Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Speaking of blue...

...look at this view of my street from my sitting room window! It is so bright out there, I could hardly look, and the sky is a pure, bright blue. I love the intense shadows from the trees on the light dusting of snow we got overnight.

And of course, Possum is at his perch in front of the window and radiator, soaking up as much warmth as he can, and saying loudly with his scornful look, "Get yourself and that camera out of MY space!"

Today I am printing labels for the Barnes & Noble exhibit, which I will hang Thursday evening. Here is my 'sign' which I've printed at 8x10", and will laminate on foamcore to hang with the work.

...AND, in our late breaking local news: the TV station that burned down had CBS and FOX up and running (though a bit 'ghost-y') for last night's State of the Union address, so maybe I can watch American Idol tonight! Woo-hoo! Turns out that they had kept the transmitter in an old bomb shelter, so it mostly survived the fire. HA! Guess those shelters are good for something after all!

And, speaking about State of the Union address and bomb shelters, I'd just like to remind everyone of how important the upcoming elections will be for our country. A change for the good is needed on many fronts, so think, pray, be informed, and VOTE, people!!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Wallowing in it...

Maybe you've noticed that I've been mentioning fighting the winter blues in several of the past posts. Well, sometimes the best way to get past the true blues is to just take a day and WALLOW in them! So today that's what I've been doing... noticing how truly nice blue can be...

...and listening to the blues. Now, there is some music I can't wallow in when I have the Blues, like Nick Drake. Much as I love his music, he pulls me too far into the blues, if I'm already heading that way. But here's a short "Killing the Blues" playlist that I've been listening to today. When you can belt it out along with these guys, you are definitely taking control of your dark side!

Early in the Morning Harry Nilsson
I Will Not Be Broken Bonnie Raitt
Only the Lonely Chris Isaak
Crying k.d. lang & Roy Orbison
Blues In the Night Katie Melua
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go Madeleine Peyroux
Killing the Blues Malcolm Holcombe Group
My Blue Heaven Norah Jones
Bluer Over the Rhine
Blue Monday Randy Newman
When the Stars Go Blue Ryan Adams
Long As I Can See the Light Ted Hawkins
Lonely and Blue Van Morrison

And now I'm going to have a cup of coffee with a friend who is great at listening to me wallow in self-pity, and making me end up laughing at myself and everyone else. If I read PG Wodehouse as my bedtime story, the evil Blues will surely be blasted out of here for good!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dear little cup, and other diversions...

I am running as fast as I possibly can from a huge case of the winter blues. I'm cleaning my studio (always a necessity and a mood booster, after completing a big project), carrying my digital camera around with me, playing in my sketchbook, and I splurged and bought myself a potted bulb garden at the Nursery the other day, so I'll have a bit of Spring around.

Here is the "Dear Little Cup" painting that is almost dry enough to frame for the "Cups &..." exhibit. It is of a tiny cup (see it in my husband's hand below) that I bought in the Asian market area in Boston. Actually, I bought 4 of them, for tea parties with my grand-daughter, but I've been having so much fun painting it, I just can't stop! In fact, with this one, there will be seven "Dear Little Cup" paintings in the "Cups &..." exhibit next month. They are somewhat 'dear little paintings' too, as they are only 8x10 inches each.

Here is a photo of geese at the golf course that's a block from my house. They fly over, honking themselves silly, all day long. They cheer me up, too.

The bulb garden comes with over 20 bulbs, which are just little poking spikes above the soil when you get it. The first day, the spikes were taller. Now, they are significant plants, and the first one has already bloomed, a tiny yellow iris. I sketched it in my sketchbook. No great art, but again, a blues chaser.

Well, back to cleaning the studio, and chasin' away those evil blues!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

From the beginning now...

I have been waffling over the small tapestry I need to weave, as it's already entered and will soon be due, for the ATA Woven Gems small format tapestry exhibit. As I said before, I want to do a tapestry of my dog Wooster's face. I took a photo I like, and I've been playing with it. First I cropped it to a composition that I not only like, but think will be weavable at the small size and scale. But then, as always at this stage in designing a new piece, I got carried away. I've come up with several versions I think would be fun. I love color - and seem to need it especially at this time of year.

