Thursday, November 26, 2020

A Day For Thanks


One of my sister-in-laws really enjoys decorating big for all holidays and fixing big family meals. My brother recently sent me a photo of something resting on . . . is it? Could it be? Yes it is! The nod to Thanksgiving tablerunner I made and sent to her way back in 2006. There were matching placemats too, using the Sunbonnet Sue fabric I thought was such a riot and went into the samples I made for a class I taught using Eleanor Burns Quilt in a Day pattern for lover's knot placemats and then worked out how to stretch it into a table runner. As funny as I thought this fabric was, any kind of Sunbonnet Sue just isn't my style, so I finished them up for that sister-in-law who I knew would love them. She's had some major health issues lately, is actually 80 now, so is not doing as much decorating and cooking as she once did, and of course, with the covid restrictions in CA where they live, well, they're not seeing nearby family either. Like me, they are planning a day just to themselves and (unlike me) are ordering take-out. And I know it will be eaten on those placemats.


Wishing for you a safe Thanksgiving full of gratitude for what you have and no grumbling over what you may not. I know for those used to big family gatherings, this Thanksgiving may feel like a huge sacrifice to "follow the Fauci", but I would remind you that there are many people like me who have not attended a family Thanksgiving dinner for years, nor gathered with friends locally, nor had anyone in. Don't you dare start feeling sorry for me though, as I rather enjoy celebrating alone. But there will be others who pine year after year for inclusion, an invite, a visit, and receive none. So you miss one year of getting together with family. Small price to pay under the circumstances, and be thankful that in these modern times you can visit over Zoom or FaceTime. In other words, NO WHINING! Remember those less fortunate than you in any way you can. And have a great day full of blessings.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Squaring Up


Like a petulant child unwilling to eat her vegetables or adhere to her bedtime, I've been avoiding the next step on the Peace quilt: trimming it to square. With no true borders or blocks at guide and a size larger than my cutting mat, this was going to be tricky. I'd done my best to make sure the only true lines in the design were centered and smoothed evenly over the felt "batting", even though the satin stitching along the raw edges of the applique had skewed a few places. But the quilting process apparently skewed things some more, and as I measured this way and that and put down a few chalk marks along the sides, I could tell I'd not end up with a squared quilt using my usual methods. Instead, I ended up folding top to bottom (where there seemed to be the least amount of discrepancy), matching those only lines in the design and lining up the folded edge with a line on the mat. Measuring from that fold, I marked the finished length of the quilt and trimmed away. I then trimmed either side before unfolding, measuring from the center of the design. I really had no wiggle room in this since the bottom width of the felt was exactly what the finished width of the quilt would be.


I opened it up and got out the ruler again, only to find that one side from the line design to the edge was narrower than the other. And actually, it didn't line up perfectly square either. I could see my chalk marks clearly on the offending too wide side and they angled nearly to nothing. Well, that's frustrating, and unwilling to fiddle with it more, I quit for the day.


I stepped into the studio today to return my laptop, not even out of my jammies yet, and there it was, taunting me. I was only going to take a picture of how far off that one side was but then started the fiddling, realized the chalk lines were actually correct, realigned my design points, ran my square-up ruler and my long ruler up and down the fold and across the quilt multiple times before I was sure this was right, trimming not just the long side but along the top too where one side was now slightly lower than the other. Although I have not rechecked measurements except to confirm that the space between the vertical design line and the outer edge are the same on both sides, I'm pretty sure it is square now . . . or square enough. The next step better not undo it!

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Getting Comfortable With Layering


Here's a little something I tried this week. My worktable is littered with leftovers from completed projects not worthy of being tossed and the end product of experiments I don't know what to do with. They stay on the table so they are only slightly out of sight out of mind. When searching through piles, I come across them and consider what I might do with them, come up with nothing and put them back in the pile or sometimes have a lightbulb moment. But this piece of Kraft Tex left over from a strip cut for a book cover and used to expend paint from a circular dabber I've always known needed more added to it.

Tired of looking at it and having recently gone through my collection of stencils, I had planned to use more paint to stencil something over the circles and was considering colors. I'm drawn to paint for stamping and the like but often shy away because I consider it a messy process that can be wasteful. About the time I decided green was the thing to add, I remembered this art crayon that I'd used so successfully in stenciling a pattern on Kraft Tex for yet another book cover. A slightly stiff brush is all I need to transfer the soft crayon through the stencil, and feeling totally in control (which I often don't with acrylic paint), I spent a relaxing hour working a layer of pattern over the circles.

Layering has never come easy for me. I look at what I have and fear I will ruin, not enhance it with another layer. This often is true when I get ready to add the quilting to a piece, quilt stitches actually a layer of their own adding not only delineating lines but texture that could overwhelm the designs in the top. Occasionally my fears come true, but usually I realize that last layer makes the quilt. As I forayed into surface design, I discovered I had this same reluctance to add layer after layer. Usually pleased with whatever I do on the first layer, it's hard to convince myself that adding something else will improve things, give the piece more depth and interest, even when I see successful examples in other artists' work. So this was a good exercise for me, starting with something I wasn't that enamored with in the first place so not much to lose, and seeing how much this second layer I knew it needed improved it.

