Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A UFO and a FO....*

I have made a small bit of progress on the "April" tapestry, but, since we were away over the weekend, not a great bit of progress. I hope to move it up the warp some this week.  Too bad that my big loom is not portable! I would definitely move it up to the lake for the summer!

But, since the loom is not portable, and I don't want to start another tapestry on a small loom, I will continue to paint while at the cabin, I guess. This past weekend, I took up this canvas. I started it last summer (true confession.) I wanted to try using palette, or paint knives (which is the proper term, I have learned) to paint with. This was about halfway done when I just got too busy with other things to finish it, almost a year ago. It is on a canvas panel, 12 inches square. There is a LOT of paint on it; big chunky blobs of paint! I like that, but it was hard to finish it that way. I was clearly in a more generous mood with the paint when I did the first half, so I had to make myself replicate that, rather than smooth it on in my more usual, frugal manner. It was fun to paint 'chunky' and loose. I did not do any pre-drawing except what I had originally done with the paint knife. I loved painting in bright red, too! The whole experience (or the two separate experiences) felt 'juicy.' Like ripe tomatoes, only in paint..... if you know what I mean.

(Note: I painted tomatoes in this bowl once before, in a smaller format. The painting sold, but prints are available at Etsy, as you can see in the sidebar.)

*For those of you not up on crafting terminology, a UFO is an 'unfinished object' and a FO is, obviously, the more rare 'finished object.'

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mountain Getaway....

We finally got up to our cabin for a couple of nights over the weekend. It has been awhile since we've been there. We pass the huge mudslide that was on the national news a few weeks ago to get there.   It is still being monitored for more movement. Three men lost their lives in the slide. It was quite impressive, in a very sad way.

I love being where the big news of the day is new neighbors! My husband had built two birdhouses to take up to the cabin. Every year, we have at least one pair of birds nest ON the cabin. We used to have wrens, but the flycatchers have seemed to steal their spot. We have also had robins, which is a huge mess! Anyway, we are hoping these little bird mansions will replace sharing our cabin.

Before the houses were up a full day, a little flycatcher started checking out the real estate, then she began carrying sticks and twigs in. We spent a lot of time cheering her on from behind our window, through binoculars, and, for my husband, his long-lensed camera. He even took a couple of cute movies of her struggling to get  some too-big sticks in. By the time we left, it looked like she had filled it with sticks clear up to the opening.

I did not take my camera this time. I just had my sketchbook (and my iPhone, just in case a moose showed up!) So I sketched my days there. I also had taken some oil paints and a canvas I had started that I wanted to finish. I set up a place to paint outside, as it was so beautiful out. 

But I hadn't factored in the mosquitos. OR the G.I.A.N.T! bug that flew out of nowhere and attacked my chest! I jumped around and yelled a bit, thinking of Ron Weasley and the spider, then knocked it off and took a picture of it with my iPhone so I could identify the evil thing. It was a wood borer of some sort, and I was near our woodpile. I should have killed it, because it was probably a pine borer, and I was also near our one pine tree, which we have babied and protected along for many years. But it was so big, I was afraid my foot couldn't stomp the whole thing at once, and ewwwwww!

That incident convinced me that I am an inside painter, basically.

So, yes, if you have closely looked at my sketch, you see we also had a skunk visitor (thankfully, while Booker was inside) and we had a great 'Poo mystery,' which I also sketched for identification purposes. The poo, 3 piles of it, was on our upper balcony; the balcony that is also over our boathouse, so it is basically 3 stories above the ground below. The cabin is an A-frame, so something very agile could get up there by climbing the roof. The scat was not from a bird, it looked like it was mammal. So we went to the ranger station down at the lake and asked what could have climbed that steep roof and left presents for us. Their guess was about the same as ours: probably a raccoon (though we have never seen them there, they have been seen by the rangers) or a bobcat (which we have seen there.) We are kind of hoping it was a bobcat, not just because that is more interesting, but because racoons tend to revisit their 'latrine sites.' Tho' this would have to be one dare-devil raccoon to re-climb our cabin roof just to leave us more poo! I imagine a raccoon would have been more able to make such a steep climb, with little to grab onto but roof shingles.

Anyway... it was a nice weekend. The lake is full and the wildflowers are beginning to bloom. And I did get my painting done, so will post it here when I can get some photos.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Talkin' Turkey, part 2

A rafter of wild turkeys on the Kansas prairie

My last post was about the discouraging business of art, of being an artist. And there is no sugar-coating it; Art has ever been and probably always will be a difficult way to make money. I don't know why that is. Because can you even think of a world without art?