I drew up the cartoon weeks ago, as it would be the same for any of the versions. Today I went into the studio and started pulling yarns from the shelves... but what yarns? If I'm going to weave, I need to know which version. I ended up pulling yarns for ALL three of these versions, slapping them in a basket and dragging it all, plus my already warped small loom to the sunniest and warmest spot in the house, the sitting room. Then I sat, staring at it all.

I finally decided which version I will do, and I've woven the first half inch, so I guess I'm committed to it. I think I'll keep it a secret. Of course, then when I show you the completed tapestry, everyone will say, "Oh, I really thought/wish she'd done this other version!"

But, in art, as in life, when you make one choice, choose one road, you have to turn away from the others. Gee, someone should write a great poem about that!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Arrgh! No Pirates and no Idols!

Once again it has been subtly pointed out that I am not in charge here. My plans for the early part of the week were to ride the Amtrak over the beautiful snow covered mountains to take my grand-daughter to The Veggie Tales movie. She has been singing the song since before she was a year old, and no, I am not exaggerating! But her mom called yesterday, just as I was finishing up my packing, to tell me she had finally come down with her brother's chicken pox. We'd almost decided she'd not get them this time. So no Pirate movie for the two of us this week!

Plan B: to stay home and become a vegetable myself in front of American Idol tonight and tomorrow night, except for the non-veggie hands, which would be weaving up a storm (or rather, a dog). But that's a no-go, as well. We don't have cable, as we really don't watch much TV. And the local CBS/Fox affiliate TV station burned down this weekend. Clear down. No CBS, no Fox, no American Idol.

So, no excuse to not just keep on working! Yesterday I framed all of the paintings I'll be showing in the "Cups &..." exhibit, except the one that is still drying, and two I'll be borrowing back from friends I gave them to. Today, I'll frame the photographs and mount and frame the small tapestries. It looks like it might also be a good day (though still Stinkin' Cold) to take slides and photos of the Fall tapestry. So, Plan C: Just keep on working. Frame 'em and prop 'em up in the sitting room. Ah, the exciting days and moments of an artist's life!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Three more for the Cups exhibit...

Two photos, and a painting...
I'm not sure about the first photo, of the cups in the window. Compositionally, the window frame part that divides the picture almost in half bothers me. I like the muffin one though. I took it in a New York City diner on a Sunday morning, thus the title, "Sunday Morning."

The photos are 8x10", the oil painting, called "Harvard Square" is 16x20". It's in one of the frames my husband made. I painted the frames black, with some rubbed in sienna. It is still very hard for me to get a good digital photo of an oil painting. There is a sheen on them I can't get rid of, so the color richness doesn't show up. ARRRGH! Not used to shine and sheen. Tapestries don't generally have that.

Friday, January 18, 2008

My handyman is very handy, but..

I swear there are days when I could also use a house elf! Today is one of them. My handyman (aka, my dear husband) had dental surgery this morning, but he is still busy making me frames and tapestry hanging boards to my specifications. And I am trying to do as much of my busy-work as possible upstairs in the studio, as it's at least 10 degrees warmer there than on the main floor of the house below. It is stinkin' cold here! I know that 'stinkin cold' has to be a meteorological technical classification here now, as it's been below zero the past few nights and not a great deal above that in the days. The cat has not been helpful to me at all, as he just stays huddled next to the radiator.

Anyway, I'm progressing nicely towards the two February exhibits. I have all the painting done that I'm doing before then, the photos printed, and the tapestries woven. So I'm busy lining, framing, and readying everything to hang. I'm painting and varnishing hanging boards and frames, as I've decided I want all my paintings and photos framed in simple black frames. I have finished making and sewing on the label to the back of the Fall tapestry (I label them each by printing the title information and my signature on canvas, which is then sewn to the lining.) Busy work, busy work.

On another topic, suddenly I'm seeing faces looking at me everywhere. Is is paranoia? They are at least smiling at me. I see them in my dirty dishes waiting to washed...

I see them in the storage closet when I open it to store holiday stuff.

Maybe there really ARE elves, and they hide when I'm looking (though not always very well,) then come out at night like the shoemaker's elves. Well, maybe I'll leave a ToDo list in a conspicuous place tonight and see what happens. Probably they come out to work, and Possum stops them. He does sometimes have that evil smirk on his face in the morning, like he's saying, "You'll never guess what I've done!"

