Monday, September 26, 2022

Inspiration Can Be Anywhere

I've had this catalog sitting on my desk in front of the computer for several weeks now. I am not a chicken person when it comes to designs on anything, much less my quilting. And yet, something about these chickens fascinate me. Maybe it's the simplicity of the shapes, ones that should be easy for me to draw. And all those different sizes and shapes of the spots on them. Full disclosure, it took me quite awhile to realize that they were actually holes the the metal chickens and the green of the spots was just the grassy background showing through. None the less, it got me thinking of the many ways I could play with these chickens. Here are a few of the ideas I came up with:

  1. Do a simple sketch with pen and fill in the spots and background with colored pens or pencils.
  2. Use black acrylic paint to fill in the shape and then dab green acrylic paint on top for the spots.
  3. Or use a green Maribu Art Crayon to dab the spots on a black background since it is opaque.
  4. And finally, cut the chickens out of black fabric and free cut the irregular spots out of fabric with fusible on the back. Or if feeling really ambitious, cut holes in the black chicken shapes which will have fusible on the back and place them on grassy fabric.
  5. Can you think of other ways to interpret these chickens?

But I did not try any of these because I had a bum week, spending most of it not feeling very good after I had my flu shot. This has never happened before but it would account for the two awful days when I really didn't feel like doing a thing but lying on the couch and the other days when I was not up to speed. Have decided that the reaction could be because my body is already on overload mending from the surgery. It has passed now, and although I did very little of anything last week, I DID spend a lot of time reading a lengthy science fiction novel with an impending due date a week away. If I had felt better, I might have felt guilty about the hours making my way through the end of the book.

So having done nothing creative all last week (Another full disclosure: all three of my motorcycle racing series were racing Saturday and Sunday so watching 12 races and 3 superpoles pretty much took up the weekend). I took a look at the next Zentangle in the recent series today, and decided it would work up pretty fast. I am not a fan of this overall shape (which they admitted looked like a wonky donut), but it did introduce me to the sand swirl tangle which I can see is a useful filler and similar to some freemotion quilting swirl designs. No metallic pens this time but I did use ArtGraf again in lieu of their pastel pencils and got a surprise. I expected this to be bright red, and if I activated it with water, it probably would be. Instead, it's more the color I was going for on the last zentangle to compliment the coral metallic pen when shading. I'm not crazy about the "rays" of color extending beyond the zentangle and especially didn't like the fact that the center was left blank - very unzentangle. So I filled it in with what they call auras, or what we call echoing.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Not A Snake


At least, I hope this Zentangle doesn't first remind Jan of a snake, like the last one did. I wanted to try a different filler for the segments as well as different colors and then decided I'd combine segments of the spiral idea with the next Zentangle in the series. I wasn't too keen on that one but I did like the idea of drawing something that looked like a twisted ribbon, and then was surprised by the addition of those things that look like fish swimming in the background. I pulled out my other set of Art Graf in earth tones for the ribbons and shading, although I'd hoped I could get a more rusty look. I also got out a different brush to apply it with - a stiffer kind good for stenciling - and even tried activating the Art Graf by dampening the brush. That resume paper held up much better to the moisture than I expected. 

This time I colored in the circles with coral metallic gel pens and shaded in the space between the two lines delineating the segments with a green one. The "fish" were drawn with yellow and gold metallic gel pens.

Tried to catch all that sparkle in another short video.

Had a day last week when I was full of energy and desire to make some progress in the studio. I managed to complete the pin basting of the second Peace quilt. A few days later, I started on the thread basting around the outside, a step I take both to keep the edge of the quilt top from flipping back on itself while under the machine and to stabilize the edge when trimming and binding. And one more day I was able to make my way around the rest of the quilt top edge. I could lean across better than I've been able to without actually bending or causing more pain. This will allow me to untape it from the table, turn the backing over the exposed batting (I sometimes also baste this with thread but this time I think I can just safety pin it) and remove it from the table altogether, freeing up space to work on other projects. I have a journal cover I'd like to finish up before I start quilting the Peace quilt, and it will be a good test of how well I can do sitting at the machine.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Making Strides

Here's the Zentangle I worked on last week from a recent "Project Pack" series. I like that the Zentangle creators have broadened out from their original tangles done with black micron pen on white tiles, to different color and shapes of their tiles and different colors of micron pens, to the latest of adding color to the shadings. I thought I'd show you step by step how this developed.

