Thursday, July 30, 2015

More on Sunflowers

Just a quick note today as I am off tomorrow to a quilt show (remember, I did miss the Vermont show so I have to make for it) and have to be up very early.

This is the sunflower photo I posted earlier. If you remember, I had said I thought it would work better in oils than in watercolor.  Then to my delight I discovered water-based oil paints so the possibility of getting to such a painting in the near is future more likely.  That made me look at the sunflowers photo again thinking about how I would paint them.  And look at what I found!

The back of the sunflower is amazing!

It's quite sculptural, isn't it?  And, no, I don't plan to paint it at least not in the near future.  But it might be interesting to draw.  All those lights and shadows?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New Brushes, Masking Applicators, and Painting

Painting Day, hurrah!  Even though it was a hot day, I was delighted to be out and on my way to painting this morning.  I felt ready; Monday evening, I made sure I had my bag packed with the necessary supplies and put it in the car.  I even checked several times to be sure I had the final sketch of the Mews, the tracing of it, the graphite paper (all "just in case"), the water color block with the transferred drawing on it, my color guide for the buildings - in short, I double checked everything.  No way did I want to find myself missing a crucial piece once at the studio.

After I had greeted my friends at the studio but before I was able to begin unpacking my bag, Sharon smiled at all of us and said the magic words, "The brushes have arrived!"  We all eagerly clustered around and received our precious brushes, and then we reluctantly put them aside.  Since they are shipped from England where they are hand-made, they have a sort of "sealant" on the brush hairs and have to be specially cleaned before using.

For me, that didn't really matter because I had to apply my masking fluid.  I had started when Sharon said, "Oh, I'm glad you're doing that today because I want to show everyone what I ordered specifically for the application of masking fluid."  She held up two "brushes" that had silicone tips at both ends.  One "brush" had white silicone and the other had eraser pink silicone.  It turns out that one was hard and one was soft.  Each brush had a chisel tip on one end and a pointed tip at the other.  Then she asked if I'd like to try them, and I nearly fell over myself in my eagerness.  

My grubby, cheaply-made-for-children's-use brush was put aside, and I started experimenting with those mask applicators.  Oh my, I fell in love!  When you look at the drawing/beginning painting below, look at the narrow lines, and some of the tiny details that have a yellowish-white stuff on them.  You can see why I was thrilled to have a tool that made applying (and removing) that sticky, gloppy mask material!  Indeed, I liked the applicator so much I went to our local art supply store and bought something like it though not exact.  I'll have to experiment with that one next time.

Here's what I accomplished today after applying the masking fluid.

Oh, I should also mention that I had to spend almost half-an-hour using a kneaded eraser to lighten my transfer lines.  I'm always so afraid I won't be able to see the lines that I press too hard, and they come out too dark.  I also use a pen that has run out of ink as my tracing tool, and means that my lines are both too dark and too thick!  Sharon suggested I switch to an HB pencil with a good point to use for the tracing.  After spending all that time "lifting" my transfer lines and spending a day with sore thumbs from pressing the eraser down again and again, you can be sure I'll try that next time!

Although not much actual painting was done today, at least I got a good start laying down the initial colors.  

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mews First and Then Sunflowers?

Monday is a busy weekday for me, and it was again today.  The laundry was done, errands run, and gardens watered.  However, because of the heat, it all seemed to take longer, or at least I know I moved more slowly because the watercolor painting I had planned to work on wasn't. At least the drawing was transferred which does take more time than I think it should, but once that was done, I just didn't have the energy to go forward with it.

These sunflowers were bought while choosing vegetables at a local stand.  The picture was taken because I thought I might want to paint them instead of the Mews painting I prepared for today.  Now, looking at the photo, I'm not so sure; I'm seeing it more as an oil painting.  Well, at any rate I won't be doing anything with it until the current London scene is finished.  Then we'll see.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Experiment turns Scary

 Sometimes experiments can be scary.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about an oil painting I had begun.  My idea was to create an under painting of the subjects' complementary colors.  For example, the under painting of a green leaf would be red, an orange flower would be blue, and a purple butterfly would be yellow.  The reason for doing this, I reasoned, is that when I paint over that base of complements with my palette knife, any missed spots, any swipes of the knife that skips, will show its complement.  That juxtaposition of colors will be like seeing sparks. If it works!

So okay, what's the scary part?  This is:

Orange and shades of red indicate that so far I have a painting that will be all green and blue, and that means landscape.  Please tell me you can see that, at least!  But then there are those white areas like the spotty oval-ish bit up towards the middle/top of the painting, the long stretch across the middle, and the oval area at the lower left.  Simple reason for those blank areas - the paint surrounding them was wet, and I really don't want the paint to mix.  Those spots were left until the paint around them is dry.  

