Monday, July 29, 2019

Summer In Full Swing

Brief heat wave (that would be the 90's for us), a few raucous thunderstorms, and now settling into a string of sunny breezy days in the 80's, and you have summer at last in the Panhandle of Idaho. I've been to city beach, which recently hosted a National Thistle Sailboat Regatta, and found the public marina full of boats, children splashing in the lake waters which are still quite cold, and adults strolling or soaking up the sun.

My little deck garden brings much joy, especially from the dahlia plant that kept calling to me when I was making my selections at the garden store. It's gone from one bloom at a time to several to enjoy.

I picked this one out because its blooms are not just a bright yellow, but have this reddish orange accent around each petal.

And with the warmer weather, I look for things I can do while sitting out on the deck. Perfect for enjoying an iced coffee and doing some Sketchbook Skool "homework", creating a swatch record of my many colored pencils.

Click on the picture for a closer look

This sort of exercise is right up my alley because, just like with my sewing and quilting supplies, I almost enjoy the organizing and testing of my pencils more than creating something with them. Less pressure I guess and surprisingly informative. For instance, as I sorted the pencils in my black zippered holder by number, I realized I had a mixture of the basic Prismacolor pencil and their Premier line - first I'd noticed that. So I swatched them separately, then pulled more from the tin of Premiers that weren't duplicates. Not only could I instantly feel the difference between them as I made the swatches (small test from the side, small test using light pressure, and a square using normal pressure and multiple layers in two directions plus circular), in cases where I had the same color in both plain and Premier, I could see a difference in color or saturation.

I moved on to my Verithin set and got more surprises. Not only is the numbering system much different (with not much rhyme or reason to my eye), but the way that harder thinner lead laid its color across the paper was also different. It worked into the troughs and valleys of the multi-media paper pretty much in a single pass and my impression was that it would be easier to use overall. We shall see as the class progresses. In the meantime, I have this terrific reference chart and a greater insight into the pencils I own. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Colored Pencils . . .

. . . I have a few. More than a few. This is about 2/3rds of my Prismacolor pencils. This lovely holder flips that right side over like a book page to reveal more elastic bands to hold more pencils and I've filled one side of that. I started with a small recommended set of colors and a book that supposedly would tell me how to blend them to create all the other colors I'd need, but I was soon frustrated with that process. When individual pencils went on sale, I bought every color I did not have of these regular ones or in the additional 12 pack of Prismacolor Verathin pencils - a harder version for detail work. Then there's the set of 24 Prismacolor Premier pencils that my cousin gave me (very soft and highly pigmented - they flow like butter). And of course, the set of Derwent Inktense water soluble pencils. I even have a single solitary watercolor pencil (and now know the difference between it and those Inktense ones)! Is it any wonder I would be enticed by a Sketchbook Skool class devoted to learning how to use watercolor pencils?

I still haven't gotten past the first week of videos of the class but already I've learned a few key things. Primarily, using colored pencils is not for the impatient! It requires laying down layers of color usually using a light hand, not pressing down hard, and constant sharpening of your pencil to keep a sharp point. I can see now how I misused my pencils when I started coloring in my "sit and rotate" sketch and why I was struggling a bit. In the photo above, you can see the two-step process I'm now using to create the dark raspberry color of my couch. The first pass was made with the side of the pencil fairly lightly as seen on the left, and now I am working on the second pass more with the point and more pressure to get into the valleys of the paper's texture and lay down more pigment. I've been working on this off and on while listening to commentary that doesn't require my eyes to be glued to the screen, and I've realized that I find it somewhat meditative much like I find hand quilting and other hand work. I'm the patient personality that can enjoy these pencils!

Another thing I like about working with these is the challenge of matching the pencil color to my subject. Even with so many colors, one still needs to occasionally layer a second color over the first, and this is another reason it is important not to use too heavy of a hand on the first layer. Not all in that photo above is done with pencil though. I'm working some of it in brush pen, especially anything black or grey. The red in the draped shawl was first done in red Pitt Pen that is more of an orange red or burnt orange than true red. I decided to try "painting over" of that area with my new Pigma Micron brush pen which is a very bright red. They blended very well to create a color closer to the actual color of the shawl. And may I say, while everyone seemed to be recommending the Pitt or Pentel brush pens and no one mentioning these Pigma ones, I've struggled to master their use but find the Pigma one so much easier to control.

