Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter has finally come...

In total contrast to a year ago, we have had a mild season, until today. This is the view a few minutes ago from the sitting room window, which is my perch overlooking the world. Snow has been coming down most of the day, and it has gotten bitterly cold. A good evening to be inside where it is safe and warm.

The fifth bloom on the amaryllis opened completely today. A profusion of bright color against the curtains keeping out the grey day.

Gus also keeps his eye on the world from his perch at the sitting room window, as well as keeping a close eye on me!

My resolve, as this time for resolutions creeps upon those of us silly enough to do such things, is to be more attentive to the things that matter to me in the coming year. And to not only attend to them, but to capture them in some way. I will sometimes post those things here, sometimes they may be posted on the Grace and Wonder blog, sometimes they will be posted elsewhere, sometimes they will only show up in my personal journal or sketchbook, but I do intend to put them altogether in a tangible way as I go, so by the end of the year they will make up one volume. It will be a daily practice, and I suspect that it will employ many mediums, though mostly sketches, as I want this to be a small addition to my day, and not to detract from my studio work, but to enhance it. That is, at least my resolve. And my determination. I am quite excited about it. Time, do not diminish my resolve, determination and excitement! Do you hear me, Time?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Amaryllises? Amarylli?

I love amaryllises, or is the plural of amaryllis 'amaryli?' Anyway, my this-year's bulb is the kind with red on the outer edges and a yellow-white inside. "Apple Blossom," I think. The first bloom opened Christmas eve, and the next on Christmas day, then two more opened the next day. This one will also have a 'bonus' bloom, smack in the center! A five-blossom one! It is very pretty.

I have been enjoying sketching it's growth. This is today's sketch. I did a more complex one, and decided I liked the simpler, quick sketch better. That is a good thing to know about my preferences, as I plan to undertake a fairly large sketching project with the onset of the New Year - but more about that later.

Over the years, I have captured a lot of Amaryllis images. The one above is a photograph, that I have used for card images.

This one is a fairly large watercolor sketch, from back in the days when I was painting in watercolor. I wasn't impressed with it at the time, so it is somewhere in a cupboard, but I am finding that I like it's graphic simplicity now.

And this is a 9x12" oil painting I did.

On a completely different topic, I painted with the Alzheimer's patients yesterday, for the last time this year. I didn't take them any source material to work from, and just suggested they paint a winter scene. Several of them actually were able to do something that was recognizable as snow, etc. This man's work always is a wonder to me. He paints with a great deal of intent and attention. He worked on this little painting for quite some time, and is almost finished with it in the photo. He cannot verbalize anything to me, though he sometimes tries. But when he was done, I told the activity director that it looked to me very much like a snow shovel, leaning against a workbench. She told me he had worked in construction most of his life, and then in a construction maintenance supervisory position. So he would be very familiar with both snow shovels and workbenches. The mind is a wonderful and mysterious thing. When my little art time manages to reach into a damaged memory bank and pull out a few familiar images that cannot otherwise be expressed, I feel very blessed indeed.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve, 2010

My amaryllis bloomed today! At least the first of the four blooms opened. I grow an amaryllis every winter, so I am posting this sketch of it for the IF topic of 'winter' this week. It gives me some living color to look at, when everything outside is brown and grey.

Happy Christmas to you all, and may you also find bright spots in your winter!

At the center....

When you learn about design, you find that the 'center of interest' is to be the place that the eye is led to by the use of value contrast (putting the lightest light areas near or next to the area of the darkest darks); by the use of saturation (using the most intense, or least greyed colors); by the use of repetition of pattern or shapes that lead to the area you want the viewer to see first and look at longest; or perhaps by the use of lines that literally point the eye to the area. And, of course, the 'center of interest' should not be smack in the center of the composition.

