Wednesday, April 30, 2008

working outside today

After getting grades posted and other loose ends tied up at school this morning I was able to get outside at the studio. I painted on both of these for a couple of hours, mixing a plate full of color and going back and forth between the two to use it up.

My painting set-up is very low-tech...a Corelle plate for a palette, a few plastic paint mixing spatulas, brushes of several sizes--none very expensive. Water container (recycled yogurt tub), a few paper towels...all sitting on an empty plastic bucket. Since the purpose of my painting is to develop design for tapestry I don't use better tools and materials for this step. Once I've completed the composition and it's traced onto mylar, the canvas is rolled up and put on the shelf.

The first composition that I began last week has now developed to this point. Needs more work tomorrow on the background...still too different in color from the fiddlehead. I wanted a bit of complementary color contrast but this is too much and the greens I washed over some areas are too clear...need to tone it down.

More work on the creek view...still have several days to go on this. Since it's part of the fern study one of the things that needs to happen is to make the ferns in the lower right foreground more specific and more dominant, I think.

Tomorrow I might think about starting a fourth composition to see if I can find a mid-point of design--somewhere between the extreme close views of the fiddleheads and the broader view in which the ferns are only a small part of the emphasis.

This is almost like a "zoom" approach but I'm not yet getting it to work in that way. It's just now occurring to me that I'm headed that way. My friend Diane has done fabric collage with zooms and they're wonderful.

But--one more diversion today--taking details of the two closeups of fiddleheads and cutting and rearranging combined, using filters in Photoshop...

Maybe I need to explore this direction more...pretty interesting shapes happening.

yesterday--a day of R&R!

I spent most of yesterday with an old friend and an old friend of hers, who is now a new friend of mine! Noel and Christina (from Germany) came to town for a few hours, to visit my studio and to "do" the thrift stores. We found lots of treasures--everything from a heavy wood bread box so Noel can keep one of her VERY STRONG kitties out of the cat/dog treats, to a wooden stool that swivels for my studio. Christina found several things to take back to Germany with her, too! This is the best way I can think of to counter our overly consumer culture--if you gotta buy stuff, buy other's cast-offs!!

I'll be back at work on the current design search later today. I'm also about to begin a special activity for the month of May...will post more about that tomorrow and on days to come.

AND, the Arrowmont class I'll be teaching in the fall (Sept. 28-Oct. 4) is finally on their website--at this link--just a preview of fall class listings so far but at least I can direct inquiries there until the full posting is up. to get the day underway!

Monday, April 28, 2008

more revisions...

A suggestion from crop at the top and right. I did that this afternoon and also changed the background, simplifying it by washing over the stems and leaf shapes in the background so they became more suggested than specific. I photographed the painting then manipulated in Photoshop with several filters...only three are shown here. The design has undergone several changes in the past few days...from the postings I made on April 23 and April 25 to what's here now.

I didn't have time to work with the other two compositions that are underway while I was at the studio today...will be Wednesday when I get back to them. I'm hoping to finalize the compositional studies soon (like this week!) so I can begin warping the loom.

My next decisions will be about warp sett and final size for the tapestry. I'd like to use the larger loom again but I also would like to have this piece finished before late summer.

and even more...

Again working with Photoshop to manipulate with filters and to combine images...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

still searching...

More work on the first fiddlehead, then started another view from the fern photos--this one a longer view of the creek property, ferns in right foreground. Two photos of the creek were combined into this composition...this is the first stage.

I cropped this a bit...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

and yet more fiddleheads!

I tried a few more modifications from a few detail shots from the painting in progress. These were done with Photoshop. I changed contrast and color a bit in the detail cropped from yesterday's photos, then used the watercolor filter followed by the cutout filter. I clone stamped in some spots and used the brush with lower opacity in other areas, mainly at edges to give a definition of contrast where the filter caused it to be lost.

These were so stylized that I thought I'd try them repeated with a mirror image effect...

That was pretty interesting and then thought I'd try it in reverse...

Next, take out the green central area and see what happens...


Friday, April 25, 2008

I took the painting outside today to work with more light...added darks to the background and worked on the fiddleheads more. I also worked more on the first composition. I stapled the canvas to the side of the garage and painted there, mainly adding marks suggesting the vines behind...these were painted around with darker mixtures of paint just to get value changes. I'll go back over the vine areas later and lower the contrast so they're barely visible in the background.

