Wednesday, October 26, 2016

INKtober Cups Go Slightly Awry

Oh my, that did not go as expected. Perhaps I'm getting overconfident or merely a little bored with my cup drawing, but I thought it might be fun to sketch one as it lay on its side on the table. Actually, I was trying to get out of sketching the Edward Hopper painting, "Nighthawks" that is printed around the outside. And yet - I ended up sketching major parts of it anyway, but nearly upside down. I can't put my finger on what's wrong here, but something is certainly off.

And so I spent the next two days on these little food service coffee cups from my college days back in the 1970's. I hardly believe this is what we used as they only hold about 6 ounces. No wonder we lingered after meals, drinking cup after cup to get the appropriate wake-up and study buzz. Now I use them for anything from bacon grease to icecream and only occasionally drink out of them when I need a bit of milk warmed in the microwave to settle my stomach or dip graham crackers into. 

I'm always amazed at the faults that show up once I scan the page and look at it on the computer screen. A curve at the top of a cup that looked nice and even suddenly has one side higher than the other; sides that seemed the mirror image of each other now obviously aren't. It does make me more aware the next time I sit down to draw, knowing that for some reason my brain tends to "fix" things in my head unless I take a closer look. And I have to be a bit cautious about getting lazy. That cup on the right - I totally ignored that it had a curve at the bottom - not much of one but certainly more than what I ended up giving it. But I am still pleased with my handles on those two at the bottom.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

INKtober - 3rd Week Wrap

Are you as surprised as I am that I've not run out of unique cups to sketch? I knew I had a lot of individual cups and mugs but this has really opened my eyes to how many I have. Some I only drink coffee from (I wrote a post here about designated coffee cup for each day of the week - perhaps you'll recognize the ones I've sketched.), others are just for tea while a few have been known to hold either brew. One in particular is a favorite for hot chocolate, with or without coffee or brandy added. One smaller one that has a saucer is perfect for hot buttered rum while some other small ones picked up during my food service days make handy portion control icecream dishes with handles. And then there's that punch cup that's never used at all. You might think I never get rid of a mug unless it breaks, but while packing for the last move, I actually culled out some mugs I'd tired of or that meant nothing to me because my cupboard space at the new place was limited. As for cracked and/or chipped mugs - they merely move into a different function as pencil or toothbrush holder. I may verge on being a hoarder, but I'd prefer to think I'm just thrifty and sentimental.

I finally figured out why I was struggling with proportions (cup width too narrow, handles too wide. I'd been sketching with the pad flat on the table which meant I was not looking at the page straight on. Once I tipped it more or less parallel to the cup so I was seeing what I drew at the same angle I was viewing the cup, I came much closer to right on the first tries. Also, I quit drawing the oval opening of the cup first which seemed to make a difference. Suddenly I'm not struggling with the shape of the handles; I'm thinking the practice each day of studying the shape and drawing it is doing its magic of improving eye/hand coordination. Without so much struggle, the exercise becomes more fun. And then I wonder if I can make it more challenging, as with the lower left mug that has been turned to show the detail on the outer edge of the handle. Another of my elaborate floral cups, but that day I was not feeling the intimidation and really enjoyed the detailed drawing and fill-in work.

Just one week and a few days to go . . . and I'm not running out of cups! And here I thought I might have to supplement with sugar bowls and creamers and maybe a teapot to make it through the month.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Inktober Cups - Intimidation Factor

I'm learning a lot about myself as I choose a mug each day to draw. I may have mentioned this before but when I see letters in any scene I decide to sketch, be it on the side of a building when urban sketching or now on a mug, I immediately freeze and think, "I can't copy that." But I can, if I just settle down and take it one letter at a time. Block printing isn't nearly as difficult to recreate as my panicked mind wants me to believe. But script, like in the Chicago cup, had me nearly putting it back on the shelf as undoable. Which is not acceptable. It didn't take me long to settle down and remember, letters are just shapes. Break each down into their parts rather than look at the whole thing. It worked! And frankly, I go through the same intimidation sometimes with textile work, with the solution being just the same.

But text is not the only thing intimidating me. Some of my cups have rather intricate designs like the cup next to the Chicago one. Oh my, I thought, do I have the patience and skill to pick out the details on the urn, and the flowers and that butterfly? That initial intimidation really did set in and make me want to just sketch the basic shape of the mug and move on. But again, just find one logical place to start (in this case that urn) and build from there. Is it 100% accurate? Does it include every single flower and detail? No, but it doesn't have to. You get the feel of this 70's mug whose design is similar to applique projects I would tackle in the future.

