Sunday, September 30, 2018


"How hard could it be to draw a dragonfly?" I asked myself as I pondered what the pages in my recycled bookbinding challenge project needed to complete them. Part of me says, "Keep looking for ready-made dragonflies to cut out and past in place," while another part of me is kinda tired of that hunt. And so with brush pen in hand and eye on some printed examples, I gave it a go, filling in the wings with a  metallic gel pen. Hmmm, not terrible, but I still don't have the hang of controlling that kind of pen.

Did I really think my first try would be perfect? Yes and no. Realistically, if I have not drawn one before, I couldn't expect perfection right out of the box, but in one's dreams, it just happens, beautiful and exactly what one has in mind. After all, I've been upping my sketching game over the last few years. Imagine it and it will flow magically out your pen. Well, not always. Sometimes one really does need to practice. And try different pens, and different colors and different sizes. And note where the trouble lies that keeps one from the image one desires. For instance, I was reminded of how hard I've always found it to draw mirror images. Right side great. Left side wonky and certainly not a mirror when compared.

I've never liked to practice, starting from age 4 or 5 when I bribed my mother into teaching me how to play the piano. Practice scales and fingering? How boring! I want to learn by playing songs I recognize. I wasn't much better when I got old enough to join band. I'll practice while we play in class. This became a recurring theme as I tried other things, including crafts and quilting. I became relatively good at all sorts of things, but perhaps only gained the level of expertise I have in the quilting realm, not because I practiced a lot before diving in but more because of the hours I put in making things. I practiced on "the real thing" and moved on to the next. (The exception to that might be hand and machine quilting - I have the samples to prove it.) There have always been too many things to do and make to "waste" time on practicing! Well, age has brought a bit of wisdom about all this, and I shall be practicing more dragonflies to get comfortable with shapes before adding any to my pages.

So with these thoughts in mind, I thoroughly enjoyed Austin Kleon's recent post, A Willingness To Be Bad. It starts with this quotation:

“It isn’t so much that geniuses make it look easy; it’s that they make it look it fast.”
—Sarah Manguso, 300 Arguments

And then continues with a section from a 2010 piece by David Wong called “How The Karate Kid Ruined The Modern World” where Wong laments how movies with training montages give us a skewed vision of how hard it actually is to get good at things:

"Every adult I know — or at least the ones who are depressed — continually suffers from something like sticker shock (that is, when you go shopping for something for the first time and are shocked to find it costs way, way more than you thought). Only it’s with effort. It’s Effort Shock.

We have a vague idea in our head of the “price” of certain accomplishments, how difficult it should be to get a degree, or succeed at a job, or stay in shape, or raise a kid, or build a house. And that vague idea is almost always catastrophically wrong.

Accomplishing worthwhile things isn’t just a little harder than people think; it’s 10 or 20 times harder."

I just loved reading that, and truth be told, it is what made me ok with my dragonfly practicing. As Austin says, "the switch towards taking on a practice and discipline is admitting to yourself that you suck and you want to get better." And as a friend of his said about taking up drum lessons again, " he’d forgotten the joy of the practice –> suck a little less –> practice –> suck a little less loop." Oh, wouldn't we all like to suck a little less?

To wrap it up and point back to the title of the post, he quotes part of an interview with actor Jason Segel where he talked about his willingness to be bad for as long as it takes. Now there's a thought. Do pop over to the post and read the elaboration of that attitude as well as other Kleon observations. And perhaps be inspired by this checklist of how to cultivate that willingness to be bad, found in Austin's book, Steal Like An Artist. Inktober starts tomorrow. What better way to start practicing to suck a little less!


Thursday, September 27, 2018

New Stuff And A Really Good Day

I may not buy much if any fabric anymore, but that doesn't mean there aren't other things out there tempting me. I was reminded to check one of my favorite online shops, Connecting Threads, to see if they had next year's AQS Engagement calendar, and in the process found that they carry Kraft-tex, something I've not been able to find locally. When I first heard about this product, sturdy paper that mimics leather, I could not imagine what use I might have for it. If I want to work with leather, I reasoned, I'll buy leather. I kind of have a built-in bias against faux things. Anyway, over the years, it kept cropping up, I kept rejecting it, until finally, the Facebook bookbinding group I joined started talking about it, how great it is for book covers. Hmmm. Well, what the heck. No harm in trying it. And as long as I'm at it, let's get these Sakura Gelly Roll Stardust Galaxy sparkly pens that are on sale. I'm SUCH a sucker for a sale!

