Friday, August 30, 2013

Last days at the Lillian Smith Center

My days are winding down.  I'm tired, as I always am when I've had several intense days to spend in my self-centered pursuit of what... creative expression?  That seems too lofty a description of what I do when in search of design ideas for my tapestries.  The varied processes I go through to finally, I hope, have an image worth spending months turning into a tapestry are for me best accomplished in intense bursts.  An artist residency gives me space and time for the bursts--I just hope the bursts will happen!

This time I do feel that I've had some insights for design ideas while I've been here.  Today I worked more on the two part piece I'd started on Wednesday:

This image is based on the stones of the cottage where I've stayed at each stay here.  I've looked at the wall many times.  I love the varied sizes and colors of the stones of the all the buildings at the center.  

I had a bit of left-over earth pigment and grays when I'd finished this.  So I pinned up three sheets of watercolor paper and quickly began to work with other views of the stones.  These need a bit more work, I think, but so that they'll be dry enough to put in the car tomorrow I'm leaving them as they are now.

Yesterday morning I took a different path for my walk.  I went along on a trail though the woods where I crossed a small creek on--yes, stones:

I also saw this wonderful stone covered in very flat ferns.  They look like they were just fossils-in-waiting:

Back to reality tomorrow!  It's been a lovely, lovely time here.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Day of Diversion

A friend and I drove to Asheville today for the ribbon cutting at the new Southern Highland Craft Gallery in Biltmore Village.  It's in a historic building and this is a historic event for the Guild... the owning and opening of this gallery!  I've been one of the many Guild members through the past several years who've advocated for this step--the purchase of brick and mortar property in which to house if not all of the Guild's operations, at least some of them.  With the ribbon cutting today, the reception tomorrow and the "soft opening" that happened earlier in the summer, it's a reality!

Some photos from today's event follow.  I hope some of you might be able to visit the Guild's shops, either the new SHCG Gallery in Biltmore Village, Allanstand at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, the Guild Gallery on Tunnel Road in Asheville, the Arrowcraft Shop in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the Cumberland Crafts Center, in Kentucky, or the Parkway Craft Center, at Blowing Rock, North Carolina.  The Southern Highland Craft Guild is a 900+ juried membership organization and I'm very proud to have been a member since 1979.  I was given a Life Membership in 2009 and that honor mean quite a lot to me.

Read more about the Guild's history here.

Here's Tom Bailey, the Guild's Executive Director, getting ready for the ribbon cutting!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

And Yet More from Lillian Smith Center

Today I added earth pigment from the clay I'd dug up near the studio yesterday.  I worked on this painting for a couple of hours and then decided it was done for now.  I'll look at it again when I get home to see what more, if anything, I need to do to it before I consider it a potential tapestry design.  If I decide to weave it, then the challenge comes of interpreting as I weave.  And that's usually a several month-long process.  Since I don't dye my own yarns, I have the task of selecting the colors to blend into weft bundles to best create the effects I want, based on how I'm working from the painted design.

Early this afternoon I drove into town to the local hardware store; they have quite a few art supplies there and I always stop by when I'm either at Hambidge or at Lillian Smith Center.  Today I was checking to see if they happened to have un-stretched, gessoed canvas in rolls... which they didn't.  But they had a 50% off of their stretched canvasses.  So I got a couple to use as if they were one and started another rocks piece this afternoon.  

Here's the wall at the end of today.  I'd moved over the first piece so there would be room for the two 24" x 36" wide pieces that I'm working on together.  Lots more to do with it on Friday (I'll be gone tomorrow to attend the ribbon cutting at the Southern Highland Craft Guild's new shop in Biltmore Village, Asheville, NC).

In the late afternoons I usually sit on the porch of the cottage I'm staying in and make a drawing or two before sunset.  I've been drawing in this lovely book made by Alice Schlein that I got a couple of years ago... a tree book, so all the drawings I do in it have trees in them.

Here's yesterday's Peeler porch sketch:

And several from 2012 when I was here, looking at the same view (first, here's the view):

It was raining that day!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

More from Lillian Smith Center

Today I took down the painting I've been working on since last week and stapled up a new blank canvas piece:

What follows are stages of developing this design.  I work loosely at first, sometimes not even knowing what may be the subject of the painting or drawing.

