Saturday, March 26, 2011

Nativity maquette...

I changed the design quite a bit for the right side panel today, as you can see. These will be the two tapestries, which will hang on either side of the church's sanctuary podium. At the center of an arched ceiling in the sanctuary, there is a round abstract stained glass window. It is of quite bright primary colors, so the tapestries are to have the same colors in them. Each of the animals in the right side panel were chosen (by me) because of Biblical symbolism. The flowers on the left panel are Easter lilies, and on the right panel, the tree is a dogwood tree. Each of the two panels will be about 18" wide by 44" long.

The images I worked from today included a photo of a fox and one of a mule-ear deer, both taken up at the mountain lake our cabin is near. The black-faced sheep was from a photo I took in Maine. The dove is from a photo I took from my studio window when our resident pair were nesting right outside on a limb that touches the studio window. The lamb is Gus, magically transformed from a cat to a sheep. And the male figure is modeled after my husband, whom I forced to kneel and pose for me. The dogwood tree is based on the dogwoods we have seen and photographed when in Boston.

Tomorrow, I will work on the upper and lower borders. The upper border is to have local landscape, and the lower border will have a banner with text. Almost there!

Maquette work

I'm not sure if anyone is really interested in this much detail about how I design a narrative tapestry or not. But this weekend, I am determined to finish off the right side of the maquette. The shepherd (above) is the main figure. I am not happy at all with the small lamb he is holding. It looks as if it leapt up there, and is not going to stay long.

So, since I don't have a lamb to pose for me, I have forced Gus into the job. I figure Gus on my arm is about the same proportion as a small lamb in a man's arms. So, though he is more interested in the doves on the roof, he and I became 'shepherd and lamb,' thanks to my iPhone and a mirror. I mainly need the position of the hand supporting the body, the shadowing, and how his feet will hang.

This will actually help me fix an area that has been bugging me a lot! Then, on with adding the background. I want to surround the shepherd with animals, but not necessarily with the typical nativity scene ones. I have been scrounging through my photo files all the past week, and have come up with a number of options. We'll soon see what comes of it! (I hope.....)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Moving into spring...

I am still working on the Nativity maquette, and am getting very anxious to get to the point where I can start weaving again! I miss my loom time very much. In the meantime, I am still doing sketches almost daily, setting different challenges for myself. The little sketch above is about 6x6", and the challenge was to use just contour lines to try to capture an expression. The subject is my 7-year old grand-daughter. I think I captured her expression pretty well, sketching from a photo, as she doesn't live near enough to me! I know she looks older than 7 in this photo, but she was presenting a school project, and was looking serious and thoughtful. In many ways (intellect, reasoning, etc.) she is much older than her short seven years. I am so glad she is 'just seven' in other ways! (I won't evoke the typical grandma phrase, "they grow up much too fast.")

This is a new friend. He visits me, and all other gallery artists, it seems, when we work at the gallery. He really wants to come inside and be the gallery cat, but contented himself in the flower pot on the patio for a few hours while I was there last week. He has no collar, but the locals say he does have a home and a family, or I'd have brought him home with me. He is so sweet and friendly.

I paint with my Alzheimer's patient friends again this afternoon, and must run some errands first, but thought I would post a short 'Happy Spring' post. My daffodils are in full bloom, and the lilacs are leafing out, with buds getting bigger every day. The iris leaves are at least 7 inches tall already. If the wind would quit blowing here, I would get out and spring clean the garden! It blew so hard here the other day, and the dust was so stirred up from the surrounding desert, that my guitar teacher decided he will get me the music this week to learn to play "Dust in the Wind." While he thought of the band, Kansas, I thought of the windy western part of the state where we once lived. I also just couldn't help but feel that I was in the remake of a Beau Geste movie.

(From Beau Geste, by P.C. Wren)

But the wind will die down, and the garden work will begin. Before that happens, I hope to be working away at my loom!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


The gallery, and the community, is having a Bee Fest in April. (Ahh, the summer festivals begin! One every weekend, it seems, all summer long!) We are supposed to have something 'bee-related' in our spaces. So I started this little 8x8" painting while at the gallery the other day, and finished it up today. It is of our blooming apricot blossoms, with a bee. It is oil on a deep gallery wrapped canvas, so it won't have to be framed. It's sitting on my small travel easel box, so you can somewhat tell the scale of it. I am tempted to dip it in paraffin (wax), but don't quite know what that would do to it. I suspect that one thing it would do would be to mute the colors more than I would like it to. So I'll see. I will check with one of the encaustic artists from the gallery before I do something irreversible like that.

I am posting this as another IF 'cultivate' image, as I feel it fits, too!


The Illustration Friday topic this week is cultivate. So I did this Brushes sketch on my iPad of Booker. He has been quite actively and efficiently cultivating the bed where I grow my tomatoes. In fact, he has cultivated most of the dirt right out of the bed! I will have to add to it, which will help the tomatoes, I am sure, as what I will add will be better than our local clay soil. Such a helper, that Booker!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Maquette progress...

I have been working on the background for the left half of the nativity tapestry. I had thought about putting a variety of flowers in the background, mille fleurs style. But then I decided to simplify it to just Easter Lilies, for both symbolic and aesthetic reasons. This half still has the bottom border and the upper border to finish, but I think I need to complete the main central portions of both panels first. The upper and lower borders will tie the two panels together, so need to be done at the same time.

Right now, I am happy enough with the design of this portion to leave it alone until the client sees it (hopefully next week.) I have also, though, done a version in the computer with added halos on the figures, which will give the client another option. As I look at the images on the computer, I see I already want to do something about the lily that seems to sit on Mary's head. That is the advantage of looking at something in another way - I see things I don't notice when I am focusing so close on it at the easel!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I believe I mentioned at the beginning of the year, that I am doing some daily sketching. This past week, I have been doing 30 second-1 minute sketches of figures, from an app in my iPad called 'Random Poses.' The same figures are available on the internet at

I started by doing a gesture sketch (girl looking to see ,'do these jeans make me look fat?'), then a sketch from shapes (girl in stripe top), then a combined gesture/contour sketch (the male on that same page.) The next two sketches, below those three, were done from drawing the negative spaces (seated girl), and shading (outstretched arms male.)

The two overlapped figures at the upper right were pure contour (the larger running figure) and blind contour (where you don't look at the paper at all.) The final sketch was done with my non-dominant (left) hand. All of the above were done in ball point pen.

I then did a pencil sketch, which pretty much combined all of the previous techniques (the woman), then a watercolor sketch, which did not include any drawing at all.

All of this culminated in spending some time this weekend working on the figures on the maquette for the Nativity tapestry commission. The above figure will be on the left panel, and the one below will be on the right panel. Both are just beginnings, but doing the sketch work gave me the impetus to BEGIN, which is the hardest part for me sometimes.

So, YEA, ME! I have begun! Now I can start putting surrounding elements around the figures, and work on the borders and the background. Then I'll 'tweak' it all, and have it ready (hopefully by the end of the month, if not before) to present to the buyers for their input.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Loss of a colleague...

Saturday, I found out, with the rest of the tapestry weaving world, that James Koehler of Santa Fe passed away. I have known James a long time, since he was known as 'Jeremy,' in fact. I have worked with him in many capacities. He taught at conferences I helped organize; he was in several ATA exhibits that I worked on; and he was a large part of several invitational exhibits that I curated. At all times, James was ever the professional and could be described as a gentle-man, in every good sense of that term. James brought the discipline of the monastery to his chosen profession; as a designer, a maker, a teacher, a businessman, and a colleague.

My husband has been exposed to the work of many tapestry weavers over the years. There are but a few he would recognize by their work, and even fewer by name. But when I told him that James had died, he said, "I'm sorry. I really liked his work. His colors were incredible!" Well done, James.

I know that I will still look for his work in every exhibit of tapestries I attend. I will miss them. There is nothing that has the glow of a James Koehler tapestry.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Today's news...

This was in today's paper. Oh, yeah, baby. Truth, sister.

And this has been causing the turmoil on my easel. The wine industry is BIG here. We have the perfect climate for grapes and the vineyards (and wineries) are taking over what used to be fruit orchards. The special exhibit in the gallery this month is a Winefest exhibit. I had begun this painting to put in the special show. BUT, I haven't been happy with it from the get-go. (OK. I'm from the mid-west. I can say 'get-go.') I had a wild suspicion I would have trouble with it, because the photo that inspired it was flat out garish in color. So the painting was garish. I hated the garish-ness of it. So I toned it way down. Then the leaves just looked dead... which was worse than garish. So yesterday I tried to reach a mid-point between 'dead' and 'garish.' I think I achieved it, but tell me, is a mid-point between dead and garish really a good place to be? Not so much, I'm thinkin'.

Anny-waaay. I looked at more pictures on the internet of grape leaves in autumn, and they really are pretty garish, just like the ones I took photos of. I am calling this done. I will put it in my own space in the gallery, not in the Wine exhibit. Maybe it will match someone's bathroom.

(8"x10" oil on linen... by the way, this is the second painting I have done on linen. The first one didn't make me happy either. I am going to blame the linen.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Process or processing typically describes the act of taking something through an established and usually routine set of procedures to convert it from one form to another, as a manufacturing or administrative procedure, such as processing milk into cheese, or processing paperwork to grant a mortgage loan, or converting computer data from one form to another. A process involves steps and decisions in the way work is accomplished. (from Wikipedia)

I am in the process of designing my next tapestry. It is to be a commission for a local church. There are a number of things I do in my design process, before all will come together to give me an image that will be weavable. This tapestry began in my head over a year ago. During that time, I have been gathering things: thoughts, symbols, images in the form of photos I have taken, and found images. All of these things have been simmering in the soup of my mind, eager to be 'plated' and tasted. It is not there yet, but I have gathered the main ingredients, and am just 'spicing it to taste.'

Fot those of you who like a more specific explanation of the design process, I will tell you that the 'mind soup' is really the most important part. But I also have gathered many ideas (religious symbols, etc.) from the internet, as well as from my own religious background and beliefs, as this is to be a religious tapestry. But I bring my own beliefs and experiences into all of the tapestries I create. Here are elements I know either I or the clients want in this tapestry: Mary and baby Jesus, in an intimate pose; I have chucked Joseph for a shepherd (haven't told the client this yet); upper border of local landscape; lots of flowers on Mary's half, and lots of animals on shepherd's half. There are some things I have chosen because they are meaningful to me, some have been expressly requested by the client. Some have been chosen or discarded because I just do not want to weave them. (There ARE some things that just shouldn't be woven - at least that is true for MY loom! Some shapes are too complex, and necessary details may be lost.)

I have collected many books of copyright free images that may help with a person's expression or body position, or may give me a background flower that 'just fits.' I also have a lot of books of art, which may give me some inspiration, or help me solve a design problem.

I am a prolific photographer, with over 23,000 (yes, that is thousand) photos in my iPhoto file. While a goodly number of them are of my grandchildren, the great majority of them are images I have 'collected' while on walks or trips, and there will be animals, flowers, trees, etc. among them that will find their way into this tapestry. I have also taken some photos that are specific to this tapestry, and I may take more: someone's hands, a specific flower, a local scene...

As I said, all of the major elements have been put together in the beginning drawing of the maquette. I need to add some background 'spice' elements, which I think will really be the making of this piece. Then I will paint the maquette, beginning with watercolor, and probably dragging out colored pencils and acrylics when I see changes that I want to make. I will also take the image back and forth between the easel and the computer; taking photos of the maquette and making changes in my design programs, possibly even printing out parts and gluing them onto the maquette. The maquette will not be a 'work of art' - it will be an image for me to weave from, to help me select colors to order for the yarns, and to show the client for approval before the weaving begins.

I project that it will be late in the month before I am ready to enlarge a cartoon to weave this tapestry from. It is to be two woven panels, each about 18" wide, by about 40 inches long. The process is well underway! This is the beginning of a narrative tapestry....

Sound like a lot of drudge-work? Well, I wish I could tell you that I just sit at the loom and it 'comes to me all-magic-like,' but you KNOW I'd be a-lyin'!