Tuesday, October 27, 2015


My copying of steps plus practice variation from Zentangle newsletter
I was quite fascinated with this tangle from the Zentangle® people when it showed up in my inbox not long ago. I am so familiar with the design at step 2 as a quilting motif but never stopped to think it was just two scallops off-set. This tangle called Zenith has so much potential because you can stop at different points rather than complete all steps, add lines, dots and echos in different ways and opt for a variety of shading touches. You can read the newsletter and see the variations here. I haven't Zentangled in a long time; with this new one to try and the fountain pens too, I spent a little time today creating on one of the tan Zentangle tiles.

My favorite little tangle's in the center.

And here is what I came up with. I actually love making frames with some of the Zentangle designs, leaving a circle or diamond in the center to showcase a little scene. The Zenith instructions encouraged practicing to get the flow, something not often suggested. I did some of that, trying to work out ahead of time how to turn corners, but I could have practiced a little more. The nice thing about Zentangling though is how forgiving it is of inconsistencies and general wonkiness. The "tipples" around the outside corners mask how unevenly I turned the outer corners, for instance. If you look closely, you can see how I deviated from step 6 in creating the outer border. The Zenith creating the diamond frame is based on a variation shown in the newsletter instructions. I followed suggested shadings...more or less...using a 4B graphite pencil and white charcoal.

And what did I think of the fountain pen? Actually, the medium-size 05 nib made a slightly thicker line than I am used to with my 01 Pigma Micron pens but I did like it for filling in the larger spaces and stippling. It did not glide quite like I thought it would over this particular paper and I often caught myself making no line at all when the angle of the nib got turned slightly, something you don't have to think about with a regular pen. This may not be the best use of a fountain pen, except for making those accents and heavy shadings.

It's quite interesting to see what Rick and Maria come up with and how others are creating with Zentangles, even if you have no intention of trying this yourself. Quilters will find many of the tangles familiar and might glean some new ways to incorporate them into their textile work. You can sign up for their newsletter here or follow their blog here

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Kehinde Wiley

Saint Amelie by Kehinde Wiley - stained glass 2014
This stained glass designed by Kehinde Wiley so captivated me when I ran across it in the February issue of Smithsonian Magazine. The article was featuring some of the artists on display in a new "Hip-Hop" exhibition opening at The National Portrait Gallery. The others represented did not catch my attention like Wiley's work, described as "vibrant large-scale paintings of rappers like LL Cool J and Grandmaster Flash...that are modeled after classic portraits by John Singer Sargent, Frans Hal and Ingres, among others." It is true that my intrigue does stem from the juxtaposition of a familiar classic setting with a totally modern subject. But also, I saw such beauty in taking a person so ordinary and everyday-looking and elevating him to a position of reverence and respect by placing him in the position of a Madonna or saint in a stained glass window. It spoke volumes to me, although I'm not sure it is the same volumes the artist had in mind. The image was so compelling that I tore the page from the magazine and filed it away. For some reason, I could see using it as the basis for a collage keying off this idea of we are all saints.

More recently, I stumbled upon Wiley again through Austin Kleon's Tumblr here, seeing that he is currently showing at The Modern museum in Forth Worth, TX - a long way from New York. Both sites feature paintings by Wiley, and I find I am still captivated by his work. In reading more about his background, I am additionally impressed with his art education and training, and how much research and attention to detail goes into each of his works of art. It explains a lot about how he arrived at this unmistakable voice and the ability to execute it so well. Here is a partial description of the exhibit and Wiley from The Modern website:

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth presents Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, an overview highlighting the range of the artist's prolific 14-year career and comprising approximately 60 works. The exhibition begins with early examples of paintings inspired by Wiley’s observations of street life in Harlem; these images of African-American men mark the onset of his focused exploration of the male figure. In subsequent work, Wiley further examines the European tradition of portraiture, taking specific paintings by renowned masters such as Titian, Van Dyck, and Manet and replacing the historical subjects with contemporary, young black men sporting fashionable urban gear. These likenesses are set against ornate, decorative backgrounds on large canvases — part of Wiley's signature style — in order to raise issues of class in addition to race and gender.

I must admit, I had not thought in terms of "race and gender" and "class" issues when lingering over this stained glass work and now these paintings from the exhibit. I simply loved the thought that each of us, no matter how lowly, no matter our circumstances, could reach this ideal of peace and serenity and adulation. However, now I have another way to view his work, and I can see how expertly he does raise these issues. It is art both elegant and thought provoking.

