Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year; New Hope

As a new year rolls in, I am looking ahead with great expectations. The year that has just passed was a difficult one for me. So I am pulling myself in; letting go of some things I have been doing, and planning a winter season, at the very least, of hibernation and personal work and growth.

The year ahead should see the end of the Calendar Series tapestries. I am hoping to feel a paintbrush in my hand again. My music is leaving the 'public arena,' and I am going to be doing some song writing.

You will find me in quiet places this year, hunkering down in my personal 'caves:' my studio, my sitting room, our cabin. I am hoping you will see my work out and about, and you will certainly see it here, on my blog.

This is a year of change. This is a year of growth. This is a year of solitary work. This is a year of Hope.

May you have a blessed 2016.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A 'ghost' of Christmas Past....

In 1998, when we had the first Clinton president, the Colorado governor's wife contacted me and asked if I would be one of two Colorado fiber artists to make an ornament for the Blue Room tree in the White House. There was a theme; 'Snowmen,' and there were also size specifications. I was amazed at how large the ornament could be, but then the tree was huge and there were to be only 100 ornaments on it.

As I made the ornament, I also made one for myself, knowing I would not see the White House ornament again. In fact, it now belongs to the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I hope it gets pulled out occasionally to hang on a tree there!

As you can see, I did 4 triangular tapestries. The main three were of the 'life of a snowman:' with one side showing it being built, another showing the snowman, and the last side showing it melting. At the time I did the ornament, the Clinton administration was in a bit of 'meltdown' itself, so I kind of felt the ornament was somewhat symbolic.

The fourth triangle was for the bottom of the ornament. It is just three joined triangles, within the triangle, and I hung a tassel where they met. The ornament did not hold it's shape well with just stuffing. There were weight specs, as well as the size ones, so I formed as pyramid of foam core to fit inside the ornament, to make it keep it's shape.

I received a Thank You with a signed photo of the Clintons standing in front of the Blue Room tree, and I am pretty sure I can see my ornament hanging on the tree. It was a fun project! And I am so glad I made a duplicate for myself.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The rest of the story.....

I finished the two-page sketch of some of my holiday cups, so here it is! One of the things I love in life is sitting down with a cup of coffee or tea, and a book or a journal or a magazine or a friend or my sweet husband (especially if he has brought me the cup, unexpectedly.) And I especially enjoy these hot drinks in the 'bleak mid-winter.' So, over the years, I have collected and accumulated a number of holiday cups; so many, in fact, that when the time comes to use them, I have to clear out my cupboard of everyday cups to make room for them.

A number of my cups come with 'stories,' as is the case with a lot of our possessions. They are reminders of times and places and people, and I love that about them! The cup on the top right (tree) is one of a set of four. They were given to me by my brother many years ago. He is no longer with us, but this gift from him is.  

The cup at the bottom right of the first page (red and white) is one of two given to me last Christmas by a friend I frequently share coffee or tea with. They are vintage Fire King cups, from a 'Tom and Jerry' punch set. I love the fact that they have 'history.'

The cup on the top left of the second page is also a vintage cup. It is heavy 'restaurant china' and was given out by Arby's in 1987. In fact, it says 'Arby's 1987 Christmas Collection' on it.  

The china cup and saucer beside it was given to me one Christmas from my Mother. Then, the next Christmas, she gave me another just like it, having forgotten she'd already given me one. So I have two, and she and I drank tea from them together for the last time last Christmas. 

The mug with socks on it I bought for myself one year when I had been knitting a great number of socks. The one below it, with sledding children, is also a set of four - or it was, but one has been broken. They are very large, and are perfect for filling about 2/3s of the way with hot chocolate, leaving the top third for little marshmallows or whipped cream.

The milk glass Auld Lang Syne cup is another small 'Tom and Jerry' cup from a punch set from the 1930's. I just have the one cup. It is the perfect size for french chocolate chaud!

I truly enjoyed sketching these cups and thinking of all the drinks that I, and others (some of whom I don't even know) have sipped from them; of all the conversations, all the plans made, all the joys and sorrows that have taken place in their presence, and especially of the comfort of the hot coffee or tea or chocolate that filled them, and then filled me, warming my body and soul.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Half a Sketch is Better Than None....

