Monday, September 26, 2022

Inspiration Can Be Anywhere

I've had this catalog sitting on my desk in front of the computer for several weeks now. I am not a chicken person when it comes to designs on anything, much less my quilting. And yet, something about these chickens fascinate me. Maybe it's the simplicity of the shapes, ones that should be easy for me to draw. And all those different sizes and shapes of the spots on them. Full disclosure, it took me quite awhile to realize that they were actually holes the the metal chickens and the green of the spots was just the grassy background showing through. None the less, it got me thinking of the many ways I could play with these chickens. Here are a few of the ideas I came up with:

  1. Do a simple sketch with pen and fill in the spots and background with colored pens or pencils.
  2. Use black acrylic paint to fill in the shape and then dab green acrylic paint on top for the spots.
  3. Or use a green Maribu Art Crayon to dab the spots on a black background since it is opaque.
  4. And finally, cut the chickens out of black fabric and free cut the irregular spots out of fabric with fusible on the back. Or if feeling really ambitious, cut holes in the black chicken shapes which will have fusible on the back and place them on grassy fabric.
  5. Can you think of other ways to interpret these chickens?

But I did not try any of these because I had a bum week, spending most of it not feeling very good after I had my flu shot. This has never happened before but it would account for the two awful days when I really didn't feel like doing a thing but lying on the couch and the other days when I was not up to speed. Have decided that the reaction could be because my body is already on overload mending from the surgery. It has passed now, and although I did very little of anything last week, I DID spend a lot of time reading a lengthy science fiction novel with an impending due date a week away. If I had felt better, I might have felt guilty about the hours making my way through the end of the book.

So having done nothing creative all last week (Another full disclosure: all three of my motorcycle racing series were racing Saturday and Sunday so watching 12 races and 3 superpoles pretty much took up the weekend). I took a look at the next Zentangle in the recent series today, and decided it would work up pretty fast. I am not a fan of this overall shape (which they admitted looked like a wonky donut), but it did introduce me to the sand swirl tangle which I can see is a useful filler and similar to some freemotion quilting swirl designs. No metallic pens this time but I did use ArtGraf again in lieu of their pastel pencils and got a surprise. I expected this to be bright red, and if I activated it with water, it probably would be. Instead, it's more the color I was going for on the last zentangle to compliment the coral metallic pen when shading. I'm not crazy about the "rays" of color extending beyond the zentangle and especially didn't like the fact that the center was left blank - very unzentangle. So I filled it in with what they call auras, or what we call echoing.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Not A Snake


At least, I hope this Zentangle doesn't first remind Jan of a snake, like the last one did. I wanted to try a different filler for the segments as well as different colors and then decided I'd combine segments of the spiral idea with the next Zentangle in the series. I wasn't too keen on that one but I did like the idea of drawing something that looked like a twisted ribbon, and then was surprised by the addition of those things that look like fish swimming in the background. I pulled out my other set of Art Graf in earth tones for the ribbons and shading, although I'd hoped I could get a more rusty look. I also got out a different brush to apply it with - a stiffer kind good for stenciling - and even tried activating the Art Graf by dampening the brush. That resume paper held up much better to the moisture than I expected. 

This time I colored in the circles with coral metallic gel pens and shaded in the space between the two lines delineating the segments with a green one. The "fish" were drawn with yellow and gold metallic gel pens.

Tried to catch all that sparkle in another short video.

Had a day last week when I was full of energy and desire to make some progress in the studio. I managed to complete the pin basting of the second Peace quilt. A few days later, I started on the thread basting around the outside, a step I take both to keep the edge of the quilt top from flipping back on itself while under the machine and to stabilize the edge when trimming and binding. And one more day I was able to make my way around the rest of the quilt top edge. I could lean across better than I've been able to without actually bending or causing more pain. This will allow me to untape it from the table, turn the backing over the exposed batting (I sometimes also baste this with thread but this time I think I can just safety pin it) and remove it from the table altogether, freeing up space to work on other projects. I have a journal cover I'd like to finish up before I start quilting the Peace quilt, and it will be a good test of how well I can do sitting at the machine.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Making Strides

Here's the Zentangle I worked on last week from a recent "Project Pack" series. I like that the Zentangle creators have broadened out from their original tangles done with black micron pen on white tiles, to different color and shapes of their tiles and different colors of micron pens, to the latest of adding color to the shadings. I thought I'd show you step by step how this developed.