I use all of those contrasts to lead a viewer's eye where I want it to be led; to the center of interest, or the place where I am telling my story in the composition. But I don't think I have ever really used them all at once, or quite so obviously, as I am doing in this tapestry. And, yes, the center of interest, where all of these things are happening at once, is smack in the middle of the tapestry. It is making me a bit apprehensive... have I done too much? The tapestry is a subtle one, with lots of greyed blues and browns everywhere except in the middle 4 inches, or so. There, there are bright, intense (non-greyed) blues, the only whites and blacks, and the only red in the whole piece. It is also the area where there is the most linear and shape movement. All of those things will lead the eye straight to Booker's face, so I really need to get the face done well.

So I am back to the place where I need to trust my design process. Yesterday, I put in the bright blues: Oh, my! they were blue! Too blue? Should I unweave and select a less intense blue? No. Keep going... it will work.

I often reach this point. In almost every tapestry there is a place where everything looks 'wrong' - too little or too much. But if I trust in my maquette and in the color choices and decisions I made before I even began weaving, it usually works out to be 'right.'

At least that is what I keep telling myself....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fast away the old year passes...

As I have finished holiday shopping and shipping, I am looking back at my work, and see, as usual, that I have fallen behind. The end of the year is approaching, and I still have 10 inches to weave on the "August" tapestry. I still intend to finish it by the end of the year, so I must get to it!

Lest you think I have been doing nothing at all but shopping and traveling through the winter wonderland that is Colorado (which is basically what I have been doing,) I have posted a few little sketches from my sketchbook for you. Do not judge them harshly, as I do 5-10 minute sketches with my morning coffee, trying to catch the essence of the thing, rather than detail.

The first couple of sketches is my documentation of the fast growth of my amaryllis. I should be able to sketch it blooming on or before Christmas day!

This last little sketch is of a basset that was at the dog park when I took Booker there recently. This dog cracked me up! Most of the dogs were retrievers, or of that size. This little girl was half their size, but she not only kept up with them, but she scolded them all loudly as she did it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Not a creature was stirring...

Gus's favorite new hide-out.

Booker finding a sunny nap spot.

And will someone please tell me who I can address this package to? (As soon as it's addressed, I can tuck the tail in, seal it and send it to you!)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New painting...

I think I have finished this painting. It is larger than those I have been doing: it is 16"x20". I have discovered that I am wanting 'less' in my paintings, as I am wanting less, or more simplicity, in my life. This may be too much nothing-ness for some people. I have no idea of how it will be viewed. But it looks pretty good to me in a simple black frame! Quite zen.

It will be called 'The House Call.' Oil on canvas. Lest you think simplicity is an artistic cop-out, I am finding that it is very difficult to paint something this 'stark' successfully. I hope this one has succeeded. Another is in the works....

Monday, December 6, 2010

Design process....

In response to a request that I show as much of the design process as I can, I'm posting a few of the scribbles I've been doing lately. I keep scribbling little sketches of Mary. From them, and the mind-work that has been going on, I have decided on the pose I want her to take, and how she is to fit into the narrow tapestry that will feature mostly her and the baby Jesus. I have also decided that, partly due to the narrowness of the area she will be in and partly due to my own experience as a new mother (long ago, but not forgotten), I want her to be in a more intimate pose than the Morris tapestry and most other nativity art shows her in.

The majority of the design process can't really be visually posted. I am designing while I drive, while I do house chores, while I work on other things in the studio or at the gallery, and even while in church. In my mind-work, I have determined what animals will be included and, to some extent, where they will be. I also know the pose I want for Joseph, but haven't begun 'scribbles' of him yet. I know what I want in the upper borders: landscape from the National Monument on the right side/Mary tapestry, and landscape from the Grand Mesa on the left tapestry. The Mesa is east of here, so there will be a bright star in that landscape, representing the 'star in the east.'

So that is how the design is progressing so far. I have drawn Mary up on the canvas that I will paint to be the maquette. I don't usually do an oil/canvas maquette. I have usually done one on a watercolor board, because I use paint, colored pencils, collage, or whatever it takes to put together the visual image from my mind. But I have become more comfortable with oils, so will try to do this maquette in paint. It may still end up with other media added, but I would like to keep the maquette fairly 'clean and tidy' so it can be shown to the client. It is not easy to pull something out of your brain to show someone else.... as I am not Dumbledore.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Design work...

