Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cat update... & more...

I took the cat in to our vet yesterday. Once again, we have a neutered male between one and two years old. Because he has 'elbow patches,' he reminds us of Mr. Rogers. Our oldest son was very fond of Mr. Rogers when he was little, and he called him "Bogers." So, right now, we are thinking that "Bogers" is a pretty good name for this cat (rhymes with Rogers - maybe we should spell it 'Bodgers'). He's content to be here most of the time, but gets angry with me for not letting him go outside. We live on a very busy street - especially as the two schools on the next block get ready to start and end their day. When the cat goes out, it always ends up in the street, and doesn't seem to bother to watch for traffic. Next week I'll go outside to do yardwork, and will take him out with me to see if I can teach him to not go into the street. If not, he'll be an indoor cat.

A few days ago I met with the committee that wants me to do a tapestry for a local church. It was a good meeting, and I have agreed to do a maquette for their approval... than we'll go from there. Since I have just begun a small tapestry (18"x18") I'll have to weave that off before I can warp and begin a large piece. They want one that is about 3'x5'.

Today I will take the exhibit down at the Presbyterian church gallery. I'm also doing laundry and packing, and cleaning the house for pet sitters, as tomorrow we're going over the mountains for the weekend to have some grandparent time. Trick-or-Treat, here we come!

Monday, October 27, 2008

The naming of cats...

"The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter, It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have Three different names.
First of all, there's the name that the family uses daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James, Such as Victor or Jonathon, George or Bill Bailey-
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the Dames:
Such as Plato,Admetus,Electra,Demeter -
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,

A name that's peculiar, and more dignified..." TS Eliot

Well, since you all sympathized with me just a few posts ago on our loss of our friend and cat of 18 years, Possum, you are now going to think I am quite pet-fickle. A new cat seems to have adopted us, much sooner than we would have gone looking for one. It showed up the day after the Palin rally; a lovely sleek little thing that has obviously been well cared for. It has a collar and a tag with a phone number on it from the other side of the mountains, so I'm not sure how it got here... perhaps in a car of someone who came to the rally? I have called the number a billion times, and left a million messages, with no response. In the meantime, I watched this sweet little thing living on crickets in the garden, and the nights getting colder and colder, so of course I brought it in, fed it, and the last two nights, have let her sleep inside (before that, I had left a blanket in the porch glider, which she used.) Anyway, she (and I use that term based on instinct, not knowledge) seems to now think of this as her home, so today I will go to PetSmart to replace all the kitty stuff we just got rid of.

We don't know if we have a he or a she here. We're not very good at telling. With Possum, my physician husband and then-aspiring-veterinarian son were sure he was a she, until we took him to the vet. One look in Possum's face convinced the vet that we had a Tom cat, and further inspection confirmed it. That's one of the reasons I think this is a she; the head is smaller and more delicate than Possum's was. We'll find out for sure when we get in to the vet next week.

In the meantime, we need to think of something other than "kitty, kitty" (which she does respond to) to call her/him/it. Our pets have usually had literary names. Our first dog was Aslan, from the Narnia books. Our next dog, Taylor, was an exception, as he was named after the folks we bought our cabin from, and also from his habit of 'tailing' us around. Wooster is named (appropriately) after Bertie Wooster, the silly bachelor in PG Wodehouse's books. And Possum was from TS Eliot's work. So who is this? I have thought of several possibilities, but none seem to fit properly yet. Our first thought was "Fleetwood" after a former neighbor lady who had a special relationship with Possum; or "Dashwood" (from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility); or "Bertie", to go with Wooster (tho' so far they mostly just tolerate each other); or how about "Lurcat" after french tapestry artist Jean Lurcat (pronounced "Lure-saw")? I'm leaning toward that name, but it seems a bit uppity for this particular cat, who is not too proud to eat crickets, which may or may not be a French delicacy, but I am doubting that they are. Any other name suggestions?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Repair: IF topic

Can my Cherrios breakfast repair the cholesterol damage last night's barbeque meatball dinner did?

Still playing a bit on the computer with Photoshop and Painter. I took a picture of my breakfast, Cherrios and bananas, and messed about with them until I liked it. Now I actually think it would be a fun painting! Who'd-a-thunk I'd want to paint a bowl of cereal?
If I paint it before the end of the week, I'll post it here again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Killing time, and getting better...

I am sitting at the computer coughing and messing about, bored with my dreadful cold, but not feeling up to actually working. I uploaded a photo from our weekend, when we took wood up to re-stock the shed for the winter, as we heat the cabin with wood.