It starts by making a fairly open spiral, then subdividing it with double lines. Instead of using the suggested Micron pen, I used a Japanese brand brush pen I've grown quite fond of. Unlike other brush pens, this one is more like a felt tip pen and depending on the pressure you use, you can get a thin or thick line.Starting at the upper left corner of each segment, draw angled lines partway down, insert a circle and "capture" it with a line up and over it, darkening the space on either side. Continue echoing this new curved line until the segment is filled. This took quite a bit of time as I had more segments to fill than the example did so spread it over more than one day.

The next step is adding color with a pastel chalk pencil provided in the pack, but if you don't buy the pack full of tiles, pens, and various pencils, you are free to find something similar on hand. This Art Graf has similar qualities to a pastel chalk pencil but the trick was to find something to apply it with. This brush was handy and worked pretty well to work the soft pigment into the paper along the line of the spiral.

Next I used the felt eraser tip from a used up white board pen to gently move the pigment from the line to create shading. The same process was used to add graphite with a soft pencil along the other side of the spiral line. A tortillion moves the graphite across the paper for more shading.

It never ceases to amaze me how that step of shading transforms any tangle, giving it a depth that is often 3-d in nature. At this point I wasn't sure I wanted to continue on because I liked how it looked and had peaked at the next steps. But continue on I did because, you know, if I didn't like it, I could always draw it again and stop here.

Now it was time to spruce things up with gel pens - not just normal gel pens but metallic ones. I think this is new for the Zentangle people. On their example, they inked in those big circles with a colored metallic pen and placed white gel pen dots inside the double lines. I really didn't like what it did. Plus the paper in this sketchbook is a resume paper with cotton content that rather soaks up the ink while their tiles are I believe something akin to Yupo - a plastic translucent surface that the gel ink sits on top of. While the white gel pen dots really showed up on their tile, I knew it wouldn't on my paper. Instead I just went over the big circles on mine so they are firmly white. I DO have a collection of metallic gel pens that you can see all lined up for testing - I wasn't sure which color would look the best with my blue shading.

I chose a purple one which I am very pleased with. I think you can even see a bit of the sparkle. The graphite also has a sheen to it when you tip the tile. I tried to capture that in the video below - not sure why the sheen of the graphite looks so yellow though; may be the incandescent light I was shining on it.

As for other strides made last week, when I went into the studio to retrieve those gel pens, I looked for the umpteenth time at the second Peace quilt waiting for me to finish pinning it. I realized that there were some areas I could reach while standing straight up (I still have some issues with even the slightest leaning forward at the waist) so spent a few minutes adding pins - a small triumph. Eventually I'll be able to reach across to the far side to finish the pinning. I'm nearly done with Home Care, having my last visit with "the shower lady" and taking my first unaccompanied shower a few days later and sans shower bench. Best of all, I finished weaning off of the oxycodone once I made the connection that it was some of the physical therapy exercises and the number of repetitions of some of them that was keeping my pain level from coming down. I just have to double check with the doctor to make sure that was all that was keeping me from being cleared to drive. I'm about ready to transition to upstairs, moving the clothes and bathroom items I'd kept downstairs for convenience sake and to sleep in my bed. It dawned on me that I'd by making the couch in the livingroom my bed, I'd been living like one of those wealthy women of the pre-1900 eras who held court in their boudoirs! So close to being back to something more normal.

Monday, September 05, 2022

I Resemble This!

I hope you are enjoying your Labor Day. If you are just lounging around, I have more reading for you, possibly related to laboring. This article entitled "No Escape" talks about the importance of schedules for any creative, and how we instinctively tend to make excuses for not making or keeping them.

" need a schedule. It needn't be an onerous schedule; you don't have to write every day, or for many hours at a time, or anything like that. do need a schedule."