All that being said, I think you can understand why I call this a scary experiment.  Right now it looks like something for Halloween!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Entry #800 - Nothing to Write Home About

The plan was to go to the dentist in the morning after a walk (and shower!), come home for lunch, and then spend the afternoon painting.  If that had happened, there would be something to show for it or at least to discuss.

It didn't happen.  After my appointment, I had to make a trip to my drug store to fill a prescription for an antibiotic to combat a rather large area of infection.  Who knew?  When the root of a tooth is dead, it doesn't feel anything so all I had was an occasional hiccup from a neighboring root.  Anyway, it took a little while to fill the prescription so I sat happily reading my Kindle until I realized I'd have to go to the grocery store next.  Having been warned about eating with a numbed mouth (biting one's tongue can cause a painful wound once the numbness wears off), I mentally ran through the contents of both the pantry and the refrigerator.  Not much there requiring little chewing except yogurt.  After learning of the side-effects of my antibiotic, I am glad to have that yogurt!

The grocery store supplied me with some of their soup as well as a couple of other items. By the time I was backhome, I was surprisingly tired. Daughter called, we chatted, and then I had a late lunch which took care of some of the tiredness but not the lassitude (wonderful word!) that hung on for the little bit of afternoon that was left.

I chalk that up to the lingering effects of the appointment-tension and the post-appointment relief.  Maybe I'll get some work done tomorrow.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fabric Painting

Have you ever painted fabric?  I mean on fabric other than stretched canvas.  Until today I had not.  Read on to see if this is something you might like to do.

My small art quilters group met today at the home of one of us who live on the eastern side of the Hudson in a beautiful more-country-than-suburban area.  My Garmin got me there with no problems - except for the road construction which my friend had warned me about.  C had pulled out every ordinary acrylic paint, every unusual kind of paint (glitter, metallic, texturizing to name just a few) and brushes, every imaginable pattern making tool, every conceivable necessity for this project that one could even think of and several one could not and lined it all up on her driveway.  She knew where the shade would be at various times of the day and made sure we wouldn't be in the sun.  One of the best tools she had was a window for each of us, and yes, I do mean a regular house window (though just the glass out of heavy frames).  The perfect work surface for wet fabric painting!

Each of us were to supply our own pre-washed fabric - preferably muslin , and I realized last night that my supply of muslin was down to a skimpy 12" x  24' piece!  I had whittled down my yardage bit by bit without realizing how little was left.  I had to improvise.  I wound up taking the scrap of muslin and 4 chunks of drop cloth.  I strongly recommend muslin over drop cloth (the paint sinks right into it instead of flowing across the surface).

On the drop cloth pieces I experimented with really painting as opposed to dyeing.  I wanted to know what that would look like.  It's an experiment I'll have to repeat due to the limitations of the drop cloth (see above).  But it did teach  me that even acrylic paints lighten considerably in drying if they've be watered down too much!  Waterproof markers will run if they are still freshly applied when wet paint is brushed over them.  One should begin with dyeing instead of painting to get a better feel for what does and what does not work to well.

After lunch, I moved on to my one piece of muslin and made the decision to turn my hand to dyeing.  What a difference!  We also found that the Fabric Medium among C's supplies made a huge difference in allowing the paint to move across the fabric - the muslin with its smoother surface was also a factor.  My friends let me use some of their fabrics so I was able to make three dyed pieces, two of which are still at C's house to finish drying.  Here's the large piece that dried sufficiently for me to bring home:

Neat, right?  You can be sure I will be painting and dyeing fabric again!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Making the Final Drawing for the Mews

An apology to everyone who was confused after reading yesterday's entry with its proliferation of abbreviations.  A UFO, in quilting parlance, is an UnFinished Object.  My UU (really don't like that very much and will have to come up with something better - maybe Double U) is a UFO Undertaking.  Enough about that for the time being (wish I knew how to create a simple Glossary for this blog).

During today's painting class, I did some drawings for the Mews project.  The tricycle was the first one I attempted from memory.  It will have to be checked, I think.  The second was the large standing planter (masquerading as a garbage bin right now), and the third was the window box.  

Then I cut them out and . . . . . 

placed them on one of the studies-for-color I've done.  Once home, I re-sized them to fit and put a bit of tape on on the backs of the flower containers so they'd stay put at least until I decided where they belonged.  The trike was moved around a bit until I made a slit between the pink and the dark gold buildings and slipped it in there.  It's where Sharon suggested it might do best, and I agree.