To learn more about Kehinde Wiley and see more of his art, go to http://kehindewiley.com/

Friday, October 23, 2015

Catching Up

Yesterday I waved goodbye to the last of my family that converged on me from California, Washington and North Carolina a week ago and stayed varying lengths of time. The occasion was the service and scattering of ashes held at the Veteran's Cemetery for my brother who died last March. It was an excellent, although tiring, get-together, and the first time that some of them had visited since I moved back to Idaho. The weather couldn't have been more perfect, showcasing the continuing autumn colors I shared in the last post. I'd show you pictures but since there were so many cell phones working at capturing the experience, I didn't bother dragging my camera along (I have a very basic and dumb cell phone). I am at the mercy of the nephews mostly and know they will eventually pull through.

Before they arrived, I squeezed in an on-site drawing session of the food trailer I showed in this post. I thought it would be a cinch with my plan of drawing one third of it at a time as divided by the paint job, starting on the left. But no - I had my recurring problem of not sizing the subject down enough, and I ended up running off the page. That's even after I made some adjustments, lowering the roof line after most of the middle section was drawn and I could see how little room was left for the front of the trailer. Even my photo chops off part of the sketchbook! I'm now waffling between going back to the location to edit or working from a photo I took in order to shrink that trailer down a bit more, get those proportions right. I really want to color it in and think a lot of erasing and redrawing will make me happier than starting over altogether. Arrgghh though...

By the way, I recently noticed something about the plane shown in the same post. We've had some pretty strong winds lately, and as I looked at it on my way by, I could see that the propeller was spinning like crazy! Not only that, today I noticed that it was turned a different direction. Apparently, this plane acts like a giant vane. Pretty cool.

Collage by Constance Rose
I also entered a giveaway on my blogger friend Connie Rose's site before the crew arrived and was told I'd won a pair of fountain pens. Those arrived along with one of Connie's collages in the midst of all the family activities. I haven't done much with fountain pens but as with so many things, am quite intrigued with them. Looking forward to working with them after a quick test of one on a scrap of paper. They really do have a different feel about them for writing text and mark making, and I'm keen to see how I can incorporate them into my art journaling.

I got a little break from the company on Monday as I took off to my art group and the remaining family took off to check out the old home town about an hour and a half from here. I got the last of the input I needed to finish up Masks - just a little more beading and some stitching around the edge (which will remain unfinished) left to do - and also the thumbs up on a background choice to mount my fountain sample on before I slip it into a frame. 

I found it interesting that all three of us in the group seem to be at a reassessing point for the direction of our work. I don't know about you, but I often get so narrowly focused on where I have ended up at the moment that I convince myself I must carry on in the same vein. Sometimes this takes the form of not because I necessarily want to but because that weird little voice in my head convinces me that it is what the public expects. I've had a few reality checks in that department as relates to my padfolios. No sooner had I sold the last of the 5 I made earlier in the year than I was being asked if I'd be making more for the holiday gift buying season. Oh sigh...I really hadn't planned on it but I find it hard to say no to this person, and in fact she gave me some excellent feedback that got me excited about them again. I realized that the time-consuming details I was focusing on most really weren't that important to my customers, mostly because they really don't understand what I go through to create them - like my recent photo-manipulations printed in bands and stitched onto hand-stamped fabric. They mostly want rich-looking and pretty fabric embellished with my stitching and interesting closures. It's really quite different from what a customer expects from an art quilt. 

So before the company came, I sat down with my notebook and jotted down some "Fresh Ideas" for a new batch of padfolios. I've got too much interesting and beautiful fabric languishing in the studio that could work well as padfolio covers. I don't necessarily need to create more specifically for padfolios. It was a liberating thought. Nice to get knocked out of my tunnel vision now and then. Nice to return to a previous way of working which could also lead me in yet another direction. Good that I am back to thinking of how to use what I already have.

All that, the padfolio ideas, the experimenting with the fountain pens, the sketching, will have to wait though. My family rather wore me out and I feel like I could sleep for a week! 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Art Is What We Don't Have To Do

I didn't need a carrot to sit myself down for some beading yesterday, but I did listen to a BBC talk by Brian Eno while I did. You'll have to listen to it yourself (or read the provided transcript, both to be found here) to find out what he means by "art is everything that we don't have to do". I can't help but agree with what he has come up with as a description of culture which he says is really just the creative arts. It's fascinating where he goes with this. Don't let the first few minutes of intro put you off. And don't skip the question and answer section at the end. The topic turned out to be quite perfect to listen to while embellishing my quilt, as he expounded on man's inability to NOT complicate things, i.e. embellish even the simplest act.

I also grabbed my better camera when I headed out on my walk yesterday. Yes, it can handle the fall colors much better. I am particularly drawn to the rich golden tones of cottonwoods against a blue sky.

Yes, I find I can't get enough of them! And you'll note there are still some green leaves holding out against the shortening days. They say we are losing something like 4 or 6 minutes of daylight each day.