Today's sketch is really 'half' of a sketch, in that I am doing a two page spread of some of my Christmas mugs. I just wanted to let you know that I still AM sketching, pretty much every day. I have a lot of holiday mugs, and I do love my coffee and tea..... but more about all that when I finish the whole spread!

Friday, December 18, 2015

'December' tapestry reveal....

I am finally reaching the more interesting part of the 'December' tapestry! This lower part has just been background, mostly. The tapestry is of an Amaryllis, in full bloom. The background is just of an off-white  lace curtain. I'm weaving that fairly abstractly. My husband asked if I didn't want to weave it more distinctly, so viewers 'would know what it was.' No, I don't. I told him that I don't really care if anyone 'knows what it is.' It is just abstract background, intended to lead the viewer's eye to the subject.

I took this photo this morning, when the winter sun was shining through my studio window, which has a prism sitting on the ledge. So all that rainbow color in the hem isn't really there, but wouldn't it be fun if it was?

I grow an amaryllis or two every December. It is something I look forward to: that beautiful burst of color in the grey drabness of winter. These are my two that I am growing this year, sitting in my kitchen window. I bought both bulbs at the same time and place, and planted them at the same time. The one on the right (which has barely begun to grow at all) has been given the same love, light, water, care, and talking to as the one on the left. My husband thinks the one on the right will not ever amount to much, but I know better; they just all grow at their own speed. Just like we do. Sometimes my flowers bloom in December, sometimes they are slow-bloomers, and wait until January. My favorite one opened completely one Christmas morning, when we were home alone, feeling like we needed a lovely gift. I painted a watercolor of it, which I can't find today! It was one of the few watercolors I did that I actually liked, and I can't even find a photo of it.  

However, I have sketched and painted this flower a number of times, in all of it's stages of growth, so I decided it was time to weave it! (Below are some pages from past sketchbooks.)

Spent Amaryllis bloom

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

In Today's Sketchbook.....

I tell my husband that, in allowing people into my sketchbook, I think I am revealing a bit too much of my bizarre mind.  Today's sketch is one of those times.  When I was meditating for a few minutes this morning, trying to empty my overactive brain, suddenly this image was there. I don't know where it came from. Oh, I guess I have some inklings, some suspicion of where it originated: I have an educational background in behavioral psychology, so I can't help but analyze these things.

We do have a number of huge raven pairs living in our neighborhood, and I do have a memory of seeing one of them, at this time of year with a large round red thing in it's beak (probably an apple.) So that may explain the bird with the ornament. And the rest of it? Best not even go there, in all likelihood!

But I will say that the image was so clear and simple, it almost painted itself in a matter of a few minutes. And it was fun. That's all that counts this morning; a few minutes of 'lite-brain' (or maybe 'empty brain') enjoyment before the day's rush begins.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Santa Gus....

Gus. Gus loves Christmas. He loves to hide under the gifts and the tree skirt and jump out at Booker. He has ruined one artificial tree (I'm allergic to evergreens,) and is determined to ruin another, by climbing them. He was halfway up the tree in this photo. I do not really understand why a cat wants to climb an artificial tree, but Gus, like all cats, has his own reasons and agenda. He is sad when the tree goes away.

I actually made it into the studio to the loom for a bit today! There is nothing that soothes my spirit like weaving. As you can see, I have not progressed much on this tapestry. But every little pass of weft through warp helps.

My sketch today was not terribly inspired. I just sketched what was in front of me on the sitting room coffee table: a little knitted Santa and three 'peace' candles.

Tomorrow is another day; another bit of weaving, if I'm lucky. Another sketch, if I make the time. Another adventure for Gus. But right now the sun has set, snow is lightly falling, and a cup of tea and some gift knitting is calling my name.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Another sketch....

Sometimes my mind makes connections that seem a bit bizarre.  (Please don't tell me yours doesn't, as well!)  Today's sketch came from a number of things that are bouncing around in my head; they must have all run into each other. One thing is the advent season, as I listen and play and sing holiday music, and read holiday readings. I have always loved the part of the Bethlehem story where the angels pop up in front of some guys who are calmly watching their sheep, and start singing and rejoicing, then tell the guys, who are undoubtedly scared witless, to 'not be afraid.'  