The final step was to attach all additions (including  another slightly larger window box on the pink building after fixing its perspective a bit), on the "real" drawing that has all the building details, and make a copy of the whole thing.

 Lots of steps involved as I made up my mind about the final composition.  While it may seem like a lot of unnecessary steps, being able to re-size and duplicate drawings and to move things around without damaging either the items moved or the base drawings, was really a time saver.

Now I have the master for transfer on to the watercolor paper! 

Monday, July 20, 2015

UFO Undertaking

The borders went on the mysterious wall hanging today (cheers!!!).  They are only 2.5" in width which is not what I wanted, but by having them relatively narrow, there is enough fabric left for the binding as well.  That is a major coup!  There is a piece of fabric ready to be put to use as the backing (ugly but serviceable), and I'm pretty sure I have a piece of batting that will suffice.  

I am now free to return to projects that have been put aside.  My intention is to start on my UFOs and try to get two completed before allowing myself to start a new project - after which another two UFOs will be tackled. Help keep me honest by asking me every so often how I'm doing on my UFO Undertaking, okay?

Of course, the handwork I do in the evenings isn't part of the UU.  Well, actually, it is in a way.  I was about to crow and say tonight I picked up a new project to do some handwork on, but it isn't new.  It was started last month, and it's been re-visited only in my mind.  That vacation from working on it allowed me to be a bit more thoughtful about it this evening.  The difference with my night work will be that I will allow myself to work on whichever unfinished piece is ready to be worked on.  Since most of these are "art" or "near-art" they require more willingness, more enthusiasm than the pieced works do.  That's why I've built in a "willingness on my part" factor.

Sound possible?  I hope so.  Tomorrow I'll have a photo of my handwork and maybe some news on the art (as in paintings) front.

Until then . . .

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Finding What Was Lost

That was some thunderstorm today.  Short and powerful but not a tornado in our area fortunately.  And of course, the rain started about 15 minutes after I watered the plants.  

The nicest thing that happened this weekend was finding enough of my background fabric to squeeze out a border for my little wall hanging.  I could have sworn I had a piece left but couldn't find it.  That made me think I had used it for the last few strips I needed.  Of course, what really happened was my brain dropped a critical piece of information and buried it under a pile of unrelated memories.  Turns out that piece of fabric was hiding in the bag I took with me a week ago when I went to various stores looking for a possible match. It was my work bag that I used last Sunday, and I thought I had cleaned it out. Turned out I overlooked one pocket - the one in which I stuffed that fabric.  You can't begin to imagine how happy I was to find that elusive piece even after spending a good portion of my time figuring a way around the problem.

Oh well, the solution will stand me in good stead in some future border.  Solutions like that can be put away in a mental drawer and pulled out to be used when needed.

As long as I can remember what that solution was and in which mental drawer I stored it!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

From Sewing to Pursuing Possible Paintings through Photographs

While I spent my day working on the wall  hanging I can't show here, I do want to spend a little time talking about it (but only a little time).  I finished the center portion, but then discovered that my fears at the beginning of the project were based in reality.  Since I had pulled my background fabric from my stash, I knew I might not have enough for the borders.  After measuring and confirming that I had been correct, and indeed, I don't even have enough for what I considered might be my fall back design for the border.  After sitting and thinking and doing even more math (you know how much I love that!), my level of discomfort went up as I came up with an idea that I think will be really great.  If I have it figured correctly.  We'll see!

Then I took a break and went outdoors to water D's bonsai, check the plantings I did yesterday, and see if I could snap some photos that might make future painting subjects.  See what you think ;

In this first one, the crimped edges of the petals would make me suitably un - comfortable!

Oh, the colors and shapes of these make me swoon!

And then there is this one - drama personified.  But is it a painting? or really a photo? or even, maybe, a drawing?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Busy Day

What a day! Our tree man came - rain and all - and took care of some tree limbs that were in need of removal.  They (arborists) are amazing; they need more than a smattering of knowledge about trees and the machines they use.  To say nothing about the danger of the job. When he left, our trees were safer for people wandering under their branches and let in more light all without compromising their integrity.

The light rain we had this morning made it possible for me easily to do some planting.  The white flower garden now has two more white delphiniums - let's hope they all (including the one I added last year) make it through the winter and are ignored by the chipmunks.  My white lilies were found over the winter by the beasties, and only one came up in the spring.  It grew and set its buds, but one morning I went to get the newspaper and found the lily stretched out on the ground.  The bulb had been completely eaten leaving the stalk with no roots.  Sigh.  The same thing happened in the back yard, but until this year, the front was safe.  "Was" being the operative word.

