Monday, March 31, 2008

Finished...or close to it...

I have been working all day to finish up this oil painting of "The Youngest Groomsman." Having taken photos, I do see a few 'fixes' I should make, but it is close enough to call 'done - but for the editing.' Photos are great for showing things that are hard to see when only a paintbrush's distance away! I realized how soon the exhibit is coming up that I want to enter it in, and it must be dry before then, so I have been feeling the urgency of completing it.

At any rate, it has been a great learning experience to paint something that is of very little hue difference, and with not a huge value range, as well. This piece has a very low key range of values. It's true subject is light. I love the cruciform composition of it, though I know it does break a number of compositional 'rules.' I have enjoyed the process of it's creation very much.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Illustration Friday: Homage

I have loved the Illustration Friday site and idea for a long time, and have intended to participate... sometime in the future. I do see myself as primarily an illustrator - a teller of visual stories. My stories just happen to be woven as tapestries.

Well, this week's topic on IF is "homage," so I decided the time had come to participate. I have woven two tapestries that are in homage to Vincent Van Gogh. The first one was the one below, "Lust for Life," which was woven when my first son was in a high school humanities class, and they were studying Van Gogh. The second one, "Starry Night in Western Colorado," was woven when my youngest son was in the same class a few years later. They are both illustrations of a number of things; my admiration of Van Gogh, my excitement at sharing my favorite artist with my sons, and events of our lives together at that time. My oldest son had planted sunflowers that year, so the sunflowers out our kitchen window seemed appropriate. And the starry night was in reference to the comets that we were watching cross the heavens together (Halley's, Hale Bopp, and Hyakutake) above the Colorado National Monument.

Friday, March 28, 2008

On the easel...

I have been doing more painting this week than anything else. There are several exhibits I hope to enter coming up. I am working on this portrait, which will be called "The Youngest Groomsman." A friend and I were in a gallery where a wedding was taking place late last summer, and this young man latched on to us, as he waited for wedding preparations to proceed. So I asked him if he would pose for me. He was delighted to do so, especially when I told him I am an artist and thought I'd like to paint him. He asked excitedly, "You mean I might hang on the wall in an art gallery some day?" I told him I hoped that would be the case, if it turns out well. So I hope it turns out good enough to enter.

Painting this is a challenge, as it looks like mostly browns and blacks, but it is not really. It really has a lot of greens and yellows, as well, that all must read as browns and blacks. I love the lighting! He wanted to stand under an archway which was too brightly lit, but readily stood where I asked him to when he posed.

I feel like I am catching some of his personality; his pride in his role for the day, his young man's cockiness. He was quite young, and the other groomsmen were all adults, off being busy getting things ready for the ceremony.

The painting reminds me quite a bit of a Hal Painter tapestry I saw years ago that was of a young man looking through a doorway, and it was all in browns and blacks. It was my favorite Painter tapestry. I think it was somewhere in my mind when I saw this young man dressed up in his tux and asked him to pose.

I still have trouble taking decent digital photos of wet oil paintings. There is a glare I can't get rid of, and the contrast doesn't show well. But I thought I'd post what I'm up to anyway.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Warped, times two...

People know me as a 'yarn lady'. I don't know that that is a Good Thing, but it's a fact... So they give me yarn. Now, when it comes to my tapestries, I am VERY picky. I only use a certain cotton warp, and a certain wool weft. But I'm not so picky with my knitting, so I accept the gifts of yarn, stuff them in my knitting stash closet and think, 'maybe someday...'. My next-door neighbor once gave me 18 large black trashbags FULL of yarn. And it was good stuff - yarns she had collected in her travels all over the world. She was a knitter, so there is wool and mohair, very little synthetic, and enough of each yarn to actually produce a good sized sweater. I am still using yarn from that gift! (She was moving into a nursing facility, and has since passed on to that great yarn shop in the sky, where all is free, and only natural fibers.)

