Friday, October 28, 2016

When in doubt, make big changes...

So said Steven Aimone in a workshop I had with him a few years back.  If I remember that, I usually find a way forward with something I've been struggling with.

In fact, I knew I'd written about this before and did a search through my blog for the phrase and saw it in a May, 2013 post.  I'd forgotten Archie Brennan's bit of advice that I also mentioned there: "When in doubt, simplify."
I'm taking to heart something Archie Brennan said at the recent workshop:  "When in doubt, simplify."  Also in mind is another quote, interestingly also beginning the same way:  "When in doubt, make big changes." (Steve Aimone)
 Over the past several days I've worked with many drawing/paintings and have been happy with some and not so pleased with others.  Yesterday, I spent most of the day re-examining them, deciding some were OK and those that weren't, I worked on.  I over-painted, washed away, reassessed and finally gave in to using white gouache on some to go back to lighter areas.  I just haven't yet found a light enough earth pigment to do what I want.  I'd wanted all of the work on these pieces to be from natural sources--but, after all, I'm the one making up the "rules" to follow.  And I can choose to change them if I want to.

The biggest change came with a large watercolor piece that I described in process in a previous post, the one on which I sprayed acorn dye over leaves as a starting point.  I just wasn't happy with the end result and yesterday morning I decided to try to wash off some of the dark area that I'd gotten from the iron/rust solution.  I took the painting to the cottage and ran water from the outside faucet all over it.  Nothing budged! At least I know how permanent that stuff is now.

All I could think of was "when in doubt, make big changes" and the biggest change I could make (other than ripping the paper to shreds and reassembling it--and yes, I thought of that) was to use white gouache to cover some of the dark.

And that's what I did.  While the paper was still quite wet I laid it on the porch and began to paint with the gouache and a large, flat brush.  Within about 20 minutes I had this: 

And I'm much happier with the image now.

The other large piece is OK, too.  Here's where I left it yesterday afternoon... didn't do any other work on it except to once more look at it from a different orientation:

I have one other idea to work on today.  It's my last full day here and I'll need to pack up the studio later in the afternoon.  But I want to begin (and maybe finish) one or two more things.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

More experiments today!

No, not fun but necessary, I guess.  At least that's what seems to happen for me.  I need the time to experiment and play and try things... but this is indeed work for me.  I don't particularly have fun not knowing what to do next.  Or wondering whether I should try something or not.  But I've come to realize that this is the way I have to work.  Try something.  Don't be (too) afraid to mess it up.  And even if it totally is a failure--what's the cost?  Some material costs and some time.  Not a big deal in the long run--and compared to other things in life.  Right?

Anyway!  Here goes with today's experiments.  First thing this morning I cut up a painting I'd done one one of the first days here:

As I started rearranging these parts I noticed that two were particularly interesting to me:

I can see how these two sections might be potential tapestry designs... maybe a diptych?  And woven large, say 24" wide X 80+" or so?  And woven at 6 epi so that I could work with large bundles of weft, perhaps.  More to think about now after taking the leap of cutting up something.

Later in the day I took a couple of earlier paintings to the larger studio to work on with earth pigment.  Here they are before:

And here they are after:

I've also done a few other things today, including submitting an online entry to an exhibit.

And late in the afternoon I sat on the porch after taking a walk and though about what I'm trying to do while here and with any of my seeking of images.  Here's the first page of the journal entry about that:

More to come in the final few days while here!  I hope that some tapestry works will result from all of these experiments.  But if they don't, that's OK.  They'll come as they will, I guess.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Day Eight of Experiments

Oh my, time flies when you're having fun!

Well, mostly fun.  Sometimes fun.  Most of the times, though, these experiments are fraught with me wondering if I'm doing what I need to or should do to find a way forward with my images.  And the images I make will (at least some of them) become tapestry designs.

So here are some of the experiments--some wonderings along the way:

So, yesterday I began this large drawing on 300 lb watercolor paper using a couple of pieces of partially burned wood from the fire pit:

Fire pit here at Lillian Smith Center

A couple of "tool for drawing" I pulled out of the fire pit.

My wondering about this drawing is "What am I wanting to show here??"  I started with bold marks using the charcoal tools and then added grays by using a water-filled brush.  Not much time was spent with composition for this quick drawing but there were some things I liked about it so I though I'd take it to another stage.

Here's where I left it yesterday afternoon:

This morning I decided to work with some of the acorn dye I've cooked for three days and the rust solution that's been developing over the past couple of days.  I used a 22 x 30" sheet of 300 lb wt. watercolor paper to work with, taking some leaves from the yard and spraying over them with acorn dye.

