Thursday, July 11, 2019

Filling Time

So you know how I said I was itching to get back to my sketching? Yesterday I was down in "the big city" to have a minor repair done to my car, something that would take about an hour and a half. This dealership has a really nice customer lounge area with interesting plants I often intend to try sketching as I wait for service to be completed. I pack up my sketchbook, some reading material, maybe my tablet to look at things on the web. I settle myself in, look around at potential sketching subjects, and then clutch, succumbing to intimidation. The sketchbook never makes it out of my bag and I default to reading.

But not on this day. I was determined not to let these plants intimidate me! This one with the spiky leaves was by the high table I like to sit at and I got right to it. Done in pencil, I was soon wishing I had some colored pencils or paint to help me sort out the lights and darks and shadings. But for once, I'd sized my sketching to the page rather than suddenly finding I'd run out of room, and found some relaxation in drawing the slightly curving shapes of the leaves that sometimes intertwined. A good use of my time while I waited, I decided.

I stopped off at Michael's on my way out of town and dumped too much money on more sketching and painting supplies. How could I resist all those 40% off coupons as they have their big clearance sale? Have added some better quality and sizes of watercolor and acrylic paint brushes to my selection, more brush pens in different colors, a paint color I've run out of, and some multi-media sketchbooks that were buy one get second at half off. I'm a sucker for a good sale! Plus I'd been putting off ordering any brushes because I really needed to see, hold, and feel the bristles of potential additions. And now have eliminated a bunch of excuses for putting off working through some lingering lessons from the Sketchbook Revival course and getting on with my multi-media explorations.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

I So Often Need A Push

Eve's Lavender Seas (click on pic for larger view)
I think of myself as being self-driven but in truth I too much of the time need that outside influence and a deadline to get me into action. So with the looming deadline of the visit that would include the little girl that I owed a quilt to, I've been head down for the last 3 weeks or so. Once I determined that I could indeed quilt without flaring up my previously inflamed nerve, I returned to a tried and true formula: sitting down to quilt each day before lunch, and trusting that just a little quilting each day would get me to my goal, no need for marathon sessions. I soon knew how far I could get in an hour, and was relieved to finish the quilting on Monday, get it bound on Tuesday, and present Eve's Lavender Seas to the little one on Wednesday.

Goddaughter Sarah & Molly of the Undersea Playground quilt
I used the same formula to tackle long neglected housework and straightening up that suddenly matters when you know company is coming - a little bit each day. And then as time was running out, I did the sane thing and let go of some of it. There's clean, neat and tidy, and then there's excessively clean, spotless and House Beautiful perfect. While not blood relatives, this family coming to visit IS like family, and hardly looking for lapses in my living space. My biggest concern as the clock ticked down was doing a bit of child-proofing, making sure my treasured pieces scattered around on furniture were out of reach, and anything truly dangerous too. It all worked out fine and I was more relaxed about the little ones in my midst than I ever thought possible.

Eve with her step-brother Jonah

I have so little experience with small children, but remembering how well received older sister Molly's quilt was, I stuck to a similar theme (and some of the same fabrics), quilting in bubbles and fish and coral. I forgot that little kids get fixated on certain things as they grow and explore their surroundings. Eve's current fixation is with flowers (she was eager to show mine some love with careful watering - see pic above), so totally ignored my carefully quilted fish and pointed straight at what she thought was a flower (actually an anemone I think). Well, I wasn't about to argue with her as she repeated "flower, flower!"

I used several different colors of threads on this quilt, with more ease in choosing than I normally exhibit. I kept thinking, use it up, use lots of thread up, and realized this came from some restless nights thinking about how I'd stockpiled so much fabric and thread and wasn't sure I'd be able to get back to quilting again. Still, I have way too much thread in my stash so yes, use it up!

I was glad I followed the advice of my art group to quilt top to bottom right over those blocks turned sideways, rather than my usual adhering to stitching in the ditch and running the designs in line with the block's piecing. You can see a bit of how I maneuvered a curving design around the ends of the strips in those sideways blocks.

Here are my poor ignored fishies. I was following directions from a magazine article which did nothing to add eyes. I thought the fish looked too bland without something else, so I inked in eyes on most of them.

I used a piece of my late friend's beautiful hand-dyed cotton for the backing. With the exception of the orange and a multi-color thread used on both front and back, the bobbin thread is a dark purple which blends well with it. Click for a larger view to see some of the quilting.

