Saturday, January 25, 2020

Lingering Curiosity

Geez, what a nag! However, putting up this "GO!" sign on the outside of the door to my studio (rather than putting it up inside the studio) is having the desired effect. A little well-placed guilt can be a good motivator - lol. I've yet to set up a schedule for my activities so I know I am not getting as much done as I could, but I have been snagging bits and pieces of time to follow up on things I've had questions about or do small steps toward a bigger project, partly because of that reminder on the studio door.

We'll start with this that I'd been curious about, one of the pieces of brown paper bag that I colored with Art Graf - a water soluble graphite - in my first attempt at faux leather. I wasn't happy with the way the Art Graf worked and couldn't get the blending I expected when a wet brush was applied. But never one to waste things, I pondered how I could improve it for use covering another book board. I settled on stamping over it randomly with a commercial stamp inked with a permanent ink pad. Nice! Even though the Art Graf is supposed to be permanent after wetting, it seemed to me that bits of it had a tendency to rub off. So now that it had been stamped, I could satisfy my curiosity of how it would look if I painted a protective layer of matte medium over the entire thing. I had heard from others that although matte medium is supposed to be "matte", it often leaves a bit of shine anyway, and that was true in this case (as you might be able to see some reflection in the lower left). I think I would try something else in the future; I'm not keen on the look or feel but it will be fine to cover a book board with.

With matte medium on my brush, it was time to move to another thing I'd wondered about. I'd resolved the issue with the 4 needle coptic book not closing, thanks to a tip from a member of the handmade book club I joined (wet the folds of the watercolor signatures slightly and weight under books again), and I've been eager to work in it, inspired by those pages of eco-printing. Encouraged by the success with crumbling dry leaves onto paper before bundling for eco-printing, I wondered if those crumbles would stick to a page coated with matte medium.

It did not work so well. The dry bits would only stick if pushed into medium and trying to do it with my finger only meant that many stuck to that finger rather than the page. I finally got enough arranged and tried dabbing more matte medium over them, only to find many stuck to the paint brush as they had to my finger. I eventually got them off the brush and on the page and let it dry. Only then could I get another layer of matte medium over them to pretty much hold them in place. But they did not make a particularly interesting page, so I went on to my next bit of curiosity: could I take a dried leaf and stick it to the page? I'd read that one could do that with a pressed leaf (but no guarantees that it wouldn't decompose under the medium), but my leaf had not been pressed, still had some curl in it. Well, slather on the matte medium and see what happens. The medium somewhat hydrated the leaf so that it became soft and pliable. I coated the page where the leaf would go and coated the back of the leaf, placed it down and used a brush to add more medium while flattening the leaf. It had some spring to it though and wouldn't stay flat on the page, so I placed a piece of wax paper over it, closed up the book and put it under weights until it was dry. Everything appears to be well adhered now.

I'd been removing tea leaves from used bags and had a small stack that I decided to adhere to various pages in my book. Ohhh, they look ever so good on this watercolor paper and continue the colors of the eco-prints. There were two large ones that could span the center of a signature so down they went with matte medium (and no shine).

I tore the sealed edges off smaller ones and set them on point. Something else will be placed over them probably. Maybe more leaves? Or maybe I will doodle around them or try some watercolor paints.

Really liking the soft edges left from tearing, I tore one bag into several strips for one side and just overlapped two bags on the opposite page. Then I adhered the squiggles that are the backing paper of fusible after cutting shapes for my Sailing the Wine Dark Seas duo. My thought was I'd use a technique by Karen Stamper learned during that Sketchbook Revival course where the next step has you drench the page in different inks and possibly remove strips like the squiggles to reveal the white page underneath (scroll down about midway to read about it). But I've rather fallen in love with this page just as it is and may set up a different page for the drenching.

Speaking of ink, I thought this book might be a good place to try yet another technique I've seen the results of and thought would be fun. Perhaps you have seen this or even tried it yourself. Very simple in that you take a string or piece of yarn, coat it with paint or ink, lay it over the page in a winding back and forth manner leaving a tail, close the book over it (or place another piece of paper over it) and pull the string out. I resorted to winging it here drawing on my memory of what I'd seen awhile ago on-line and found that there IS a slight learning curve. My goal was to end up with something looking somewhat like a tree, and yeah, my first one does, somewhat. But there was perhaps too much ink on the yarn I used, or I pressed too hard holding the book together when I pulled on it, or both. 

Here's another one with the soaked yarn I used. Better but I kept ending up having to pull really hard most of the way through to get the rest of the yarn out, so again, probably holding the book closed too tightly.

So Much Ink! I kept going - waste not want not and maybe things would get better - until only faint lines were being produced. I'll go back into these - I have ideas for text over the inked parts on the darker ones for instance.