So my order showed up this week, and although I haven't opened that Kraft-tex package, they do conveniently staple a small sample to the outside. I plan to put it through its paces, cutting small pieces to use as samples, trying out all the things it's supposed to be good at. On the surface though, I'm not convinced. It strikes me as thick paper with texturing on one side. But I'm mostly curious about sewing through it so we'll see. In the meantime, I got out those pens to make a sample in my multi-media sketchbook and thought for sure they would show up well on the black Kraft-tex. Well, not really. But boy, do they ever sparkle off the white paper. And at least one of them shows up ok on the brown paper I'm using in that recycled bookbinding challenge project (which frankly is why I bought them). Lots of experimentation could be on the horizon.

As long as I was at my work table, I decided it was time to quit dithering over the placement of a few dragonfly images on several of the spreads. I really need to go through my small bin of catalog and magazine pages to see if I can find more dragonflies. In the meantime, it took only a few minutes to paste down these that were ready to go and muse some more about further additions.

You may have to click for a larger view in order to see the faint pencil sketch

After lunch it was time to hit the beach . . . city beach that is. Still enjoying such beautiful fall weather, and I was having a good day physically which often is all I need to have a good day confidence wise. Time to revisit the accordion sketchbook drawing of the view from the park. I think I started this last fall, getting what I thought would be the hardest part of buildings at the start done and then some of the boats in the marina, filling out mountains and some trees in the background. The park itself juts out into the lake in a semi-circle and I thought I could get the entire 180 degrees in this sketchbook. I soon discovered I was wrong; after yesterday's bit of sketching, I think I will only get half way. I also discovered that all of the sailboats in the marina were more difficult to suss out than the buildings had been. I added enough to have to flip to the back, ending with the jetty. When I fill both sides of the sketchbook with this pencil sketching, I'll go back over it in ink and probably add some watercolor.

You know it's Easter because of the rabbit
Once home, I had a wild hair about those family slides I want to start scanning (remember, it's on THE LIST). They've been airing in the garage and I thought I'd take the opportunity to identify which carousel(s) harbored The specific time period I need first while I had good light with the garage door open. Mom had written on most of them in the first few carousels and then failed me after that! But what fun holding them up to the light and spotting ones I remember so well from the many evenings growing up when mom would make popcorn and dad would set up the screen and slide projector to view the family slides. One carousel had three years all intermingled and that orderly side of me could not stand leaving them that way. All chronological now and ready to scan!

As I eyed the calendar, noting how quickly September is passing, I suddenly remember that with October comes Inktober, that challenge to draw something in ink every day in October. Yikes! I think I pondered a theme for this year as soon as I finished my shoe collection last year, but now I have no idea what it might have been. Maybe something with rocks? Oh well, I'm not feeling like I want to be tied to a theme (whereas in 2016 & 2017 I found a theme very helpful to keep me sketching each day and interested). I have several thoughts and am leaning towards Zentangles. I have the step-outs for quite a few that I have not tried to do yet and it's been a long time since I've put together a Zentangle drawing so that almost has a killing 2 birds with 1 stone feel to it. Also on my mind is adding more in my "and then add red" sketchbook, practicing more with the brush pens I've bought but not mastered and rather than sketching from a model of any sort, more working with possible quilting motifs. I generally like to be so organized and logical but at the moment I feel more spontaneous and whatever the day brings. I did take a look at the official prompts for this year but no, they turn me off more than they help. I do hope some of you will join in. You don't have to be good. You don't have to be fancy. You just have to draw, and in the process, get better each day.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

It's Autumn

Yesterday was officially the first day of autumn but our weather has been cooler and crisper for a week or more, and some trees, including the birches behind my place, had already begun their colorful turn. I've been enjoying this maple, for instance, for at least a week. I wasn't planning on taking more fall color pictures to add to my files, but I know I hadn't captured this tree yet, which is by far outshining the other nearby maples I've photographed before.

But what really caught my eye yesterday, as I returned from shopping and turned onto my street, was the warm colors glowing from this marshy patch on the corner. I immediately thought of my piece Adrift, that these were the very same colors I'd put in that quilt!

I looked across the street at a smaller marshy patch to see if it was showing the same rich colors and it was not. Once I'd pulled into the garage, I raced upstairs for my camera and returned to capture this before the bit of sun that was out dipped back behind a cloud.

Not sure what all is in there but I did spot some cattails. But just look at the variety in the palette displayed in these grasses.

It was quite breezy too, causing the grasses to bend and sway in waves. I remember thinking when arranging the "grass" on Adrift that it needed to bend a bit, not stick straight up, just as I was now observing.

How do you capture that movement in a photo? I took a lot of snaps trying to do just that. And then I had that "duh" moment, the muse no doubt reminding me that my camera DOES have a video mode. Here's one of the short movies.

It's been awhile since I've been so taken with a scene that I just kept looking and taking pictures. Didn't I say in my last post how autumn inspires my quilting palette? Sucked me right in again yesterday!

Another artist inspired by nature is the macro-photographer Daniel Sroka, who often picks up leaves on his walks and takes them home to study and photograph. Here is a post from last fall about "some leaves of autumn" as shared on his blog. Also see this grouping of "breakaway" leaves.

In an e-mail where he shares from his Forthright photos, Sroka says something I can so relate to: "I sometimes wonder if I will eventually grow tired of photographing leaves. But every year when autumn arrives, I find myself inspired all over again. In this case, it was the color of the leaf caught my eye: a deep dark red, as if a glass of wine had spilled on a tablecloth." A few years back I thought I was done collecting leaves until that leaf cluster caught my eye, equally deep dark wine red. The moment ended up in one of my artist statements: " I will NOT pick up one more leaf because I have plenty. And then I spotted not a single leaf but this cluster, dark and inviting. Ok, I said. I have nothing like you in my collection so you can come home with me."

And so it goes with us artistic types. Forever at the mercy of the nature that so inspires us.  

Friday, September 21, 2018

What Floats Your Boat?

Spruced up Sandpoint Historic Train Depot
Do you have a good idea of what inspires you, makes you choose to work with particular colors or designs? I thought I did: clean lines, interesting angles, symmetry, repeating geometric shapes, everything orderly. I often think it's that traditional quilting background of mine and the study of antique quilts underlying this tendency in so much of my work. The curves and texture and autumn palette I know comes from my long time habit of walks in nature. So imagine my surprise when sorting through some photos of our recently restored historic train depot that I found them less interesting to me than the ones I took of the station in its dilapidated state. Here are some before and after shots to show what I mean.

Most of the restoration has been to the outside of the building, to stop damage from a leaking roof and crumbling mortar. I'd tried to capture the crack running down one wall under the window near a loading bay. The rest is a bit of a mess.

Here's the wall "better" and I must admit I rather like the way they painted that loading by door. Except for that, this area has lost that "worn" character that theoretically I should not be drawn to. All neat and pretty and orderly design elements which I always think of as my core inspiration.

The brick platform along this side of the building and wrapping around to the front was falling apart, some bricks missing. It reminded me of some quilts I'd seen where the geometric pattern started falling apart and off the quilt. Could I do this, I remember wondering?

I was glad to see that the brickwork had been restored and in some areas replaced with new bricks. But now in a photo it struck me as rather boring from an inspiration point of view, although quite lively from the perspective of placement and value

Here is where old meets new. I realized how much more I preferred the old. Maybe the new will weather over time to be more appealing to me.

So what exactly is the charm of these worn buildings with structural cracks and peeling paint? I realize now how many peeling paint, weathered doors show up on the internet and how drawn I am to them, very much not alone in this.

And as much as we admire a building that has been saved from destruction, what about its smoothed out surface and straightening up soon has us moving on?

Well, I can't say that is a hundred percent true for me. I still stare at newer buildings and want to sketch them, still entranced with their lines and angles, especially ones that soar into the sky, and dream of capturing that perspective in cloth, if only abstractly. But now I see better this other thing that can draw my attention, things opposite to what I think I prefer, the gentle decay that says "Look again. There's a lot going on here even as I slowly disappear."

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

On The Trail Again

Yesterday the trifecta of what I've been waiting for finally happened. Smokeless air, cooperative weather and improved shoulder coincided at last and found me heading for a short walk along the Pend d'Oreille Bay trail. Can hardly justify calling this broad smooth and mostly flat trail a hiking one, but it was just what I needed and could handle. Look at that smile! (See more about this trail in this post.)

Granted, it was a coolish sweatshirt sort of day, with the sun straining at times to show through a thin high flat cloud cover, but at least rain was not in the forecast as it was for today. On the drive to the trail head, I'd noticed these puffy clouds against the flat gray sky, how many values of gray were represented, and was reminded of an "Ode to Gray" I'd recently read on The Paris Review. I agree with the author, by the way, on many of her points about what makes gray so great. I could definitely use the Paynes Gray in my little watercolor set to paint these clouds that seemed to lean towards a blue tint.

I've been wanting to get back to this trail because of a tree formation I'd discovered just off of it, one I thought I might like to sketch. I decided to leave the sketchbook home this time and take the camera instead. Just getting out to walk seemed enough of an effort for now. What caught my eye was the way the tree that had bent (but not uprooted) to rest on the nearby incline had sprouted a new trunk that has shot far into the sky. I've seen this one other time when I lived in Wisconsin.

And in this case, not one but two new trunks grow along the angled one.

They both go as high as the surrounding trees, straight and tall, their tops hidden in branches and leaves.

Moss grows on the rough bark, and the base of one of the new trunks undulates and creates a visual texture not unlike as if it were growing straight out of the ground.

After capturing these images, I walked a bit further up the trail before deciding not to press my physical luck and head back to the car. My eyes were mostly on the trail and the lake, but by chance I happened to look the other direction where these bright Mountain Ash berries glowed as if electrified.

For such an otherwise somber and shadowy walk, this splash of color was a great way to end it.

Friday, September 07, 2018

As If I Needed More...

My sorted tie collection pre recent addition
The muse has been good about not pressuring me while I've been focusing on recovering from my shoulder issues. But she must have noticed me pausing on the way to my laptop, being drawn again to some things up on my design wall a couple of weeks ago. Pausing long enough that I was actually THINKING about what I'd tentatively planned to do with that batik and that silk tie and could I get started on that yet. Nope, not yet but maybe soon. So last weekend when the air cleared so I could resume my daily walks that take me past a charity shop, and I stifled as I often have to the urge to side trip in to check on silk ties, she must have made the side trip herself.

Because the next trip past, she was very urgent about the need for me to take a swing through the shop. What's the harm, I thought, as I never carry my wallet on me on these walks. I also check for leather clothing that I might get for cheap, and having issues that might make them unwearable but ok to cut up for book making projects (no, I've never actually found the right thing to buy yet). So I started as far away from the silk ties as I could, check every other corner of the store that might harbor something I "need" and ultimately found myself in front of the tie rack.

Oh muse! No wonder you were so insistent! Front and center was an unworn, still in the wrappings Jerry Garcia tie - something I particularly look for and occasionally find. A quick check showed there were other silk ties of interest, so I moved (hid) the Garcia tie behind the rest and planned to return the next day. If nothing else, I'd buy that one with the 20% off coupon I had from donating some stuff I no longer needed.

So I had 24 hours to think about this. Lord knows I have plenty of silk ties to work with (I'm afraid to see just how many; ok fine, I have to know: 66 plus good size sections left over from 11 ties I had taken apart and worked into my art quilts - not as bad as I feared.) and haven't been making the sorts of things lately that calls for them. How do I justify adding more to the pile, when the last bagful I brought home are still in the bag? Then I remembered that I usually treat myself to a birthday present by finding something at our local August Arts and Crafts Fair. But I didn't go this year because of the smoke and my shoulder. I also remembered that earlier this year I'd looked at those new wool pressing mats (has anyone tried one?) at the biggish quilt shop in the biggish city where I have my car serviced and some doctor appointments. I quipped to the sales clerk that they were pretty expensive, but then again, I had this birthday coming up in August so maybe I'd treat myself to one then - I knew I'd be back in August for one of those appointments. But that appointment got canceled because of my shoulder. Hey! I'm due a birthday present to myself. The ties will be it!

But with one caveat, I silently made myself promise as I diverted from my walk to enter the store. You may buy these but only if you actually use ANY of your ties in a project fairly soon. Or maybe that was the muse laying down the law. She let me walk away with 10 - a modest haul by my usual standards - exciting graphic designs and one light green one that caught the light like none of the others. I'm already getting ideas...