Yes, I am enjoying this a great deal. And once I've got the basics down, I look forward to the teachers who will be showing how to use colored pencils with other media like watercolor and inks, and how to use those Inktense water soluble ones too. But just so you don't think I'm abandoning my textile work, I took some pics of myself at the machine and was quite pleased at how comfortable and confident I look there! And in the background, all those fabrics that were spawning ideas and have been waiting patiently for my return . . .


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Filling Time

So you know how I said I was itching to get back to my sketching? Yesterday I was down in "the big city" to have a minor repair done to my car, something that would take about an hour and a half. This dealership has a really nice customer lounge area with interesting plants I often intend to try sketching as I wait for service to be completed. I pack up my sketchbook, some reading material, maybe my tablet to look at things on the web. I settle myself in, look around at potential sketching subjects, and then clutch, succumbing to intimidation. The sketchbook never makes it out of my bag and I default to reading.

But not on this day. I was determined not to let these plants intimidate me! This one with the spiky leaves was by the high table I like to sit at and I got right to it. Done in pencil, I was soon wishing I had some colored pencils or paint to help me sort out the lights and darks and shadings. But for once, I'd sized my sketching to the page rather than suddenly finding I'd run out of room, and found some relaxation in drawing the slightly curving shapes of the leaves that sometimes intertwined. A good use of my time while I waited, I decided.

I stopped off at Michael's on my way out of town and dumped too much money on more sketching and painting supplies. How could I resist all those 40% off coupons as they have their big clearance sale? Have added some better quality and sizes of watercolor and acrylic paint brushes to my selection, more brush pens in different colors, a paint color I've run out of, and some multi-media sketchbooks that were buy one get second at half off. I'm a sucker for a good sale! Plus I'd been putting off ordering any brushes because I really needed to see, hold, and feel the bristles of potential additions. And now have eliminated a bunch of excuses for putting off working through some lingering lessons from the Sketchbook Revival course and getting on with my multi-media explorations.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

I So Often Need A Push

Eve's Lavender Seas (click on pic for larger view)
I think of myself as being self-driven but in truth I too much of the time need that outside influence and a deadline to get me into action. So with the looming deadline of the visit that would include the little girl that I owed a quilt to, I've been head down for the last 3 weeks or so. Once I determined that I could indeed quilt without flaring up my previously inflamed nerve, I returned to a tried and true formula: sitting down to quilt each day before lunch, and trusting that just a little quilting each day would get me to my goal, no need for marathon sessions. I soon knew how far I could get in an hour, and was relieved to finish the quilting on Monday, get it bound on Tuesday, and present Eve's Lavender Seas to the little one on Wednesday.

Goddaughter Sarah & Molly of the Undersea Playground quilt
I used the same formula to tackle long neglected housework and straightening up that suddenly matters when you know company is coming - a little bit each day. And then as time was running out, I did the sane thing and let go of some of it. There's clean, neat and tidy, and then there's excessively clean, spotless and House Beautiful perfect. While not blood relatives, this family coming to visit IS like family, and hardly looking for lapses in my living space. My biggest concern as the clock ticked down was doing a bit of child-proofing, making sure my treasured pieces scattered around on furniture were out of reach, and anything truly dangerous too. It all worked out fine and I was more relaxed about the little ones in my midst than I ever thought possible.

Eve with her step-brother Jonah

I have so little experience with small children, but remembering how well received older sister Molly's quilt was, I stuck to a similar theme (and some of the same fabrics), quilting in bubbles and fish and coral. I forgot that little kids get fixated on certain things as they grow and explore their surroundings. Eve's current fixation is with flowers (she was eager to show mine some love with careful watering - see pic above), so totally ignored my carefully quilted fish and pointed straight at what she thought was a flower (actually an anemone I think). Well, I wasn't about to argue with her as she repeated "flower, flower!"

I used several different colors of threads on this quilt, with more ease in choosing than I normally exhibit. I kept thinking, use it up, use lots of thread up, and realized this came from some restless nights thinking about how I'd stockpiled so much fabric and thread and wasn't sure I'd be able to get back to quilting again. Still, I have way too much thread in my stash so yes, use it up!

I was glad I followed the advice of my art group to quilt top to bottom right over those blocks turned sideways, rather than my usual adhering to stitching in the ditch and running the designs in line with the block's piecing. You can see a bit of how I maneuvered a curving design around the ends of the strips in those sideways blocks.

