Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy Accidents

So here I was in the studio straightening up a bit before taking the plunge on one of two quilts (read: procrastinating). I'd washed some fabric a few days before, including the batik I bought on my trip to Gig Harbor. You know, when you travel you stop at quilt shops and convince yourself you HAVE to buy something, for a souvenir if nothing else. Batiks are always a safe bet - who cares if you have something in mind for what you end up buying? Go with your gut, buy what speaks to you. It may turn out to be just what you need. But for now, this batik was in my way as it lay draped over the ironing board. Time to fold it up and put it away. So I lined up the selvages, laid it on the table to smooth it out for the first fold and...wait a minute. Didn't I just say the poppies and peonies piece might benefit just from adding another fabric? Wow - I think this is the one!

Tamping down my usual hesitation, I immediately made the section cuts in poppies and peonies, even though evil left brain thought I should leave well enough alone. Yes, I'm really liking this now and am already moving the thought process to the technical side of finishing it out. And wondering which orientation to use.

But never one to be satisfied with a good thing, I also spotted another batik that's been lying on the table forever. Yes, the colors are right but this is a bit too much for the eye to handle! I'll be using the green fern batik and continuing the mulling about adding photo transfers of actual poppies and peonies.

I'm still unable to settle, especially after hitting upon an idea concerning Falling Leaves while on my walk. I have an inherent fear of paints, but not pens. I was thinking about the paints and brushes I have on hand, which would work to highlight the quilted leaves without painting over thread when I remembered the inked designs I'd seen at the quilt show in Tacoma. Riding the positive vibes of success, I tested my idea on a sample and forged ahead. I'm using a fine point micron pen with red ink to shade in just the quilted leaves that are within the couched squares. I was pretty sure this still would not be enough so also tested a green pen to shade in the background around the leaves - in essence creating a fainter version of the two stamped hand-dyed squares that are the centerpiece of this design. I was having such a tough time getting accurate colors with the camera in the close-up of the leaf shading that I didn't try to capture the other yet. Besides, with three squares to go, the pen started pooping out on me. But I can tell that this inking is really making this piece work so much better.

By the way, have any of you tried this new tool call the Thread Pic? Hope springs eternal as I search for products to make my quilting life easier and to speed up some jobs. Is anything more tedious than burying threads on the back of the quilt? I'm doing that an awful lot these days and from the description, this tool sounded like it would be just the thing. Honestly, it did not work for this, although I've no doubt it would snag those stray threads that sometimes get trapped between batting and the lightest fabric in the top. The hook that grabs the thread is extremely small, which was ok for the lightweight Aurofil thread I'd used in the bobbin. But I can't imagine it being able to snag a heavier weight thread. It merely caught part of the rayon thread, more snagging it than anything and only pulling through 1 ply, or shredding the thread altogether. At best, it was really tricky to keep the thread on the hook until it passed out of the backing. And because of how quickly the shaft thickens up, I couldn't pull as long of a length through to the back as I normally like. Even so, I must have been putting it through the fabric farther away from the thread tail than the manufacturer planned for; It left quite a hole in the fabric at the exit point, in spite of the package touting that it left no holes. I did find it excellent for sliding under the loop to pull the top thread to the back, and I suspect it would work similarly well for taking out stitches. But for burying threads? I found my formerly tedious and time consuming method of threading tails through the eye of a needle was much faster and left no holes.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Plan: Step 4

I put four things on my October timeline which is part of The Plan to get enough art made in the next 6 months for all the exhibits I plan to participate in. This list was a shot in the dark, something to get me moving, not really set up to definitely say I would finish one thing or another. And it is a good thing, because I haven't been able to settle really - feeling the need to move from one thing to another and back again, just to get the juices flowing. Flow they have, although I haven't put in as much time as consistently as I had hoped. And here it is, nearly the end of October already, as my keeper reminded me this week. So before it totally slips away, I am addressing the one untouched item: "work on poppies & peonies."

You may remember this experiment, using the poppies and peonies palette that resulted in the very derivative and unsatisfying piece at the top. I've been contemplating ever since what I can do to "save" it, thinking some cutting and pasting might be in order. I've had these draft copies printed out on paper for a long time but they have just now made it into the studio.

I'm considering printing some actual photos of poppies and peonies on fabric which could be used as borders or spacers but how I would do that - arrange the images, etc - is pretty fuzzy, especially as an insert if I were to make diagonal cuts. I think the vertical cuts have more promise - I think just inserting strips of some other fabric between the sections would be an improvement.

However, my original thought on the vertical cuts was just to sew the two outer segments together and rearrange the pieces. Of course, there are multiple ways you can combine the cut segments, including flipping some of them. I really think this has potential.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's That Time Again

The leaves have all come down in a tumble these last few days.

I looked out my office window and was surprised at how the leaves had stacked up on the big limbs of the maple.

I know I said I had plenty of reference photos already, but I had to go out in the chill to capture it as I don't recall seeing this before.

I guess I got a little obsessive, capturing different angles.

And marveling at the way the leaves filled nooks and crannies.

Not marveling so much at the way they do the same with my car.

We've had our first freezing temperatures of the season, which appears to be what spurred the maples to abandon their leisurely dropping of leaves for this all-out shedding. I'll start gathering them up over the weekend.

In the meantime, I worked on my own falling leaves, couching decorative cording around two more quilted leaves. I still think those quilted leaves within the couched squares need some highlighting and plan to get brave with some paint soon. Then I will call it done. And I think this landscape orientation works better than the original portrait one. I've been mulling it for some time, and now I am sure. The balance is just better somehow.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

And after the exhibits...

What would a road trip be without lunch and some sightseeing? The museum is located in the historic Browne's Addition neighborhood not far from Italia Trattoria. I've driven by it several times, not realizing that the unassuming exterior housed such wonderful food. Small, but delightful, with a menu emphasizing "sustainable, local and nourishing regionally inspired Italian cuisine." It even had some local art on the walls.

These are the fun gals I work with on the Visual Arts Committee of POAC. Well, except for Marjorie on the left in the top photo - a friend of one of them who was equally fun. Pat and Connie complete the trio. Pat usually works the sign-in table on hanging day for every exhibit. Connie is our fearless leader. Then there's me with Karen who paints stunning watercolors of our area. Finally, me with Joanie who is a fiber artist like me, but working in a waaaay different style.

After lunch, it was nice enough for a stroll through the neighborhood.

Like I don't have enough maple leaves of my own, I couldn't resist picking these up. They are a different shape than the ones falling from my own trees at the moment, and much redder.

I have so many reference photos of colorful maples, I wasn't compelled to take many more. But I am always ready to snap more shots of tree trunks in contortion. These were in Coeur d'Alene Park.

And the last bit of inspiration was from this pine tree that had these wispy branches swaying in the breeze. I don't know what kind of pine tree this is but those branches sure reminded me of my willow tree inspiration.

And that's it - my day out with the girls. Now back to working on my own art.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Rest of the Road Trip: Need/Want & Territory

In conjunction with the Impressionists exhibit, the Northwest Museum of Art and Culture has mounted two additional exhibits with no apparent relationship to the first - which simply means, a really broad experience with hopefully a little something for everyone. I wasn't so sure about this Want/Need theme, assuming it would be all about environmentalism & recycling. There was quite a bit of that, but there were other very thought-provoking works having nothing to do with the environment.

One of those would be "Ask" by Ara Lyman-Gregg, an encaustic painting with photo transfer. That center portion really did radiate brightly between the more muted side panels. Her artist statement lent no clue as to what she's expressing here, just that her work begins with "emotion from a single event or idea" and ends with self-discovery.

It was hard not to notice this large piece, looking all the world like a giant mat for placing hot dishes on - at least that was my initial reaction. But I love its mandala-like flow and the earthy colors. Just how did artist Tim Oberst do that?

It's called "A Sand County Almanac" and it is made from strips of corrugated cardboard layered to expose that corrugation. It gives the feel of a cross-section of a tree trunk, now that I think of it. I want to use it like a giant stamp or throw a piece of fabric over it and use it as a rubbing to transfer that wonderful patterning. Not what the artist had in mind though. From his statement: "To portray meaningful relationships for a complete world, reality must be distorted and recontextualized. As a model, the dissection of nature must offer a selective, hyperfocused and incomplete view of its ephemeral scenarios."

In light of the recent oil spill along a river in Montana, there wasn't much head scratching about what Tamara Stephas was trying to get across in her oil and acrylic "Spill." She creates this lovely, almost impressionistic landscape which morphs into the spill itself. What interested me was the way she extended the canvas below the underlying stretcher frame and then twisted it, as if to wring out the oil. Hard to see that in the photo.