Here's a closer shot.

I really should have made a separate label, but I'd already spent two session on the last day to get the binding done and I was out of time and steam. It was difficult to find a place on the backing to ink in the label info, but I finally found a spot. But no pen was showing up very well. I double checked the info on my white Sakaru Gel Pen and decided it might just work like a pigma pen - permanent and archival. Inked over the black lettering, my label info finally showed up. Fingers crossed it will survive through some washings.
I admit that all this pushing and the time spent with little girls in perpetual motion took its toll, and I am still recovering a bit. It was all so worth it, especially pushing myself past my fear about working at the sewing machine. Now I know I can get back to textile work. But in truth, I find I'm itching to get back to my sketching. I signed up for another Sketchbook Skool class a month ago, this one specifically on colored pencils, and I've not had time to do more than look at a few videos from the first week. It got me excited and now I have time to watch those videos and do the homework. 

Friday, July 05, 2019

Remembering My "Choir Boy"

Allen (right) with best friend in front of the Episcopal church in Wallace ID with the Methodist church in the background
As many of you know, I lost my husband on this day back in 2000. I have always chosen to spend this "anniversary" alone, often at home, in some form of contemplation of our life together and of all that he meant to me. Today has been a particularly quiet and contemplative day as I also recover from the visit from my goddaughter and her family over the last two days (more on that later). Whew! I am not used to the constant activity and occasional high decibel shrieks of a 1-1/2 & 3-1/2 year old but it was lovely to meet them finally and even lovelier to spend some time with my goddaughter, who remembers my husband and enjoys hearing stories of our life together (and the occasional story about her parents).

I incorporated into my day an IRest session to help me focus on Allen's memory and it left me peaceful, relaxed and with a helpful insight. The session led me to thinking about the joyful times in our relationship, how much we enjoyed each other's company, shared inside jokes, laughed together. After the joyous time with my goddaughter, I loved the opportunity to extend that joyful feeling. So this has been such a good day.

For some reason, the photo above got lodged in my consciousness, maybe because my goddaughter's stepson is off to church camp in a few days, the very church camp where my husband and I and his best friend were counselors back in the late 70's, and I was able to make a connection with this 12 year old by mentioning that. This time when we courted and those early years of marriage were years of a lot of joyful times, and many of those times involved that best friend, who was the one to gently draw us into working with the  youth program of his diocese. Both he and my husband were Episcopalians while I was a Methodist, but it wasn't long before they had won me over to their particular version of Christianity. It really wasn't a hard sell! As luck would have it, the Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church in my home town were just a short block apart, and it wasn't long before visits home to see my parents included attending not just the church I'd grown up in, but that Episcopal church down the block that I'd hardly stepped foot in when I lived there. And in this photo I've captured my husband (on the right) and his best friend after the Episcopal Easter service at which they helped at the altar in 1977. They were a rascally pair and I've always thought of this picture as "The Choir Boys" whose smiles would tell you they were going to be up to no good soon.

In fact, my husband felt he had a calling to the priesthood, and shortly after we married, we moved to Berkeley CA where he attended seminary classes for a few weeks until the financial aide office broke the news that he did not qualify for financial aide after all. It broke his heart to have to drop out and it took us a long time to recover from the resentment and ill feelings that followed. I'm not sure he ever got over it. In retrospect, it may have been a blessing in disguise, this diverting from the priesthood, one we could not understand at the time. He went on to find different jobs to sustain us, but always looked for ways to serve in whatever town we ended up in (and there were many). Chalice Bearer, Lay Reader, singing in the choir, playing his trumpet, and generally doing good deeds, many of which I was not aware of until after he died. My "choir boy" was a bit of a choir boy after all.

And since leaving this earth, I always think of him playing his trumpet in the biggest orchestra of all, and I suppose when I join him, I'll find my place in the choir he's playing for. I can think of worse ways to spend eternity . . .

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

That Was Fun!

AND relatively painless! I switched things over for free-motion quilting yesterday and was surprised at how well it went. And yes, how much fun it was. Fun has never been a word I've associated with my free-motion quilting, but maybe the time off has actually been good for me in that respect. (However, as I turned off the machine, I realized I had not changed settings to "spring foot", yet it worked just fine on the general setting.) Plus, this is a quilt for a child so there was a great deal of freedom in just "winging it" and seeing where the stitches took me. I did another couple of hours today (with breaks), and while I wasn't feeling quite the same exuberance, the quilting proceeded pretty well.