But some days I need something relatively simple, either because of how I am feeling physically or mentally, or the amount of time I have to spend on the sketch. Yesterday I had an unexpected appointment that found me spending most of my afternoon out of town and leaving me with a tiny opportunity when I returned to work in a sketch. And a tiny space too at the bottom of my page. So I chose a pink Depression glass cup that belonged to my grandmother. I've never thought much about what that cup might have held. There's only the one, which often is the case with things from my grandmother's possessions. Mom told me she would often take advantage of offers for a free this or that, which explained the many designs of silver spoons in her collection. That may be the case here too, and after pondering this small glass cup for awhile, it dawned on me that it is probably a punch cup. Here's to Grandma!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sea and Sand Basket

The gift basket has reached that awkward stage. With that sliver of yellow at the base, I decided handles in the same fabric would balance things out nicely and make the basket more interesting. I'd passed up these knotted handles many times in the past as I paged through my book, thinking them quite ugly. So why when I looked for handles, did I turn my back on the suggested ones and suddenly fall in love with these?

And I do love the way they look on the basket. But here's the awkward part. They are to be glued and hand tacked in place, not an easy task when their placement is so near the base. And beads were suggested over the spiral once it was glued on. The heck with that order, I thought.

I dipped into my button collection and found these older ones that I think are mother of pearl - fitting for a sea-themed basket. (The photo doesn't capture the rainbow of color as light reflects off them.) Then in my bead collection I found two turquoise chips with holes, just big enough that when added over the indentation in the buttons pierced by holes, filled that space. It was hard enough getting my thin needle through one layer of fabric-covered clothesline held in my hand. I can't imagine how impossibly difficult it would have been going from the inside of the basket through two layers of clothesline. I'm very pleased with this touch.

I tried E6000 as recommended to glue the spiral ends to the outside and was quite frustrated with the fact that the glue did not hold right away. No way to clamp so far down the side of the bowl either, and I wasn't about to sit there holding things in place for very long. I eventually stuck pins in which held the spirals against the sides while they set overnight. The hold appears pretty firm now but I'm still supposed to put in a few hand stitches. I may just tell the new owner these are decorative and do not load up the basket and lift by those handles! Now I have to do the same gluing process with the other end of the handles to the inside of the basket. I'm not sure why the directions say to make loops on these ends unless they may provide some additional stability once glued and stitched. I'm going back to my favorite fabric glue that I've had such good luck with over the years - Beacon's Fabri-tac Permanent Adhesive. As for tacking with thread, this will be even more awkward than working on the outside. I'm wondering if a curved needle will help, even though anytime I've used one, I've found them awkward all by themselves. I guess I'm open to suggestions.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Few More INKtober Cups

I made handles for my basket yesterday and meant to get them attached today to have something textile-related to show before sharing the next group of cups. But I've frittered the day away in masterful procrastination because, as excited as I am about these handles, I anticipate I won't enjoy the process necessary to secure them to the basket. So instead, you get more INKtober sketches of coffee cups!

It occurred to me that this subject is sustaining my interest not only because of the variety of mugs I own, but even more so by the fact that there is a story behind each one. They are an eclectic collection representing over 40 years of experiences, travel, interactions, finds and gifts. Whether bought as a souvenir (or received as one), chosen from an array of pottery at a fair, brought home because it struck my fancy or given to me by a friend, I pretty much can remember where and when and why each came into my possession. So as I sketch, memories flood back (as you can read if you click on the picture for the larger version) and I can relive a bit of that moment from the past, and often recall a special person as well.

So why wouldn't I look forward to choosing another cup each day to spend some focused time with? Studying the shapes, the shadings, the way the handles are attached, the glazes swirled is much different than just drinking my morning coffee from them. They each have a story to tell and I am enjoying listening to them without distraction. It's the point I was making to Charlton Stitcher in the comments on this post - that if I'm going to spend time sketching, I don't want to do it just to be doing it. I want to be intrigued in some way by the subject matter so I won't lose interest or feel I'm wasting my time. For now, these cups are filling the bill. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

An Inktober Page of Cups

The #INKtober challenge is doing the trick. I generally settle down to sketch a cup either after lunch or my afternoon walk. Just do it, because I've committed to the challenge. I wish I could put myself on a schedule like this, but I must not be alone in this inability to start and sustain a daily practice - all sorts of challenges of every kind abound! In fact, friend Meg from the art group has been doing a sketch a day challenge with her daughter since mid-May and both have been posting their work to their Instagram accounts. See this post for the story and the links. By the way, Meg has revamped her website/blog at a new location: Go check it out!