I love the 'don't be afraid' scriptures. A few years ago in my Bible reading I marked all the 'be courageous' and the 'do not be afraid' verses. There are really a lot of them! Probably because we are such a big lot of chickens that we need many frequent reminders. Fear motivates a lot of what we do. And that's another thing thats been ricocheting about in my head: all the fear-making news we see and hear, some of it very real, most of it amplified by the fear we spread amongst ourselves.

And then there's the Honey Badger. I saw an ad on PBS the other day for a special show that will be airing soon about the honey badger. The clip said that this animal, which looks to me like a cross between a baby panda and a corgi, is the most fearless of all animals. It must know something. It must know that the thing we should fear most is fear itself, as President Roosevelt once said.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sketching Christmas....

So... all over the place: Pinterest, sketchbook groups online, in print books, ... wherever a sketchbook keeper looks, there are lists of 'prompts' of things to sketch. One such list popped up today when I was on Pinterest, and the prompt for the day was to sketch 'Christmas Stockings.' I looked down at my feet and, what do you know? I had on Christmas stockings!.... more or less. So I sketched them.

One of the MANY lovely things I have learned from my grandchildren is that it is not important to wear matching socks. In fact, my socks live in a free-range drawer. I do try to grab two socks that might not offend each other; that can live in harmony on my feet and with whatever else I have on. And sometimes, they do even match! But not often.

The other interesting thing (to me, at least) about this sketch is that I did it with Watercolor Brushes. I purchased a not-inexpensive set of them several years ago. But when I tried to use them, I found them to be messy and ineffective. Since then, I have seen some terrific sketches done with watercolor brushes, so this morning I decided to try them again. When I had tried them before, I'd wanted to actually sketch with the black brush, but it never loaded enough paint to use that way, and, after making a huge mess, I gave up on them for these several years. Today, though, I sketched with my pen, then just painted with the brushes. All but the black loaded the paint very well, and I really enjoyed using them. In fact, I think I may refill them when they are empty, and keep using them. And the black, which never loaded well, worked great as dry brush for my faded black jeans and for shading. 

However, I did still find them to be messy. It may just be me, but when I was done, it looked like a paint incident had occurred targeting my hands and my bathroom sink. The paint leaks a bit around the pen seam, but it's just watercolor, right? It came out of the sink immediately, and my hands will clean off after a few baths and washing the dishes once or twice. Messiness is never a good reason to discard art supplies!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Exactly when IS the 'first day of Christmas?'

I surely would not want to miss it! I have been decking the heck out of our house for the past few days. It has been a few years since I got all this 'decor' out of my Christmas closet. It just seems silly  to decorate when we are either here alone or traveling somewhere for the holidays. But this year, all my kids and grandkids, and my dad and a brother and sister-in-law and an extra dog will be here! So all the stuff was put out; mostly with the hope that they will latch onto a good bit of it and take it home with them!

Now that the 'decking' is all done, I am hoping to get a bit of weaving and sketching in. I know, however, that the second, third, fourth,..... etc/ days of Christmas follow pretty closely after the first day, and I still have holiday music to plan, 'perfect' (ha!,) and perform. And baking and shopping, oh, my! Mrs. Claus, didn't you have any say about all this? And if you didn't, way back then, is it too late now?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

There, and back again....

For the Thanksgiving holiday, my husband and I drove from our home in western Colorado, through the western states of Utah and Idaho, up to the very most northern part of Montana to my brother's home, where my father had been visiting. We started our long winter road trip early enough to see a beautiful sunrise. (Disclaimer here: all these photos were taken from the inside of a moving truck. Also, I have not altered them, except to crop the size of a few of them.)

As the sun came up, the landscape became very monochromatic. The sky and the land and the reflected sky in the snow all blended together.

Then the clouds became ominous, and, as we were in Big Sky Country, we could watch it move across the landscape.

Very little to see, but land and sky. At one point, I became dismayed at the lack of coffee places, but we finally found one (just before final meltdown.)

The time there was a wonderful family time, with four generations present, from my father, down to my youngest great-nephew; a span of 91 years difference.

From my brother's huge windows, we watched a resident eagle, a huge gaggle of geese, and the comings and going of a gang of turkeys and many deer, all seeming to peacefully coexist.

The moon was full, and the nights were cold.

All too soon, we started back home, with my Dad along. Again, the sun rose beautifully in Idaho!

And the sun continued to attempt to burn through the fog of the frigid morning; with temps well below zero!