I have been working on the design for a commission I am undertaking for a local church, which is called the Church of the Nativity. So of course they want a nativity tapestry. Actually, because of the way the sanctuary is set up, there will be two narrow tapestries.

The tapestry above is William Morris and Co.'s "Adoration of the Magi." It is the ideal tapestry for this subject. My tapestries will be somewhat less ambitious. The design elements are coming together in my mind, and I have begun sketching and drawing up the maquette for the first image. Because I want them both to be the same size, I will weave them at the same time, side by side. The tapestry that will hang on the right will be Mary's tapestry. The one that will hang on the left will have Joseph and an angel in it. And Joseph will not look like an ancient old man, like he does in so many nativity images, including Morris's. Both pieces will have animals, though not necessarily the typical nativity animals. There will be an upper border on each, with local landscape elements in them.

I have been pulling out my photos and images and have been sketching and calculating... all of the early design tasks. These are what I like most about designing a tapestry; the little tasks that pull an idea from my mind and make it appear visually, so I can weave from it.

I will be working at the gallery tomorrow, so this design work will stop for the day. The gallery has been very busy, so I don't expect to get any of my own work done while there. But my mind will still be at work, and it will hopefully solve a few of the puzzles the design has given me so I can pull it together in paint next week.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Prairie Moon....

As we drove across the great Kansas prairie, I realized that it is very beautiful. That may seem an obvious thing to many, but I grew up in Kansas, and I grew up longing for the mountains of Colorado, where I was born. I did not appreciate the flatness, the seeming endless emptiness, of the Kansas landscape. But I have come to appreciate that vast open space as the world has seemed to become crowded and full. I can now see that the prairie landscape has a zen-like peace to it. Sitting in the truck as we passed through a thousand miles of prairie cleared out some of my cluttered soul.

The moon was almost a full one throughout our trip, and it seemed to rise very early, with no mountains blocking it's arrival. I am not sure that I captured all that I felt about the moonrise and the prairie in this little 8x10" painting, but I am glad I gave it a shot. The larger paintings I have been working on, though they are not landscapes and I began them before our trip, also are 'filled with emptiness.' It was good for me to see how beautiful something can be without having to be 'full.'

Friday, November 26, 2010

First crack at the prairie...

I did this small painting to warm-up yesterday. It is 4"x12" on a 2" deep gallery wrap canvas, with the sides painted to blend in with the front, so it won't be framed. Fun to do!

My goal with this little piece was just to capture the simplicity of the autumn prairie. In fact, I may call it "Autumn Prairie #1," as I'm sure I'll try more autumn prairie pieces. I also started an 8x10" prairie painting. It's not ready for prime time yet, though. I am attempting to show more of 'the artist's hand' in it, and have not yet pleased the artist!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Road trippin' with an artist....

We just got back from a road trip from western Colorado to eastern Kansas, and back. It was a quick trip, though a long one in miles; which means we spent a lot of time just driving across the two states. I discovered that I could put my camera, a Nikon D60 digital SLR, on the 'action' setting (since we were moving) and using the long lens, I could get some fairly decent shots!

I ended up taking 1300 pictures, almost a photo for every mile we traveled! I took a lot of hay bale and barn shots, a number of prairie hawks, sunsets and moonrises and lots of 'big sky.'

Though I took very few inside photos (as our inside time was more family oriented), I did take this photo that I like of coat hangers in a train depot/museum we went to.

I took most of the pictures on our way back home. The first day, all across the plains and prairies of Kansas and eastern Colorado, there was a heavy fog all the way, and it was so cold that the fog had frozen. The simplest things were made beautiful.

When the sun finally came out, it too made the cool green winter wheat and the frozen ground glow.