I think the ovals are getting better but I still tend to sketch the cup a bit narrow on the first try. I'm quite intrigued by the variety of handle shapes - more than I realized. Cups just seem like one of those standard things, but goodness, they are not. Variety expected, I suppose, with the hand-thrown ones I buy from artists, but I would have thought there'd be more consistency in the mass produced ones. Silly me.

I found my interest wavering yesterday with the pewter mug with glass insert. Not the cup's fault - I'd been looking forward to sketching it. I just didn't have the focus to settle down and really look, catching my mind constantly wandering and my pencil making marks that did not correlate with reality. Just wanted to be done with it. Made me wonder if I should change subjects - maybe I was tiring of the cups in spite of their differences. But I was back on the horse today, working hard to get the angle of the cup sides right, that oval opening better, the handle just so. And most of it felt like it was coming more easily, which is the whole idea of daily practice. 

Click on the photo to read details of the cups and how each went.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Back to a Basket

I've been wanting to work with these fabric coiled baskets again, with the thought of playing with color palettes, almost in an abstract way. I also wanted to make one up as a housewarming gift and this one using leftovers from the Sea and Sand quilt should do the trick. The new house has a bit of water view off over the trees. Rather than put that leftover yellow from the binding in the center per the example in the book, I've placed it at the bottom as if you were standing at water's edge. The trimmings of the batik backing is the next layer up, once the water gets deep enough you can't see the sandy bottom anymore. And a few rounds of darker blue to be added at the top is what you might see the farther towards the horizon you gaze.

Working with this color palette reminds me how much I love it. I especially like the way the hand-dyed yellow looks in the base of the basket. I've been too frugal in the past, thinking hand-dyes and batiks too "special" and expensive for a project like this. It's easier to incorporate them when cuttings from another project present themselves as scraps rather than having to cut into, say, a full yard of pristine fabric. I also find the wrapping process as soothing and relaxing as that color palette.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

#INKtober Redo and Newdo

I took another stab at that first cup, doing a pencil sketch first, lots of erasing to get the handle and opening right before finishing in ink, and it is much better! I thought cups would be easy to sketch but as I moved on to a simpler one, I continued to be challenged by proportions and getting that handle right. I read once that ovals like are found at the top and bottom of glasses, cups, vases as they sit above or below eye level are difficult, and that the only way to master them is to just draw tons of them over and over and over. Not as a part of a cup or a glass but just ovals of varying shapes until you get the hang of it. I'll keep at my cups. 

Click on the photo to read the details. I am liking this idea of writing notes with my sketches, especially since I am trying out a set of micron pens that include 3 different sizes of points. Curious to see what difference using an 01, 03, 05 can make. Also puzzled by how much trouble I'm having erasing the pencil marks regardless of hardness or softness of the graphite or kind of eraser. Has to be the paper. I'm using a Mead brand Sketchbook of dubious quality, although it's supposed to be acid-free and lignin free. The graphite just seems to work deeper into the fiber of the paper rather than be picked up and removed by the eraser.

Friday, October 07, 2016

They're done, they're done!

