Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Illustration Friday: Clandestine

As the world spun madly on, she secreted herself away and did what she needed to do: create.

The topic for IF this week is Clandestine. Hmmmm. I have been so busy of late, I didn't even get around to thinking about it until today, but decided to post this watercolor even though it is no longer Friday. It looks clandestine to me, at any rate. But what do I know about clandestine anyway, being, as I am, an above-board sort of gal?

Fast away the old year passes...

One of the things I have done for the past 6 or 7 years is to make my own work calendar/daybook. At the beginning of each month there is a page for recent photos of my grandchildren, which is a fun way to keep up with their changes and growth. Then I have a page for each week, which I 'decorate' with photos and things I tear out of magazines, etc. to somewhat reflect what is going on in my life. Above are a few pages from this past year's calendar. They include the week Obama came, a page of cancelled stamps from all over the world from a week when I was being inundated with entries to the ATA exhibit, and a page from the week I had hepatitis. Spending a bit of time putting together each week's page is somewhat of a meditation on the week ahead, as well as a way to see what I will be doing in the oncoming days and hours. This next year, I plan to be a bit more creative with my calendar and include more sketches, along with the 'found' images. I've already chosen the sketchbook I'll use - a lovely find at the after holiday sales at the bookstore. A delicious bright empty book... just like the year ahead!

"Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true." Alfred Lord Tennyson

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The TRUE meaning of Christmas...

I've been getting cards and seeing messages about the true meaning of Christmas. Being somewhat of a self-confessed Grinch, I think, "humbug! That should be the true meaning of life everyday!"
But this morning, one of my sons and his precious family are dashing through the snow, over the river and through the woods to be with us for the next few days. Here is the true meaning of Christmas for me: sharing a special time with those you love, and especially with the special children in your lives and trying to let some of the wonder and joy in their eyes rub off and re-educate us about what is true and good and blessed.
I will have She-who-must-accessorize and He-who-loves-grandma's-house with me for a few days.
And, although I didn't get to be there, I 'rediscovered' the nativity joy through pictures and tales told about the most precious 2-year old Mary and Joseph ever to bless a church pageant!

May each of us see the world for at least a few days through the eyes of our children. May we see hope and joy there. And may what we learn from them stay with us as we go into a new year. May we see peace for their future and live in a way to make it come to pass. Have a Blessed Holiday. I know I will...

Monday, December 22, 2008

The color of snow...

It has been snowing pretty much all day today. I think it was to punish shopping procrastinators like me, as it made getting in and out of the mall absolutely treacherous! I gave up and came home early and have been working on finishing up gift projects instead, hoping it will be better tomorrow. Ha! The forecast promises more snow. And I wonder what color the snow will be tomorrow?

I have been fascinated lately with the color of snow. I awoke in the night one night last week and looked out the sitting room window. The sky was orange and the snow was yellow (and my dog was inside, so it wasn't his fault.)

Late this afternoon, I looked out the kitchen window and was amazed to see a pretty pale pink cast to the snow. I took a few photos, but didn't go outside far enough to look for a 'view,' so just took a shot of the back garden.

About a half hour later, as the sun was going down, the pink color intensified. It was amazing! My husband was arriving home from work just as I went out to take another photo. We were both impressed. We thought maybe the sunset above the storm was a bright one, but I have never seen such pink snow. However, several more hours have passed, and several more inches of snow have accumulated and we just went outside, to find the snow still pinkish, in a night-time shade! So it wasn't the sunset. Maybe it's a holiday glow, cast from all the lights around the valley, though our lights and most of our neighbors' are all white.

Well, whatever is causing it, it is pretty. I have a watercolor painting friend who says you can paint snow any color, and it will read as snow. I guess I believe her now.

Here is someone else's photo of pink snow from Loveland, CO. (I'm not even going to Google 'yellow snow', as I am no dummy!) There is evidently a phenomenon here in Colorado when an algae causes the snow to actually be pink, but what we're seeing here tonight I believe is a light effect, not actual coloration in the snow. Here is a scientific quote from a site regarding pink, or 'watermelon' snow:
Another theory, from an eminently reputable source; "The Cat in The Hat Comes Back" by Dr. Seuss, describes pink snow resulting from a desperate attempt to remove cake frosting from the bathtub, then mother's dress, then the wall, father's shoes, the rug, the bed, and finally leaving the snow all around the house pink. To turn pink snow white again, you need VOOM, carried in the hat of Little Cat Z.

