Wednesday, March 31, 2010



At this time of the month, I always think, 'I really should have something new to hang in my space in the gallery for next month.' I wish I would think of it sooner, as paintings do not dry as quickly as they need to, when I have procrastinated this long!

My daffodils are blooming, about two weeks late this year. There are also a few hyacinths and tulips starting to open up! Must be spring - tho' the forecast says snow for the next few days.

Anyway, I picked a few daffodils to paint this morning. The small painting is seen above, and below are steps in it's creation. It is 8x8", oil on gallery wrapped canvas, which has sides painted to match the background, so won't require framing.

This is the acrylic underpainting. It was pre-done, so was completely dry.

This is the background, blocked in, then the positive spaces (flower and vase shapes), wiped back to the underpainting. This wiping out is both in lieu of a drawing, and to keep the paint from being too heavy in those areas, thus requiring even more drying time.

This was with all the positive spaces painted in. After this, though, I felt something was missing to make the composition 'work.' I didn't want to make it more complex, however, so just added the triangular shaped 'mat' under the vase, as you can see in the final painting at the top of the post. So... a tiny piece of spring for my gallery wall space!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Here comes April, and I'm just at mid-March!

But isn't that how it always is? I'm always either a step or two behind, or not in step at all! I have at least a dozen very good excuses as to why I am behind where I wanted to be on this 'March' tapestry, of course. They range from plumbing to other quite literal headaches. But I will not bore you with them.

Each time I weave this piece, I enjoy it more and more. I am loving the brighter colors. I am loving sitting at the loom and weaving simple shapes which are large enough that my eyes and my fingers can find and create them! I could say that I am taking longer to weave it because I want to enjoy it for a longer time... I don't think that would be stretching it too much! And the awful truth is, I don't know exactly what I will weave next. That is usually the motivating factor for me to get a tapestry done - I want the loom free for the next piece. I used to have designs almost lined up to weave. I don't know if I am just slowing myself down because of the economy and the lack of demand, or if the painting has taken some of the urgency from my need to weave. Whatever the reason ... I am allowing myself to relax a bit, enjoy the work, and not sweat my own little deadlines.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Natural gas commercial

Susan at Woven to a Random Rhyme posted a link to this awesome commercial. I am posting the video here, mostly so I can find it when I want to view it again! There is another video on YouTube showing a bit about how they made it. They evidently knit and covered everything, then recorded the un-raveling of it all, and made the video, playing the un-knitting backwards. Brilliant, yes?

Monday, March 22, 2010


Over the weekend, we dealt with the clean-up from our latest adventure in old home ownership (and I'm not saying who or which is the owner or the owned). We painted the dining room ceiling, and set about Spring Cleaning the entire house, which was covered in a fine layer of white plaster dust. In fact, I will be continuing the job today, though the worst is done.

In my evening reading-for-pleasure, I have been reading Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell. I had enjoyed it on Masterpiece Theatre, so decided to read it. (I enjoyed the book as much, or more!) At the end of the volume, there are a few letters and essays by Ms. Gaskell. I'd like to share a portion of one of the letters with you:

"One thing is pretty clear, Women, must give up living an artist's life, if home duties are to be paramount. It is different with men, whose home duties are so small a part of their life. However we are talking of women. I am sure it is healthy for them to have the refuge of the hidden world of Art to shelter themselves in when too much pressed upon by daily small Lilliputian arrows of peddling cares; it keeps them from being morbid as you say; and takes them into the land where King Arthur lies hidden, and soothes them with its peace. I have felt this in writing, I see others feel it in music, you in painting, so assuredly a blending of the two is desirable. (Home duties and the development of the Individual I mean), which you will say it takes no Solomon to tell you but the difficulty is where and when to make one set of duties subserve and give place to the other. I have no doubt that the cultivation of each tends to keep the other in a healthy state, - ..."

Elizabeth Gaskell, February 1850

So I am, for a few days now, being 'pressed upon by daily small Lilliputian arrows of peddling cares' - which is a phrase I love and must now use often in daily conversation! But I will try to get some weaving, some escape into 'the land where King Arthur lies hidden' in my day, as well.

ps. While dealing with the 'Lilliputian arrows' of domestic duty, I decided I will probably title the hallway painting, "Winter's Last Light" because I painted it on the last official day of winter. Thanks for all your input!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I told you I was obsessed!

I woke up yesterday consumed with the obsession to paint the upstairs landing. I couldn't think of doing anything else, and, in fact remained obsessed with it until it was done.

