Monday, October 30, 2006

Finding yourself...

Do we artistic types take ourselves too seriously? Talking about finding our muse, following our creative journey, finding our true self to express in our work? Probably. I rather liked the alternative way of looking at it as expressed in yesterday's Opus cartoon. Go here (to Oct 29th comic) and hopefully get a chuckle. Then reassess the questions you ask yourself about your life and your work.

I may be on that track already. In moving back to Idaho, I hoped I could better move forward, start fresh, start over, re-create myself. I think I'll stop short of donning a Carmen Miranda hat though...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Back to work

The outside leaves won out yesterday. A quick check of the weather forecast showed that the unexpected warm temps and sunshine for Saturday would give way to cold, rain and possibly snow on Sunday. So leaf bagging was the order of the day (eight bags later and not quite all leaves up), leaf printing delayed until today.

It was a good move. With nothing else pressing, I had the whole day to play - a dreary day brightened by the work being done within and The Chieftains discs playing on the CD player. And very unlike me, I just got out my stuff and dived in. No research, no referencing directions, no anxiety! I told you this place would be good for my creativity!

I set up in the kitchen, which worked well. Here are my two "work stations" - the table where I set out the printed hand-dyed fabric squares to dry...

...And the kitchen counter spread with layers of newspaper. Don't you just love the color of my kitchen? Beats the ivy wallpaper that lurks underneath.

Here's my bag of leaves. I've been collecting them for a few days and sealing them up in a freezer bag keeps them from drying out. Dry brittle leaves just wouldn't work.

I've got a bunch of Liquitex acrylic paints that I'd like to use up. I don't like how stiff they leave the fabric, but at the time I was buying my first paints, I didn't know any better. I've since purchased both Textile Medium and Flow-aide - products especially designed to modify how acrylic paint reacts and today was the day to try them out. Textile medium says it makes the acrylic softer on fabric. It's creamy but not as thick as the acrylic. For this application, mixing 1 part medium to 2 parts paint thinned the paint enough to brush on the leaves. When dry it was noticeably less stiff than acrylic paint just thinned with water. Still changes the hand of the fabric a bit more than I like, but definitely an improvement.

The Flow-aide is to be pre-mixed with water before being added to the acrylic and is supposed to "increase the flow and workability of water-thinned acrylic." I think I can verify that but it didn't effect the hand of the painted fabric - very stiff.

Then I moved on to using Veritex paint. I absolutely love this paint in every application I've tried. It is a good consistency right out of the jar and leaves the fabric soft. I used 4 different metallics: cherry frost, gold, copper and bronze. I always forget that these aren't opaque paints. If I want to overlap leaves effectively, I need to use something else. I loved the way the copper and gold looked on black fabric though. Here's the results of my trials. Not many close-ups - my scanner's in the shop - but if you click on any picture, you'll get a larger version.

I used those cheap 1" foam brushes to apply the paint and was surprised that they left "brushstrokes" which transferred in the print. I did better when I pounced the paint on rather than stroked it on.

Now that I had tried different paints, and various colors on different backgrounds, it was time for a bigger piece using bigger leaves. This is a commercial batik - my mother-in-law decided not to use it in a project and didn't think I'd want it. Silly girl. There's about 2 yards, it was free, it was unpacked, it was sacrificed! I was going for a subtle look - to be able to see the leaf prints only upon close inspection.

Here's close inspection. The small leaf in cherry frost is easier to see than the larger one in bronze.

And here are my leaves with their shiny coating of metallic paint. Yeah, I probably should have figured out some way to use them, but with so many leaves at my disposal and no immediately thought, I stifled the urge to save them. I tried applying paint to both the top and bottom sides of the leaves and liked the prints I got when using the back side best - the veins seemed to show up better that way.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Here are my paints and brushes, liberated from their packing boxes. So too are the rest of the art cart supplies, neatly back in their place. I can hear Margaret now: "So where are the pictures of your leaf prints?" Patience, please. The boxes were sitting in an unheated room and everything felt quite cold when pulled out. I thought it best to let things warm up to room temperature (although I could find nothing on the bottles or catalogs to confirm this). Oh, and it was pretty late in the day when I got to this, and I wanted a bit more time to set up and play. Tomorrow afternoon looks promising.