I also took a photo of our flowering crab tree, which is absolutely stunning twice a year, which is why we keep it. It is beautiful in the spring for several weeks when it is in bloom,

and it is gorgeous now, in the fall when the leaves turn.

The rest of the year, it is really quite a mess, as a billion or more crab apples fall into the yard and must be picked up (by me). The doves do love to nest in it, and the honey bees come from miles around, making it buzz all spring long, so I guess it does have a few more redeeming values. My husband keeps threatening to cut it down, but I'll not allow it... not as long as it keeps charming me twice a year with it's beauty, and I can keep bending over to pick up baskets and bushels full of crab apples and getting them to the trash.
By the way, Blogger has been having problems of late, so I had a hard time posting this. If you have trouble posting comments, it is not your fault!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ever so ill all this morning...

"While well, and happy, and properly attended to, she had great good humour and excellent spirits; but any indisposition sunk her completely.... She was now lying on the faded sofa of the pretty little drawing room, the once elegant furniture of which had been gradually been growing shabby, under the influence of [forty] summers and two children [and two pets and several grandchildren]; and on Anne's appearing, greeted her with, 'So, you are come at last!... I am so ill I can hardly speak...'
'I am sorry to find you unwell,' replied Anne. 'You sent me such a good account of yourself on Thursday!'
'Yes, I made the best of it; I always do; but I was very far from well at the time; and I do not think I ever was so ill in my life as I have been all this morning: very unfit to be left alone, I am sure. Suppose I were to be seized of a sudden in some dreadful way, and not able to ring the bell!' "

I began coming down with this dreadful cold over the weekend, and it just keeps getting worse! My nose is red and sore, and I am quite in sympathy with poor misunderstood Mary, from Persuasion, by Jane Austen.

I don't know where this dread disease came from, but my son and his family had quite a long bout of it recently. Although they live across on the complete other side of the Rocky Mountains from us, we speak often on the phone, and I am beginning to suspect those dratted cell phones of being able to send more than just sound. What do we know about cell phones? Beware!

I had begun a painting, but I can't paint while holding a tissue to my sore nose.

I have begun a tapestry, but I can't make good color choices with swollen red tired eyes... I need that slow-talking guy from the TV commercial to come and 'get the red out' for me.

I had a scheduled meeting with a potential commission client but I had to cancel it. Rule number one for professional people: Do not infect with life-threatening diseases those who may someday pay you to work for them .

I was supposed to go yesterday to observe at an Alzheimer's Art session, as I am considering taking on some volunteer time there. I had to beg off, as I also didn't want to pass this on to people who would surely suffer from it even more than I am suffering (is that possible?).

I am sipping tea with lemon and honey, hacking and coughing, using up a hoard of tissues, watching old taped Masterpiece Theater productions, and reading Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad, wishing I was just seasick with him as he traveled Europe in a ship. I'm sure I will survive this to weave and paint again. But, oh, I wish I was well enough to ring the bell, and then, that ringing the bell would produce someone to make me my tea and sympathize with me! Dumb old Mary didn't know how good she had it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I can't help it... I MUST rant!

Yesterday Sarah Palin was not only here in my town, but in my neighborhood. She was a block away, and her fans parked along my street all day long, having to stare at my and all my neighbors' Obama signs in our yards. I had to play loud music to keep from hearing her amplified annoying voice bounce off my house. In the paper this morning, I see she used her usual scare tactics, calling Obama a socialist and a terrorist. ARRGH! Does she really think we are that stupid? Oh, wait... we are the country that elected George Bush for two terms; we ARE that stupid!@!$%^%@! (Though I can say that I personally had nothing to do with that.) Well, all I can say is, you get what you vote for, people. McCain may say he's not George Bush, but his voting record proves otherwise. OK, I'll stop my rant, if you watch this:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Re-filling the palette...

When I am ready to create a new painting, it is a simple thing to just smoosh a bit of fresh new paint onto my palette.

Not so, when I am ready to begin a new tapestry. To 'refill my palette' for a new tapestry, I first have to clean up the 'old palette,' a task I don't always do between paintings (though, hey look at that palette, maybe I should!). So I pull all my yarn bins off my shelves and tidy up, putting away all the yarns that I was using for the finished tapestry. Then I grab the maquette for the next tapestry and the work of filling my palette begins.