When it finally came out, we were back in the monochrome winter landscape. And, after the long journey, we were Home.

We live in a Beautiful world. There is Good here. Sometimes, that is not an easy thing to remember. Sitting next to a good man for two days, then two good men for two more, in the cab of a pickup, moving through scene after scene that takes my breath away is a reminder to me to not believe that the world shown in the news is all the world we have. We have so much more. And for that, I am truly Thankful.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sketchbooks, and more.....

I recently filled my 2015 sketchbook. It's the one the middle in the image above. It is a Moleskine Sketchbook, and since they changed the paper, I have hated it all year long, and my sketches show both that dissatisfaction and the stress that the past year has involved. So, it is not my favorite sketchbook. I looked through my past books, and discovered (which should not surprise me at all) that a Stillman & Birn sketchbook I filled in 2013 is my favorite! It is the one on the left, above. I even like the cover I did on it in collage! I have a new Stillman & Birn, and I will begin it with the new year. In the meantime, I have begun a Strathmore Mixed Media sketchbook that a friend gave me. It is accepting water media well, so I am hopeful that I will enjoy it, as this year ends.

One of the things I most liked about the Stillman & Birn book from 2013, was the fact that I allowed others to sketch in it - knowing that whatever media they used, it would not buckle or balk. So my grandchildren sketched in it, and my Mother did the sketch above - my favorite page of all! Both of these sketch pages bring back good memories for me. I think 2013 was a pretty good year, and it shows in my sketchbook.

This is my favorite sketch in the 2015 Moleskine. Again, it brings back memories of a good day with my son. I also like that I 'composed' the page a bit; something I had done throughout the 2013 book, but did not bother much with this past year.

So I have now begun the new sketchbook. I always begin and end a sketchbook with a self portrait. I began this book while we were driving over the mountains to take my Dad to the airport. So I was in the backseat, behind my husband, with nothing to do but sketch myself. (It was not really a very good plan, as I get carsick when I try to 'do' anything in the car. So my selfie looks a bit peaked, don't you think?)

This sketch was done at our cabin a few days ago. Mostly all white snow, but I wanted to try this difficult perspective of the cabin. I am liking the pristine paper, and I have not yet spilled coffee on the book, which is pretty amazing!

My shelf of sketchbooks is growing. This photo doesn't show the several oddly sized or shaped books I did before 2012, or my travel sketchbooks, or the handmade book Booker actually ate (fortunately with just a few pages filled.) A picture truly is worth a thousand words, and, though I also keep a journal (and have done so far longer than I have filled sketchbooks,) the images in these books are a savoring of Time, like no other thing is; neither journals nor photo albums can compare.

I have also been weaving. I have about 2 1/2 inches woven on the "December" tapestry. Not very interesting to look at, so far, but the process is centering me, once again. Nothing feels 'right' to me like sitting at the loom, passing the weft through the warp.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ready, Set.... Here we Go!

The loom is warped. The new yarn colors I needed came in today's mail. Now, all I need to do is get Gus out of my chair and I can begin the new tapestry!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Ready to begin the end....

These are the Calendar Series tapestries I have done, in the order of the months (Jan, Feb, etc.) Today, I will tie on the warp for the final tapestry of the series; December, appropriately enough. Each of these are 18x18 inches, mounted on a fabric covered stretcher frame (which my handy husband constructed for me.) I still hope to hang and exhibit these 12 tapestries all together when the series is complete, along with the four Seasons tapestries.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Yes, it's still #INKtober!

I actually have been doing little sketches almost everyday this week. They are not complex. I have not spent a great deal of time or, I confess, effort on them, as I've been busy with many other things, as always. Mostly sorting messes that have accumulated with a great deal of time and neglect. But I have met my goal so far this month, of doing at least five sketches each week. And it is becoming more joyful, and less of just another chore, so that is a good thing, too!

I have enjoyed the little 5-20 minute sketches that I've done. They are all done in ink, then I've added color to some with InkTense pencils, or, in the case of the one above, watercolor. That one, and the one below were done at our cabin. Every year I sketch the colorful oak leaves in my sketchbook. They seem to capture the look of the whole of the mountains to me. The little sketch of the corner of our cabin above is, quite appropriately, a very 'rustic' sketch; just like the cabin itself.