Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Scratch & sniff...

Well, maybe not. But tell me, WHEN is someone going to make it so we can upload scent to the Internet? Maybe that would open a can of worms best left closed.... but I would really love to share the scent of my old lilacs with you! The paler, light lavender ones are the really old ones, and they smell like Heaven must smell! The more purple ones smell lovely, too. Also in bloom are a billion strawberries, so we're trying to eat up those in the freezer from last summer quickly. I've had strawberries in one form or another twice today, and twice yesterday. Life is hard.

The flowering crab is covered with it's blooms still in the round bud state, just ready to burst into full bloom. I love that bud state, though, and it is the flower that I used on the lower border of the Spring tapestry. As the buds open, the bees come; soon the whole tree will be buzzing loudly... the sound of spring!
I am working at least an hour every day in the garden now. I have learned not to stress over all the work needing done there at this time of year. I could work myself to death, and would be buried with weeds still in the strawberry bed. An hour a day is enough to keep the garden from being overwhelmed with weeds, and me from being overwhelmed with the WORK of it all. An hour is the right amount to pull weeds while still enjoying the scent of the nearby lilacs. An hour is enough to let my muscles know they have been at work, but to not exhaust them. I am enjoying my garden time. It precedes my sitting-on-the-porch time, and how can I not enjoy that?

Custom knit gloves!

I finished the first glove in the pair I'm making myself, and just have the fingers to do on the second one. I have knit gloves before, but not for myself. If you can knit a pair of socks, you can knit gloves! In fact, I think they are funner to knit than socks, and I'm hoping they won't wear out as quickly as my handknit socks do (I hate darning!). I splurged on the beautiful painted wool/nylon blend yarn for these in Coupeville, WA when we were there last fall. I had thought I'd do socks, or a scarf or something for myself. When I decided I wanted to make myself gloves, this yarn was just the perfect fit for the project! If I do gloves again, I'll do a thumb gusset, as I've had to do for gloves for the men in my family. But this yarn is stretchy enough to make just the basic glove work. I think I'm going to really enjoy wearing these next winter! And I've enjoyed the project so much, everyone on my giftlist may get a pair next year!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wrinkles: for Illustration Friday

Self-portrait of the artist as a middle-aged woman. Perfect 5-minute sketch for the IF topic, "Wrinkles"!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Three books...

I am enjoying these three books, so thought I would share them:

My dear husband gave me Weaving Tapestries in Rural Ireland for my birthday. A beautiful book, and a good read!
I have enjoyed all of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries. They take place in post-war England. This is the 5th one, and it begins with Maisie taking a tapestry class!

This is a spread from Muriel Foster's Fishing Diary. I found a used copy through Amazon a few month's ago. It is out of print, but if you can find an affordable copy, it is a wonderful inspiration for anyone who keeps a sketch book.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A bit from the sketchbook...

I sketched a bit in the Moleskins this past week; though nothing to jump up and down about.

Quiet moments, quiet sketches. I did a few more, but this is enough to bore you with today!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

...and I'm making myself a present, too! A pair of lovely handknit gloves, but shhhh, it's a secret. Give myself a present? When you're my age, you can do that sort of thing.

Back home, for a bit...

I feel bad about saying, even briefly, that any part of my home state of Colorado is 'not scenic.' EVERY part of Colorado is scenic! So I took a few road shots of our short trip to share. They begin with the view from the patio door of the condo we were staying in: a wall of snow! The big round topped mountain is Buffalo Mountain, which was where we were staying. The highway between here and there includes the most expensive stretch of road anywhere. It took years to build, as it follows the river through a somewhat deep and narrow canyon wall. The last few shots are coming home shots. When I see the top of the Grand Mesa over the tops of the mountains, I know I am coming home. The huge Mt. Garfield rock formation greets us as we come into our valley. The final shot is of the sun yesterday evening, the wind blew dust here from Utah all afternoon, and by evening, it was very eerie here. You couldn't see our surrounding mountains, and the sun looked like a giant bright ball in the haze.

So today, I'm celebrating my birthday in various ways, plus doing a good bit of work. Then we're going up to the cabin for a few more days. It will be Very scenic! Ha!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Published by... Grandma!

The last time I was with my grandchildren, my 4-year old grand-daughter dictated and drew illustrations for a story. I told her I would make it into a book for her. This is a child that never forgets anything, so I decided I'd better get it done! So here it is, "The Cat That Lost It's Balance... Forever."
(The illustrations are adapted classic children's illustrations, enhanced by Katie's drawings.)

Is my budding author grand-daughter clever, or what? This whole story is, I believe, based on a dance class she is taking. I'm betting she and other little dancers quite often 'lose their balance,' which she pronounces 'valance' as in 'vallerina' and her 'vallet' class.

