Monday, November 28, 2022

Class Work

Not a lot to show for the week, but I did hunker down and work through the rest of the first week of videos in that on-line colored pencil class. The video I'd originally watched but seemed to be missing finally showed up farther along in the class, so yes, they revamped things a bit. There are 4 people giving instructions and it's a little disconcerting that they often contradict each other on how to use these pencils, but I'm seeing how trying out the different ways is leading me to decide which is working best for me. There was more instruction on shading and blending, this time with combinations of colors, and a section on using a blending stick or tortillon. It noted that you could substitute a q-tip for the blending stick, and I got the best results using that. As a wrap up to the week, we were encouraged to use our newfound skills to color in our choice of two sketches we could download. As you can see, I haven't gotten very far on mine.

There were a couple of hours devoted to interviewing two of the teachers which didn't add practical knowledge to what had already been shared in my opinion. Felt a bit like wasted time. So as I listened, I decided to swatch out my Inktense pencils. I'd already done that on a strip of watercolor paper when I first got them, keeping that strip in the tin with the pencils, but I enjoyed this additional swatching and having everything in one place. Think I will also swatch a few examples of blending some of the colors.

My Handmade Book Club is presenting another 5 day challenge starting today, and me being unable to resist, have gathered supplies to make this small coptic binding journal. But that Peace quilt was still spread out on the work table waiting for me to square it up and I definitely need that space to work on this book. Incentive enough to quit putting it off, and to my relief, this one was not as difficult to square up as the first one was. Plus I realized that the extending backing I was trimming off was wide enough and long enough to piece together for the binding. I don't think I've ever had that happen before but I am happy about it! I've set all that to one side but with the book making divided into 5 short sessions, there may be time to cut and piece the binding and even get the binding sewn on. We'll see how organized and focused I can be.

Hoping you all had the Thanksgiving you were wishing for. I did, including swapping the traditional turkey for ham. As I checked in with friends and family, I discovered many also had non-traditional menus, all sounding very yummy. There has been snow, and more snow today, so I hope you and yours also had safe travel over the holidays. I'm so happy I had nowhere I had to go!

Monday, November 21, 2022

Ink & Colored Pencils

I decided to give the Peace quilt a rest last week, partly because the next step of squaring up will be tricky, if doing it on the first one is any indication, and partly because I had some very good luck with a Zentangle from a new series and felt motivated to continue with a colored pencil online class I hadn't looked at for way too long. So long in fact that my password to get into Sketchbook Skool no longer worked after they did a revamp of the site awhile ago. Let's start with the Zentangle, this one a different approach using "reticular" (the blob shapes) rather than a "string" as a guide and working in a circular format. This particular "fragment" that goes into the "reticular" is called MRTH (mirth) and boy do I like it! In fact, I think I would have been perfectly happy to stop right here.

But I continued on filling each reticular, the outer ones getting those extensions that look like stamens. Just using a black micron pen. You can see I penciled in the steps on the facing page for future reference. Again, I could have stopped right here and been happy. However, if you know anything about Zentangles, you probably know that the final step is shading and often brings the piece to life.

I wish I hadn't proceeded with the shading. I didn't like how they showed the graphite along the curves. It didn't work on my mirths which I think were smaller than theirs. And then they added white chalk pencil for highlights. Perhaps if I had been using an off-white tile like they were, the white chalk pencil would have made more sense as a highlight. I just didn't like what happened during this whole shading process. But I still love this Zentangle as a whole.

As for the colored pencil class, one of the advantages is that you can go at your own pace and when you come back to class, it takes you right to the session where you left off. But as I said, they have revamped their website and my class had been set back to as if I'd never started it. The last thing I remember doing is diligently sorting through all my colored pencils to put them in order and swatch them - see this post from July 2019. I quickly went through the first lessons to review, and I think some of them I'd done are no longer being shown or were re-shot. Good thing I took notes.

So here's where I started up again - experimenting with different types of layering and blending. I really enjoyed doing each one, finding it relaxing to slowly lay down the color and build it up in different ways. It showed pretty graphically which of the techniques worked best for me. Then there were short sessions with two different teachers, one showing how he does his initial sketch with black colored pencil rather than a graphite pencil or pen, something I'd not considered, then building up the color, and the other showing how she does her initial sketch in a light color of pencil that kind of goes with what other colors will be laid down as the sketch progresses, again, something I'd not considered. Examples of each are at the bottom of the page shown above.

Inktense before and after H2O activation

Then there was a session on using watercolor pencils and I got a chance to actually do some sketching with my Inktense colored pencils. I've experimented a bit with transferring them onto fabric but that's about it. It was really fun to sketch that chicken from the catalog cover, all dull, then see the colors come alive when touched by a wet brush. Next I need to try out the blending of different colors of regular colored pencils as demonstrated on a leave drawing, and also swatch those Inktense pencils and experiment with blending different colors of them to get new colors. Gotta say, I enjoy being a student.

Hard to believe Thanksgiving celebrations are this week, November scooting by so fast. I'll be staying close to home, and may even see a little snow over the next few days, but it won't last as they predict a warming trend into the weekend (40's!!!). May you have safe travel, if travel you do, and may you enjoy any family get-togethers that come your way.  And if you can eke out a little time to yourself, I hope you spend it creatively!

Monday, November 14, 2022

More Nervous Quilting & Something Got Out Of Hand

Let's start with that got out of hand thing. I decided to try the last zentangle in the series I've been working through. It's a variation on a tangle called MI2 or Me Too and I thought this one would be straight forward as Zentangles go and done with a Micron pen and some pastel chalk pencils for added color, no metallic pens. Plus I really like these tangles that do that over and under thing which can make them look more complicated to draw than they really are. You can also see the effect of working on both sides of a translucent tile. This one though would be easy to work up on regular paper and I decided to use one of the somewhat pricey "official" tan tiles I bought at one point. It really is true that the Italian paper they are made from has such a different feel to it and works up so nicely.