Anyway, I have been recently given yarns from two different friends that were in a large enough quantity that I decided to put them together and weave a twill afghan to donate to the silent auction for the benefit of our Honduras work. It has been years since I warped my four-harness loom! But I managed it, with uninvited help, as you can see above. The final picture in the sequence is of the fixed broken warps where my helper discovered he couldn't walk on warp. The first photos are of the KoolAid dyeing I did of the weft yarn, so it would go with the variegated purple warp. Several flavors (colors?) of cherries, pink lemonade, and grape. I think I'll call it the "Black Cherry" afghan.
I also tied the warp on the tapestry loom today and wove a header. Now I know another good reason to weave tapestries: cats cannot even try to walk on vertical warps!

I played a bit on Flicker while putting the photos together, and made this 'trading card'. Fun!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter early....

We got up early this morning and, rather than meet with our usual church family, went to the community sunrise service. It is held at the baseball diamond a block from our house, so we bundled up and walked.

When we left the house, the full moon was still peeking through the trees.
The sun soon began to show signs of itself behind the Grand Mesa.

And when we returned home, we saw that Spring may actually come to us again. Perfect timing for new life!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Still valued...

I saw on Margaret's lovely blog, The Earthly Paradise several days ago that a William Morris tapestry was to be auctioned at Sotheby's and was expected to bring more than £1,000,000. The auction was last night, but I can't yet find what it went for.

I am trying to move past my 'what's-the-use' attitude, which came upon me after my tapestry was stolen, by getting to the studio and working. Always a cure for a bad attitude, and often for me, the ONLY cure! So yesterday, I prepped two canvases to paint,

enlarged the cartoon for a new tapestry,

and started a small painting, to donate to a fundraiser for our work in Honduras.
Work is being done... the attitude is improving. And I'm hoping the Morris tapestry went for a BUNDLE!!!

Oh yes, and I received word that the Fall tapestry, "The Gift," was accepted into the Living With Beauty exhibit, to be in Manitou Springs, CO this summer. Nice news!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Take me away...

Thank you, all of you, who sent me kind commiserations on the theft of my tapestry. I continue to have many 'issues' with the theft, but I will spare you, and myself, from dwelling on it.

Today, as I continue to clean up the mess I've been creating in my studio by closet cleaning and stuff sorting, I am mentally taking myself to the south of France (where I have yet to be, physically). There I am, sitting at a street cafe, sketching like Sara Midda,

or Laura Stoddart (two of my favorites).

The cafe'au lait is getting cold as I sketch, but I will order more. The day is warm, not hot, not cold. I am wearing a red beret (naturally!). The waiter says something to me - probably that I have been at the table long enough and it's time to move on, but since I don't understand french, I just smile enigmatically and keep sketching. I am far from piles of stuff that I don't know what to do with. Far from undone laundry. Far from having to thaw something for dinner. And my thick new leather sketchbook has many blank pages to fill.

A lovely fantasy to take me away...

Listening to Edith Piaf keeps me there.

(I bought this lovely little photo at a yardsale, in a stack of old photos from someone's travels to France.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Missing, presumed stolen...

I just got word from a gallery that carries my work in North Carolina, that this tapestry has gone missing, and is presumed to be stolen. I hope they are wrong, and that they will find it. But if anyone happens to see it anywhere (not in a NC gallery), PLEASE, would you let me know about it ASAP?!!

I feel quite violated. And sad. In fact, I think I will go cry now.
Or scream...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Four-and-twenty blackbirds...

We just got home from a few days at our cabin. We've not been there since Thanksgiving- the longest stretch of time ever that we've kept away. We can't do that again! It has been such a brutal winter down here in the valley, we just thought it would be 'too much' up there. But we should have known better! It has just been business as usual on the mountain.

Yes, there was snow. It is winter, after all. Not more snow than we deal with almost every good winter. We did have to stomp steps up out of the cabin door, and down in to the 'necessary', which is an outdoor affair. Standard procedure.

The birds asked where the heck we'd been. There were fewer chickadees than usual, but the jays were there, and a loyal woodpecker, the regular nuthatches, a silly magpie (don't know what he was hoping for), beautiful black-eyed juncos, a large congregation of red-winged blackbirds, and even an unkindness of half-dozen ravens (yes, those are the correct terms). There were up to six-and-twenty blackbirds under and at the feeder at one time. They were not as efficient at cleaning it out as the chickadees are, but quite fun to watch, nonetheless.