I love Siren, and Little Laura cracks me up! Notice the plate of spaghetti and meatballs, and that the bed has been tided up the second time she drew it. The figure on the bed is her Elmo doll. I'm sorry, but sometimes grandmothers just have to revel in CUTE!

Back to the drawing board...

Sometimes I just need to go back to the very beginning. In fact, it is a pretty frequent thing. Annual, I guess. Every year, for my birthday, we go somewhere where it is my intent to spend a goodly deal of my time drawing and sketching. And every year, right before we go, I get into a 'but I don't really know HOW to draw' panic. Now, if owning drawing books made a person a good draw-er, I should be a pro!

This year, we are not really going anywhere scenic. HA! Now that I've typed that, I realize how stupid it is! We are going to Silverthorne, Colorado, one of the most scenic spots in the world! But, to us, it's pretty common place scenery. We're going to meet my son and the grandchildren for a couple of days, giving my daughter-in-law a few evenings of quiet time (unfortunately she has to work the days). So we'll play with the kids in the pool, and I'll do 'Grandma art' with the kids. Then we'll go to our cabin on the mountain for a few more days; also very scenic, but, to us, same-old-same-old. SO... I have decided to use the time re-learning to draw, in preparation for our summer trip to Honduras, where I hope to get a bit of sketching time (though I never have been able to spend time sketching there before) and a friend and I hope to paint a bit with the children we work with there.

I have gone through most of these books before, but it will be very good to do it again. If I only owned one drawing book, it would be Betty Edward's Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. But the funnest one for me has been Jeanne Carbonetti's The Yoga of Drawing. You really need to be working from photos with her system, I think. She has you use a grid, do a gesture drawing (scribble it in), then a contour drawing from the gesture grid, and finally very loosely paint over it - NOT paint it in. So I've been doing some warm up sketching this morning, from magazine pages I keep for this purpose. (I find it's easier to do warm-ups from people I don't know, as then I don't worry about if they look 'right.' And so, without that worry, they generally do look looser and 'right-er.' ) The sketchbook I was using was quite awful for wet medium (watercolor and gouache), but these are just warm-ups, after all.

In the real world, yesterday was our first good 'sitting-on-the-porch' day. It was over 70 degrees out... Lovely! The fake-holly bushes by the porch are in full bloom, and they perfume the whole area. They are buzzing with happy bees, but the big black ones refused to pose, and I didn't push them. I did get a photo of one small bee. See him happily burying himself in the scented bloom?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The world is too much with me...

... to paraphrase William Wordsworth. I have been thinking about building a brick wall around our yard (which I believe would turn it properly into 'grounds'), and never going outside of it, like Emily Dickinson. I believe one of the reasons I am an artist is that it is easier for me to deal with the world by creating my messages to the world, and sending them out on my behalf, leaving me behind (alone) in my studio to create more.

To those who don't understand this, I'm sure I am sounding crass and anti-social. But I have spent so many years, hours, and moments whispering with warp and weft, it has become difficult for me to be demanded social interaction in the medium of words, mostly chit-chat. It makes me, in Wordsworth's words, 'out of tune.' Wordsworth suggests that the cure is in getting back to nature. So out to the garden I went. Double cure: in my family, if you need solitude, it can pretty much be guaranteed if you head out to weed the strawberry bed.

As you can see, my rhubarb is looking good! This rhubarb was here when we moved to this house, eleven years ago. But it has never really produced anything. So a couple of years ago, I moved it from the flower garden, to our new raised vegetable bed. I also split it from 2 to 6 plants. It takes several years to get reestablished, once you move it, so I'm hoping this is my year for at least one good rhubarb pie! Or maybe two - a two crust-er for my more traditional husband, and a rhubarb cream pie for me. Mmmmmmm... I feel better just thinking about it! Wonder if Wordsworth had pie in mind when he suggested getting back to nature? Now that part of the world is never 'too much with me'!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

And now, how I spent my evening...

... (and the whole of today, actually). We had our big fundraiser for our medical mission trip to Honduras tonight. We call it "Don Pepe's Night", after the restaurant in Tegucigalpa where we eat many of our meals while there. The photo above is from a mural in Don Pepe's cafe, there in Teguc. It is of the Iglesia de Suyapa and the Virgin of Suyapa, the patron saint of Honduras. The approximately 2 1/2" tall statue of the virgin was stolen from the Suyapa Cathedral on two separate occasions. After one of them, it was discovered in the men's restroom in Don Pepe's restaurante. There is a shrine to her in the restroom (which is no longer used as a restroom, but as a shrine.) Evidently, this mural was painted over the last time our group went, two years ago. It was quite large, and was painted on the wall of the stairwell, going up to the restaurante.