You start by making the curved lines, mirror images both vertically and horizontally. And wouldn't you know it, as I started to draw the third column, I swung my curve to the left instead of the right, stopping about halfway down when I realized I'd messed up. Ok, no panic, as a Zentangle principle is that there are no mistakes, no erasing, just invitations to create a new design element. So when all the proper lines were drawn and color added (with pen), I googled the tangle to see how I might make that errant line a part of the design. I was surprised at what I found and delighted that I could make this almost too simple Zentangle into something more. You can see the options here

I started by continuing the curve to meet the curve below, and continued adding curved lines in the middle section and then around the outside. And then once again, I managed to make a series of curves along the bottom curving in instead of out. Well, I hadn't planned on coloring in these added lines but now I had to in order to cover up this new error - they are the dark brown ones. Yes - no matter what they say, this was a mistake! I liked the diamond shapes added to the How To Draw MI2 examples and I really felt the two big open areas needed something in them. And then that narrow space running down the middle. Yikes! I need to stop and was not at all sure I liked where this one went. I added shading, twice, and have left it out on my desk since stopping the fiddling, and I have to say it has grown on me. But wow, things really did get out of hand while working on it!

Now for the nervous quilting. Here you see that section I said in the last post would be smooth sailing after having all those inch-long runs in the section above. I failed to remember that the center circle swoops into it creating more short runs, but not as short, before allowing for some long stretches again. Really finding this tedious, all this starting and stopping but there was more of it facing me in the last section to be quilted, the circle.

The thread on the spool was showing signs that it was getting down to the end, but it didn't seem like I had that much quilting left as I circled from the outside to the inside. I forgot on the first few places where the quilting had to stop and start on the other side of a motif opening that I could just raise the presser foot and slide the quilt to the next starting spot without breaking thread. With thread at a premium, I could not afford to waste any thread. You can see those places where I carried the thread across to the next spot.

And it's a good thing that I did. On the first Peace Quilt I pulled all thread tails to the back and then fused the backing over the lot so I wouldn't have to bury threads. See this post and this post to see what that was like This quilt was sandwiched normally and I simply could not bear the thought of burying that many thread tails so decided I could live with the look of pulling up the bobbin thread and doing the 5 or so locking stitches close together before taking off, then repeating at the end of the line of stitching. As I worked my way farther into the circle, I could see how little thread was left and feared I wouldn't make it. And if I'd been pulling threads to the back at every start and stop, I would not have. Whew! Talk about close!!!

Monday, November 07, 2022

Foot Dragging

I had two trips last week into the nearest "big" town about an hour away so was not super productive on the art front. It did not help that I kept dragging my feet about which Zentangle to do next. This one is based on the Zentangle I mentioned I decided not to do because I wasn't too keen on the tangles used. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give it a try, using a different tangle. I couldn't get beyond the vision of bubbles being trapped by the overlying lines. So I gave it a go on my own terms. It came out looking like a shell rather than the trapping net I thought I was going for.

I used green metallic gel pen for the bubbles and blue metallic gel pen for the encasing lines - it may have looked more like I envisioned had I used black micron pen instead like they did. I could have done a better job smoothing the graphite shading on the lines but I found myself rushing at the end. As I reviewed the video to jog my memory, I also remembered a possible reason for my wanting to skip this one. The two gals demoing couldn't stop fussing as they drew, adding a little bit here, some more bits there when really, it wasn't necessary. At one point, the gal not drawing finally told the one who was to stop, it was fine, and lets go to the next step. Just when I thought the Zentangle was complete, they'd add another step, some more shading around the outside, the pastel pencil for the background (which I did with the Art Graf). They were obviously enjoying extending this out, not wanting it to end but goodness! I begrudgingly admit that the final outer shadings did pull it together and helped that look of a shell come through. And I do like it now.

This one sure has bling!

Also dragging feet on the machine quilting. For one thing, my thread choices have had me doing what I think of as nervous quilting. That is when you've chosen a thread used enough that you are not sure how much is left, if it will be enough, and know you cannot buy more because it has been discontinued. That's the problem with all my Ultra Twist threads that quilt up so beautifully. Another company bought out the one that made this thread, replacing it with their version that simply doesn't quilt up the same. Anyway, staring at the partial spool won't make anymore thread magically appear on it, so may as well cross my fingers and get on with it.

But that's the second thing making me drag my feet. The next section to be quilted was one with multiple short runs. Not only does that use more thread with all that starting and stopping, but it tries one's patience as well, and my patience, or perhaps tolerance, for this sort of thing is in short supply. Not helping that I've been fighting to keep the quilt in place and not catching on anything as I quilt, and then it knocked a tin of straight pins onto the floor. Luckily I have one of those telescoping wands with a magnet end to pick up the mess without bending! But I hunkered down yesterday and forced myself to complete these short runs on either side of the rectangles and now it is smooth sailing down longer stretches to the bottom of this section.

Speaking of smooth sailing, those out of town drives last week were most enjoyable. I like driving that stretch of road and all the cottonwoods and birches along the way had finally turned that beautiful golden yellow we'd been waiting for. Driving like that isn't bothering me anymore, more progress on the surgery front. And I have missed being able to take scenic drives because I really do love driving. However, might not love it so much tomorrow. A winter storm blew through today, not leaving much more than a couple of inches of snow, but it has been windy with temps not getting much above 25 degrees. Old man winter knocked loudly on our door and my last gasp geranium blooms have gasp their last. Crossing fingers again that the roads will be cleared and dry by the morning. Or at least sanded.