This is the last thing I tried while I was working with ink. I'd seen a tutorial using ink instead of watercolor paint to create a serendipitous landscape. Like some Procion dyes, some inks will separate into several colors when dropped onto a wet piece of watercolor paper. So first I created a sample page of the four fountain pen inks I have on hand. None separated into different colors, just lighter or darker. The black maybe did a tad but nothing like the ink in the tutorial. Still, stubborn as I am, I followed his technique on the bottom of the page with my green ink (because it fit the color theme developing in my book) before trying it for real. Ehh. The ink didn't want to move, maybe I didn't get the page wet enough. I fiddled. I decided to go ahead in the book anyway.

Not even remotely like the example in the tutorial. Seriously, follow the link above and see for yourself. Not to be totally thwarted, I plan to try again but using the black ink instead. Like I said, I'm stubborn!

More ideas, more to be curious about, more to come as I work in this little book and elsewhere. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Winter Arrived

View from my deck
Last weekend it snowed nearly non-stop, from Friday morning until Sunday night. Only 5 inches on Friday, but more like 9 on Saturday and Sunday I lost count, checking before shoveling the walk that there was about 4 inches, one hour later another inch and by Monday morning another 4 or 5 inches.

This decorative fir of about 5 ft succumbed to the weight of the snow

I think it is safe to say that we got around 24 inches in all. So thankful my rent now includes plowing of my driveway - and the piles on either side are getting pretty high!

It's was cold most of last week as well, this being our high when I took these pictures. Overnight it was in the teens and the windchills dropped things even lower. I got out my chin to ankle down coat for my walk on Wednesday.

The apartments at the end of my street the day I ventured on a walk

And it has continued to snow, pretty much each day, if only a little or sometimes 4 or 5 inches. I took advantage of a break in storms yesterday to make a grocery run and was a bit surprised to see the main roads were still compact snow in spite of plowing and sanding. That will change as we are due for a slight warm-up this coming week.

You'd think I'd have spent a lot of time in the studio but not so. I've been watching daily updates to the Dakar Rally which is a 12 day event. I've been running out periodically to clear the snow off the satellite dish and my short walkway to the front door. I've been catching up on a little reading.

One day last week, I had a "GO" plan that was to start with some stamping. I spent nearly all my allotted time searching for the stamps which ended up being pretty much right in front of me. Definitely time to get a handle on the mess which no longer inspires but impedes creativity. The next day I set aside more time and had barely gotten started when my brother called. He'd had to beg off our weekly chat during his lunch break at work, promising to call again which I thought would be the next day's lunch break. But his wife is out of town so he called after work from home, allowing us a lot longer to share stories. So enjoyable but there went my studio time. Yesterday I had better luck, once the grocery run was out of the way, and I will soon have pictures to share of my dabbling. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures of my snow!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Assessing 2019

Early in December in preparation for composing my annual Christmas letter, I reviewed my blog posts of 2019 and was honestly surprised at what I found. Did I really do that shibori snow-dyeing this year? Finish up that dragonfly book that was a response to a recycling challenge? Play with silk fusion and stamping into hot glue? All those things felt like they'd happened the previous year and I didn't have much memory of what happened before June, when I gave machine quilting a tentative whirl. Instead, my faulty memory insisted I'd pretty much focused on sketching and various media on paper, and then got some hiking in before the weather turned. But it was enough to get me assessing my year off from quilting and exhibiting.

That's why I think it doesn't hurt to do a year-end review, and those who do have probably finished that task by now. But it's not too late to look back at the previous year and see what you can learn from it. Here's a simple tool I came across that mirrored what I'd been doing in my head but taking it a bit farther. You might like to give it a try. Simply divide a piece of paper into four quadrants, the left hand ones to list "wins" and "losses", the right hand ones to record "lessons" you learned from each of those wins and losses. The "wins" would be things that went well, that you were excited about, and even proud of. The "losses" would then be what didn't go well, what disappointed you, and what didn't go the way you wanted them to. I still need to do this written exercise but already I know a few things to go in each quadrant.

First and foremost would be to put my 2019 resolution word, "wing it" into the "wins" quadrant. I've never been very comfortable just winging it on anything, but making it my mantra gave me a freedom I'd not allowed myself very often. Not only did it help me to get up the courage to try some things without spending a lot of time researching how to do them, I quit worrying about how I would use the results of all these trials and sometimes errors. Just do it for the experience and to decide if it's worth exploring some more.

I recently read an interview with Urban Sketcher and teacher Paul Wang (January 2020 issue of Drawing Attention) where he talks about the need for "roots and wings" and I realized that my wing it approach was the wings part of his analogy, the part that has been missing a bit from my creative journey:

"One of my teaching philosophies is to have roots and wings at the same time. Some students are too rooted in (in formula). They need to fly. Experiment. Other students might benefit from grounding in principles and concepts and theories . . . When you have the balance of both, you're going to be stable yet adventurous at the same time. So today... should we fly?...Or take roots?"
Paul Wang on Instagram

So getting used to winging it should make it easier now to break out of my rootedness as I return to my art quilting.