The rest of the day I spent sewing on another secret project which I hope to have finished by the end of the week.  

All in all, it was a successful day - except for the "no painting" part.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Progress in the Studio

The heat seems to be making me muzzy-minded tonight so I'll make this short.  

The first thing we all did when we got to the studio for class today was give Sharon our money for the latest order of sable brushes.  Excellent news that Sharon as a small business owner and as one who has placed several orders in the past was given a good discount on all brushes.  Nice, since as you can imagine, sable "doesn't come cheap".  The other bit of good news on this front is that it appears the US has lifted the embargo on sable - for brushes, anyway.  That last bit has to be checked a bit further before we get all excited about it, and even then, who know if US imported brushes will be the same price we are paying now or more or less expensive?  Time will tell.

Then we all settled down to work on whatever our current project is.  One student is trying out a variety of media trying to get a good feel for the best fit.  She worked on pencil sketches today.  Another woman is continuing with her exploration of acrylic paints; she's done quite a few and has mixed feelings about them.  That leaves three of us chasing the elusive magic of water color.  

My time was spent on another study for the mews.  I experimented today with seeing if I could paint the buildings without laying down a pencil sketch first.  It is possible, but with buildings, doorways, windows, etc., I think I will draw very lightly first.  Another thing I worked on was adding some additional items to make this area looked lived in - flower pots, window boxes, and a few other things.  

My plan at this moment is to do some sketches of those new additions, and then start two paintings as final drafts hoping that at least in one of them, I can stay out of my own way.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Discomfort Walked In

Here is the photo of the unfinished study of the "Stourhead Stables" (aka the "Blue Doors" which is the title I would have used if I hadn't been afraid that I wouldn't remember where and what that building was).  The basics are recognizable - especially if you've seen the finished article, but a lot is clearly missing.

Here's what my brain was thinking.  The final painting is complete, and this study helped me get there so it deserves something.  I'll make it an experimental study and introduce that hint of discomfort.  Okay, explanation time: being slightly uncomfortable keeps one from being predictable or from getting into a creative rut.  Discomfort is a desirable state.  

That's when I decided to finish this study using ink.  By the time I worked with a set of 4 Faber-Castell artist pens in sepia, I was humming.  Not a good sign if I were look for a sense of discomfort.  Then I added Inktense colored pencil and that worked.  I've never worked much with "real" colored pencils (as opposed to the ones designed for children) and the small bit I've done was disaster.  Discomfort walked in and sat down for tea.

Here's what happened to that study you saw above :

While it isn't a great work of art, I think it has some merit.  And I've learned that experimenting is worth it.  Now I know using pen with watercolors is something I'd like to try from time to time.  The colored pencils???  Not so much.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Clive Amazes Again!

Last week brother D and "sil" E came for a two day visit which is why there were no entries at the end of the week.  We were having such a good time I actually forgot to write!

I assure you one of things we did was take a stroll around the gardens - not that there is much to see.  Nothing has been done in the back for a couple of reasons which seemed good at the time but now make me wonder.  We talked about ticks, and D came in sporting a couple of them (fortunately not deer ticks) which simply reinforced the idea that neither of us should undertake cleaning up the garden alone.  We know that we need to check each other for those pests as neither of us is good at scanning our own back.  At any rate, privately I suspect that my real reason was that I wanted to spend time painting or sewing rather than weeding.  Oh well - next year for the big back yard gardens.

This conversation started because I wanted to exclaim over our clivia plant.  It bloomed during the winter for the first time in years and years which excited us both a lot.  So I figured that in order to get a repeat bloom next winter, I should try to do this year what I did last (I can hear you snickering from here because you think I can't remember what I did).  Anyway, it is out on the front porch, and I have been watering very sparingly.

It isn't working.

Clive (my pet name for this plant) is flowering now.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fate of an Unfinished Study

Even when a day seems mired in necessary chores, the brain keeps working - possibly in its subterranean depths hidden from the conscious mind - on problems or ideas related to the creative part of the brain.  That always amazes me; I know I've written about how I may go to sleep with an insurmountable problem but wake up with its solution clear in my head.

Anyway, today's "solution" was about a small issue - too small really to even rise to the importance of being classified as a "problem".  When working on studies for "Stourhead Stables", I had one study that I really liked but left unfinished.  At that time I was ready to leave the drafts behind and go on to a finished piece.  After that painting was completed, I still had this unfinished study.  The only two things I thought I could do with it was first, work it into another, almost identical version of the stables, or second, file it away somewhere.  Neither suited me. 