I worked on the second composition yesterday, adding a third fiddlehead and some marks to the background to indicate where fern suggestions may go. I also took digital shots of details of both pieces and manipulated with filters in Photoshop. I'm thinking I'll finish off a couple of narrow warps on frame looms using details of the spiraling centers as I'm planning the larger tapestry based on these.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

more fiddleheads

I set up a painting area in my cellar last week. With the weather getting warmer this gives me a place to be working without worrying about getting charcoal and paint on the floor upstairs. The cellar is part dirt floor, part concrete. The insulation in the ceiling of the cellar is for the upstairs--it's covered with plastic sheets but hangs pretty low. Since I'm only 5' 4" tall, I can mostly walk around without having to duck too much--and I put the easel near the side of the cellar, near the small windows.

I've got a table, foam board to pin pictures and drawings on, rough shelves, plastic lawn chair to sit in. I've rigged up a place to hang canvases as I'm working on them. I use unstretched, gessoed canvas to paint on. I use charcoal, chalk, acrylic paint, graphite...applied with brushes, foam brushes, foam rollers, house painting brushes, sponges, sticks, my other words, anything I can make marks with and apply color and texture.

This was yesterday's start after my morning in the woods. It's hanging to let me look a it for a bit before switching it out to the drawing board to replace what I worked on late yesterday and continued on today.

These are working stages in planning tapestry designs and these images will go through many changes before I'm ready to commit to a line drawing on mylar that I'll use for weaving. I like to redraw and repaint many times over, hiding what went before. The gessoed canvas allows me to do that easily. I work on the composition for an hour or so, then I do something else while it dries.

This has been drawn and painted on three times now...began it yesterday afternoon, continued on it this morning, then changed it more...and more to come tomorrow.

Off in the woods on Earth Day!

And yet again
seasons change
spring comes
summer follows
fall returns
to welcome winter's

I spent a couple of hours in the woods near a small creek yesterday. I am collecting images to begin the process for the next tapestry design. I'd been to this spot, on property we own, last week and discovered the fiddleheads emerging. It was near dusk last week but I took a few photographs and began the "research" that I typically do when I am thinking about the next tapestry. My process involves seeking information through books and on the web for the topic that's pulling me.

This spring, spirals have been showing up in my thoughts so I'd already started seeking what images might be good ones to consider. The renewal of spring is also all around right now...seasonal changes usually shake up my eyes and my thinking. I googled "spiral growth patterns" and found many sites...this one is quite nice--information easy for my non-scientific brain to absorb! Spirals are found in phyllotaxis. This leads me to other links about spirals in nature...including Spiralzoom and Spira mirabilis or miraculous spiral...

I've searched the web for identification of the ferns with the fiddleheads that I was finding and believe it's Christmas fern--polystichum acrostichoides.

At the studio I've begun to paint large versions of the fiddleheads on canvas, referencing my photos and my sketchs, looking for the image(s) that may lead to the next tapestry composition.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Beading loom construction

Do you ever have those bright ideas in the shower? A nice steamy shower seems like a "concentration booth" for me sometimes--I frequently have ideas pop into my head that are solutions to things nagging at the back of my brain. The other morning I realized I could adapt the Archie Brennan pipe loom to a standing version to be used for beading. Well, duh?!?! Of course!

So, I took myself off to Home Depot and bought 1/2" copper pipe, 3 pieces of 24" long (more expensive that way, I know...but easier for me to carry), 2 pieces of 1/2" x 12" threaded rod (I had some 1/2" nuts at home so didn't buy those), four elbows, four tees, and four rubber caps.

With my handy pipe cutter I made a small loom with feet, 6" wide and, with threaded rod in place at the sides, up to about 16" long. The loom's feet are 3" high and, when inserted into the elbows, the loom stands nearly 4" off the table. I used a paste epoxy to adhere the elbows and tees to the legs and to the side pieces to make it more stable.

I put a strip of masking tape at the cross bars, marking that with sharpie at 1/2" intervals to help with the warping. I tied the beading warp onto the bottom and did a figure 8 warping process between the bottom and top cross-pieces. I brought the warp into one plane and began beading. The little guy works just fine and, although I don't do much bead weaving, having a good sturdy loom to replace my flimsy crafty bead loom is nice.

So, yes, I'm distracted from designing the next tapestry but my mind is working! And I'm about to start a project, along with some friends, for the month of May...more will come to the blog about that shortly!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's dogwood winter here...and it will be blackberry winter later in the spring. This reminder of winter, while the evidence of spring is all around, is a bit jarring.

Spring will soon turn into summer. Like winter, summer will seem that it will never end. Hot, steamy, stormy, dry, wet, muggy, bright Season, endless and long. Yet, ripeness will happen, season will begin again to change. And then, after the brief sunset of fall, winter will return and never seem to end--again.

Someone recently mentioned the poet Galway Kinnell to me. I just read this of his today:

Blackberry Eating

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry -- eating in late September.

Galway Kinnell

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Vandiver Sleeping

I finished the mounting steps for Vandiver Sleeping tapestry. I stitched the tapestry onto a foam core board that I'd covered with dark red fabric. I then attached that to a canvas stretcher also covered with fabric--that one a dark blue-green.

The tapestry is 11" h x 14" wide and the total size, including background mounting board, is 14" h x 18" wide. The board with the tapestry stitched to it is adhered to the background board with industrial strength velcro. Since that one isn't too heavy this solution should work fine.

This is the fifth cat tapestry I've woven since 1988 and the third of this particular cat, Vandiver. All of them (except for the first one that sold years ago) are shown on the gallery section of my Southern Highland Craft Guild web page,

Now that this piece has been put to rest, I'm wanting to begin the next tapestry. As I have no composition from which to work in place yet, I'll be spending time deciding on the direction to be taken. Images I see all around me right now are of the spring season, since trees are budding and leafing out. I've been drawing details of some aspects of the season,and also thinking and writing a bit more about renewal/regeneration.

Spring is so fleeting...already some trees have their fresh, bright green leaves almost full sized. Several, like the black walnut trees in the yard, are a few weeks behind in leaf development. The business of life on nature's schedule...moving ahead without delay!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Alpaca farm visit yesterday

My NGCSU weaving class and a couple of other folks visited a local alpaca farm yesterday--Garland Farm Alpacas. The owners, Kathy and Skipper Gholston, have a beautiful property, about 150 acres near the mountains. Kathy weaves with the yarn from their alpacas... scarves in color and weave effect and small checks, with the wonderful natural colors of the alpaca being primary. The yarns and fabrics are very soft...quite beautiful.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Vandiver is woven!

I finished the last of the Vandiver Sleeping tapestry yesterday and cut it off. I still have the mounting to complete but will do that later this week. I'll be getting it in the mail to his new home soon! I was able to finish it in the two weeks I'd mentioned in my earlier post, plus a day or two!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hambidge Center residency deadline approaches...

April 15th is the deadline to apply for an artist residency at Hambidge Center. I've been a resident several times over the past and have always found the two or three weeks I've spent there to be very creatively invigorating. I recommend the experience highly!

I will have a work in the upcoming exhibit, "Back to Nature," at Hambidge. The opening is April llth--I hope to make it there for the event. Hambidge is less than 80 miles from my home. Its history is fascinating...I'll note more about that later.

Friday, April 4, 2008

playing with image and ideas

I'm drawing daily in my sketchbook now. This will come and go, I know, but when I'm using the sketchbooks consistently I am freshly reminded how differently I see things when I'm observing directly--I see so much more than when I refer to photographs I've made of the same objects. Maybe it's because I can see it from different viewpoints. I can look closely, can squint my eyes to reduce detail, can feel textures, use the magnifying glass to see intimate details....

I've never had much desire for drawing from memory and so don't practice that form of image making often. For me, visual recording from direct observation is quite challenging. Because my sketches, drawings, or paintings are done to help me learn about the things I find interesting I don't concern myself with making "good art works" -- which most of the images certainly aren't.

These drawings were done yesterday from a maple seed I picked up on the sidewalk outside of the studio. Last night I scanned the drawings into Photoshop and began to play around, using some of the filters with the color sketch. As I did that, I began to see options for weaving from a cropped version of the "helicopter" of the maple. Hmmm, helicopter...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Long weekend...lots of places

From Friday last week until Tuesday this week I was on the road in North Carolina. I didn't quite live in my car but as I stood, spreading hummus on a bagel in the parking lot of Earth Fare in Asheville, I wondered if those watching thought I did! No, instead I had a great time with friends in different places...the parking lot lunch was just a blip on the great weekend of connecting and reconnecting with people I love.

Friday, I made a quick stop at John C. Campbell Folk School to see the results of the nuno felting class taught last week by Mailiss Petterson, from Norway. Her work with silk and wool in the felting method she uses is just beautiful. The students in her class had wonderful pieces and were all quite excited to have learned so much during the week.