I believe this may be the explanation of what we have here tonight.

(By the way, my skeptical son, the color was NOT caused by Photoshop! Just ask your dad.)

See what I won!

This is a lovely printed card by Edrian Thomidis, whose blog I discovered by occasionally participating in Illustration Friday. I posted a comment on her give-away post, and she sent me this sweet card!
Isn't the internet world cool? I have 'met' so many talented people by blogging and visiting other creative peoples' blogs. I hope all of you 'blog friends' have a wonderful holiday season, and a creative New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Illustration Friday: Voices

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. " Luke 2

This is an acrylic painting I did several years ago. I thought that, given the time of year and the IF topic, I could post it today. I did the painting because I wanted to paint a specific piece of fabric (the brown one on Mary). I would like to do it again someday in oils. I think it would be more successful.

Speaking of voices... our Sunday night fellowship group will be caroling this Sunday evening, and it is supposed to be somewhere around 5degreesF! Among the caroling, I'm betting there will be some whining about cold feet and noses. We will probably not go far before we return to our cozy house for chili and hot chocolate.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I did finally put the Christmas tree up yesterday... then I put it back up, after Gus knocked the whole thing over. Fortunately, he knocked it over before I had put the ornaments on; I just had to untangle and re-do the lights.
I have a lot of ornaments on my tree that are very special to me. Some of them were from memories of my boys' childhood, but there are several that are reminders of special tapestries.

I have a watermelon, for "The Watermelon Girls" tapestry, from my Heritage Series...

I have an accordian player, for the "Prairie Polka" tapestry,

and a green chair, for "The Big Green Chair", both also from the Heritage Series. I haven't been able to find an ornament for the other two tapestries in that series, which would be something like a barbershop pole and a croquet set, I guess.

I have a snowman, for the ornament I did for the White House tree during the Clinton administration, (the theme that year was snowmen)

and I have a Mickey Mouse ornament, for the commission tapestry I did for the Disney Wilderness Lodge Resort, which is not on my website because of copyright issues, but I think I can show it here to just say, "This belongs to Disney, but if you see it in Orlando, I made it for them," so here it is.
See how much a Christmas tree can remind me of? All those times at the loom... makes me want to go weave!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Keeping my inner Grinchy-Scrooge at bay...

I am not a person who revels in all aspects of this holiday season. Usually at about this point, I am wanting to find the person responsible for it's creation (and no, I don't think it was Jesus who foisted Christmas on us) and deck him with a big bough of holly. I think part of my grouchiness is because I seem to have to put all creative work on hold for a month or so, while I shop, clean, totally un- and re-do my home decor, bake, and be sociable. Those things are not all bad - not at all. In fact, they can be quite wonderful. BUT... there is so much of it all crammed into this one month that I have no time to sit quietly at loom or easel and keep the 'artist-that-lives-in-and-makes-demands-on-me' happy. As I have said before, when I can't be creative I get quite grumpy. This year I also am helping organize an exhibit that is now at deadline time and that has also been requiring a few hours of my attention each day, so I have actually put off the Christmas stuff until right now, less than two weeks from the day. (I know: excuses, excuses!)

So... in spite of the fact that I have NOT decorated the house, let alone cleaned it, I have been trying to do a bit of creative work each day. Yesterday I tried a new recipe that intrigued me. It is for "Fruitcake Cookies" and I found it in the new issue of Victoria magazine. I'm not a fruitcake fan, but my father-in-law is, so I wanted to make them to send him. Actually, they are very good with a cup of coffee!

Today I did another creative project that I found in another magazine, and that you can see online at Amy Butler Designs (look for Cards and Wooden Signs in free patterns). I thought it was clever, and would go with the woodsy things I always put on my mantle. I painted it in acrylic on canvas, so I can paint over it in oils if I want to later on. What I like about it is that it looks like a giant Christmas card. It has motivated me to get out the mantle decorations and start 'hall decking.'
And, of course, Gus is quite certain that every new thing that is brought out is a kitty toy, or at least, needs his personal inspection.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow...

We're just back from a very short overnight at our cabin. There was not much snow, but enough to be a real pain when we ended up in a ditch and my dear husband had to dig us out.