I again got a chuckle wondering what my movers thought of the items on the art cart (they'd asked what they should label the boxes, so it wasn't obvious to them). The cart corrals the odds and ends needed for dyeing, painting and stamping, including yogurt and frosting containers (for mixing dyes and paints), measuring spoons and cups, whisks & funnels, dishpans & rubber gloves, a dust mask, aluminum baking pans & combs (for marbling), various size jars (including 2 doz 1/2 pt canning jars in their original boxes), a blender and an empty wine bottle (to use like a brayer). This is art?

Those 1/2 pt canning jars, by the way, are from my first try at dyeing fabric. The idea came from a magazine article, and I see that the author has finally put this method into book form. I think this is it if you're interested. Her instructions give you a color wheel of fabrics with options to dye up pastels (using less dye) or a darker run. First time out I went with the medium value run using the usual turquoise/fuschia/yellow dyes. I always wanted to dye up the lighter and darker sets, plus sets using different yellow/blue/red dyes. Unpacking those jars reminded me of this, and now that I could dye again, I really should get the supplies and give it a go. I'm particularly lacking good pastels, so I think I could justify dyeing up at least that batch. But first...leaf printing!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

You've shamed me into it...

Here's the better picture I promised of my studio view.

Several of my friends find it hard to believe I haven't unpacked my studio yet. They are right if they think I am unduly dragging my feet about it. One of them who follows my blog recently observed that I seem to be more into photography than quilting right now. That's not exactly it. The pictures are serving two purposes at the moment. They are recording all these new sensory perceptions that I want to capture for possible reference in future projects. I never quite know where the influences of nature might work their way into my designs. Digital cameras make it so easy to snap away, it is available and my studio with all its supplies and tools is not. Then, since I DON'T have any quilting to talk about right now on the blog, my pictures of the area give me something to share.

I have to admit that I've been feeling guilty about that of late, wondering if you all are getting tired of pictures of leaves. Truly, I hope to be back to the "creative journey" before too long. Margaret picked up on my comment in the last post about being tempted to try some leaf printing, encouraging me to "seize the paints, seize the moment" Well, I haven't yet, but I did seize some leaves this morning, bagging them for what I hope will be some
sooner than later play.

Now, finding the paints, brushes, etc should not be difficult - the "art cart" only filled three large boxes. Fabric however poses a different problem - there are many many boxes stacked in the studio that harbor "sewing material" as the movers labeled them. Which one might have some suitable for printing? I decided this afternoon it was time to start cracking open boxes for a look.

The first few boxes' labels had me puzzled, then amused. My apologies to the older gentleman who had to pack all this up. Couldn't figure out what 'shoes and boots' were doing in with my sewing room stuff, then realized he was referring to the shoeboxes I recycle to hold pre-cut squares and various projects. I bet he was mighty confused.

I made good progress, finding lamps, Ott bulbs, my sewing machine, thread, an iron and, yes, fabric! I tightened up the screws on the ping pong table and the sewing machine table legs. A lot of stuff got stacked on the ping pong table but a few things made it onto closet shelves. With every box unpacked, broken down and removed, there's more room to work, of course. After a while I realized how relaxed and happy I felt and a little excited too - yes this room has good vibes! And a great view! And of course I wonder why I put off coming in here to unpack for so long.

Still a ways to go until I can actually work in here - need to find cutting mats and rulers and clear space on the table - but at least I've broken through whatever was blocking me from taking the first step. In the meantime, I can liberate the art cart supplies, grab those leaves and try some leaf printing, which sounds like a whole lot more fun than raking and bagging them!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


My friends in Wisconsin tell me they had a brilliant, if brief fall color display - about 2 weeks worth before a rain came and knocked the leaves to the ground.

By comparison, my fall show was just beginning when I arrived in Idaho mid-September and is still thrilling me nearly 6 weeks later. I'm noticing a predominance of yellow out here which absolutely glows against the dark green of the evergreen trees. Wisconsin tends more towards browns and russets and burnt oranges.

Here are some views taken shortly after I arrived, and then 5 weeks later.