After that quick stop I took off again toward Waynesville, NC to stay overnight with a couple of friends who I haven't had time to visit with in years. And they weren't even there!! I cat-sat for them on Friday night...had a quiet time with Murr, the cat and good thinking, sketching and weaving during that evening and the next day. Leslie and Richard returned from their trip late on Saturday and we had time to catch up on life's events. Before dinner Leslie and I took a short walk on a portion of the NC "Mountains to the Sea" trail that passes at the back edge of their property.

Murr had a propensity for sitting in the saddle of an earthenware horse at the house--a favorite spot from which he can watch the birds outside, Leslie said. I was quite taken with Murr and made several sketches of him while I was there.

And I just had to have one photo of him in the saddle!

I stayed Friday and Saturday nights with L & R, then passed through Asheville on my way toward Winston-Salem. I always have to stop at the Folk Art Center when in Asheville and on this trip, Liz Spear was one of the craft demonstrators. I'd bought a handwoven jacket from her a couple of years ago and this time purchased a vest...handwoven front, commercial fabric back. I love her garments--beautiful colors and yarns, exquisite tailoring.

Since my goal was to be in Winston-Salem early on Monday, I decided to drive in that direction later Sunday afternoon. I stopped at Statesville that night, leaving only about a 45 minute drive for the next morning. I checked into a motel, took in my sketchbook and "trashy" mystery novel, my bag of veggi sushi and spring rolls from Earth Fare, my stitching (left the tapestry loom in the car)--and settled in for a quiet evening.

Early the next morning I peeked out the window to see fog and rain underway. I'd hoped to finish off the drive in dry conditions but took to the road about 9 a.m., windshield wipers doing their best. I got to W-S by a little after 10, picked up the two tapestries that had been in the new members exhibit at Piedmont Craftsmen, and headed southwest toward Noel and Patrick's place in the mountains of Western NC.

I stopped again in Asheville as I passed through to select several pieces of fabric from Waechter's Silk Shop, buy a few supplies for school and a new reed for my 60" loom at Earth Guild, and have one more stop at Earth Fare (where I had the previously mentioned parking-lot lunch!). By this point in the trip, by car was brimming with stuff! The assorted traveling studio things I take with me on any trip were combined with purchases and picked-up tapestries from the past three days...all making for a very full car.

The oasis of Noel & Patrick's property called and I arrived in time to see the chickens and guineas before they roosted for the night. Pat Williams has recently completed a commissioned tapestry for Noel and the unveiling took place, along with a toast to the work!

The subject of the tapestry is Patrick, who is actively involved with the biological control of the wooly adelgid problem effecting the hemlocks. He studied the various methods available and determined the sassy beetle is the best option. Two years into releases on their property has shown the hemlocks there to be making a remarkable come-back! He shares his work with anyone who will listen--faces skepticism in some places, down-right anger in others. Yet property owners with whom he works are seeing remarkable results. Who would have known that an environmental issue such as this could have so many political ramifications? I've seen what I've seen on Noel and Patrick's property--can "testify" (as we used to say in church) to the effectiveness of the sassy beetle on the trees there. How this can be overlooked by many is beyond my understanding--other than to wonder how "invested" in other methods of "control" those nay-sayers may be?

Anyway, a toast to the miracles of hemlock revival and Patrick's involvement with it! From right to left, there's Noel, who commissioned the tapestry. Next, standing together are Pat (the tapestry artist) and Patrick (Noel's husband). Another friend who's very familiar with Patrick's work with HWA stands to the left and her service dog--a beautiful German Shepherd--is behind Noel. All are grouped in front of Pat's beautiful tribute to "The Tree Wizard"!

Monday night with Noel & Patrick for both Pat and me, then we were all off on separate ways Tuesday morning...Pat to a new members' meeting at Southern Highland Craft Guild, Patrick to meet the FedEx driver with a shipment of beetles on the way for him, and me to Hambidge Center to drop off work for the Botanical Art exhibit.

Back at my studio yesterday I found tulips blooming in the yard! The weather was so warm that I was able to take the loom to the screened-in back porch and weave for a couple of hours before last night's class. That was one of my fondest desires for this new studio--the porch where I can weave when the weather is fine. The light is very good, the smells and sounds of the back yard and the neighborhood are comforting. I know I'll enjoy this out-door (sort of) studio space very much in the next months.