Click on photo for a larger view to see the quilting in the quilt on the left

Here is where I'm getting my ideas for quilting this - the quilting on a fish quilt from a magazine, an article from a different magazine showing variations on a fish motif, and a photo showing a motif I used on a fishy quilt I made quite awhile ago. The bubbles and the child's name quilted in are ideas I used on this child's older sister's quilt. The ribbon waves (don't really know the name for it) are taken from that quilt in the magazine. Really, too much fun!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Normal Service Resumed?

I've been doing so well with my shoulder/nerve issue that I decided to take a chance and see if sitting at the machine to do some easy sewing without causing things to flare up was a possibility. Just like friend Sherrie had unwittingly guilted me into a hike, friend Mary unwittingly was guilting me into getting back to my sewing with the project I watched unfold on her blog. And with the baby for whom this quilt is being made due to show up on my doorstep in less than 2 weeks, I have even more incentive to see if machine quilting is something I can get back to.

The last time you saw this quilt was over a year ago. In this mid-February 2018 post, I was layering things up and pin basting it in preparation for machine quilting. But I also had my usual exhibit deadlines and tax preparation deadlines looming, so folded it up and put it aside. Just as I was ready to dive in to the quilting at the end of July, the nerve issue sidelined me for longer than I ever believed possible. As I sat at the machine now, I felt I needed to reintroduce myself it had been so long and crossed my fingers that when I turned it on, it would be so happy to be in use again that it would not act up as machines sometimes can from disuse. I admit, there was fumbling around as I changed settings and attached the walking foot, but soon I was off and running. My first positioning of my arms did tweak the spot by my shoulder blade that has been stubborn about totally going away but I figured out how to change that so the next session was trouble free. All the stitch in the ditch (plus a few curved lines running top to bottom) is done and next I will see how free motion quilting feels. I want to add some bubbles and fish and the baby's name in some areas - how much I add depends on that shoulder. But this is pretty good news!

In the meantime, more interesting clouds have been in our skies. I walked out of a store to see three nearly identical large "s" shaped clouds side by side looking all in the world to me as if they were dancing. I didn't have my camera with me so rushed home and hoped they hadn't moved too far by the time I could get a shot. Well, they had moved but still maintained some of the curvy shape that I'm not sure I've seen before. I laugh at myself because I often see tree shapes that I interpret as dancing, and now clouds have joined them in my vivid imagination.

Speaking of imagination, do you remember the sidewalk cracks exercise from the Sketchbook Revival class I took last month? None of the sidewalks I walk on have the same interesting multitude of cracks as the teacher's example, but I'd recently noticed that the driveway across from mine was really in bad shape, just full of cracks. So as long as I had camera in hand and no one was home (or at least, parked in the driveway), I took several shots at different angles so I would have something new to work with. I did find it a fun exercise that played into the way I often look at the world around me, seeing things that are the product of long stares and a willingness to get a little silly. I suppose not unlike lying on your back on a summer's day, watching clouds drift by and seeing horses and dragons in their shapes. It's summer (officially starting tomorrow) so go exercise your imagination!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Looking for Wildflowers . . .

. . . finding clouds.

Friend Sherrie recently asked me if I'd gotten in any hikes yet, and until today, the answer was no. Some excuses more lame than others but I tend to be a Goldilocks about many things, conditions needing to be just right. However, I knew I'd have to get moving if I were to catch the wildflowers blooming along the Pend d'Oreille Bay Trail. I knew they were out there because people have been posting photos on the trail's Facebook page. And with a heat wave expected in a day or two, Goldilocks had to get moving before things got too hot.

But as I drove to the trail head, I spotted some unusual clouds (top photo). I know these have a name but I don't know what it is. As I headed down the trail in the opposite direction, more cloud formations filled the sky.

It was a beautiful time to be along the lake, gazing out across it and up into the sky.

I spotted wildflowers too, although my photos of them are not very good. For a beautiful closeup of this tiger lily, see this post on Vancouver Hiking Trails at the All About Moose Blog.

I'd seen this flower on the Facebook page and thought it looked so odd (hopefully you can see it in all its glory here). It was identified as a Lady Slipper, although it didn't look the way I remembered ones that my mother pointed out on our forest walks. A quick google showed that there are many variations and this is one of them. I think it is starting to fade and I caught it just in time.