I believe Art does for the physical health of the world as much as physicians do. I believe Art does for the mental well-being of the world as much, perhaps more, than psychologists and therapists do. I believe Art does as much for the spiritual growth of the world as religious leaders do. I believe that Art and artists educate as well as many schools do. I believe Art has and can bring people together better than governments can and do. Yet all the professionals in those fields are compensated for the work they do, and most artists are poorly compensated, if at all. But, there it is.

In spite of that, we will continue to make Art. Because, as I said before, what would the world be without art?

We make art because we have a message from our hearts and souls that cannot be spoken or shared in any other way. Can you imagine the world without the works of Vincent Van Gogh? How much poorer would we all be? Poorer even than he was, when he died in poverty, having sold only two of his glorious heart-exposing paintings.

Artists are ambassadors of hope and keepers of beauty. Art can find the lovely in what others see as unlovely. Art brings respite from pain, and makes the heart remember what it has forgotten. These are not just clever words, they are Truths that I have experienced in my life and have seen  in the lives of others.

If Art was just my business, I would retire today. I would have quit yesterday, or many, many days before that. I am not a complete idiot; I can add and subtract and see that Art as my business is complete foolishness. But Art is not just a business for me; it is how I interact with my world. So I will go to the studio this morning and I will weave, knowing that I am not making $xx.xx/hour, and that I am probably going further into the red with each pass of the lovely Swedish yarn I use. I will create another tapestry, and another painting, knowing they may end up stashed under my bed or in the cedar closet. Because I have a new story to tell, and it is a story that must be told as Art.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Let's 'Talk Turkey'....

Turkey walking down Mass. Ave. in Cambridge, MA recently

The other day I was at a social event and a woman spoke to me a bit about how she wants her husband to change careers to one less physically demanding than what he is doing now. She said he has been painting some very nice paintings, so she thinks he needs to quit what he is doing and take his paintings down to a gallery and start selling them, and make that his new career.

My mother has always told me that my facial expressions give too much away; that people always know exactly what I am thinking, just by looking at me. I'm sure, then, that at that moment, my face said quite loudly, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!!"

I explained a bit about the local art scene: we have a couple of galleries that have survived the economy, but both are artist-run (and financed) coops. I do not know a single local artist - including the really great and long-experienced ones - who is making a living through these coop galleries, or  making enough to break even, most months. 'Selling' through these galleries is costing the artists a great deal.

There have been several recent articles from national sources lately, pointing out that even the top name artists are not being paid to exhibit; that the big museums and galleries are exhibiting art that is costing artists, rather than supporting them. DUH. I love showing my work. In fact, today I have packed up five of my large tapestries to send to an exhibit. I have several other tapestries out on exhibit, as well. None of these exhibits will benefit me, the artist. In fact, they have cost me a great deal in entry fees, shipping fees, and insurance, not to mention time, materials, and time spent photographing the work, etc. And that, of course, does not include creation time.

Occasionally I reach a point in the work where I wonder why I do it. Today, I am not sure of the answer, but I can tell you what is NOT a reason that I continue 'doing it.' I am not in it to make a living. If that were the case, I would be starving.

A couple of years ago, after teaching at a national conference, I decided to 'retire' from teaching. That teaching experience cost me about three times what I was paid. And that is in dollars, not including the time. I loved teaching. I just can't afford to do it anymore. I'm sure I will soon need to make that choice regarding exhibits, as well.

My husband will soon retire from his profession; the one that has made it possible for me to become a tapestry weaver. When that happens, I will need to reassess the cost of being an artist. Weaving tapestries is expensive. Exhibiting tapestries is very expensive. As a business, it is not a good business to be in at all, in spite of the fact that I have worked pretty hard at it for a long time.

Sometimes, it is good to face reality. Sometimes, facing reality really just sucks, and joining Gus in a long nap seems the best solution to it all. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Moving up the warp ...

This is where I am on the 'April' tapestry. I'm not as far as I would have been if I'd not spent a good bit of yesterday un-weaving, and then re-weaving the same area. But I am enjoying the process again .... even the un-weaving part. I am listening to Divergent as I weave, mostly because my 10-year old grand-daughter is reading the series and I like to try to keep up with her, though it is pretty clear that she will pass me by very soon. (Though she's not read Jane Austen yet, so I don't feel too threatened by her reading list.)

I have also got the "Send This Artist to Paris sale" up and running on Etsy, with a sidebar here on the blog, where I'll be posting new items in the shop. It is on the right, and clicking on it will take you there. Watch for new items at least several times a week. My current project is getting some card sets ready of several of my tapestry series. They will be available very soon. I also have some prints to get out to a local auction to benefit a teen half-way house by the end of the week. So I am spending quite a bit of time working again, and the house is dusty and accumulating pet hair and the weeds are growing in the garden, and all that is just all right with me.