As a final thought on this theme, I was particularly intrigued with this sentiment (although not so much with the art that went with it). It turns on its head that saying that I grew up with: waste not, want not. My parents, having lived through the Great Depression, were very big on making do. On the other hand, there were things my dad in particular did not want to do without because he HAD been subjected to no other choice but making do. He'd just smile at me when I'd chide him for what seemed like unnecessary wastefulness. He'd paid his dues, he knew what he wanted, and he didn't care if it was wasteful. Yes, the ecology movement was not one he joined although he didn't mind the challenge of seeing if he could solve a problem with what he had on hand. Just don't ask him to give up his paper plates and Styrofoam cups.

The last exhibit held lots of promise, but I was disappointed with the offerings. You'd think that the collaboration of an older, established artist with a young emerging artist would produce interesting, if not truly exciting art. I liked a lot of the artists individual works, but there wasn't a single collaboration that worked for me. (I should note, this was not true for the gals with me.) So I am just sharing some of the individual work that caught my interest.

If you are into puns and irony, you would probably like the work of young artist Brenna Helm. All of her pieces were minimalist oil on white background. This one is named "The Perfect Plan."

She was paired with her father, Robert Helm. We stood there asking, "How did he DO that?" This one is called "September Wall" and is oil on panel, although you would swear it has to be oil on stone.

Equally impressive for its realistic rendering is "Untitled". You would not believe that wood grain to be painted.

Nor that this was not three-dimensional.

In a totally different vein, we were delighted by the humor in Daniel DeSiga's acrylics. "Alien Invasion" has a very Salvidor Dali flavor to it.

And I'll let "Latino Space Parade" speak for itself.

Finally, for a couple of my Internet friends who dabble in altered books, these "Altared Books" by Emily Sooter.

Remember that you can get a larger more detailed view by clicking on any picture.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Road trip to Impressionism

Yesterday I had the good fortune to join with 4 of my fellow arts council members to trek on over to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture for its latest exhibits: "Seeing Impressionism", "Need/Want", and "Territory". I doubt we would have made the trip if not for the Impressionism exhibit, but the other two exhibits were quite interesting too. It was a blustery day, mostly overcast with off and on rain, so a good day to be inside a cozy museum. This is the sight that greeted once we arrived.

If you look closely at the right hand side of first photo, you can see a sculpture perched high. A close-up of "The Navigators" by Brad Rude reveals some interesting detail. There's quite a bit of outdoor sculpture here but we hustled inside for the main attraction.

Bandied about in the promotion for the exhibit were such names as Renoir and Degas, and promises of more depth than the Museum's own collection could provide on its own by partnering with The Tacoma Art Museum and private collectors. Yes, I could tell the Renoirs were to be the main draw.

But for my money, these Glackens were more exciting to see. You may recognize the one on the right - I've shared this painting before (see this post for why this painting is so important to me). It is in the collection of the Tacoma Art Museum and I dared not hope it would be included in this exhibit. I was thrilled to see "Natalie in a Blue Skirt" again after all these years. It was fascinating to compare her to the "Lady in the Wicker Chair" - two totally different personalities! They were right next to the Renoirs so I could see how the artists' styles compared.

The exhibit itself was curated to show paintings from the very first hints of impressionism and as the movement progressed, finally including its influence on Northwest artists. I've cropped the frame off this one by Ralph A. Blakelock called "The Black Opal." It was quite dark and small, but captivating, included for the way it shows how impressionism began to flatten the perspective of landscapes. I was drawn to it for the subject matter - one I've played with a lot. The moon in this one is fantastic.

Another darkish painting but coming later in the movement was "Mixed Flowers in a Vase" by Henri Fantin-Latour. The fascination for me was the way that white flower just glows off the canvas, drawing you from anywhere in the room for a closer look. And as you get closer, there's the sense that the flowers are rendered in much more detail than the actual brushstrokes bear out. Just beautiful.

The last painting I'll share is this lovely seascape called "Sunset" by the American painter Edward Lincoln Espey. It's those lavenders that captivated me. I don't associate that color with sunsets, which makes this unusual and intriguing to me.

I'll cover the other two exhibits in the next post. Remember you can click on any photo for a larger image.