Tuesday, September 30, 2014

New Orleans Musicians Update

The last entry on this painting was on September 16th as the painting has progressed slowly.  And the reasons for that?  I've worked on a couple of others at the same time, I've been working on the quilt for October's show (and I'd better get back to that soon!), I've not felt well for a little over a week (that's over, thank goodness), and finally, this one just takes longer as there is so much detail work.

If you look back to the 9/16 entry, you may feel this isn't worth seeing again, and you may be right since it is so similar to the last entry on this subject.  But what is happening now took time in the thinking stage and then additional time in the painting.  For me, it's beginning to come together.  While I may still need to tone down the building behind the musicians, they, as a group, are beginning to hold their own.  

There will certainly be a lot of fiddley corrections and alterations once all the figures (including the dog) are in place, but I think it's heading in the right direction.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Some Fall Decorations

Last week I wrote about getting out some fall decorations and hanging "Jack's Wild Ride".  E was kind enough to request some photographs - a request that slipped my mind until dusk today.  

There's only one picture because it was so late and because some things like the shelf in the family room are difficult to photograph at that time of day.  As I think of it, I will take more pictures and share them with you along with other things as the month goes on.

So here is the little shelf in the living room that has my collection of miniature German carvings with a few other odds and ends.  

Some of the "odds" (of the odds and ends mentioned above) are the Halloween critters.  I have no idea what purpose they originally served (unless they were pencil toppers) or where and when I picked them up, but in earlier years I scattered them among my plants - where they immediately became lost in the foliage.  When I unpacked the box with the Fall/Halloween/Thanksgiving items, these little novelties stared up at me waving their arms and wings for attention.  

When we returned from our trip to England, I regretted the fact that I hadn't purchased one of the small porcelain thatched and half-timbered cottages to put on this shelf.  They were in several gift shops in the hotels and airports we passed through, but as you can imagine, they were pricey.  D mentioned that I might be able to find something like them on eBay.  He was right, and I bought all of the above for less than one of the Thomas Kinkaid-looking (I'm not a fan!) ones we saw in England.  The one on the bottom shelf was originally a tea caddy for Twining's Tea.

Those pencil toppers fit nicely on the chimneys, don't they?

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Tomorrow I will spend more time writing, and I really hope to have some photos.  But tonight I want to spend some time with D and figure out if I can eat something other than white tomorrow.  Maybe I'll even have something worth sharing then.

I'll try.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Work is Completed!

Goodbye to our contractors; today was their official last day, and we have no plans for any other improvements that fall within their areas of expertise.  It's very nice to have our home back to ourselves even though now we're the ones with a lot of work to do.

I started in the family room as we spend so much time in there.  The display shelf that stretches the width of the room and a bit more is now completely cleaned and rearranged for Fall.  That took the entire afternoon as everything that was taken down for the dusting also had to be cleaned/washed/packed away and everything that went up had to be moved around a bit before I was satisfied.  There's a lot more to be done (the family room did not receive a thorough cleaning after the kitchen renovation as we knew more dust-producing work was  still to come), but it makes me feel good to have made a start.  

The living room was also tidied and made ready for fall, and Jack is up over the piano.  It's good to have him back in place!  I have yet to do a complete dust down and vacuum of living room and dining room, but as that was taken care of after the kitchen, it won't be as bad this time around.

Also found time to make fresh corn chowder for this week.  Unfortunately, I have had a mild touch of a stomach virus the last few days so I'm on the "white is nice" diet for a while until the twinges stop.  No chowder for me - yet.

Have a good weekend; the weather is supposed to be fine!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Garden Notes

While I was out, D started removing some of the gazillions of acorns (and I do not exaggerate) from our driveway and yard.

This is the THIRD wheelbarrow full of acorns (and leaves and downed branches in this one, too).  It looks quite neat and lovely out front now - or will until tomorrow when more will be bound to fall.  And do be careful if you have acorn producing oaks around your house.  The acorns are like marbles under your feet - I know because I've made one less than graceful fall already (no damage done though thanks to a well-cushioned posterior)!

And since I'm on the subject of the outdoors, I know ME was concerned about my collection of watering cans ever since we took down the fence out back.

Here they are on their new perch that D finished a week or two ago.  Pressure treated lumber may last longer than those watering cans, but I love the look.  It will be interesting to see how the hydrangeas, hostas, and other plants do next year without the fence and maybe with an ever more difficult winter.

Despite the best of intentions, I didn't keep up with my scheduled photos of the gardens, but when I took the one of the watering cans, I also snapped this one.

Looking overgrown and a bit neglected but still a pretty sight from our back windows.  The zinnias were quite disappointing this year; although tall they were not as full of blooms as last year's zinnias.  As expected the argyanthemums, marigolds, nasturtiums were abundant and you can just see the sedum in the far back on the right starting.  I didn't prune that forsythia at all this year in the hopes that we may have a glory of yellow back there in the spring.

Hope springs (ha!) eternal! 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

From Bad to Good

Saturday D left early to go help out at the bonsai show, and I looked forward to being able to do some painting and some sewing.  What made those activities really attractive wasn't that D wouldn't be here; rather, the attraction lay in the fact the workmen wouldn't be here.  As thoughtful and nice as they are, what they do can be painfully noisy, very dusty, and well, intrusive.

Anyway, I started with the painting I had sketched out Friday.  This one was a scene from our trip to Vermont this year but not one of the lake.  I knew that I wanted to paint in a far less detailed style and I wanted the colors to be intense.  The way I wanted the painting to look was very clear in my head.  Ha!  The result was without a doubt the worst work I have ever, ever done.  It was down right uuuughhh-leee.  It was so bad that 1) I won't show you (I'll spare you the agony) and 2) even D couldn't think of one positive thing to say other than, "Well, it's not your best . . ."  Puh-leeze.  A hair ball would have been more attractive.

Then in the afternoon I decided I would continue working on the quilt with the palm trees and the finials.  I had finished the finials on Friday.  They were a breeze to do unlike the trees because I decided not to use the fabric I had selected and prepared for the job.  Instead, I used some jewelry findings.  They were so much better and easier to sew on than the planned ones would have been.  What remains will be less difficult because it's just embroidering flowers.  

But first, I wanted to attached the novelty yarn I planned to use as a vine climbing the walls.  All I would have to do is lay it out where I wanted it to be and then couch it (that means sewing small stitches every inch or so to attach it to the surface).  Okay, all I had to do was find that yarn.  It wasn't in the bin with everything I needed for making the quilt.  It wasn't in my special case with crazy quilt notions like embroidery thread, ribbons, buttons, and beads.  It wasn't in my ribbon box.  It wasn't on my work area.  It wasn't - well, it just wasn't; I couldn't find it anywhere!  Oh, did I mention that because of the construction there are piles of clothing (from my closet which got new doors), linens (from the bathroom linen closet in the bathroom that is currently ripped apart), and bathroom supplies from toothpaste to sunscreen to well, to everything else all over my studio in an attempt to minimize the clutter in our bedroom and computer room (the guest room is a disaster).

I was so annoyed with my horrible, no good, very bad day that I gave up.

Today I didn't paint.  Today I didn't sew.

Today I hung up the clothes and put away the shoes that belonged in my closet.  I tidied and cleaned up the quarter of my studio that had all the bathroom stuff - at least it is tidy.  I tidied the studio closet and then went through all the storage bins, re-labeling those that needed it, and organizing them in order of projects to be done next.  By doing all of that I located the bag in which I keep my embroidery threads for traveling to class, and in the bag labeled "Novelty Threads", I found the yarn I want for the vine.

Today was a glorious, good, very wonderful day!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Too Many Trees?

Today I finished embroidering 15 palm trees.  To be honest, I only used a blanket stitch around the fronds of those 15 trees and a detached fly stitch on the trunks which isn't as much work as you might have thought after reading the first sentence.  But . . . 

The task was complicated by not being able to draw the thread through to the back of the quilt since it had already been quilted and having stitching showing on the back is unsightly.  Keeping stitches uniform was also impossible.  The whole job was further complicated by the designer who decided that not 1 but 15 trees were necessary - really?  Who was the designer?  Oops, me.

What have I learned?  First, embroider before a quilt is sent to the quilter.  If I choose wisely (and I did), my quilter will be able to deal with the embroidered areas.  Second, it will be a thousand times easier to maintain evenly spaced stitches that are the same size!  Not having the bulk of the batting to contend with will make holding the quilt much simpler, and stitches can go through the back because eventually they'll be hidden by the layers of batting and backing.  Third, design with the amount of work to be done in mind.  Would I have changed the number of trees?  No, I really think the spacing and the color of the trees add to the overall composition, and they are important to the "picture" as a whole.  But I do need to make sure ahead of time that the work load is possible and any problems with execution have been kept in mind. 

Next I have "finials" to put on the points of the walls, but there are only six of those.  Also, I plan to use the blind applique stitch so at least I will only have to be sure the stitches are invisible!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Quiet Day

Had a very nice breakfast at a local diner with two of my friendship group this morning.  Then went to a quilt shop where I successfully filled out the needed fabrics for a quilt that's been bouncing around in my mind.  When will I start it?  Well, that's always the question, isn't it?

There are more quilts waiting to be started, continued, and finished than there are hours in a day, and more keep springing up in my head.  This is something I don't really worry about although maybe I should.  I just think that I am lucky to have so many creative possibilities hanging around waiting for attention.  It means I have choices.

Is it the same with my painting?  Close, but not as many projects crowding my brain.  Does it disturb me?  No.  I'm still trying to master the how-to part of painting, and I've been sewing for almost my entire life.  That makes a big difference.  I know that's pretty obvious; it's just easier to create when the how-to doesn't get in the way.  More practice is needed in this area, that's for sure!

Funny.  When I started this entry, I thought I was going to apologize - again - for no photos because it was a quiet day without much that was notable going on.  Instead I wind up discovering something through the writing that I haven't articulated before, something that explains why painting, which has been a dream for so long, has seemingly taken a back seat to sewing.  No back seat about it; I'm simply at a different point in the process. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Back to New Orleans

In class today after some discussion of both the painting featured in yesterday's entry and the New Orleans painting, I got to work.  As you will be able to see, I added the background figures which begin to punch up the colors a bit; actually, I guess one could say they actually add color where there was none.  I'm quite happy that they are finally visually clearer and set the tone for the musicians (ha!).  

While looking at this as it is now, I have to keep reminding myself that lots of things will be tweaked as I get nearer to calling this one finished.  For example, just painting in the "audience" has made me more aware of the need to add to the window but also aware of the need to wait before I do so.  The background behind the "audience" is dreadful - flat and wrong, but that too must wait for the musicians to move to center stage (oh golly, another play on words!).  

My next move will be to set in the rest of the lone young man to the left of the drummer, and then, oh hallelujah!, I will allow myself to start on the skin of the musicians.  Once, skin color is there, I can choose colors for their clothing.  It's been hard to hold off on the focal group, but I knew I had to.  You see, I am learning!

Now just a word or two about yesterday's lake-but-not-quite-a-landscape.  Sharon was delighted and most encouraging with the use of washes and loosely suggested background for the main figure.  She had read my blog, realized my intent, and has wholeheartedly adopted the role of guide in my journey.  She, too, is trying to "loosen up" in her own work so she will be using her own experience while helping me.  What a bonus!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Not Quite a Landscape

Several days ago, I talked about how I want my quilting and my painting to move on from where is it now to where I want it to go next.  Soon after that I began a new painting that I mentioned in an entry on September 10th.  There was no photo to show you at that time, and I didn't have the opportunity to paint again until today.

This is the painting today.  Watercolor as you can see and the lake.  Even though far from finished, you can tell it isn't my usual landscape.  The focus isn't on dramatic scenery.   I'll probably have to paint it several more times before it will be as I want it to be.  Some things need to be sharpened and others - well, less focused.  At the moment, though, that doesn't matter to me.

With this painting, I am trying to let the water work for me (that is, the water one uses on the paper not the water in the lake!), and I am trying to be looser.  

The other thing I hope will happen is that the viewer will discover the story - if there is one - in this painting for herself.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Arachnophobics - Don't Look!

If you suffer from arachnophobia (fear of spiders), you may wish to click out of this entry immediately.  I am sharing some photos I took of an orb spider who spent several days hanging under a railing on our front porch.  

Please meet the Black and Yellow Garden spider, Mrs. Argiope aurantia:

She is large and a bit scary looking because of her size (body is about 1"), but she doesn't inflict any damage to humans (unless we sit on her, and I think a bite caused by that would be forgivable).  She like to live in quiet gardens where she can lure edible insects into her web for lunch; for them her bite is poisonous.

Her babies are born in late summer but live in the egg sac until the following spring which is a smart way to get through the winter!  

She's quite amazingly lovely and doomed.  According to what I read*, in this climate she will probably die after the first frost.

Actually, I had planned to talk about the lovely time we had visiting daughter and grandson this weekend, but realized I couldn't share any photos from his baseball game as they are videos, and I don't publicize his photos anyway!  Too bad!  He made some good plays, but the outcome of the game was disappointing (the other team tromped them!). 

He also went to a bonsai show with his grandfather where he solemnly looked at trees and stones.  He met many people whom he charmed with his good manners.  At the end, when my daughter and I had caught up with them and we were leaving, my grandson turned to me and said, "I really feel sorry for you because you have to come back here next year!"  I thought I'd fall over laughing!

He made comments like that throughout the weekend, and I discovered what a grand sense of humor he has.  Another sign of growing up.

Site for more complete information about the spider:

* http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Argiope_aurantia/

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Learning Curve

Here's rectangle AB with the curved insert that I mentioned yesterday.

I hope you can see why I am so pleased.  Next time I won't cut the exact size I need before cutting the curve or curves.  If you look carefully at the pattern, you can see one white tree on the left of the green line but nothing below it - no trunk at all.  I might have been able to avoid that if the fabric piece had been large enough to shift about without losing size I needed instead of the exact size.  Well, this is a learning curve - ouch, I'm sorry (though my mother would have loved that pun)!

Quilters, can you tell what this is?  The background won't help you, but the fact that the fabric was folded in half might be a hint.

ME, you can't tell!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Courage from Supportive Friends

A huge thank you to all of you who responded to yesterday's blog.  You were understanding, supportive, and encouraging.  Wow!  You gave me the courage to start acting on my decision.  

I started a new painting, but I haven't had time to take a picture.  It's a painting which based on a photograph which evokes strong memories for me, but a painting which I hope will allow a viewer to supply their own memory/story/interpretation.  As I was working on it, I realized that it will be easier - perhaps - to take this new direction in painting than in quilting.  But even there I made some inroads today.

While I have patterns that I am committed to make, I can change patterns even if only in very simple, superficial ways.  Today's alteration?  I bisected a rectangle of fabric (color A) with a sinuous curved line, took another fabric (color B) and cut the same line, then sewed the two edges together creating rectangle AB.  Finally I added another piece of A to the rectangle.  Basically it looks like a rectangle of A with a slender curving river of B meandering through it.  [Wait.  Did I just write a math problem - rectangle AB???]

Doing both painting and sewing made me very happy.   Thank you!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Transformation?

Some things are beginning to coalesce in my brain - things that have been rolling around up there just bumping into one another and caroming off another wall or getting wedged into a dark corner with other marbles, yarn scraps, and bits of lint.  Well, I never claimed my brain is a tidy place!  Anyway, I had two experiences today that started to pull some of those stray thoughts out of the corners and away from the walls to the center of a place where they can begin to interact.

I have become more and more aware of my restlessness with traditional quilt patterns of late.  There are many I still wish to make, but I want to infuse the traditional with my own perspective.  Using quilts to tell a story is something I've been experimenting with for a while, but now the notion of using quilting in a more poetic way where the reader (or the viewer) can plug in her own interpretation in intriguing me more and more.  

This fragmentary, elusive wisp of an idea started to settle in today as I was asked to help a friend choose fabrics for a quilt.  I love doing that; it was a part of my job for the brief time I worked in a quilt shop that filled me with joy.  Discovering what a person loves, what a person wants the finished quilt to do or say or be was exciting and still is.  At that time, I limited myself to the designer's pattern and her hues and values while still encouraging the customer to plug in her favorite colors and her notion of light and dark was a delight.  But my focus was on maintaining the integrity of the design as set forth in the pattern.

Today, my friend had more helpers than she really needed.  There were too many people trying to guide her.  When I realized that my hackles were being raised by someone who pointed out that the pattern had a different value in a particular area of the design than the fabric my friend was looking at lovingly, by fabrics that were perfect for the job but just dull and lifeless, I had to walk away.   I knew that there was nothing wrong with what was being suggested, and the fabrics were perfectly acceptable.  I was the one out of sync.  (I should say here that my friend sent me a photo of the final decisions and the choices are wonderful!)

Then later in the day I purchased a watercolor magazine because the cover painting had indistinct humans (which I need to paint in the work I'm doing right now) as well as a totally different and freer, looser style than I have.  As I read this magazine, I found another article on a painter who has a cubist style and  who includes writing in his work, and my brain went "Sssproinggg!" like a cartoon bed spring!

What I want to do, if I can articulate it so it makes sense, is take a pattern and stretch it beyond its limits, to pull it into a different shape that has personal meaning.  Think of it like a story that starts out with two girls who are going on a trip when suddenly they're a fox and a hummingbird in enchanted forest.  What were their suitcases have become a Victorian music box balanced on the fox's back and a medieval chateleine around the neck of the hummingbird.  Both items have magical qualities.

And I think that's what I want to do; I want to put magic in my quilts and in my paintings.  I want to combine traditional blocks with poetry in such a way that the viewer decides what the story is.  I would like my paintings to be less defined so that the viewer has the chance of figuring it out for herself instead of me.

Does that make any sense?  Time will tell if I can do it.  It's taken long enough for this to come together, and it's bound to take longer to become reality.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Autumn Beauty

This has been my favorite time of the year for most of my adult life; I'm sure that when I was a child summer reigned supreme - but no longer.  I love the blue of the sky in fall, the colors of the leaves against that sky as an unintentional complement to that amazing blue, and that crisp cool air.  Wow!  

Here's a photo of early autumn flowers that have had a banner year in my garden (everyone else's, too!).  There are a couple of orange marigolds in a small vase  I don't think you can really see.  The little table mat on the bookcase was made by my first quilting teacher, and I treasure it.  It comes out for display every September.  Can you see the stencil on the wall behind the vase?  It's a red squirrel, oak leaves, and acorns.  More fall - but oh my, those acorns are plentiful!

I hope your day was full of the glories of this season.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Six Hundred and Fifty Entries

Oh my, this is the 650th entry in this blog, and I should be writing something momentous or whimsical or at least interesting.  But I'm too tired tonight to do so; I'll natter for a bit and then toddle off to bed.

The weekend has been busy with household tasks and some work on the quilt.  The latter didn't get as much attention as I had hoped, but all the trunks of the palm trees are finished.  Also, eight and a half palm trees have their fronds stitched - only six and a half to go.

Today I had a grand time at the sewing club I lead.  Personal reminiscences of auto mishaps told by a couple of the members had all of us in gales of laughter for most of the time so I can't say I did much "leading"!  After that ME and I stopped off to visit a dear friend we haven't seen very much of lately and that, too, led to laughter and sharing conversation with good friends.

I know I've mentioned it before, but I truly think that one of life's greatest gifts is friendship.  

That to me is a good 650th entry - thanks to all my friends!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Window Sketch #4 Segues into a Final Version

The fifth version of the shop window was painted today - in the blank space waiting for it.  Yes, the empty window behind the musicians now has items on shelves.  No photo to show you yet, but that will come soon.  Instead I'll tell you a little about it.

First I painted a fourth version, one I really liked almost completely.  Then I decided to strike while the iron was hot, and worked on the actual painting.  Funny thing is, I still like the fourth version best, but the fifth version does exactly what it should do at this time.  This version is very subtle and subdued; one barely notices it is there.  And, as D said when he saw it, "It doesn't draw my eyes.  It doesn't steal my attention."  Thank you, D!

Yes, I was thrilled that he said that because that is my intention.  However, as I told him, I may have to intensify it when all is said and done.  When the painting is "finished" I'll ask for opinions and give it my final once over, too, then I may find that it is too retiring.  Then I can make the window come out of the shadows a little way.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Two Paintings: Window Sketch #3 and a Vermont Potting Shed

After a successful morning at painting and a frustrating afternoon chasing down tiles (again), this will be a short entry that will focus on the pleasant part of the day.

During the first half of class, I worked on a third sketch of the window that will be behind the musicians in the street musicians painting.  Writing that list of things I ought to do really helped even though I didn't look at the list once I was in class.
  • enlarge this area of the photograph in order to help me see what's in the shop if at all possible.  Tuba or hat or???  Items on the shelves? I did take an enlarged photo to class, and it wasn't the tuba.  It appeared to be draped shimmery fabrics and balloons (yes, balloons!).
  • make the size of the window the correct shape instead of just dividing my practice paper into sections that have no real relation to the window I'm sketching. This I didn't do. I just used the size I had.
  • use the same watercolor paper I'm using for the "real" painting for the practice sketches. It made a difference!  Although I didn't make the piece the correct size, I did use the "good" paper, and I'm very glad I did.  The paper and water and paint reacted differently to each other.
  • turn off the overhead fan!  While I felt much more comfortable ceding control to the water (I knew the items seen through a window would be indistinct), but due to the fan, it dried too quickly.  Even though more water can be added, it stops the rhythm of the work. Ha!  There is an overhead fan at Sharon's, but it didn't appear to make much difference - possibly because of the paper.
  • practice! Yes, I did, and here it is.

Hmm.  Certainly isn't something that one would leap up and say "Wow!" about, but it's closer to what I want behind the musicians.  Will I do another practice sketch?  Probably.  To me it doesn't look like shelves in a store, so I think I paint more familiar objects (teapots and mugs and tins maybe? certainly not balloons!) on the shelves.  It's worth a try.

I did have time left after that sketch so I went back to the plein aire sketch of a barn/potting shed I started in Vermont.  

We'll have to wait and see if this amounts to anything interesting; it's too early at this point to tell.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Update on Painting of New Orleans Musicians

Back to the second New Orleans painting that I started writing about on July 16, 2014.

While we were away in mid-August I was able to do a little work on it:

The colors are washes I laid down to begin to define the background.  Oh, and I should say that the yellowish outline on the figures is a masking fluid that keeps the watercolors from flowing into places it's not welcome.

I took this preliminary work in to class last week thinking I might be able to start on the figures or the musicians; actually my fingers were itching to start on them - there was no brain involved at all.  It's obvious that the background needs more work.  See the big blank space behind the tuba?  That's a store window, and that's what Sharon told me needed work before I went on to anything else.    As usual I had no idea how to approach that window - complete with a reflected figure.

After Sharon gave me some ideas how to paint the window, I took out a piece of scrap paper and began.

This is what I had at the end of class.  Strangely enough, I liked it even though I knew I was far from being ready to add something like the above as the window in the painting.  I had let the water control me rather than the other way around! My  plan was to continue with that freedom while painting another three or four practice passes before the next class.

Three or four?  Try one. It's all I had time for.  However, this sketch is better than the first attempt.  The colors are more subdued, objects in the shop are more clearly items on shelves, but the reflected light isn't there at all as I inadvertently painted right over the blank areas I initially left for reflections.  Sigh another note to self.  The big white area on the left is where the real tuba is (check the first painting), and I just realized that instrument might be the reflection in the lower right hand side of the window!  I  had thought it might be another hat on a stand on the window sill inside the shop, but now . . . .  What do you think?

Things need to be corrected and practiced a few more times.  Here's what I know I need to do:
  • enlarge this area of the photograph in order to help me see what's in the shop if at all possible.  Tuba or hat or???  Items on the shelves? 
  • make the size of the window the correct shape instead of just dividing my practice paper into sections that have no real relation to the window I'm sketching
  • use the same watercolor paper I'm using for the "real" painting for the practice sketches - I just forgot to do that today.  Different papers and water interact differently.
  • turn off the overhead fan!  While I felt much more comfortable ceding control to the water (I knew the items seen through a window would be indistinct), but due to the fan, it dried too quickly.  Even though more water can be added, it stops the rhythm of the work. 
  • practice