Our second day of travel home was across the Rocky Mountains. As bad weather was forecasted all the way, we headed out early. The sun was just rising, sending an orange glow into the oncoming snow clouds. The effect was very surreal. The photo below shows how the orange sky began, and there is another shot of it on my other blog here. I don't think I've ever seen a sky like it!

As we crossed over the continental divide, two moose cows came out of the trees to cross the road. I was so glad I had my camera ready, as these are the first moose photos I've ever taken, though I have spent a good deal of time in moose territory. I hope they either made it across the road safely, or turned back. I've never heard of moose being in that part of Colorado.

As we got closer to home, the sun finally came out, showing the snow the clouds had left behind.

I always know I am 'HOME' when we can finally see the top of the Grand Mesa coming into view.

From all the photos I took, I have a number that are already inspiring paintings. I could hardly wait to get to my easel to start a few of them! I also hope to find inspiration for a 'November' tapestry among them. I'll keep you posted, but will spare you the rest of the 1200+ photos!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dog days....

Though I am about a half inch shy of the half-way point of the August tapestry, I did get it all evened up the other day. Then I began working where the blues begin, and, as it was dark, I decided I'd best quit until I could see my color choices better. (This is not a good photo, color-wise. It is dark and snowy today, so I had to turn on the artificial lights to shoot it.)

This is the cartoon I am working from (minus the copyright watermark, of course). I don't think I've ever posted it before now. As you can see, the lower half is more greys and browns, and the upper half is more blues. I was concerned about this half-way division, design-wise, but I am making sure to put some of the blues from the upper half in the lower portion, and vice versa, so that the top and bottom will be sure to look like they 'belong together.'

I worked all day at the Blue Pig Gallery yesterday. It was the opening reception day for the "Little Pigs" miniatures show/sale. We were VERY busy all day, and made a lot of sales! I had decided that I would hang some of my small tapestries, in addition to the small paintings. These are the three that are there now: "Milo's Duck," "Still Perk-y," and "All Passion Spent." It was gratifying to have a number of people tell me they were happy to see that I had some tapestries there, as that is what they want most to see from me. (By the way, as they are now 'officially for sale,' if anyone is interested in any of these, let me know. Post a comment with your email address, and I will email you directly rather than putting the comment on the blog.) Several people also told me that they saw a bit in the newspaper this past week about my piece being in ATB8. Not only did I miss the bit, but that seems to be the day's paper that my husband built a fire with at the cabin!

It is snowing out. I have a doctors appointment, then must get ready for a trip later this week to see my in-laws, so I'll probably not get back to the loom with any persistence until Thanksgiving Day. I hate stopping, when I just felt like I was getting a good start again at the loom! But that is how life weaves sometimes...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Creepin' up the warp slowly...

I will soon be at the half-way mark on this tapestry. About time, I say! This lower half has been easy weaving, actually, but life just keeps intervening and interrupting my weaving time. I have been doing 'other necessary things,' but have been suffering for it! Weaving helps me deal with all of the 'other necessary things,' so when they keep me from weaving altogether, I get a bit fussy.

The fall yard work is not done. I do have a number of 'other necessary things' calling my name loudly, but yesterday and today I have turned a deaf ear to them. I am at the loom, weaving. I hope to reach that magical and inspiring middle mark by the end of today! About an inch and a half more, and I'll be there...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More small stuff to go to the gallery...

As I work at the Blue Pig Gallery on Saturday, I've been getting a few more pieces ready to take to hang for the miniatures show/sale. As I am primarily a tapestry weaver, I'll be hanging a few small tapestries among my paintings. I framed the duck and the percolator (each 8"x10") in black frames that makes the piece 'float' within it (hard to see in the image.) I like the effect.

As small pieces are where I experiment a bit, both in tapestry and paint, I also did the two paintings below. They are on wood, with the wood grain showing through a bit. The cat is on an uncradled 4"x4" piece of birch.

The cups below are 6"x6" and are on a cradled piece of maple.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Little bittys... just for fun!