Last night the moon was full, and the night was warm enough to wander around a bit outside. I'm sure things have changed there by tonight. Here at home, 5,000 ft. of altitude lower, it's snowing, so I'm sure it's snowing hard up at the cabin. The storm was just blowing in as we left... very blustery.

Isn't the 'luster of mid-day' on the snow at night lovely?

We had to rush home, as the acapella womens' group that I lead was singing at a holiday dinner tonight. They sounded like the beautiful women they are! And I love this photo my husband took of a few of them. They are really into whatever we were singing! This group of women is one of the delights of my life. We have laughed and shared our lives and sung together at least once a week for more than a year now. And we don't sound bad... no produce has been pitched at us yet, at any rate.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Do WHAT to the halls?

OK, I do know what time of year it is. I know my neighbors' trees are up, and their halls are decked. But don't let the photos here mislead you... my halls are NOT decked! These are photos from last year. My tree is not up, my mantle is not lit, nor is my stairwell. My little collection of cabins is not prettily arranged for the grandchildren to 'ohh and ahh' over. I have hung my Swedish star in the window, but that, I confess, is with the intent to deceive. I want the neighbors to think I'm keeping up.

The reality is that I am still knitting the sweaters, creating the books, and making out shopping lists, having not gone to the mall or downtown to shop yet. Now is the time to start panicking, if you are on my Christmas list! And those few things I have been doing to ready myself to face the holidays have been squeezed into the moments I am not sitting here at my computer, inputting exhibit information so I can get it all to the juror the moment the holidays are over. Needless to say, no weaving has been on my daily ToDo list for a while either, though I have been painting more little birds for the kids' book.

But now, I think, I am catching up a bit with exhibit work. Maybe now I can deck a bit of the halls, make a batch or two of Grandma Maisie's fudge and some cinnamon popcorn, and help out the economy by going to the dreaded mall. Maybe I can even finish those sweaters on the couch in front of "White Christmas" or "Little Women." The acapella women's singing group I lead will be singing carols at a holiday party Saturday night, so I'll get out that red and green sweater with reindeer on it and even deck myself out a bit! After all, it IS 'beginning to look a lot' ..... well, you know what I mean.

Of note (in a small way): I got my new issue of the American Craft magazine today, in which I am mentioned in the "Accolades" section. All it says is:

Colorado artist
Kathy Spoering got an award for excellence from the “American Tapestry Alliance“:http://www.americantapestryalliance.org for The Gift, a fall-themed weaving that “has a great deal of spiritual significance for me,” as she notes on her blog.

But you already knew that, didn't you?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Holidays coming at parade speed...

Last night was our local Parade of Lights. When we moved to our small town 28 years ago, one of the things that amazed and amused us most were the parades, which occur here for any and every reason throughout the summer, into the fall, and even at Christmas. In the summer, if you own a convertible or a bicycle, you can be a parade float. For the holiday Parade of Lights, all it takes to be a float is a pick-up, a hay wagon, and a Scout troop. Or an ATV with a large stuffed animal strapped on the front or back. Or a bicycle or a convertible. Pretty much anything that you can stick lights on. It is a very noisy parade; the noise mostly coming from all the generators on all the hay wagons, keeping the lights lit up.

Last night, the hospital Blood Mobile was all lit up, as were a huge dump truck and a crane. There is actually a Pipe Company here that creates truly amazing 'floats', pulled by lit-up semis. They did two of them this year, a train and a western scene.

One year, when our boys were in middle school and late grade school, one of the women at church decided we would do a Parade of Lights float. She knew of someone with a pick-up and a hay wagon, so why not? The theme that year was "Story time," so she decided the youth group should do the float with Bible story scenes. The person with the hay wagon also had goats and sheep, so several of those also got stuck on the float with the kids. All the props were made of styrofoam and cardboard... this is a small town low budget parade, not New York's Macy's parade, after all. As we processed at 1-2 miles per hour through the FREEZING downtown night, the goat kept jumping off, needing to be chased and put back on, and pieces of Noah's ark and Jonah's whale kept falling off onto the street. My job ended up being to walk along behind the float, picking up those pieces, and making sure the goat didn't run away for good. I remember at one point getting so tickled by the whole thing that I was walking along with styrofoam whale fins in my arms, laughing so hard tears were freezing on my cheeks. Ah, happy holiday memories... of things I would NEVER do again, but can remember with a smile.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Similar: Illustration Friday topic