There are some things I have no trouble scheduling and sticking to that schedule. My daily walk is a good example, drilled into me by years of dog ownership when to say no when the appointed time arrived was never a good option. I may not walk at exactly the same time each day; I generally like to take it shortly before dinner but depending on the season I may have to take it earlier when it is still light. But I nearly always get it in. It feels very good to be getting back to that schedule after surgery and to keep extending out the distance. The picture above is taken from where I'd been having to stop and turn around, but as I mentioned, always had me looking longingly past the Goodwill out to the main drag which is those buildings in the middle of the picture - click for a larger view and you will also notice to the left behind them a difficult-to-see mountain shrouded in haze. There are 5 lightning-started wildfires to the north of me that together comprise about 9000 acres and we had several days last week socked in by smoke again. Anyway, I was feeling particularly spunky one day last week and headed down that sidewalk and made it to the main drag and back home again, just a little tired. I've also started just walking around the loop of the neighborhood like I was doing prior to surgery when that was about all I could manage. Having that schedule for walking gets me out there, whether it is short or long.

The sad thing though, as I read this article, is remembering that I used to have a schedule for studio work, pretty much every day between breakfast and lunch. Sometimes I put in more time, but I always got in there in the morning unless I had to keep an appointment or attend a meeting or teach a class. Somewhere along the way, my routine changed and every day I found other things I thought needed to be done first until there was no time left for the studio, every day except for Wednesday for some reason. If I had an exhibit deadline of course, I'd MAKE time for the studio, but it was oh so easy to lapse into the mindset of, oh well - there's tomorrow. More recently I gave up on mornings since I'd started staying up way too late and thus sleeping a lot of the morning away, and looked to the time between lunch and my walk as a viable time. Still not daily but maybe a start. As the article says, no matter what your objections (or excuses), you still need a schedule, no matter whether it is doing something every day or just a few days a week. It is so right. Yet, I still struggle to set a schedule for my art/quilting while easily set a schedule for the 2 hours a day I need to wear a bone regenerator to hasten my post-surgery healing. Why is that? Do you find you succumb to the same struggle? The article suggests an answer:

"...for a huge proportion of people, "you need a schedule" is precisely the right advice, yet that they'll still invest a massive amount of energy coming up with reasons why they shouldn't make one. They want ... unveil[ed] some productivity technique that's newer and shinier, and preferably easier to implement – one that doesn't seem to condemn them to month after month of plodding, incremental forward motion."

Yeah, guilty as charged to reading so many self-help articles looking for that magic solution/suggestion to get me back on track. And it hurts just a little that the following hits home so hard:

"I think the general point here, beyond the specific question of how to get writing done, is that we desperately want to be saved. We want to find some person, or some philosophy of life, that will spare us the fear or discomfort or self-doubt or tedium that so often seems to come along for the ride, whenever we try to make progress on things we care about. We hate feeling yoked to reality in such an unpleasant way; we long instead to soar above it, in a realm free from problems. And it's the mark of a bad self-help book, a dodgy spiritual guru or an incompetent therapist that they'll be only too happy to encourage the illusion that this might one day be possible."

I have to admit I'm still using the excuse of the surgery to keep from setting aside a specific time to work on anything, although I have started on another Zentangle that will force me into the studio for some additional art supplies to finish it up. I think I very much fall into the category mentioned that is not new to me and that I know for a fact works:  that all [I] need to do is the straightforward thing that's been staring [me] in the face all along: to just write (sew/sketch/paint/etc) for a few hours a week; to sit down for a few minutes and meditate; to be the most capable of a being [I can be] on this particular day..."

It ends on a gentle note though, almost as if knowing my history of being hard on myself when I don't live up to my own expectations and sometimes too ambitious goals:

"There's no need to be mean to yourself. You can be entirely gentle. It's just that what you have to (gently) remind yourself is that there is, in fact, no secret ingenious alternative to just walking the uncertain and sometimes uncomfortable path forwards...Your internal resources are entirely up to the task."