The maple has been dropping leaves furiously the last few days so my color, short of what's on the ground, may be ending soon. However, the big willow is just now starting to turn, and I'm not sure why it waited so long. It has a gazillion leaves like my maple, but fortunately is not in my yard. I raked some on Sunday and by Tuesday, you couldn't tell. I'm really getting the urge to grab a handful, find my paints, liberate some fabric from boxes and do some leaf printing.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Odds & Ends

Yesterday was such a dreary day. Cold, drizzly, overcast, dank, borderline depressive, if it were not for the golden glow of the maple leaves outside the window. This is looking out my bedroom at a lawn that is much more thickly covered with leaves than it was when the took the picture in the previous post.

Today was polar opposite. Sunny, warm again, and the leaves were even more brilliant than ever. I still do not want to rake - I like the way they look strewn across the ground, the porch, the deck. Of course, they're starting to fill my gutters too, a look I'm not too crazy about.

The weatherman mentioned last night that the colors we see once leaves start turning were there all along. What's missing is the chloroform that the rest of the year overwhelms the rest of the colors so that we see leaves as green. As if to prove his point, here were two leaves on my deck this morning, with a bit of that green hanging on while be surrounded by the red. I'm not sure I've seen this before, at least not this dramatically.

I've seen this little guy off and on since I moved in. I used to know what seeing wooly caterpillars meant in terms of weather, but I've been away for so long I've forgotten. I'm thinking, hard winter. Please, not on my account...a mild winter for my first year back would be just fine.

My old place had no good spot to hang an outdoor thermometer, but this place does - just across from my kitchen window. So while picking up other odds and ends for the house, I sought out one. I could have gotten one with Celsius too, which would have been good for me what with my international internet friends, but it was just plain white with black numbers. Really boring and I could not resist adding a little color to my otherwise drab view. Hey, it's the dyer in me that loved that wash of color.

The moving people must have wanted to add a little color to my life as well. These red lot stickers are something new they are doing since the last time I used this company. They went on the outside of every box as well as on every item not boxed up. Every piece of furniture, each broom, my art carts, and not always in immediately visible spots. I am very tired of pulling little red stickers off my stuff.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

More Influences

I'm a bit behind posting some pics taken a few weeks ago. While thinking the fall leaf color was not particularly brilliant this year, I was surprised to find some rather intense color in other flora along the bike trail. There were some particularly red berries on a bush too far from the trail for a picture. Closer by I found:

This flower was an especially intense yellow:

And I liked the way it looked against its backdrop of a variety of paler colors:

Then there was this very dark swath of brown standing out from its paler surroundings:

There are tons of these winterberry bushes along the trail. When I think berries, I don't think white:

I was amused at these perfectly round little white puffballs:

Once home, I noticed an interesting counterpoint to all the fall colors...purple!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Playing with Corel Paint Shop Pro X

In yesterday's post I mentioned a desire to manipulate the photo above in a software program.

I use Corel Paint Shop Pro X, a program that I actually haven't had much opportunity to explore fully. So I tried a number of different effects without much manipulation, and in some cases, I picked random settings. Here are some of the results.

This is topography:

This one is using random wave:

This one is polar coordinate:

This is just applying a soft focus - I think I'll use it as wallpaper for awhile.

And perhaps the biggest surprise was this, random pixelate:

Now this looked like something I could use!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Weather, Leaves, Progress

There's a line in a song about Washington's Mt Rainier that goes, "when the mountain lifts her skirts..." referring to when the cloud cover lifts. Well, when my mountains lifted their skirts this afternoon after 24 hrs of off and on chilly rain, the highest one revealed snow! Tis the season...

I had company this weekend so only progressed on the unpacking to the point of unearthing the stereo equipment so they could help me set it up. Oh, and we shifted furniture in the living room a bit - a nicer arrangement for sure - and moved an old couch that doesn't fit anywhere out onto the porch for pick-up later on. They wanted to see my quilts in person, having only seen pictures of some of them so far. I had packed most of my wall quilt size ones in an under-the-bed-tote which of course doesn't fit under my bed, so it was handily sitting on top of the ping pong table in the studio-to-be..