Anyway, our fundraiser is a dinner which is similar to what we get there on a plato tipico: roast pork, rice, black beans, pico de gallo, and a corn tortilla. After the first time we did this fundraising dinner, we decided to leave the fried plantains out, as most of them were not eaten.

So today, we decorated the dining hall, cooked, set up, served well over 100 people, cleaned up, and also had a silent auction. Our efforts raised a goodly amount of money for the trip expenses, and also frankly wore us out!

Between protesting yesterday and the Don Pepe's dinner today, I feel like I've been on my tired feet for a LOOOOOONG time!

Tomorrow, if the weather permits, I plan to spend the afternoon on another part of my anatomy that is NOT my feet, weeding the strawberry bed. If the weather does not allow that, I'll take a nap. I'm praying for rain.

Friday, April 11, 2008

How I spent my morning...

Vice-president Dick Cheney came to our little city this morning. His supposed task was to raise money for a local candidate. My suspicion is that he also was making a visit to his Halliburton interests, which are very active here right now. At any rate, what it cost us as taxpayers to get him here for the 1-hour luncheon he attended was, I'm quite sure, MUCH more than what he could have possibly have raised in this neck of the woods!
My friend and I decided we had to be a part of the Peace protest sparked by his visit. We are both pacifists, based on our faith, and have both protested war from way back in Viet Nam days. War is no better now than it was then. So we stood in the chilly wind for 3 hours and held up our signs. Dick Cheney (in the second black car in the middle picture) waved at us, and my sweet, christian, pacifistic friend yelled at him, "F*<&^%$ B&^%*@%!" I about dropped my Grandma sign! I asked her, "Where on earth did that come from?" She said, "I don't know. It just felt appropriate!" It's a good thing I'm not a blackmailer.... but I AM a blogger! Putting it on the internet, D, 'just felt appropriate!'

Thursday, April 10, 2008

So why am I here....

... and not here?

The answer is in the stack of exhibit prospecti that I sat and went through with my calendar close to hand this morning with my morning coffee. A few years ago, they would have been fiber exhibits. Now they are all for painting shows, or exhibits that allow all media. I am just not finding a lot of fiber exhibits out there to enter. And the few there are only accept work that is less than 2 years old - which also severely restricts a medium such as tapestry, which takes a long time to create. Also, and this is a BIGGIE for me right now, many of the exhibits and/or galleries are no longer insuring the works in the exhibit. I have always made it a policy to not send my tapestries to places that do not accept full responsibility for them while in their possession. Having just had a tapestry stolen, I feel even more strongly on that point. I may be willing to risk a painting, that has just consumed a week or so of my life, but not a tapestry. Also, having just done my taxes, I know that a goodly percentage of my income came from my painting last year, for the first time ever. SO... here I am at the easel, instead of the loom.

By the way, the main compositional problem with the "Penn Cove " painting from the last post is that the horizon line is smack in the middle of the painting, dividing the painting horizontally - a big "no-no," compositionally. However, I looked through a Winslow Homer book yesterday, and saw that he often got by with breaking that 'rule." And two friends dropped by during the day and both loved the painting, so I went ahead and finished and photographed it, and am entering it in an exhibit. We'll see how it does! Thanks, Janet and Ryan, for giving me some constructive help, though. Both of your comments helped me assess the piece in a new way, and helpful changes were made!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

At the easel...

I have been painting most of the day, much of last and this week. This is the 'season' for art exhibits, at least as far as painting shows go. My painting, "Mutual Admiration," was accepted into a juried national exhibit, to be in Farmington, NM. I think this is the first national exhibit I've entered with my oils, though I used to exhibit nationally with watercolors a bit. I, of course, have exhibited a great deal in my main medium of tapestry.

So now, with that piece to be gone all summer, I have been frantically trying to get another done enough to enter in the exhibit that I will be entering "The Youngest Groomsman" in, as I would like to enter two pieces. This is because a juror once told me she didn't even seriously consider entries when an artist had only entered one piece, as she wanted to make sure the artist could create more than one good work. (Horrid, but true cautionary tale!)
So - to that end - I have been working on the "Penn Cove" painting. I now have the canvas all covered, at least, but know I will need to look at it with fresh eyes tomorrow, to see what 'editing' needs to be done. Right now, all I can see is green - too much green. Green with envy? Moldy green? Whatever! I'm quite fed up with green! Do you know how difficult it is to get variations of green? Dark and light values of green; yellow and blue variations of green; blacks and blues and browns that read as green? Well, I'll tell you... Kermit was right. It ISN"T easy being green!

