkered a bit with the paint, adding more red back in, taped my reference prints to the mirror and tried again. It went somewhat better, now that I knew what to look for as I inked up the block. I didn't mess up any placements this time but I was still disappointed in the outcomes. That paint took on a chameleon nature in that it changed color depending on the background it showed up on. And why should I be surprised? I already know that any color of fabric will read differently depending on the colors surrounding it. Why should paint be any different? I ended the session thinking I still did not have a decent print to work with.

When you don't care, everything goes well.

But at the end of any printing session, one will have excess paint on the palette and on the brush or brayer, and I hate just washing it down the sink. So I grabbed more small pieces of fabric I'd left in my print area, some already printed, and printed with abandon. So of course, all these "I don't care" prints turned out great! Here are two set out to dry. The one on the right is a highly textured grey batik and the one on the left is a rather nondescript greenish batik with the occasional hint of blue leaf. It was first printed with a piece of foam whose original purpose is a mystery. It is quite thick and I'd had it around for a long time wondering if I could stamp with it. Yes, I can! And quite well too.

Testing how it will look around canvas in floater frame. Same paint as all the other prints, the only time it looked black.

Sometimes you have to give what you've been intensely working on some space before passing final judgment, especially if you are as disappointed as I was. I gave it several days before I looked at my prints again to reassess. It also gave me time to reset my thinking, remembering my original plan was to do lots of prints, quilt them up and pick the best four for my ArtWalk exhibit. More importantly, I was reminded that right now, I only needed to finish one that I could take a picture of to submit with my application soon due. Surely I have ONE print good enough to fulfill this goal. And indeed, now that I looked at the group again, there were still duds, a few that might be saved, and at least two that turned out fine. Sometimes you have to remember the big picture. Sometimes you have to remember the intermediary steps.


This is one I decided will work, and will be quilted with a garnet or pebble stitch. The small piece is another one of the "I don't care" prints that I plan use somehow, probably combined with something else to make a larger piece.

Leaf print outlined with burgundy thread, auditioning thread for garnet quilting.

The stripey orange batik print is also ok, and I layered both of those up for quilting with Thermore polyester batting. The batik got decor bond fused to it first because it is quite thin compared to the Stonehenge cotton of the other one, and I felt it needed more stability because of the quilting I planned. And without much time to spare, I started the quilting on these before packing them and the don't care prints up to take to art group. Yes, that week I had TWO accountability parties pushing me along.