Then there were patches of wild clover and daisies, so familiar from my childhood.

I'm pretty sure these are wild strawberries - sorry that the photo isn't sharper. As for the ones below, don't know their names but they are small and delicate and colorful. When walking along the lake, it's always a good idea to look on all sides of the path . . . and up at the sky as well!


Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Gardening and Sketching

Things rarely go to plan around here.

When last I wrote, I had plans to get all the plants I'd bought into pots on my deck over the long holiday weekend. It didn't take long for me to realize I'd succumbed to something similar to "eyes bigger than my stomach". That dahlia and some salvia needed bigger pots than I had on hand. So I scouted out the two charity shops near me, sure there'd be some cheap pots to be had. There were . . . and a lovely hand-thrown pot from a Seattle pottery (could hold a houseplant?), a couple more silk ties, and the ugliest dress I've seen in a long time made from the most beautiful blue Shantung or Dupioni silk (can you say lakes and other water features?). Not shown is the glassware I also scored on - just everyday pieces but I am getting down to just a few of several sizes and have company coming in July. This is why it is not safe for me to pass through these stores!

View from my couch
I picked all this up on Saturday, couldn't make up my mind where I wanted some of the plants to go, then didn't feel good on Monday and ended up sleeping away the afternoon. I found some time during the week with cooperating weather and enough breeze to fend off the mosquitoes (they have been many and aggressive this spring) to nearly finish up. Nearly. As I neared the finish line, I was running out of potting soil. And wishing I'd picked up a second salvia I'd considered because I had a place for it out by my front steps. Friday found me at another garden center to remedy this. Monday turned out to be a good day to put that salvia and some extra small plants in that planter out front and the dahlia in its big pot. Today I tossed some seeds in a long planter I inherited from the next door neighbor and filled the second one with the remainder of the small plants. There! I think I am finally done! Not only do I get to enjoy this garden when I sit out on the deck, but I also see it from my couch when I'm watching tv and as I pass from livingroom into kitchen.

I almost always put geraniums in my big copper tub but choose different colors each year. This year, this particular pink really appealed to me.

I've had good luck with dianthus, having some even winter over in their pots that get left outside. These burgundy ones seemed a good contrast to the pink of the geraniums.

These are actually more blue than purple

The salvia is new for me. I was looking for some blue to add to the yellows, oranges, and reds, and unless you like petunias (and I do not), one is pretty limited in what's available in blue. Didn't hurt that there were bees buzzing around it when I was shopping. I'm very pleased with how they look back by the geraniums.

Buying more silk garments to deconstruct is as close as I've gotten to getting back to my textile work. Instead, I've been finding great relaxation and even peace in working on some of my sketching. Hard to see because at this point it is fairly faint, but I've finally completed the pencil undersketch of my "sit and rotate" assignment from long ago Sketchbook Skool class. I'm ready to start adding ink and color of this record of my office/guest room, half on one side, half on the other. Still dithering a bit on what to use for the color. I don't think this paper will take wet media but I have brush pens, markers and colored pencils that should do the trick.

With the warmer weather, urban sketching starts tugging at me and I spent time on two different days working on this house that has been on my list for a long time. So intrigued by those multiple roof lines, but had entirely forgotten about the stones partway up the walls and around the doorway which caused a moment of panic until I remembered the same feature on the Veterinary building I sketched last year, and how I discovered it wasn't all that hard to master. More work to do on this one, but the basics are sketched in.

I'm back to taking a turn through the small park along my walking route and was surprised that I hadn't noticed a couple of trees doing interesting (to my eye) things. They warranted a return trip with sketchbook in hand. These are very sketchy, need a little cleaning up and lots of leaves added, maybe even some color. But the point is that in one tree coupling my avid imagination thought "one tree is caressing the other."

The other pair on the opposite side of the trail told a different story. I got the impression that one was trying to hide behind the other, maybe because it was injured and needed protection (it had sap running down it from a scar). Yeah, overactive imagination, but this isn't the first time I've seen trees suggesting a story to me. I have other such sketches and more than a few photos, and the thought did occur to me that I have enough ideas for a small grouping/series. We shall see.

And this is one of the reasons so many in the know stress how important it is for an artist to work in a sketchbook. It can unleash your imagination as you really look at the world around you.