While I was doing housework today, a possibility snuck into my head so unobtrusively that I didn't realize it was there until this evening as I sat almost dozing in front of the TV.  What if I took the unfinished study and completed it in a very different way?  Drawing the missing details in pen and ink would not only be unlike the painting; it might turn out to be rather interesting.

At least doing it will be.  

I'll take before and after pictures and post them when it's done.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Beginning a New Oil Painting

This house has not smelled like oil paints in a looooong time.  It's been two years this coming August since the construction of the studio began; that's when the decision was made not to risk wet oil paintings being knocked over or coated with dust.  That's when I started working with water colors, but now I have decided to do what I've been threatening to do for some time now.  Begin working in oil again.

 There are several views of the lake I have never painted, but one in particular is special and has been calling my name loudly enough that the correct size canvas was ready and waiting for me.  I had also had time to think about how I would go about painting that particular scene.  
My decision was to under paint with complementary colors using a brush instead of my usual palette knife.  First, I used a brush because I wanted the under layer to be mostly smooth so the top layer would glide over it.  Actually, it's the way I usually paint my skies anyway and then layer clouds with a palette knife.  

Why the complementary colors?  It's not something I have invented; I just decided to try it and see how it works for me.  Here's the reasoning.  If my palette knife doesn't cover every infinitesimal bit of the canvas and the under painting shows through, the complementary color will make that area sparkle.  Remember, we're talking about tiny spots here - so small that when I show you the finished piece, you probably won't be able to see those wee areas.

So, are you ready for this beginning of the latest lake painting?

Notice that I did use my palette knife after all.  Can you see where?  Also I clearly didn't have as much time as I would have liked to work on this today; I was able to work with only one color.  If you know your complementary colors, you know that orange is the complement of blue, and the different shades and tints of orange show where, in the finished work, you will see different shades and tints of blue. Therefore, you can also figure out that I have under painted the sky, distant mountains, lake, and pond areas.  

Weirdly satisfying.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fellowship of Hand-Piecers

Do you ever start a project, work on it enthusiastically for a while, work more slowly as time goes on, put it down, and walk away?  Then one day you come across it while cleaning out the deepest, darkest corner of the closet no one ever opens and say, "So that's where it was!  Maybe I should finish it."  The cycle may repeat until you either throw it away or . . . 


Behold, the "Carpenter's Star" wall hanging with hand-pieced pattern blocks as it looks now - hanging on my design wall(with a corner refused to stay where I put it).  It has borders and is ready to go off to a quilter, but getting it to this point once the blocks were finished was a trial. When I was ready to cut the background and border fabrics I had selected back at the start of this project, I discovered that they just wouldn't work.  I also discovered that I was so tired of the project that I couldn't even begin to choose an alternative.  

That's where the Fellowship of Hand-Piecers came to my rescue.  At the end of  the search, they had several very good possibilities lined up from which I could pick.  It was Sue R who spent the most time and came up with the best choices for me, and I owe her a return favor.

Thank you, Sue, call on me when you need a helping hand!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Realization of an "Artistic" Sort

Oh my, it's been almost a month since my last entry!  First there were computer problems that necessitated the installation of a new hard drive, anti-virus program (which should have been on all ready but wasn't), and finally, a return to Geek Squad because a virus was still lurking. And if that weren't enough to delay my entries, D and I went to D.C. for a week.

Now we are back, and life is beginning to return to normal.  I do have photos from D.C. which I will share over the next weeks, but today I want to talk about other things.  On our trip to Washington, I took drawing materials with the firm intention of doing some en plein air (art done outside) work.  That is something I have very little experience doing; you may have noticed that I work from photographs a lot - rarely out in front of my subject.  So I took what I would need to do that sort of sketching with me.

I've written before about obvious solutions, conclusions, realizations, that take me an embarrassingly  very long to arrive at, and this is one of them.  By the end of the week in D.C., I had only one sketch - that of the interior of our hotel room completed one evening while I was alone. 

The last part of that sentence was my "Aha!" moment.  I was alone when I got out my drawing materials!  

Almost all of my time I was with another woman in friendly companionship as we traveled around from site to site.  Almost every evening, I was in the hotel with D and sometimes others who were there for the same meeting he was.  I didn't have the opportunity to sit alone on a bench on the Mall, garden, museum, metro station, or hotel lobby and work in silent concentration on drawing.  When with people, I expected to be social, to converse, to listen.  "Silent concentration" would effectively shut others out and be rude.  Had I been traveling with other artists or with D at a time when he would be immersed in his own interests, I would have allowed myself to close myself off and focus on drawing.

Will I take art materials with me when I travel again?  Yes, always.  There is always a chance that the right opportunity will occur, but if I return home with blank pages, I won't be upset for now I understand why.