I haven't been that consumed with an image since I had to paint "The Youngest Groomsman," and that was two years ago. Since then, I have created a lot of things, both painted and woven, but they were created because of curiosity, demand, or love of the process, not compulsion. I wish I could have this passion for every painting and weaving I do.

There are a number of things I love about this image. I love the light contrast. I love the almost monochromaticism, which admits just a few touches of color here and there. I love the geometry of it; the rectangles that dance around each other. I do know that it breaks the 'nothing smack in the center' rule, but that doesn't bother me. Sometimes I just have to break a rule or two! Mostly, I think I love the starkness of it; the obvious 'Arts and Crafts old house' look. That look requires the warm dim lighting and the starkness that I see here. (I also enjoyed painting one of my tapestries, "Aspen Autumn.")

Now I need a title. I have thought of "The Weaver's Hallway," "Light at the top of the Stairs," "Landing Light,"..... I don't like any of them. They all sound like something else. I usually have no trouble with titles. Another word for hallway or landing is 'threshold.' What about "The Threshold?" Or just "Morning light?" ( which is probably in the list of top title's for artwork, but maybe for good reason - artists like light!) I could call it "The Weaver's House 1," but that would presume there will be more in a series... and maybe there will be, but maybe not, too. I have been wanting to paint some interiors for quite some time.

Well, enough. If you have a good title suggestion, let me know! In the meantime I have more 'interior painting' to do; not in the studio, but in the dining room. Jim, the dry-waller, finished his part on the ceiling repair yesterday. I told my husband that I will "Sistine Chapel" it, and I think he's worried enough that I mean it to help (aka supervise) the job along.

The painting is 12x16" on canvas.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A small obsession...

Do you ever become obsessed with something, and are not sure why? Lately, I have been obsessed with the light at the top of the stairs. I don't know why. I have seen this spot ten to fifteen (or more) times a day for the past dozen+ years. But this past week, I just can hardly pass by without marveling at the various ways it looks in different lights. There is nothing spectacular about this spot. It contains a rug, a radiator, and one of my early tapestries. I have to go through the space to get to my studio, my bedroom, my bathroom, the sitting room - pretty much anywhere! The first photo was taken in morning light. I just love the verticals of the radiator above the horizontals of the striped rug!

The photo below was taken in the middle of the night. There is a nightlight on the landing, and some moonlight came in from the right, from the sitting room picture window. You can see Gus's shadow in the foreground. He was wondering what I was doing, taking pictures at that time of night. I don't like this photo as well as the other one, but I do like the old suitcase that you can partially see on the right. It, and Gus's shadow, seem to give the photo a mysterious air.

Well, now that I've photographed and posted about this, maybe my obsession will end. Occasional obsessions can be somewhat diverting, though, can't they?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What do you DO?

I just had the most amusing conversation with our dry-waller. He asked what I 'do,' as I have told him I will be upstairs working while he's been here working this week. I said I am an artist (he had noticed paintbrushes in my hand earlier). So he asked what I paint, "pictures, or walls?" I said pictures, and that I also weave tapestries. He said, 'you mean like making cloth?' So I pointed out one on our living room wall. He looked at it for a moment, then said, 'are you like Picasso? Kind of surreal? Are you going to cut your ear off?'

Well, since those questions had covered any number of artists/movements/ and disorders, none of which related to what I do, I didn't quite know how to address the question, so I just said 'uh, not exactly,' or some such 'duh' response. He went back to his work, and I'm getting back to mine... but I am considering the ear thing.

By the way, in all fairness, I have to point out that I know nothing about drywall, and he is doing a fantastic job on my dining room ceiling!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Challenge of the day...

The dry-waller has been here all day yesterday and today, fixing the damage the plumbing did to the dining room ceiling. I need to run interference between the pets and him, but have also wanted to be working, so I've opted to do a bit of painting, as I get less cranky when I am interrupted while painting than while weaving. I have been wanting to begin something a bit larger than I've done lately, so decided to start on a piece based on this photo of Gus, perched on my set of Nonesuch Dickens' books, out of Booker's reach. I actually have blocked Gus in completely, but now am at a place where I have a decision to make. Do I want to leave the books as the basically monochromatic Dickens' books, as in the photo? Or do I want more colorful books?

Such as these, from an ad in Real Simple magazine...

Or these or the ones below, from photos I took in a wonderful book shop in Maine?