Oh dear, perhaps I have inhaled too much varnish today.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


OK, I confess it. I am an American Idol fan. It is the ONE (and only) reality TV show that I find entertaining. Yes, I do find these first few episodes a bit uncomfortable, where people's dreams are either crashed, or they are just willing to make total fools of themselves to be on TV. But after that, when they really start singing, I enjoy it. I love music, and I get caught up in it, though I've never bothered to figure out how to vote. Some of the women in my singing group and I love to watch and compare favorites and argue over it, with the friendly fervor of a group of old men talking politics over coffee in the downtown diner.

So, ANY-way, the season started again last night. I got dinner over with, grabbed my knitting needles and a cozy afghan and headed for the basement couch. I've decided that this year I'll make my Idol time anything but idle! I'm going to have my own American-Idol-Be-Not-Idle-athon (unless anyone else wants to join me - if so, let me know, and I'll link to your blog, or post photos of your projects, if you don't have a blog.)

So, for my first evening, I finished the Fluffy Bolero from the cover of Erika Knight's book, Simple Knits for Little Cherubs. It's for my grand-daughter, to keep her sweet little shoulders warm at dance class (and also to look cool, like all the other little cherubs in their tights and fluffy pink boleros.)
There is an error in the pattern, and I looked all over the internet for a correction. There are a lot of links complaining about the error, but no correction, so I'll post one here:
On the Neck Shaping instructions on page 44: it says to " Work straight until the sleeve border measures 9 (10/11) inches." That would make a 22" around sleeve for a 4-year old! I don't think so! Several knitters confessed to actually following those instructions, and having to rip out when they discovered them to be grossly wrong, which would be very frustrating. Anyway, I'm pretty sure the TOTAL sleeve measurement is meant to be those measurements, so just cut them in half, to read: "Work straight until the border measures 4.5(5:5.5)inches." The left front instructions on the top of the next page also need to be corrected in the same way. If anyone finds these corrections and finds them helpful, let me know! In the meantime, here's the fluffy pink bolero, and installment #1 of the American-Idol-Be-Not-Idle-athon.

Watching tonight's episode, I will start weaving the small tapestry that I've already entered in the American Tapestry Alliance Woven Gems exhibit. The tapestry itself is due March 1st, so I suppose it is time to begin! (Fortunately, the tapestry will be small, woven on my portable Mirrix loom, and I work best with a short deadline.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fiction and fantasy...

I am procrastinating. Today I have to send my artists statement to the gallery that is hosting the exhibit I'll be in next month. I hate writing artist statements! I mean, what other profession requires you to, on a fairly regular basis, write a statement to explain what you do and why you do it????!!! Does my pharmacist have to hang a statement next to his work that says, "I became a pharmacist because as a child I thought the little colored balls in bottles in my grandmother's medicine chest were fascinating"? No, other professionals have licenses. Well. I could live with that. I could take a test every ten years, and carry around a little piece of laminated paper to prove that I passed it. And not have to write artist statements.

So I made a couple of artist's statements in my journal this morning. Which one shall I turn in?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sewing slits and keeping warm...

NOTE: If you've come here from Mason-Dixon Knitting, go here.

I have spent all of this week sewing the slits on the Fall tapestry, and staying inside, for the most part. Wednesday evening church was even canceled, due to snow and ice, this week! That rarely happens here. I actually can't remember the last time snow kept us from doing anything here in the desert. But this year, we have had snow on the ground since right after Thanksgiving. Not a lot of snow, but it just keeps coming. Wednesday, we had 3-4 inches. It was lovely. A good day to stay in and sew slits.

This is what the back of the tapestry looks like:

It's laid out on the dining room table, face down. I've trimmed most of the yarn ends down to an inch long. I should have all slits sewn together by the end of the day, and will be ready to block it; let it lie for the weekend, then will line it next week. The finishing process for a tapestry is not quick and easy - but then, no process is quick and easy where a hand woven tapestry is concerned.

Possum has taken to staying on his perch in front of the sitting room window. Actually, it's not so much the window and the view that attract him now; it's the warm radiator! When it's on, it makes his old bones toasty. Just like he likes them!