You can see the stenciling and pouncing process referenced here at this blog post.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Still Drawing


Once INKtober passed, I found myself automatically reaching for something to draw - the old establishing a habit thing apparently kicking in - but what? I decided to return to something I started back in July, filling one of the stab-binding books with eco-printed covers with drawings of leaves picked up on my walks or right in my yard. This is a continuance of the "Drawn to Nature" class from Christine Elder. Here you see an alder leaf drawn in July and some prints made from it, and next to it, this week's maple leaf and a seed pod. The paper is a smooth Bristol which is wonderful to draw on with pencil which erases well, but is not absorbent. Very easy to get too much ink on the leaf for the print.


Next up, a cluster of leaves from a dogwood bush. Yes, bush, not tree. Two totally different things. We had one of these bushes across the road that ran in front of our house, and it was my mother who told me its name. So imagine me moving to the Midwest and taking my first trip to Paducah for the big quilt show there, by bus with a group of quilters I did not know, and being so puzzled when everyone started pointing and exclaiming over the dogwoods we were passing. I don't see any dogwoods, just these trees with the big pink flowers. Could my mother have been wrong about the name of our bush that only had clusters of tiny white flowers? When I spotted similar bushes in my area here, it reminded me I'd never resolved this issue of who was right. Now I can confirm that there is indeed a dogwood bush and my mother knew what she was talking about.


And here's that sprig from the mountain ash I showed earlier. I was surprised to note that the leaves have serrated edges as did the chokecherry leaf I drew next - I'd never noticed that before on either. This is one of the things Christine stresses in her class, that you need to look closely at what you are drawing, get to know it well, not take anything about it for granted.

That early snow we got put the kibosh on our fall colors which were just starting to tune up. Golds and russets faded to merely faded and dead-looking. A pity, since that combination of golden yellow and russet is a favorite. So it pleased me no end to find this article about the color russet, its history and how it has been used by painters over the years. There's a little tonic in there at the end for our particular times so I hope you will read it to the end.

Russet, the Color of Peasants, Fox Fur, and Penance

 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Wrapping Up #INKtober


What can I say about my choice of theme for this year's #INKtober other than it didn't go as well as I thought it might? At the midway point I commented that I'd be taking a different tact and working on seeing why some faces held at least a hint of the real person while others could have been anyone. This one in particular put me in mind of those police sketch artist renderings made while a witness tries to remember what someone looked like. Instead, this is supposed to be the actor who plays Chief Inspector Barnaby on Midsomer Murders, but even I can't see him in this.

 

The technique from the Sketchbook Skool class suggested starting with an eyebrow and without lifting pen, sweeping down the nose and back up to complete the other eyebrow. Actual eyes and mouth added next and the shape of the face/head last. Now I tried focusing on the eyes first before adding eyebrows and nose, then the mouth. Sometimes it worked better, but not always. Some mouths were ok, others ruined the whole face, or should I say, made my person now not look like him or herself.

I did more pausing of the tv, more comparison after completion to determine what made one successful and another not (yes, still having roller coaster results), and rued decisions to go back over some areas in the hopes of improving them. This page not too bad, except for the lower left one - it was the mouth again that made him look like someone else.


In the end, I came to at least one conclusion. Nearly every face has the same components - eyes, nose, mouth, eyebrows, ears. It's the shape of each and the positioning of each that gives us our recognizable faces. Distinctive hair styles or beards or no hair at all also adds to a person being instantly identifiable. I know that sounds obvious, but it took me awhile to catch onto it in a discernible way. But the more different faces I drew, the more similar they began to look, at least when I messed them up. No wonder we so often run into strangers we think we must know, or be told we have a doppelganger out there in the world. And perhaps that is the most usable thing I learned with this exercise, that I could create any face at all by putting together these elements in their variety of sizes and shapes, slants and arcs, not just try to faithfully copy those that already exist. Again, perhaps pretty obvious, but now I am more aware of it. It's a step towards caricature and illustration and perhaps adding people to my creative toolbox.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Peace Nearing the End


I did the last of the quilting on the Peace quilt Friday, which left me with this tangle of tails to be pulled to the back. I got to it yesterday, while listening to an hour-long webinar. But alas! There are more tails here than can be dealt with in a single hour. Perhaps not an entire hour webinar more, but close! I'm pleased with the quilting lines I chose, including that last thought to quilt concentric circles around and behind the Chinese character. Not much more now to do!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Changing Seasons


This was Thursday. Those geraniums have borne show-stopping blooms all summer. As the weather has cooled, they have gotten bigger and brighter. I took this picture because I knew what was coming.


This was Friday, the next day. As predicted, our temperatures dropped into the 30's and in came a storm. And yet, the geraniums had just enough protection on the back deck to carry on unscathed.


The leaves have hardly started falling from many trees, although I must admit, the birch out back was dropping them like snowfall itself on Thursday, prompting me to gather some up for the gellie printing session I have yet to embark on. This is a chokecherry tree out front, decorated by the neighbor kids with ghosts and witches, some of which blew off.


The neighbors won't do much lounging in those chaises nor riding of that motorcycle what with the deep freeze settling in for the next 5 days. The 3 or 4 inches of snow we got throughout the day isn't going anywhere soon.


The kids have been going half days to school and may have gotten out a tad earlier as the snow started around ten. Plenty of time to build a snowman from the heavy wet snow, complete with covid mask.


There have been power outages but luckily, not for me. Always a danger of branches and trees buckling under the weight of an early snow when leaves still cling. No more snow predicted for the immediate future but today it has been the winds instead, barreling out of the north, our Canadian neighbor sending icy blasts. Windchill is around 18 degrees and while I did get out yesterday to walk through the snow, today I opted to say inside. The geraniums are looking a little worse for wear. Hot chocolate is on the agenda.