This group showed the full range of my quilting efforts from when I first got serious about it right up to the present. Kind of interesting to view them that way - a quick history as it were and not in chronological order either - and note my friends' reaction to different ones. It was a real boost to note their comments about the more recent art ones,
ones that I've not gotten non-quilter feedback on, ones that I tend to feel a bit uncomfortable or unsure about,. But here they were, making critical observations like they do any piece of art (and they are quite art aware), noting strengths, things they liked and making connections between recurring themes or images in various pieces that even I hadn't noted. I've been slow to return to the urge to work; this experience definitely bolstered my confidence that perhaps I AM an artist, distilled for me my path so far, reminded me how important challenges have been in shaping my art and pushed me a little closer to the urge to get going again.

After my friends left, it occurred to me that I am finally down to unpacking the studio and feeling almost ready to do so. I decided that the stack of boxes sitting in the hall that are full of books might be an easy place to start. Most of them will go on a bookshelf in the hall or on shelves in the adjacent linen closet. Once they are unpacked, it will give me more room to shift the stacks in the studio as I organize it. I only got a few of those boxes unpacked last night but it's a start, one that enforced that feeling of almost ready to start working again.

The turn to cooler and windier weather has the leaves cascading off that maple much quicker than I would like. The peachiness of many of those leaves fascinates me. The soft colors may be because of the dry weather they've had here - drought tends to dull fall colors it seems.

So the colors may not be as intense as some years, but still it is a beautiful backdrop. Here are a few pics a took a few weeks ago - liking the multicolor effect of them strewn across the green of the lawn and the grey of the rocks. Thinking it would be fun to blur the image in my photo software program, or pixelate it until all I have is a wash of colors.

Also amazing to me is the bright red veins running through some of the stronger yellow ones..

And then the odd very intensely red leaves themselves that spice up the palette. I particularly liked the way they looked against the cement.

With the exception of the leaves in the last two pictures, this is a very different intensity of palette than I envision working with when I think of fall colors. All the fabric I have set aside for my autumn piece is much darker and stronger than the majority of these leaves. May have to rethink what "fall colors" really means.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Observations & Influences

I've been at my new abode nearly a month, getting used to the new rhythms of the place, figuring out what familiar routines still apply and establishing the necessary new ones. Am I tired of unpacking? Am I tired of cleaning? Am I tired of deciding what goes where? Am I tired of sore muscles? Yes, all of the above. Am I through with all that? No, not yet. Still the studio to unpack and set up as well as a few more "living room" boxes harboring stereo equipment and china. In fact, just today I finally found the box hiding a table lamp, candles and coasters. Been looking, looking, looking for all three - no wonder I couldn't find them; the box was labeled "LR/hall pictures, some china." Thanks guys, for the cryptic description. It was an excellent box to find today.

As I suspected would happen, I've been enticed by the surrounding scenery, spending a great deal of time mindlessly staring off into space. At the same time, I note that my powers of observation are returning, that way of looking at nature I detailed in this post. I've just about quit the involuntary gasp whenever I go outside and catch sight of the mountains. Yet there are still times when I catch my breath at the sight of clouds bumping up against the mountain tops or the reflection of light off the lake. I've started taking a lot of pictures again for reference, although a few of the spectacular cloud formations caught me without camera on my person. As so often in the past, I have no idea how I will use these images, how these new influences will effect my art.

In fact, one of my questions and concerns before leaving Wisconsin was, how will the change in scenery effect my work? Those birches definitely influenced the use of curves in my work, I think. And I seemed to always see them against a dark background. Well, I tend to work dark anyway, so I was very surprised to find myself thinking within days of arriving, I don't want to work with a dark palette anymore. This thought came as I watched the light sparkling off the lake and all the colors before me were pale and grayed. Mmmm.

As I walk the bike trail, my general sense is that everything is more upright and straight here. The quaking asp which are the closest thing to my birches do not have the gently curving trunks.

Even the firs stand straight and stiff.

And here is some grass that is definitely more upright than the grass along the road in Wisconsin.

So does that mean I'll be working more with straight lines, that I'll lose my interest in curves? I think not, because my predominant view is this:

The undulating mountain range, I think, has taken the place of my gently curving birch trees. But I bet I work with straight angled lines as well. Here is a view from the bike trail that combines both upright straight and curving lines: