Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Quilt and Brain Games

Just to give you an idea of how one builds in difficulty in what might otherwise be a relatively easy project . . . the quilt I am working on includes palm trees.  Don't even ask why; I just thought they would add the right touch to the overall composition.  Silly me.

Anyway, did I have it all planned out how I would make those palm trees before I took the quilt to the quilter?  No, of course not.  I had machine appliqued the trunks of the trees, but that was all.  This week, now that the binding is done and the two sleeves have been sewn on the back, I decided to deal with the trees before all the other embellishments I want to add.

I started with two trees.  My decision was to embroider the palm fronds, and I did it free hand with no markings on the fabric.  Two trees completed in one night.  I hated them; the green thread was too dark against the dark blue sky.  The next morning I took out all my stitches, spent some time on research (memory isn't always accurate), did a few sketches, and then that evening I changed thread colors and embroidered those two trees.  I hated them; the thread still wasn't right and the stitching while palm-frond-like still wasn't effective.  The next plan was applique.  I would cut out fronds from green fabric and applique them on the sky fabric.  I gathered the fabrics I thought would work, but I have to say I wasn't happy about the many hours of work this plan would entail.

The next morning I woke up with the correct solution sitting there in my head as though it had been there all along and was just waiting for me to find it.  Boom and it was there just smirking at me.  Wool.  That was the answer.  Wool and fusible batting to give it that little bit of three dimensional quality.  So I drew a pattern for the entire top of a palm tree, copied it on the computer changing sizes so I could fit big and little trees, found my wool and batting, and started cutting.

Tonight I blanket-stitched one top and started on the second (it will speed up as I get accustomed to shifting the entire quilt around on my lap).  I love it!

Thank you, you sneaky little brain!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Busy Evenings

After sending out a quick email, it occurred to me that I hadn't written an entry - again.  My apologies and an explanation because it will probably happen again.

I am spending my evenings doing the embellishment on a quilt that has to be completed for the October quilt show.  There is a lot to do, but I am trying to limit my work on it to evenings.  Daytime can be quite hectic with frequent interruptions - not good for concentrated work.

Question - can one be an art quilter if one's original quilts are representational "story quilts"?  Paintings are considered art and many are representational; does that hold true in the quilting world?  I don't know.

Monday, August 25, 2014

More of the Lake

Well, I was right about today.  We spent the bulk of our time scurrying around plumbing supply and tile stores hunting down items ordered weeks ago that were inexplicably not available.

Ah well, this too shall pass.  But I am tired and was not able to take pictures of the other paintings I didn't show you yesterday.  

Consolation prize - something even better than paintings.

This is what we believe is a one year old merganser duck and probably a male.  We think he's a male because he swims alone; he's too old to stay with mom and has been sent out to live on his own. You can see that his head is beginning to show signs of the rusty orange feathers.  Doesn't the lake look wonderful?  Now that's water to paint!

Here is possibly another painting.  I'd probably lose about a quarter of the left side to concentrate on the old boarded up window and the forgotten sail boat in the shallows.

And this is just because I like it.  The clouds lifting from the mountains, the still lake sliced by the fishing boat, and the sail boat impervious to it all in its calm water.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back from Vacation

What a wonderful time we had - not that that's any surprise.  It was, after all, vacation with family in a well-known, well-loved place.  There were no surprises.  This year the weather was cool all week, and the lake at 58 degrees was too cool for me even to dip a toe into let alone my entire body, but that, too, posed no significant problem. 

Actually, it left time for reading (D did more of that than I), sewing (of which I did a little - though not as much as I thought I would), walking (an estimated three miles every morning), eating (far too much vacation leeway there), searching for bonsai specimens (D, of course - and he was successful) and painting.

What, no parenthetical comment after "painting"? you ask.  No, because I did more painting this year than any year before which made me very happy.  It made me so happy that I will share with you what I did so no need for parentheses.  While I worked on three paintings, I finished only one sketch, and that is what I will share today.  First, it's being shared because it is finished, and second, because I haven't photographed the other two, yet.

This sketch was done "en plein air" - which means I painted while sitting outside looking at my subject.  I haven't done a lot of that (this may be my second), but I have drawn en plein air frequently.  Again, my hesitation over exposing my awkwardness with watercolor inhibited me.  This year, I decided to just jump in and do in.  After all, I had E and brother D who are experienced with both painting outside and with watercolors, to help me.  And help they did.  The sky in this sketch is lumpy-bumpy looking, but you should have seen it before brother D told me how to make it better!

This experience really helped me tremendously. I overcame a long-standing reluctance and found I truly enjoyed the experience.  And I learned.  Yes, brother D helped on this one and E on another, but I think I finally internalized my biggest fault with watercolor.  I HAVE TO STOP FIGHTING THE WATER!  Sorry for the capitals screaming at you there, but I am screaming at myself (in my head, of course) because it's easier than knocking one's self "up side the head".  

Basically, it's the same thing I did one year with acrylics and one year with oils.  With acrylics I spent a year producing darn few dreadful paintings all the time disliking what I was doing because I didn't like the paint!  So I switched to oils which I truly love but spent a miserable first year painting rocks because I didn't like the brushes! So I switched to palette knife which has been remarkably liberating.  

Now it's been one year with watercolors - not miserable, but not joyous either - and my epiphany has just occurred.  I know it will continue to be a struggle, and I'll have to fight my urge to micro-manage water (ha! what an image that is!).  But I think I may have cracked this year's barrier.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Errands and Not Much More

Today was another day almost completely taken up with necessary errands that took all morning.  However, since those were important and went well (one was picking up a finished quilt from the quilter), I am not complaining.

Once home, I did have time to do some preparatory work on the quilt I cut out yesterday.  I almost finished marking the squares to create triangles so when I start sewing, I won't have to stop to do that semi-tedious task.

Then, almost before I knew it, D was back from his errand, it was time for dinner.  We're off to NYC to a ballgame and will be home late.  I am 99.75% sure I won't be awake enough to write an entry tomorrow night so I'll wish you a happy weekend now -

Relax and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Daily Doings

It was a painting day, and I went off with my practice exercises which consisted of initial washes of color.  In class I began still another using some tips I was given, and worked on adding a second layer to last week's works.  There's nothing worth showing although, if I get photos taken, I probably will.  It's a good way to keep track of progress or no-progress-beyond-mere-changes.

At any rate, I felt good about what I'm doing and learning, and plan to continue working in the same way this coming week.  An important finding was that I really don't care for the paper I'm using.  Naturally, I prefer the far more expensive kind.  Since I am reluctant to use that as practice paper, I plan to try some middle of the road paper this week.  It's not a favorite because it doesn't have the texture of my best paper (which is bound in small sketch books), but I don't think it will show the pattern of weave through the paint as what I've been using does.

After lunch at home, I went up to the studio and put away painting gear so I could cut material for a new quilt (my cutting table serves as a watercolor painting station as well).  That's what I did this afternoon; I cut out fabric for "Scenes and Ladders", a pattern by Karen Gibbs.  My version uses a variety of fabrics I collected before the FG shop went out of business; the focal piece is a Robin Pandolph design of pink roses on a medium blue.  Why I thought it would do for the guest room, I don't know, but it will do as a quilt for a friend of our daughter's.  She likes blue and flowers.  I think I've enough different kinds of fabrics and colors to keep it from being overly precious or cloying.  We'll see.

While we watched the TV this evening, I spent another night on hand piecing.  This particular wall hanging is taking a long, long time (started last summer) because I haven't worked on it consistently.  It progresses by fits and starts as I am easily distracted by other hand work - crazy quilting, knitting, hand quilting, wool work - well, you know how it is!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Poof - and They're Back!

Yes, that is exactly what happened - Magic!  Yesterday I opened my pictures and sitting there as smug as can be were my Saratoga Track photos - snickering quietly and nudging each other over the trick they had played on me.  Well, I let them have their moment because they had well and truly snookered me.

So before they decide to gallop away again, here a few I took last Thursday:

One of my favorites - the horse all stretched out and the muddy splashes.

On the last walk about before heading back to the gate. 

A young woman with a camera dealing with the mud.

Thought I would try this function on my camera.  I like it - all except the head in front of me!

After the race - the mud is all over rider and steed.

So it's time for a shower - for the horse,  of course!

I like the juxtaposition of live action with videoed action behind.

The track workers dealing with the mud after the tractors went through.

A well-deserved break.

Not the expression and body language on horse and man with snap on something or other.

Sometimes the worker horses show a bit of temperament, also!

I came home with approximately two dollars in winnings; D lost about that much.  Big bettors we are not, but it was a grand experience.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Monthly Garden with a Bi-Weekly Update

Oh well, you probably knew it wouldn't last.  There's no way I could resist the temptation to show the way our gardens have changed in the last two weeks.  This is that time of year when the perennials are still blooming and the annuals are coming into their own.  It's why I can't imagine having a garden without both to carry one on a wave of blooms from May until September.  The older photos were taken on July 15th and the new ones on July 31st.

This first one of the front yard looks as though it hasn't changed, but everything is simply fuller, more lush than two weeks ago.  I notice it the most in the hostas.

Here is the front porch and the fernery below as it was two weeks ago.  It looks good, and it was well on its way.

July 15th
Now look at the difference just two weeks makes.  Compare the porch railing planter with the photo above.  Then look at the two hydrangeas on either side of the tallest fern (in the center of the fernery).
July 31st
Here's the way the white garden looked in the middle of the month.  Keep your eyes on the lilies on the left of the photograph.

July 15th
See the 'Casa Blanca' lilies now and the white gay feather (liatrus) in the middle of the garden?

These lilies are usually very fragrant, but I think the cooler air and the breezier weather is keeping their aroma down.  They're the fullest they've ever been though.

You haven't seen any pictures of the daylily border before today because there simply wasn't anything to see.  The first one is the lower end of that border, and you may notice some of D's largest bonsai-in-training among the daylilies.  I haven't been out dead heading as we were away this weekend so the bed looks a bit scruffy.

I may have shown this shot of the upper end of the border before; I didn't go back to check.  I do know I mentioned that the birds have gifted us with all these wonderful Turk's turbans.  No, we didn't plant any of them.  Unfortunately, I will have to take most of them out as they are obscuring the view of the daylilies, and more than likely, they're also crowding them too much.

The following photographs were all taken on July 31st, and you'll either have to scroll back to the June 15th view to see the huge leap since then or just take my word that there has been such a leap.  Below is the "hot" portion of the garden in which I deliberately planted reds, oranges, and yellows exclusively.  We have an almost straight on view of this part of the garden from our back windows.

From the "hot" section above, the garden stretches across the backyard.  The Alberta spruce that looked so awful after the winter is coming back.  That spruce forms a rest space between the eye-popping hot section to a more varied and larger section, but they are all part of one garden (even though I tend to speak of them as separate and distinct).

If you look carefully at the birdcage you can see a few nasturtium blooms in it on the right hand side.

I am quite pleased both with the large black pot and with its contents this year.  And the black-eyed Susans are back!  Where they have been these last few years, I don't know, but here they are.  And the cone flower, too.  The white "false dragon head" are taller this year, and the bloom seems more sparse, but they are just starting.

There is another view of the farthest left side of the garden, but it doesn't want to be uploaded (quirky blog issues, I think).  It, too, shows evidence of great growth, But I suppose you'll just have to take my word for it!