Blue Swirl Front
This current batch of padfolios are totally done now. I did opt to satin stitch the Blue Swirls with the same variegated thread as used on the decorative stitching. As I worked my way around the edges, I found myself saying, "What are you afraid of, Sheila?" Indeed, fear rules when I start making thread choices and often I have nothing to fear. Well, except maybe running out of thread and discovering the spool is old enough that the company isn't making this particular one anymore. That last part is true, and I nearly did run out of thread.
Blue Swirl Back
 My customer opted to buy just one at this time, and this is the one she chose.
Blue Swirl inside
I really like the batik of the lining, the swirls echoing the stitching on the front. This padfolio has a velcro closure.
Light Thistle front
The lavender ones stitched with the "lovely leaf" motif have been named Light Thistle and Dark Thistle. The pattern was only meant to be the one side, and when I mirrored it for my purposes, the way the top leaf did not join up made me think of stylized thistles. My placement of the pattern on the flaps did manage to match up with the pattern on the front when closed.
Light Thistle Back
Although that thread really is variegated lavenders, it reads pretty much white on this fabric. The more plum perle cotton wrap picks up on some plum undertones in the handdye.
Light Thistle Inside
I also picked up on that bit of plum with the choice of batik lining and pockets inside.
Dark Thistle Front
Here's the dark version which had hints of blue and teal behind the lavender which accounts for the choice of thread and perle cotton for the wrap closure.
Dark Thistle Back
Again, the variegation of the thread is not that obvious on this handdye, but in person, the effect is quite lovely.
Dark Thistle Inside
The lining was an easy choice but pockets caused some angst. I pulled many fabrics before cutting these, then nearly discarded them for something else. But nothing else presented itself and on second thought, I decided they worked just fine.
Red Maple 1 Front
On Red Maple 1 I positioned the fabric so that the reddest part was on the flap. I found a bead the same color to use in the closure as well as a decorative yarn for the wrap.
Red Maple 1 Back
Although I didn't think so when I pulled this fabric from my snow dyeing efforts, it has so much depth and interest with streaks of blues and near lavender playing with the reds.
Red Maple 1 Inside
Inside these dark reds with black worked well with the red in the cover.
Red Maple 2 Front
And although cut from the same fabric, the other Red Maple padfolio had a different vibe, slightly different colors, and called for a more pink bead for the closure.
Red Maple 2 Back
 A lot of depth in this part of the fabric too, but a softer red somehow.
Red Maple 2 Inside
Which required a totally different choice in lining and pockets. I'm still quite taken with this one and may set it aside for myself, at least for awhile. I've done this before with favorites before I've let them go.
I have another customer to show these to first, and then the rest will be available for purchase. Click on any photo for a larger view to see details.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

INKtober Challenge

For those of you who think I can draw so well, I offer contrary proof! Click on the photo to read what this is about and here to see what my model actually looks like. The challenge is the brainchild of Jake Parker.

If you'd like to join in and need prompts, here they are. But it's ok if you focus on a single subject (I'm considering tackling all my cups) or whatever strikes your fancy. The point is to just draw SOMETHING each day and nearly as important, show your work on or off-line.

I'm thinking Zentangles would count too so may throw a few of those in as well. After all, they are drawings in ink. Google on the hashtag and you will see plenty of examples from artists all over the world who are taking part (if they are not already showing up on social media feeds. Come on - it only hurts a little and you can only get better!


I've worn out another cover on the corn bag I use nearly every day, as heat on a stiff back in the morning and like a hot water bottle to warm my feet in bed at night. I can't find when I switched out the original bag but I thought it advantageous to choose a dark fabric that was a little heavier. Alas, that one has worn through too plus the black background to the delicate art deco roses transferred pigment when heated. Never occurred to me that would happen, but it showed up brown on my sheets and where it rubbed against the back of light-colored tops. So this time I went light, a jungle print from probably the 1980's made to look a bit like a batik with the black crackling. I had a dress made from this once, halter style on top, multi-gored skirt on the bottom, buttons down the front a bit like a shirt dress. It was a favorite summer dress with its long sweeping skirt and open back, not to mention that jungle print. Because the fabric was 100 percent cotton, the leftovers after I made it went into my quilting stash. And now into my corn bag to make me smile. A change I didn't mind making.

I generally avoid change. I've been doing work to understand why that is and to be more open to change, to see the positive and potential of change, not just the negative and disruptive nature of it. Because some change is hard, even when we see the need. So I took note of this quotation from Nick Cave; I think he understands my aversion to change quite well and has something interesting to say about it.

“Most of us don’t want to change, really. And why should we? What we do want is modifications on the original model. We keep on being ourselves, but just, hopefully better versions of ourselves. But what happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic that you just change? You change from the known person to an unknown person? So that when you look at yourself in the mirror, you recognize the person you were, but the person inside the skin is a different person.”

I've been through the sort of catastrophic event he speaks of and it indeed did change me, literally never to be the same. I know my public face must belie all this as a general rule, not many aware of that different person inside the skin. There's still an unchanged essence of me at the core, but much shifted after that event, the world and my existence seen from a different perspective, and a forcing to make those modifications Nick speaks of to become a better version.

Just like my humble corn bag with its new cover, a better version forced by the wearing of a hole in the old that allowed the innards to start seeping out. I look at it and see both previous versions that surrounded the unchanging corn at the center and know the current one is the best version yet. But it too will need replacing some day, I'm sure. Not a catastrophic event in the grand scheme of things, but a gentle reminder that most things don't last forever, enjoy them while they do, and stay open to the delights of change.