Here are my poor ignored fishies. I was following directions from a magazine article which did nothing to add eyes. I thought the fish looked too bland without something else, so I inked in eyes on most of them.

I used a piece of my late friend's beautiful hand-dyed cotton for the backing. With the exception of the orange and a multi-color thread used on both front and back, the bobbin thread is a dark purple which blends well with it. Click for a larger view to see some of the quilting.

Here's a closer shot.

I really should have made a separate label, but I'd already spent two session on the last day to get the binding done and I was out of time and steam. It was difficult to find a place on the backing to ink in the label info, but I finally found a spot. But no pen was showing up very well. I double checked the info on my white Sakaru Gel Pen and decided it might just work like a pigma pen - permanent and archival. Inked over the black lettering, my label info finally showed up. Fingers crossed it will survive through some washings.
I admit that all this pushing and the time spent with little girls in perpetual motion took its toll, and I am still recovering a bit. It was all so worth it, especially pushing myself past my fear about working at the sewing machine. Now I know I can get back to textile work. But in truth, I find I'm itching to get back to my sketching. I signed up for another Sketchbook Skool class a month ago, this one specifically on colored pencils, and I've not had time to do more than look at a few videos from the first week. It got me excited and now I have time to watch those videos and do the homework. 

Friday, July 05, 2019

Remembering My "Choir Boy"

Allen (right) with best friend in front of the Episcopal church in Wallace ID with the Methodist church in the background
As many of you know, I lost my husband on this day back in 2000. I have always chosen to spend this "anniversary" alone, often at home, in some form of contemplation of our life together and of all that he meant to me. Today has been a particularly quiet and contemplative day as I also recover from the visit from my goddaughter and her family over the last two days (more on that later). Whew! I am not used to the constant activity and occasional high decibel shrieks of a 1-1/2 & 3-1/2 year old but it was lovely to meet them finally and even lovelier to spend some time with my goddaughter, who remembers my husband and enjoys hearing stories of our life together (and the occasional story about her parents).

I incorporated into my day an IRest session to help me focus on Allen's memory and it left me peaceful, relaxed and with a helpful insight. The session led me to thinking about the joyful times in our relationship, how much we enjoyed each other's company, shared inside jokes, laughed together. After the joyous time with my goddaughter, I loved the opportunity to extend that joyful feeling. So this has been such a good day.

For some reason, the photo above got lodged in my consciousness, maybe because my goddaughter's stepson is off to church camp in a few days, the very church camp where my husband and I and his best friend were counselors back in the late 70's, and I was able to make a connection with this 12 year old by mentioning that. This time when we courted and those early years of marriage were years of a lot of joyful times, and many of those times involved that best friend, who was the one to gently draw us into working with the  youth program of his diocese. Both he and my husband were Episcopalians while I was a Methodist, but it wasn't long before they had won me over to their particular version of Christianity. It really wasn't a hard sell! As luck would have it, the Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church in my home town were just a short block apart, and it wasn't long before visits home to see my parents included attending not just the church I'd grown up in, but that Episcopal church down the block that I'd hardly stepped foot in when I lived there. And in this photo I've captured my husband (on the right) and his best friend after the Episcopal Easter service at which they helped at the altar in 1977. They were a rascally pair and I've always thought of this picture as "The Choir Boys" whose smiles would tell you they were going to be up to no good soon.

In fact, my husband felt he had a calling to the priesthood, and shortly after we married, we moved to Berkeley CA where he attended seminary classes for a few weeks until the financial aide office broke the news that he did not qualify for financial aide after all. It broke his heart to have to drop out and it took us a long time to recover from the resentment and ill feelings that followed. I'm not sure he ever got over it. In retrospect, it may have been a blessing in disguise, this diverting from the priesthood, one we could not understand at the time. He went on to find different jobs to sustain us, but always looked for ways to serve in whatever town we ended up in (and there were many). Chalice Bearer, Lay Reader, singing in the choir, playing his trumpet, and generally doing good deeds, many of which I was not aware of until after he died. My "choir boy" was a bit of a choir boy after all.

And since leaving this earth, I always think of him playing his trumpet in the biggest orchestra of all, and I suppose when I join him, I'll find my place in the choir he's playing for. I can think of worse ways to spend eternity . . .