I just did another of my little oil sketches, to use in the book for the grandkids. It is similar to the one I had done before for the IF topic of "wise," which I was going to use in the book until I decided I'd paint all the illustrations. (Shown below) It was done digitally.
...And they are similar, in that they are owls and I made them, to two owls I have woven into tapestries. This one is in the top border of the "Winter" tapestry, and the one below is from a very early tapestry I made called "Fifth Day."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Little Oil sketch demo

I've been spending long stretches of time at the computer, inputting exhibit entries. So, in the interest of keeping my sanity, I have been taking little 20-minute breaks to paint little bird sketches for a book I'm doing for my grandchildren for Christmas. These little oil sketches are not great art, but will work well for my purpose, and they are a lot of fun!

Several people have asked how I do an oil sketch so quickly, so I decided to photograph the last one, and show you. Note: these are only about 7" square, and I don't do any preliminary drawing - or any drawing at all except with the brush. I don't wait for anything to dry; everything is done wet. It truly takes only about 20 minutes to do a sketch like this. (Uploading it to the blog took longer than painting it did.)

Step 1: (less than a minute) Smoosh a background color thinly all over the canvas.

Step 2: With a mostly dry brush, wipe the shape of the main figure (in this case, a bird) out of the background. (another minute or two)

Step 3: Paint the bird. (3-5 minutes)

Step 4: Add some brushwork areas. (Another minute or two... don't spend much time on the brushwork or it will be to fussy.)

Step 5: Do detail work and clean up background. (This step takes me the most time, but I force myself to stop after several minutes, or I will work it to death. It IS only a sketch, after all!)

The story I have written for the kids has a total of 7 birds in it, so I'll be playing with them for a few days. I did the cardinal and a magpie today. A fun distraction!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

All Passion Spent... more

Ok, you knew I'd have to say more, didn't you? So here it is.

First, a design consideration I'll share: I had first meant to mount the tapestry in the frame this way:

... but in the process of mounting, the phone rang and I dropped the tapestry on the prepared mount with it going the other way, as shown in the previous post. I decided I liked it the other way better, as it is not so predictable. (By the way, both the tapestry and the mount are perfectly square. I just can't seem to get my digital camera to not have that wide-angle effect, which skews the edges.)

Second: What motivated this piece? I already told you I had watched the movie called by the same title, and enjoyed it, though it was a bit depressing. But this is actually motivated by the fact that I am again working on an ATA exhibit. When I work on an exhibit filled with wonderful tapestries created by other artists, I can sometimes be overwhelmed by it. I think I often 'spend' my own passion when I look at the work of others. I decided to share this with you, because I know I am not unique. When I get to feeling overwhelmed by seeing too much of other artists' work, I normally just pull back and don't look at it! That's pretty easy, where I live. There are no major museums here, and I avoid websites and magazines that are filled with artwork. And I generally get over the overwhelmed feeling fairly quickly, and once again can enjoy being inspired by others. However, I also temper that inspiration. For instance, I have never taken a workshop by another tapestry weaver, and I am very careful to 'protect' myself when I go to seminars, etc. I think I could be pretty suggestive, and I don't want my work to be a poor imitation of someone else's work.
But when I am working on an exhibit, I have to look at wonderful work by other artists, and floods of it have been coming in last week and this week. So, before the floods began, I determined that I would put a tapestry on my small loom, and try to pour some of my passion into my own work, and not 'spend' it all on working on the exhibit.

By the way, the exhibit, Connections: Small Tapestries International, will be a wonderful exhibit of small tapestries from all over the world. My postman is enthralled with where some of the entries are coming from! Mark your calendars, if at all possible, to see the exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles: May 5 - July 26, 2009, or at Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana: August 20 - September 20. I hope to meet some of you there!

Monday, December 1, 2008

All Passion Spent

I finished mounting the "All Passion Spent" tapestry. The tapestry is 9x9 inches. The mount is 14x14 inches. I left a mounting border showing so I could paint text on it. Here's a detail of the tapestry. (My mounting process can be seen here.)

I know, I know, I usually have more to say about a tapestry than I have said about this one. But I think this one will have to speak for itself... at least for the time being.