Here are leaves laid out to be sprayed with the acorn dye...
... and after initial spraying with dye...
... and now the leaves are removed and the acorn and rust mixture is added by pouring it on...
Here it is after working on it with a brush for a few minutes.
Later in the afternoon I worked on both this and the painting I'd started yesterday.  Here's where I left both of them today:

Yes, I flipped it over... in fact, I worked on it from all directions today.  I kind of like it this way.

Here's the leaf painting that I started this morning, now with earth pigment added.  I need to do more work with it but like it pretty well, so far... at least, parts of it.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Experiments continue...

I'm doing several things during each day... all leading somewhere, I think hope.

I'm still working with earth pigment processing.  I now have 13 colors ground, sifted, mulled and stored in small jars.  Here's what I have so far--these are from what I collected at Hambidge in July and in the past days at Lillian Smith Center.  I have a few more colors to do and will get them done tomorrow:

It was chilly here today; low 50s by mid-day but the studio where I'm working didn't really warm up.  Here's my solution--fleece vest, hoodie with hood up, coat, scarf and dust mast (for the earth pigment, not for warmth's sake).  Plus, rubber gloves.  So wrapped up that way and moving around while grinding, sifting, and mulling the pigments kept me plenty warm enough!

I'm also cooking the acorns I smashed up yesterday.  They've been in the crock pot quite a long time now--from noon yesterday to around 10 p.m. I turned the pot back on today about 8 a.m. and will continue to cook on low until 10 tonight.  The recommendation in the Organic Artist book is for three days in the slow cooker so I'll continue tomorrow.  Here's what it looked like earlier today.  The bit of paper I'd dipped into the dye shows some of the color that's developing.  It's very similar to the black walnut but has a bit of difference in the warmth of the color.

Yesterday afternoon I dipped more papers into black walnut dye to tone it.  And I drew on one of the sheets with a bit of charcoal from the fire pit, using a hickory leaf I found in the yard as the model.

Later in the evening, I used some of the earth pigment to enhance the color of the leaf.  The yellow ocher color of pigment I'd found at Hambidge earlier in the summer was perfect for the beginning of this little painting, I think.  I'll work on it more tonight with some of the newly made pigments.

The Center is glorious with the early fall colors and it's hard to keep focused on the studio with views like this just outside the door.  But I keep trying!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


I'm at Lillian E. Smith Center for a few days and I'm trying out some things that I don't have time for while at home.  A couple of directions are pulling me while I'm here and I'm trying my best to go in both of those, spending part of the day in one focus and then shifting to another for the later part of the day.

So here's some of what's happening while I'm here.  I'm working with natural materials and how they might be used for my art work.  No, not unique explorations, I know.  But they are a bit new for me.

First, earlier in the day I worked with drawing on paper that I'd dampened, using a stainless stylus.  I then dipped the paper with drawing into black walnut dye that I'd cooked yesterday.  Here's the dipping and the results.

Dipping into the dye...

I'll work on this more later with earth pigment paints.

I worked later in the afternoon with earth pigment paints, using Sandy Webster's book, Earthen Pigments,  as guide.  I also referred to The Organic Artist for info:

Grinding some earth pigment...

I've collected 15 bags of different colors of earth and here are some of them laid out to dry:

... mulling the earth pigment to grind it smooth to use as paint.

So far, here are the colors from the earth pigmets.  Five of the fifteen I've collected.
More experiments soon as I try acorn ink, using the suggestions from The Organic Artist as guide.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

This and That

Well, fall is definitely underway here in north Georgia!  Cool mornings and warm afternoons abound.  It's too dry, though.  We're needing rain but none seems to be in the forecast except for maybe a few showers later today.  Fall colors may not hold the usual brilliance because of the dry conditions... a few more weeks will tell the color tale, though.

We picked up my tapestries from the Piedmont College exhibit on Thursday.  Everything is temporarily stored in our dining room.  I'm still trying to find a venue for an exhibit of my work during 2017 or 2018 but so far nothing has come up.  However, I do have tapestries to be included in several shows, either now or coming soon.

Currently a couple of my tapestries are in the Blue Ridge Fiber Show, NC Arboretum, and a collaborative piece I did with Diane Getty is at the Southern Highland Craft Guild members' exhibit at the Folk Art Center--both in Asheville, NC.  I also have a small tapestry being shown at the Australian National University along with the work of artists from Australia,  UK, and USA.  The thirty tapestries in the exhibit, Elements: earth, fire, air, water, will travel to each of the three countries over the next year and a half.