So do you struggle too? Or does setting a schedule for your creative outlet pose no problem for you? (And no, I'm not looking for your magic solution!) And is there a difference between schedule and routine? I wonder because I've been thinking I have lots of routines that don't feel difficult to keep and often fall at the same general times. A quick google points out there is indeed a difference, for what it is worth: a schedule is a plan of what is to occur, and at what time while a routine is a course of action to be followed regularly. The difference is slight but there. Gotta figure out a schedule so it will become a routine, me thinks!

Monday, August 29, 2022

A Little Less Pain, A Little Progress

I didn't do any knitting last week as I thought I might but I definitely wanted to do something. Not exactly experiencing boredom, which Webster's Dictionary defines as the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest. Not weary and not really restless (although I've had days when I was definitely restless) and not experiencing a lack of interest. To the contrary, I was very focused on being interested, just struggling to figure out on what since I'm still limited in what I can do. With a small sketchbook and pens sitting on the coffee table nearby as well as my Amazon Fire tablet, I suddenly knew what the interest and urge was: to revisit several Zentangle videos I'd saved from a series devoted to tangling to a sense of well-being, using variations on a tangle they call "well", which at its simplest is a circle in a square with slightly curved lines radiating from the circle out to the four corners of the square. I enjoyed working through these and ended up shading mine a little differently from the example. A lot of the Zentangle method is encouragement to make these tangles your own. I can see several things I'd like to try differently with number 5 including adding some color. Ignore the faint pencil Zentangle in the upper left - I was trying to do one from memory and was not happy with how it ended up so didn't ink it in.

Here's a little surprise I discovered while lamenting that the double petunias I planted in the pot by my front steps have not gotten much bigger nor put out extensive overflowing blooms. Suddenly I have 3 tiny pansies blooming in there. Or rather violas probably, but I have no recollection of having specifically planted any in there. Perhaps I scattered some bee seeds prior to this season that had some violas mixed in. I can't imagine that they are wild as I see them no place else. They are little gems though, a half inch to an inch across and very welcome in that pot. 

I had a better week last week as far as my pain level goes, partly because I had less activities going on. No two ways about it, the more I do, the more time I stay upright or sitting, the more my lower back hurts. But I am still walking without extra pain or the pain down into my hips and without the aide of a walking stick so that makes me happy. And I keep eyeing the extension of my old daily route, so wanting to walk past the Goodwill and across the main drag over to the little park where I could sit in the sun and enjoy a different view. Soon, I think, because my longings got the best of me last week on a day when I was feeling really good and energetic, and I turned the corner at the end of my street where I generally just turn around to head back, to walk along the next street over which creates a loop around my neighborhood. Didn't take the full loop but went quite a ways before I turned back. I estimate that I walked about 2 blocks that day.

I have my 6 week post op appointment on Wednesday, another hour and a half drive to the clinic but perhaps that too will be a bit easier on me than the first 2 week post op one was. I nearly couldn't find someone available to drive me which has made me more anxious than ever to get cleared to drive. First have to get off the pain killers - I'm working on it!

Monday, August 22, 2022

Inching Forward, Slipping Back

Progress on the home front. I actually fixed a meal for myself on Saturday. Granted, the chicken that went into this simple curry dish I concocted years ago before I got my hands on an authentic Indian cookbook was pre-cooked by one of my yoga class friends, but I sliced the veggies (amazing how shaky my hands were) and sauteed them, opened the cans of mushroom soup and added the curry powder seasonings. While that simmered, I prepared the rice that was folded in at the end.

Surprising how just that little bit of activity tired me out but it was worth it to have a yummy dinner I cooked myself that has provided me with plenty of leftovers. Up until now, the most ambitious thing I've made for myself has been chef salads, relying instead on microwaving frozen entrees, heating up soups, and warming up meals provided by friends. Little things easily become big things on the road to recovery!