Monday, March 10, 2008

the walrus says...

Yes, the time has come. I can't put it off any longer - well, maybe 20 minutes or so, while I post this.
One of my few New Years resolutions this year was to clean out all of the closets and storage spaces in the house. I did one in January and one in February, but I have been planning the worst space of all for this month... the dreaded studio closet. Those of you have been around awhile may remember that last May, before our home was on the Historic Homes tour, I crammed every unsightly thing into the closet. It has been multiplying in there somehow since that time. Even I have avoided THE CLOSET, and have actually purchased new stuff to avoid going in and finding the old stashes.
No longer. This morning, I carefully opened the door (stepping back from it quickly, just in case) and began pulling the STUFF out. It's beginning to fill up the studio floor in 'what-shall-I-do-with-this?' piles. Mind you, I haven't even pulled out the first layer yet!

When it's all empty and properly sorted (in my next life?) I believe I will beg my husband to re-do the shelves in there. It's a small closet, but there MUST be a way to make it into a better, more usable storage space!

In one of the piles, I found a copy of this poem that I had saved. It's by Robert Service. I had at one time planned to paint this above the windows. Maybe after the closet re-do, if I have any strength at all left. Here is an excerpt;

My Garret

...Here's where I deal in dreams and ply in fancies,
Here is the wonder-shop of all my wares,
...Here's where I challenge Fate...
And grope at glory...
Here is my Palace tapestried with dreams.

Isn't that wonderful?

Friday, March 7, 2008


Well. I've gone several weeks now since I finished the "Wooster" tapestry. I had decided that I have too many other things to do, and no exhibit deadlines ahead, so I would take a bit of a break from the loom. But this photo that I took a few weeks ago keeps hollering at me that it needs to be a small-ish tapestry. So, this morning I am going to enlarge it to a cartoon, then will tie the leftover warp back on to the front beam, and will work on this tapestry at a 'reasonable, non-deadline' pace. Wonder what THAT will be like?

This tapestry will be about 18"x18". I think it will be called "February," and it may be the first in a series of similarly sized pieces in a months-of-the-year series. I like working in series, but 12 of them? We'll see. It will need to be woven sideways, I'm thinking.

This photo SO captured how I felt for the whole month of February this year.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Busy making other plans...

As John Lennon says, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans..."

I am doing a lot of creative work, but have not been weaving on a tapestry, since I finished "Wooster." I do have one designed, but 'other things' are more urgent right now, and they must be dealt with first.

The top of my list is filled with things I am making and doing to prepare for a trip to Honduras we will be taking this summer. Every two years, my husband takes a group of people from our church down to work with him in a free medical clinic. I don't go every time, but have gone 3 times, and plan to go again this summer. It has been a very good work, not only for the people we serve there, but most especially for the American teens we take with us, who get to see first hand that the whole world is not as blessed as they are. It has been life changing for most of them.

Anyway, we are having a silent auction on April 12th to raise money to help pay for the medications we take with us for the clinic, and to build a house for a homeless family while we are there. So I am making 'muchas cosas' for the auction. I am doing some knitting, some painting, some photo work, and I am actually warping up my four-harness loom to weave a throw (afghan, blanket, whatever). I had to seriously dust the loom, and am trying to remember how to warp it - it's been that long!

I will post pictures of the things I'm making as I finish them. It's really kinda fun to make 'other things.' To be creative in ways that are no longer second nature to me.

Just look at these beautiful Honduran children, dressed in their very best to come see the doctor! It is not easy for me to go there; I always get very sick. We are seeing sick people, after all, so I guess I get exposed to stuff my body has no immunity to. But, in spite of that, I always fall in love with these children, and leave part of my heart behind in Tegucigalpa.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Walk Like an Egyptian...

...or Work Like an Artist. I told my husband yesterday that I'm badly needing to 'be an artist' again. When I'm not involved in creative work, I get the crabby face on, (much like the one in the previous post). Unfortunately, today, 'working like an artist' means getting my taxes ready to go to our tax guy. Yes, people, even artists must account for the meager amounts they bring in! So you can picture me in the midst of piles of receipts, scratching my head, drinking endless cups of coffee, AND with the grumpy face on.