I go through each color bin and decide which colors will be needed for this piece. The ones I need are pulled out and put on my 'palette' - which is actually a rack thingee that I got at guild sale, which holds wound balls of yarn. Unwound skeins of colors I will use go on a portable rolling cart for when I get around to winding them into balls.

The palette for this "September" tapestry I will be weaving seems to have every warm color from my shelves in it! And it will have so much red, I'm just keeping the whole red bin out. Lovely! After the last piece, I am ready to weave the warmth of red again!

And p.s.: Thank all of you who left comments, sent emails, or just sympathized with me over the loss of our Possum. We miss him even more than we thought we would. Wooster can't figure out where he is hiding. As I think of myself as more of a 'dog person' I figured Possum would be the only cat I would ever want, but I miss having a cat surprise me with his presence, so who knows? Maybe another cat will show up and adopt us someday, as Possum did.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Of what use is a cat?

Sometimes in the cold of winter, I would find that, although my arm had found it's way out of the warm blankets, it still was curiously warm with the lightweight soft warmth of a furry vibration resting on it, snuggled up close into the curve of my body. It was a friendly, affectionate, even intimate presence; a "you are not alone in your winter hibernation" presence.

And sometimes a little furry paw would reach out to tap my needles as I knit, or a sleek silky greyness would hop up on the tray between me and my weaving or onto the desk as I worked on the computer. This friendly intruder would remind me, "You have worked long enough, you need some social time. Don't take life so seriously; it's time to play!"

Many times when I would sink into a cushion in sadness, worry, or despair, I would quickly find a friend on my lap, letting me know that I was not alone.

Possum loved to stare down big dogs, intimidating them easily into a compatible submission. From him I learned that it is not size or species or age (or gender) that makes the difference. It is a courageous spirit that makes one indomitable. He was named Possum from T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Our old Possum was a practical cat... though, as with all cats, not really of much use at all, as usefullness goes. But he was a dear sweet part of our family for almost 18 years. He went through all of his nine lives, and perhaps more. We had to let him go today, and there is a hole in our family where he was for such a good long time. I shall miss you, my dear friend.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Warped and more...

Last night at the oil painting class, the instructor told us in the last half-hour or so just to 'paint something.' So I painted this bear in about 15 minutes or less. It's done in that style she teaches, where you smear paint on the canvas, then rub out the lights, add a few dark accents, and you're done. She told me to sign it, so I wouldn't keep working it and work it to death. It's the first time I've signed a study, I think!

Yesterday I tied the warp on the loom for the "September" tapestry, and today I'll enlarge the maquette to a cartoon.

I also went to a new art supply store this morning! We have not had one here for several years, and have had to shop at the hobby shops or order from the internet, or stock up when we travel. It will be great to have a shop here again. They haven't started at a very good time, economically. I hope they survive! I did my best to help them this morning, buying several nice new brushes, and a few artist's 'toys.'

I am also doing my own personal best to not allow myself to be bogged down by daily news. It is not always easy. I read an article in (I believe) the New York Times yesterday, about how creative people are more sensitive to upsets in the world around them. DUH! Anyway, we need to protect our sensitivities at times like this, and be careful of the sensibilities of those around us. What helps me most is to talk to my grandchildren, who know nothing about the economy or the election. We talk of chocolate and good books... the important and enduring things in life. They keep life in perspective for me. I hope you have either grandchildren, chocolate, good books, or (best of all) all three, to make your day a good one, too!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Inspired by Autumn

The fall colors here inspired me to do a small 8x10" oil sketch,

... and an even smaller sketch in my bulky handmade paper watercolor sketchbook, at the cabin over the weekend.

In the past, I have been inspired on a number of occasions by the beautiful Colorado autumn. This tapestry is "Aspen Autumn," (34" x 48")

... this one is called "FALL: don't fall," (34" x 21")

... and this most recent one is the Autumn one from the Seasons series, titled "The Gift." (52" x 36")

William Cullen Bryant has said about Autumn that it is "the year's last, loveliest smile." So nice that we do have something to smile with the world about, even in these difficult times.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Two weeks ago we went up to the mountain for what was supposed to be "Color Sunday." But not much color. We went up again this weekend, and look at the difference! This is my favorite time of year in Colorado, when the aspens look like pure gold! The first panorama that I put together was on our way up, and the final one was of the incoming first winter storm, as we left the lake. (You can click on them to see them larger.) Predictions have it turning to winter at that elevation tonight, so all the leaves will probably be down the next time we go.
This is the aspen grove by our cabin. It's the prettiest I think we've ever seen it! Aspen trees are not individual trees; a grove of them is connected at the roots and is actually one organism.
This is the road near the cabin. Do you think this is what they mean when they say the streets of Heaven are pure gold? I'd be happy with this kind of gold!
The roof you see over the tops of the trees is our cabin.
I hope wherever you are, your autumn is as spectacular as this!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sugary: for Illustration Friday