I use wide brushes to begin, housepainters brushes, in fact.  This "automatic drawing" method is one that I was introduced to by Steve Aimone in workshops I've taken with him.

Within 20 or 30 minutes there's something everywhere on the canvas.  Can't be afraid of the "blank" space when there isn't any, huh?

At this point I start to consider the potential for developing images.  Steve's workshops are geared toward nonobjective painting.  However, my own desires are for pictorial images in my work.  Yet I have been finding his process wonderfully loosening for beginning.

So... image for this new piece was selected from several of the photos I've been making of the stones around the Center.  I decided upon a detail from the chimney ruin at the Center.  The stacking of the large, medium and small stones in this chimney have fascinated me since I first came to the Center several years ago:

Lillian Smith's grave is at the left of the chimney:

As I begin to develop the painting further, I first make a drawing using a graphite stick using the photo as reference.  You can barely see the lines drawn over the paint:

Here I am painting... yes, staged with camera's timer but I wanted to show the scale of the work and the wall I've got the canvas stapled onto.  The apron is an important tool as are my painting shoes, ones that I've almost worn out but that are great for standing in most of the day.

Now the real work begins.  I paint for awhile, sit back and look at what's been done, paint for another while... back and forth for hours at a time.

Here's where I left it around 5 p.m.--

And this is what I'll be adding tomorrow:

Yep, that's Georgia red clay.  I'm using coffee filters to strain the mud, and then I'll mix acrylic matt medium with it.  Some of the rocks in the painting will get a wash of the clay tomorrow.

And... red door photo... haven't shown one yet.  But here's part of the red door and my shadow in this morning's early sunlight--it was a chilly morning and I have on a cap, coat, scarf and gloves as I wave at the red door!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Return to Lillian E. Smith Center

I'm completing a residency begun earlier in the summer.  I was here for a week in late May, then cut my stay short to be home for the big 30th anniversary celebration.  Now I'm back, staying for 10 days, doing painting.  I have a piece started that might become a design for tapestry.  Here's an in-progress photo:

The painting is on unstretched, gessoed canvas.  I'm using acrylic paint and graphite.  It's 50" W x 60" L.  Images are from photos I've made on morning walks while here. 

View from the table you see in the photo below...
Here's where I can get online to make my posts!  This is in the Common Room at the Center.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013


And welcome, indeed, were the 150 or so students, studio assistants and instructors who shared the Penland experience during Session 5, July 21-August 6, 2013.  In the fourteen workshops held during the two and a half weeks, everyone was intensely involved in the studios during the day.  Late afternoons and evenings held slide presentations by instructors and studio assistants, and open house times at Cynthia Bringle's studio, the Resident Artists' studios, and the Penland Gallery, among other events.  And many returned for late nights at studio--even all night, if one could hold out for it!  The studios are available 24 hours.

The surroundings are spectacular... when at Penland, the rest of the world might as well not exist.

The weaving and textiles classes are held in one of the older buildings on the Penland campus, the Lily Loom House.  More about the Lily Loom House and the other structures of historical significance is found at the National Register of Historic Places registration form for the school, a fascinating read, if you like historical detail.

The tapestry class was held on the second floor of Lily Loom House... here's a view from the windows inside our classroom:

The nine students had plenty of room and light--two views of the room, from one side and then the other.

More later of students and work in progress!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

New Book by Nancy Peacock

I'll be making a Penland class post soon but first had to mention a new book by Nancy Peacock I've just gotten. It's called The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson and although I've just started reading it today, it's already hooked me!

A book launch event is coming up at Flyleaf Books on August 15 in Chapel Hill... here's a link to information about that:

P.S. --Nancy Peacock not only weaves words, she also weaves tapestry!  Check out her website:

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Friday, August 2, 2013

Penland--quick photos from iPad

Here are a few photos from this morning before class begins...

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Penland class progress

The class is moving right along wonderfully and we have four more full days to go, and a half day on Tuesday, August 6, when we end with a brief show of all the work from the classes that will be assembled in one location.

Wifi connection is terrible here, however, so I am not posting photos yet. It will probably be after I return home before I can do that. Suffice it to say that I'm having a great time and think the students are, too.

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