Of course, the subject is really Gus, so perhaps the books should be simple, so as not to have competing eye targets. I merged two of the photos, to see what I think, and right now, I am thinking I like the original Dickens books best. However, I also think maybe it's time to quit on it for the day, and sleep on the decision, giving my eyes a fresh start on the problem tomorrow!

A Serendipity...

I have had a cute photo of my 4 grandchildren as my desktop image since they were all here at Christmas. Sometimes, though, when I am going through iPhoto, looking for inspiration, I unintentionally hit something that changes my desktop. That happened when I was going through the Maine trip photos yesterday, and I found this image replacing the cuties on my desktop. It is a photo I took in Acadia National Park, and I don't think I've ever paid it much attention. The thumbnail is not very impressive, but when it filled my monitor, I fell in love with it! (I've left it a good size for you to enlarge to look at.) The problem with wonderful images like this is that I really don't know what to do with them, as an artist. I don't necessarily see this as either a tapestry or a painting. I just love it as a photo. And I don't usually do much with my photos, such as frame and hang them. So, for right now, I will enjoy it on my desktop, and will share it with you!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Making changes...

I decided that the tiny painting of Booker as a puppy needed a bit of a change. It was just too much 'light vs. dark.' So I added a lime green to the bottom half of the background, which I think added some 'zing' and also divides the space in a more interesting way. That also made me need to change the leash from orange to red.

I try not to fret too much over these little paintings, but sometimes an overnight 'think' can help them out. Don't you think that this version is better?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Let's walk!

5x7" oil on canvas of Booker as a younger puppy. On gallery wrapped canvas, not to be framed.

Friday, March 12, 2010

March moves on....

I am getting more of the March tapestry done. I would like to be at the black line along the edges of the cartoon at the very top of the photo by mid-month, which is next Tuesday. I think I'll be close. That is the half-way point.

The tulips are still fairly abstract, but they are looking like they should, I think. This whole piece is not very detailed, but is intended to read best from across a room. Here is the portion I've done, on the maquette.

My problem is that I have been weaving so much, I haven't done any painting this week, and I really need to get some pieces done for the gallery ASAP. Doing my taxes made it pretty clear that the painting has become my 'bread and butter.' Well, maybe not a lot of butter, but a crust of bread and a thin glaze of margarine, I guess, which is about all an artist can expect in today's economy! So over the weekend, I will try to do at least a small painting.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Progress is slow, but it's still progress! I am now at about where I had hoped to be at the end of last week. The new red marks along the side of the cartoon are where I hope to end up before the week is over. I am getting some weaving done everyday, but not as much as I'd like.

The spring mud season is here, much to Booker's delight. I feel like I'm mopping the finish off the floors, so I don't let him outside as much as he would like to be. After being out just a half-hour the other day, and he came in covered with mud, from head to paw! He must have wallowed in it. He just looks more wet in the photo, but take my word for it, it's all mud. See his 'so what are you going to do about it?' look? Fortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it) the mud just falls off him as he dries, and he is as 'good as new' again. But my floors! Oh, my poor floors!

Monday, March 8, 2010

A new week...

As a new work week begins, I am at the computer, instead of at the loom or the easel, where I am itching to be. I am getting my taxes ready for our appointment with the accountant, which will be later in the week.

Here is what I got woven on the "March" tapestry last week. It's about half as much as my goal, which you can see as red marks on the sides of the cartoon. I ended up un-weaving and re-weaving a good bit, which I rarely do. If I ever un-and re-weave, though, it is at the beginning of a piece. It happens when I just can't get the colors to look like I want them to.

When I design a tapestry, there is almost always a challenge involved for me. Otherwise, I think I would not enjoy it as much as I do. The challenge of this piece is that it is a very hard-edged design, as you can see from the cartoon. I did that purposely, but it is very unlike what I usually do. I like soft and lost-and-found edges, which require a lot of close color blends and hachure. So when I started this, the hard edges really bothered me, I couldn't see it as flowers. All the shapes just look like abstract shapes. So I am just going to have to trust my design, and keep weaving, hoping the tapestry will read like I want it too. I guess this tapestry's true challenge for me is one of trust, more that anything else.