I haven't posted for IF for a few weeks, but I have a couple of things to post for today's topic, "Sugary", which I'm not sure is a word. I'm hoping the meaning is like "sugar-y: covered with or having to do with sugar" and not a mistaken spelling of surgery, for which I've got nothin'. Annnnywaay, I'm posting a little Moleskin sketch from a diner in Canada of those colorful little sugar packets... also salt and pepper and artificial sweetener packets. Pretty much anything that was in front of me as I waited for my meal.

I'll also post the "Diner" painting, which I know I posted once in the distant past, but not for IF, and it has 'sugary' donuts in it, that, if you would eat too many of might cause you to need surgery! So it fits either way, doesn't it?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Presentation for a small(ish) tapestry

Here is how I am mounting the "February" tapestry. First, I must say that this is not how I mount all small tapestries. I try to match the presentation of a piece with the piece itself, and some need to have some additional fabric showing, and some do not. On this one, I have decided that it is large enough to not need an additional edging showing.

First, I had my own personal made-to-order stretcher frame created by my own personal handyman. The stretcher frames you can buy at frame shops work, but I wanted this one to be a bit thicker, and the ones my husband makes are much sturdier, as well. This one was made to the exact dimensions of the tapestry, as I don't want any extra edging showing. If you will want some of the fabric mount to show, be sure to add those dimensions to your stretcher frame.

As this stretcher was unfinished wood, I needed it to be either varnished or painted, so the wood itself would have a finish to it and would not eventually discolor the fabric. I opted to paint it, mainly because the acrylic paint dries faster than varnish. Either works to seal the wood, though, and it will not show.

I use an inner liner, just so it will look good from the back. This piece of fabric (I used a nice linen blend fabric) is stapled to the top edge of the frame.

Because a tapestry is fiber, I like it to have a bit of 'softness' to it, but not necessarily a lot. I put one layer of thin quilt batting onto the frame, pulled taut, and staple it on top of the inner liner next. I staple it onto the sides of the stretcher frame. I don't miter the corners of the batting, which would add bulk; I just cut the corners off.

The final layer of fabric is the one that will show. On this tapestry, it will only show on the side edges, but I still want to use a fabric that will complement the tapestry, and will not distract from it. I generally like to use a neutral color, and I like a fabric with a weave that shows and says, "woven fabric." This time, I chose a natural colored linen with an obvious weave structure and subtle flecks of contrasting threads. This fabric needs to be stretched over the frame, the batting, and the liner fairly tightly and very evenly, and stapled to the back edges of the frame. So when all is stapled, each layer is stapled to a different edge of the frame (which keeps you from stapling into previous staples.) Also, as you staple, turn the edge under a half inch or so, to give a finished edge and to keep the fabric from unraveling or shredding threads. I staple this layer using more staples, more closely together.

The corners are the most challenging area to get to look nice. The main thing is to be consistent. If you miter on one corner, do it on all of them. If you overlap to the top edge on one corner, do it on the other top edge, and to the two bottom edges, or to all four side edges. On this piece, I have done a half-miter that sends some excess bulk to all edges.

These layers cover the stretcher with all but the tapestry. Make sure they are even and taut, as they are what will support the weight of the tapestry, and you don't want them to get baggy over time.

Before you attach the tapestry, put three screw eyes in the stretcher frame on the back, for hanging. I use three so the weight of the tapestry will not pull in the sides of the frame. The two side ones go about a third of the way down from the top, and the third goes in the middle of the bottom. String heavy framing wire through them. On smaller pieces, two screw eyes is sufficient, and it probably would have been for this one.

Now stitch the tapestry, by hand, using an invisible stitch, and strong quilting or upholstery thread, to the covered frame. I use stitches that are about 1/4inch apart. If you find the stitching awkward, you could use a C-shaped needle.

Viola: Done, and ready to hang!

By the way, the beautiful oak dining chair below the tapestry is one of six that my husband has just completed making; two with arms, four without. Our home is filling up with his amazing work. (And, warped as our old house is, it is not quite as bad as this wide-angled shot makes it look!)