During November and December will be Time Warp--and Weft, an exhibit of woven works by several of us who do time-passage weavings: Jan Austin, Geri Forkner, Janette Meetze, Kathy Spoering, and me.  The exhibit is at NOTO Arts Center, Topeka, KS and is up during the same time that ATB11 is on exhibit at the Mulvane Art Museum, in Topeka. We'll be exhibiting our time works together again in 2017 at Lyndon House Arts Center, Athens, GA.

Getting art work out and into exhibits is a challenge!  Yet, it's something that most of us who make work want to do, whether the works are for sale or not.  Sharing about one's creative process is important to most everyone who makes art, I think.  Having an idea and bringing it into a visual reality through whatever means one uses goes to another level when others see it and engage with it.

Sharing about process is something I want to do, whether it's through exhibiting my work or teaching.  I also occasionally share through writing.  I mentioned a few posts back that I have an article in the Summer issue of Surface Design Journal.  Here are a few photos from the issue:

The article was about the value of artist residency times.  Here's the pdf of the article.

I've written quite a lot in my blog before about how important times away are to my art making process.  Right now, I'm beginning to work on ideas for the next large tapestry and I'll be spending some time at Lillian Smith Center soon to concentrate on that goal.  In the meantime, the October tapestry diary grows daily... here's where it's gotten to today, October 15:

More from Lillian Smith Center later!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A visit to the Smith-Williams Gallery at Piedmont

Yesterday afternoon my husband and I visited my exhibit at the Smith-Williams Art Studios Gallery at Piedmont College, Demorest, Georgia.  It was the first time he'd been able to see the show--and wanted to before it ends later this week.

I was able to take a couple photos of the two main walls with the tapestries installed:

Here's my 2015 tapestry diary's place in the exhibit:

And last shot of the show, the photo Thomas took as I stood near the oak leaf tapestry that I finished just before this show.  I think it shows the scale of the piece well (I'm about 5'3"):

I'm gearing up for the next tapestry to begin--I have not yet committed to the image from which to work but I may look back at last year's paintings I made while at Lillian Smith Center since there are a couple more of those I'd like use as tapestry images.  I have warp remaining on the big loom but I may warp another loom instead.  I've got to decide and get to it in the next few days.

The black walnut adventures for 2016 are really drawing me to work more with them, though!  Here's the tapestry diary October painting... the weaving for the month is underway and I'm two leaves into it. 

 More about this year's tapestry diary in the future... it's hard to believe that only three months remain in the year!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Good Grief!

OK, just a minor melt-down here... it's taken me about 30 minutes to be able to get into my blog and to delete a spam comment, then to make a post.  I guess this is all because I've been so slow to add a new post?  Probably.  Add to that the fact that I'm at an artist residency right now where the internet connection is iffy, to say the least... non-existent, most of the time, to say the most.  You get the drift.

So-- here goes with a new blog post, straight from beautiful Hambidge Center--where I'll be leaving tomorrow!  I've had an intense two weeks--John Campbell Folk School last week to teach a group of 11 wonderful people, along with a fabulous assistant who's an art major at the University of North Georgia.  I went home for two days and left again, heading here to Hambidge for a week.

Rock House, Hambidge Center
I've had lots of loose ends and obligations to fulfill while at this residence at Hambidge (an article for American Tapestry Alliance newsletter, Tapestry Topics in collaboration with Erin M. Riley, as well as a couple of trips to Piedmont College to speak -- first day to students about my show, then the next day as part of a panel for the Lillian Smith Day events). 

John Templeton, Nancy Smith Fichter, Nanette Curran answer Craig Amason's questions about their memories of Lillian Smith during the Lillian Smith Day event at Piedmont College
Today I've spent in my studio, doing nothing other than my own work... and, now--listening to the birds in the chimney!  Right now, they're moving in for the night. During the day, I guess, they are out somewhere (probably sleeping) until it begins to get dark and then they return to the chimney to chatter ALL night long.  Should I say it remindes me of Paul Klee's Twittering Machine?  Or maybe Hickcocks's The Birds? Though, without having my eyes plucked out and after five days of the chatter, I've almost gotten used to it.

Today, I've worked on designing the image to use for the month of October in my year-long tapestry diary.  Here's where I've gotten to now... more work on the painting tomorrow before I leave:

Here's a quick overview of the Piedmont show of my tapestries: