Wednesday, April 30, 2014

To App or to Sketch? That is the question....

Like just about everyone else I know, I have a smart phone and an iPad. I got the iPad to collect and store photos when I travel, and to sketch and paint from when I can't do those things from life. Now, there are some incredible apps for artists to use, but I am beginning to question whether or not they are really 'artist friendly' or whether they are taking the place of actual sketching with our eyes and hands.

There are many things I like about the apps I have and am using. I use Snapseed at lot. On my iPad and iPhone, it is like a travel version of Photoshop for me, allowing me to crop and fine tune a photo, just as a photo. The photo at the top is one I shot on Easter in my son's church. The photo just above has been cropped and brightened a bit in Snapseed. The photo below was also altered in Snapseed, changing it to a black and white photo with a 'frame.' I might use either of these to post on my blog or on Facebook, or to send family or friends. I love Snapseed, as it helps me make a photo just a bit better, as a photo.

One of the first 'sketch' apps I got is the AutoPainter app. The 'sketch' above was altered in that app, using the Aquarell option. I confess that I do not often use AutoPainter anymore. I do not sketch this way; it is looser than I work, though I have taken the resulting 'sketches' and layered them in Brushes (an iPad painter app) with the original photo. Brushes lets you use layers, an option which I do like.

If I want a 'watercolor' sketch anymore, I use Waterlogue, a newer app. It has a number of options and looks. The image above was created using this app. I love the looseness of the 'sketches' done in this app. I feel like it 'gives me permission' to be looser in my sketches, as well.

As I only use watercolors to sketch, anymore, it is fun for me to see what an image looks like from these apps in comparison to what I would do in my sketchbook. Like Photoshop, they get rid of details, and they can help loosen my vision up a bit. But I sometimes think the app version is so good, why should I bother to sketch it myself? Maybe I should just print the image and glue it in my sketchbook! (A choice I believe some 'artists' are making.)  I occasionally do print out one of these app sketches, to put in my handmade calendars or journals, but not in my sketchbook.

As I also use oil paints, I like to see what the apps can do in that 'medium.' The above image was from AutoPainter, using the Benson option. It is my favorite look from that app, possibly because Benson is one of my favorite painters!

This 'sketch' is from another app, called Glaze. It has a number of options to make a photo look like an oil painting, ranging from very abstract to very realistic. I do like this app. I think it will be useful for plein aire painting, to capture fleeting images for studio work and to delete overwhelming details.

I find all of these apps fascinating. Sometimes I find them so fascinating that I spend my sketch time playing with apps, rather than painting in my sketchbook. After all, these images are just what I would love to paint, if I could! However, when the iPad is doing the sketching for me, I may not notice the lovely curve of the lily's petal. I may overlook the bit of stamen peeking out of the center of the flower. I may not feel in my brush the sharpness of the leaves. I do not experience the image for myself, and my own version of how it looks to me as an artist is, I think, negated and even lost.

I know this sketchbook sketch of mine is not as lovely or as perfect as the apps 'sketch' the image. That is OK with me. Doing the sketch is an act of creation, by me, not by my iPad or iPhone. It brings back to me the appreciation I felt for the beauty of the lilies on that sunny Boston morning, for the light shining through the window and back-lighting them, making the white lilies glow. As I compare my own sketch with those above, I also learn that I regret not putting the cross shape of the window panes in my own sketch, as it seems appropriate, since the image was a church window on Resurrection Sunday morning. but, oddly, I did not even notice that cross shape until I had done my own sketch, leaving it out. That's why the process is more important to me than the product; the things I learn from doing the work myself.

What apps do you use, and do you think they enhance your own creative work, or detract from it? I would love to know!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Home from Wonderland.....

I have still never really made it to Wonderland, I just love that it is a destination!

I spent all of last week, plus the weekend before that, at my son's home in the Boston area. My grandchildren there were on their spring break, so I went to have some 'grandma time' with them. One of the things all of my grandchildren know about me, and, thankfully still seem to enjoy, is that when we are together, we will 'do art.'

We sketched and painted in a coffee shop.

We drew, sketched, painted, and colored at home...

...and at the children's Museum.

We walked long distances, always ready for surprises, like seeing a turkey waddling his way down busy Mass Ave in Cambridge!

And I took lots of photos, some of which I may find paintings in, like this peaceful, zen-like scene.

I am home now, and am eager to be an artist again. The pantry and refrigerator are re-stocked; my jet lag is finally gone; and I am ready to go to the studio and work. Yes, I am!

And maybe that is where I will find Wonderland.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I See a Bad Moon Rising

The other night, the night of the lunar eclipse, my husband set up his camera, and set the alarm to go off in the middle of the night, wanting to capture a bit of the Blood Moon action. He, being a perfectionist, is not excited about the photos he got, but I, being a person who sees photos just as reminders of what I want to remember, think they are terrific!

 My only disappointment is that the lens he was using was so large, it could not get both the moon and Mars into a single photo together. Mars was up to the right, and it was even redder than the moon.

In my studio, my moon has not yet 'risen.' There are still a few slits to be sewn, and it needs to be blocked, and mounted on a stretcher frame. That will have to wait until I return from the east coast, as I leave tomorrow, and my suitcase is still empty, except for art supplies I keep throwing in to use with the grandkids. I may get there with oil pastels, markers, colored pencils, watercolors, my guitar music and only the clothes on my back! That would be better than getting there with a lot of clothes, and no art supplies or music, in my viewpoint.

(By the way, I just had to use the blog post title I did, because that Creedence Clearwater Revival song is the first real rock song I learned to play on my guitar. I still play it when I just need to rock out and wake up the pets! When I do that, Gus occasionally will come and put his paw on the fret strings. I don't know if he wants to rock out, too, or if he is trying to mute - or completely stop - what I am doing. Probably the later...)

Monday, April 14, 2014

This is your brain on Art....

I am getting ready to go to the east coast for a week or so, but as I do laundry, pack, and run errands, my brain has been busy thinking of what to put on the loom when I get home. I have three more calendar tapestries to design and weave; April, July, and December. I think these three months have been the hardest for me, because they are months that have strong associations for me, and I'm not sure if I want to 'go with' those associations, or not. April is my birth month, July seems to bring up images of fireworks and patriotism, and of course December is just all Christmas.

April has also become an 'Owl month' for us. We hear the western screech owls in our neighborhood for the first time of the year, with open night windows, and we watch the nesting owls  bring forth their owlets along the river. So I have been considering owls for the April tapestry. But look at all that nesting 'stuff' to weave! I have woven areas that fiddley before, but I'm not sure that I want to again.

I have also been considering several other images for April (based on sketches and some other things I don't want to share yet,) and I have this month to gather more ideas and images, since it is, in fact, April. I don't want to go with flowers, which would be an obvious choice, with the world around me in bloom, but the March tapestry is floral.

Anyway, right in the middle of my brain wandering around the April tapestry, these images came to mind. They were actually shot in the summer at the lake where our cabin is. I guess I thought of them because Sandhill Cranes are flying over, and we did have several pairs of cranes at the lake last summer... so that made me think of the herons, which are always there, and I remembered taking these photos. I have loved the challenge of weaving water, and would like to do it again. So now, I am thinking of the July tapestry, as the lake is usually still frozen over in April, so this wouldn't work at all for that month's tapestry!

The water in the image above would be very weavable, just with the usual tapestry techniques. And I love the reflection of the heron. But the water in the image below actually looks textural to me, though I would need to figure out how to weave it to look that way. Would color blending and eccentric line work be the way to go? That sounds even more fiddley than the owl's nest! Or could color blending and some twill tapestry be used?

All these things are working their way through my head today, as I try to check off things on my lengthy ToDo list:

Go to grocery store (hmmmm, that water has a somewhat cross hatched look. I wonder if there is something in Collingwood's book that would help produce that effect?)

Change sheets and clean the upstairs (The sett would need to be changed from foreground to background, too, so this is beginning to sound like something that would need to be woven on my four-harness loom)

Finish up laundry  (Would two extreme values of blue, worked eccentrically with some line work produce enough texture?)

Guitar lesson  (If I do a 4-harness twill would the texture be too regular? How could I make it more eccentric?)  Sorry, I did mean that to be a C7 chord!

Should I pack for winter or spring? (What about a textured yarn blend?)

Anyway.... you know what I mean! I am just NOT going to allow the December tapestry to enter my head! Two tapestries vying for my attention is quite enough to distract me at the moment.

On with the ToDo list, with my brain on Art....

Saturday, April 12, 2014

La, la, how the Life goes on...

At this time of year, as the seasons pass out of the lazy winter into bustling spring, I find myself wearing many hats. And, sadly, I am not feeling that I am wearing them all very well. I think I have allowed myself to get 'overbooked,' which is often the case. When this happens, I just have to stop and reassess: Which 'hats' mean the most to me? Which fit me best?  Which do I enjoy the most? Which do I refuse to give up? And which are feeling a bit uncomfortable?

Last week I got to wear one of my favorite 'hats,' to play one of my favorite roles. I got to be Grandma to two of my precious grandchildren for several days! That is a role I would not give up for anything! It actually is one of the most creative and productive, and soul-feeding things I get to do. I learn so much from my grandchildren! They are all creative, clever, funny, and brilliant. (And I would say that about them even if they weren't my grandchildren.) Doing 'grandma things' takes me into arenas I would not otherwise go.  These photos are from an owl search hike. We found the owl, nesting in the same tree she'd been in last year, except the Audobon Society has now stabilized her nesting site with a basket, which she seems to have accepted quite happily. There are some great climbing trees on this hike, and Booker decided he could climb, too. (He was wrong, and he fell just after I shot this.)

The owls are not the only ones nesting. This Flicker and her mate called back and forth, as she sat at the front door of her tree home. We also saw her last year, with babies in the nest-hole.

We also sketched and went to The Lego Movie (lots of fun, that!) and the kids built a birdhouse with Grandpa and painted it beautifully for their backyard.


One of the hats I am not wearing well this year is my big straw garden hat. I do not have a green thumb, unless being able to grow the healthiest weeds and grass in my garden counts. Not only that, but each day in the garden makes me feel older and more achy. Alas, I do love a garden. My lilacs are blooming now and their scent makes me ecstatic! I would gladly trade a tapestry for some garden work! Do you know a willing barterer? If so, send them my way! (I did trade a tapestry for housework once, and it was the best deal I've ever made!)

I am sloooowly getting slits sewn on the "November" tapestry, and hope to share it with you soon. But I am also in the midst of exhibit season - shipping and delivering and entering - which is eating up some time. And I am packing to go be Grandma to my other two precious grandchildren for a week, as well. I can hardly wait for that! Must pack art ideas and supplies, as well as clothes for east coast weather (and who knows what that will be at this time of year.)

Life moves quickly when you are much too busy. I stop myself frequently on these busy days, and make myself sit with a cup of tea and my sketchbook for at least 15 minutes. Or I grab my guitar and play something loud and awful, or quiet and serene (and equally awful, tho' nobody has to suffer from it but me and the pets.) Or I tap out a post on my blog, or catch up with friends and family on Facebook. Life is precious, and too short to keep doing so many things that are frustrating and back-breaking. Next on my list is more laundry... but when that is done, there is a cinnamon muffin recipe begging me to try it out. And then some porch time with my sweetie and Booker. Life goes on, but I can make a few choices about how it proceeds.... sometimes, anyway....

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How Many Moons?

How Many Moons, 26"x36"

I am working up a sweat today. What? You had no clue that artists ever (let alone often) actually worked up a sweat?! Well, I, at least, do. I had pulled out all the tapestries I still own to take some along to the talk I gave for the local guild last week. So today, before I put them back into their storage place, I took some new decent digital photos of some of the older ones that I just had slides of. Then they all had to be re-wrapped for storage and put back away.... You know, some of you could just take a few of these off my hands and save me some work!

How Many Moons, detail

This is a very early tapestry, from 1989. It was from the era when I was teaching myself to weave tapestries and each tapestry was aimed at learning something specific. This on was to try to learn to paint areas of transparency. My maquette was actually a watercolor I had painted. In spite of the fact that this was a 'learning tapestry,' I have to say I am quite impress with how even my edges are and how 'perfect' the weaving is. I guess I was a technique-stickler from the very beginning (which probably came from teaching myself to weave from Peter Collingwood's academic tome, The Techniques of Rug Weaving.)

I have not had this tapestry out for quite some time. I need to pull these out now and then and maybe even hang them to enjoy for awhile. If only I had some wall space! For now, though, I will be offering this piece, and several more that need new homes and walls, at very low prices in my Etsy shop.

This, by the way, is one of several 'moon' themed tapestries I did early in my tapestry work. It is funny how these themes keep coming back to me... obsessions, I guess.

(Oh, dear! What a 'shameless promotional' post! I just hate self promotion, don't you? But this is what I am doing today, and it seems to be a necessary part of being an artist. Unless you are a former president, and you can just hang your work in your presidential library!   8-)  Maybe I need to shoot for that....)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Moon, I Saw You Standing Alone...

There is supposed to be a new moon tonight. I won't see it, because our sky is filled with clouds, but I found an image to share with you here. I love it when the moon looks this way. I love the moon, no matter how she looks. And I am still needing to share my "November" moon with you. No, I haven't forgotten, I have just been very busy. I have had two active and creative grandchildren here this week, and have been trying to keep up with them! When I get them back to their parents, and I get a couple of pieces off to exhibits, I promise I will share my moon with you. In the meantime, take a peek at your night sky and sing a song with the moon.

My mind is jumping ahead, looking for an "April" tapestry. I am obsessing about music, clouds, youth and renewal,  nesting, gardening, abstraction, and color. What will all that lead to, I am wondering?