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