It starts by making a fairly open spiral, then subdividing it with double lines. Instead of using the suggested Micron pen, I used a Japanese brand brush pen I've grown quite fond of. Unlike other brush pens, this one is more like a felt tip pen and depending on the pressure you use, you can get a thin or thick line.Starting at the upper left corner of each segment, draw angled lines partway down, insert a circle and "capture" it with a line up and over it, darkening the space on either side. Continue echoing this new curved line until the segment is filled. This took quite a bit of time as I had more segments to fill than the example did so spread it over more than one day.

The next step is adding color with a pastel chalk pencil provided in the pack, but if you don't buy the pack full of tiles, pens, and various pencils, you are free to find something similar on hand. This Art Graf has similar qualities to a pastel chalk pencil but the trick was to find something to apply it with. This brush was handy and worked pretty well to work the soft pigment into the paper along the line of the spiral.

Next I used the felt eraser tip from a used up white board pen to gently move the pigment from the line to create shading. The same process was used to add graphite with a soft pencil along the other side of the spiral line. A tortillion moves the graphite across the paper for more shading.

It never ceases to amaze me how that step of shading transforms any tangle, giving it a depth that is often 3-d in nature. At this point I wasn't sure I wanted to continue on because I liked how it looked and had peaked at the next steps. But continue on I did because, you know, if I didn't like it, I could always draw it again and stop here.

Now it was time to spruce things up with gel pens - not just normal gel pens but metallic ones. I think this is new for the Zentangle people. On their example, they inked in those big circles with a colored metallic pen and placed white gel pen dots inside the double lines. I really didn't like what it did. Plus the paper in this sketchbook is a resume paper with cotton content that rather soaks up the ink while their tiles are I believe something akin to Yupo - a plastic translucent surface that the gel ink sits on top of. While the white gel pen dots really showed up on their tile, I knew it wouldn't on my paper. Instead I just went over the big circles on mine so they are firmly white. I DO have a collection of metallic gel pens that you can see all lined up for testing - I wasn't sure which color would look the best with my blue shading.

I chose a purple one which I am very pleased with. I think you can even see a bit of the sparkle. The graphite also has a sheen to it when you tip the tile. I tried to capture that in the video below - not sure why the sheen of the graphite looks so yellow though; may be the incandescent light I was shining on it.

As for other strides made last week, when I went into the studio to retrieve those gel pens, I looked for the umpteenth time at the second Peace quilt waiting for me to finish pinning it. I realized that there were some areas I could reach while standing straight up (I still have some issues with even the slightest leaning forward at the waist) so spent a few minutes adding pins - a small triumph. Eventually I'll be able to reach across to the far side to finish the pinning. I'm nearly done with Home Care, having my last visit with "the shower lady" and taking my first unaccompanied shower a few days later and sans shower bench. Best of all, I finished weaning off of the oxycodone once I made the connection that it was some of the physical therapy exercises and the number of repetitions of some of them that was keeping my pain level from coming down. I just have to double check with the doctor to make sure that was all that was keeping me from being cleared to drive. I'm about ready to transition to upstairs, moving the clothes and bathroom items I'd kept downstairs for convenience sake and to sleep in my bed. It dawned on me that I'd by making the couch in the livingroom my bed, I'd been living like one of those wealthy women of the pre-1900 eras who held court in their boudoirs! So close to being back to something more normal.

Monday, September 05, 2022

I Resemble This!

I hope you are enjoying your Labor Day. If you are just lounging around, I have more reading for you, possibly related to laboring. This article entitled "No Escape" talks about the importance of schedules for any creative, and how we instinctively tend to make excuses for not making or keeping them.

" need a schedule. It needn't be an onerous schedule; you don't have to write every day, or for many hours at a time, or anything like that. do need a schedule."