"Roots and wings" isn't the only place where I need more balance. I've always had so many interests vying for my time and attention, and the ability to dabbled in so many of them in 2019 was surely a win. But it also pointed out my "all or nothing" nature, the tendency to focus on one thing to the exclusion of most everything else, and to let time get away from me from either lack of scheduling of my time or finding that my curiosity has taken me down an internet rabbit hole. (Working on my family history is a good example of that.) I think the key to a satisfying year for me is to find a balance in how I spend the time set aside for creativity (all those competing interests from sketching to multi-media to surface design to quilting), and to also find a balance in attention given to my other interests (reading, knitting, genealogy, organizing and digitizing the family history files, hiking). I really need to manage my time better, and with that, balance should come. After all, whenever I engaged in something with short-term daily requirements (like INKtober or all those soon to be disappearing free Sketchbook Revival videos), I WAS able to schedule the time required to keep up (a definite one for the "wins" quadrant).

To be honest, I have not missed the quilting as much as I thought I would and I'm not sure which heading that would go under. I've caught myself feeling reluctant to get back to the quilting because I'm not ready to give up the sketching and the multi-media experiments, which the quilting focus always demanded what with its constant exhibit deadlines. That may be why my 2020 resolution word rose to the top of the list and felt like an answer to this quandary of so much I want to do but running out of time to do it. If I heed this resolution to GO! at every turn, I shouldn't have to give anything up, should I? There should be a way to balance my time to include more than just one thing, to be efficient as I work, to seamlessly move from one to the other during the day or week, to schedule my days and weeks so nothing gets irretrievably left behind. Because I truly believe that everything in my life feeds into making me happy and productive and creative. Without engagement in all that variety I'm left unhappy and full of regret and longing. Time to GO!

Tuesday, January 07, 2020


I'm one of those "resolution word" people - so much more helpful than the old writing out of resolutions for the New Year that soon go by the wayside. A single word can help propel you, serve as a reminder of a larger yearly intent, guide you back onto your path when you think you've gotten lost. I started thinking about a word for 2020 weeks ago, even jotting a few words down as they came to me. While all were good candidates for helping shape my vision for the year, the one I kept coming back to was "GO!" So "Go!" it is. Let me explain why by starting with a recap of how 2019's word served me.

You might remember that I chose "Wing It" for 2019. I am NOT a wing it sort of person (as I explain in this post about my choice), and in my intended sabbatical year, I sensed a need and a desire to continue to break out of my usual personality type of being totally prepared before starting something. This tendency to research something to death did often keep me from wasted time and frustrations during the making, but it also could serve as encouragement to my other tendency to procrastinate. And so while I might have the proper desire to start a project or try a new technique, the discomfort of not knowing what I was doing would drive me to track down all the information I could find first rather than just plunging in and seeing what happened. Well, not so much in 2019. If something caught my interest, I had permission to give it a go with minimal information, just wing it and see what happened. And for the most part, there were many more pleasant surprises than frustrating failures. I could get to like this.

However, in looking back at the year, I know I did not always spend my time well which meant I didn't get to or make progress on too many things that I intended to. There was too much sitting and thinking and looking and wanting to do followed by I'm just too tired or I've run out of time today or a myriad of other excuses for not taking action. It is true that I still struggle with the sometimes daunting fatigue which is a frequent symptom of the auto-immune syndrome I live with and that often leaves me unable to face doing the simplest tasks. But often I'm just procrastinating again, finding simpler ways to fill my time (i.e. too much time on the internet or watching tv). And so, I came to the conclusion that instead of sighing in defeat on any given day, I needed to constantly remind myself to GO! Not just when it comes to my creative endeavors but in all parts of my life. As I general rule, I always feel so much better (both physically and emotionally) when I do. And of course, I am so much more satisfied when I'm getting things done.

So that is what I hope to do this year. When I think of something I should or need or want to be doing, I won't put it off to a better time, I'll just tell myself to GO! Even the smallest thing that I'm tempted to put off, just GO get started on it and do it. When I try to talk myself out of something, rationalize why it can wait, don't accept that, just GO! And as much as anything, re-establish some routines and schedules sorely missing in my life the last few years so the excuses of running out of time become moot, balance is established, and I approach my everyday life with this energy of GO!


Previous resolution words:
2008 - Freedom
2009 - Calm
2010 - Focus
2011 - Refocus
2013 - Perseverance
2014 - Explore
2015 - Fearless
2016 - Light
2017 - Endure 
2018 - Refresh
2019 - Wing It!