Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Loose Ends & Scratching An Itch

How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was quiet, just the way I like it, and I spent part of it scratching this itch to start a knitting project, specifically trying out a "toe up" sock pattern. I kept getting the nudge, remembering how I spent so much of my school vacations knitting by the fire, and the yarn with pattern has been sitting out for longer than I care to mention. I bought the yarn on sale a very long time ago, pretty much at the beginning of the sock knitting craze and I remember how hard it was to make up my mind about what color yarn to buy. Ever practical and not sure I'd like bright multicolored socks, I opted for the one called "Gray Matters", which is a wool/acrylic hand painted blend made in Turkey. In my defense, I've written before about the positive attributes of gray, and then recently ran across this praise of gray:

“Gray isn’t just for shapeshifting clouds or sophisticated business suits. There is so much more to gray than that. It’s not a cliche. It’s a marvel. Gray is the disputed territory between the light and dark. It’s a color that has one foot in the shadows and one in the sun. I don’t know when we decided that the color gray was “boring” - because it’s anything but.”- John Roedel
There you have it, complete with "foot" pun, and the hand painted variegation should produce a more interesting and beautiful sock than a solid yarn would. This particular toe up pattern has a cast on not unlike the one for the mobius scarves I've made, but by starting with only 4 stitches on each of two needles and a method of increasing I was unfamiliar with, I found the beginnings of this sock challenging and giving me fits. But as the space grows it is getting easier, although working on multiple needles in the round is not my favorite. I'm ready to set up the ribbing pattern so things should go more quickly now.

As for loose ends, I feel I have so many as I look at what's scattered around my studio. But I took care of some of them last week. I got all the bits of ephemera added to the gratitude journal and started writing in it. I experimented with something the teacher showed us: masking off the center of a page to preserve it for adding text, then painting the rest of the page. I used that Fresco Finish paint again, partly because it dries to a matte chalky finish which, unlike regular acrylic paint, doesn't stick pages together and is easy to write on if one chooses. This is such a great look and will keep me from getting too wordy!

I had a little paint left on the palette so I experimented with a fan brush, mimicking the flowers in the adjacent page. The camera didn't pick it up well, and you can't see the green that I also worked in between the pink, but I was pretty thrilled with the result. Funny how this particular journal is unleashing something in me that is unexpectedly liberating. I'm usually such a regimented and chronological person but this format has me jumping around all through the book. It's really fun to work in it.

Another loose end is adding quotations to this journal which I believe is the second book I made once I'd joined the Handmade Book Club. The journal itself has lots of issues, but it was a way to use some of the eco-dyed watercolor paper I'd made and then add lots of tree and leaves related things to the blank pages. There are paint experiments in there and a few pictures from magazines pasted in. Some actual dried leaves glued in as well. Still lots of pages to fill but I see it as an ongoing project. But I did want to get the poems and quotations added once it dawned on me how many I'd collected referencing trees and leaves. It will feel good to have that loose end tied up.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Pause and Gratitudes

Yet another week of distractions and diversions, appointments and phone calls, basically not getting too much done in the studio in spite of good intentions (more requilting though - one grid line at a time will win that race!). I did take advantage of an opportunity to participate in a 5 day November Pause offered by Michelle GD whose e-mails in general are full of "gentle thoughts and inspiration". In a world so rattled with horrid and discerning events, and the average person's life so full to the brim with activities and expectations, this would be a chance to slow down and reflect each of the five days, exploring what "pause" may mean and listing gratitudes in different ways (she's particularly into making lists). Why not, I thought. We were encouraged to go at our own pace, not feel obligated to do each day's journaling and listmaking on the day it arrived if it was just too much, not even do each part of a day's offering if it did not feel right. She so kindly said, "I want everything about November Pause to be gentle and spacious. Our hurting world doesn't need another hurried-harried, frustrated-frazzled, overworked-overwhelmed, tired, feeling-unworthy being. You, or me." I started off well, then began "having a week" and did have one day when I just couldn't face the subject we were to explore. But the next day I could, and it led to an epiphany I've been searching for. The last day we were encouraged to write our gratitudes in circles on the page and jazz them up with "lots of art". Oh, I am not good at this and didn't want to invest a lot of time in adding artsy things so just grabbed the set of fine point pens of many colors on my desk and played a bit with shapes and doodles. Overall though, I found these 5 days of exploration full of insights that made me feel better about myself and understand the value of the pauses I work into my days. A lot of guilt got off loaded.

Each day included a short reflection, several journaling prompts, that invitation to practice gratitude in different ways (which she called "a grateful heart", a short breathing practice to ground, a "what if" invitation to take a small loving action (after all, we're all in this together, or should be), and a poem. Here's the poem she shared on the last day, actually a blessing from my favorite author of blessings. As you are off however you celebrate Thanksgiving in a few days, may this blessing settle around you. And don't forget to pause if things get frantic!