Yes, I really should make a quilt with these colors.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Autumn Palette

So after I donned my new specs, I was stunned to discover that in viewing a particular stand of trees, it was no longer just yellow leaves turning against a backdrop of green, but it was a variety of shades and tones of yellows against every kind of green imaginable. Could it be that my blurry vision had smudged all the variety down to a single yellow and green? Or had I just not been paying attention when it was an effort to focus? It made me want to rush home, pull every yellow and green fabric out of my stash to cut up and sew into something. However, sanity prevailed; the last thing I need right now is to turn my studio into what looks like the aftermath of a tornado. And after some thought, I recalled that I already have a grouping of greens, yellows, oranges and rusts set aside for a quilt similar to Wisconsin Memories (upper left in this photo). What I really need to do right now is keep moving forward on Masks.

But this can't stop me from getting the camera out and capturing some colors and sample palettes for future use. Above, another grouping of trees along a vacant lot sporting various yellows and greens and a lean toward orange. Truth be told, the camera was struggling to capture the nuance and proper colors as much as my eyes with the old glasses had. At any rate, these are pretty typical fall colors in this part of the world. Much like I've put in my many fall-themed quilts.

But what about the above pairings?

I noted that the maple which I'd seen in another spot looked to be showing leaves in shadow and catching the light, but in truth the actual leaves were either a brighter or deeper red - nearly brown in some cases.

The star of my shoot was a small but brilliant mountain ash. Look at the delicate veining.

It looks like this when run through a color extractor.

Here's a slightly different shot on the same tree and its extraction.

And again, two slightly different shots, not so close up but varied enough for the extractor to come up with slightly different palettes.

I'm still thinking how I could use some of these combinations and I keep coming back to the fall theme, of a jumble of the colors laid down in strips or triangles that would back the elegant curves of towering tree trunks. My afternoon walks of late have taken me back along the loop where my "community" trees stand. I'm seeing evidence that some building might soon take place there - not necessarily taking down the trees, but probably blocking my view of their bases. So even though I have some photos (although not very good), I decided to do a quick sketch. One gets to know one's subject much better sketching it, understand the subtle relationships between sections on a different level, and in this case, ponder ways to render those shapes in fabric now that I know better what they are.

Thursday, October 08, 2015


My new frames in 2010
Maybe it's been my eyes holding me back....

I've known I needed a stronger prescription in my lenses for over a year. Meant to do something about it last summer but found myself dealing with bigger issues and the thought that if I just waited a little bit longer, those would be resolved...but they wouldn't be until earlier this year. And then it was the bad memories from the previous time I'd gotten new glasses making me reticent. Two optometrists, 3 exams, 6 tries at setting up the lenses properly, months of eye pain, frustration and a lot of arguing later, I finally had a pair of glasses I could see out of. I'd had this happen once before, had even warned the second optometrist, but that office had a very "we know best" attitude, treating me as if I'd never worn glasses before. Finally, their frustration matched mine and they agreed to use the settings of the current lenses as provided by the office I'd got them from before moving half way across the country, even though they informed me they couldn't be correct for the type of lenses I had. And so they were quite embarrassed when I donned this last ditch effort and they were perfect - no adjustments necessary.

Beading done with blurry vision
So I've been dreading the day I'd have to get new lenses. And of course, you seldom can get just new lenses, but also have to pick out new frames. And I can't see how these various frames look without my glasses! But at least I could go get an exam to ease my mind about the general condition of my eyes and worry about getting the new prescription later. I'd had a whole year to scope out another optometrist (someone I'd met during last year's ArtWalk who liked my work - first plus! and who got rave reviews from one of my art group members - second plus!), tamp down my feelings of guilt about switching providers (the problematic office had, in the interim, treated me quickly and soothed my fears when I developed "flashing" in one eye), and budget for the always expensive kind of frames and lenses I prefer (would be making the final payment on a car loan in July).

The thing that made these hard to give up
Yeah - I can't just jump in to do anything. But by May my vision was decidedly worse, I was struggling to focus at every distance, and if I spent too long reading, sewing or at the computer in that shorter range, my eyes simply refused to refocus across the room. There were other things too, enough that I wondered if something other than needing a stronger prescription was going in. Well, I got on well with the new optometrist, was thoroughly impressed with his thorough exam and said I'd be back by the end of summer for those new glasses.

My current new frames
Yeah, right. Life continually intervenes, you know, and suddenly it was September. Time to bite the bullet and get on with it. Really tired of the constant straining and inability to focus in on really small type. The picking out of frames was the usual trying on of many, feeling indecisive, wishing I could see better, wishing this one came in a different color. Wait - that one DOES come in a different color that we can order for you to try! The gal I worked with was so good and accommodating, and I began to feel more confident. Of course, the real test was after the frames were decided upon and the marks made for the lab to use in setting up the prescription.