It is snowing this morning. Most of the winter snow had melted, and leaves of the spring bulbs are peeking through the ground. Booker's yard had actually dried out, so he wasn't tracking in mud all day long. But the snow seems to be back, and it is forcasted to come and go all week long. I'm OK with it, though. It is pretty again, now that we've had a taste of spring, and I can believe the winter may actually end soon. Spring snow is more forgivable than a long winter's snow, as we've had this year. So this is what I'm seeing from my sitting room window, when I look up from my receipts and scribbled accounts this morning. I may even build a little fire in the fireplace to boost my productivity... or maybe it would just make me sit and stare into the fire, sipping hot chocolate, and never getting my taxes done at all.

Well, I have taken a long enough break to visit with you this morning. Taxes wait for no-one. Not even me! By the way, I do not mind doing my taxes. Looking over my receipts is like a walk down memory lane, I am remembering all the work related things I did this past year: the Connections exhibit, selling a couple of tapestries, the many paintings I did, including one that now hangs in the new hospital addition, several very nice exhibit awards ... and I'm just up to May, so far! It was a pretty good year. (I just hope the accountant agrees, as 'good' does not necessarily mean lucrative.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The chicks are in!

I passed the farm supply place when I was out the other day. There was a sign up outside that said "The chicks are in!" I had my little camera in my bag, so I had to stop. It was hard to get good photos, as they just wouldn't stop bopping about and pose for me, and they were under incubator lights. But aren't they cute?

The baby ducks are supposed to be in this weekend. It might be worth another stop, with my better camera.

Update on recent projects:

The duck is in the mail.

The 100% for Haiti exhibit was hung on Monday, when the gallery was closed. The reception is on Saturday, but my painting has already sold!

I have about 2 1/2" woven on the March piece, including a good bit I un- and re-wove, because I didn't like some color choices I had made. I will post a photo tomorrow or Saturday of this week's progress.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tea for two...

I discovered I did not have the best color for some shadow areas, and could not find the colors to either order or blend well. So I resorted to my favorite 'fix' for this dilemma: I tea-stained (over-dyed) some of the two colors I needed to have shadow color for. The colors themselves were very close to what I need, but too bright. That is the best scenario for tea staining, as tea dulls that offensive brightness.

Good old black caffeinated Lipton works best for me. I have tried other brands, but they don't stain as well, and some rinse out. I have done this many times, and it is a permanent solution. It will not wash out, after it has been simmered a in strong tea solution for 20-30 minutes, then is allowed to cool, and rinsed well.

I once confessed to Yael Lurie that I do this, on occasion. She said it is a well established practice; that they have done it and that Jean Pierre's father's studio used to do it frequently. She said the same thing I had learned; that tea is a permanent stain/dye. That legitimized the practice, as far as I'm concerned! See the difference it made? The brighter colors that I started with are on the outside, and the stained, more subdued colors are hanging to dry between them. This will give me the perfect shades for those shadow areas!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cups.... again with the cups!

Last night I decided I needed to do a small painting. I had been to the gallery to take the Haiti painting in, and took a peek at my new space (spaces are moved every month or so.) It reminded me that I am working this coming Saturday, and I like to change out my paintings, and add at least one new one every month when I work there. I sold most of my small pieces at the miniature exhibit before the New Year. So I went to the studio to 'whip one out.'

I love painting this way; painting the whole canvas, then wiping out the positive spaces, which leaves a nice underpainting and, in this case, a background I pretty much left. The painting is small, 8x8 inches, so it only took about an hour to do. The teacups are my three favorites: a green depression glass one a friend gave me, a white Fiesta Ware one my daughter-in-law gave me, and the purple flowered china one I bought myself at the Hospice resale shop. I don't know what made me choose the orange/gold background. I think I originally intended to cover it all up, and just leave it as a warm underpainting, but as the painting progressed, I fell in love with it. It seems to me to have that vintage look that is appropriate for the cups. Now, I just hope it dries before Saturday!

I have been doing all of these small paintings on inch-and-a-half to two-inch deep gallery wrapped canvas (no staples) and painting the sides to go with the painting so they hang on their own, not needing a frame. It gives them a very contemporary, clean presentation that I like a lot.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March begins!

I did the final tensioning of the warp for the "March" tapestry yesterday, because I was determined to begin it today, on March first. Furthermore, I really would like to get it completely woven by the end of the month. It will be the fourth in my Calendar series. I pulled out yarn for it this morning, and have woven the hem. It is only 18x18 inches, so, barring life's unexpectedly interfering, I should be able to get it done. It is from a closeup photo I took on the Harvard campus last March. I'm pretty excited to be weaving such bright colors again! I will try to update my progress at least weekly, if I am able to stick to my month-long weaving marathon, as I hope to do.