It was a busy week, someone coming by for one reason or another most days, and Friday marking another milestone for me. Talk about poor timing, I realized my drivers license would expire this month and I didn't qualify to renew it on line. Nope, had to show up at the DMV, hoping I looked like I actually could drive safely - lol. Luckily, the DMV is a short drive from my house and offers "senior hour" first thing - other wise you have to come sign up for a time and most likely have to make a return trip to keep it. Yoga class friend to the rescue again, taking me there, then we headed to the grocery store. She's been picking up groceries from the lists I provide for a month now. This was my first trip to shop for myself, you just can't imagine how good it was to wheel my cart around and decide between this and that, especially in the produce department. She's been doing a great job, actually choosing things much like I would, but some things you just have to see for yourself to decide.

This foray out into the world went pretty well but oh my, did it take a lot out of me and had my back screaming. I started weaning off the opioid pain pills last week and perhaps started too soon what with my increased activity, but I am determined to get off of them as soon as I can. I have a fairly high tolerance for pain but even I have my limits and in the pain department felt I'd back slid. Thank goodness for ice packs! We'll see if this week is a little better. Overall though, everyone that comes to see me (the physical therapist, the nurse, the aide that helps with showering) all say I am doing really well, making excellent progress and am a much better patient than most they have to deal with. Well, would you expect anything less from me? ;-) I'm particularly happy with how I've been able to extend how far past the mailbox I can walk each day without increasing my back pain.

I've been collecting "explanation of benefits" mailings and decided today I felt up to going through them and pairing them with actual billings, etc. So far I haven't received ones for the actual surgery and the multiple people involved in that, but this stopped me a bit in my tracks. It is for the single overnight stay at the hospital following surgery, which by the way was wonderful, just a really excellent hospital. I knew beforehand what my co-pay would be - that very reasonable $295 - but am always interested in the figures that get submitted to insurance and what insurance actually pays. Wowza! As my mother-in-law counseled me when I was hedging on getting insurance after my husband died and I was no longer covered by his, one simply can't afford NOT to have medical insurance these days.

Well that's it for now. I think I will mostly be left to my own devices this week so will keep up with my PT exercises and walks but maybe not push myself too much to keep my pain levels down. Maybe this is the week I'll get out the yarn and patterns I set aside with the idea of knitting another scarf or starting a pair of socks. The foam wedge I was given to recline against while lying down tips me up just enough I think to comfortably wield some needles. But don't hold me to it!

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Little Joys

Here I am  a  month out from my surgery but still pretty limited in what I can do. However, I have been able to extend how far I can walk outside and am thrilled it is not causing pain like it did before surgery. Thanks for all the encouragement from those of you who have left comments on previous posts. I think of my readers as a wonderful cheerleading squad! Also cheering me on and up is my little deck garden. That picture above may not look like much but I have been trying to get sweet peas to climb up that wire grid for several years now with no luck but third time must be the charm.

When you're hurting and struggling and working to just make it through each day, something as small as a simple bloom can bring ridiculous joy as these sweet pea blooms have. And the tiny zinnia bloom below as well. After the initial beautiful blooms died off, the next tight buds simply dried up before opening. I feared that was going to be it for this plant. But here is a subsequent bud that has opened with a few more sure to come and again, it makes for a deep joy that under other circumstances might not be so strong.

I've been looking through some articles bookmarked for reading "when I have more time" which happens to be now and found this one I know I saved to share on the blog. I hope you'll pop over and read it as it touches on several topics related to creativity that get rehashed endlessly among artists: Nick Cage on Creativity, the Myth of Originality and How To Find Your Voice. Here's one sample that I particularly liked because I've always felt it is what I do:

Ada Lovelace postulated in a letter that creativity is the art of discovering and combining — the work of an alert imagination that “seizes points in common, between subjects having no very apparent connexion, & hence seldom or never brought into juxtaposition.” 

And this about original work:

There is no blank slate upon which works of true originality are composed, no void out of which total novelty is created. Nothing is original because everything is an influence; everything is original because no influence makes its way into our art untransmuted by our imagination. We bring to everything we make everything we have lived and loved and tessellated into the mosaic of our being. To be an artist in the largest sense is to be fully awake to the totality of life as we encounter it, porous to it and absorbent of it, moved by it and moved to translate those inner quickenings into what we make.  

Reading this left me remembering that truly, we just need to get busy, do the work, and stop worrying about where it is coming from.