I did a few of these tiny paintings (2"x2") just for fun, for the miniatures exhibit at The Blue Pig Gallery. I will be hanging my small work today, a bit late, as I should have done it Sunday, or before. I'm still feeling a bit dizzy, though, with the double ear infections. Yesterday I was afraid to drive that way. Must risk it today, though, as this stuff has to get hung!

I had thought I had plenty of small pieces set back for this show/sale, but when I pulled them out yesterday, I discovered that I am hopefully wrong. Hopefully, because if anything sells, leaving a blank space, I'll be in trouble! And I of course am hoping that will happen. So I'll squeeze some paint back on the palette this afternoon and do some more small pieces. Maybe not quite as small as these 'tinies' though!

I am thinking I'm in the mood to paint cups. Painting cups is like comfort food to me, or I guess it would be 'comfort creating.' Whatever.... it's soup and bread for lunch and cups to paint in the studio. Ahhhh. All I need now is my cozy sweater on, a crackling fire in the grate, a cup of coffee nearby, and a hunk reading me Jane Austen... uh, maybe I'm getting a bit carried away with this comfort thing.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Here comes November!

Tomorrow begins another month. And November is a month that I haven't designed or woven a Calendar series tapestry for yet! So I have been going through photos taken in the past two November's, looking for inspiration. The tapestry will be 18x18 inches square, so I have cropped everything to be square, but haven't otherwise yet altered any photos to create a maquette yet. So far, I'm just in search of inspiration. The above three images, of grass and leaves are nice, but maybe too much like what I will be doing for October...

I am intrigued by these 'harvest moon' photos. Maybe?

This window, with the fall light coming through is also something I love in late fall.

And this would be something completely different. Too different?

Well, the search for inspiration has made me want to get back to the loom and finish the August tapestry. I am feeling better today, so will head into the studio to round up all the small pieces to go to the Blue Pig gallery tomorrow. I believe my small painting inventory is large enough to allow me to spend November and December weaving and designing the next tapestries. Woo-hoo!

(And, in the meantime, I will still have my camera with me at all times, in search of more November inspiration.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Illustration Friday topic: Spent

Even though I posted this tapestry before when it was 'hot off the loom,' when I saw the IF topic today is Spent, I just had to re-post it. It actually pretty much defines how I'm feeling today, too. I just got home from a quick, worried trip over the mountains and back; I'm still concerned about my grand-daughter, who is having some follow up surgical procedures done this morning; and I got about 3 hours sleep, if that, last night because I have a ridiculous ear ache. I am Totally Spent! Passion, energy, and all. It is quite hard to be creative when you feel all used up. But November is but hours away, and I need to get into the studio and get all my small pieces ready to go to the Blue Pig Gallery in Palisade for the small works show/sale, which is through November and December there.

Colorado gold...

I have had several opportunities to see quite a bit of this year's beautiful autumn here in Colorado during the past few weeks. Weekend before last, I drove south to Montrose to share my work with the fiber guild there, which is always a treat for me.

Last weekend, we went to our cabin, then came home to the frightening news that our oldest grandchild (still, only 6 years old) was having emergency appendectomy surgery. So I packed a scant bag and headed over the mountains to see what I could do to help.

The aspens have lost most of their leaves by now, but the cottonwoods along the valley floors and river banks are as pretty as I think I've ever seen them! The two aspen photos (above) were from the cabin. I did try to take more pictures as I drove to Denver and Montrose, but I ended up with a lot of photos of the car dashboard.

The picture below is also from the cabin. It is a scrub oak leaf, just as the rain ended and the sun came out for a few minutes.

I am home now, with a head cold and what I am sure must be an ear infection from the pressure of driving over the mountains with a stuffed up head. My grand-daughter is still in the hospital, but is on the mend, and her other grandparents are there to help out. I am posting this in the middle of the night, as my ear just will not respond to the pain meds I took. If it doesn't get better soon, I will have to do a Van Gogh on it. Perhaps this is really why he cut his ear off? If so, I can truly sympathize!