More blurry vision beading
While I waited for them to come back, I realized I'd gone from wishing I didn't have to give up my current frames that I liked so much (you know how I hate change) to getting really excited about the new look. Yeah, I said, I NEED a new look, need to shake things up a bit. Let's just hope I can see out of them. I got the call that they were in earlier this week, and I swear, the girl was holding her breath as much as I was. But hey, she did a perfect job and I could see at all distances, no adjustments necessary. Now why couldn't those other places do that?

Beading with clear vision
Of course, the proof would be once I got home and moved around in familiar settings. This is when it struck me just how much I'd been straining to see anything. Now everything was sharp and clear without trying. And suddenly, I wanted to get in the studio and continue with the beading. This is when I remembered how I struggled the week before as I added more beads to Masks - I simply could not bring the area I was working on into focus so it was a guessing game about where the needle was going. Could it be that subconsciously I knew how much more work anything in the studio was going to be because I couldn't see clearly and thus lost my enthusiasm for working in there? If how I felt with the new glasses on was any indication, I think perhaps it was indeed a factor.

I can see where to put the needle now
I believe it was Elly Sienkiewicz who, not so tongue in cheek, added getting your eyes checked and if necessary a new pair of glasses to the list of "other materials and supplies" for her projects. The undisputed master of Baltimore Album style applique knew the importance of being able to see easily and clearly when working on the fine detail of needleturn applique. As I sat down this week to test my new prescription with more bead additions on Masks, I was reminded of how very true this is. I am finding joy again in the doing, and many more beads got added on in a session I did not need carrots to prolong.

Wood beads banished for these
It may have helped that I resolved what to do in an area that has failed to feel right in spite of what I thought should go there. Unable to commit, I'd move the loose beads I'd auditioned off the quilt and go to a different section that seemed clearer. I so wanted to use some wood beads as fringe on one hat, but even though my better sense knew they weren't right, I kept auditioning them while trying other things around them that I thought would balance them out. If they stayed, my centerpiece button didn't look right. I couldn't commit to it either. I shoved them all to one side and "fringed" the other hat and was so pleased. Then finished adding beads around the button on that hat. This helped me see how wrong those wooden beads were, and what I should try with the limited amount of green beads left. Oh, I am so much happier now and the button on that hat now looks right. I had another one of those moments when I felt my whole body relax. I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, AND the way to get there.

Now this works - but which orientation?
I'll admit that over the last few weeks I've beaten myself up a bit at how much time I've spent pondering the rightness of the beading choices I lay before me and then try on this project. Goodness, why can't I just jump in? (See above story of glasses) Why do I keep trying the same things over and over, hoping the next time they'll say yes I work, rather than, ehhh I'm not so sure? Why can't I reach that body-relaxed-this-is-right moment sooner? And then as if in answer, this arrives in my mailbox:
Keats called it Negative Capability: the ability to sit with uncertainty and ambiguity without rushing after The Answer.
Need another row of beads down nose
Well well well. I guess I'm a master at negative capability! But let me tell you, it can get pretty uncomfortable sitting with those two.

We be comin' along!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

New Along My Route

Not a lot changes along the various routes I take on my daily walks out my door. So I was surprised to see several new attractions last month which had me asking questions. Take this trailer that showed up on the grounds of the animal shelter, for instance. Not in a vacant lot next to it, but in a specially prepared space in the parking lot. Now I understand that food trucks or carts are all the rage, and my area has its share, but you have to admit, setting up a Taco Stand next to the animal shelter building does seem an odd juxtaposition. Maybe even making you wonder where they are getting the meat for the tacos. Not to worry - this is a no-kill shelter! I'm guessing they've made some kind of arrangement for a portion of the sales to be donated to the shelter.

Then there's this plane that appeared, soaring over the top of a group of industrial buildings. From the street, I couldn't tell quite what it was, so walked back in for a closer look.

It sits in front of a welding shop, and on closer inspection, is not a plane at all but a clever fusion of car and other parts to make it look like one. Cleverly named "Fishback Air" - if you click for the larger version of the photos, you can make out the "scales" on the tail section.

Oh, my - someone definitely had too much fun with this!

And then there are the boats sporting for sale signs showing up in the parking lots of unrelated businesses. Apparently this is a thing, as I spotted two instances of this within a few blocks of each other. It's the end of the season, boats are notorious for sucking up money, and perhaps these owners decided it was best to be done with this rather than store the toy for another winter.

Speaking of unrelated items for sale showing up in business parking lots, this mini-trailer has been parked for awhile near a drive-through coffee place, in front of the building that until this summer housed a natural foods cafe.

Cute does not begin to describe this! I was oddly tempted by it, even though camping is not my thing. But somehow, I could see myself pulling it behind my Subaru as I checked out state and national parks.

I think it's the solar power that's making me think I want this. Here are the panels on the back. I wish I could see what it is like on the inside, as I try to imagine the configuration for sleeping and wondering what else you could do in there. Once I saw that, I no doubt would lose interest altogether!