Back to the studio.... woo-hoo!

Friday, June 6, 2014

National Donut Day...

Who knew? Today is National Donut Day. So I am posting this painting, in celebration. Can't miss such an important celebration, can I? Maybe I'll even bake some donuts. Or maybe I'll just think about baking (and eating) donuts while I weave. Sadly, that is most probable.

The oil painting is called "Diner, My Shiny, Shiny Love" (inspired by Martin Sexton's awesome song of the same title.)  The painting is oil on canvas, and is 16"x20". It is listed in my Etsy shop, where I have begun my "Send This Artist to Paris sale."

And... speaking of beginnings, I have begun the weaving of the "April" tapestry, as the last of my company left this morning. I already have about an inch woven! I will post a photo of my progress soon.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

April, Come She Will, verse 2

Here are a couple of the photos I have been working from for the "April" tapestry maquette, though much of the design comes just from my imagination. The photo above is of my guitar, which will not be slavishly copied in the design, but used just as inspiration. While I had my guitar in photo form, though, I did the version below, which is now my phone screen image! It makes a great wallpaper image, and it makes me happy when I open my phone.

The photo below is of the flowering crab tree in my back yard. It is a beautiful mess of a tree! Somewhat like life itself. And a good deal like the month of April, which is always a beautiful mess of a month here in Colorado.

There is very little else in the tapestry; a woman playing a guitar, crab apple blossoms, and, oh yes, the blackbird. I have a lot of crow photos and a few blackbird ones, but I confess that I mostly looked at bird books for the bird. Everything is simplified down to the most basic forms, like I would LIKE life, and the messy month of April, to be.

The maquette is now done. The loom is warped and the heading woven. The cartoon is also drawn up to actual size. I have baskets of (hopefully) appropriate colors arranged by subject on the floor around the loom; a 'guitar' basket, a 'background' basket, a 'blossom' basket, and a basket for the figure. I am ready to sit down and begin. As soon as my company leaves, I will be at the loom.

... and I will be happy to be there!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

April, Come She Will.....

detail, "April" maquette, K Spoering

Here is a small bit of the maquette for my next calendar tapestry, the one for April. It will be called, "April, Come She Will," after the Simon and Garfunkel song of that name, which is one of my favorite songs, and has long inspired me in a number of ways.  Obviously, this piece will at least partially be about my love of music. In fact, the bird is also a personal reference to the Beatle's song, "Blackbird," which is one of the most challenging and rewarding pieces of music I have learned to play on my guitar.

I finished the maquette this morning, and this afternoon I am choosing the yarns. Tomorrow, I will tie the warp back onto the lower beam of my loom, and draw up the cartoon. The next step after all that will be to begin weaving, and I can hardly wait!!

I am so enthusiastic about weaving again and about this somewhat personal design, that I believe it will weave fairly quickly. There are also not as many details and fiddley areas as many of my recent designs have included. Perfect summer weaving! I'll post my progress as I go, so you can see if I am right in these predictions.......

Monday, June 2, 2014

Play, play, we played all day!

Final Game Junior College World Series
 (... and a good bit into the night!) My family has been here for the past week. We had our two sons and their families here,, as well as my father-in-law, who comes each year to go to a week of JUCO games, which take place a block from our house.

In addition to a LOT of baseball, we went to a fun park and did laser tag, bumper boats (where this Grandma got very wet), miniature golf, and some hiking in the Colorado National Monument... or rather, they all hiked and I sketched, then drove to the end of the trail to pick them up. So we were very busy having fun, and this page in my sketchbook is all the non-food-related creative work I did all week.

But today, all have gone home except my father-in-law, who will be here the rest of this week. So my brain is ready to start thinking ahead to the work awaiting me in the studio. I have the 'April' tapestry maquette about 80% done, and I think I know how I want it completed. I also am thinking of the 'Send This Artist to Paris' project I talked about in the last post. I hope to get it up and ready by the end of next week.

Sometimes, all an artist can do is think.  It is an important task, though; this thinking. And I am glad it can often take place while I am doing somewhat non-creative but necessary chores; like catching up on the laundry (all those sheets and towels!) and re-stocking the pantry and refrigerator.

So that is what will happen today: putting my brain on 'artist mode' and thinking ahead so I'll be ready to begin the work again in the studio tomorrow, as least for a short bit of work. In the meantime, I will catch up on some domestic tasks, and this evening I'll reorganize my work space (as a couple of grandchildren slept in the studio while here) so I can get to work tomorrow.

Summer is like this for me: I work in bits and pieces; fits and starts. And the play time is such delicious nourishment for the work time!