There are some things I have no trouble scheduling and sticking to that schedule. My daily walk is a good example, drilled into me by years of dog ownership when to say no when the appointed time arrived was never a good option. I may not walk at exactly the same time each day; I generally like to take it shortly before dinner but depending on the season I may have to take it earlier when it is still light. But I nearly always get it in. It feels very good to be getting back to that schedule after surgery and to keep extending out the distance. The picture above is taken from where I'd been having to stop and turn around, but as I mentioned, always had me looking longingly past the Goodwill out to the main drag which is those buildings in the middle of the picture - click for a larger view and you will also notice to the left behind them a difficult-to-see mountain shrouded in haze. There are 5 lightning-started wildfires to the north of me that together comprise about 9000 acres and we had several days last week socked in by smoke again. Anyway, I was feeling particularly spunky one day last week and headed down that sidewalk and made it to the main drag and back home again, just a little tired. I've also started just walking around the loop of the neighborhood like I was doing prior to surgery when that was about all I could manage. Having that schedule for walking gets me out there, whether it is short or long.

The sad thing though, as I read this article, is remembering that I used to have a schedule for studio work, pretty much every day between breakfast and lunch. Sometimes I put in more time, but I always got in there in the morning unless I had to keep an appointment or attend a meeting or teach a class. Somewhere along the way, my routine changed and every day I found other things I thought needed to be done first until there was no time left for the studio, every day except for Wednesday for some reason. If I had an exhibit deadline of course, I'd MAKE time for the studio, but it was oh so easy to lapse into the mindset of, oh well - there's tomorrow. More recently I gave up on mornings since I'd started staying up way too late and thus sleeping a lot of the morning away, and looked to the time between lunch and my walk as a viable time. Still not daily but maybe a start. As the article says, no matter what your objections (or excuses), you still need a schedule, no matter whether it is doing something every day or just a few days a week. It is so right. Yet, I still struggle to set a schedule for my art/quilting while easily set a schedule for the 2 hours a day I need to wear a bone regenerator to hasten my post-surgery healing. Why is that? Do you find you succumb to the same struggle? The article suggests an answer:

"...for a huge proportion of people, "you need a schedule" is precisely the right advice, yet that they'll still invest a massive amount of energy coming up with reasons why they shouldn't make one. They want ... unveil[ed] some productivity technique that's newer and shinier, and preferably easier to implement – one that doesn't seem to condemn them to month after month of plodding, incremental forward motion."

Yeah, guilty as charged to reading so many self-help articles looking for that magic solution/suggestion to get me back on track. And it hurts just a little that the following hits home so hard:

"I think the general point here, beyond the specific question of how to get writing done, is that we desperately want to be saved. We want to find some person, or some philosophy of life, that will spare us the fear or discomfort or self-doubt or tedium that so often seems to come along for the ride, whenever we try to make progress on things we care about. We hate feeling yoked to reality in such an unpleasant way; we long instead to soar above it, in a realm free from problems. And it's the mark of a bad self-help book, a dodgy spiritual guru or an incompetent therapist that they'll be only too happy to encourage the illusion that this might one day be possible."

I have to admit I'm still using the excuse of the surgery to keep from setting aside a specific time to work on anything, although I have started on another Zentangle that will force me into the studio for some additional art supplies to finish it up. I think I very much fall into the category mentioned that is not new to me and that I know for a fact works:  that all [I] need to do is the straightforward thing that's been staring [me] in the face all along: to just write (sew/sketch/paint/etc) for a few hours a week; to sit down for a few minutes and meditate; to be the most capable of a being [I can be] on this particular day..."

It ends on a gentle note though, almost as if knowing my history of being hard on myself when I don't live up to my own expectations and sometimes too ambitious goals:

"There's no need to be mean to yourself. You can be entirely gentle. It's just that what you have to (gently) remind yourself is that there is, in fact, no secret ingenious alternative to just walking the uncertain and sometimes uncomfortable path forwards...Your internal resources are entirely up to the task."

So do you struggle too? Or does setting a schedule for your creative outlet pose no problem for you? (And no, I'm not looking for your magic solution!) And is there a difference between schedule and routine? I wonder because I've been thinking I have lots of routines that don't feel difficult to keep and often fall at the same general times. A quick google points out there is indeed a difference, for what it is worth: a schedule is a plan of what is to occur, and at what time while a routine is a course of action to be followed regularly. The difference is slight but there. Gotta figure out a schedule so it will become a routine, me thinks!