My charity shop haul

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Gotta Share

Me with my old dance partner and close friend
Lookie lookie! Here I am sitting on "my" bench at city beach with one of my best friends from high school who I have not seen in probably 40 years. Charlie and I did the usual losing track of one another as marriages and jobs and moves flung us apart. Facebook brought us back together quite awhile ago now, and he gave me some advance notice that he'd be in the area this week, hoping we could find a time when we could get together. I didn't say anything about my shoulder issues, but have worriedly eyed the calendar and my progress, hoping I'd be better enough to sit through a lunch. I am and I did, and we even spent a few hours enjoying a perfect day for taking in the lake and various activities upon it. Charlie said he could easily fill the whole card in his serious camera taking pictures of the boats and paddle boarders and mountains. Thank you smoke for not spoiling this moment!

Mr. English handing out pop during a break
The details are a bit hazy but I'm thinking Charlie and I got to know each other through the square dance group I joined when I was in junior high school. In fact, the tight group of friends that saw me through my high school days when the various cliques in my class didn't include me was forged out of those weekly dances at Mr. English's Hayloft, a space above his detached garage that he transformed with perfectly sanded and waxed wood floors, rustic beams and barn-like decorations into a place to teach not only square dancing but couples dances like waltzes and tangos and polkas and a basic two-step, and for utter fun, a Mexican Hat Dance. He'd put on a record and call the squares, demo steps for both guys and gals, and on rare occasions his wife would come up and they'd glide across the floor like nothing we'd seen, or could do ourselves. In their younger days they'd travel to events and I suspect, perhaps even competed. All I know is that it was such a treat to dance with him, that perfect frame, firm lead and gliding footwork whisking one around the room.

Of course, the guys didn't sit with us during break
And that was the way Charlie was as well. He carried more weight than most of the boys which might make you think he'd be a plodder. But he was surprisingly light on his feet and nary a stumble (or trod on partner's toe - I can't say the same of me). I was so very much in the habit of having to lead the other boys around the dance floor and count out the steps to them that Charlie often had to stop after a few steps, give me a shake and say, "Stop Leading!" Oh yeah, no leading necessary with him.

John, another of our motley crew, with the resident owl

I have so few photos of us in the Hayloft, and none, I realize, of Charlie except one where he is mostly hidden. He has recently shared some of his photos with me, the black and white ones here, and between his and mine, you can get the flavor of the place and how much fun we had there.

Yeah, that's me having a gay old time!
Besides his twinkle toes, the other thing I remember most of Charlie was the night outside the Hayloft when I was crying on his shoulder about my insecurities and feeling like I wasn't liked (you know, teenage angst). Again, that firm taking hold of me and giving me a shake, then pinning me with his eyes and firmly telling me to stop short changing myself, followed up by a recitation of all the things he thought good, maybe even superior about me when compared to those people I so wanted to be accepted by, ending with a stern don't ever forget this. Sometimes a girl needs a wake-up call from someone she respects, and he gave me mine. Bear in mind, Charlie and I never had any romantic connections, just a very good friendship. The kind that when one summer after we had both graduated and found ourselves back home and between boyfriend/girlfriend, he called me up and said, "I'm not asking you out on a date. I don't want to "go steady" with you. I'd just like someone to do things with this summer, go to the movies with, that sort of thing. What do you say?" I said yes, and we had such fun and such good talks that summer.

David, my other favorite dance partner and close friend, no longer with us.

And so, there we sat at the beach, catching up on the years, pooling what we knew about the current whereabouts and situations of those we square danced with and that inner circle of close friends, some a year ahead of me, some a year behind, who spent many a Friday or Saturday night together besides our square dance nights, me being reminded why I like him so much and that those reasons still hold. Just an easy person to be with still, an easy comfort between us even after all these years. I wished he could waltz me around the floor one more time but time has taken its toll and his body would protest, he sadly admits. Makes me twice as glad he made the effort to come see me. Facebook is better than nothing, but nothing beats reuniting face to face.

Janet and me with the public marina in the background
Oh, by the way, he ended up marrying the younger sister of a gal that also ran with our group. I didn't have a lot of contact with Janet back in those days so it was a true delight to spend time with her too and get to know her better. After all, she knows all the dirt about our motley crew! 

Charlie and me 1969