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

A Not Much Visible Progress Week

Honestly, not much of interest to share this week. After having made a bit of space on my work table after finishing the Abstract Color challenge pieces, I moved my gratitude challenge journal onto it along with all the bits and pieces of things I've collected to paste into it. It's been a bit exciting to realize how many things I've saved but had no real place to keep them that can be stored in this journal, and still have plenty of room for adding handwritten bits of gratitude and precious memories. But as always, I can't just slap them in any old way! So I was slowed down a bit once pocket things were inserted in pockets and I considered how I want to space out the other items among the signature pages. A work in progress . . .

Photo: @rajesh_kumar_photography.

And honestly again, who wants to see the darning of socks and repair of a seam in a favorite pair of pajamas? Yes, I do mend and darn and don't mind the process at all but I do tend to let it stack up until I have quite a bit to attend to. And I also sat a few times at the machine while I continue to requilt over the grid lines of the 4-patch strip quilt, but really, nothing to see there either. But I ran across this incredible butterfly on Facebook which at first glance looked to me like some art quilter's rendition done up in hand-dyed or painted fabric and thread painted with metallic threads. But no - this beautiful creature is mother nature's handiwork, and I am in awe. The Blue Admiral is a nymphalid butterfly, the only species of the genus Kaniska. It is found in south and southeast Asia. Have you stumbled upon something of rare beauty lately?

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Finally Done With Pink!

Finally got a chance yesterday to take one last assessment of my Abstract Color Challenge and add a few finishing touches. I can't believe how much these little 5 x 5 pieces of "art" have grown on me. If thought of as a series, the order above is the order I had them laid out in as I worked on them. But as I removed the tape holding them to the table and looked at each individually, I was fairly pleased with how each stood on its own. Click on the pics for a larger view to study the details. I really like the look of the spatters and am ok with the bit of pen work I added.

In the meantime I ran across this quilt with what I feel is a stunning use of pink! It's called Hidden Gems by Gail Stepanek and Jan Hutchison.

And then I read an article about a wool and knitting festival on the Shetland Islands and was really taken with the pink and blue accents on this sweater, worn by wool felting teacher Ann Marie Anderson. I'm really gaining a new appreciation for the color pink!

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Wrapping up #INKtober

I've had a bit of "life intervening" so no progress on the Abstract Color Challenge but I did keep up with my daily INKtober sketches. I have to admit the last 5 or so days I could feel my enthusiasm waning and finding it harder to think up what to sketch. And with that I also found I was making more mistakes or misjudgements, perhaps not really concentrating, just in a hurry to be done. Wrapped up for another year, I am not feeling any eagerness to continue a daily sketch practice. On to other things.

In the meantime, this might be a good time to share another Austin Kleon post, this one about time and music and doing your own thing, but it really refers to more than music. Several things struck me as so true, what I experience myself, like this:

“We live in an age in which only results seem to count, not processes,” Jarrett writes. “We need to hear the process of a musician working on himself. We don’t need to hear who is more clever with synthesizers. Our cleverness has created the world we live in…”

Nor do we need to hear who is more clever with their use of crystals on quilts or their free-motion quilting designs. I'm always more interested in process, not cleverness in the finished quilt. And the following quotation really captures what has happened since digital clocks came into existence (to which I have to protest that I DO often say, "almost (or about) 9:20":

"We see the world as ‘bits’ of information, either/or, yes or no, digital. We seem to have no desire to experience time. We trade this experience for the ‘accuracy’ of ‘bits’ of time: it’s either 9:19 or 9:20, never almost 9:20. So we think that time is a straight line and, eventually, that everything has edges. Something stops here, something starts there. But the natural world is essentially circular. . ."

So I will get back to my process of finishing up various projects, and I will be thinking in terms of spending "about an hour" when I head to the studio. How about you? 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

#INKtober Continues As Does Color Challenge

Here is the latest page of #INKtober sketches, giving you a glimpse into my life last week. You might spot some urban sketching; looking ahead, the weatherman warned of a severe drop in temperatures this week so get out and enjoy the last few days of 70 degree weather at the end of last week and over the weekend.

So I grabbed my architecture sketchbook and headed over to the new houses across from the park on one of my walking routes to do two things. You might remember that the last time I was sketching at this location, I looked at my results once home and couldn't believe how off my roof was. I always take a picture of what I am sketching, and in reviewing it, I suddenly realized what was wrong. I'd been so focused on getting the eaves right that I totally forgot to add the peak lines of the roof. So that was the first thing I fixed. Then I moved a few houses down to sketch a straight-on view of a slightly different  house. I don't always do a pencil undersketch before inking in and adding color to complete the drawing but for these two I did. You can just make out the images on the toned paper. A youngish man (20's?) stopped to chat, and we soon were discussing angles, perspective and shading, him mentioning that shading is what he struggles with. How fun to interact with another sketcher.