I have also finished this oil painting for the "Cups &..." exhibit. It is 16x20", and titled "Barista." (I'm still having a hard time getting good digital images of the paintings.)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Under the snow, signs of early spring!

It was warm enough yesterday for the snow to mostly melt, but this morning, a fresh new inch. Enough to keep the world pristine and lovely.

My lilac buds are loving the moisture. Before much time, the snow will be replaced with fragrant blooms.

Sewing slits on the Fall tapestry today. I'm planting myself at a table where I can look outside at the winter wonderland.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Out under the winter sky...

Listening to Judy Collins' melancholy song, "Winter Sky," as the snow glistens outside.
What a mood the two create... snow and Judy!

Friday, January 4, 2008

A passion to work...

After a break, which included Christmas, birthdays, the New Year, and a raging head cold which has turned into a sinus infection, I am anxious to get back to work. I can't help but wonder if other people feel that way... do school teachers, bus drivers, accountants yearn to get back to their work? Or is it just me? Because I have the luxury of working at something that I really feel that I must do?

At any rate, even through this head cold (which I don't survive easily, just ask my husband), I have been dragging my snuffly robed and slippered self into the studio to paint. I finished covering all the canvas of another 16x20 inch painting today. I need to let it sit and stare back at me a bit before I'll know if it's done though. As soon as the last bit of blank canvas was covered, I grabbed another and began it.

I truly need to run errands, put up holiday things, clean the house, and do laundry. But I can't seem to find the energy for all that. Plus, what grocery store would let me in in my fuzzy robe and slippers, clutching a box of kleenex?

I have decided what I'm going to weave for the Woven Gems exhibit, too. And it's about time. I've already sent my entry in, so guess I'd best warp the loom. It has a size limit of 10x10" maximum, so it won't take long. I have until the end of February to get it done. It will be a face close-up of our dog, based on this photo. I've done one of the cat, so mustn't leave the dog out! The one of Possum was also small (about 8x10") and was done as a value study. The one of Wooster will also be pretty much a value study. Although I will be doing this one at a finer sett than I used for the one of Possum.

Don't know if I've posted this before or not, but here is "The Practical Cat." It was a thrum tapestry, and when I wove it, I just piled a bunch of thrums (pieces and butterflies of yarn leftover from other projects) into three piles in front of me: I had a light pile, a dark pile, and a pile of mid-value thrums. When I ran out of a butterfly, I would grab another from the appropriate pile, with no regard for color, just concerning myself with value. So that's why the cat is very colorful. But, because the values were right, it still reads as a dark grey tabby cat, even though it has just about every color there is in it. It was a fun experiment.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Grandma Mabel's memorial recipe box contest:

Well, I couldn't pass this one up! Since my previously mentioned Grandma Maisie's real name was Mabel, and since I have her recipe box, how could I resist? So I am responding to the Mason-Dixon challenge by posting my own Grandma Mabel's recipe box, and another of her recipes.

First I have to say that my Grandma Maisie was not actually 'known for' her cooking. Actually, I don't know that she was 'known for' anything, as she lived a very quiet life; one that I frequently envy. However, she did make a few dishes that everyone wanted the recipe for. One was her fudge, which I've already posted. Another was her oven-fried chicken; buttery, artery clogging deliciousness. But her most clamored after recipe was for her coconut cream pie. In fact, just typing the name of it has made my mouth water! It's the kind of pie I could sit down and eat the whole of in one sitting. Once when I made it, I came out the next morning to find my two young sons sitting on top of the kitchen counter, eating it with their hands. I wasn't even angry with them over it - it seemed like such a reasonable thing to do. I was just a bit peeved that they hadn't left me any! I make it when I need real comfort food. Or something tasty that everyone will absolutely love.
(click on recipe to enlarge)

My Grandma is the fourth from the left in this "Watermelon Girls" tapestry. She's the one in the apron. She always had an apron on, even just to read the newspaper. In addition to her recipe box, I also count among my treasures several of her quite worn aprons.

And since this post may bring a few knitters to visit, I'll post a photo of the coat I knit my grand-daughter for Christmas. I don't seem to have taken a photo of the one I did my grandson - will have to try to catch him in it later. This coat is an adaptation of a robe pattern from Lucinda Guy's And So to Bed book.