The canvas is still wet, which gives the picture a glossy, blurry look that I can't seem to over-ride. PhotoShop will only do so much - it won't dry wet canvas. It also won't fix the one HUGE compositional problem with this painting, that may make it un-enterable in any competition. Do you know what the problem is?

Monday, April 7, 2008

After the rain...

More poetry from my morning reading, Psalm 148 (the Message):
"Praise Him, all you His angels...
Praise Him heavenly rain clouds...
Mountains and all hills,
apple orchards and cedar forests...
Robust men and women in their prime..."

These are my tulips, my apricot tree in full bloom, and my flowering quince, just beginning it's season of praise.

A day for poetry...

It is a dark and stormy morning. A month or two ago, I would have bemoaned the weather, as we'd had just about enough of it. But, having had a month of our more usual sunshine, this grey rainy morning is delightful. Walking up the back stairs with my first cup of hot coffee, I was struck by the light through the window at the top of the stairs. It was so lovely, it filled me with a longing for more loveliness. That is the effect beauty has on me: beautiful visions, beautiful music, and beautiful words. I just want more.

Several of my bookmarked and frequently visited blogs have posted lovely bits of poetry lately. Mary Ann at Dispatch From LA has posted a beautifully illustrated portion of a Mary Oliver poem. Mary Oliver's poems are a current obsession of mine; well worth seeking out and devouring.
And Jon Katz, on his very prolific Bedlam Farm Journal, has posted "Helen's Third Poem", a MUST read, but grab a hankie first, as it's beauty hits you hard in the tear ducts.

I hope your day is a lovely one. Full of poetry and beauty... and a longing for more.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Tapestry as a Subversive Activity...

Speaking of saving... I am a hoarder of magazines, and things from magazines. One of the things I have been doing lately is going through all these piles of paper, and sorting them into proper files, or pitching them. In the process. I ran across a rather short-lived magazine called "Art Today." In this issue (Fall 1989) the cover story is about tapestry, and is sub-titled, "Weaving as a Subversive Activity." I loved the article then, and still do, so I'm going to share a small bit with you. (It was written by Charles Talley)

"There is almost no activity that appears to fly so much in the face of currently accepted conventions of both contemporary art and culture as does that of tapestry weaving. With stubborn insistence, a small but dedicated band of artists around the United States and the world take their positions at the loom -- a tool which has changed little since the Middle Ages -- passing colored yarns in and out of tautly held warp threads creating woven works of wonder. In the era of the video recorder and FAX machine, tapestry weaving appears to be a singularly anachronistic enterprise....

The very nature of the weaving process and the materials which it uses challenges the cynical indifference of a throw-away culture. Tapestry's essential insistence on craft skill and intensity of labor are a direct affront to the demand for instant gratification in our consumer-oriented society."

Cool. I always knew I was quite radical!
(in a quiet-all-by-myself-in-the-studio-sort-of-way.)

Illustration Friday: Save

I have posted this tapestry before. It is called "The Steward", and it is about our responsibility in relationship with the world and the creatures around us, so I thought it would be appropriate to post for the Illustration Friday topic of "Save." It is a fairly large tapestry, 40x40 inches.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I admit it...

... I am fickle. When I complete one project, whether it be a tapestry or a painting, I am done with it. Ready to move on, to devote my passions and energy to the next one. In fact, it is almost best for me if I have the 'next one' already in my mind, and perhaps even with canvas primed or loom warped or maquette painted, so that I don't 'fuss about' with the finishing of the last piece. Especially with painting; I can fiddle and fiddle, trying to 'perfect' a piece, if I'm not anxious to be working on something else.

So the canvas is still wet on "The Youngest Groomsman," and I have already primed, drawn up, and put an hour or two of painting work into the next painting. I have begun a landscape. I really don't 'DO' landscapes. It's pretty funny, how oddly we artists think. Most artists I talk to say, "oh I don't DO people! They are too hard." But I'll take a face anytime over a mountain full of trees! People are unique. In this part of the country, there are so many mountains full of trees, they all begin to look alike to me. I find them very intimidating to paint, as I don't know how I can possibly make the painting look interesting and unique.

Well, this landscape is not a mountain full of trees. It is a seascape from our trip to Washington last fall, with a boat in it. I don't know why I feel the need to paint another boat - maybe to 'replace' the stolen boat tapestry. But, for whatever reason, I shall attempt it. And there are trees in it. And sky - I also find sky difficult. Not a lot is going on in the sky in this picture, either. I will have to try to not let it look like a vast empty space, a boring place for the viewer to fall into.

Oh dear. I'm not doing a very good job of encouraging myself to get to the canvas and paint this morning, am I? Well, I shall do it anyway!