Do you ever feel like you need a pep talk to get moving again on your art projects? As I felt myself continuing to resist working on the Abstract Color Challenge, I ran across this blog post by Daniel Sroka entitled Stop whining and make some damn art which was just what I needed! I've experienced the sort of self-doubt he describes and he is right: the way out to feeling good about yourself and your work again is to get back to work. Time to turn my awkward teenagers into something I could at least like and feel I'd made some good progress on. I added a few more pieces of collage, some ink and colored pencil highlights, some pink stamped on with bubble wrap, some pail pink paint in light areas and a bit over those strong pink pieces to knock them back a bit, then spattered each with brown ink. Ahhh, so much better (here's the "before" picture). I may add some handwritten text on at least one of them but I think these are pretty much done. I'll take individual pics of them when I'm sure.

I definitely like the pink glow they have now (not so obvious in the photos unfortunately) after applying this Fresco Finish chalk acrylic in Blush to the white areas and lightly across the strong pink. You might remember my epiphany about struggling with blending since all my paint colors on hand are strong and darkish and I never think to play with lightening them up by adding a bit of white. If only I'd think to add some pale paints to my collection. Enter Joggles.com having a sale on these very paints that were recommended to me by an internet friend years ago. I invested in 5 pale opaques: this Blush, Seaglass (which is a minty bluish green), Periwinkle (a lovely lavender), Eggshell (a nice off-white) and Buff (which is a bit sandy). That should cover all the bases.

While I feel better about these pieces, I know I have a lot to learn about collaging. I want to be successful on day one, have my pieces turn out looking as good as the teacher's examples, not be embarrassed to share them with the rest of the participants of this challenge. Not there yet. And then Helen Well's weekly blog post arrived in my mailbox, right off addressing this feeling of inadequacy in her Art Making Manifesto.

The more art we make the better our art becomes. The more art we make the more likely we are to develop skills and ideas. The more art we make the more confident we become in our decisions.  

Stop whining and make more art! It will get better and better with experience and experimentation. As she says, "Art-making is a skill, developed by practice and not an innate talent which we either have or don’t have. . . The idea of art being a ‘practice’ is right, we do indeed have to practice." Helen has a total of nine items on her manifesto list, all interesting and worth considering. Give it a look.

And right on cue, the weather took that plunge overnight. We didn't get much snow, just a little on the lawns that eventually melted as the day wore on, and we never got out of the 30's. I looked out the dining room window this afternoon, trying to make sense of the white on the tips of this small tree, looking like flowers or decorative lights.

A closer look and I could see that somehow, the snow had settled between the needles forming a ball that stayed while snow elsewhere had melted off.

I don't think I've ever seen this on this tree. Worth taking a picture.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Back To Pink & More #INKtober

To be honest, not much got done last week as I apparently was showing side effects of an RSV shot. Chatted with the pharmacist about it and he highly suspects it's because of the immune-suppressing meds I take. Still feeling it this week so am still taking it slow. In the meantime, I am perked up by my neighbor's Halloween decorations. That's my front door past the tree that we share so I get a chuckle each time I go out and see those skeletons relaxing in the chaise lounges.

Fortunately, the #Inktober sketches take little time or energy so I've been able to keep up with them. Here's the latest page. As you can see, there was a day of beautiful fall weather where I felt good enough for a walk at city beach, and then a total cloudy blockout of the hyped eclipse which in my area was an 80 percent one.

I kept popping into the studio in moments I felt a little better, inserting some postcards into the pockets of the challenge gratitude journal. I'm calling this "Gratitude, Memories, Things I Love" so that I can include things like these postcards of familiar sights sent to me after I moved away from the area back in the 1990s. Yes, I've been holding on to them that long, in the bottom of a stationery box. That's the Tacoma Narrows bridge peeking out. The greeting cards I used as wrappers have printing on the back that I'd rather not see so I have these small calendar cards from NWF that I will paste over it.

Someone from the challenge group shared this with us, suggesting we might like to include it in our journals. I decided I wanted it for my opening page. Still running into bits to add to my collection of things to paste on other pages.

Lastly, I decided I couldn't put off gluing down the pieces loosely arranged on my 4 pieces of watercolor paper for the abstract color challenge. Feeling I'm not really embracing making these abstract, and they are still in that awkward teenager stage, but today I experimented with where I might add a few small pieces here and there. Also thinking about ink spatters and bubble wrap marks and water soluble colored pencils. Still feeling cramped working in these 5 x 5 inch spaces. I like the lower left one the best, really just as it is, but must be brave about adding something more to give it depth and interest. Mostly, I'm ready to have these off the worktable. On the day I glued these pieces down, I covered them with wax paper and put them under books to dry, then sat at the sewing machine a bit to continue restitching the diagonal grid quilting on the 4-patch strip quilt while listening to podcasts. I'm almost done with the lines going in one direction and will feel much better about this project when I can flip the quilt and start stitching the other direction. And honestly, I'm so itching to start a knitting project, as if I don't have enough things going. Must be the autumn weather . . .