But, in the interest of feeling 'artist-y', I will post this little tutorial on my flawless magic blocking method, because I took photos of the process, and haven't done anything with them yet.

I have found that, because I work with wool wefts, I can block almost anything to near perfect flatness and squareness with this method.

Step 1:
After the piece comes off the loom, AND you have tied off all warp ends, trimmed the yarns on the back down to about an inch long, and sewn all slits larger than 1/4 inch long, lay it out on one of those cardboard gridded cutting boards. Actually, I use two of them, one, on top of the other, so that it is thick enough that pins won't go through and scratch my dining table underneath them.
Find the narrowest place on the tapestry (assuming it is not perfectly even all round- which, the more you weave, the closer you will get to.) This "Wooster" tapestry was about 1/4" wider at the top than at the bottom. Now pin the tapestry on one of the grid lines, along one side, pinning every inch, using the narrowest measurement as your edge. Pin all the way around the tapestry, again to the narrowest measurement on each side. This may take some adjusting and re-pinning. If your tapestry really pulled in somewhere and there is a great deal of difference between the narrowest measurement and the widest on any side, there can be quite a bit of 'bunching up' in the middle of the tapestry. Don't worry about that, except to try to spread the bubbles and bunches evenly across the tapestry as you pin it as squarely as possible. If you look closely (click on it to make it larger), you can see I've spread that 1/4" of extra width across the top evenly; there are little pucker-y places between the pins there.
The reason we are pinning to the narrowest measurement and not the widest, is that we are working WITH the properties of wool. Wool is easily shrunk (as you know if you've ever accidentally washed your favorite wool sweater in the washer and dryer), but wool does not stretch.

Step 2:
Get a press cloth. I use a cotton 'flour sack'dish towel, because cotton works well, and there is no dye to run. You can find these at any hobby shop where embroidery items are sold. Old flat cloth diapers work well too, if you can find them.
Wet the cloth completely, and wring it out so it is still pretty damp, but not dripping. While you're wetting the press cloth, have your iron heating up to the wool setting. Then cover as much of the tapestry as you can with the damp press cloth. (This is a small tapestry, so it is completely covered.)

Step 3:
I love this part! Starting at the lumpiest place on your tapestry, set the hot iron on the press cloth. Listen to the very satisfying, 'SSSssssss,' as the hot iron steams the tapestry. Let it sit about ten seconds. If there is really a lumpy place there, I hold the iron and lightly but firmly press it on the spot for the 10 seconds, to make sure the steam goes into the wool. Actually, if there are REALLY lumpy areas, you can spray just those places with a bit of water before you start the steaming process.
Move the iron methodically over the entire tapestry, using less time and pressure at the narrowest areas, and a bit more where these is excess tapestry (the lumpy places where the tapestry was wider).

Step 4:
When you have gone over all the tapestry once, take the press cloth off and look at it. There may still be places that bulge. If so, spray those a bit, re-wet the press cloth, and re-steam iron just the lumpy areas. Keep re-doing them until you think it is as flat as it will get.
Then let the tapestry 'rest', still pinned down, at least 24 hours before you unpin it.

Here are a couple of things to be aware of:
I live in a desert. Things dry very quickly here. If you live in a moist region, you may not want to be as aggressive with the water as I am. You may need to do the steam process once all over, then wait a while, maybe even a day, before you repeat. Make sure the tapestry is totally dry before you unpin it, or it will go back to it's 'lumpy' state.
If you have used any fibers that are not wool, this process should be approached very carefully. If the fibers you have used are synthetic, I wouldn't even try it, as some of those fibers will melt if they are even in the same room with a hot iron! Wool is a lovely, weaver-friendly fiber. I love it more and more! Some fibers are pretty scary.

Step 5:
After the tapestry is flat and dry, you can unpin it, iron (with the press cloth) the hems under and stitch them down, and then I line the tapestry! Voila!

OK. I guess I've procrastinated away from that pile of receipts as long as I can. More coffee and the grumpy face comin' up!